Committed to connecting the world

BDT Director's Speeches

UNESCWA Arab High Level Forum and ITU Arab Regional Development Forum for Arab States
Beirut, Lebanon  19 March 2019

19 MARCH 2019
Excellency Mr. Mohaed Choucair, Minister of Telecommunications, Lebanon,
Excellency Ms. Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary of UNESCWA,
Honourable Ministers and Ambassadors,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to recognize my two ITU colleagues Mr Marcelino Tayob and Ms Maygenet Abebe who lost their lives in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash. I ask you to keep them and their families in your prayers.
I am delighted to join you today in the beautiful and historic city of Beirut.

Let me begin by thanking the government of the Republic of Lebanon for its kind hospitality. My thanks go also to UNESCWA for co-organizing this event here in the impressive UN-House building.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Information and communication technologies, or ICTs, are now universally recognized as a key platform for development, and a powerful and indispensable tool for helping us achieve the SDGs.
The Arab region has shown great improvements in ICT access and use, particularly driven by growth in mobile services. ITU data shows that mobile phone penetration grew from 11.3 per cent in 2003 to 103.1 per cent in 2018, while mobile broadband penetration (which was not available in 2003) stood at 62.7 per cent at the end of 2018. Internet use in the region also showed impressive growth from 3.4 per cent of the population using the Internet in 2003 to 54.7 at end of 2018.

The 11 WSIS Action Lines established in 2003 by the Geneva Action Plan are our common framework for fostering partnerships, showcasing ICT innovation and exchanging best practices in the field of ICT implementation.

As you may be aware, we concluded the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference last November in Dubai. This was our first Plenipotentiary since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, and during the event Member States endorsed the ITU’s strategic and operational plans for the period 2019-2022.
The previous year, our World Telecommunications Development Conference in Argentina had also endorsed the Buenos Aires Action Plan, including a set of special Regional Initiatives, five of which are dedicated to the Arab Region.
These Arab Region initiatives encompass the following broad areas: 

-       Environment, climate change and emergency
-       Confidence and security in the use of ICTs
-       Digital financial inclusion
-       Internet of Things, smart cities and big data, and
-       Innovation and entrepreneurship.

For each of these five focus areas, projects will be developed and implemented to meet the region's specific needs. So over the next three days, our work in the Regional Development Forum and the Arab High Level Forum on WSIS and SDGs will be to review and discuss the best way forward in implementing these initiatives, and to clearly map how they will contribute to achieving the SDGs and the WSIS Action Lines.

The opportunities for partnerships are many. I firmly believe that collaboration and cooperation lie at the heart of our efforts to connect the remaining 50% of the world’s population still without access to the online world. We all need to find ways of working even more closely together to ensure that our objectives are achieved for the benefit of all.

Ladies and gentlemen,

ITU’s contribution here to this important high-level forum, alongside our colleagues from UNESCWA, is testament to our shared commitment to the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines and the need to align our programmes with the specific goals of the SDGs.

ICTs offer humankind the best opportunity we have ever had to meet many of the development challenges that have so far proven intractable.

I passionately believe that, this time, we CAN do it, through the combined strengths of technology and our global will to make a change. Let’s ensure we harness that power constructively over the next three days, and keep people at the centre of our projects and our plans.

I wish you all the very best in your deliberations and I look forward to working together in the coming years to achieve our shared objectives.

I would like to conclude by thanking once again the ministry of telecommunications, UNESCWA and Ogero Telecom for providing us with such facilities and hospitality.  I would also like to thank all the speakers and delegates who are joining us during these three days.

My final message to you is: Be fruitful and constructive in your discussions, and don’t forget to take some time out at the end of each day to enjoy that world-famous Lebanese hospitality and to visit the “Jewel of the Mediterranean,” beautiful Beirut.

Thank you.