Committed to connecting the world

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

ITU WSIS Forum 2013

High Level Dialogue

Securing Cyberspace in a Borderless World : Vision 2015 and Beyond
15 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here this afternoon for the 4th edition of the High Level Dialogue on building confidence and security in the use of ICTs.

The title of this edition is “Securing Cyberspace in a Borderless World:  Vision 2015 and Beyond”.

Never was this title was more appropriate.

We are living in a world where ‘cyber’ has fast become one of the commonest prefixes we hear – and this is a clear reflection of the increasing lack of borders between nations as more and more of the world’s activities move online.

And as cyber presence grows, individuals, businesses and even countries are experiencing ever greater negative social and financial impacts from the misuse of ICTs.

The growth in cybercrime and cyberthreats is not the result of some strange epidemic, or a sudden change in human behaviour; it is simply a natural consequence of so many of the world’s people – including both good and bad people – embracing the evident advantages brought into our world by ICTs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The most recent statistics suggest that annual losses of over 100 billion dollars are being caused by cybercrime, and that some 550 million people are being targeted by cyberattacks every year.

In financial terms, this is the equivalent of the entire GDP of a country like Morocco, Slovakia or Bangladesh. In population terms, it is the equivalent of more than all the inhabitants of Europe.

Every second, 18 adults become a victim of cybercrime, resulting in more than 1.5 million cybercrime victims each day on a global level.

No one is immune; no one can escape:

  • Governments, corporations, global media channels, social media sites and even UN agencies – including my agency, ITU – are being targeted;
  • Almost half of teenagers aged 13 to 17 report that they have experienced some sort of cyberbullying in the past year;
  • And three quarters of young people involved in aggressive sexual solicitations in the real world met their aggressors online.

The statistics are alarming in every online domain – from cybercrime and cyberthreats to cyberbullying and Internet pornography.

So let me ask all of you here today: do we really want a cyberworld which is so negatively impacting not just our future, but the future of our children and their children?

Or do we want to make sure that the youth of the world today can be the consumer drivers of new technology tomorrow – by teaching them how to become good global digital citizens, wherever, whenever and however they connect? By teaching them how to avoid online threats, and cybercrime?

Distinguished colleagues,

The role of governments, along with intergovernmental bodies such us UN and the ITU, is to reduce the risks posed by illegal and unethical use of ICTs as much as possible – with a forward-looking vision and most importantly in a multi-stakeholder fashion; I repeat, in a multi-stakeholder fashion.

This is what I have always advocated since the beginning of my mandate at ITU, first as the Director of the Development Bureau, and then over the past six years as Secretary-General.

I have had my critics, some of whom thought my calls for better security were misplaced or even malicious – but I think now we can all agree that this is a reality staring us in the face.

Unfortunately, however, there is still a lack of coordination, there are still difficulties in establishing cooperation, and there is still mistrust – and this last problem may be the key reason why we have not had more success so far.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the security business, trust is key, and if we do not start to develop such a culture of trust, there will be no way that the cyber world can ever become truly safe and secure.

I am very pleased to see that there are now many movements in the right direction.

  • I see big countries like the USA and China realizing the importance of dialogue.
  • I see the ITRs signed by 89 countries at WCIT-12, last December, with many more interested in signing.
  • I see the EU establishing a framework on cybersecurity endorsed by all EU Member States.
  • And I see ITU contributing with initiatives such as ITU-IMPACT, which has been formally endorsed by 145 countries, and Child Online Protection, which has now reached a very wide audience and has a growing number of partners.

I believe that we are travelling in the right direction.

And I believe that in the fullness of time a global framework on governing cyberspace is possible, with the equal participation of governments, the private sector and civil society – in a truly worldwide exercise aimed at identifying those key principles that would unleash the true potential of ICTs and reduce risks to an acceptable level.

So with this open call for trust and belief in our power to improve the future, let me wish you all successful deliberations – and let me apologize if I am not able to be present for the whole session this afternoon.

Thank you.