Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

GCC digital Security Forum
04 February 2014, Doha, Qatar

Distinguished colleagues
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure to join you today in Doha to discuss an issue which is important for the international community and which calls for coordinated action at both international and regional level: Security in the use of ICTs

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Qatar, and in particular Minister Al-Jaber, for hosting this forum and for the adoption of Qatar's National Broadband Plan which is a key signal to the international community on Qatar’s commitment to the realization of the information society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Bridging the ‘digital divide’ has been of utmost concern for us in recent years. With almost two thirds of the global population still offline and a daunting gap of around 60% in Internet penetration between Africa and Europe, we know that many challenges still remain.

I am confident, however – with hard work and concerted efforts – that we will overcome these challenges, and will be able to ensure digital inclusion, so that everyone, everywhere, can enjoy the benefits and opportunities of connectivity.

Greater connectivity also brings with it greater risk, however, not least the risk of losing trust and confidence in the networks we rely on, and the risk of losing trust and confidence in our ability to communicate securely.

The loss of trust and confidence compromises the benefits of ICTs as an enabler of global social and economic development. It may also undermine business opportunities and economic efficiencies.

A good example is the booming area of cloud technology. Its potential economic impact could be between 1.7 and 6.2 trillion dollars by 2025 – but we are now hearing that some big players are already beginning to lose trust in the security of the cloud.

As our physical and cyber worlds overlap, there is an increased need to address the related challenges of ensuring security, human rights, the rule of law, good governance and socio-economic development.

Recent high-profile revelations about surveillance activities, widely covered in the international media, have highlighted the lack of trust and the need for agreed norms and principles to rebuild confidence.

However important they are, cyber-espionage, and even cyber-war, are not the only issues – which also include the day-to-day use of the Internet, such as online banking safety, Internet fraud, data protection and undisrupted use of systems – which are all crucial for building trust in cyberspace among its users.

In this sense, national security and cybersecurity can be seen as two very separate issues. The need for national security should not overshadow the implementation of adequate measures to ensure that people and companies are protected in their daily use of online services.

While bilateral and regional frameworks – as well as a number of global initiatives, including the ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda – aim to address these issues, there remains a need to develop a comprehensive and inclusive international framework for cooperation

Distinguished colleagues,

The UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, highlighted the need for such an international framework at the Seoul Cyberspace Conference in October last year.

I recognize that some important efforts for achieving greater trust and confidence are already underway, but securing and building such trust and confidence in cyberspace cannot be achieved by just a few countries in isolation.

Multilateral agreements should be complemented by bilateral coordination. And we need to recognize that up to now, the common practice has been to adopt one or the other, but not systematically both.

This is something we are starting to achieve at ITU, with IMPACT on a multilateral basis (providing services to 147 countries), and agreements with companies and key players (including Symantec, Trend Micro, and FIRST, signed yesterday) on a bilateral basis.

The same applies to policy development and the establishment of capabilities. Only bottom-up or only top-down approaches simply do not work.

At ITU we are taking a mixed approach, providing assistance on developing national capabilities (CIRTs, legal frameworks, training) harmonized at regional and international levels to instigate and encourage cooperation – and at the same time facilitating regional and international agreements for effective policy development.

As you may know, ITU together with the government of Oman, recently established the first Regional Cybersecurity Centre as a mechanism to localize activities and build capacity using the expertise provided by all countries in the region. This is a very concrete example of cooperation at work.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I understand the reasons behind the obstacles to achieving more open and multilateral cooperation, such as the predominance of national security concerns – but I do believe countries can strike a balance and come together to build an effective international cybersecurity framework.

And the more we can come together to coordinate and exchange information, the more we can benefit – and the more we will build resilience against cyberthreats, both individually and collectively.

Distinguished colleagues,

The World Conference on International Telecommunications, or WCIT, which was held just over a year ago here in this region, was a major milestone in this global  debate, and established principles on how to balance the implementation of security provisions with commitments to human rights, within the context of international communications.

In the preamble of the treaty, Member States clearly affirmed their commitment to implement the treaty in a manner that respects and upholds their existing human rights obligations.

In line with this, Member States also emphasized the importance of closely working together to maintain the security and robustness of global ICT networks.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I firmly believe that trust and confidence in the use of ICTs can only be achieved by being truly-inclusive; with the meaningful participation of all stakeholders, including civil society, industry, the academic and research community, governments and international organizations.

Among stakeholder groups, the UN plays a valuable role in bringing people together and as an effective facilitator for moving global dialogue forward towards agreed principles.

Since 2010, I have ardently advocated this matter at the United Nations Chief Executives Board, the CEB, which brings together all heads of UN agencies.

Last November, at the Second Regular Session of the CEB, I conveyed to the heads of all UN agencies the message of coming together as One UN to respond to this global concern on cybersecurity and cybercrime issues – and I was pleased that the UN Secretary-General gave prominence to this topic.

As a concrete step, the heads of all UN agencies endorsed, for the first time, a common UN-wide framework on cybersecurity and cybercrime.

This framework highlights seven principles to enable enhanced coordination amongst UN agencies in their response to the concerns of Member States.

This is a good example of collaborative spirit, and could be followed by communities with common cultures and missions, who could join forces to achieve stronger results in their combat against cyber threats.

Distinguished colleagues,

As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a comprehensive dialogue is already underway dealing with serious topics such as network security, authentication, privacy, and consumer protection as part of the 10-year WSIS review process.

It is extremely important that all stakeholders who are yet to engage with the process, do so as early as possible, so that the discussions can be further enriched by these unique perspectives. The preparatory process is well underway and the Third Multi-stakeholder Preparatory Meeting will be held at ITU in Geneva in two weeks, on 17 and 18 February.

The WSIS+10 process is a major UN undertaking, in which the ITU is actively engaged, as the coordinator, along with many other key UN organizations including FAO, ILO, UNCTAD, UNDESA, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UN Women, WHO, WIPO, WMO, and the UN Regional Commissions.

All stakeholders from across the world are actively participating in the discussions and contributing their inputs in this global endeavour.

Ladies and gentlemen,

ITU’s extensive membership is fully engaged and includes the international community of governments, as well as all major global leaders in international telecommunications and ICTs.

We have been playing our role in bringing stakeholders from across the globe together, but it is clearly evident that no single entity can achieve this task alone.

In conclusion, therefore, let me reiterate the need for collective hard work to make cyberspace safer for everyone, so that we can all trust and feel confident in the online world.

Without this, we will never be able to enjoy the extraordinary benefits awaiting humanity, when everyone has access to the vast opportunities offered by the Internet and the rapidly expanding online world.

We are committed to collaborating and to working together.

Because only together can we achieve our common goals.


Thank you.