As we return from the summer break, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the results of this year’s Council session with you, and in particular to say some words about the budget for the next biennium of the Union, which was approved at the Council session in June.
This year’s session of Council was busy and productive – as usual – and we reviewed a total of 87 input documents, including 28 contributions from Member States. Nineteen formal texts were adopted.
Before going on to discuss the budget and the finances of the Union, let me highlight some of the other key resolutions and decisions.
- Council considered and approved the Union’s four-year rolling operational plans for 2014 to 2017.
- Council decided to establish a working group to elaborate a draft Strategic Plan and a draft Financial Plan for the period 2016 to 2019. Our Sector Members will participate fully in this group.
- These plans will be considered by next year’s session of Council and then submitted to PP-14 in Korea towards the end of next year.
- You have been invited to contribute towards this process during the summer, and I would like to thank you for your valuable inputs, which will certainly improve the quality of the final product.
- Council endorsed an ITU Accessibility Policy for Persons with Disabilities ensuring reasonable accommodation to ITU services. The new policy represents the first document of its kind produced by a United Nations agency, and we should all be very proud of that.
- Council also approved a statement that will highlight the contribution of ICTs, and the work of ITU in promoting ICT accessibility, to the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Disabilities and Development in just over two weeks time, on 23 September.
- Council also endorsed a landmark policy to further mainstream gender equality across the whole range of ITU’s strategic plans, activities and programmes.
- Let me encourage each and every one of you to find ways of improving gender mainstreaming in your everyday work.
- Council chose ‘Broadband for Sustainable Development’ as the theme for next year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, which as usual will be celebrated on 17 May.
- Council extended free online access to Council Resolutions and Decisions to ITU membership on a permanent basis, as well as to ITU-R Handbooks on radio-frequency spectrum management to the general public on a permanent basis.
- Council also decided to create a Council Committee open to ITU membership to prepare for the 150th anniversary of the Union in 2015.
- Council also confirmed that the Secretary-General can carry out or facilitate informal consultations with stakeholders.
- I look forward to engaging with all stakeholders on international Internet public policy-related matters and to bringing the essence of these discussions to the Council Working Group on this issue for information.
Let me now move on to the most important matter settled by this year’s session of Council, which was of course the approval of the revised budget for the next biennium, covering 2014 and 2015.
Before looking ahead, however, I would like to give you an update concerning the financial situation for the current biennium, covering 2012 and 2013.
The budget for 2012 was implemented successfully, thanks to the excellent level of cooperation and tireless efforts from all three sectors and the General Secretariat.
This was achieved with a withdrawal from the Reserve Account which was significantly lower – by a total of CHF 2.3 million in fact – than the amount authorized by Council in Resolution 1337.
We are now working diligently in the implementation of the 2013 Budget, focusing in particular on ways of accomplishing ITU’s mission without increasing the number of posts.
The revenue for this year is slightly lower than that forecasted. For the most part, this will be compensated by increased revenue from cost recovery; we nonetheless expect a shortfall in the total 2013 revenue of some CHF 800,000.
With regard to expenses for 2013, we are all working hard to exercise maximum restraint on spending and on identifying savings opportunities.
Efficiency measures are currently being implemented across all sectors and departments which include paperless systems; the automation of processes; the external hosting of ICT commodity services; improvements in travel cost management; and improvements in the procurement system.
As you will know, from this month, a reduction in the staff parking subsidy will take effect, and the parking subsidy will be eliminated entirely in January 2014, resulting in further savings in expenses, which amount to the equivalent of the annual cost of about three professional posts.
Additional savings are envisaged when travel requests are submitted at least 20 days prior to departure, in order to take advantage of the lowest non-flexible air ticket costs. This is expected to generate savings of around 20% on the annual budget for official travel.
Following the UN Secretary-General’s recent announcements, we will also be bringing ITU policy in line with UN policy concerning travel, and this will result in further significant savings for the Union.
The relevant Service Order concerning modifications to official travel is currently being finalized and will be issued shortly.
Despite these efficiency measures, we still expect to see an excess in total Union expenses for 2013 of CHF 1.3 million. Fortunately, Council 2012 granted me the flexibility, in Resolution 1349, to compensate overspend on categories 1 and 2 (Staff and Other Staff Costs) with savings on categories 3 to 9 (non-staff costs), and to make the necessary transfers, if required, while respecting the decision on the overall amount to be withdrawn from the Reserve Account.
Looking ahead to the next biennium, covering 2014 and 2015, this year’s session of Council, in Resolution 1359, approved a very tight budget of CHF 331 million, wherein ITU needs to absorb an additional CHF 5.5 million for various staff-related costs, and an ITU-wide 5% vacancy rate which is equivalent to CHF 12.5 million.
This will entail a need for increased efficiency in the management of vacant posts, including recruitment delays.
I would like to add here that in the current climate it would be unrealistic to expect our Member States to approve any increase in ITU’s budget. Many of our administrations have themselves faced significant budget and staff cuts, and this was highlighted to us by our membership in the six months before this year’s session of Council.
Some administrations also asked us to review our current staffing levels to see if we can save budget, but as senior management we have continued to work very hard to maintain staffing levels and keep financial impacts on staff to the minimum.
To cover costs related to WRC-15 and RA-15, I have been authorized by Council 2013 to withdraw CHF 4 million from the Reserve Account to balance the budget.
Furthermore, Council 2013 also authorized me to withdraw CHF 4 million from the Reserve Account to set-up the After Service Health Insurance fund, ASHI, as a first step towards addressing unfunded long-term liabilities.
Further measures contributing to the funding of ASHI include the increase in retirement age for new staff joining the Union from 1 January 2014 onwards, from 62 to 65 years, as well as the identification of alternative solutions to the current Staff Health Insurance Fund, SHIF.
We have also proceeded with a limited number of early separation packages, on a case-by-case basis, where this is beneficial for the Union, and where the staff members concerned are not going to be replaced.
Let me add a further note here, concerning early separation.
The ITU Council Extraordinary Session in Guadalajara 2010 passed a Decision (Number 558) on this matter, and allocated the necessary funds, but I decided not to implement it, because this is not always in the best interests of the Union – with the potential for losing some of our best people, and also of rewarding others for poor performance, which is extremely demotivating, as we all know.
In closing, let me say once again, as I have said many times before, that the staff is one of the Union’s greatest assets, and that your contributions are invaluable.
Let me therefore ask you all to think of ways in which the Union can increase revenues, and ways in which the Union can generate cost savings.
Come forward with your ideas and suggestions on how we can achieve further savings through reorganization and the successful prioritization of resources and activities.
Be inventive, be innovative, and be creative – and bring your ideas to us; we will be setting up an online mechanism for you to do this over the coming weeks.
Let me also continue to encourage staff responsible for those services which generate revenues, both from cost recovery and product sales, to implement actions to further improve the results beyond the budgeted levels, whenever practical.
During my time as Secretary-General, I have always made sure that I have protected staff who made savings or were able to come in under budget, and you can be assured that this policy will continue – nobody will be penalized for serving the interests of the Union.
As ITU senior management, you are aware that we have always had an open door policy, and the time has never been more appropriate to take advantage of that spirit of openness and dialogue.
I am confident that by working together, for the good of the Union as a whole, we will be able to successfully implement the budget resolution for the next biennium and meet the demands and requirements of our membership.
Let me now take this opportunity to ask if anyone has any comments, suggestions or questions.