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Council 2009
Responding to global challenges
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Ghana’s Minister of Communications and Member of Parliament Haruna Iddrisu was elected as Chairman of this year’s session of the Council
 
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photo credit: Shutterstock — ITU/V. Martin
Council 2009
 

ITU’s governing body, the Council comprising 46 Member States, held its annual session on 20–30 October 2009. It considered and approved ITU’s biennial budget for 2010–2011 and discussed implementation of the Union’s strategic and operational plans that are designed to respond to the demands of an ever-changing telecommunication environment.

Ghana at the helm

Leadership of the Council is rotated among the world’s regions. This year it was the turn of Africa, and Haruna Iddrisu, Member of Parliament and Minister of Communications of Ghana, was elected as Chairman. The Asia and Australasia region provided Vice-Chairman R.N. Jha, Deputy Director General (International Relations), Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, India. Taking the chair of the Council’s Standing Committee on Administration and Management was Reynaldo C. González Bustamante (Mexico), alongside Vice-Chairmen Jason Ashurst (Australia) and Blanca González (Spain).

Mr Iddrisu paid tribute to outgoing Council Chairman Plamen Vatchkov, of Bulgaria, for the work done in the past year and wished him every success in his future career. Mr Iddrisu said he was humbled to have been given the opportunity to chair Council 2009, which was set to “discuss issues of immense strategic importance for the Union,” especially in the run-up to the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in 2010.

“Our major task is to bridge the digital divide,” the Chairman told participants. “We must set the tone and agenda on how to strengthen regulatory practices, address issues related to convergence and ensure the smooth functioning of the Internet. We must also address the key challenges of our times, such as harnessing the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. At the same time, we must focus on the other issues affecting developing countries: how they can build capacity and attract investment in order to achieve the connectivity targets set by the World Summit on the Information Society and meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.”

Underlining that the ICT sector is not immune to the global financial crisis, Mr Iddrisu said that ITU must “plan ahead to minimize the degree to which the financial crisis will affect the Union, the ICT industry, as well as countries, in these dramatic and uncertain times.” And he called on all countries to collaborate on protecting cybersecurity, in particular through ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda.

Operational plans for 2010–2013

The Council considered and approved the Union’s four-year rolling operational plans for 2010–2013. For the Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R), the period will be very busy, with 2010 and 2011 dominated by finalizing implementation of the outcomes of the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2007 (WRC-07). At the same time, preparations for WRC-12 will be well under way. An intensive programme of work for the Radio Regulations Board is envisaged, and there will be a continuation of the cycle of activities of the ITU–R study groups.

The operational plan for the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T) reflects the status of implementation of the outcomes of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly in 2008 (WTSA-08), held in South Africa. This event saw the highest level of participation ever for a WTSA, putting the Sector in good shape to tackle the challenges of the coming period, but also giving it a lot of work to do. In order to deal with the challenging programme, the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) is being reorganized into a Study Group Department, a Telecommunication Standardization Policy Department and a Services Department.

The mission and objectives of the Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D) are primarily guided by the Strategic Plan for the Union for 2008–2011, but will be adapted according to the outcomes of two major events in 2010: the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10) and the Plenipotentiary Conference. Efforts are being made to expand and improve Member States’ access to assistance, through such means as better targeting of regional initiatives and a review of how projects are implemented.

ITU Deputy Secretary-General Houlin Zhao described how the General Secretariat will play an essential role in meeting ITU’s strategic goals, both in its direct activities and in support of the Sectors. Modernization of management practices will continue, and new accounting standards will be introduced in conformity with the United Nations system. The evolution to fuller use of the six official languages of the Union is another key element in the work of the General Secretariat.

 
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photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
India to host WTDC-10
The next ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10) will take place in Hyderabad, India, on 24 May–4 June 2010. A host country agreement was signed during the Council session by ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré and P.J. Thomas, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, MCIT, India
 

The budget for 2010–2011

“We all want to see a balanced budget, even as we also desire to formulate innovative ways of encouraging and generating more savings to support developmental initiatives particularly to aid developing economies as part of our quest to bridge the digital divide among our nations,” commented Mr Iddrisu.

The Council approved a budget of CHF 332 639 000 for the 2010–2011 biennium (comprising CHF 169 271 000 for the 2010 budget year, and CHF 163 368 000 for the 2011 budget year). The budget was prepared on the basis of zero nominal growth in the amount of the contributory unit of Member States. It is set at CHF 318 000, the same as for the 2008–2009 biennium.

For Sector Members, the annual value of the contributory unit for 2010–2011 has been set at CHF 63 600. The contribution for Associates is CHF 10 600 for those participating in the work of ITU–T and ITU–R. In ITU–D, Associates will pay CHF 3975, or CHF 1987.50 for Associates from developing countries.

New Council Working Groups

The following groups were established by Council 2009:

  • Child Online Protection

  • For the elaboration of the draft ITU Strategic Plan and Financial Plan for 2012–2015

  • To prepare for the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012

ITU and the Internet

How best can ITU serve the interests of all its members — as well as the public at large — in issues relating to the Internet? This topic came up at several sessions of the Council. A resolution was adopted covering the role of the Council’s Dedicated Group on identifying Internet-related Public Policy Matters. Noting the decisions taken at previous ITU Plenipotentiary Conferences, Council meetings and world events, the resolution invites Member States to recognize that the scope of ITU’s work in this area covers:

  • Multilingualization of the Internet, including internationalized (multilingual) domain names

  • International Internet connectivity

  • International public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses

  • The security, safety, continuity, sustainability, and robustness of the Internet

  • Combating cybercrime

  • Dealing effectively with spam

  • Issues pertaining to the use and misuse of the Internet

  • Availability, affordability, reliability and quality of service, especially in the developing world

  • Contributing to capacity building for Internet governance in developing countries

  • Developmental aspects of the Internet

  • Respect for privacy and the protection of personal information and data

  • Protecting children and young people from abuse and exploitation.

The resolution instructs the Secretary-General to provide the necessary support for this work, within existing budgetary resources, and to disseminate appropriate reports to all relevant international organizations and stakeholders actively involved in such matters.

A safer online environment for children

The Council welcomed a contribution on this issue, presented jointly by Egypt and the Syrian Arab Republic. In introducing it, the councillor from Egypt said that protecting children online involves “the future of all our countries,” and ITU is the obvious and best body to lead a coordinated global effort to achieve this goal.

Discussions led to adoption of a resolution that emphasizes ITU’s commitment to connect the world responsibly, including by promoting cybersecurity and the protection of children online. Under the resolution, the Secretary-General will “liaise with other United Nations agencies and entities concerned with this issue, in order to develop a global repository with useful and updated information, statistics and tools concerning child online protection”.

The resolution also instructs the Secretary-General, with the Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), to organize strategic dialogues in which policy-makers, regulators, industry, academia and other stakeholders can contribute their experience and discuss best practice on key issues. In addition, a Council Working Group on Child Online Protection is established, open to all ITU Member States and Sector Members. The group will report to the Council annually on its activities and proposals, as well as to the Plenipotentiary Conference in 2010.

Themes for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day

In 2010, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) on 17 May will be celebrated at the Expo 2010 exhibition in Shanghai, China. The theme of the Expo is “Better City, Better Life”. In accordance with this, the Council agreed that the theme of WTSID 2010 will become “Better city, better life with ICT”. For WTISD 2011, the Council approved the theme “Better life in rural communities with ICT”.

Helping to test interoperability

TSB Director Malcolm Johnson reported to the Council that a major concern raised at WTSA-08 was the frequency with which telecommunication equipment appears on the market that does not conform to technical standards or work properly with other equipment. The problem is especially acute in developing countries and economies in transition. WTSA-08 instructed the Director of TSB, in collaboration with the Director of BDT Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, to find ways to meet this challenge.

“Addressing interoperability is not something new,” Mr Johnson said, adding that “it was the very reason for founding ITU”. He put forward recommendations, approved by the Council, which will establish a global database to record products declared to be in conformity with ITU–T standards. Also, ITU will organize a series of events at which vendors can verify that their equipment interoperates satisfactorily, and add the results to the database. These measures will give buyers of ICT equipment a much clearer picture of whether it can work with other devices. In addition, TSB will collaborate with BDT on promoting training and the development of regional test centres for developing countries.

Many Council Member States welcomed the planned activities. The councillor from South Africa, for example, stressed that huge quantities of new telecommunication equipment are shipped daily into the markets of developing countries, which are often without adequate means or skills to conduct tests. ITU’s initiatives would help support the heavy investments being made by the private and public sectors in the developing world in particular.

 
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photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Dr Touré presented the ITU Silver Medal to Ghana’s Minister of Communications Haruna Iddrisu, for his “outstanding leadership” as Chairman of Council 2009
 

ICT and climate change — the road to Copenhagen

ICT has a major role to play in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in all industrial sectors — and this message needs to be made clear to those negotiating at the conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 that will try to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Documents on this topic have been submitted by ITU to preparatory meetings ahead of Copenhagen (see article in ITU News of October 2009).

The Council passed a resolution saying that addressing climate change is one of ITU’s “top priorities”. It instructs the Secretary-General and the Directors of the Bureaux:

  • to transmit a message to the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 highlighting the Council’s unanimous decision regarding the important role of telecommunications and ICT in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change;

  • to play an active part in preparations for the UN Climate Change Conference, as well as in the conference itself, and provide information on ITU’s role and activities in this area;

  • to help develop the Global Framework for Climate Services, requested by the World Climate Conference 3 held by the World Meteorological Organization from 30 August to 4 September 2009 (see ITU News of September 2009);

  • to facilitate access to ITU publications of relevance to ICT and climate change.

The resolution invites the representatives of Member States at ITU to liaise with their colleagues responsible for environmental issues, in order to develop common proposals that could be offered for incorporation into a new United Nations agreement at the conference in Copenhagen.

Looking ahead

The next meeting of the ITU Council will take place in Geneva on 13–22 April 2010. This gap of only six months between meetings is to allow for preparations for the Plenipotentiary Conference in 2010 and other important events scheduled for next year. These were noted in the closing remarks of Dr Touré to the 2009 Council session, as he looked ahead to another busy year for ITU.

He also praised the achievements of Council 2009 — and the amount of CO2 emissions that had been saved by using electronic working methods. “Our figures indicate that we reduced paper usage by 766 kilos,” Dr Touré said. “This equates to almost one-and-a-half tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions saved — equivalent to driving a typical family vehicle in the United States for almost four months.”

Dr Touré said: “We were honoured to have with us for this Council several ministers, deputy ministers, and ambassadors. We were even more honoured to have as our Chairman, the distinguished Minister of Communications from Ghana, His Excellency Mr Haruna Iddrisu”. The Secretary-General then presented the ITU Silver Medal to Mr Iddrisu in recognition of his “outstanding leadership” as Chairman of Council 2009. “You have steered our discussions so smoothly and ably. Your ability to summarize difficult debates and to guide us has been most impressive,” Dr Touré stated. This view was echoed by all delegations who took the floor.

 

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