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Joint ITU-ETNO Workshop: Revising the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) - "Preparations for WCIT 2012"

Brussels, Belgium, 19 April 2012

Opening Address

Distinguished colleagues and friends,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome you to this workshop on revising the International Telecommunications Regulations.

On behalf of the ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré I would like to thank Luigi Gambardella, ETNO Board Chairman for taking the lead in organizing this event, and Didier Bellens, Belgacom CEO for hosting us.

This event is intended to bring to your attention the importance to the industry of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) which will be held in Dubai, 3-14 December this year.

The conference will amend the only truly global treaty on international telecommunications – a treaty that 178 countries are bound to but which is now well out of date having not been revised for 24 years.

The current ITRs are widely credited for creating the basis of today's connected world. They were a major driver of liberalisation and competition and enabled the development of the Internet.

This conference comes at a time when the ICT sector is having a major impact on economic and social development. It is an opportunity to amend the treaty in a way that will further extend the benefits of ICTs.

The new treaty should express the common will of ITU's members – both its government members and private sector members. ITU’s membership consists of 193 governments and, unusually for a UN organization, over 700 private sector entities.

The preparatory process for WCIT includes regional preparatory meetings: 6 major regional organistions around the world; and a Council Working Group that meets in Geneva: all ITU members can participate in these meetings. There are also meetings such as this one organized in partnership with other organizations.

The regional meetings are particularly important since in ITU conferences it is difficult to make a proposal if it does not have regional support.

Some of the issues on the table for the WCIT include the right to communicate; security in the use of ICTs and the protection of national resources; taxation; international roaming; misuse and hijacking of international numbers; and interoperability. As has been highlighted by the industry, data volumes are increasing much faster than the infrastructure needed to carry it, and there is a risk of a lack of investment in the development of the infrastructure. This is also something that could be addressed at the WCIT. The current international regulatory framework is simply not equipped to deal with these challenges which will affect the creation of a fully inclusive information society over the next decade, one that ensures the world's citizens can gain equitable and affordable access to voice, video and data.

The treaty should lay down the principles for action on these topics at an intergovernmental level.

The Council Working Group to prepare for WCIT will meet next week in Geneva 23-25 April and the final meeting will take place 20-22 June 2012. The publication of its report will be on 29 June 2012 (5 months prior to the conference) and will include a consolidation of all the proposals it has received.

Member States are asked to submit their proposals for the work of the conference four months before the start and at the very latest 14 days before the start of the conference.

We hope that the new treaty will create a stable international regulatory framework providing the right conditions to allow markets to flourish globally.

It should act as a positive catalyst for the future development of ICTs, to benefit all countries. The issues that are on the table for discussion are therefore vital to the creation of a fully inclusive information society.

I very much hope that the discussion generated here this morning will help us to achieve that objective.

I wish you a very productive and enjoyable workshop.