Committed to connecting the world


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

Council Working Group 

 International Internet-Related Public Policy

Opening Remarks 

30 January 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today – and let me offer a very warm welcome to all participants.

This is the first time many of us have met face-to-face since the conclusion of WCIT-12 in Dubai last month, and before we go on to discuss the work of this Council Working Group, I would like to say a few words about the Conference.

As you know, WCIT-12 concluded with the adoption of a new treaty which was already signed in Dubai by 89 Member States.

These 89 signatory countries represent not just most of the world’s people, but an even greater majority of the world’s unconnected people.

Other countries will likely accede to the treaty between now and when it comes into force at the beginning of January 2015 – indeed we already have a number of countries that have requested details on how they should go about acceding to the treaty.

The new ITRs will chart a globally-agreed roadmap that promises future connectivity for all – and notably to the 700 million people around the world who still don’t have mobile phone network coverage; and even more importantly to the 4.5 billion people who are not yet online.

The treaty also creates the framework that ensures there will be sufficient communications capacity to cope with the ongoing exponential growth in voice, video and data.

It was disappointing in Dubai to see attempts to derail the conference by those who were persuaded that Internet control was an issue for discussion, when it was not.

Indeed, it seems increasingly problematic to even say the ‘I’ word – which is strange, when we all recognize that the Internet is part of the lives of everyone here – and should rightly be part of the lives of everyone on the planet.

And the Internet cannot and does not work without telecommunications infrastructure.

And that’s what WCIT-12 was really all about – creating the right environment for telecommunications infrastructure investment and rollout.

So that everyone can have access to the Internet.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The role of this Council Working Group – as the name implies – is to discuss international Internet-related public policy issues, as our membership has requested.

And I am pleased that this is the case, because as WCIT-12 showed, ITU is clearly a very good place to convene discussions – and especially discussions in areas where we have still not established a clear consensus.

There have already been many public policy discussions concerning the Internet, so it is worth repeating here that we clearly recognize that public policy formulation – in all domains, including of course the Internet – is the sovereign right of Member States.

Concerning the Internet, this was made explicit at WSIS in Paragraph 35 of the Tunis Agenda, which states that “Policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States. They have rights and responsibilities for international Internet-related public policy issues.”

That said, if policy making is to be effective and to achieve the desired impact, it is clearly the case that governments must take into account the diverse views of all of their constituents in their policy-making processes.

This is best accomplished through the establishment of open and transparent consultation processes that ensure all stakeholders have the opportunity to express their views, and that these views are duly reflected in formulated policies.

Paragraph 35 of the Tunis Agenda also acknowledged the crucial facilitating role intergovernmental organizations – such as the ITU – have had, and should continue to have, in the coordination of Internet-related public policy issues.

ITU is therefore honoured to provide an international forum, a platform, for Member States to discuss and coordinate their policy-making efforts.

And of course the ITU, as an institution, has successfully been an influential but neutral global convener throughout its 148-year history. ITU members from different regions and different perspectives continue to work together for the common good and in the public interest to resolve complex and challenging issues.

And we have a proven track record of debating difficult technical and public policy issues – and coming up with workable solutions.

Distinguished colleagues,

When Member States come to an international forum such as the ITU, it should be right to assume – among all participants – that the views being expressed by administrations reflect the views of all their constituents, and that how these views have been formulated is a national matter.

We are firm believers that only open, transparent and inclusive processes will lead the way to successful policy making.

And as you all know, I have strongly and consistently advocated – at WCIT, at WTSA, in the ITU Council and at various other meetings – two key principles:
  • Firstly, that Member States should adopt an inclusive policy in the formulation of their national delegations to ITU, so that all relevant stakeholders have an opportunity to participate.
  • And secondly, that Member States should carry out open and inclusive consultations with their stakeholders with regard to their positions and contributions at international forums such as the ITU.

I would therefore call upon all of the members of this Council Working Group on International Internet-Related Public Policy to take these principles into consideration in your working.

I am pleased to note that Council 2012, in Resolution 1344, calls upon this Council Working Group to initiate and conduct open consultations with all stakeholders in an open and inclusive manner; and that the output of the open consultations will be presented for consideration in the deliberations of the Group.

So let me encourage you as Member States to take advantage of the output of the consultations, and to give them careful consideration while making both written and oral contributions to the deliberations of the Group.

Let me also call upon all stakeholder groups to contribute to the open consultation process by bringing in their own unique perspective based on their roles and responsibilities in the multi-stakeholder governance model.

I am confident that your ensuing discussions will be enriched and informed as a result, and that this will help achieve our goal of bringing the maximum benefits of the Internet to the global community – and especially to the two thirds of the world’s people who are not yet online.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Next week we have the third meeting of the Informal group of Experts that is assisting me in the successive stages of the preparatory process towards the fifth World Telecommunications/ICT Policy Forum in May, WTPF-13.

WTPF-13 has been instructed by ITU Council to discuss issues raised in three Plenipotentiary Resolutions – Resolutions 101, 102 and 133 – pertaining to the Internet.

Many aspects of various issues covered by these resolutions are also being discussed in this Council Working Group. In fact, several of the delegates in this meeting have also been actively contributing to the expert group meeting.

Let me therefore urge you to use this opportunity to enrich the discussions in both forums.

Thank you.