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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

Council Working Group Child Online Protection (COP)
 Opening Remarks

1 February 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.

In the second decade of the 21st century, we are doing an extraordinarily good job of increasing access to ICTs around the world – and in the process we are enriching the lives of everyone on the planet.

ICTs bring unprecedented opportunities for social and economic growth.

And increasingly, in all countries, they are no longer seen as a luxury, but as a basic necessity, as basic infrastructure.

ICTs act as an enabler in every sector of human activity – from health and education to energy, transportation, government, entertainment, innovation and enterprise.

In the process, ICTs are bringing the sum of human knowledge within reach of all the world’s people – wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances – for the first time in human history.

At the same time, however, the proliferation of ICTs into all areas of human activity also brings with it new risks and threats to safety and security – and that this is especially true for young people.

In the real world, we take great precautions not to send our children out unprotected into dark streets or bad neighbourhoods or onto busy freeways.

And yet in the online world children are just as vulnerable as they are in the real world – and it can be hard for digital immigrants, like us, to know what is needed to keep them safe online.

The ITU Child Online Protection (COP) initiative is a response to these and similar concerns.

COP is an international collaborative effort led by ITU within the overall framework of our Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA). It was launched in 2008, and has been endorsed by the UN Secretary-General, by Heads of State, by Ministers, and by heads of international organizations and private sector entities from around the world.

COP aims to promote global awareness on the importance of child safety in the online world; develop practical tools to assist governments, industry and educators; and share their experiences in working to ensure a safe and secure online experience for children everywhere.

Resolution 179, adopted in Guadalajara at the 2010 Plenipotentiary Conference, resolves that ITU should continue the COP Initiative as a platform to raise awareness on child online safety and provide assistance and support to Member States, especially developing countries, in developing and implementing roadmaps for the COP initiative.

Distinguished colleagues,

The Child Online Protection initiative has achieved a lot in a very short space of time.

Thanks to COP partners, we have already made great progress in promoting the need to establish a collaborative and harmonized COP framework at the international level.

We are also continuing to assist countries in developing strategies and enhance capabilities and infrastructure, with the aim to ensure a safer online environment for children.

Furthermore, as instructed by Resolution 179, I am pleased to be able to confirm that greater efforts continue to be made in establishing partnerships to maximize and synergize efforts in this important area.

Key actions to make children aware of the risks that may be encountered online include:
  • Developing information;
  • Educating and creating consumer-awareness campaigns aimed at parents, teachers, industry and the population in general; and
  • Sharing technological solutions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me reiterate my thanks to the President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica for agreeing to be the patron of the Child Online Protection initiative, and to Deborah Taylor Tate, who is the COP Special Envoy.

They have been unfailing in their support for the COP initiative, and they have been instrumental in making COP shine – in front of governments, the private sector and civil society.

Let me highlight in particular the Global Youth Summit, which is being hosted by Costa Rica in early September, and which will bring together young people from around the world to discuss all the issues facing youth today – including of course Child Online Protection.

President Chinchilla and Deborah Taylor Tate bring with them great experience and competence in this field, and their deep commitment to youth and children as digital citizens will be highly relevant to the proceedings of this Council Working Group.

Let me therefore urge leaders, experts, private companies, civil society, and all of you gathered here today, to fulfil the dream of making cyberspace a safe, healthy and productive environment – especially for our children and youth.

Thank you.