Plenipotentiary Conference 1998 -- Minneapolis USA

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Briefing Notes 11 of 26 October
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Members of the ITU Council elected

The Plenipotentiary Conference was tasked to elect the 46 Member States called to sit on the ITU Council to represent the membership in the interval between Plenipotentiary Conferences. The ITU Council acts on behalf of the Plenipotentiary Conference and meets annually to consider broad telecommunication policy issues to ensure that the Union's policies and strategies respond fully to the constantly changing telecommunication environment. The Council is also responsible for ensuring the efficient coordination of the work of the Union and the approval of its budgets.

Each of the five administrative regions were entitled to a number of seats as follows: Region A – Americas (8 seats), Region B – Western Europe (8 seats), Region C – Eastern Europe (5 seats), Region D – Africa (13 seats), Region E – Asia and Australasia (12 seats).

The results of today’s vote are as follows. The countries elected are indicated in bold:













United States










  Czech Republic




















Saint Lucia


  United Kingdom








Costa Rica


South Africa


  Korea (Republic of)




























  Saudi Arabia










Burkina Faso




Côte d’Ivoire






  Iran (Islamic republic)










Cape Verde










  Sri Lanka











Status of Palestine in the ITU

Following the request made by 18 States to admit Palestine as a Member State of the Union (document 106) and the response by Israel to the proposal (document 175), statements were made this morning in Plenary by a representative of the 18 co-sponsors and by a representative of Israel.

In a statement made by Saudi Arabia on behalf of the 18 co-sponsors of the proposal, the representative stated that the proposal was upholding the principle of universality which was embodied in the ITU Constitution and was also an expression of the fostering of peace and security through telecommunications. "Although Palestine is recognized as a State by a majority of us, it continues, to our regret, to be only an Observer in the ITU," he said. "Palestine suffers the inability to develop its own telecommunications" he added. "In a desire to allow Palestine to protect its telecommunications interests like any other state, a request to admit Palestine as a full Member of the ITU is being put forward to this Conference", he concluded. He urged the Chairman of the Conference to consider this matter at an appropriate time during the Conference.

In response to the proposal, the representative of Israel recalled its position as contained in document 175, as well as documents 115 and 116, which refers to the Wye River Memorandum signed last Friday in Washington D.C., which "deepens the commitment of the two parties to the peace process and opens new prospects for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue". "The State of Israel ardently hopes that this momentum will further the bilateral handling of telecommunications matters in a spirit of trust and cooperation", the delegate from Israel stated. "We reiterate our position as presented to this Conference and oppose any change in the status of the PLO/Palestine in the ITU," he concluded.

Both statements in full are available from the Press Office.

As agreed prior to the meeting between the parties, the Chairman announced the creation of an informal group to discuss the issues raised by the proposal of admitting Palestine as a Member of ITU and the opposition of Israel to change the status quo.

The Plenary continued its work with the presentation by the Chairman of Council of the report on the activities of the ITU for the years 1995 to 1998. In his introduction, Mr Rouxeville highlighted the main points of the report which had not been formally approved by the Council at its 1998 session due to lack of time:

  • the increase of the membership from 184 to 188
  • the increase of membership from the industry in each of the three sectors, rising from 371 on 31 December 1994 to 497 on 1 May 1998.
  • a brief account of the Council activities
  • an overview of administration and management issues of the Union
  • a summary of the implementation of the 1995-1998 Strategic Plan of the Union

On the last point, the following were singled out:

  1. The restructuring of the telecommunication sector with the partial or total privatization of a significant number of operators and the creation of independent or autonomous regulatory authorities
  2. Technological convergence aimed at improving the efficiency of existing products, systems and services and providing a foundation for a continuing stream of innovations. In particular, he referred to the challenges of the Internet which is a precursor to the new competitive forces that are likely to emerge in the next 5 to 10 years that should be better considered by telecommunication planners.
  3. Promises of the globalization of telecommunications boosted by the WTO agreement on basic telecommunications and trade in telecommunications.
  4. the Economy and the information society with two high-level conferences in Brussels in 1995 and in Johannesburg in 1996 to examine the various aspects of the information society and the likely impact on developing nations. The key role played by the ITU was stressed in particular through Forum 95 held during Telecom 95 on the theme "Breaking down the barriers for the upcoming global information society
  5. Geopolitical evolution and the development gap with encouraging progress made in the reduction of the gap between developed and developing countries in respect of access to basic telecommunication services. However, major disparities remain and new ones are developing.
  6. Strengthen the foundation of the ITU through increased participation of organizations other than administrations and increased synergy between the activities of the three sectors of ITU. On the first point, he underlined the role played by the ITU 2000 Group whose recommendations within the purview of the Secretary-General and the Directors of the Bureaux have been implemented and stressed that taken together, the ITU-2000 recommendations support an evolutionary strategy for the Union which are expected to lead to significant enhancements in the rights and obligations of industry members and diversify funding sources for the Union’s activities. On the second point, the Chairman referred to a degree of progress for example through the joint seminars on spectrum management for developing countries organized by Radiocommunication Bureau/Telecommunication Development Bureau, the preparatory regional meetings for World Radiocommunication Conferences, the cooperation between the Telecommunication Development Bureau and the Strategic Planning Unit on the series of World and Telecommunication Development reports and regional telecommunications indicators publications. He also pointed to the coordinated standards-setting activities of the Radiocommunications and Telecommunication Standardization sectors.
  7. Broaden the scope of activities of ITU: Mr Rouxeville referred to the World Telecommunication Policy Fora set up on an experimental basis by the Kyoto Plenipotentiary Conference in 1994, to the new measures taken for providing electronic information products and services delivered from the ITU Website, the ITU-T Conferences on GII standards, the ITU-R frequency management seminars, the ITU-D development databases, the expanding range of Telecom events etc. In the management and stewardship of scarce communication resources on behalf of the international community, ITU’s role, in the past, had been limited to the recording of frequency assignments and orbital positions. It now encompasses the registration of universal international freephone numbers, the depository role for the GMPCS-MoU, the management of the top level domain name ".int" of the Internet and the evolution of the global numbering activities including new country codes and global operators codes. He also referred to the discussions at this conference to expand this role further including through the depositary of the Internet top-level domain name MoU, the DRM MoU for digital radio and for an MoU on dispute resolution in telecommunications.
  8. Strengthen the influence of the ITU in international affairs: this action was two-pronged: strategic alliances with other international or regional organizations (WTO, OECD, World Bank and UNESCO) through formal or informal cooperation or partnerships agreements
  9. Communicate more effectively with the public through the transformation of the old "Telecommunication Journal" into the "ITU News" and through use made of the World-Wide Web for disseminating information on the activities of the ITU to a wider public.

He then went into further details in the sectoral strategic priorities set out in the Strategic Plan and how these were achieved.

Mr Rouxeville concluded his presentation by describing the principal themes considered by Council concerning the management and human resource development. He recalled that significant decisions had been taken in respect of job classification, staffing table with the transformation of 30 fixed terms posts in permanent posts in the Telecommunication Development Bureau, the creation of six D2 (Senior Counsellor) posts in conformity with the UN common system. He however also said that no measure had taken for the creation of a career-development adviser by the General Secretariat. The next Strategic Plan for 1999-2003 is planned to overcome this deficiency through the priorities established for the General Secretariat for human resources management. The Council Chairman concluded that despite the variety of the activities carried out by the Union between 1995 and 1998, a number of improvements were still required in areas such as working methods, external relations, synergy between the three sectors and human resource management.

Following the presentation by the Council Chairman, three delegations stated their concern over the fact that Council had not had the possibility to approve the Report now tabled to the Plenipotentiary Conference and hoped that this situation would not occur again. They singled out several sections of the report on which they made comments for the record.

Three general policy statements were made: H.E. the Honourable Kunio D. Lemari, Minister for Transport and Communications of the Marshall Islands, Mr Frédéric Bola Ki-Khuabi, Adviser of the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mr Guda Abullahi, Director at the Ministry of Communications of Nigeria.

Constitution and Convention

Lawyers again had a lot to talk about today in considering for the second time the proposed amendments to the Constitution.

The discussions mainly focused on three areas:

Article 44 of the Constitution on the use of the radio frequency spectrum and Geostationary and other satellite orbits. The clarification that needed to be included in this provision was to reflect that today’s radiocommunication systems make use of both geostationary-satellite and non-geostationary satellite orbits. The principle had also been agreed by Committee 5 earlier in the conference. Satisfactory wording was finally found on this provision.

Article 58 of the Constitution concerning the date of entry into force of the Geneva Final Acts. The discussion proved to be even more legalistic than the previous one and was prompted by the need to specify whether the Constitution and Convention referred to Member States or Sector Members as these two terms were introduced within the ITU after the Kyoto Plenipotentiary Conference. The argument was whether a provision that had been implemented could be amended or whether the clarification should be done by way of a footnote or an explanatory note in annex to the Constitution. The debate was compounded by the fact that only those provisions that are modified form part of the Final Acts and hence, the Constitution and Convention would be scattered into three volumes: those of Geneva (1992), those of Kyoto (1994) and those of Minneapolis (1998). Many said that what delegations were to sign here at Minneapolis were Final Acts of the Conference that would only contain the provisions of the Constitution and Convention that were added, modified or deleted. But several delegations expressed the need for all texts to be consolidated even if that consolidated Constitution and Convention was not the official document. What was important was to decide what instructions to give the secretariat in producing the consolidated document (through a history of each provision in annex to the document, through an annotated Constitution and Convention, etc). It was finally agreed that the provision would remain unchanged but that an explanatory note clarifying that it applied to Member States would be added in the consolidated document to be prepared. The matter will again be taken up in Plenary meeting.

The third area of discussion concerned Article 55 of the Constitution on the provisions for amending the Constitution. The proposal was to change the current 8-month period for the submission of proposals to amend the Constitution to the Secretary-General for circulation to the membership to six months prior to the opening date of the Plenipotentiary Conference. Because a proposal was tabled to delete part of a sentence which was related to the fact that the deadline was given to ensure the timely transmission of proposal for consideration by all Member States, a long argument ensued on the implications of the proposed deletion. To some, the proposed change would have had the effect of putting a deadline past which no proposed amendment to the Constitution could be considered by the Conference. For others, it was only the transmission of the proposal which would be prevented, putting the burden of providing the document in all the Conference languages at the time of the Conference, on delegations wishing to submit proposals after the deadline. No agreement was reached on how to deal with the text and it was decided that the matter would be referred to the Plenary for its consideration.

Management of the Union

Last Friday, Committee 7 continued its saga on the treatment of arrears and special accounts. The small drafting group set up on Wednesday 21 October (see Briefing Notes N° 8) delivered its promise of a refined resolution that seeks to set more stringent measures for the settlement of debts and for compliance with repayment schedules and associated conditions by the Union’s membership. It was however felt that more fine-tuning on the text was needed before it could be adopted.

The Committee then looked at two requests from Costa Rica and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Both countries requested that the interest on their overdue payments be written off, and that the arrears in respect of contributions be transferred to a special arrears account.

Costa Rica asked to settle its arrears which stand at CHF 547 219 in four equal annual installments. This country reported that it was facing serious economic problems as a result of its growing domestic debt.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has undertaken to settle its arrears in respect of contributions and publications in 15 annual installments, beginning on 31 August 1999. The debt stands at CHF 1 266 128. This country explained that the present Government had inherited a chaotic social and economic situation.

The Committee accepted these requests and will be updating its earlier resolution to incorporate them.

The ad hoc group of Committee 7 held three meetings between Friday, 16 October, and Monday morning, 26 October 1998 to exchange views and information on the possible implementation of  ITU-2000 recommendation 22 on the announcement of the class of contribution for Member States to take place during the Plenipotentiary Conference.

At the end of the first two meetings, the Group had agreed on two options to be presented to Committee 7 for its consideration. At its meeting on Saturday, 24 October 1998, Committee 7 opted for option B, albeit with some reservations, which provides for the following:

  1. Announcement of the class of contribution for Member States should be included in the Constitution/Convention to take effect at future plenipotentiary conferences.
  2. A provisional level of the amount of the contributory unit will be established based on the current budget or the draft Financial Plan 2000-2003 and the current number of contributory units. (If the financial plan is based on zero nominal growth, the level of the contributory unit will be the current one.)
  3. Based on the provisional level of the amount of the contributory unit as above, Member States will indicate provisionally their class of contribution.
  4. An upper limit of the contributory unit will be calculated by dividing the total draft financial plan by the announced number of contributory units. (This could differ from the current value if the number of units is lower than the current number.)
  5. Member States will then announce their class of contribution. The income part of the financial plan can then be calculated.
  6. This can lead to income being lower than foreseen in the financial plan, which will then have to be adjusted accordingly.

The Ad Hoc group continued its negotiations on the basis of Option B and reported back this afternoon.

In his report, the Chairperson of the Ad Hoc group said that his group was still trying to reconcile the different views expressed on Saturday. He asked delegations to submit written comments if they wanted their views to be incorporated in the recommendations that he hopes to submit to the Committee in the course of the week. The Chairman of the Committee expressed disappointment that having ended on a very optimistic note on Saturday, not much progress had been made. "The devil is always in the details" so the saying goes.

Other ITU-2000 recommendations examined by Committee 7 were:

ITU-2000 Recommendation R.9/1

According to this recommendation, the free choice of financial contributions should be retained.
ITU-2000 supports the periodical distribution of information on the relative level of contributions by Member State and Sector Members as well as continued action by the Secretary-General in this regard, which would be useful to them in choosing their class of contribution.

It was explained that ITU-2000 considered the system by which Member States and Sector Members contribute to the expenditures of the Union and compared it to systems used in other United Nations specialized agencies. Most of the delegations concurred with the conclusion in Recommendation R.9/1 which states that the "current system which consists of a set of classes of contributions, among which each Member State and Sector Member may select a class for its contribution", should be retained.

Some countries however opposed the idea of Council adopting guidelines which could then be used voluntarily by the Member States and Sector Members when selecting their class of contribution. This recommendation has been approved in principle and will be submitted to Committee 6.

ITU-2000 Recommendation R.9/4

According to this recommendation, the financial contributions from Sector Members should be identified for the Sector for which they were made, taking into account that a share of those contributions would be used in support of General Secretariat costs which are both directly and indirectly attributable. Although some delegations were not too happy with this recommendation, they agreed, in principle, that it be sent to Committee 6, but reserved the right to review their positions at a later stage.

ITU-2000 Recommendation R.10

This recommendation proposes that, in relation to the amount of the contributory unit by Member States and Sector Members, the current ratio should be examined by the Plenipotentiary Conference, in the light of the future financial structure of the Union.

The Convention sets the amount of the contribution per unit payable by Sector Members to 1/5 of the contributory unit of the Member States. The question was whether this should be changed or retained. The Committee agreed to draft a resolution requesting Council to carry out a thorough study on this issue.

ITU-2000 Recommendation R.12

This recommendation proposes that the pricing policy for the publications should aim at the largest distribution of ITU documents, according to Kyoto Resolution 66. It is further recommended that the overall revenues from selling publications should cover the cost of production, marketing and sales beyond development of the final text and that the revenues after the deduction of those costs should be credited to the Sector having elaborated the publications.

However, in order to ensure the widest possible distribution of publications, especially in developing countries, a policy should be adopted to make the price of publications as affordable as possible.

Some delegations found the text of this recommendation somewhat contradictory and expressed the wish review it further for clarity.n

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