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ITU Reform Advisory Panel

Observations and Recommendations for Reform1

  1. Public/private sector partnership. The reform of ITU requires a common vision of its future as a public/private partnership in order to preserve and strengthen its international credibility. The respective roles in this partnership need to be better defined, so that both parties have rights and carry obligations. The decision-making functions of the ITU should reflect the modern, competitive telecommunications environment in which the private sector plays the lead role while the regulatory agencies act as an arbitrator for the wider public interest. It is suggested that decision-making in the Council should be reviewed in light of possible private sector inclusion. Once the decision-making balance in ITU between the public and private sectors has been revised, the financing balance should also be changed accordingly.
  2. Radiocommunications and the stewardship of scarce resources. ITU should continue to play an effective harmonization role at the global level, including its treaty function; however, ITU could take a stronger role in facilitating regional, interregional and bilateral harmonization of spectrum use and orbital slots, including dispute resolution. The reform process should review the problems involved with "paper satellites". Processes should be simplified, where possible, to reduce the backlog in satellite co-ordination.
  3. Standardization. The ITU-T’s strength lies in the fact that it is a global standards body in which all countries can participate. Its role in the future will depend on how quickly it can act and whether it can add value or enhance quality, for instance by adding global legitimacy and transparency to standards developed elsewhere. ITU-T could become a facilitator for collaboration, convening meetings among different standards bodies and industry forums, in particular on interworking between the Internet and telecommunication networks, both fixed and mobile. This new role would not require so many study groups, but ITU’s standards development activities would instead concentrate on areas where ITU-T has a position of leadership, such as optical transmission, voice services, numbering signaling and network management. The ITU-T’s work should be project-oriented in nature, involving the private-sector and its working methods that have fostered the development of the Internet.
  4. Development. The aims of the ITU-D’s work are highly important. Due to the rapidly changing paradigm for the regulation of telecommunications markets, scarcity of regulatory expertise and human resources has become a widespread phenomenon. ITU should expand its focus from technical assistance towards helping developing countries establish pro-market regulatory frameworks and close the digital divide. This will require greater participation by the private sector and closer co-operation with the Development Banks, especially the World Bank. To this end, the function of regional offices should be strengthened.
  5. Policy issues
    • Policy-related areas. The ITU can serve as an international focal point for the discussion of telecommunication policy and regulatory affairs. ITU needs to provide a forum where national regulatory authorities from around the world can discuss key issues and obtain input from those to be regulated. Bringing together policy work within the Secretariat could create a centre for regulatory expertise, which would serve as a proactive "knowledge centre". It could collect and collate best practice regulatory policies from different countries and act as a repository for benchmarking statistics in its area of expertise.
    • Internet and convergence. The ITU may play a useful role in the future by serving as a global co-ordinator or umbrella, in its areas of competence, to act as a facilitator towards the resolution of different national policies and rules that might hamper the growth of the Internet and e-commerce. The ITU can also provide international credibility to initiatives developed by the private sector and other bodies, but should avoid intervening on issues, such as content, which are not within its core expertise.
    • Co-operation. ITU should take a more active role in cooperating closely with other regional and international organizations involved in telecommunications (e.g., WTO) and investment finance (e.g. World Bank) and should become the focal point for co-operation among different bodies, in order to promote international consistency and avoid duplication.
  6. Dispute settlement mechanism. Governments and the private sector would welcome a review of the existing Union procedures governing dispute settlement to see if they might be expanded in scope to provide governments and the private sector with a neutral and effective mechanism to resolve disputes which are international in nature.
  7. ITU working methods and management
    • Where applicable, more emphasis should be placed on advance consensus-building among the membership and carefully planned agendas. This will require different types of meetings, such as regional co-ordination meetings and expert groups, ahead of major decision-making conferences and assemblies. The powers of the Council should be revamped so that it can take decisions on rapidly evolving policy issues, if necessary by majority voting. ITU should make greater use of ad hoc expert groups with a specific mandate and finite duration for handling urgent policy issues. Electronic working methods should be embraced to the maximum extent possible.
    • Accountability for running the ITU should rest with the Secretary-General who should be given greater authority and responsibility for the operation of the Union. The current method of electing officials is lengthy and inefficient. A new process for the efficient nomination and approval of officials needs to be put into place. The private sector members of the RAP, supported by some of their other colleagues, suggest that the Secretary-General could propose a slate of candidates to be appointed by the appropriate bodies—taking into consideration the need for a high level of skills and for geographic balance.
    • The ITU requires more flexible management tools, such as performance excellence and cost-effective management. A horizontal approach towards key issues and alignment of goals would facilitate better co-ordination between Sectors. The secretariat should be given a more proactive role. In some areas, such as the backlog in satellite notifications, process re-engineering could bring quick results. Some members of the RAP feel that it might be possible to take English as the working language, with translation paid by language groups. This would greatly reduce costs and increase efficiency.
    • To push forward the reform process, a specialised external group should be appointed to produce concrete recommendations against fixed deadlines for deliverables.
  8. TELECOM events. A reassessment of TELECOM events should be an important part of the reform process. In particular, private industry would seek a review of the management, periodicity and oversight of TELECOM and its events.

Note 1. These recommendations and observations were drawn up by members of the Reform Advisory Panel (RAP) at their second meeting, on 10th March 2000. The members of the RAP participated in a private capacity and offered their views on the direction that reform should take. This report will be submitted to the ITU Council and its Working Group on Reform as part of the report of the ITU Secretary-General. The individual contributions of RAP members will also be made available.


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Updated : 2005-02-08