Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

 ICANN 47 

 Keynote Speech (via WebEx)

 15 July 2013, Durban, South Africa

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very sorry not be able to be in Durban with you personally for ICANN 47 meeting.

As you may recall I had the privilege to address your meeting in Cairo in November 2008.

It is a tremendous pleasure to be able to join you again. This time, remotely, using the power of technology to bring us closer together.

I would like to thank you for your invitation to address you this morning – and in particular let me thank Fadi Chehadé and Steve Crocker, as well as the ICANN Board members, for inviting ITU to the meeting.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In terms of global communications, we are living through the most exciting period in human history. We are on the brink of seeing as many mobile cellular phones as there are people on the planet, and by the end of this year some 2.7 billion people will be using the Internet; with 2.1 billion active mobile-broadband subscriptions.

At the same time, as we come into 2014, almost 70% of people in the developing world will still be offline – with no access to the world’s greatest library, the world’s most active marketplace, and the world’s greatest social gatherings.

This is something we must all work hard to change – because it is clearly a matter of social and economic justice and fairness.

We should also remember that increasing access to the online world benefits everyone, including those who already have access – by expanding markets, opening up new opportunities for communication and richer dialogue and content.

And as we all know, in the 21st century, the Internet is now a global resource, a basic commodity, and a valuable international platform for exchange and learning.

Distinguished colleagues,

Last November, 4 years after my first attendance at your meeting in Cairo, I had the pleasure to meet Fadi Chehadé, who had just been confirmed as CEO of ICANN, at the IGF in Baku.

This was just one month before the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12 – and I was impressed by Fadi’s desire to reach out and build bridges.

We shared – and continue to share – the goal of working together by cultivating a relationship based on collaboration and cooperation.

We were very pleased that Fadi Chehadé and Steve Crocker came to WCIT in Dubai and were able to contribute to the important debate there.

Both Fadi and Steve also came to the World Telecommunication and ICT Policy Forum in Geneva, in May, where the main theme was Internet-related public Policy issues.

ICANN, as the leading institution managing critical Internet resources, was a key stakeholder in this global debate, and I was very pleased that ICANN staff, including my good friend Nigel Hickson, participated actively throughout the multi-stakeholder preparatory process and at the Policy Forum itself.

At the WTPF, Fadi himself reiterated something I always believed in myself: personal courage, grace and reciprocity is what we all need to show in working together.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased that ITU and ICANN are growing in our understanding of one another, and I think it is clear that our two organizations have complementary roles.

Could I therefore suggest that the time may be right to move our relationship onto a stronger footing – perhaps through a more formal partnership between our two organizations, focused on greater collaboration and cooperation, while clearly respecting our distinct roles and mandates.

Indeed, I believe the timing could not be better for such a move.

ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference will be taking place in a little over a year, and our membership has already kicked off the process to define our strategy for the years to come.

ICANN has also embarked on a new five-year strategic planning process, which includes areas of consideration such as role clarity, and internationalization and regional development.

I have been keenly following your open and inclusive public consultation process, and will be bringing relevant points back to ITU’s membership to keep them better informed in their deliberations.

I believe that a key component of ITU’s strategic planning process will be a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of our respective organizations, and also the areas in which we can collaborate on and complement one another.

Distinguished colleagues,

We all share the same long-term vision:
  • The vision of a world where everyone is able to fully participate in the interconnected knowledge-driven economy and society – from Geneva to Durban; from Delhi to South Georgia in the Antarctic; from Los Angeles to the remotest islands in the great Pacific ocean.
  • The vision of a world where everyone can exchange ideas, access healthcare and education, innovate and sell products and services, and stay in touch with family and friends.
  • The vision of a world connected by high-speed communications networks and supported by the appropriate underlying infrastructure and services – enabling governments, businesses, civil society, academia and every citizen to connect, build partnerships, collaborate and trade, as well as to address global challenges such as climate change and disaster mitigation.
  • The vision of a world in which the risks and downsides of participating in the global community are properly addressed, so that they do not overshadow the benefits to users – and especially the most vulnerable, including children.
  • And the vision of a world which is fully-inclusive – regardless of physical ability, gender, income levels, or language spoken.

Neither ITU, nor ICANN, nor any other single entity can achieve this vision alone.

It can only be brought about by a broad yet close collaboration between a multitude of global, regional, national and local stakeholders.

It can only be brought about through the efforts of all players, using our best skills, expertise and people.

There are clearly disagreements and differences of opinions on how various challenges on the way towards achieving this vision should be addressed. This is normal, given the nature of the rapidly-changing and increasingly complex world we live in.

Open, multi-stakeholder discussions remain a very healthy way for the international community to seek solutions to contemporary challenges.

And this is a very important point that I would like to make in conclusion.

In a fast-moving, rapidly-evolving environment, there are no permanent or even long-term solutions.

What works today will not necessarily work tomorrow.

So this needs to be a continuous process, bringing all stakeholders to the table in an inclusive dialogue.

This is a road we are travelling along together, not a destination we are trying to reach.

And I look forward to continuing to benefit from our shared journey together along that road.

It is clear that ITU and ICANN will be taking this journey together – and that is something I look forward to very much.

Thank you for you attention.