Plenipotentiary Conference elects Yoshio Utsumi Secretary-General
The Minneapolis Plenipotentiary Conference elected Mr Yoshio Utsumi as 16th Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union today, 20 October.
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 countries entitled to vote and present and one blank ballot, the majority was computed on 146 votes cast. The majority required was therefore 74.
Taking the floor after the results were announced, Mr Utsumi said he was very honoured of having been elected and paid tribute to the outgoing Secretary-General Pekka Tarjanne for his achievements at the helm of the ITU. He also stressed that with the telecommunication revolution came an explosion of new global services, new telecom players and new regulatory frameworks. "As we enter the new millenium", he said, "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", Mr Utsumi added. 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 of the results but also said that tough years were ahead for his successor. He extended his advice and assistance in the transition period to the Secretary-General elect and wished him all success in his new position.
Dr Henry Chasia told delegates that he accepted the results and thanked the membership for giving him the opportunity to serve during the past four years. "The election to 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".
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
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 date at which the Secretary-General will take up his duties has been set at 1 February 1999. All new elected officials will take up their duties at the same time.
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