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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

ITU Telecom World 2013

Child Online Protection

 Vision After Bynd 2015
Opening Speech

21 November 2013, Bangkok, Thailand

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a tremendous pleasure for me to be here with you today and to officially welcome our COP Champion, Her Excellency Dame Patience Jonathan, the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and President of the African First Ladies Peace Mission.

Your Excellency, we are greatly honoured by your presence here today – as indeed we are by the presence of so many other important participants, including Ministers and other VIPs.

Your collective attendance demonstrates the high priority accorded to child online protection – an issue we can all agree on.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Internet offers us a vision of a world where everyone is able to fully participate in the interconnected knowledge-driven economy and society; a fully-inclusive world, where everyone can exchange ideas, access healthcare and education, innovate and sell products and services, and stay in touch with family and friends.

As global cyber presence grows, however, individuals, businesses and even nations are now experiencing negative social and financial impacts from the misuse of ICTs.

Quite apart from the open Internet, we are now facing enormous challenges from the so-called dark web, where sites are hosted in such a way as to be inaccessible via standard search engines.

Research shows that the Tor anonymizing service – to give just one example – is now being used by more than 20,000 people. While many of these will be carrying our perfectly legal activities, it also opens up the way for the carriage of dangerous and harmful traffic – especially for children and young people.

Let me share some recent statistics with you:

  • A recent survey carried out by MacAfee revealed that a fifth of Irish teenagers have accessed inappropriate content online that disturbed them.
  • One in four parents believe their teen tells them everything they do on the Internet – but the research discovered that a majority of teens take steps to hide their behaviour online. Over half admitted to wiping their browser history, while almost half viewed content away from home to keep their behaviour hidden.
  • Despite 57% of parents trusting their child not to access inappropriate content online, 23% of teens admitted intentionally searching for pornography; 26% looked up sexual topics online; and 56% viewed videos they knew their parents wouldn’t approve of.
  • Just over a third of teens have looked up simulated violence online and one in ten admit to having posted revealing pictures of themselves on the Internet.

We need to address these issues, because in today’s world everything depends on ICTs and only by working together and joining forces we can ensure a safer and brighter online future for our children.

These threats can only be countered with collective resolve by nations, local and regional organizations, the private sector, law enforcement agencies, parents, teachers and individuals.

Distinguished colleagues,

In this regard, I am pleased to see that there are now many actions being taken in the right direction.

  • For instance, I am glad to see how enforcement agencies such as those in the United States and the UK are finally cooperating with each other to eradicate child abuse content by monitoring those who operate on the hidden Internet;
  • Companies such as Yahoo, meanwhile, are applying a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to child abuse content online;
  • Furthermore, thanks to new technology created by YouTube to identify videos made by paedophiles, Google Search is now targeting more than 100,000 terms that can be used to locate child sexual abuse images, and making sure those searches don’t work any more.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At ITU, we are playing our part in this global effort to protect children online through our global convening ability; through forums; and also through our global reach, which brings together partners from all stakeholder groups.

Back in 2007, we launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, the GCA, a framework for international cooperation aimed at enhancing confidence and security in the information society.

Over many years now, we have been using the GCA to advocate for coordinated multi-stakeholder action at the global level, and we are working with members and partners to find better ways of ensuring that cyberspace is safe, secure and peaceful.

Because children and youth are the world’s most inquisitive and most vulnerable citizens, we launched the Child Online Protection initiative, COP, back in 2008, as an international multi-stakeholder collaborative effort, led by ITU.

COP has been endorsed by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, as well as by Heads of State, Ministers, heads of international organizations and heads of private sector entities from around the world.

Together with our partners, we have published Child Online Protection Guidelines, and we are establishing hotlines for reporting child sexual abuse content.

We are also raising awareness and support in developing countries on the implementation of COP frameworks, measures, and tools, and we are running training sessions for educators, parents and children to empower them with knowledge and awareness.

We have also strengthened important partnerships with key stakeholders, including UNICEF, Trend Micro, Facebook, and The Walt Disney Company, as well as many other leading organizations working in this area – because cooperation and partnership are essential to establishing the foundations for safer and more secure use of ICTs for future generations.

One of the most recent examples of this was the first BYND 2015 Global Youth Summit, which took place in Costa Rica in September, and which was co-organized by the government of Costa Rica and ITU.

Some 700 young participants from 68 countries attended onsite, and we were joined by many thousands more online. Many participants were engaged both ahead of and during the summit through the ITU crowdsourcing platform and through the establishment of more then 40 hubs around the world – once again demonstrating the power of technology to bring people together.

In this regard, we are grateful for the support that we have received from the Patron of COP, President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica; from the COP Champion, Dame Patience Jonathan, First Lady of Nigeria; from the COP Special Envoy, Deborah Taylor Tate; and of course from our COP partners.

Under their amazing leadership and guidance, the Youth Declaration resulting from the Global Youth Summit was a powerful statement from young people and online safety was identified as one of the key priorities.

President Chinchilla presented the Declaration to world leaders and the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, at the UN General Assembly this year.

Distinguished colleagues,

In closing, let me encourage experts from governments, private companies, civil society, academia and international organizations to continue taking action towards making cyberspace a safe, healthy and productive environment – especially for our children and youth.

I am really pleased to see that we such a comprehensive session here in Bangkok, with distinguished speakers covering all the many facets of child online protection.

So let me close and invite Her Excellency Dame Patience Jonathan to deliver her welcoming remarks.

Thank you.