Plenipotentiary Conference 1998 -- Minneapolis USA

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Briefing Notes 4 of 15 October
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Strategic Policy and Plans

Following yesterday’s meeting, Committee 5 agreed to end the discussions by referring Recommendation 13 to the Plenary for full discussion. (see Briefing Notes N° 3 for details).

But another long debate followed on Recommendation 15 concerning the possible participation of Sector Members in the work of World Radiocommunication Conferences. Currently, only recognized operating agencies authorized by their Member State, certain regional institutions and international organizations can take part as observers. Concerns were expressed to a wider participation of Sector Members in WRCs because of the treaty-making nature of the conferences. Some delegations proposed to set up a working group of the Radiocommunication Advisory Group (RAG) – an advisory body to the Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau – to review all aspects of the impact such a decision would have on the work of WRCs.

Others felt that sufficient consideration had already been given to this issue within the RAGand that it was time to act responsibly at this Conference. It was recalled that most policy statements made in the first days of the conference were calling for increased rights for the private sector and that coherence was to be exercised. Many stressed the need to make a clear distinction between being admitted on the one hand and the rights such admission would entail on the other. There was a wide body of opinion to support the view that Sector Members should be admitted to take part as observers but without the right to submit proposals or take the floor unless asked to do so. It was also pointed out that the proposal to set up a working group of the RAG was not within the prerogatives of the Plenipotentiary Conference and that this process would unnecessarily delay the decision as only the next Plenipotentiary Conference could modify the Convention to enable the whatever decision made by RAG or WRC on this issue to take effect. Caution was expressed as to the danger of decreasing the rights of international organizations which currently are entitled to submit proposals and take part in the debates as a result of the decision taken yesterday by Committee 5 to have only one category of Sector Members. Given the general agreement on the principle of admitting Sector Members as observers to WRCs but not on the procedure and after protracted discussions, the Committee approved the Chairman’s motion to set up a working group that would prepare a clear proposal to be submitted to the Committee on Monday.

Recommendation 17 which provides for the increased rights of the Sector Members in the adoption of items of work programme (known as Questions) and in the approval of recommendations or standards. There was a general feeling that any recommendation of a policy or regulatory nature, including those relating to accounting rates and tariffs, should remain the prerogative of Member States. This was often the case in the Radiocommunication sector for issues such as frequency management, frequency sharing, etc. Despite agreement on the broad framework, opinions diverged as to where to draw the line between regulatory/policy and technical issues. A working group chaired by Brazil will submit a proposal on the question of whether, in the Radiocommunication Sector, Sector Members should be considered on an equal footing with Member States in the adoption of items to the work programme and approval of recommendations. The proposal of the Working Group will be tabled to Committee 5 by Friday.

The last issue taken up by the Committee today was Recommendation 26 dealing with the timing of World Radiocommunication Conferences. A number of countries proposed to space out the frequency of WRCs on the ground that there was not enough time to prepare adequately in light of the complexity of the subject matter of WRCs. WRCs are currently held every two years. Others did not favour the move to increase the interval between WRCs arguing that new technologies and services would be delayed. Support was however expressed for limited agendas to make the work of WRCs more efficient and focused. The discussions on this recommendation will continue tomorrow.

Constitution and Convention

Committee 6 on the Constitution and Convention got under way today with the general introduction of those IUT-2000 proposals allocated to it. There was clear indication from some of the proposals that the intergovernmental nature of the ITU should be maintained and that the rights and obligations of all the members of the Sectors of the Union should be enhanced.

However, some concern was expressed by certain delegations on the ITU-2000 recommendations that seek to:

  • delegate more authority to the Advisory Groups of the Union through the Constitution and the Convention (this was particularly the case for the Radiocommunication Sector)
  • deny Members who are in arrears of contributions the right to be elected to the Council

The current practice of imposing interests on arrears was also a cause for concern, as some delegations pointed out that it fails to take into account the different budgetary schedules of Members.

Some delegations highlighted the growing importance of non-geostationary satellite technology and expressed the wish to see activities in this domain given a place in the Convention and the Constitution.

The question of the use of languages other than those currently recognized by the Union was also highlighted, as was the need to review the periodicity of ITU major conferences, for example holding Plenipotentiary Conferences every 6 years instead of 4 and holding World Radiocommunication Conferences every 3 years instead of 2.

The issue of equitable geographical distribution of posts within the Union at levels, beginning with the top posts was also raised with a proposal suggesting that each region should have one elected official and that candidates from regions which already hold a post would not be allowed to stand in subsequent elections. The general introduction of of proposals will continue tomorrow.

Management issues

Committee 7 continued its discussions on Recommendation 22 concerning the announcement of the class of contribution for Member States during plenipotentiary conferences. Unable to reach a consensus, the Committee decided to set up a working group to attempt to find a compromise and report to Committee 7 at its next meeting next week.

At the close of business today, 1022 delegates from 166 countries of which 197 representatives from 72 companies and organizations were taking part in the Conference.n

Briefing notes: Previous <=> Next

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