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

Child Online Protection (COP)

17 November 2010, Costa Rica


Madame President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today to announce together with Her Excellency President Chinchilla the next phase of a global initiative that aims to protect the world’s most precious asset — our children — as they venture into the online world. 

No-one can doubt the power and potential of the Internet. It plays an ever-increasing role in government, industry, and in our daily lives. But, as we know, the Internet also has its negative side. It is an environment that brings wonderful opportunities, but that also conceals predators. In particular, there are criminals who target our children.

For that reason, two years ago, in November 2008, ITU launched its Child Online Protection project — COP for short. In its first phase, COP developed international guidelines for protecting young people in cyberspace. Now, we are about to enter a new phase — a global initiative aimed at achieving action that will truly make a difference.

We were greatly honoured this year when President Chinchilla became the patron of the initiative. Today, alongside you Madame President, I am delighted to announce the next phase of COP — starting here in Costa Rica. This country will lead the way, as we develop a new strategy for taking action to protect children online.

We are now moving towards developing specific codes of conduct for industry, as well as roadmaps for governments to establish the necessary administrative and legal frameworks — and these laws must be harmonized internationally, so that criminals who target children online have far fewer places to hide.

Training will be offered to parents, teachers, and all who have responsibility for young people. And campaigns will be promoted to raise awareness of the dangers that can be encountered when using the Internet.

In the end, our aim is for safe and entertaining spaces to be created online, where children and young people can get the best from the digital world.

All of this work comes under the Global Cybersecurity Agenda that ITU launched in 2007. It will involve our worldwide partners in administrations, industry, and civil society. In addition, it will be a focus of all ITU’s Sectors, whose expert staff will contribute their experience to help forge local and international partnerships, and to provide creative solutions.

We intend to bring together members of existing initiatives, provide guidance for stakeholders of every kind on capacity-building and on raising awareness of the risks in cyberspace. Above all, the aim is to foster cooperation among all those involved in providing services to children and young people. With this in mind, President Chinchilla and I are issuing a joint invitation to the current partners in COP, as well as many potential new ones, around the world.

Already, for example, we are working with INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines. We are promoting the establishment of more hotlines, in all countries, through which children can easily report online abuse and seek help. ITU is also contributing an important technical element to this work, with a worldwide  recommended phone number for child hotlines everywhere.

Starting today, from here in Costa Rica, the new initiative on Child Online Protection will spread to other countries around the globe. Every ITU Member State will know of it, and I expect a very positive response. Children are the future for us all — and the Internet is a powerful force in shaping that future. Let us make sure that the younger generation has a safe way into the wonders of that world, and all the benefits it will bring.

Thank you.