Your Excellency, President Aliyev,
Your Excellency, Mr Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs,
Your Excellency, Minister Abbasov,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today for the opening of the seventh annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, which is taking place here in the fine city of Baku, alongside the 18th edition of BakuTel, the largest ICT event in the Caspian and Caucasus regions.
The IGF is an excellent example of multi-stakeholderism in action.
This is hardly surprising, as the IGF was one of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, WSIS, which 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.
ITU remains firmly committed to the multi-stakeholder WSIS process, and has been accorded the leading managerial role in terms of responsibility for the WSIS+10 Review Process, following the endorsement by the UN Chief Executives Board of the ‘Plan of Action for the Overall Review of the Implementation of the WSIS Outcomes’.
I therefore look forward to welcoming you all to next year’s WSIS Forum – which once again will be the main forum for multi-stakeholder dialogue on the future of the information society.
The forum will be held in Geneva from 13-17 May 2013.
The 2013 Forum coincides with the Fifth World Telecommunication Policy Forum, WTPF-13.
This event will be of very special interest to IGF participants, as the theme is ‘International Internet-related public policy matters’.
The WTPF exists so that ITU membership can debate key issues in the world of ICTs, in a low-pressure setting. WTPF-13 therefore represents a tremendous opportunity to air the issues among fellow experts, and I look forward to seeing many of you there.
In July this year, ITU’s Council agreed that all relevant stakeholders should participate in the work of the Informal Group of Experts that helps prepare the content for the discussion at the WTPF.
As a result, participation in the work of this expert group is now open to all relevant stakeholders, and many ITU non-members – such as Google, PayPal and ICANN, to name just a few – are now actively participating in the WTPF expert group meetings.
With regard to ICANN I would like to offer my personal congratulations to Mr. Fadi Chehadé, the new President and CEO of ICANN. Mr. Chehade is well known and highly respected by ITU’s membership. His appointment represents a new era and I look forward to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead and all that can be achieved together in a positive spirit of collaboration.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are now less than a month away from the start of the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which runs from 3-14 December in Dubai.
WCIT-12 will review the International Telecommunication Regulations, the ITRs, which date back to 1988.
The current ITRs set the stage for the mobile revolution and the information society – and we are confident that the 2012 ITRs will help usher in the knowledge society.
Simply put, WCIT-12 is about putting ICTs in the hands of all the world’s people. It is about:
- The free flow of information;
- Promoting affordable and equitable access for all, including people with disabilities;
- The continued development of broadband – including an increased focus on energy efficiency and combating climate change;
- Continuing investment in networks, services and applications;
- And perhaps most importantly – in this very fast-moving world – continuing to promote a harmonious and conducive international environment that drives innovation.
Governments who implement new provisions that might be provided by updated ITRs would help to stop fraud and other crimes. But some commentators have suggested that they could also legitimize censorship.
The fact is, however, that ITU Member States already have the right – as stated in article 34 of the Constitution of the ITU – to block any private telecommunications which appear “dangerous to the security of the State or contrary to its laws, to public order or to decency.”
The ITRs cannot override the ITU Constitution, and many authorities around the world already intervene in communications for various reasons – such as preventing the circulation of pornography or extremist propaganda.
Clearly, a balance must be found between protecting people’s privacy and their right to communicate, and protecting individuals, institutions and whole economies from criminal activities.
WCIT-12 is where these fundamental issues can be openly debated in search of a solution that is acceptable to all.
And let me remind you here that no proposals can or will be accepted if they are not agreed by consensus – this is the ITU way, and has proven extraordinarily successful and durable over our long history, dating back almost 150 years.
Other important barriers to connectivity that will be addressed at WCIT-12 are the serious obstacles faced by the one billion people with disabilities in the world today.
The ICT sector needs to step up to its responsibilities in this regard and define workable solutions that fully include all people and recognize everyone’s potential, and our shared need to be connected.
Indeed, this right to be connected is itself enshrined in Article 33 of the ITU constitution, which is directly supportive to the critical issue of freedom of expression and the right to communicate.
This is paralleled in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – indeed let me quote you Article 19 of that Declaration:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
So let me be absolutely clear: WCIT-12 is not in any way going to be challenging Article 19, or indeed any other article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Concerning WCIT and the Internet, you will have seen misleading stories about ITU or the UN ‘taking over the Internet’.
This is of course ridiculous.
ITU continues to play its role in the realm of the Internet, as we have done since the Internet’s inception – for example through ITU-brokered and ITU-approved global standards for the critical transport layers of the Internet and Internet access technologies.
But this does not mean that ITU wants to ‘take over the Internet’ or ‘control the Internet’ – indeed, I don’t even know what that might or would really mean, in practical terms.
In any case, I welcome again the opportunity to work with organizations like ICANN under its new leadership in fulfilling our different but complementary mandates.
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.
We remain committed to working with all the stakeholders, and we are pleased to be able to offer a multi-stakeholder forum for open discussion of these and any other issues.
So let’s continue working together to ensure that all the world’s people can benefit from equitable, affordable and safe access to the Internet.