Committed to connecting the world

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

World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF-13)

Closing Speech
16 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland
Mr Chairman,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We reach the conclusion of what has been a highly-significant World Telecommunication and ICT Policy Forum.

On Tuesday morning, during the Opening Ceremony, I noted that we were standing at a ‘tipping point’ – between the Internet as a vital enabler of social and economic progress in the industrialized world, and the Internet as a valuable global resource and a basic commodity of human life everywhere.

And I noted the importance of bringing the remaining 4.5 billion people online, and giving them access to the world’s greatest library; the world’s most active marketplace; and the world’s greatest social gatherings.

With new technologies, new business models, and increased affordability, the transition towards a fully-connected world is set to accelerate.

Taking just one example, think of the impact of fifty-dollar smartphones, which Korea Telecom predicted earlier this week would become available over the next year or so.

On the policy side, it is very encouraging that we are now seeing a more mature conversation, and greater understanding on all sides, with many differences of opinion now being put behind us.

Indeed, in building bridges and achieving consensus, we have triumphed.

The world was listening. The world was watching. And the world was participating here and remotely.

We opened up our documents, we opened up our meeting, and we opened up the webcast.

We showed the world that we can discuss difficult issues, with all stakeholders involved, and emerge united. And we will continue to engage with ICANN, IETF and all the other stakeholders in a positive spirit of collaboration – and we have received the same positive signals from them.

Let me say once more that this event demonstrates the vital value of multilateral discussions. Much can be achieved through bilateral meetings, but only multilateral meetings can help decide global policy for global resources.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The output of the WTPF is not just an improved understanding of International Internet-related public policy matters; we also have some strong outcomes to support the ICT sector as it moves forward, in the shape of the Opinions:

  • Concerning IXPs, this Opinion will facilitate understanding of their vital role in promoting efficient interconnection, and reducing Internet connection charges.
  • I am also pleased that we have a strong Opinion on an enabling environment for broadband connectivity, a topic which is very close to my heart, and which will do much to improve broadband connectivity worldwide.
  • The two Opinions on IPv4 and IPv6 will help raise awareness of this important issue among ITU membership, and facilitate the transition.
  • Concerning the multi-stakeholder Opinion, it is clear that there are still differences in interpretation about what multi-stakeholderism means in reality; nevertheless, I am delighted that you all worked closely together, so we have a good opinion on that.
  • And as for enhanced cooperation, we all have an improved understanding of the importance of working together – and indeed, we are doing so in good spirits and with good intentions.

These opinions will help expand connectivity and improve broadband access for all. So our work this week – and the work done at the preparatory meetings – has been well worthwhile.

It was proposed to continue the dialogue and consider a seventh Opinion – but we will stop here at six. The dialogue, including the Brazilian proposal, will continue however – in Council Working Groups, and in the CSTD and in other forums.

I will propose that the Council Working Group that discusses this be open to all stakeholders, as this meeting has been, and I will bring this proposal to ITU Council next month.

Distinguished delegates,

On Monday, before the Forum opened, the Strategic Dialogue gave us some fascinating insights from a range of different perspectives including leading executives, key policy pioneers, and regulatory leaders.

While there were few hard and fast conclusions, participants broadly agreed that communication is a fundamental human need, regardless of individual technologies or means of access.

Twenty years on from liberalization, there were still lively differences in opinion about how best to bring connectivity to the world’s unconnected.

We heard strong defences of innovation and competition, as well as pragmatic discussions about what needs to be done to ensure that broadband is accessible and affordable for everybody, and not just to one third of the world’s population.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the beginning of the Forum, we discussed how important it was for us to acknowledge that all views needed to be respected, to be heard, and to be accommodated.

And I urged you to put past differences aside; look ahead; and engage in discussion, dialogue, and consensus.

So I am delighted that we achieved the consensus we were looking for.

We have heard from delegations large and small, and I am very pleased that everyone has had a voice – and a chance to be heard, and to be the change that changes the world.

The work here has been intensive and I appreciate the efforts put in by each and every one of you.

Delegations have had their differences – but the positive spirit of engagement was remarkable.

I am also delighted that so many of the Informal Expert Group members joined this meeting, and were able to participate in the discussions.

Indeed, the success we have achieved is in large part due to a very thorough and participative preparatory process; the IEG did a great job and I would like to thank Petko Kantchev again for his dedication and leadership.

Distinguished delegates,

Let me give you a few numbers that go some way towards describing the WTPF this week:

  • We welcomed over 900 delegates from 126 Member States, including over 40 Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Ambassadors;
  • All of the sessions, including the press conference, were webcast, and we had some 3,000 remote accesses to the webcasts;
  • We benefitted from 120 hours of interpretation in the six languages of the Union, and all sessions were captioned, allowing the entire Forum to be as open and inclusive as possible;
  • Some 900 pages of documentation – around 300,000 words – were translated – and we still managed to use less paper than ever before, managing our work in an almost entirely paperless fashion;
  • And from a communications perspective we actively engaged with key communities through social media, with many of our staff and delegates on Twitter, supplemented with daily live social media blogging. Many people tweeted the picture of me wearing the blue UN peacekeeper’s helmet; I am glad you liked it!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I close, let me give my sincere thanks, on behalf of ITU to the Member State delegations which have taken part in the conference, and the States they represent.

I would particularly like to thank the Member States that have broadened their delegations to include civil society and industry representatives – and let me once again encourage all Member states to follow this excellent example, at future events, by making their delegations as inclusive and multi-stakeholder as possible.

I would like again to thank the IEG Chairman and all who took part in the Informal Experts Group.

Thanks also to our Sector Members, for their continuing support – many have been present in delegations and others have been following the conference remotely – indeed, to all our remote participants out there, I say thank you.

Thank you to, to the Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Secretaries of the three Working Groups, and to my fellow elected officials:

  • Mr Houlin Zhao, Deputy Secretary-General;
  • Mr Malcolm Johnson, Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau;
  • Mr François Rancy, Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau; and
  • Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau.

You elected us together, and over the past two and a half years we have been working as one, for the benefit of the Union.

Finally, let me thank the Secretary, Doreen Bogdan – please give her a round of applause.

Doreen has been leading the ITU staff, across the three sectors and in the General Secretariat, working as one, whose tireless work has made this conference possible, and of course the interpreters, whose job is tough but invaluable; they work long hours behind the scenes in a very competent manner – thank you!

Distinguished delegates,

We have been united for nearly 150 years in this Union – and I am so very pleased to see that we are still United: we are ITU-strong!

As the ITU family, we will continue in our key roles of supporting the ICT industry, negotiating complex standards, forging consensus, and shedding light on the issues that really matter – to all ICT stakeholders around the world.

I think that is what we have achieved here – and I am counting on you, our constituency, our membership, to help us continue changing the world for the better, as we move ahead.

I am already looking forward to the Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Republic of Korea, next year, where many of these issues will continue to be discussed by all stakeholders.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me therefore close by turning to our Chairman, His Excellency Ivo Ivanoski, who has played such a vital role in the work of this Forum.

You have kept your calm, your good humour, and your fine diplomatic skills in order, throughout the Forum, and it was our great honour to have you as our Chair.

Thank you again, Minister Ivo Ivanovski.

Mr Chairman, for your exceptional contributions, and for sharing our journey, let me present you with a certificate and with the ITU silver Medal.

Thank you.