Plenipotentiary Conference 1998 -- Minneapolis USA

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Briefing Notes 8 of 21 October
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Roberto Blois of Brazil elected Deputy Secretary-General

Mr Roberto Blois of Brazil was elected Deputy Secretary-General at the second round with 96 votes. In the first round, he had obtained 72 votes while Michael Goddard of the UK had obtained 54, Domenico Staglianó (Italy), 17 and Walther Richter (Austria), 4.

With 150 ballots cast, the required majority was 76.

Taking the floor after the results, Mr Blois said that he was both encouraged and moved and looking forward to his work for the ITU. "I am very grateful for the confidence bestowed upon me and for the opportunity to help the membership of this important organization along with the recently elected Secretary-General, Mr Utsumi. Mr Blois pleaded for an open and well managed organization, responsive and attentive to the needs of its members. He also advocated better coordination of programmes with other international organizations and consensus-building among all Members to balance the demands and requirements of governments and private sector. He encapsulated his priorities in four words: communication, coordination, cooperation and consensus.

"It is my intention as Deputy Secretary-General to start immediately a review of the internal management of the ITU. It is also my objective to establish solid communication channels with what I consider the most precious asset of the ITU: its staff", he said.

Mr Michael Goddard paid tribute to all the candidates of this election and pledged his continued support to the ITU. "A feature of this election process", he said, has been the great dignity, respect and friendship shown by all the candidates". "The ITU is facing a major challenge. Although I will not be able to respond to that challenge from within the Secretariat, I promise that I personally, and my government, will do all we can to continue to support the Union in its increasingly important role", he added.

Mr Blois’s curriculum vitae can be found on the Web site at http://www.itu.int/newsroom/press/PP98/Elections/CVs/Bloiscv.html

The elections for the posts of Directors of the three Bureaux will take place simultaneously tomorrow morning. The candidates for these posts are:

Director, Radiocommunication Bureau

Mr Robert Jones (Canada)

Director, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau

Mr M. Feneyrol (France)
Dr B. Horton (Australia)
Mr P.A. Probst (Switzerland) Mr H. Zhao (China)

Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau

Mr A. Laouyane (Tunisia)
Dr K. Mirski (Bulgaria)
Mr H. Touré (Mali)
Dr A. Yousif (Sudan)

The rest of the Plenary was devoted to oral reports of the Chairpersons of the Committees on the work achieved since the beginning of the Conference and to general statements made by the Honourable David N. Magang, Minister of Works, Transport and Communications of Botswana, His Excellency Mr Larbi Ajjoul, Secretary of State for Posts and Information Technologies of Morocco, H.E. Mr Jacques Dorcéan, Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communications of Haiti, Mr Mario J. Montenegro, Director-General of Instituto Nicaraguense de Telecomunicaciones y Correos (TELCOR) of Nicaragua, H.E. Mr Epitace Bayaganakandi, Minister of Transport, Post and Telecommunication of Burundi and Mr P. M. J. Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Communications of Ghana.

Strategic Policy and Plans

Committee 5 considered two draft resolutions submitted by ad hoc groups 5/1 and 5/3 both under the chairmanship of Canada. Ad Hoc Group 5/1 was to consider the need for further study on the implications of participation by the industry in treaty-making conferences and what action was to be taken by this Conference to implement the decision made. There was general support on the principle of widening and on the need to revise the Constitution and Convention accordingly. Divergence quickly emerged over who should determine the conditions governing participation in WRCs. Some wanted Council to have a role in developing the procedures for participation, others felt that WRCs were sovereign and should decide because Council was neither representative of the whole membership nor expert on radio matters. Others also wanted a progress report on the implementation of the resolution to be submitted to the next Plenipotentiary Conference. In the light of the opinions expressed during the debate, the ad hoc group was tasked to revise the draft text and re-submit a new resolution to Committee 5 at a later meeting.

The other resolution submitted by ad hoc group 5/3 dealt with the priorities of the Standardization and Development Sectors. Committee 5 adopted it with one minor editorial amendment. It adds as a priority of the Standardization sector the need to produce standards responding to technological developments including those covering IP-related aspects as well as the interoperability and convergence of IP-based networks with existing network infrastructures. It also adds a priority for the Development sector concerning the creation of partnership arrangements that benefit all parties, avoiding purely commercial approaches and concentrating on long-term benefits. In that context, the ITU is asked to take the initiative to inform ministries responsible for agriculture, health, education, transportation, industry, commerce, human settlement, trade and transfer of information) with the role of telecommunications for social welfare and economic and social progress, in particular with the work of the ITU in rural and remote areas. The ITU will also invite relevant bilateral development organizations and donor agencies to join the activities of the ITU to maximize synergistic efforts toward sustainable universal access to telecommunication services.

Committee 5 also examined the two proposals submitted by European countries and by Russia concerning reform of the election procedures. The Russian proposal was putting forward a procedure according to which each of the five administrative regions would obtain one elective post. Each time a region won a post, it would no longer be eligible to stand for any of the other posts except in exceptional circumstances, such as the lack of candidates from one or more regions for a given post. In such cases, the Conference itself would determine eligibility. Unsuccessful candidates could also run as Radio Regulations Board members if qualified. The European proposal proposed that the election procedures and the deadline for the submission of candidatures be integrated into the Constitution and Convention because the current ad hoc way of proceeding was inefficient and time-consuming. A deadline known in advance would also facilitate the development of national positions because all candidates would be known ahead of time. It was proposed to entrust the ITU Council, through a working group open to all Member States, with consulting the entire membership of the ITU to draft permanent election procedures. Should a majority of the membership be in favour of integrating in the Constitution and Convention permanent election procedures, the draft procedures would be submitted to the next Plenipotentiary Conference in 2002 for approval. On a proposal from Argentina, it was also decided that consideration be given to the possibility of not renewing all posts but only a fraction at any given Plenipotentiary Conference.

Internet governance and e-commerce issues to be taken up by Committee 5 tomorrow at 14:30

The success of the Internet has resulted in a growing demand for domain names which has shown the limits of the actual assignment system (especially in the .com domain, where a number of jurisdictional and commercial problems appeared) and the need to set up a new system. Until now, the assignment and management of Internet domain names have been administered by several entities located in the United States, particularly the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Network Solutions Inc. (NSI).

In 1996, IANA and ISOC have set up an International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) to organize a public debate in these matters and prepare a reform of the assignment and management of DNS. Along with private industry, ITU and WIPO took part in this committee. The work of IAHC has resulted in two MoUs, the first one on gTLD (gTLD-MoU), the second one about the setting up of a Council of Registrars (CORE-MoU). In 1997, the ITU Council discussed the issues of DNS and IAHC reform, and the Secretary-General of ITU accepted the proposed role of depositary of the MoU which was signed in Geneva by a large number of private sector stakeholders.

In February 1998, the United States issued a Green Paper insisting on the responsibility of the American Government towards Internet. Afterwards, numerous governments have drawn the attention of the American Government to problems in the areas of legal jurisdiction, intellectual property rights and fair competition in the assignment of domain names, and stressed the need for an international, multilateral approach and a mechanism for settling disputes.

The publication of a White Paper by the United States in June 1998 resulted in return in new proposals. Particularly, the latest published IANA Bylaws make reference to the creation of a "governmental advisory committee" in which international organizations such as WIPO and ITU could participate.

Although recognizing that the development of the Internet must be market-led and driven by private initiative, several countries support the need for a multilateral approach involving all interested parties both private and public, and the fact that governments must also be involved in some ways. In their view, the Internet naming and addressing system should support the objectives of public policy with reference to electronic communications, in particular regarding reliable and economical access to the Internet for all categories of users, transparency and predictability of Internet names and addresses, respect of personal privacy and the continued development and expansion of electronic communications for private, educational and commercial purposes, in the interests of the public good, worldwide.

The delegations of Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain, France, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland are cosponsoring a draft resolution on Internet Governance instructing the ITU Secretary-General to take an active part in international discussions and initiatives on Internet governance, and report each year to the Council on his activities. The Resolution also proposes that the ITU Council be instructed to take any appropriate measure in order to contribute actively and invite Member States to participate in and follow the progress of work and to raise the awareness on this subject at national level among all interested non-governmental parties.

The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity – a regional telecommunication organization comprising 73 Members feels that there is a growing need to set new norms and a new framework for the management of Internet given that it has evolved from a network monopolized by a limited number of nations to a worldwide basic telecommunication infrastructure. APT considers that problems such as policy, technology, commercial and service aspects, contents, etc need to be addressed. To this end, it has tabled at the Conference a draft resolution instructing the ITU Secretary-General to form and manage an expert team under the ITU that would prepare a comprehensive report on how to deal with the challenges for the ITU under the international management system, the dramatic increase in information and communication services provided through the Internet and the many changes the Internet has brought about in the way we produce and obtain information. The report would be submitted to Council as soon as possible for its review and adoption of follow-up measures to facilitate its implementation.

Management of the Union

The Committee 7 on the management of the Union entered a long debate on a draft resolution on how to treat arrears and special accounts in the future. This resolution deplores the increasing level of arrears and the slow manner in which special arrears accounts are settled. The committee noted that a number of Member States, for which special arrears accounts had been opened, were not at all complying with their obligation to submit their repayment schedules to the Union.

In particular, the draft resolution seeks to set more stringent measures for the settlement of debts and for compliance with repayment schedules and associated conditions. It also seeks to instruct the Council to establish guidelines for repayment schedules. A small drafting group has been set up to refine the text of the resolution before it is sent to the Plenary.

The Committee, had earlier this week, submitted proposals to the Plenary to cancel interest on overdue payments for several countries in financial difficulty. Today, it approved similar requests from the Azerbaijan and Sierra Leone.

In the case of Sierra Leone, where the rebel war has destroyed its infrastructure and economy, it requested that interest on arrears accumulated over the years be written off and that its outstanding payments be placed in a special arrears account. It also submitted a repayment schedule through which it would repay its arrears of CHF 928 646 in 15 annual installments.

For its part, the Azerbaijan requested that a special arrears account be opened for its arrears of contributions which are in the order of CHF 458 998 for the years 1993 to 1998. At the same time, this country has committed itself to pay these arrears in 10 equal annual installments of CHF 45 899, beginning from April 1999.n

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