Committed to connecting the world

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

ITU WSIS Forum 2013

 Opening Ceremony

 Opening Speech
13 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

A very good morning to you all – both onsite here in Geneva and to those of you who are following us remotely all around the world.

On behalf of the host and main organizer ITU, and the co-organizers UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, let me offer you the warmest welcome to the WSIS Forum 2013.

The presence at this opening ceremony of more than 50 ministers, private sector and civil society leaders, along with heads of UN agencies, is clear proof that this annual WSIS Forum is crucial for all stakeholders across the ICT ecosystem.

Indeed, the WSIS Forum continues to grow as the only platform that provides a multi-stakeholder vision and which identifies the emerging trends and recommendations on the future of the WSIS process.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This opening ceremony officially inaugurates the WSIS Forum 2013, and sets the stage for a week of structured and inclusive dialogues, workshops and networking opportunities.

Together we will address a range of issues within the global information society and we will reflect on how ICTs continue to shape the daily lives of individuals, businesses, communities and governments.

The five-day programme features a series of High-Level Dialogues, Action Line Facilitation Meetings, Interactive Sessions, Country Workshops, Thematic Workshops, Publication Releases, Knowledge Exchanges, Briefings, WSIS+10 Visioning Tracks, and an Exhibition.

Together, these diverse elements of the WSIS Forum will address the issues critical to implementing WSIS activities and for developing a post-2015 agenda.

We can rightly be proud of what we have already achieved, and we will hear success stories of how ICTs help empower people and organizations over the course of this week.

At the end of this opening ceremony we will have the opportunity to appreciate the most popular projects in the implementation of WSIS-Related Activities by awarding them this year’s WSIS Project Prizes.

Distinguished colleagues,

I would like to take this opportunity to report on all the recent WSIS activities.

Last September, I contributed to the 67th session of the General Assembly by providing an update on the Plan of Action as well as on all activities related to WSIS+10.

Building on this input, the General Assembly’s Resolution on ICT for Development resolved that the modalities for the review process will be considered and should be finalized by the end of this year.

This means that this year’s WSIS Forum is a unique opportunity to develop multi-stakeholder consensus on what is needed for the WSIS process in the future, to ensure that the bottom-up approach of the WSIS process is preserved and that the decisions concerning modalities also respect the real requirements of the use of ICTs for socio-economic development, while ensuring growth in the ICT ecosystem itself.

For its part, the ITU Council, during its 2012 session, resolved to support a high-level event on the WSIS+10 Overall Review, to be held next year in conjunction with the World Telecommunication Development Conference, WTDC-14.

Both events will be held in April of next year in Sharm-el Sheikh, at the kind invitation of the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Preliminary steps have already been taken to ensure the effective organization of this high-level event, and to make sure that it meets the UN requirements for high-profile events of this kind.

In this regard I am also proud that we have been able to respond rapidly to the urgent request from membership to launch the WSIS+10 platform as a single international window for all information and updates on the WSIS review process.

ITU has been also actively collecting regional views on the process through the regional development forums and preparatory meetings for WTDC-14.

We have just concluded meetings in Moldova for the CIS region and in Cambodia for the Asia and Pacific regions, and the Ministers for each country will be sharing the results with us here at the 2013 WSIS Forum.

In addition to this, we can look forward to Uruguay, the host of the 4th Ministerial Conference on the Information Society, bringing us the views of the Americas region, and to the UN Economic Commission for Africa bringing us the African perspective.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Even though significant progress in implementation has been achieved, there is still much to be done – remembering that while almost everyone now has access to mobile cellular telephony, two thirds of the world’s people are still offline.

Among many different responses – including the work of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, and the annual ITU Telecom events – ITU also continues to organize the ITU Connect Summits, with the objective of reinforcing partnerships, creating investment opportunities, and ensuring financial mechanisms to address the most urgent priorities of each region.

The ITU Connect Asia-Pacific Summit will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 18 November, immediately preceding ITU Telecom World 2013. These events are both platforms for high-level representatives from across the booming Asia-Pacific region, as well as across the globe, to come together to network, share knowledge, collaborate and create real change.

We are expecting Heads of State and Government, and the feedback we have received so far indicates that both the ITU Connect Asia-Pacific Summit and ITU Telecom World 2013 will be events which can really make a difference.

Distinguished colleagues,

Measurement and monitoring of the WSIS outcomes, as well as future possible ICT4D targets, is of the utmost importance in the context of the WSIS Review process – and I would like to give credit here to the important work being done in this regard by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development.

The partnership comprises a number of intergovernmental organizations, including ITU, OECD, UNCTAD, UNESCO and the World Bank, among others.

We are also working hard to ensure a strong link between the post MDG process and the WSIS process. During the UNGIS substantive session, later this morning, the 30 UNGIS members will issue a joint statement in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me congratulate each one of you for contributing to the development of such an enriching agenda for this year’s WSIS Forum, and I look forward to working closely with you over the next five days to build a vision together for the WSIS process beyond 2015.

Let me encourage both onsite and remote participants to actively contribute to the week’s work – and let me thank you in advance for making this such a great event.

Finally, it is my honour to acknowledge the strategic partnership and contributions from the Sultanate of Oman and the Intel Corporation, which have done a huge amount to strengthen and enhance the forum.

The forum has also benefited tremendously from contributions from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico, Poland, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and Tanzania, as well as Hewlett-Packard, who are all partners for different specific activities.

And last but not least, let me also thank the United Arab Emirates, which is the WSIS+10 Visioning Partner.

Thank you all for your commitment towards the process and for your support of this year’s WSIS Forum.

Thank you.