Plenipotentiary Conference 1998 -- Minneapolis USA

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Briefing Notes 6 of 19 October
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Elections for Secretary-General tomorrow

At 18:00 tonight, deadline for the submission of candidatures for the post of Secretary-General, the list of candidates remained unchanged. The proponents for the post are therefore:

  • Dr Henry Chasia (Kenya)
  • Mr Jonathan Parapak (Indonesia)
  • Mr Yoshio Utsumi (Japan)

The curriculum vitae and platform of each candidate can be found on the Web site at

The procedures as proposed by Committee 5 to Plenary and to be endorsed by the Plenary meeting of tomorrow morning immediately prior to the elections are given on the Web site at

At the time of writing, 39 countries had lost the right to vote either because of arrears of more than 2 years in their financial contributions or because they had not acceded to the Constitution and Convention or failed to ratify, accept or approve the Constitution or Convention at the end of a period of two years from the date of entry into force. The Constitution and Convention adopted in Geneva in 1992 entered into force on 1 July 1994 and the amendments adopted at Kyoto entered into force on 1 January 1996.

The results of the vote will be available immediately after the Plenary meeting (at around 12:30 local time). Depending on the results of the election, a second ballot may be taking place six hours later on Tuesday late afternoon, immediately following the meetings of Committees 6 and 7. If a candidate obtains a simple majority at the first ballot, the elections of the Deputy Secretary-General will then be held on Wednesday morning.

The majority is calculated on the basis of valid, non-blank, ballots cast by countries having the right to vote and present at the time of the vote (physically or by proxy). All votes concerning the elective posts are conducted by secret ballot.

Strategic Policy and Plans

Internet Governance and E-commerce issues to be discussed on Wednesday by Committee 5

At the request of France, the discussions on Internet governance and e-commerce have been rescheduled for Wednesday morning in Committee 5 afternoon.

World Telecommunications Policy Forum

General consensus emerged as to the need to continue the series of World Telecommunication Policy Fora instituted as a result of a Resolution adopted by the 1994 Kyoto Plenipotentiary Conference. Agreement was also reached on the need to formalize the convening of the WTPFs. Moreover, clear support was expressed on the Forum’s mission was i.e. a non-binding shared vision among policy-makers on global and cross-sectoral policy issues to help establish the frameworks for new telecommunication services and technologies. However, there was divergence on the way to proceed. For many, there was to be no restriction on attendance, the Forum being opened equally to Member States and industry members. Most delegates agreed that appropriate mechanisms for preparations were to be devised. Others felt that it was not up to the Conference to work out detailed mechanisms but that only policy directions were required. There was clear support for keeping the outcome of the Forum as opinions voluntarily accepted by Forum’s participants.

Japan was finally tasked with chairing a working group (C5/4) to prepare a proposal that would embody the comments expressed by delegations for discussions at the next meeting of Committee 5.

Memorandum of Understanding

A long debate on the policy for authorizing the Secretary-General of the ITU to act as Depository of Memorandum of Understanding ensued. Some felt that article 42 of the Constitution enabled Member States and other recognized entities to enter into agreement among themselves if it was in conformity with the Constitution and the Convention of the ITU. So, article 42 was considered a sufficient condition for the Secretary-General to accept to act as depository. All was needed, it was felt, was to add a provision in the Convention to clearly spell out this possibility. Others however felt that it was up to Council to act as a oversight body on MoUs which was an essential element in any policy decision and that clear guidelines for implementing of MoUs were needed to be able to equitably assess the various requests received. Opposition was expressed however on the appropriateness for PP98 to decide on any given MoU as had been proposed. Clear support was however given to request the Council to draft the required guidelines in the spirit of article 42. Four principles finally emerged:

  • the Secretary-General should be able to accept to act as depository of MoUs
  • this role must be in line with article 42
  • the Council should determine whether each MoU meets the general requirements of article 42
  • full cost -recovery should be applied

It was therefore decided to set up a working group (C5/5) to consider whether there was a need to modify or not the Convention and to prepare a draft resolution instructing Council to develop suitable guidelines on the basis of the agreed four principles. (see document 52 for the possible criteria and guidelines suggested by the Secretary-General).

Refinement between the responsibilities of the Radiocommunication and the Telecommunication Standardization sectors

Some discussion led to the conclusion that this matter was no longer a matter for the Plenipotentiary Conference and that the current mechanisms for on-going review applied by the World Telecommunication Standardization Conference and the Radiocommunication Assembly should continue except in respect on matters relating to the regulations (International Telecommunication Regulation and Radio Regulations).

Periodicity of World Radiocommunication Assembly

Long discussions were held over the role and timing of World Radiocommunication Assemblies given that a decision had already been made on the convening of World Radiocommunication Conferences every two to three years. The main issues concerned who decides on the agenda of the Assemblies and who has authority to convene them. Some believed that a recommendation to convene a Radiocommunication Assembly could emanate from another Assembly, from a WRC or from the Radiocommunication Advisory Group (advisory body of the Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau, comprised of Member States and industry members). Others thought that it should come exclusively from another Assembly while yet others considered that such authority could be vested in both the Assembly and WRCs. It was decided to set up a Working group (C5/6) under the chairmanship of the United Kingdom to prepare a proposal accordingly.

Radio Regulations Board

The entire afternoon was devoted to the discussion on whether or not the number of members elected to the Radio Regulations Board was to be increased and whether the existing geographical balance was to be modified. Currently, there are five administrative regions each being entitled to 2 seats except for the region where the Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau comes from which would have only 1 seat.

The 9 part-time Board replaced the five permanent members of the former International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB) following the restructuring of the ITU in 1993. It was argued that this distribution had resulted in an unbalanced situation among the different groups of Member States. Four RRB members, from a total of nine, now come from administrative Regions B and C totaling 53 countries as against five RRB members for all the other regions totaling more than 130 countries. In addition, it was noted that, in recent years, some of the procedures adopted by the Board, and some of the documents issued by it, had not taken into account the interests of all the regions. An increase from 9 to 15 members was therefore considered warranted. Many others however disagreed. Members of the Board were not elected to represent the regions where they came from but were to be impartial custodians of a public thrust. Many also agreed that any increase in the number would have a financial impact in operating costs which was not desirable. Although some felt that indeed the distribution of positions among countries was no longer adequate and could be revisited, the primary requirement in determining who to elect on the Board was competency irrespective of the regional balance. The idea of comparing countries in term of size or importance in order to assess their relative weight in devising entitlements was not accepted by some and was being contrary to the tradition of UN organizations.

It was finally decided that the region from which the Director comes from should not be penalized given that the role of an RRB member differed considerably from that of the Director of the Bureau. But on the increase in the number of RRB members, the Committee reached stalemate. The matter will therefore be submitted to Plenary for full discussion.

Working Group 5/3 whose task is to integrate the proposals agreed in principle by Committee 5 into the Strategic Plan and link the Plan with the operational and financial plans of the ITU met today and will report on the results of its work on Wednesday.

Tomorrow, the working groups of Committee 5 will meet as follows:

  • Ad Hoc Group 5/1 under the chairmanship of Canada about the widening of participation by Sector Members in WRCs (Recommendation 15). The Group will meet again on Tuesday from 08:30 to 09:30.
  • Ad Hoc Group 5/2 under the chairmanship of Brazil to consider whether recommendations and standards of the Radiocommunication Sector can be approved by Sector Members and Member States on an equal footing through the alternative process. This Group will meet again on Tuesday from 08:45 to 09:30.
  • Working Group C5/4 on Telecommunication Policy Forum will meet on Wednesday from 12:30 to 13:30 under chairmanship of Japan to prepare a proposal on how to formalize the WTPF.

Constitution and Convention

Although the Committee met today, the work essentially consisted in drafting provisions of the Constitution and Convention on the basis of decisions reached in other committees and proposals for amendments tabled by countries.

Management of the Union

As the elections for the Secretary-General of the Union get under way tomorrow, countries have done all to make sure that they meet the conditions to vote. One of the conditions is that a country must have not be in arrears in their contributions for more than two years.

Committee 7 which is looking into the finances and staff matters of the Union today reviewed four requests from countries owing money to the Union for some time now: Mauritania, Grenada, Nicaragua and Azerbaijan.

Mauritania requested that the interest on payments overdue, amounting to CHF 809 352 and relating to arrears for 1978 to 1997, be cancelled and that its right to vote be restored. Given that Mauritania has undertaken to settle its current debt and that all installments due have been received by the Union, the Committee has agreed to prepare a draft resolution to tomorrow’s Plenary recommending that this country’s right to vote be restored.

Similar treatment was given to Nicaragua, which because of its difficult economic situation, requested that the interest on the overdue payments for the years 1983 to 1998 (CHF 851 657) be cancelled. Given that Nicaragua has paid its contributions for the years 1997 and 1998 and that it had agreed to settle its unpaid contributions for the years 1983 to 1996 (CHF 1 225 814) in 15 annual installments, starting in 1999, the Committee decided to also recommend that this country restore its right to vote. In both cases, the Committee agreed to cancel the interests paid on the unpaid contributions.


At mid-afternoon today, there were 1159 delegates from 164 countries at the MCC of which 217 representing 77 companies and organizations.

The weekly schedule of meetings can be found at

Each meeting which is open to the press is hotlinked to the related agenda for that day.n

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