First Plenary

Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

ITU Secretary-General

Distinguished Delegates

I am delighted to be with you here for the Opening Plenary of the ITU’s 18th Plenipotentiary Conference, and let me say how much I am looking forward to hearing from the Membership as we work through the next three weeks together.

Let me start with a quotation from Octavio Paz, the great Mexican poet, writer and diplomat, which I believe neatly sums up what I said in the Opening Ceremony earlier today:

“Merece lo que sueñas!” [“Deserve your dream!”].

Because, as I said earlier, at the Opening Ceremony, I firmly believe that we are here in Guadalajara to dream, to imagine, to innovate, and to create a bright, long-term future for the ICT sector.

It is sometimes too easy, within the narrow focus of our day-to-day work, to forget that the world we live in today would simply not function without ICTs and the communications networks which underpin them.

And that it is ITU’s work – across the three Sectors – which makes the modern world possible.

In today’s world, ICTs and broadband networks have become vital national infrastructure – similar to transport, energy and water networks, but with an impact that is even more powerful and far-reaching.

Indeed, I think it is fair to say that next-generation networks based on broadband will rapidly become the backbone of the digital economy – and all the available data suggest a strong and positive correlation between communications and levels of development.

This will make ITU’s work increasingly important as we move forward into the second decade of the 21st century, and it means that we need to take our responsibilities very seriously indeed, as we chart and define the shape of the next four years in ITU’s history.

This will mean taking into account the vital importance of the private sector and the enormous power of public-private partnership in fostering development ambitions and achieving development goals – and in particular the MDGs.

Distinguished delegates,

Before looking ahead to the next four years, I would like to take a brief look at some of the defining moments of the past four years, since we last met together at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya in 2006 – and when you elected me as Secretary-General, together with my colleagues the Deputy Secretary-General, Mr Zhao, who has been a perfect partner in this four-year journey, and the Directors of BR, TSB and BDT, to whom I want to say how much I have appreciated their collaboration since Antalya.

In the past four years, we have seen the number of mobile cellular subscriptions nearly double, to reach five billion, and we have seen the number of people using the Internet reach nearly two billion.

In terms of our own work, we have seen a number of landmark events over the past four years which have been undertaken at the request of Membership, and which have acted as cornerstones and guiding beacons for the ICT sector during this time.

I cannot detail everything we have done in four years – we are short of time – but let me single out a handful of truly exceptional events and milestones, and list some of the key initiatives we have undertaken.

In terms of landmark events, each of the Sectors has of course held its major conference or assembly, starting with the hugely productive and successful World Radiocommunication Conference which was held in Geneva at the end of 2007.

The importance of WRC-07 can only be compared to the importance of the digital world we live in, a world always connected, a world always on the move. A mobile world, where the future is sure to be shaped, at least in part, by mobile broadband.

WRC-07 was followed by the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly, which was held in South Africa at the end of 2008, and which saw greater attendance and more issues dealt with than ever before. While I was in the process of re-centring ITU’s work around our core activities, our standardization work was strengthened and energized at this very successful WTSA.And of course many of us also participated in the World Telecommunication Development Conference, which was held in India at the end of May this year, and which set forth the ambitious work programme for the Development Sector for the next four years. With the results of this WTDC, ITU’s development work now more clearly encompasses developing countries. The success in the first decade of the 21st century in terms of growth in the ICT sector could not have been achieved without ITU-D.

Other landmark events include the World Telecommunication Policy Forum, which was held in Portugal and which addressed a number of high-level issues right across the ICT sector, and which attracted great support from the Membership. The Forum enabled ITU to address the key issues of ICTs and climate change, and ICTs and the global financial crisis. We all know that this sector – our sector – has been the most resilient of all sectors during the economic crisis, and I think it is safe to say that ICTs came to the rescue of the world during this crisis.

The WTPF also addressed the implications of convergence and the emergence of new technologies; the transition to next-generation networks; Internet-related public policy matters; and the International Telecommunication Regulations.

Over the four-year cycle we also staged successful regional ITU Telecom events in Cairo, Egypt, and Bangkok, Thailand, in 2008; and held the ITU Telecom World event in Geneva in October 2009. Over the same period we also successfully transformed the annual WSIS Forum into a more useful, meaningful – and it must be said well-attended – event.

Following the World Summit on the Information Society and the Antalya Plenipotentiary Conference, we also undertook a number of important initiatives in response to Membership’s requests that we take more active steps in addressing issues such as the digital divide, cybersecurity, climate change and the provision of ICTs during emergencies and disasters.

In 2007, we launched the ITU Connect series of events, starting with the hugely successful Connect Africa event in Kigali, Rwanda, which brought in an unprecedented USD 55 billion in ICT development pledges for Africa over a seven year period.

In the first two years since then [2008 and 2009], an impressive USD 21 billion was spent on ICT infrastructure investment in Africa, and we confidently expect the final total to exceed USD 70 billion – demonstrating the true power of partnership and business-friendly initiatives which serve real people in developing countries.

A second successful ITU Connect event – Connect CIS – was held in Belarus in 2009.

Another initiative where we have been very active lately – and which also addresses the digital divide – is the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. This was launched by ITU, in partnership with UNESCO, in May this year, in response to the UN Secretary-General’s call for renewed efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Since then, we have held two very successful meetings, one in July in Geneva and the second in New York just last month, ahead of the 2010 MDG Summit. At this second meeting we presented the Commission’s report to Mr Ban Ki-moon, and he was very positive indeed about ITU’s work.

This report has only just been published and is currently available in English; I ask your indulgence of the translators, who are working overtime to ensure that we have it available in the other five official languages before the end of the Conference.

We would like to recommend this report as a reference document for all Member States, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the two Co-chairs, HE Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso, as well as my Co-vice-chair, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and of course all of the Commissioners, some of whom are present or will be present with us in Guadalajara for this Conference.
They include Senator Stephen Conroy of Australia and United States FCC Chairman Mr Julius Genachowski.

A separate information note on the Broadband Commission is available to delegates as part of the PP-10 documentation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is an opportune moment for me to say one or two words about ITU’s relationship with the rest of the UN system, which it would be no overstatement to say is better than it ever has been before. I would like to thank the other members of the UN Chief Executive Board, the CEB, some of whom are also Broadband Commissioners.

I can proudly say that we are acting as one under the visionary leadership of Mr Ban Ki-moon, who has truly lent his support to ITU whenever needed. Members will also be aware of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda which was launched in 2007 and which is now in its operational phase, with a physical home in Malaysia at the headquarters of IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats.

As part of the GCA, we also launched the Child Online Protection initiative, which was endorsed by Council in 2008 and which was the focus of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day in 2009.

Before looking ahead to the next four years, I would also like to mention that we have listened carefully to Members’ requests to make our own internal organization more efficient and transparent, and to that end we have had annual management retreats since 2008; we have made ITU increasingly a paperless organization; we have introduced more financial transparency and better fiscal management; and we have made much more use of the six official languages.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, we have a very full agenda over the next three weeks, but I am confident that we will achieve the best possible outcomes from this Plenipotentiary Conference, and that Membership will set the Secretariat and the three Sectors on the right path forward for the future.

Concerning the ongoing work of the Union, the three Sectors have already started work on their major events, and in particular the four-yearly events for each of the three Sectors.

We have also looked carefully at how the ITU TELECOM event can be transformed and we look forward to hearing feedback on this process from Membership, ahead of the 40th anniversary edition of ITU TELECOM, which will take place in Geneva this time next year.

At the beginning of the following year we will be holding WRC-12, which of course will require a great deal of preparatory work. This comes on top of what is already a very heavy work schedule for the Radiocommunication Bureau, which will also be finalizing the implementation of the WRC-07 outcomes.

BR will also continue to actively participate in the main ITU activities related to promoting of the use of ICTs in general and radio technologies in particular – for environment monitoring and combating climate change; emergency radiocommunication, including prediction, detection and mitigation of negative effects of natural and man-made disasters; and achieving equitable communication for everyone everywhere, using wireless technologies for broadband access.

Dear colleagues

This is an opportunity for me to express my gratitude to Valery Timofeev, our colleague, the Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau. This is his last plenipotentiary conference as Director of the Bureau, and I would like to express my gratitude to him personally for the good cooperation and for mentoring me, advising me, and leading me through all these years. Valery Timofeev, I very much appreciate what you have done for us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As just recognition for the work done by Mr Timofeev, I had decided to award him the ITU silver medal during this conference here in a ceremony to be done later on this week, along with the outgoing members of the Radio Regulations Board, but since Mr Timofeev has already received a silver medal, so the silver will turn into gold. So I am already informing you that Valery, you have been more than a colleague for me, you are for me a big brother and I appreciate it.
At the end of 2012 the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly, WTSA-12, will be held concurrently with the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT.

As well as planning and preparing for this major event – or pair of events, I should say – the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau will be looking towards major standards achievements in the areas of home networking; smart grids; cloud computing; and ICTs and climate change. In this area, the methodology for estimating the impact of ICTs on climate change has seen excellent support, and looks set to be adopted as the global standard.

TSB will also continue in its work to ‘Bridge the Standardization Gap’ by strengthening standard-making capabilities and assisting developing countries. A fund has been set up to support these activities and has seen support from Cisco, Microsoft, NSN and the Korea Communications Commission.

The Telecommunication Development Bureau also has a very busy four years ahead of it – starting with the annual Global Symposium for Regulators / Global Industry Leaders Forum, which will be taking place in Senegal almost immediately after this Conference ends. November will also see the World Telecommunication ICT Indicators’ Meeting being held in Geneva.

Most of the next four years will be spent implementing the resolutions and action plans which came out of the WTDC in Hyderabad, India, earlier this year – and the cycle will then end with another WTDC before we hold the next Plenipotentiary Conference in 2014.

Ladies and gentlemen,

After looking at the programmes of the Sectors, I would like to again emphasize the following. ITU is nothing without its three Sectors and the work being done in these Sectors, and as Secretary-General I have been taking credit from you, I heard so many good words about ITU, and credit has been given to me but truly this credit should go back to the three Sectors really doing the real job. I would like to thank them for their cooperation. We are locked in a federal structure, it is not a common ticket where everyone can do whatever he sees fit according to his Sector without having to work in a team. I appreciate the team-work as it enables me to go out there and sometimes make some very hard, long, visionary statements, knowing that they are the ones implementing them anyway.

Directors, I would like here to take this opportunity to appreciate Mr Johnson and Mr Al Basheer for the work they have done. The Deputy Secretary-General, Mr Zhao, has been a true team player in a federal structure in which you do not run on a common ticket. It can be very difficult for a Secretary-General, but thanks to the strong support I received from my deputy, whom I meet every morning, first thing at 9 o'clock, every evening, last thing, and many times during the day, he has made my life easy. I really want truly to recognize this and I really thank them for making my life easy. Together we have been a winning team I believe.

Thank you very much.

Distinguished delegates,

Before I close this afternoon, I would like to raise three issues which I believe are of concern to us all, and which I highlighted in Council back in April.
Firstly, it is very important for the future of the Union that we find the right way to put in place more stable and more predictable funding mechanisms – for the benefits of both Membership and the Secretariat.

With the implementation of new systems such as IPSAS, we have the necessary transparency and discipline to achieve this. Indeed, with better reporting mechanisms, I hope that Membership will be convinced that supporting ITU’s work is good value for money. And that as the world moves beyond the financial crisis, Member States will consider increasing their ITU contributions to reflect the levels of development of the ICT sectors in their countries.

It is vital that this Conference delivers a balanced financial plan for the 2012-2015 period, and that we avoid the experience of 2006, when no financial plan was approved during the Plenipotentiary Conference.

It would be good for both Member States and ITU management if we could agree to confirm the number of Contributory Units early in the meeting so that the Secretariat can work out the financial plan.

I believe that Member States are now in a better position to declare their selection of the number of contributory units, based on maintaining the current level of CHF 318,000. Ideally, this would be before the end of the first week, so that PP-10 can create the balanced financial plan that we would all want to see.

Secondly, I would like to see PP-10 take steps towards stabilizing the basic texts of the Union, with a view to seeing if we can create durable texts that do not require frequent amendment, and which make it easier for the Membership to tell us clearly what they want.

And thirdly, I believe we need to work together to increase our Sector Membership, to broaden and strengthen the Union. As a market-responsive organization in a fast-changing environment, we need to work constantly to continue to increase our relevance.

To this end, we must attract and welcome new members from all branches of ICTs – from traditional players to new market entrants – while retaining existing members with active engagements across our three Sectors.

We must ensure that new and existing members see that being a part of ITU represents value for money, and that there are clear and compelling reasons to become a member.

Perhaps, also, we can simplify things for prospective members?

Let’s explore this together, taking into account the complex needs of different constituencies, such as developing country members or academia, and see if we can find a way to strengthen our membership. This would be to everyone’s advantage.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I close, let us be reminded of the spirit of the founding fathers of this great ‘Union’ of ours: the spirit of inclusiveness, consensus building, cooperation, and a mutual desire for progress.

What we will do here, over the next three weeks, will not only shape the future of ITU, but will greatly influence ICT development at the global level.

I therefore count on each and every one of you to maintain the truly great ITU spirit, and to afford this Conference the great success it deserves.

And finally, I do hope – having made personal efforts to speak a fourth official language, Spanish, over the past few months, after English, French and Russian – to be able to address you soon in Arabic and Chinese too!