Final Press Report of the 17th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference
held in Antalya, Turkey, 6-24 November 2006
Nearly all the Resolutions adopted or updated by the Antalya Plenipotentiary Conference mention the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). A specific Resolution was adopted on ITU’s role in implementing the WSIS outcomes. Another resolution calls for a study to look at how relevant WSIS stakeholders, including civil society, can participate in the activities of ITU related to WSIS.
A number of countries would have liked to go much further and even change the name of ITU and to broaden its scope. In many of the Resolutions that have been adopted, the term “telecommunications/information and communication technologies (ICT)” has been used to define the enlarged scope of ITU activities. Other countries were, however, reluctant to make changes to the Constitution and Convention until a full understanding of these new terms could be developed. For this reason, the conference decided that a Council Working Group should be established to undertake a study between 2006 and 2010 on the new terms being introduced to the Union’s work.
In addition, the conference has decided to convene a World Telecommunication Policy Forum in the first quarter of 2009 to address internet public policy issues as part of a timeline that will also include a World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in 2012 to review the International Telecommunication Regulations.
A clear path for WSIS implementation
A new resolution describes a clear path to guide ITU’s role in WSIS implementation at three levels. One is the ITU overall facilitation role in the multi-stakeholder implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, alongside the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Another is ITU as sole facilitator for action lines C2 (on infrastructure) and C5 (on cybersecurity). And the third is ITU as a partner and stakeholder in the implementation of all other relevant WSIS action lines.
The establishment of the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) as the new inter-agency mechanism for coordinating substantive and policy issues facing the United Nations’ implementation of the WSIS outcomes was welcome news for the conference. ITU is named as a permanent member of UNGIS, where it shares a rotating chairmanship.
Under the terms of the new resolution, the Secretary-General will work in collaboration with other entities involved in WSIS implementation to promote a clear understanding of their roles, in order to avoid duplication of activities. He will strengthen cooperation with the other bodies of the United Nations family, within the framework of UNGIS, as called for in the Tunis Agenda. He will raise public awareness of the ITU mandate, role and activities and provide broader access to its resources for the general public and other actors involved in the emerging information society.
The resolution underlines the need to “integrate the implementation of the Doha Action Plan, in particular Resolution 30 (Rev. Doha, 2006), and other relevant current and future resolutions of plenipotentiary conferences, with the multi-stakeholder implementation of the WSIS outcomes”.
The Council will oversee ITU’s implementation of the WSIS outcomes. To this end, the Council Working Group on WSIS (WG-WSIS) will be maintained to guide ITU in its implementation efforts. Member States, Sector Members and Associates are invited to participate actively in implementing the WSIS outcomes.
Delegations acknowledged in the resolution that ITU is capable of providing expertise relevant to the Internet Governance Forum as demonstrated during the WSIS process. They also note that ITU has specific responsibility to study and report on International Internet Connectivity. Furthermore, ITU has a specific responsibility to ensure rational, efficient and economic use of, and equitable access to, the radio-frequency spectrum by all countries, based on relevant international agreements.
The conference also encouraged continuing cooperation between and among stakeholders and welcomed the ITU-led Connect the World initiative, including a special mention in the resolution. The resolution also says that ITU should, within available resources, maintain the current public WSIS stocktaking database. This database is seen as one of the valuable tools for assisting in the follow-up of WSIS.
It is further noted in the resolution that the United Nations General Assembly will conduct an overall review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes in 2015.
A study to broaden participation in ITU activities related to WSIS
Building a people-centred information society is a joint effort which requires cooperation and partnership among all stakeholders. Governments as well as the private sector, civil society along with the United Nations and other international organizations have an important role and responsibility in the development of the information society.
A new resolution calls for a “Study on the participation of all relevant stakeholders in the activities of the Union related to the World Summit on the Information Society”. It points to the need to promote and enhance the participation of entities and organizations in ITU activities and to foster fruitful cooperation and partnership between them and Member States. It underlines that all measures regarding the participation of relevant stakeholders in ITU activities related to WSIS must respect the agreed strong development orientation of the United Nations system-wide follow-up of WSIS.
The Council is instructed to establish a working group open to all Member States. The group will establish criteria for defining which stakeholders can participate in ITU activities related to WSIS. It will also consider the financial obligations and consequences of the participation of these potential stakeholders.
The Council will review annually the progress report of the working group and disseminate the interim results of the group’s study. It will present a final report in advance of the next Plenipotentiary Conference, scheduled for 2010, which Member States will use in preparing their proposals to that conference. Member States and Sector Members are invited to submit written contributions to the working group.
Four updated Resolutions have been approved covering internet issues. They are as follows: “Internet protocol-based networks (Resolution 101); “ITU’s role with regard to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses” (Resolution 102); “Role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names” (Resolution 133); and “Strengthening the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies” (Resolution 130).
The conference advocated enhanced cooperation on internet governance among the membership. ITU will embrace opportunities to build bridges between the “internet community” and the more formal intergovernmental community through cooperative projects that benefit all users of the internet, for example through dealing with cybersecurity and internationalized domain names.
Strengthening the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies
New threats from various sources have emerged that may have an impact on confidence and security in the use of ICT and on the preservation of peace and the economic and social development of ITU Member States.
Network security continues to give rise to ever-growing concerns across national borders for all countries, in particular developing countries and especially least developed countries, small island developing states and countries with economies in transition. In this context, the conference noted the need to enhance international cooperation and develop and adapt appropriate existing national, regional and international mechanisms, such as agreements, best practices, and memoranda of understanding.
Although there are still no universally agreed definitions of spam and other terms in this sphere, spam was recently characterized by ITU-T Study Group 2 as a term commonly used to describe unsolicited electronic bulk communications over e-mail or mobile messaging (SMS, MMS), usually with the objective of marketing commercial products or services.
Resolution 130 has been updated to strengthen the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies. The resolution calls on the ITU management to review the work done so far by ITU and other relevant organizations to address existing and future threats in order to build confidence and security in the use of ICT, such as the issue of countering spam.
ITU should continue the Cybersecurity Gateway as a way to share information on national, regional and international cybersecurity-related initiatives worldwide. Work within existing ITU-T study groups should be intensified in order to address existing and future threats and vulnerabilities affecting efforts to build confidence and security in the use of ICT, for example by developing recommendations. ITU-T should seek ways to enhance the exchange of technical information in these fields, promote implementation of emerging protocols and develop standards that can further enhance security. The Telecommunication Development Bureau is urged to develop projects for enhancing cooperation on cybersecurity and combating spam responding to the needs of developing countries. These projects must be coordinated within the context of ITU’s overall activities in its role as moderator/facilitator of WSIS action line C5 (Cybersecurity).
ITU Member States, Sector Members and Associates are invited to participate actively in the ongoing work of ITU study groups on this topic. They should develop the necessary legislation, noting regional initiatives such as the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime.
Role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names
Internet users are generally more comfortable reading or browsing through texts in their own language. For the internet to become more widely available to a large number of users, it is necessary to make the internet available in non-Latin scripts. In the light of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, the conference underlined that there should be a commitment to work earnestly towards “multilingualization of the internet, as part of a multilateral, transparent and democratic process, involving governments and all stakeholders”.
In this context, the conference updated Resolution 133 on the “Role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names”. The resolution emphasizes that the current domain name system does not fully reflect the diverse and growing language needs of all users. It underlines the need to promote regional root servers and the use of internationalized domain names in order to overcome barriers to access.
Multilingualism in such areas as domain names, e-mail addresses and keyword look-up should be introduced quickly, the resolution says. Programmes should be implemented that allow for the presence of multilingual domain names and content on the internet and the use of various software models in order to fight against the linguistic digital divide. Cooperation should be strengthened between relevant bodies to further the development of technical standards and to foster their global deployment.
A number of challenges exist with regard to intellectual property and the deployment of internationalized domain names. The conference recognized the roles played by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in the area of dispute resolution for domain names; and that played by UNESCO with regard to promoting cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content.
ITU management is instructed to take an active part in all international discussions, initiatives and activities on the deployment and management of internet internationalized domain names, in cooperation with relevant organizations, including WIPO and UNESCO. The updated Resolution will be brought to the attention of WIPO and UNESCO, stressing the concerns and requests for assistance of Member States, in particular the developing countries, with regard to internationalized (multilingual) domain names. ITU is also to take any action that may be needed to ensure the sovereignty of its Member States with regard to ITU-T Recommendation E.164 numbering plans in whatever applications they are used.
All entities working to develop and implement internationalized domain names are urged to expedite their activities. In this regard, the resolution recognizes ITU-T’s role as defined in the decisions of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) at Florianópolis (Brazil) in 2004. These include Resolution 47 on “Country code top-level domain names (ccTLD)” and Resolution 48 on internationalized domain names.
International Telecommunication Regulations
A new resolution on the “Review of the International Telecommunication Regulations” (ITR) was considered a major milestone as there were many different positions presented to the conference. In the end, negotiations in the Conference’s Committee 5 helped broker an agreement. The new resolution adopted by the conference calls for a world conference on international telecommunications (WCIT) to be “convened in Geneva in 2012. It instructs the Council to adopt by 2011 the agenda and fixed dates for holding WCIT in 2012.
The International Telecommunication Regulations were last updated in Melbourne in 1988. A Council working group that was set up after the Marrakesh Plenipotentiary Conference did not reach consensus on how to proceed.
Billions of dollars worth of international telecommunication traffic continue to be successfully settled under the treaty’s current provisions, according to the United States. The system for global traffic exchange, as established under the framework of the ITR, has worked well. Also, the current regulations are critical to the exchange of telecommunication traffic across borders facilitating global interconnection. A proposal from a group of countries from the Regional Commonwealth in the field of Communication (RCC) states that the ITR “have for many years been an integral and inalienable component of the established and proven system of ITU legal instruments. Numerous intergovernmental agreements and international operating agreements are concluded on the basis of the ITR.”
For a number of European countries, the ITR in their present form no longer serve the purpose for which they were designed.
The African and Arab groups presented the view that the ITR “have been, and continue to be, of crucial importance, particularly to developing countries.” However, because of the rapidly changing environment, the ITR need to be reviewed.
While agreeing that the ITR “are not appropriate for competitive, internationalized telecommunication markets,” countries from the Asia-Pacific region also believe that the ITR are beneficial to developing and least developed countries that have mainly public-sector telecommunication services.
The Antalya Resolution considers that treaty-level provisions are required with respect to international telecommunication networks and services. It says that advances in technology have resulted in an increased use of internet protocol-enabled infrastructure and relevant applications presenting both opportunities and challenges for the ITU membership. As technology evolves, countries are evaluating their policy and regulatory approaches to ensure an enabling environment that fosters supportive, transparent, pro-competitive, and predictable policies, as well as legal and regulatory frameworks that provide appropriate incentives to invest in, and develop, the information society. ITU can play an important role in facilitating a discussion of new and emerging issues, including those that arise from the changing international telecommunication environment.
The resolution highlights the importance of ensuring that the ITR are reviewed, “and if deemed appropriate, revised and updated in a timely manner in order to facilitate cooperation and coordination among Member States and to reflect accurately the relations between Member States, Sector Members, administrations and recognized operating agencies”. It calls on the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) to undertake a review of the existing ITR, in collaboration with the other two ITU Sectors — with ITU-T serving as the focal point.
The World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) has historically provided an appropriate venue for discussing global and cross-sectoral issues of high concern to the ITU membership. The conference decided that the fourth WTPF will be convened in 2009, and this should provide an opportunity to study such issues. WTPF will consider emerging telecommunication policy and regulatory issues, with respect to international telecommunication networks and services. It will prepare reports and opinions (where appropriate) to be considered by Member States, Sector Members, relevant ITU meetings and the Council. In turn, the Council will consider these reports and the issues they raise and take action, where needed.
Following WTPF, the three ITU Sectors will carry out any further studies that may be needed in the preparation for WCIT. These Sectors will participate in relevant regional meetings to identify topics to be addressed by WCIT. Based on these studies, the Secretary-General is instructed to undertake the necessary preparatory arrangements for WCIT. And the ITU membership is invited to contribute to the review of the ITR and to the preparatory process of WCIT.
Fourth World Telecommunication Policy Forum
The conference decided to convene the fourth World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) in Geneva in the first quarter of 2009. WTPF provides a venue for discussion of global and cross-sectoral issues by high-level participants, thus contributing to the development of world telecommunications. The Plenipotentiary Conference in Marrakesh in 2002 decided that WTPF should be maintained in order to discuss and exchange views on information on telecommunication policy and regulatory matters, especially on global and cross-sectoral issues.
The issue of convergence, including internet-related public policy matters, is of high current interest to ITU Member States and Sector Members. The continued development of convergence, next-generation networks and the internet also has significant implications for several domains, particularly for capacity building in developing countries. A study of emerging telecommunication policy and regulatory issues is among the topics of high current interest to ITU Member States and Sector Members. WTPF shall draw up a report and, if possible, opinions for consideration by ITU Member States and Sector Members and relevant ITU meetings. The Resolution notes the relevant outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society.
Delegations re-affirmed that ITU is uniquely positioned and has the necessary experience to provide a forum for the coordination, exchange of information, discussion and harmonization of national, regional and international telecommunication strategies and policies.
Promoting digital opportunities to build an inclusive information society
Despite all the developments achieved today, telecommunications are still not affordable to the majority of people in many developing countries, particularly those living in rural areas. A new resolution points to the need to create opportunities for digital services in developing countries, including least developed countries, landlocked and small island developing states, and countries with economies in transition. Advantage should be taken of the ICT revolution.
The resolution is aptly entitled “Telecommunications and information and communication technologies to promote digital opportunities and build an inclusive information society.” It notes the important role played by telecommunication/ICT in the development of e-government, labour, agriculture, health, education, transport, industry, human rights, environmental protection, trade and transfer of information for social welfare, and in the general economic and social progress of developing countries. It says that ITU should continue to conduct studies in order to highlight the contribution of ICT to overall development. ITU should also continue to act as a clearing house for the exchange of information and to implement initiatives, programmes and projects that aim to promote access to telecommunications and ICT.
The resolution urges all agencies responsible for development aid and assistance, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as donor and recipient countries to give high priority in their resource allocation to ICT for development. ITU will bring this resolution to the attention of all interested parties, in particular UNDP, IBRD, regional development banks and national development funds for cooperation. Progress reports will be presented to the Council annually.
ITU will continue assisting Member States in developing a pro competitive policy and regulatory framework for telecommunications, as well as strategies to expand access to telecommunication infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. To this end, ITU will help develop models for affordable and sustainable systems for rural access.
The Andean Satellite System Simón Bolívar
Member countries of the Andean Community said that they had worked unceasingly for over two decades in an effort to have a satellite system of their own to serve as a tool for their social and economic development. These countries are Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru and Venezuela. But despite these efforts, it has not been possible to implement the Andean Satellite System. Changes, especially in satellite communication markets are making it difficult to comply with the deadlines laid down in the ITU Radio Regulations. The Andean Community had appealed to the conference to find a way forward concerning their rights associated with the satellite networks “Simón Bolívar 2” and “Simón Bolívar 2A” at orbital position 67°W. They requested for an extension of the deadline for occupation of that orbital position until 18 September 2009 — that is a further two years beyond the stipulated deadline for bringing into operation the Andean Satellite System. They argued that in accordance with the international regulations in force, the Andean Community had followed all the processes for operation of its orbit-spectrum resource at orbital position 67° West, having obtained two registrations with the abbreviation ASA corresponding to “Simón Bolívar 2”and for “Simón Bolívar 2A”.
Study to increase the number of Council Member States
The number of Member States of the Council is determined by the Plenipotentiary Conference. In accordance with the ITU Convention, the number of Member States of the Council shall not exceed 25 per cent of the total number of Member States of the Union, currently 191. Since 1994, the number of Member States of the Union has increased by eight. The manner in which equitable distribution of Council Member States is applied was questioned by some delegations at the Antalya conference, which has decided that this needs to be clarified. The conference adopted a new resolution recognizing that the number of Council Member States needs to be increased with effect from the 2010 plenipotentiary conference. Under the terms of the resolution, the Council is required to review the criteria and develop a mechanism, in time for the next Plenipotentiary Conference, to determine the allocation of seats among the regions. This would take into account the proposals and discussions at the Antalya Conference and possible further changes in the number of Member States of the Union by 2010. The Secretary-General will submit reports on changes in the number of Member States of the Union and its impact on the regional balance. He will also facilitate the work of the Council by providing the necessary support and resources to enable the conduct of this study.
The Strategic plan for 2008-2011
The conference endorsed the Strategic Plan prepared by the ITU Council. During the period 2008-2011, the priority actions to be undertaken by ITU will seek to achieve the seven goals set out in the Plan:
Goal 1: Maintaining and extending international cooperation among all Member States and with relevant regional organizations for the improvement and rational use of information and communication infrastructure of all kinds, taking the appropriate leading role in United Nations system initiatives on ICT, as called for by the relevant WSIS outcomes.
Goal 2: Assisting in bridging the national and international digital divides in ICT, by facilitating interoperability, interconnection and global connectivity of networks and services, and by playing a leading role, within its mandate, in the multi-stakeholder process for the follow-up and implementation of the relevant WSIS goals and objectives.
Goal 3: Widening the Union’s membership, extending participation and facilitating cooperation of an increasing number of administrations and organizations, as well as new actors, such as relevant WSIS stakeholders.
Goal 4: Developing tools, based on contributions from members, to promote end-user confidence, and to safeguard the efficiency, security, integrity and interoperability of networks. (Information and communication network efficiency and security cover threats including, inter alia, spam, cybercrime, viruses, worms and denial-of-service attacks).
Goal 5: Continuing to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ITU’s structures and services and their relevance to the requirements of membership and the wider global community.
Goal 6: Disseminating information and know-how to provide the membership and the wider community, particularly developing countries, with capabilities to leverage the benefits of, inter alia, private-sector participation, competition, globalization, network security and efficiency and technological change in their ICT sector, and enhancing the capacity of ITU Member States, in particular developing countries, for innovation in ICT.
Goal 7: Promoting the development of an enabling environment that assists governments in fostering supportive, transparent, pro-competitive, harmonized and predictable policies, as well as legal and regulatory frameworks that provide appropriate incentives for investment in, and development of, the information society.
Updated and new Resolutions include:
An updated Resolution 30 on special measures for LDCs and SIDS.
A new Resolution on ITU’s role in building an inclusive Information Society, which merges and updates elements in Resolutions 31 and 129
A new Resolution that recognizes the importance of the Global Symposium for Regulators
A new role of for ITU in the development of telecommunications/ICT in providing technical assistance and advice to developing countries, and in implementing relevant national, regional and inter-regional projects
An updated Resolution 22 on the “Apportionment of revenues in providing international telecommunication services”. It calls on ITU-T
to expedite its work to complete its study on the concept of “network externalities for international traffic in relation to both fixed and mobile services”.