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

Interpol-81st General Assembly

    Special Guest Speech

Ensuring Security In a Hyperconnected World


08 November 2012, Rome, Italy

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today in Rome at INTERPOL’s 81st General Assembly.

INTERPOL is one of the best examples we have of the benefits of global cooperation and coordination, and I can only congratulate INTERPOL on the excellent work it does in successfully pursuing very complex investigations into serious crime.

I would like to take the opportunity this morning to say a few words about ‘Ensuring Security in a Hyperconnected World’ – a subject which is very close to my heart, both as an individual, and as Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, the ITU.

It is also a subject which is increasingly high on the global agenda.

In just the past two months I have seen this issue addressed at events as diverse as the UN General Assembly and the Social Good Summit in New York; the ITU’s Global Symposium for Regulators in Sri Lanka; the ITU Telecom World 2012 event in Dubai; and earlier this week at the Internet Governance Forum in Azerbaijan.

Distinguished colleagues,

We have already been incredibly successful in bringing basic communications within reach of virtually all the world’s people, with over six billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, and mobile penetration now standing at over 100% in over 100 countries.

In the second decade of the 21st century, however, it is clear that we need more than simple mobile communications to achieve sustainable social and economic progress – and that broadband will be key to delivering essential services such as health, education and good governance.

This is why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development two years ago – to mobilize for the increased rollout and adoption of broadband worldwide, as a means of accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

The importance of broadband will also be highlighted by the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which is taking place in Dubai next month.

The conference is taking place at the request of the ITU’s membership, and will revise the International Telecommunication Regulations, the ITRs, which date back to 1988.

The current ITRs were instrumental in ushering in the digital revolution and mass mobile communications, and it is our hope that WCIT-12 will help usher in the global knowledge society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the biggest challenges of an increasingly interconnected – indeed hyperconnected – world is cybersecurity.

It is worth noting that 2012 has already been a landmark year in this regard, and I think it will mark the start of a profound transformation in how we work together to combat cybercrime and increase our efforts to ensure that the cyberspace is safe for our businesses, our communications, and our children.

This year, as in previous years, we are continuing to experience an exponential increase in cyberthreats, from the discovery of several thousand new malwares, to new vulnerabilities in ICT systems which are immediately exploited by criminals.

The dramatic changes associated with the spread of ICTs also bring new risks and threats to safety and security – especially for children, who are among the most vulnerable members of our societies.

This year we have also seen initial attempts to disseminate what the experts might call cyberweapons. At ITU we were pleased to be able to contribute towards the mitigation of potential escalations in the usage and damage of such extremely complex malicious software.

At the same time, however, we have seen countries starting to treat cybersecurity as a priority.

Thanks to the contribution of organizations such as the United Nations, many countries have started to get organized, through bilateral and multilateral negotiations that I am confident will lead to the kind of agreements which will help to improve safety in cyberspace.

ITU is in the frontline in helping to ensure cyberpeace, through well-established programmes to assist countries in a variety of ways, from legal to technical and policy to regulatory.

We still have much to achieve, however. And here my personal efforts as Secretary-General of the ITU are highly-focused.

All stakeholders – from nations to multinational corporations to international organizations to end users – must realize that cooperation and collaboration is the key component to achieve cyberpeace and to ensure a safer online life for our children.

We need a concrete, real, and strongly committed process towards a global understanding on the importance of cyberpeace, and the related identification of common and agreed principles to be adopted by all countries.

Only then can we make sure that the potential risk of the misuse of ICTs will not degenerate in actions that would present risks to national and international stability and security.

Distinguished colleagues,

I believe that this global process must start as soon as possible – and while I am aware that this is a complex and highly-political issue, I am confident that it can be done and that it will be easier than many people expect.

Let me provide you with some specific elements here:
  • Several initiatives have already been undertaken at the national, regional and international levels. So we have a blueprint on the processes and the procedures; we just need to harmonize them.
  • Many legal instruments, principles, frameworks and guidelines etc have already been elaborated. If we look into each of them, we can see that there are some basic principles that are common to every single one of them.
  • Multilateral platforms such as the United Nations and INTERPOL, as well as regional organizations, can provide useful mechanisms for discussion and cooperation to advance the work and to facilitate the decision-making process. The goal is to make sure that the work is harmonized, and above all shared.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me share with you ITU’s experience of the potential of global cooperation.

Since its inception, the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyberthreats, IMPACT, has worked closely with ITU, and is now the ITU’s executing arm for cybersecurity.

The ITU-IMPACT initiative now comprises some 144 countries that have decided to cooperate at the highest level. This is a unique alliance in today’s world, bringing together so many countries as well as industry experts.

I am delighted, in this regard, that IMPACT and INTERPOL have signed a Cooperation Agreement today that will further enhance cybersecurity around the world.

This Cooperation Agreement enables IMPACT and INTERPOL – and by extension ITU – to exchange information and expertise, as well as to enhance both organizations’ knowledge-base in the field of cybersecurity.

I firmly believe that this kind of cross-agency collaboration is essential to combatting the increasingly serious problem of international cybercrime.

For too long, cyber criminals have hidden behind national borders, hoping to escape detection or eluding the jurisdiction of national law enforcement authorities.

This new partnership with INTERPOL represents a major step forward in our efforts to bring such criminals to book.

At the same time, the Child Online Protection initiative, in line with ITU’s mandate to strengthen cybersecurity, is establishing the foundations for a safe and secure cyber world for future generations – in conjunction with partners from civil society, international organizations and the private sector.

The Child Online Protection initiative is now composed of more than 30 partners, with the President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, as patron.

These are demonstrations of the level of commitment that the international community around the world is giving to the matter – and I mention this to show that global cooperation can indeed be achieved.

It is simply a matter of willingness and commitment.
Thank you.