Community and Governance Events
ISOC at the ITU Plenipotentiary 2006 Conference
Week 1 and 2 Summary report
The ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference (PP) is held every four years at which the Union sets its general policies and adopts four-year strategic and financial plans and elects the organization’s leadership, including the Secretary General. Importantly for the Internet community, the PP also agrees the policy focus areas that will shape the work of the ITU for the following four years. This year’s PP is taking place in Antalya, Turkey from the 6th to the 24th of November 2006. ISOC, as a sector member, was invited to attend the Conference as observer.
Most of the elections took place during week one. Work in Committees and Working Groups was also launched during week one, but debates really started during week two.
The ISOC delegation comprised one permanent representative, Ms. Walda Roseman, an ITU expert, and representation on a rotating basis by ISOC: Constance Bommelaer participated during the first week; Lynn St.Amour during the second; and, Matthew Shears during the last.
After the official opening ceremony and the formal meeting of Heads of Member States delegations (sector members not invited), the ITU declared its ambition to change its dimension. See their press release.
Concerning Internet Governance, ITU declared:
“The Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society recognized that the internet has evolved into a global public facility, and that its governance should constitute a core issue of the Information Society agenda. Moreover, it called for a multilateral, transparent and democratic international management of the internet, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.
First week’s Member States’ policy statements
Countries had the opportunity to make official statements introducing the PP’s three week meeting. Countries from the developing world (e.g. Cuba, Senegal, Mali, etc.) systematically insisted on the need to focus on the digital divide and the multilingualism issue. Iran’s statement clearly insisted on its wish for a multilateral management of the Internet.
Elections started the first week for the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General as well as Directors of the three specialized arms of the Union: the Radiocommunication Bureau (ITU-R), the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (ITU-T) and the Telecommunication Development Bureau (ITU-D). The members of the Council and of the Radio Regulations Board are also to be elected.
Mr Hamadoun Touré (Mali) was elected during the first week, on the 10th of November, after 3 rounds, with 95 votes. In his first speech as Secretary General, he outlined his objective to focus on Access and eSecurity. Mr Touré also declared in the following interview that the WSIS had constituted a first important step for the evolution of ITU’s role and that its success was notably characterized by “the recognition of the increased role of the private sector”. He added that he “will build bridges to a digital future through the active and meaningful participation of all stakeholders in line with the decisions of WSIS” and that his personal belief is that “teamwork is the key to success”.
Houlin ZHAO (China) was elected Deputy Secretary-General, Mr Valery Timofeev (Russian Federation) was elected Director of the Radiocommunications Bureau, Mr Malcom Johnson (UK) was elected Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau and Mr Sami Al-Basheer was elected Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau.
The Council whose role is to consider broad telecommunication policy issues and who is responsible for ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of the Union work (programs coordination, controlling finances and expenditure) was elected on the second week.
Working groups and committees
Committee 5 “Policy and Legal matters”, chaired by Iran, launched its work in the middle of the first week. Its work includes issues related to Internet Governance and eSecurity issues. Each country had the opportunity during this first week to outline its proposals.
Working Group on Plenary (WGPL) focusing on issues related to the outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was also launched during the first week.
An ITR’s ad hoc group was established. It could be decided that the review of emerging issues for ITRs would feed the agenda of a future World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). Several important key proposals related to Internet matters and Internet Governance have been the focus of the ISOC delegation. In all of these proposals, the terminology that will be chosen has its importance.
During the PP, Member States also considered the organization of a World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF). The history of the WTPF is that all ITU stakeholders (i.e. Member Stats and Sector Members) have equal participation rights. Other stakeholders could also be invited to participate. For instance, ISOC could sit next to Intel and India and have equal rights of participation.
Link to ITU’s PP news room
Week 3 Summary report
The 17th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference ended on the 24th of November after three weeks of work to set the organization’s general policies and four-year strategic and financial plans. Over 2000 delegated from 164 countries, and representatives of over 80 sector members attended the Conference.
The World Summit on the Information Society continues to figure large in shaping the strategic planning and future of the ITU. A number of the Resolutions adopted or updated at the Conference mention the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and a specific resolution was adopted on ITU’s role in implementing the WSIS outcomes. Also, another resolution calls for a study to look at how relevant WSIS stakeholders, including civil society, can participate in the activities of ITU related to WSIS.
One of the key issues for the ITU related to proposed changes in terminology and name. After some debate, the term “telecommunications/information and communication technologies (ICT)” was agreed to define the new scope of the ITU activities. However, many countries were reluctant to make further changes to the Constitution and Convention until a full understanding of these terms could be developed. The conference decided that a Council Working Group should be established to undertake a study between 2006 and 2010 on the new terms being introduced in the Union’s work. It was also decided not to change the name of the ITU for the time being.
Another development of interest to the Internet community is the decision to convene a World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) in the first quarter of 2009 to address internet public policy issues as part of the timeline that will also include a World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in 2012 to review the International Telecommunication Regulations.
Key Resolutions adopted
A number of the resolutions debated during the Plenipotentiary were of interest to the community. Four of the key updated resolutions that were approved covering Internet issues are listed here:
Remarks by the outgoing and incoming Secretary Generals
Yoshio Utsumi, outgoing Secretary General, noted in the closing ceremony that
“As we have struggled to understand the true meanings of many new terms – like ICTs, information society, internet resources, network security and so on – we cannot have failed to see how the industry that we serve is changing.”
In his view, over the next four years, industry will transform even further and faster.
“Competition will grow, and a more flexible approach will be needed on the part of regulators and policy-makers. These changes will be driven by the private sector. ITU has taken the steps at this conference towards opening up also to civil society. In addition, as a result of the WSIS process, ITU will need to cooperate much more closely with the rest of the UN and with other international and regional organizations. ITU itself must also remain flexible and must continue to adapt to the Information Society.”
At the closing Press conference, the incoming Secretary General, Dr Touré said
"The membership has set a task to deal with International Public Policy issues related to the internet in which ITU has been involved for many years in developing standards and providing services."
Responding to a question on ITU’s role in internet governance and management of the internet, Dr Touré added,
"ITU is not looking at taking over internet governance. ITU is very well positioned to manage internet resources and will continue to contribute to the growth of the internet in its area of expertise and along with all stakeholders."