Plenipotentiary Conference 1998 -- Minneapolis USA

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Briefing Notes 7 of 20 October
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Yoshio Utsumi of Japan elected Secretary-General
Election of the Deputy Secretary-General to take place tomorrow morning

The Minneapolis Plenipotentiary Conference elected Mr Yoshio Utsumi as the 16th Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union today.

He was elected in the first ballot with 85 votes. Dr Chasia, currently Deputy Secretary-General and Mr Jonathan Parapak obtained 52 and 9 votes respectively.

With 147 ballots cast and one blank ballot, the majority was computed on 146 votes. The majority required was therefore 74.

Taking the floor after the results, Mr Utsumi said he was very honoured to have been elected and paid tribute to the outgoing Secretary-General Pekka Tarjanne for his achievements at the helm of the ITU. "I have the greatest respect for his achievements and I hope to build upon them as a secure foundation for the future of our Union" Mr Utsumi said. "As we enter the new millenium", he added, "the ITU will become even more crucial. It is the only world intergovernmental organization capable of ensuring that the benefits of telecommunications are expanded and shared to create a global information society for all humanity". He pleaded for a strengthened ITU and for decisions that are both positive and ambitious if the ITU is to continue to fulfill its mission. He also called for a strong management team for the good of the ITU.

Dr Tarjanne expressed his happiness at the result but also said that tough years were ahead for his successor. He extended his advice and assistance to the Secretary-General elect in the transition period and wished him all success in his new position.

Dr Henry Chasia told delegates that he accepted the result and thanked the membership for giving him the opportunity to serve during the past four years. "The election for the post of Secretary-General is now over and it is our task to cooperate with the new Secretary-General to achieve the objectives of the Union", he said.

The date at which the Secretary-General will take up his duties will be decided by the Conference when all elections have been carried out. All new elected officials will take up their duties on the same date.

Mr Utsumi’s curriculum vitae can be found on the Web site at http://www.itu.int/newsroom/press/PP98/Elections/CVs/Utsumicv.html and his full acceptance statement can be found at http://www.itu.int/newsroom/press/PP98/Elections/SG_Statement.html

At a news conference held in the afternoon, Mr Utsumi highlighted the main points of his agenda which had been the basis of his campaign and which, he considered, met with the approval of a majority of the membership judging from the results of the election. He outlined the five main priorities of his programme:

Promoting telecommunications development for the benefit of all

  • Making the ITU more efficient and effective
  • Coordinating policy issues on new services
  • Encouraging participation by the private sector
  • Raising the ITU profile with policy-makers

On a question on the role of the private sector in the ITU, Mr Utsumi said that the ITU had been opened to the private sector but it was the organization had to adjust to the expectations of the industry. "In an increasing number of countries" he said "the service providers and carriers are in the hands of the private sector. Without fuller participation from the private sector, the ITU may become irrelevant". He stressed that the relations with the private sector was the lifeline of ITU and that the ITU had to be more proactive in anticipating its needs. From his discussions with the private sector, Mr Utsumi said that the industry expected the ITU to be more efficient, more focused and more responsive and more productive.

"One of the most important roles of the ITU Secretary-General is to raise awareness of policy-makers on the importance of telecommunications" he said about his public communication agenda. Although there was no simple answer he said that clearly the ITU had to be more in the public eye through the media, the Internet, external and ITU-organized events. He said that the TELECOMs events which were very successful ITU events should be re-positioned to address not only the telecoms experts but more importantly to target the policy-makers.

On a question on how to bring affordable and relevant telecommunications to developing nations, Mr Utsumi recalled that Japan had only 3 telephone lines per 100 inhabitants after World War II. Through hard work and investment, it reached one of the highest level of teledensity. "Japan", he said, "has the experience of development, the knowledge and the know how." He also said that because rural and remote areas of developing countries were not profitable, telecommunications development could not be left to the market forces alone. He recalled his proposal tabled at the last World Telecommunication Development Conference in Malta in March 1998 requesting the ITU to engage in promoting relevant technologies and in creating environments where public and private sectors would be able to cooperate.

Talking of the World Telecommunication Policy Forum which he had instigated in Kyoto, he said that the purpose was to form a common vision on specific global issues. The Forum should be used whenever required but should not be held if there was no topic that needed such global consensus.

Mr Utsumi also talked of a Review Committee his country is proposing to review the structure and management of the ITU on ways to improve the efficiency of the ITU’s management and review the mission of the ITU for the 21st century. The Committee would report to the ITU Council in 2000 for adoption of those recommendations within its competence and to the next Plenipotentiary Conference in 2002 for any remaining recommendations. Among the areas to consider he cited the efficiency of the ITU including whether or not the election of so many officials at the ITU, which was unique in the UN system, was indeed supporting efficiency, its future mission which was to extend beyond telecommunications given the convergence with IT and entertainment technologies, the needed streamlining in conferences and meetings, and a better coordination among the three main sectors of the ITU (standardization, radiocommunication and development).

Mr Utsumi said that the mission of the ITU was to be fundamentally reviewed and that the ITU should be re-born to the new millenium, citing the growing liberalization of telecommunication markets, the introduction of competition leading to increased globalization. He also said that technological innovations were bringing us new services and that the Global Information Society being created would depend increasingly upon access to and use of telecommunication and information services. "These dramatic changes make it necessary to review the ITU’s mission, the core of which was established nearly 140 years ago. The organization must move forward if it is not to be left behind", he concluded.

The candidates for the post of Deputy Secretary-General are:

Mr R. Blois (Brazil)

Dr. W. Richter (Austria)

Mr M. Goddard (United Kingdom)

Mr D. Staglianó (Italy)

Constitution and Convention

In Committee 6 , lawyers had a good time wrangling about the rules governing the entry into force of modifications to the Constitution and Convention and the annexed Radio Regulations (Article 54, Administrative Regulations). In the end, they agreed in principle to go back to the situation prior to 1992, when the ratification of the revised Constitution and Convention also implied the acceptance of the binding character of the Radio Regulations. Details will be worked out by in an Ad hoc group.

An even longer discussion took place on the mandatory time-limits for submission and dissemination of proposals for amending the provisions of the Constitution (Article 55): the crucial point being to allow enough time for analysis and consultations on the proposals prior to a Conference. The discussion will continue as the current suggestions for amending this article range from maintaining the status quo (submission of proposals is 8 months and their circulation 6 months) to a dramatic change.

Management of the Union

Committee 7 examined staff matters in the afternoon and approved a draft resolution concerning the ITU Staff participation in Conferences of the Union. The resolution provides for greater consultation between the Secretary-General and the Staff Council when decisions of a general nature are taken concerning human resources management and working conditions. It also decided to set up a drafting group to revise two draft resolutions: one concerning the introduction of a long-term care insurance scheme in the Union to mitigate the exclusion of international civil servants from their national social security arrangements, the other concerning insurance coverage for occupational illness. Most delegations felt that both drafts were lacking data in support of the objectives to reach such as costs, the size of the officials concerned, the scope of coverage, etc. The Committee decided that the Secretary-General should be instructed to carry out the required studies and to transmit to Council recommendations for its approval.

The proposal for the creation of an unemployment fund was rejected by a majority on three ground s: 1) it was considered that the proposed fund could breach the UN common system 2) that the types of appointments carried with them the terms of the appointment including the dates of termination and 3) and that the costs involved were difficult to evaluate.

Committee 7 also started the examination Goals, Strategies and Priorities for the General Secretariat and three Bureaux as put forward in the Strategic Plan for the period 1999-2003.n

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