Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

2nd Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (GET-2016)

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao​

2nd Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (GET-2016): Saving Lives

26 January 2016, Kuwait City, Kuwait

H.H. Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister represented by H.H. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Electricity and Water, State of Kuwait
H. E. Eng. Salim Alothainah, Chairman and CEO, Communication and
Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA), State of Kuwait
Eng. Hameed H. Al-Qattan, Undersecretary, Ministry of Communications, State of Kuwait
Mr. Brahima Sanou, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), ITU

Excellencies (Ministers and Ambassadors) Present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning to you all 

I am very delighted to be here today in the beautiful city of Kuwait.

We are very grateful for the kind patronage of His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of the State of Kuwait to our global forum.

The excellent hospitality extended to all of us, is a testimony of the traditional generosity of the people of Kuwait.

I would like to sincerely thank the Government of the State of Kuwait for providing us with such facilities, which I am sure will lead to a successful forum.

We are very lucky indeed to be meeting here in Kuwait during the 10th Anniversary of His Highness the Amir becoming the ruler of the State of Kuwait. His Highness the Amir's humanitarian work is well known to us all and has been recognized by the United Nations Humanitarian Leadership Award presented to His Highness in 2014. The timing of this forum also concides with the final preparations for the start of the official celebrations of the National day of the State of Kuwait. 


The devastating nature of disasters is well known by all. Different regions, different countries, and different communities have experienced the wrath of disasters to varying degrees. This is also true with telecommunications or information and communication technologies – world regions, countries, and communities have access to these technologies to varying degrees. This Forum is all about bringing thought leaders under one roof to find a way of mobilizing new technologies to not only save lives, but make people's lives better. We are fortunate in that Information and Communication Technologies are growing at a fast rate. However, we still have many people who are yet to benefit from this hyper connected society. Billions of people are benefitting from broadband, big data, Internet of Things – technologies that have speed, better reliability and effective. The remaining billions are waiting for policy, legal, and regulatory intervention for them to benefit from the same. I am pleased that we have Ministers here, Regulators, and the private sector who could address some of the burning issues that could help in speeding up the connectivity of communities that could mitigate disasters and also reduce poverty. 

As a United Nations specialized agency in telecommunications/ ICT, we work closely with sister UN agencies. ITU's high-level participation at the UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai and at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, both held in 2015, is evidence of this collaboration.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distinguished Guests,

I want to share with you some of my top priorities that could contribute to global efforts to combat climate change and mitigate disasters. I believe that every human being has the right to have unhindered access to modern ICT – so, we have to bridge the digital divide. I also believe that setting global standards and efficient spectrum allocation can make an immense contribution. Coordination of the effective use of radio-frequency spectrum, establishing radio standards and guidelines concerning the use of radiocommunication systems, are making an immense contribution to disaster reduction by facilitating prediction, detection, monitoring, and alerting. ITU is developing new technical standards for telecommunications that play a strategic role in ensuring global interconnection and interoperability for monitoring and management at the onset of emergency situations and during disasters. I believe in the ubiquity of emergency telecommunications. Countries should have in place appropriate technologies for better disaster preparedness and response. Where such systems for response do not exist, ITU is ready to deploy communication systems in the immediate aftermath of disasters. We also help countries within a short time to rehabilitate and reconstruct their telecommunication networks destroyed by disasters. But, response and reconstruction are an old model. I encourage countries to focus more on disaster preparedness and climate change adaption and mitigation. That way, we could save more lives and introduce infrastructure resilience. 


What is done cannot be undone – we cannot do much about past disasters but we certainly can do a lot about future disasters. At the end of this multi-stakeholder Global Forum, with a shared vision, we should be able to come up with some concrete proposals of making better the practices and systems that are currently in place. I look forward to listening to your diverse, rich and informed views that we at ITU could apply as we continue to support countries in the face of natural disasters.

One of the key challenges is financing. However, it is my honest view that if we put our heads together, pool our resources, and cooperate, we will achieve more.  I invite you to use this Forum to negotiate co-financing arrangements that could in the end save millions of dollars.


ITU is committed. With the support of many countries and partners, we are already doing a lot in the area of emergency telecommunications. Our aim is to ensure that appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks are put in place to facilitate the deployment of appropriate telecommunications infrastructure. 

ITU's vision in providing first responders, governments and other entities involved in disaster management, and victims of disasters with appropriate and reliable telecommunications resources in a timely manner, will grow in coming months and years. I thank all those that have committed funds to support this Forum particularly, our partners who continue to provide resources to us for emergency telecommunications. 

Distinguished Guests,

Before I conclude,. I want to congratulate the State of Kuwait on the two awards received from the ITU last year. One was for their part in building inclusive information society awarded as part of the WSIS Prizes, and the other was an Award for the support of ITU work in Measuring the Information Society which was awarded at the World Telecommunication Indicators Symposium (WTIS-15) in Japan.

Once again, I would like to thank the State of Kuwait for the hospitality extended to us, and their continued support to the work of the Union, since they became an ITU member in 1964.

I wish to thank all participants to join our Forum.

At the end of this forum, l look forward to fruitful outcomes that we could implement as countries, individual organizations, or together.


I thank you very much.