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

Council Working Group Internatioanl Internet-Related Public Policy
Opening Remarks

03 March 2014, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the fourth meeting of the Council Working group on international Internet-Related Public Policy Issues. This is a particularly important meeting, as it is the last one in the series of CWG-Internet meetings that have taken place since PP-10.

I would like to thank you, our membership, for your guidance and commitment to the group, and I would like to warmly congratulate our Chairman, Majed Al Mazyed, for his very able leadership.

As a key working group within ITU, CWG-Internet is an important component of the overall multi-stakeholder global dialogue on Internet-related matters – not just within ITU, but also among other forums and deliberations.

The ongoing debate on the role of governments in the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance is an excellent example.

I am sure you will remember that discussions on this topic were initiated by Brazil at last year’s World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum, WTPF-13. Even though there was no agreement, we had a clear recognition of the importance of continuing the dialogue in various forums.

As Secretary-General, I launched a series of informal consultations on this topic, to facilitate further discussion. These ‘Open Talks’ adopted innovative informal, open and inclusive formats, providing opportunities for anyone, anywhere in the world to participate.

Three types of consultation were held, attracting the participation of diverse stakeholders from different groups belonging to different geographical regions, from both developed and developing countries.

I was pleased to note that the role of governments was also discussed in other sessions organized by various organizations at IGF, drawing directly from the WTPF discussions.

The debate continued on this topic at the second meeting of the CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation in November, which was followed by the November meeting of this Council Working Group, and also at the recently-concluded third meeting of the CSTD Working Group.

At your November meeting, you formulated a questionnaire seeking specific information on the role that governments are playing in their countries on a variety of Internet-related topics, as listed in Council 2009 Resolution 1305.

We have received detailed responses to this questionnaire from 37 Member States, including developed and developing countries, who bring in their own perspectives based on their national experiences on this important matter.

These responses will inform the deliberations not only at this meeting but also serve as a repository of information for future dialogue on this topic in other forums.

These and other topics will also be discussed at upcoming events including the meeting in Brazil in April, and the WSIS+10 High-Level Event in June.

As many of you may know, I will be representing the UN system on the High Level Multi-stakeholder Committee in Brazil, at the request of Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General. I will be serving alongside Under Secretary-General Wu of UNDESA, in this regard.

This is a good demonstration of how each discussion feeds into the others, and helps further the global debate step-by-step on these topics of global importance.

ITU is part of the complex framework of the Internet ecosystem that includes many organizations dealing with various aspects of Internet-related matters.

We participate in the global debate; and where appropriate we help to facilitate it, adding value wherever we can with our expertise and strengths.

Ladies and gentlemen,

ITU’s history highlights many great examples of Member States and other stakeholders from different regions and different perspectives working together – for the common good and in the public interest – to resolve complex and challenging issues.

And let’s not forget that the Internet simply wouldn’t exist – or work – without the fibre-optic, mobile and satellite networks underpinning it.

Over decades, global standards for the critical access technologies of the Internet have been brokered and approved at ITU, and this has been absolutely vital in facilitating access to the Internet.

At first this was with modems, with the V series standards. Today it is via broadband, including the G.99x series for DSL, and J series DOCSIS, as well as standards for fibre optical cable and passive optical networks, PONS, that facilitate so-called FTTx, or fibre to the home/kerb etc.

The latest standard focusing on copper will push aggregate bit rates to an extraordinary one gigabit per second.

It is therefore safe to say that a very large proportion of the 600 million people using a fixed broadband connection are connected via ITU standards.

Distinguished colleagues,

Infrastructure has always been our focus, and our strength, and I am proud to say that we do it well.

Of course, there are many organizations involved – and a strong degree of cooperation binds us all.

The exponential growth in the use of the Internet has been built on a set of globally-agreed standards that give a common means to connect, a common language for the exchange of data, and a common form for displaying that data.

Take your mobile phone, for example. ITU-T codecs provide voice and video; ITU-R defines the radio spectrum in which it operates; IEEE provides WiFi standards; IETF, TCP/IP and HTTP; W3C, HTML and XML; just to name a few.

The Internet is one of the greatest engineering feats ever achieved, and ITU is just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle, with many different players slotting in to provide coherence and continuity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s meeting comes at a very important time for ITU – and therefore for the global ICT sector – as we are in the final approach to this year’s Plenipotentiary Conference, PP-14.

This meeting provides a valuable opportunity to take stock of the group’s achievements, and to identify areas for further improvement.

Membership of this group has been a topic of discussion since it was first created at PP-10, as a result of the consensus agreement on Resolution 102, reached in Guadalajara.

Many options have been proposed, including:

As you all agreed in Council 2013, the issue of rules and procedures of participation of CWG-Internet can only be determined by the Plenipotentiary Conference.

We therefore look forward to guidance from Member States on ways and means to further enhance the working of this group as a forum to discuss international public policy, and to ensure that it provides a useful contribution to global discussions.

Distinguished colleagues,

I have always encouraged Member States to carry out open and inclusive consultations with national stakeholders, with regard to their positions and contributions at international forums such as the ITU.

Governments should take into account the diverse views of all their constituents in policy-making processes, if policy making is to be effective and to achieve the desired impact.

As a result, I am confident that your ensuing discussions will be enriched and informed, and that this will help achieve our goal of bringing the maximum benefits of the Internet to the global community – and especially to the billions of people who are still offline.

Let me therefore close by saying that we look forward to the guidance provided as a result of your deliberations, and I wish you all a successful meeting.

Thank you.