PP-14 Speeches

International Telecommunication Union

Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

6 November 2014 - Afternoon Plenary - Valedictory Speech 

Thank you, Chair.

We will meet again tomorrow, but before I give my valedictory speech, I would like to honour the work of my fellow elected officials over the past four years, and to present each one of them with the ITU Gold Medal for their tremendous achievements.

Let me call upon each one of them in order:

Houlin Zhao, Deputy Secretary-General, and Secretary-General Elect;
Malcolm Johnson, Director of TSB, and Deputy Secretary-General Elect;
François Rancy, Director of BR, and re-elected Director of BR;
Brahima Sanou, Director of BDT, and re-elected Director of BDT.

Thank you – you have been a fantastic team to work with!

Distinguished delegates,
My friends and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

What an incredible journey this has been for me.

What an amazing adventure.

And what a special moment.

In sixteen years at ITU – and during eight years as Secretary-General – I have learned so much, and I have made so many friends.

Together we have climbed many mountains, crossed many rivers, and weathered many storms – and we have shared the beauty of the rainbow, and the sunshine after the rain.

Because yes! After every storm comes the sunshine.

During all these years at the helm of the Union, I never hesitated in taking the decisions that needed to be taken – based on the best of my knowledge, with full sincerity, and with my mind focused on the desire to win, to make ITU a stronger organization, and to help make this world a better place for all.

And we are really making great progress.

Today, I am happy to see that ICTs are playing a vital role in each and every one of the great challenges facing humanity – from the MDGs and the SDGs to climate change, healthcare, education and good governance.

In the 21st century, ICTs are always part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have been incredibly fortunate to have benefited from the trust and wisdom of Ban Ki-moon, who took office as the United Nations Secretary-General on the same day as I took office as the ITU Secretary-General – on 1 January 2007.

It has been a real honour to have been part of the United Nations system under his intelligent and creative leadership. We at ITU have gained enormously from Ban Ki-moon’s advocacy and support – including here in Busan, at the opening ceremony, nearly three weeks ago.

Three weeks ago, I came to this 19th Plenipotentiary Conference with news of the extraordinary progress that had been made in ICT development in the eight years that I have been privileged to lead the Union.

And I am absolutely confident that when you meet again, in the United Arab Emirates, in four years time, the next Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, will be able to report on further solid and dramatic progress.

This progress will be very much due to the work that has been done by you, our membership, here in Busan.

You have set strong and sound foundations for the future, and you should be proud of what has been achieved here.

Some might say that we have been lucky here – and they are right – but I also like to quote the Roman Philosopher, Seneca, who said:
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Distinguished delegates,

We have prepared well, and we have been offered the most incredible opportunity to capitalize on that preparation here at PP-14.

So let me mention just a few of the great achievements that you have made at this conference:

Ladies and gentlemen,

PP-14 has also been enriched by a number of innovations that we have brought to the conference.

This started with the new delegates briefing, which I feel really helped contribute to the success of the conference, and continued with the excellent engagement with civil society – through the opening up of our documents, through face-to-face briefings here in Busan, and through the open webcasts throughout the Conference.

We also hosted the first GEM-Tech Awards, which were organized by ITU in conjunction with UN Women.

These new annual awards have amply demonstrated how valuable it is to have a platform for advancing women's roles as decision-makers in the ICT sector, and it was great to have the first winners here with us in Busan during PP-14 – as we have just seen in that wonderful film!

It was great to see so many women taking the floor here at PP-14, both in the formal sessions and at the side events, and we look forward to seeing much greater participation from women in ITU’s work moving ahead.

Another excellent innovation here has been the Young ICT Policy Leaders programme, which has provided a platform for young policy makers to network and meet global leaders from the ICT sector, and to nurture knowledge and skills exchange at the international level.

This has been a real success, and I have really enjoyed engaging with the next generation of policy leaders – indeed, as I said on Sunday night, I look forward to meeting them as global leaders and future Secretary-Generals at PP-26 and PP-30!

We really owe the City of Busan for sponsoring the programme, and for bringing 35 young delegates here from some of the world’s poorest countries – so a big thank you to Busan City, and to Mayor Suh Byung-soo!

We also put on five lunchtime round tables, each related to the content of the Strategic Plan, covering the themes of growth, inclusion, sustainability, innovation, and monitoring, and I was pleased to see that they were so well-attended.

Distinguished delegates,

I think we are all aware that so much could not have been achieved without the benefit of an extraordinary organizational and logistics operation in place.

And so much could not have been achieved without incredibly thorough planning over many, many months, and meticulous implementation here in Busan.

Let me highlight this with some dramatic numbers that go some way to describing PP-14:

Ladies and gentlemen,

PP-14 has attracted tremendous interest from the media, with over 650 journalists accredited – this is more than four times as many as at any previous plenipotentiary conference.

We have also seen an explosion of interest on social media, with more than 4,000 people posting tweets during the event, reaching over 17 million twitter accounts worldwide.

We have had over 100,000 visits to the PP-14 website over the past two and a half weeks, and close to half a million page views.

Almost 50,000 pictures have been taken by ITU photographers, and we recorded and posted more than 100 videos and podcasts.

We saw more than ten terabytes of data passing through the Conference network, with over 6,000 unique devices registered.

We delivered over 120 hours of live broadcast webcasts; benefitted from around 1,500 hours of interpretation; had nearly 6,000 pages of translated documents.

And in spite of this, we have used less paper than ever before – generating continued efficiencies as we move ever closer towards being truly paperless.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to quote once again from the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca, who said:
“Associate with people who are likely to improve you.”

I have been so incredibly fortunate, in my 16 years at ITU, and in my eight years as Secretary-General – and especially here, in Busan, over the past three weeks – in having been absolutely surrounded by people who have improved me!

So let me give my heartfelt thanks to:

Let me now move on now to the ITU staff, starting with our colleagues back in Geneva. Your tireless work – in Geneva, and in our regional offices around the world – has made this Conference possible. Where would we be without the army of translators and support staff on whom we depend so absolutely?

And now let me thank the staff here in Busan – please stand up now, wherever you are, so that we can see you; and let’s not forget the staff working in their offices, and the interpreters and précis writers, and the team which has been putting together the invaluable daily highlights.

Let’s give the staff a round of applause!

Thank you all – and special thanks to the head of the Conferences and Publications Division, Ahmed Elsherbini, who has done such a good job of keeping things running so smoothly throughout the Conference. Thank you, Ahmed.

A very special thank you too, to our legal advisor Arnaud Guillot: Arnaud, you have been steadfast in your support for the Union, clear-sighted in your understanding of the often complex issues, and I owe you a personal debt for advice and wisdom far beyond your years. Thank you Arnaud.

I would also like to single out Béatrice Pluchon and her team for their amazing work behind the scenes, and in managing everything with quite extraordinary calm and efficiency.

This was Béatrice’s first PP, and she has done a simply fantastic job!

Thank you, to Béatrice and your team.

Let me also say a special thank you to my fellow elected officials over the past four years. Together we did it! We created One ITU, and we helped to build a better and a stronger Union.

I am absolutely delighted that the four of you are now going forward together in the new management team – two of you in new roles, as Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General, and two of you with renewed mandates, as Directors of BR and BDT.

You will be joined by Chaesub Lee as the new Director of TSB, and I congratulate you all once again.

Let me also thank our hosts here in Korea. We have all been extraordinarily impressed with the support you have given us and the facilities you have provided.

Thank you so much for this.

And last but not least…

In my personal life, it is my wife Coumba who keeps me on track.

But over the past 16 years, in the office, my life and work would simply have been impossible without the invaluable, unfailing and constant support from the world’s number one executive assistant: Sheila Cooper.

Sheila, thank you so much!

Distinguished delegates,

As we look back this afternoon on our three weeks of intense work, I feel that we can hold our heads high, and be proud that we have responded so positively to those hopes.

On a personal note, I would like to single out some of the achievements we have made together over the past eight years.

Other achievements I am personally proud of include:

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me say that in eight years together, what drove me was writing history, a little bit of history every day – as I said three weeks ago at the opening ceremony – and keeping in mind the history readers of the future.

And I am sure that the generations of history readers of the future will see what a great job we have done together over the past eight years.

We have lifted the Union up to higher levels than ever before.

So how does it feel to be reaching the end of my tenure here?

Am I sad?

Not at all!

In my culture, if we have been able to get to the end of a mandate in good health, and if we have made so many friends – for life – along the way, and if we have achieved so much, and seized so many new opportunities, then coming to the end is a cause for celebration.

And hey – I have enjoyed every single minute I was here.

We did good things together – we did great things together.

So let me thank you all for your incredible faith in the endeavour.

And let me wish my successor, and my true friend, Houlin Zhao, even more success than I have had.

Thank you.
Thank you!
Thank you so much!!