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

ITU/MIC Strategic Dialogue:  A Safer Internet Environment for Children - Opening Ceremony
Tokyo, Japan
2 June 2009

Excellencies,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

What a tremendous pleasure it is to be here in Tokyo with you for this joint Strategic Dialogue on creating a safer Internet environment for children.

It is a special privilege to have His Excellency Mr Kunio Hatoyama, the Japanese Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, as our host today.

And I am honoured to be sharing the floor this morning with Mr Shun Sakurai, the Director-General of the Telecommunications Bureau at the MIC, and to have Professor Masao Horibe, Professor Emeritus of Hitotsubashi University, as our chair for this opening session.

ITU has long-enjoyed its time-honoured relationship with Japan, and we remain grateful for the high level of support we receive from the Japanese administration. My only regret is that I, personally, cannot be here more often in person.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the next two days, we will be discussing one of the most important and pressing issues of our age: how to protect children online.

At ITU – and I’m sure our feelings are shared by the MIC – we believe that children and young people everywhere have the right to a safe environment, even when that environment is a cyber one.

The subject is highly topical, with broadband networks proliferating, and ever more young people coming online.

That’s why six months ago, at the High Level Segment of our annual Council meeting, ITU – together with other UN agencies and partners – launched the Child Online Protection initiative as an integral part of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda.

Two weeks ago, at the celebrations for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, we highlighted the importance of COP – with the theme of this year’s WTISD being ‘Protecting Children in Cyberspace’.

WTISD marked the start of a year-long ‘call-to-action’ for COP, following the endorsement by the United Nations’ Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who urged all states to support the initiative.

We are delighted, therefore, that the first major event in line with this year-long ‘call-to-action’ should be happening here in Japan this week, and we are honoured that Japan should be so visionary, and so ready to move quickly from words to action.

At the WTISD celebrations in Geneva on 18 May, we were very fortunate, and very grateful to have the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden.

Queen Silvia was the founder of the World Childhood Foundation and has a grand vision of the future of children in the digital age – and as she said, “In cyberspace, we really are only as strong as our weakest link; we are only as secure as our weakest hub.”

WTISD was also the occasion to present three eminent personalities with awards for their exceptional contributions towards protecting children in cyberspace.

The three laureates were His Excellency Mr Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil; Mr Robert Conway, CEO of the GSM Association, and Ms Deborah Taylor Tate, International Advocate for ICT Child Safety Issues – who I am delighted to say is here in Tokyo with us for this meeting, and who will be moderating tomorrow afternoon’s session on ‘Children & Cyberspace: The Need for a Global Approach’.

Dear colleagues,

It is horrifying to know that children and young people around the world are actively being targeted by pedophiles, predators, and cybercriminals – often with truly tragic consequences.

But as many of you know, I am a great optimist, and I am confident that with the help of the same technology that wrong-doers use – and with the power of international cooperation and collaboration – we can offer children the protection online that they expect, deserve, and need.

Through the COP initiative, we aim to tackle the problem holistically, working with all the different stakeholders – including children themselves – to promote awareness and develop effective strategies to protect young people from the many dangers that lurk in the cyber-underworld.

The Strategic Dialogue taking place here over the next two days provides a valuable platform for policy-makers, regulators, industry representatives, research and academia to exchange views, experiences and good practices on key policy and strategy issues in the area of child online protection.

It also allows us to examine the dimensions of child e-safety, including information about the dangers facing children and young people online; the tools already available to reduce the risks; and recommendations and key activities which could be undertaken in this area.

Also presented for discussion here in Tokyo are draft guidelines which have been developed by multiple stakeholders, and which will be explained in more detail by some of the authors who are here in Tokyo with us. Cristina Bueti, ITU’s policy analyst, will provide you with more details on the COP initiative itself.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am sure you all know the Japanese proverb which says: “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”

So it is highly appropriate that we should be holding this dialogue here in Japan, where we can bring together both the vision of where we want to go, and the necessary actions which will help us get there.

Let us therefore harness this vision, and these actions, to help us create, together, a safer Internet environment for children.

Thank you.