Speech from Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General

Geneva. Switzerland
26May 2008

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies & Gentlemen,

I stand here this morning, at the 11th session of the ECOSOC Commission on Science and Technology, filled with a mixture of delight and determination.

Delight, because we have been quite successful in maintaining the momentum established by the 2 phases of WSIS:

  • the last two weeks attracted more than 600 delegates for almost 30 WSIS related meetings
  • for the first time, these meetings have gone beyond the organizational concerns of Action Line Facilitation to become real places for sharing experiences
  • since May of last year a number of broad initiatives have been launched, squarely focused on meeting the ambitious WSIS targets and accelerating the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals
  • just last week ITU released version 2 of the WSIS stocktaking report, the object of this report being to benchmark the efforts of all WSIS stakeholders in supporting the development of a global, inclusive information society.

I have been sincerely impressed by the number of new projects underway at all levels – regional, national and international – and by the dedication and focus shown by many stakeholders.

The determination is my resolve to encourage all stakeholders to take our efforts to the next level. Because – despite many things to be proud of – we’re not there yet.

We have all worked hard to be true to the WSIS Outcomes Documents:

  • the Action Line Facilitators,
  • the United Nations Group on the Information Society,
  • the CSTD,
  • the IGF,
  • GAID and ITU,

Together, we have tried to guide and manage implementation, and develop workable mechanisms for an effective implementation and follow-up process. Defining the roles of these bodies and the links between them, however, has been a challenging task.

As the French say, “one learns by walking” and though WSIS implementation and follow-up mechanisms still occasionally stumble, I believe that – by focusing on the right aspects – we can learn to make great, confident strides together.

Reviewing the process to date, I would make 4 suggestions:

  1. One Report
    Let’s not get bogged down by a repetitive reporting process. For instance, there should be a single report on the Action Line process and not a separate report from each Facilitator. Simple and direct.
  2. Stimulate, not Complicate
    How can we ensure that Action Line Facilitation meetings create energy, not just cost energy?
    How can we make them more appealing?
    Should they be shorter?
    Involve higher level speakers?
    And how can we grab the attention of decision makers and the press?
    After all, they are the ones who can help us in our key efforts to:
      - build infrastructure,
      - provide affordable access,
      - enrich content,
      - create an enabling environment
      - encourage the development of a wide range of e-applications
  3. Bold is best
    If we are to meet our goals, we need to dare more. Let’s be courageous enough to confront issues as they emerge – or even better, BEFORE they emerge. Action Line events should be dynamic and forward-looking.
  4. Team-play
    In every sport, the team that works together the most wins the game. Rather than all rushing the net, let’s make sure we build on existing initiatives and coordinate our actions. Similar meetings taking place at the same time, for example, is not good game play. Let’s not forget that – at the end of the day – our goals are the same.

We all have our positions to play:

  • ITU, along with UNESCO, UNDP and other Stakeholders is committed to creating a better Action Line process
  • CSDT has its part to play in the follow-up of the WSIS outcomes – this task will be easier if there is a strong, highly visible and clearly communicated implementation of the 11 Action Lines

Implementation should also help CSTD:

  1. strengthen political willingness in supporting ICTs for economic growth and poverty reduction
  2. conveying key WSIS concerns to ECOSOC

I have no doubt that we will succeed.

Let’s just remember that we ARE a team and the prize at stake is a more connected information society and a safer, wiser world.

I wish you a great eleventh session

Thank you.