Plenipotentiary Conference 1998 -- Minneapolis USA

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Briefing Notes 19 of 5 November
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The final Plenary meeting finished its work tonight at 23:00 after having gone through several documents successively as proposals, first reading and second reading. The most contentious issues, which the Conference could not address in committees, were tabled directly in Plenary. Through the skilled chairmanship of Ambassador Siebert, some were noted, some adopted. When lacking the necessary support, they were simply withdrawn. But in all cases, deliberations were kept under a strict time watch.

These amazing results were in stark contrast with the pessimism that prevailed at the start of the day. Because of the length of the agenda and the nature of the issues to be considered, several delegations feared the work could not be completed on time and that the Conference could even end without Final Acts.

With a deft hand, however, the Chairman kept the debates on track. Decisions on the rights of Member States in arrears were swiftly reached, and limits on expenditures for the next four years, which had sparked endless debates in Committee 7, were approved in record time. A deal was struck on the gradual lifting on limitation of use of languages, and the strengthening of regional presence, amazingly fast. Cost-recovery and, in particular, processing charges for satellite network filings went through with reasonable debate. Even the sensitive issues of international accounting rates and call back were swiftly settled.

The recommendation to propose that Member States in arrears not be eligible to Council nor to any management bodies for Conferences failed.

The limit on expenditure for the biennial budget for 2000-2001 was set at 333.2 million CHF, and the limit for the biennial budget 2002-2003 at 332.6.

The delegated authority to Council remained unchanged (i.e., within a range of 1% of overspending to meet expenditures on unforeseen and urgent activities). Additional safeguards were agreed to keep the budgets to be drawn up by Council under zero growth. Speaking after the adoption, the Secretary-General-elect said that with current ceilings, the ITU would not be able to deliver all the services at the level they have always been provided, as 76% of the current costs were incompressible. He acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and warned of the adverse consequences of the decision on the long-term interest of the ITU.

The gradual lifting on the limitation of the use of languages was approved on an experimental basis. The Council will decide, within budget limits, on what category of documents previously subject to restriction the limitation will be lifted, and to what extent the restriction will no longer apply. For 2000-2003, the limit, with respect to Arabic, Chinese and Russian has been set at 30 million CHF. Based on this experiment, a report will be prepared by Council on further steps for consideration by the next Plenipotentiary Conference. The report will include practical and financial implications of the use of the 6 working and official languages of the Union.

On cost-recovery and processing charges of satellite network filings, the meeting decided that cost-recovery was not to be considered as generating revenue or profit, but should be used to provide a product or service of benefit to a limited number of Members. It also instructed Council to amend the financial regulations to enable cost recovery and ensure accountability and transparency. As for the processing charges of satellite network filings, the Conference decided to establish a working group open to all administrations and satellite network operators members of the Radiocommunication Sector to prepare recommendations to the 1999 Council on costing methodology and schedule of charges. It also instructed Council to implement as soon as possible after its 1999 session processing charges for all satellite filings received by the ITU as from 7 November 1998, with payments to be made as soon as possible after WRC 2000.

On accounting rates, the Conference decided to adopt the draft resolution negotiated under the coordination of the Chairman of Study Group 3. The resolution provides for 1) the importance of a multilateral framework in accounting rate reform, 2) the need to take account of the possible decrease of investment in telecommunication infrastructure development in developing countries in the absence of alternative sources of financing, 3) the need for Study Group 3 to expedite its work in completing the additional alternative procedures for the international settlement of accounts and 4) the need to agree on transitional arrangements that would take account the particular situation of developing countries. On call-back, the resolution reiterates the Kyoto resolution and stresses that the transition from a monopoly to a market economy is one to be phasing over time and that the transition from todayĺs accounting rates system to one based on cost-orientated is also to be made in steps. The resolution also recalls that 86 of the 188 ITU Member States prohibits the practice in their national legislation, and that the sovereign right of each nation is to be respected by all others. It finally urges members of the Standardization and Development sectors to implement the resolutions already adopted on call-back and listed in this Resolution.

On TELECOM exhibitions, the Conference recognized the financial advantages of holding world events in Geneva, and the commitment of Switzerland and of its investments made for the benefit of the Union. It decided on enhancing the transparency of the process used to select venues for the events and on strengthening of reporting mechanisms.

Having concluded the plenary at 23:00, the deadline for the submission of reservations was set at 01:00 (Minneapolis time)

Tomorrow, declarations will be distributed at 10:00 and a plenary will take place at 11:00 to take note of the declarations. A deadline of 12:30 has been set for submission of additional declarations. At 17:00, additional declarations will be distributed together with the Final Acts and at 19:00, a plenary will be held to take note of the additional declarations and signing of the Final Acts during the official signing ceremony.

A press conference on the outcome of the Conference will be held at 12:30 at the Minneapolis Conference Center with the Chairman of the Conference, Ambassador Thomas Siebert, the outgoing Secretary-General, Dr Pekka Tarjanne and the Secretary-General elect, Mr Yoshio Utsumi.

The final press release will be posted by 18:00 tomorrow.n

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