Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

UNCTAD Global Commodities Forum

31 January 2011, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here in Geneva for the opening of the second Global Commodities Forum.

The timing of this Forum is particularly appropriate, as we witness fresh pressure on commodity prices worldwide – and particularly steep increases in food prices in developing countries.

For the great majority of those of us lucky enough to be living in rich, industrialized countries, a few extra cents on the price of a loaf of bread, or a kilo of rice, really doesn’t change all that much. A few dollars a week at most, quickly forgotten.

We should never forget, however, that for billions of people, the cost of meeting their daily food needs represents a significant proportion of their total income.

And that for over a billion people, hunger is a daily reality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are many positive sides to globalization, but this price instability is just one example among many of the downsides of the global commodity economy we live in today.

We must therefore work together to ensure the long-term sustainability of the production, distribution and use of commodities, and seek new ways of overcoming market volatility.

Key to this goal, of course, is the timely and accurate collection and management of commodity data.

ITU was therefore very pleased to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with UNCTAD at the end of last October, to work together to set up the Natural Resources Information Exchange – NRIE – for the benefit of UN Member States.

I would personally like to thank Dr Supachai for the confidence  UNCTAD demonstrated in ITU by inviting us to contribute to the implementation of the NRIE.

In my view, this is exactly the sort of cooperative effort which helps the UN system to ‘work as one’ – which is one of Ban Ki-moon’s key goals for our organizations.

It is with this spirit in mind that ITU and UNESCO created the ‘Broadband Commission for Digital Development’ last year, and that ITU and WHO created the ‘Commission on Information & Accountability for Women’s & Children’s Health’ this year.

The Global Commodities Forum is another very good example of ‘working as one’, and I am pleased to see so many different agencies represented here, and participating in this Forum.

With an issue as interconnected and complicated as global commodities, the only possible way forward is a multi-stakeholder approach, which takes into account the needs of all players, large and small, and which is capable of delivering long-term, sustainable solutions.

Distinguished colleagues,

As most of you will know, ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology issues, and the global focal point for governments and the private sector in developing ICT networks and services.

The World Summit on the Information Society entrusted ITU to be the lead intergovernmental organization for action lines C2 (information and communication infrastructure) and C5 (building confidence and security in the use of ICTs) of the Tunis Agenda (2005).

And as many of you know, ITU and UNCTAD have been jointly supporting Tunisia’s annual ICT4All event since 2006.

In our role as lead organization for the C2 and C5 action lines, we play a key role in analyzing current and future challenges in areas such as security, multilingualism and identity management, along with other issues critical to information access and knowledge management.

Considering our mandate and considerable expertise in the area of information access and knowledge management, we are pleased to provide guidance on technology strategies for the setting up of the NRIE, and trust that it will be of benefit to UN Member States.

Later this year we will be opening the ICT-E. This is a brand new technology showcase which will be hosted in ITU’s Montbrillant building on Place des Nations.

The exhibition and museum will provide an engaging history of ICTs from the birth of the telegraph to the present day, and will also be used to provide lively demonstrations of the power of technology to make a real and positive difference, at the local, national and international level.

I would also very much like to encourage you to mark the dates 24 to 27 October in your diaries, as this will be when we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary edition of ITU Telecom here in Geneva.

The event will bring together world leaders at the highest level along with top executives from many of the world’s most powerful players in the ICT sector, and it will be a great occasion on which to pursue the discussions you have here today and tomorrow on Global Commodities.

I look forward to seeing you there.

In closing, therefore, let me just say once again how pleased we are to be working in close cooperation with UNCTAD and many other UN agencies, and how much we welcome this kind of Forum.

As I have said before: Alone, we are nothing, but together we can achieve so much.

Thank you.