Committed to connecting the world

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

ITU WSIS Forum 2010

10 May 2010, Geneva, Switzerland


Cloud of words: WSIS, forum, implementation, unesco, summit, broadband, un, new york... Excellencies,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you this morning to open the WSIS Forum 2010.

We are in very distinguished company this morning, and will look forward to hearing statements from:

Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD;

Ambassador Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General, UNDESA, by video message;

Mr Johannes Christian Wichard, Deputy Director General, Global IP Issues, WIPO;

Ms Cécile Molinier, Director, UNDP, Geneva;

His Excellency Mohamed Naceur Ammar, Tunisia’s Minister of Communication Technologies;

Mr Art Reilly, International Chamber of Commerce, Business Action to Support the Information Society (ICC-BASIS);

And Mr Richard Amalvy, Vice-Chairman of the Conference of Non Governmental Organizations in consultative relationships with the UN (CoNGO).

Let me welcome you all, on behalf of ITU, including the ministers who are here today and other honourable guests of the WSIS Forum 2010, which include His Excellency Adama Samasseku, Former President of PrepCom of the Geneva Phase of WSIS, and His Excellency Janis Karklins, Former President of PrepCom of the Tunis Phase of WSIS.

Today we are meeting here for the 5th time since the Tunis Summit, and I believe that we are doing better each year in implementing the task assigned to us in organizing an annual meeting of Action Line Facilitators.

Together we have been able to build an annual global event with its own identity. What are its main characteristics?

It is an open and inclusive meeting. Many of you have participated in the definition of the programme and in the organization of the round tables. This event is your event.

It is dynamic event focusing on implementation. We are here to talk about projects, innovations, field experiences, scaling up, partnerships, empowerment and financing.

It is an event where we address emerging ICT tools; emerging technology; and emerging economic, social and political issues raised by the Information Society.

As the WSIS Forum becomes a unique multi-stakeholder platform for WSIS implementation, my hope is that it will also become a blueprint for other UN Summit implementation mechanisms.

With this in mind, I had discussions with our colleagues at UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDESA, as well as with the UN Secretary-General, about hosting the WSIS Forum in New York next year.

And I am pleased to be able to announce today that this proposal has been approved – and that we will therefore be holding the WSIS Forum 2011 in New York, from 16 to 20 May next year.

I know that this will be a challenging task, but I believe it will help us to anchor the WSIS implementation process in the UN Global Agenda, and will allow us to broaden the communities of stakeholders participating in the process.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let us come back to the 2010 event.

We all recognize that this is an important year, as it marks the half-way point between WSIS in 2005 and the MDGs targets in 2015. As such, it gives us an opportunity for a mid-term review, taking stock of the progress made so far and looking at the challenges still remaining ahead.

A number of new reports will help us in this review.

The first of these is ITU’s new report on National e-Strategies for Development, which has been drafted in cooperation with each of the UN Regional Economic Commissions. It is very encouraging in this report to see that at least 161 economies – some 84% of the total – have already met the WSIS target of having a national ICT strategy in place.

We will also be looking at the 9th edition of the World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report, WTDR 2010, at the WSIS Forum – it will be launched officially at the World Telecommunication Development Conference in Hyderabad later this month.

The WTDR focuses this year on ‘Monitoring the WSIS Targets’, and represents a joint effort among several international organizations, led by ITU and including contributions from UNDESA, UNESCO, WHO and WMO, as well as from representatives of civil society.

As a mid-term review, the Report reviews the WSIS targets, proposes concrete indicators to monitor them, and makes recommendations on policies and measures to help achieve them.

We also have the WSIS Stocktaking Database, which continues to provide a key tool to monitor the WSIS implementation – and I invite you to take note of the WSIS Stocktaking Report 2010.

The Stocktaking Database and Report show the continuous efforts of the WSIS stakeholders to join forces and create win-win partnerships to accelerate the implementation of the WSIS outcomes. Examples include the Global Cybersecurity Agenda; the ITU Connect events; and large-scale projects underway around the world.

Distinguished colleagues,

Looking at the bigger picture, I believe we can say that the WSIS implementation has been quite fruitful and successful. Above all, many projects have been developed, financed and implemented.

But we still have far to go.

It is very encouraging that we will reach the five billion mark this year in terms of mobile cellular subscriptions. But three quarters of the world’s population still has no access to the internet. And in the developing world, broadband access is limited to just a handful of people.

Broadband is particularly important – as the WTDR acknowledges – because it delivers benefits right across every sector of society. The truly transformational power of broadband networks can help us get the MDGs back on track. That’s why broadband needs to reach all people, in all nations.

Personally, I have tremendous faith that the public and private sectors will work together – as they did in the creation of mobile cellular networks – to roll-out the necessary infrastructure and create the necessary services to bring broadband to all the world’s people.

The reason I am so confident, is that broadband networks can quickly pay for themselves in terms of the savings realized in the more efficient provision of essential services. Services such as healthcare, education, power, water, transportation and e-government.

This is why ITU, with UNESCO, is establishing the Broadband Commission for Digital Development – which will be launched at 1pm today. The Commission will be chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and myself, will act as vice-chairs, and the Broadband Commission has the full support of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. The Commission will report to the 2010 MDG Summit in September.

The Broadband Commission complements ITU’s own ‘Build on Broadband’ campaign, which is designed to increase awareness on the vital role broadband will play in the 21st century in every country in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We need to ensure that the link between WSIS and the UN Global Agenda is reinforced and strengthened.

At the end of the forum, and building on the intensive discussions you will have during the week, we may want to prepare a clear message on the potential of ICTs to accelerate the achievement of the MDGs which can be conveyed to the 2010 MDG Summit.

We may also want to think how we can make sure that the WSIS outcomes and the WSIS implementation results are duly taken into consideration in the preparatory process for the UN LDC IV Conference to be held in 2011.

These issues will also be discussed during the two meetings of UNGIS this week and will be reported to the UN Chief Executives Board, CEB, for its consideration. The UNGIS meetings will be under the leadership of UNESCO, to which I would be pleased to give the chairmanship for 2011.

In closing, therefore, let me wish you a fruitful and interesting week of debates. And let me say once again how much I will look forward to seeing you all in New York from 16 to 20 May next year.

Thank you.