Committed to connecting the world


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

Internet Governance Forum

Opening Ceremony

27 September 2011, Nairobi, Kenya

Mr President,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking the Kenyan government for its kind invitation to this important event.

As Africans, both myself and Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, take a special interest in working with ITU’s African Member States on local and regional initiatives – so we are delighted to be here with you today for the opening of the sixth Internet Governance Forum.

We are greatly honoured by the presence of:
  • Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s President;
  • Samuel Poghisio, Kenya’s Minister of Information and Communications;
  • Bitange Ndemo, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communications; and
  • Thomas Steltzer, UNDESA’s Assistant Secretary-General.
Let me also congratulate the Kenya Internet Governance steering committee, and its Chair, Alice Munuya, for their efforts in organizing this event.

I think that this is a good opportunity for us to look back briefly at the origins of the IGF, which was created as an outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society, WSIS.

WSIS was the most wide-ranging, comprehensive and inclusive debate ever held on the future of the Information Society. For the first time, governments, the private sector, intergovernmental organizations and civil society all worked together hand in hand for the common good.

At the close of the summit, in November 2005, we heralded a breakthrough agreement on Internet governance, which acknowledged the need for enhanced global cooperation. The IGF was therefore created as a fresh start to pave the way for discussions on a number of issues in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet.

Ladies and gentlemen,

ITU remains firmly committed to the WSIS process, which has made considerable progress in many areas in advancing the implementation of the WSIS outcomes.

The annual WSIS Forum goes from strength to strength, and this year attracted more than 1,150 participants from over 140 countries. More than 1,000 stakeholders from all parts of world followed the forum through remote participation and contributed to the positive outcome of the event.

Next year’s WSIS Forum will be held from 14-18 May in Geneva, and I look forward to welcoming you there.

The WSIS process encompasses many important issues, including accessibility, climate change and cybersecurity, and we are pleased to be co-organizing events on these particular topics here at the IGF in Nairobi.

Accessibility remains a very important issue, with an estimated one billion people around the world today suffering from some kind of disability.

To achieve the goal of equitable communication for everyone, ITU, through our Standardization and Development bureaus, focuses on a series of strategic issues ranging from the rights of the disabled, to making technical design standards accessible, to providing education and training on accessible ICTs.

We are also very active concerning the biggest issue facing humanity today, which is of course climate change.

ICTs are crucial in this regard, because while they are responsible for 2-3% of global greenhouse emissions, they can help reduce emissions in other sectors by 15%.

As is so often the case, ICTs once again prove to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

ITU plays an important role across all three sectors:
  • Our Radiocommunication Sector identifies and protects the necessary radiofrequency spectrum for climate monitoring and disaster prediction, detection and relief. This includes close cooperation with the World Meteorological Organization in the field of remote-sensing applications.
  • Our Standardization Sector develops standards for energy-efficient ICT equipment, notably through ITU-T Study Group 5, which is working on a set of methodologies for assessing the environmental impact of ICT. This includes a global methodology which ICT companies could use to measure their carbon footprint, as well as to estimate the considerable savings in global greenhouse gas emissions and energy that can be achieved in other sectors through the use of ICTs.
  • And our Development Sector continues to help developing countries mitigate the effects of climate change, including the use of emergency telecommunications and alerting systems for disaster relief.

Distinguished colleagues,

Let me now turn to cybersecurity, which I mentioned briefly during yesterday’s Ministerial Forum, here in Nairobi.

This was a major area of concern highlighted at WSIS – and it is interesting to note that in the six years since then, this has become an ever-increasing subject of importance.

Indeed, hardly a day goes by without new reports of cyberattacks on governments, corporations, and individuals.

Our concrete response was to launch the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, the GCA, in 2007. This is now in its operational phase, with several global initiatives already implemented.

We are also doing important cybersecurity work within ITU’s Standardization Sector, which provides an international platform for the development of the protocols, systems and services that protect current and Next Generation Networks (NGNs) – with ITU-T Study Group 17 being the lead Study Group on security and identity management.

On the operational front, we are proud to have forged a strong and highly supportive relationship with IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats – which is the world’s first comprehensive alliance against cyberthreats.

IMPACT is the key organization fulfilling ITU’s cybersecurity mandate in an operational sense, in that it provides our 192 Member States with access to expertise, facilities and resources to effectively address cyberthreats, as well as assisting UN bodies in protecting their ICT infrastructures.

As I mentioned yesterday, 136 countries – 50 of them in Africa – are now part of the ITU-IMPACT operational deployment, which assists Member States in improving their cybersecurity, through activities and projects such as facilitating free-of-charge access to the Global Response Centre (GRC), and facilitating the establishment of Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTs).

As of today, some 30 countries have been assessed and we are now moving to the implementation phase.

We have also been working to deliver assistance to UN agencies, following requests to help them in improving the security of their ICT infrastructures and the services delivered to their constituencies. Assessments and penetration tests were conducted for a number of UN specialized agencies, and coordination is currently in progress to provide cybersecurity solutions and capabilities to them.

The MoU signed between ITU and UNODC, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – where for the first time two UN bodies agreed to develop a global approach in assisting Member States in elaborating harmonized legal frameworks – also represents another historical step in fighting cybercrime globally.

Let me also briefly mention another very important ITU initiative concerning cybersecurity, which is Child Online Protection, or COP.

With a globally coordinated approach to cybersecurity, we need to recognize the very real dangers being faced by children and young people online – who often find themselves in cyberspace alone and unprotected. Often, this is simply because their guardians do not fully understand the risks.

We therefore launched the COP initiative at the High Level Segment of ITU Council 2008, as a multi-stakeholder coalition under the GCA framework.

COP was endorsed by Heads of State, Ministers and heads of international organizations from around the world – including Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General.

Since then we have established an international collaborative network for promoting the online protection of children worldwide; created and published guidelines for all the different stakeholders; and published ‘Child Online Protection Statistical Framework and Indicators’.

With our patron, President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, the COP initiative is now working to transform the COP guidelines into concrete activities which will deliver significant national benefits.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I close, let me say once again that ITU has been and will continue to be an active participant in the IGF process.

As I mentioned, we have co-organized events on a range of topics such as cybersecurity including child online protection, accessibility and climate change.

We have also provided funding to support the participation of experts from developing countries – through a generous donation from the Canadian government.

We remain committed to working with all the stakeholders, and we are pleased to be able to offer a forum for open discussion of the issues.

In closing, let me mention two very important events – one taking place at the end of next year, and the other taking place just next month.

The event taking place next year is the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT, which I discussed briefly yesterday at the Ministerial Forum.

WCIT will revise the International Telecommunication Regulations, the ITRs, which were last updated a very long time ago, in 1988.

Let me emphasize here that ITU’s members do not want heavy-handed regulation, and a return to the old days of accounting rates and government-controlled telecommunications. But we do want harmonization and agreement between members. There is clearly a need for coordination and consolidation between agencies at both the national and international levels.

If we are to sustain growth in the massively inter-dependent global digital economy in the 21st century, WCIT needs to find win-win solutions for the future development of the whole ICT sector.

And of course the event taking place in just a few weeks is ITU Telecom World 2011, which marks the 40th anniversary of this landmark event.

I expect and hope to see you all there, to continue shaping the future of the global ICT sector – which of course, in the second decade of the 21st century, means shaping the future of the world itself!

This meeting, the IGF, brings together a unique, broad, mix of stakeholders from all sectors, and let me therefore use this opportunity to issue you with a challenge – a challenge which can be carried through the next year and beyond:

Let us all – each and every one of us – commit to making the world a better place, through increased equitable and affordable access to the Internet.

At this crucial time in human history, this is the very least we can do.

Let’s make the world a better place for all.

Thank you.