Committed to connecting the world

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

ITU WSIS Forum 2013

 UNGIS - Substantive Session

 Opening Remarks
13 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, and let me offer a very warm welcome to all UNGIS members who are here today.

As UNGIS members, we have a very important mandate to promote policy coherence and programme coordination in the UN system, and this role becomes more important than ever as the international community builds a common vision for the WSIS Process beyond 2015 and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

For me, this phase is extremely important, with ITU being the UN Specialized agency for ICTs.

At ITU, our mission is to connect the world, and to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their circumstances, and this common vision is extremely important for us.

WSIS was initiated by ITU and was the first UN Summit to draw attention to the opportunities and challenges of the emerging Information Society in the dawning digital era.

At the second phase of WSIS, in Tunis, in 2005, world leaders acknowledged the vital importance of ICTs as drivers of a global society.

They established a set of WSIS targets for connecting villages, schools, hospitals, universities and research centres to the Internet to ensure that all the world’s inhabitants can benefit from, and be empowered by, access to ICTs and the information and communication possibilities they confer.

Despite the explosion in access to ICTs since the year 2000 – and of course this is a major global trend that is transforming and redefining development, as well as society itself – ICTs were only included in one target within the MDGs, under MDG Goal 8.

I believe that the WSIS process should therefore affirm the importance of ICTs in the post-2015 framework – as critical infrastructure; as a driving force for development; and for improving people’s lives.

ICTs are an increasingly important catalytic infrastructure, with the potential to better integrate, deliver and enable all three pillars of sustainable development – economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is no doubt about the revolutionary potential of broadband.

This is the reason why, together with some sixty world leaders, we made sure that the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development issued an Open Letter to the members of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The powerful voice of the broadband ecosystem should however also be reinforced by other means wherever possible.

In this context, our main task today will be to issue a joint statement from the UN organizations to be presented to the UN Secretary-General and the UN Task Team.

UNGIS – as the Chief Executives Group and the unique platform to coordinate substantive policy issues relevant to the WSIS implementation and follow up – identified the need for collective action to ensure effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the UN processes in the long term.

The statement is a collective contribution to the dialogue on the Post-2015 Development Agenda – highlighting the potential of ICTs as key enablers of development, and as critical components of innovative development solutions.

I look forward to our agreement in the joint declaration, and to making sure that ICTs are fully-recognized in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

In this regard I would like to thank and congratulate the UNGIS chairs and members for their excellent work in crafting a well-represented statement.

This is a great example of how the UN family can and should address issues of strategic importance.

I also hope that this Joint Statement will trigger appropriate discussions at the WSIS Forum, leading towards the elaboration of a multi-stakeholder consensus on the necessity for concrete interactions ensuring synergies between the WSIS+10 processes and the Post 2015 agenda.

In closing, therefore, let me also assure you that I will be ready to chair UNGIS from January 2014, and to carry forward the mandate of this group with the utmost dedication and commitment.

Thank you.