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Briefing Notes 12 of 27 October
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Strategic Policy and Plans

(for the text of the ITU 2000 recommendations mentioned in the Briefing Notes, see

Committee 5 considered the output of the various ad hoc groups it had set up. Recommendation 17 (ad hoc group 5/2 chaired by Brazil) concerns the process for approving Questions (i.e. programme elements) and Recommendations or standards. It will be recalled that the issue is to provide the required flexibility for each ITU Sector to adopt its own working methods so as to provide industry members the right to adopt, on an equal footing with Member States, technical recommendations. On Friday 23 October, a first draft resolution, which raised a number of concerns given the ambiguity of the language used, was tabled. (see Briefing Notes N° 10 for details). A revised text was considered today. The matter could not be settled and the ad hoc group was therefore tasked to revisit the matter and submit a new text to Committee 5.

Concerning the World Telecommunication Policy Forum, ad hoc group 5/4 (Japan), consultations were held and a draft resolution agreed upon for the consideration of Committee 5. The resolution was, by and large, adopted although some provisions remained unresolved and will be referred to the Plenary. Specifically, Committee 5 agreed:

  1. to continue the Forum given that it was a useful venue for creating a shared vision among policy—makers worldwide with respect to the issues arising from the emergence of new telecommunication services and technologies as well as for the discussion and exchange of views on global and cross-sectoral telecommunication policy and regulatory matters.
  2. to allow ample time for preparations of the Forum given its significance to general telecommunications policies
  3. to shift some of the focus to the membership in relation to strategic decisions to be made regarding the conduct of the Forum

Committee 5 did not agree on the deletion of the provision, until now in the Resolution, which restricted certain sessions to Member States only. A majority view was expressed in favour of an open Forum where both Member States and industry members could participate on an equal footing. However opposition was equally voiced. It was therefore decided to leave pending the provision and request the Plenary to make a decision. Neither was any agreement reached on whether or not the organization of the Policy Forum should be formalized through provisions in the Constitution or Convention.

Ad Hoc Group 5/5 (Singapore), concerning the role of the Secretary-General as a depositary of Memoranda of Understanding, submitted a draft resolution. The text reflected the broad conclusions reached in Committee 5 (Briefing Notes N° 6 of 19 October). The remaining issue to be dealt with by ad hoc 5/5 was whether this role of depositary should be formalized by an amendment to the Constitution or to the Convention. A long debate followed, certain delegations wishing to transmit the matter to the Constitution/Convention Committee, others stressing that Committee 6 could only consider the matter once a policy decision had been made by Committee 5. A debate on the substance similar to the one already made in Committee 5 followed. Finally, it was recalled that the proposal by Kuwait, Morocco and Syria – which outlined the general approach to be taken for considering requests to act as depositary – and which served as a basis of discussion last week, was to be revised, taking into account comments made. It was also recalled that the revised text had not been re-submitted to Committee 5. Given that the text was considered not to be ripe, it was decided that the debate be postponed until ad hoc group 5/5 reviewed its draft resolution in light of the revised general approach.

On the issue of the timing and convening of future Radiocommunication Assemblies, ad hoc group 5/6 (United Kingdom) submitted a proposal representing a compromise text between the main two views. One view held that each Radiocommunication Assembly (which sets the four-year work programme of the Radiocommunication Sector) should make a recommendation to Council. The other approach was that the Radiocommunication Assembly should make its recommendation to a WRC and the WRC was to report to the Council.

The compromise which was adopted by Committee 5 now provides for the Radiocommunication Assembly to make a recommendation to the ITU Council on the timing and convening of the next Assembly and inform the following World Radiocommunication Conference (treaty-making meeting) of this action to enable the WRC to submit comments to Council if required.

Finally, Committee 5 examined the proposal to enlarge the Radio Regulations Board (Briefing Notes N° 6 of 19 October) and agreed on a package consisting of 4 elements:

  1. The number of members will be increased from 9 to 12. The additional three posts will be distributed as follows: one for the Americas region (which until now had only one post because the Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau was from that region), one for the Africa region and one for the Australasia region.
  2. At the same time, the number will be included in a provision of the Constitution/Convention to make the composition of the Board more stable.
  3. Sufficient flexibility will be given to WRCs to appoint a Radio Regulations Board member other than the Chairperson or vice-chairperson, as a chairperson/vice-chairperson of a WRC group or committee (until now, RRB members were precluded from assuming such functions).
  4. The RRB members will be given the same privileges and immunities as the elected officials. Although the principle of this provision has been agreed, consultations among legal experts are taking place on how to implement it given the legal implications of the decision.

Against this decision (to be approved by a Plenary before being effective), the deadline for the submission of candidature for the posts of RRB members has been extended until Friday, 30 October, 18:00.

Constitution and Convention

Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s

Today Committee 6 turned its attention to proposed amendments to the Union’s Convention (DT/23 Rev.1). Having spent much of the morning discussing a change to provision 134, which aims at grouping, as far as possible, questions of interest to the developing countries and taking suitable measures in order to facilitate their participation in the study of those questions, the Committee agreed to leave this provision unchanged and to add, instead, a new provision (175 C) that seeks to "…provide practical measures to facilitate the participation of developing countries in the Radiocommunication Sector Study Groups".

Provisions 151 and 177 of the Convention have been amended to refer to the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and other satellite orbits.

Perhaps the most exciting debate was on the new provision 137 A, according to which "a radiocommunication assembly may assign specific matters [which are not within the competency of a study group] to the radiocommunication advisory group [for advice]". While some delegations found the use of the phrase "for advice" superfluous, others found it to be an artful, elegant way of stating unequivocally that the role of the advisory group was indeed advisory, and should not go beyond that.

No consensus was reached, despite coffee break negotiations. Another question still hangs over who this body should advise. For some, RAG is mainly advisory to the Director of the Bureau, but may from time to time be advisory to the Assembly. Again, no consensus yet!

The debate on a new provision (147G) concerning working methods and reporting mechanisms of the Radiocommunication Assembly on matters not within the competence of a study group as covered in provision 137A yielded some fruit: it will be split into two provisions, one for the working methods, another for reporting mechanisms.

In the afternoon, much time was spent discussing a new provision (145bis), according to which any administration shall be given the opportunity to appear at a meeting of the Radio Regulations Board to present its case in those instances where the administration has a specific and direct interest in a matter before the Board. Again, views were divided on this proposal, as the RRB deals with very sensitive issues such as frequencies and satellite orbits. More consultations will take place in a bid to find a compromise. One argument was that the proposed provision only sought to allow a country which wanted to plead its case before the Board a short time. However, others thought this could nonetheless be valuable in providing a different perspective to Board members, particularly when examining a contentious case.

Document 35, discussed in relation with Chapters II and III of the Convention, also raised an interesting debate. The big question here was whether or not the rules of procedure governing the organization of conferences, assemblies, and other meetings of the Union should be removed from the Convention and presented in a separate legal instrument. There was general agreement to separate these procedures, except those provisions relating to reservations and the right to vote. Ad hoc group B, to be convened by Portugal, has been set up with the mandate to consider the provisions that should appear in a separate instrument from the Convention and report to the Committee on Wednesday, 28 October, in the afternoon.

The Committee then examined Document 110 (report by the Chairperson of Committee 5 to Committee 6), which contains matters requiring amendments to the Constitution and Convention.

In particular, the report contains conclusions reached by Committee 5 on policy issues regarding ITU-2000 Recommendations 2, 4, 5, 6 and 26.

Just like Committee 5, Committee 6 unanimously approved Recommendation 2. This recommendation seeks to maintain the Union’s pre-eminent position in global telecommunications and to meet the interests and expectations of existing members and encourage new ones, through the rapid implementation by ITU’s appropriate bodies of the ITU-2000 recommendations.

Committee 6 also endorsed the principle of one category of Sector Member, as stated in Recommendation 4. To avoid ambiguity and give clear direction, Committee 5 had agreed that in principle, all industry members of a given Sector should have equal rights and equal obligations within that Sector. Along with this consensus, some Members identified a case for exception where only international organizations have the right to address WRC.

Committee 6 had a lot of difficulty with some of the conclusions reached by Committee 5 on parts of Recommendation 5. Committee 6 noted that one of the amendments made by Committee 5 in approving the basic principle of this recommendation, was replacing the term "jurisdiction" with "sovereignty". Several delegations in Committee 6 could not see why Committee 5 had changed "jurisdiction" to "sovereignty". Committee 6 agreed to propose to the Plenary re-instatement of the term "jurisdiction", which is more appropriate from a legal standpoint.

Committee 6 also noted the unanimous agreement reached by Committee 5 on Recommendation 26 i.e. that flexibility is needed concerning the interval between two WRCs and the conclusion that the interval should be between two and three years.

In view of these conclusions, Committee 6 has started examining the provisions of the Constitution and Convention which will need to be modified. In this respect, it looked at a new provision (28 A) of the Constitution which states that industry members "shall, in respect of their participation in the activities of the Union, be entitled to participate fully in the activities of the Sector of which they are members, subject to relevant provisions of the Constitution and Convention". One of the "relevant provisions" being tabled is the new provision 28 B: "they may provide chairmen and vice-chairmen of Sector conferences, assemblies and meetings". A number of delegations oppose the application of this provision to the Development Sector but discussions will continue Thursday.

Management of the Union

Financial issues were dealt with by Committee 7 today. Recommendation 22, on the procedure applicable to Member States for announcing the class of contribution, was considered and a very complex procedure was adopted with reservation from the US. The contentious underlying issue is whether the current system of putting a general ceiling on expenditure applicable throughout the plenipotentiary period should be continued, or whether an upper limit on the contributory unit should be introduced. In the second case, it would be up to the ITU Council, when drafting the biannual budget, to keep expenditures in such a way as to be within the agreed upper limit of the contributory unit.

The ITU budget system is different from that of the United Nations and most other UN specialized agencies. It is based a voluntary contributions which are known to the penny only after each biennial budget is approved.

Until now, Member States announced the class of their contributions (which gives a relative weight of the contributions without assigning a monetary value) within six months following a Plenipotentiary Conference. The pledged class of contribution then remains unchanged until the next Plenipotentiary Conference. A country announcing a contribution of 10 units does not know what amount it will have to pay at the time of the pledge. All it knows is that it will support the budget 10 times more than another country having pledged 1 unit. With approval of the biennial budget which includes the programme of activities for the period together with a price tag, the amount of the budget is divided by the number of units pledged, resulting in the value of a unit. Only then will the country having pledged 10 units will know its share by multiplying the unit value by 10.

Moreover, until now, the Plenipotentiary Conferences have been adopting ceilings on expenditures which the biennial budgets adopted by Council could not exceed. Given the budget system, however, this did not prevent fluctuation of the value of contributory units.

For all but one delegation, the current system of expenditures ceiling was too rigid. What was important was to find the right balance between the need to stabilize the contributions made and the need to have sufficient flexibility to adjust rapidly to changing needs. The view that the introduction of financial plans in the budgeting process of the organization was sufficient to keep expenditure under control was widely supported. After lengthy debates, the Committee decided to transmit to Committee 6 its approval of Recommendation 22, along with the US reservation.

Another area of discussion was Recommendation 23, which aims at limiting to two classes only the possible reduction in contributions. After protracted arguments the Recommendation was finally adopted. Most countries supported the proposal but the US had a reservation on the ground that freedom of choice was to be preserved. Several delegations said there was no such thing as absolute freedom, and that the freedom of choice should be constrained by the need to provide stability in the financing of the ITU, if it was to successfully achieve its mission. In view of the wide support for Recommendation 23, the reservation was finally withdrawn.

The last item of discussion was Recommendation 6.3 concerning the contribution applicable to the new category of Member approved by the Minneapolis Conference: Associate Members.

It was decided, without debate, to approve the recommendation which provides for a level of contribution sufficient to at least cover the full allocated cost of the Associate Member participation.n

Briefing notes: Previous <=> Next

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