Committed to connecting the world

PP-18 coneference

ITU Council 2016



Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao​

ITU Council 2016: State of the Union Address

25 May  2016, Geneva, Switzerland 

Distinguished Councillors,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the 2016 Session of ITU Council.

​Let me offer a very warm welcome to our councillors and delegations.
Let me also welcome the Ministers and Ambassadors who are joining us here today.

Annual State of the Union Address @ ITU COUNCIL 2016

Resumé of recent developments

Ladies and gentlemen,

2015 was a very important year for ITU and the UN. We celebrated our 150th anniversary and the 70th anniversary of the UN. It was a very successful year for the UN with the Paris Agreement at COP21, and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the extension of the WSIS Forum at the UNGA.

Here at ITU, we understand that ICTs have extraordinary potential to improve social and economic development, and are essential in helping achieve the Paris Agreement, the SDGs, and the WSIS goals. We commit our Union to connect people, and to connect the world.

And I am pleased to say that our membership is growing, to help us do just that. Our new members include Facebook and Google, which joined ITU last year, and just recently, Ali Baba has become a member. So we face the future with renewed confidence.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me report to you on some major activities that ITU has undertaken since the 2015 Session of Council.

ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R)

ITU's most important event since Council last year, WRC-15, saw a record number of 3,300 delegates from 162 ITU Member States converging in Geneva.

WRC-15 went very well indeed, and membership made effective updates to the Radio Regulations, which will serve us well for years to come – including the mobile, satellite, broadcasting, aeronautical, and maritime communities.

WRC-15 was a challenging conference, which saw some thorny issues debated. Nonetheless, it concluded well in a good spirit of consensus, and resulted in a solid and stable international framework for the use of spectrum.

Let me express our appreciation to the many delegates for their excellent and thorough preparations, and to thank the Chairman, Festus Narai Daudu of Nigeria, for his superb and capable leadership, and François Rancy for his support.

ITU-R has also achieved considerable progress in resolving cases of harmful interference in the UHF band and coordinating frequencies to facilitate the transition to digital television broadcasting.

Radio-interface specifications for IMT-Advanced and satellite IMT-Advanced have been approved, paving the way for the mobile and satellite industries to roll out 4G, and towards 5G.

ITU-R continues to work closely with national Administrations, influential policy-makers and leading industry executives in outreach and technical capacity-building. 

ITU Standardization Sector (ITU-T)

The ITU-T Sector has completed a set of highly anticipated broadband access technologies – notably, 40-Gigabit Fibre to the Home, the first series of standards to provide fibre-optic access speeds beyond 10 Gbit/s.

Industry is also accelerating deployments, an ITU-T standard approved in 2014 delivering 1 Gbit/s over traditional telephone lines. We are seeing excellent take-up of the standard, with trials launched by major operators in diverse countries.

ITU-T has also revised a key standard for Optical Transport Networks, concluding a three-year process to enable optical transport at rates above 100 Gbit/s. Prospects for future ITU standardization work look strong.

I would also like to mention other high-priority ITU-T standards initiatives, including the interconnection of 4G mobile networks, the ITU-T Focus Group on backhaul requirements for 5G, and the newly launched ITU-T Study Group 20 on IoT and Smart Cities.

ITU-T is working in collaboration with Governments and standards bodies to design standards to help the market grow through interoperable communications.

And ITU-T is engaged in much other vital work, including: Network Resilience and Recovery, e-health, and Digital Financial Services, to mention a few. 

ITU Development Sector (ITU-D)

ITU-D's activities focus on bridging the digital divide and maximizing the impact of ICTs to achieve sustainable development.

Achieving the Connect 2020 target that 60% of the world's population should be using the Internet by 2020 is broadly equivalent to bringing another 1.5 billion online.  

ITU-D recorded many key achievements over 2015, including:

ITU-D is also working on strengthening national cybersecurity capacity with interested Member States, as well as capacity building activities and training programmes via the ITU Academy; providing assistance to LDCs, SIDS and LLDCs; and providing emergency telecommunications following natural disasters – including Ecuador, Fiji, Kenya, Micronesia and Mozambique.

ITU-D has attracted 45 new Sector Members and Associates from the ICT sector, and Academia, and signed over 65 partnership agreements in 2015 for capacity building, health and financial inclusion.

Finally, our journey to WTDC in 2017 has already begun, with efforts underway to prepare, engage membership, and build consensus early on. Regional Preparatory Meetings will take place in the CIS region and in Africa this year. 

ITU Telecom 2015

Ladies and gentlemen,

Turning to ITU-wide events, ITU Telecom World 2015 took place in Budapest, Hungary, in October, attracting 4,000 participants from 128 countries.

The Exhibition attracted many national Pavilions, which highlighted numerous SMEs. A number of successful SME projects were recognized with Awards, warmly appreciated by participants.

2016 WSIS Forum

We recently hosted the WSIS Forum 2016, attracting a record 1,800 participants, 85 Ministers and high-level representatives from 150 countries. The Forum saw insightful debates on the issues surrounding the growth of the information society.

WTISD 2016

Last week, we celebrated the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2016, with the theme, 'ICT Entrepreneurship for Social Impact'.

At ITU, we want to use our experience and network to support the ICT ecosystem, including tech parks, university incubators, and start-up accelerators, so SMEs can scale their business and access new market opportunities more easily.

I call on all our members to promote small and innovative ICT businesses, and support the creation of entrepreneurial ecosystems.

I am pleased to report that the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development goes from strength to strength, with a number of new Commissioners taking up appointments, and much good work underway in Working Groups on SDGs, Health, Demand and Gender.

General Secretariat

The General Secretariat has also carried out notable work, welcoming over 7,000 delegates to Geneva in 2015, with innovative working methods for over 3,000 remote participants, paperless meetings, and captioning.  Various apps are now available to help you network, access documents, and collaborate online.

By end 2015, sales of ITU publications had generated revenues of CHF 16.7 million, close to target of 17 million francs.

The UN Joint Inspection Unit has examined our internal processes and audited financial statements. I present the JIU's thorough report for your consideration. We are currently considering how best to implement its recommendations, with your guidance and support.

The Independent Management Advisory Committee, IMAC, has also presented its annual follow-up reports, with recommendations for Council Working Groups.

Given the current economic climate, ITU recognizes the need to make continued efficiency improvements. ITU is making good progress in terms of efficiency, productivity, and cost reductions.

We are pooling resources - for example, ITU and the World Metrological Organization now share an Ethics Officer, showing we can work with other agencies to achieve efficiencies.

We are consolidating the financial and budget controllers within the General Secretariat.

Distinguished Councillors,

ITU's elected officials are grateful for your continued support and the confidence we have been given by all of ITU's membership.

This long list of achievements would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts of ITU's staff, at all levels.

All staff of the ITU, at headquarters and in Regional and Area Offices, have been contributing with utmost professionalism and dedication towards meeting the expectations of the ICT community and membership.  They all have to be commended and acknowledged for that. 

I am pleased to say we have been able to convert fixed-term contracts into continuing contracts for some of our longer serving staff, with a positive impact on staff morale.

Finally, this Council comprises many decisions of importance for the staff.  I'm sure that you will bear that in mind, as you take these decisions.

And we look forward to working with you closely during this Council, and listening to your concerns, proposals and ideas for how best to take ITU's work forward.  


Preview of the months ahead…

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me outline the main ITU events coming up in the months ahead, and encourage your active participation.   

 World Telecom Standardization Assembly (WTSA-2016)

Later this year, we look forward to a pivotal World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly setting the agenda for vital standards work over the years to come in Hammamet, Tunisia, from 25 October to 3 November. The Host Country Agreement is due to be signed today.


ITU Telecom World 2016

In November, we'll also be holding ITU Telecom World 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand, to provide an important platform for creative brainstorming between policy-makers, industry, and other stakeholders.

This year's event will recognize the growing importance of SMEs in driving ICT forward, and their vital role in advancing economic development.

I invite all ITU Member States to showcase initiatives to promote ICT SMEs in Thailand in November, and I count on your support.

WTIS 2016

And finally, the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium will take place in November in Botswana.


Distinguished Councillors,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me conclude this year's State of the Union address by assuring you of our dedication and commitment to address the challenges ahead, and to fulfil our mandate.

I will continue working closely with all the elected officials and ITU staff to fulfil ITU's purpose. We will improve our efficiency, without sacrificing quality. Results-based focus, transparency and accountability are our guiding principles.

Let me appeal to each and every one of you to bring your energy and enthusiasm to invest in ITU in recognition of the reasons we were established 151 years ago – to serve the common good, and to serve your joint interests. 

Thank you very much.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​