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The Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12)

Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 17 October 2012

Introductory Address

Your Excellency Dr. Hon. Rupert Griffith, Minister of Science and Technology and President Caribbean Telecommunications Union
Ms Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General, Caribbean Telecommunications Union
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning and welcome to this Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT12). I am very grateful for the cooperation of the CTU in organizing this event and the government of Trinidad and Tobago for hosting it.

The Secretary-General of ITU, Dr Hamadoun Touré sends his good wishes and expresses his gratitude for the excellent collaboration we have with CTU and Trinidad and Tobago.

Ladies and Gentlemen

We are well down the road to Dubai and very close to WCIT. This is therefore a particularly important meeting to refine positions ahead of this important event. I am pleased to see such wide participation.

All the proposals submitted to the Council working group preparing for WCIT were made available to the public in mid-August, and anyone can express their views and opinions on them and any other WCIT related matters on the ITU website.

Many countries have conducted public consultations and all ITU Member States and Sector Members have full access to all WCIT documents and can share them within their constituencies. Also, they can be translated into other languages in addition to the six official languages if necessary to ensure all citizens can participate in the consultation.

Many non-members have had an opportunity to influence the proposals, in particular through participation in regional preparatory meetings such as this as well as by participating in the delegations of their Member States, as I am sure they will in Dubai.

Last week in Geneva we had a Briefing Session for WCIT (as well as WTSA). The event was chaired by the nominated chairman of WCIT – Mr. Mohamed Al-Ghanim and was open to all Member States and Sector Members. It was an opportunity to hear proposals from each region presented in turn, to allow a thorough understanding of what is being proposed. The presentations are on the ITU website and we will go over these during the next few days.

The Caribbean countries have their own particular interests and challenges, which is why I suggested organizing this event with CTU, recognizing that it is difficult for the countries in this region to participate fully in the ITU preparatory meetings as well as the CITEL meetings.

WCIT has attracted an incredible amount of attention – probably more than any other ITU conference in its long history. Not only does this illustrate the much increased relevance of a global treaty on international telecommunications but also ITU’s role in the sector that affects almost everyone on the planet, as well as economies, businesses and society. Unfortunately a lot of what has been written is misinformed for various reasons, and in my opinion too much emphasis has been placed on Internet related issues to the extent that many other important proposals have not been given much publicity. So we will look at the complete range of proposals over the next few days.

The issues the conference will address include many that were not a concern when the current ITRs were adopted in 1988: misuse of numbering; fraud; security; high data volumes and falling unit prices putting pressure on infrastructure investment; high cost of Internet connectivity in many developing countries; high international mobile roaming charges; energy efficiency, e-waste, and accessibility.

The many divergent views on these issues will make it very difficult to reach agreement in Dubai. It was the same in 1988 but everyone left that conference satisfied.

In fact the 1988 ITRs were instrumental in enabling the development of today’s global information society, and I very much hope that the new ITRs will have a positive impact on its future growth.

Difficult technical, policy and economic challenges to international telecommunications have always been resolved in ITU to the benefit of all the world’s users – and I am sure WCIT will be no exception.

The tradition in ITU is to work toward consensus. And by consensus I mean consensus, which does not necessarily mean unanimity. To reach consensus proponents will need to show willingness to compromise. If there is no willingness to compromise it can lead to frustration and the risk of entering into voting, which no one wants. In ITU it only takes three countries to force a vote so it will be important to see willingness to compromise, in the coming weeks and at the conference itself.
I very much hope that the Caribbean countries will be able to expert their own influence to ensure this and that we achieve a successful conference.

WCIT should define a new enabling international regulatory framework that will encourage the development of a fully inclusive information society over the next decades; a society that ensures that all the world's citizens have equitable, affordable and secure access to voice, video and data.

Of course I cannot fail to mention another important event taking place in Dubai prior to WCIT – the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly. This is the world conference of the Standardisation Sector of the ITU which is held every four years and defines the next period of study for ITU-T.

The last four years’ work was defined by WTSA-2008 in Johannesburg and has been characterized by many new areas of work, such as climate change, cybersecurity, bridging the standardization gap – i.e. increasing the participation of developing countries in the standards work, accessibility to ICTs for persons with disabilities, and in particular conformance and interoperability testing.

There were many new Resolutions adopted in Johannesburg including those initiating the new ITU academia membership – we now have around 40 universities members of ITU-T, the reduced sector membership fee for companies from certain developing countries, and what is now the Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues.

Since Johannesburg I am very pleased to say we have seen a significant increase in the participation of developing countries. This has been achieved by active participation of developing countries in the leadership of the Study Groups, the very successful regional Study Groups, fellowships to all ITU-T study group and TSAG meetings, more workshops and meetings in the regions, the possibility to join meetings remotely, and the fact ITU-T is now dealing with topics of particular interest to developing countries. Since 2007 we have seen 41 countries participating in ITU-T that were not then, and last year alone we welcomed 16 countries participating for the first time ever in ITU-T.

WTSA will be preceded by a one day Global Standards Symposium on 19 November in which ministers, regulators, heads of other international, regional and major national standards bodies, and industry from the different regions of the world will discuss global ICT standards challenges with a focus on the intersection between the ICT sector and other vertical sectors. The Chairman of the GSS will present the conclusions of the GSS to the first Plenary meeting of the WTSA.

During WTSA we will have three side-events on three separate evenings during the first week on: e-Health standards; ICT innovation in developing countries; and resilience of networks to natural disasters.

We will also have a showcasing of new products meeting ITU standards such as IPTV and home networking.

I am sure it will be an interesting event and I encourage you to participate.

My colleagues Richard Hill and Preetam Maloor have travelled with me to most of the regional preparatory meetings, and together with the ITU regional representative Cleveland Thomas, we hope to leave you fully conversant will the issues that will arise in Dubai.

I wish you a very informative and enjoyable few days.

Thank you.