Accessibility for people with disabilities, including age-related disabilities
A new resolution sets out ways for ITU to mainstream people with disabilities in all its work. Entitled “Telecommunication/information and communication technology accessibility for persons with disabilities, including age-related disabilities”, the resolution recognizes a number of international agreements. These include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires States Parties to adopt appropriate measures to provide access for persons with disabilities - on an equal basis with others - to ICT, emergency services and Internet service; Resolution 70 of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (Johannesburg, 2008), Resolution 58 of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (Hyderabad, 2010); the Tunis Commitment, made at the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, 2005), and the Phuket Declaration on Tsunami Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities.
The World Health Organization estimates that ten per cent of the world's population (more than 650 million people) are people with disabilities. This percentage may increase because of the greater availability of medical treatment, enabling sick or injured people live longer. Increased life expectancy in general means that there are more elderly people with the disabilities that come with age. Also, people may acquire disabilities through accidents, wars and the circumstances of poverty.
ITU is already collaborating with external entities and bodies concerned with this subject, and should adopt a comprehensive action plan to extend access to telecommunication/ICT to people with disabilities. The experiences, views and opinions of people with disabilities have to be taken on board when developing and progressing ITU work.
The Secretary-General and Directors of the Bureaux will have to coordinate accessibility-related activities between the ITU-T, ITU-R, ITU-D, and ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are taken into account. Of course, the financial implications of providing access will need to be considered. Within ITU, it may be possible to expand the fellowship programme to enable delegates with disabilities to participate in the work of the Union. Another useful step will be to identify, document and disseminate examples of best practices among ITU Member States and Sector Members.
Member States and Sector Members can help by developing guidelines to enhance the accessibility, compatibility and usability of telecommunication/ICT services, products and terminals. They can also introduce telecommunication/ICT services that are appropriate for people with disabilities, both in terms of technology and cost.
Reports on this matter will be submitted to the ITU Council and to the next Plenipotentiary Conference. A special trust fund has been set up by ITU to support activities relating to this resolution, and Member States and Sector Members are invited to contribute.
Misuse of information and communication technologies
A new resolution notes the vulnerability of critical national infrastructure and its increasing dependence on information and communication technologies and the threats resulting from the illicit use of these technologies. It says that Illicit use of ICT could have a detrimental impact on a country’s infrastructure, national security, and economic development. The resolution is entitled “ITU's role with regard to international public policy issues relating to the risk of illicit use of information and communication technologies”. It instructs the Secretary-General to take the necessary measures to:
raise awareness of Member States regarding the adverse impact that may result from the illicit use of information and communication resources.
- maintain the role of ITU to cooperate within its mandate with other United Nations bodies in combating the illicit use of ICT.
The resolution underlines the importance of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). It resolves that ITU in its capacity as facilitator of WSIS Action Line C5 on “building confidence and security in the use of ICT”, will organize meetings of Member States and relevant ICT stakeholders, including geospatial and information service providers, to discuss alternative approaches to solutions in order to address and prevent the illicit application of ICT, while taking into consideration the overall interests of the ICT industry.
The Secretary-General is instructed to collect best practices from Member States on their actions taken to prevent the illicit use of ICT, and provide assistance to those who need it .
Member States and relevant ICT stakeholders are invited to pursue their dialogue at the regional and national levels in order to find mutually acceptable solutions. They should also provide the support needed to implement this resolution.
Conference delivers financial plan
Unlike in 2006, now the ITU has a Financial Plan for the years 2012-2015, approved by the conference on 20 October. As reported earlier, the amount of the contributory unit of Member States for the years 2012-2015 shall be CHF 318 000. Member States were invited to announce their definitive choice of class of contribution in the second week of the conference, on the basis of a revised scale (No. 468 MOD of the Convention). Following this, the number of contributory units from Member States applicable as from 1 January 2012 is 339 1/8 or a reduction of 8 7/8 units compared with the prevailing situation. Member States which did not notify the Secretary-General of their decision by 13 October retain the class of contribution previously chosen.
Based on the number of contributory units from Member States and from Sector Members as well as the number of Associates known at the time of the conference, the revenue forecast for the period 2012-2015 is CHF 632 007 000. This corresponds to a shortfall of CHF 23.2 million or 3.5 per cent; compared with the 2008-2009 and 2010-2011 budgets.
The financial plan approved by the conference in Annex 1 to Decision 5 (Rev. Guadalajara 2010) is aligned to the strategic plan and goals established for the Union for the years 2012-2015. The decision accompanying the plan authorizes the ITU Council to draw up the two biennial budgets of the Union in such a way that the total expenditure of the General Secretariat and the three Sectors of the Union is balanced by the anticipated income foreseen in the financial plan.
The Council shall, during each budgetary period, assess the changes that have taken place and the changes likely to take place in the current and coming budgetary periods with regard to:
- salary scales, pension contributions and allowances, including post adjustments, established by the United Nations common system and applicable to the staff employed by the Union;
- the exchange rate between the Swiss franc and the United States dollar in so far as this affects the staff costs for those staff members on United Nations scales.
- the purchasing power of the Swiss franc in respect of non-staff items of expenditure.
The decision taken by the conference instructs the Secretary-General, with the help of the Coordination Committee, to draw up and implement “a programme of appropriate revenue increases, cost efficiencies and reductions across all ITU operations so as to ensure a balanced budget”. It instructs the Council to take account of the impact of any cost-reduction programme on the staff of the Union, including the implementation of a voluntary separation and early retirement scheme, where this can be funded from budgetary savings or through a withdrawal from the Reserve Account.
In addition, in view of an unanticipated reduction of revenue due to the drop in classes of contribution from Member States and Sector Members, the Council is instructed to authorize a one-time withdrawal from the Reserve Account, within the limits established in Decision 5, in order to minimize the impact on staffing levels in the ITU biennial budgets for 2012-2013 and 2014-2015; any unused funds are to be returned to the Reserve Account at the end of each budgetary period. Decision 5 also contains a list of “measures for reducing expenditure,” that has been updated from 2006. Some of the measures require ITU to:
- Identify and eliminate possible duplications (functions, activities, workshops, seminars), and centralization of finance and administrative tasks.
- Coordinate and harmonize seminars and workshops organized by the General Secretariat or the three Sectors in order to avoid duplication of the subjects covered and to optimize secretariat attendance.
- Coordinate with regional organizations with a view to sharing the available resources of the regional organizations and minimizing the costs of participation (workshops, seminars, preparatory meetings for world conferences).
- Make possible savings from attrition, the redeployment of staff and the review and possible reduction of grades of vacant posts.
For new programmes or those having additional financial resource implications, a "value-added impact statement" should justify how the proposed programmes differ from current and/or similar programmes in order to avoid overlap and duplication.
Class of contributions
The conference amended Article 33 of the Convention in order to have a final granularity of the classes of contribution. Consequently, number 165 of Article 28 of the Constitution was amended with regard to the reduction of class of contribution. According to this amendment a Member State shall not reduce its class of contribution by more than 15 per cent, rounding down to the nearest lower number of units in the scale, for contributions of three or more units, and by not more than one class for contributions below three units. The Council shall indicate to any Member State the manner in which the reduction shall be gradually implemented over the period between plenipotentiary conferences.
Overall review of implementation of the outcomes of the
World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
This new resolution recalls ITU’s role in implementing the WSIS outcomes, as outlined in Resolution 140 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010). It also cites Paragraph 111 of the Tunis Agenda, which requested the United Nations General Assembly to make an overall review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes in 2015. In response to that request, the United Nations General Assembly, in its Resolution 60/252, decided to conduct an overall review of the implementation of the Summit outcomes in 2015.
The new resolution instructs the ITU Secretary-General to initiate consultations with the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) in order to prepare the overall review of implementation of WSIS outcomes in 2015, including the possibility of holding a high-level event in 2014 or 2015. He is also instructed to propose to CEB to make the necessary preparations based on the multi-stakeholder approach; pursue efficient and effective coordination with all stakeholders in preparing the overall review; and report to the Council on the results of this process, for its consideration and decision.
For its part, the Council is instructed, in the light of the results of the Secretary-General’s consultation, to:
- consider and decide on ITU's role in, and contribution to, the overall review process;
- examine ways and means to enhance ITU’s lead role in any relevant preparatory process;
- request the Secretary-General, under the preparatory process, to coordinate with all stakeholders and provide mechanisms, including the possibility of holding open consultations;
- evaluate, at its 2011 session, the financial burden for ITU that might result from its contribution to the preparatory process;
- report to the next Plenipotentiary Conference on preparations for final overall review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes and formulate proposals for further activities.
Facilitating digital inclusion initiatives for indigenous peoples
The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (2010) report contains alarming statistical data on this group in such areas as health, human rights, education and employment. Committee 6 examined the Inter-American proposal on this subject, and requested, following a debate that the proposal be reviewed with a view to improving the Union’s mechanism for granting fellowships. It was argued that the state of indigenous people places them in a situation similar to that of least developed countries, despite the fact that some of them live in developed countries.
ITU is encouraged, through a new resolution entitled "facilitating digital inclusion initiatives for indigenous peoples", to make it easier to grant fellowships to indigenous people as part of the Digital Inclusion Initiative of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D). The aim is to allow indigenous people to attend workshops, seminars, events, and other types of capacity-building events organized by ITU. But the resolution adds the caveat that Member States will have the authority to consider the requests of indigenous people, if and when the country is eligible for fellowship grants. The new resolution also cites Resolution 68 of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (Hyderabad, 2010) on the inclusion of indigenous people in the activities of BDT, requesting ITU to recognize and encourage indigenous people to participate in ITU's work.
Establishment of a Council working group on a
stable ITU Constitution
Generally, any Member State can propose amendments to the Constitution and the Convention. Numerous amendments were made to the Constitution and Convention at each plenipotentiary conference in the past. These amendments require ratification, acceptance, approval of or accession to both the Constitution and Convention as amended. The conference recognized that this is a complex and lengthy process for ITU Member States. It also recognized that the numerous amendments and the need to go through a burdensome ratification process have resulted, from a legal standpoint, in an undermining of one of the fundamental principles of the law of international organizations, namely the integrity of a supreme normative instrument serving all Member States of an intergovernmental organization such as ITU.
Discussions in the 2009 and 2010 sessions of the ITU Council revealed that there is a need to have a stable Constitution in order to resolve the current difficulties of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. Consensus has emerged among the ITU Member States to prepare the draft of such a stable Constitution for submission to the Plenipotentiary Conference in 2014 for consideration and action. In view of these difficulties, consensus has also emerged that, apart from the stable Constitution, the remaining provisions could be transferred to another "document/convention" that would not be subject to ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
A new entitled "establishment of a Council working group on a stable ITU Constitution" instructs the extraordinary session of the 2010 Council meeting in Guadalajara on 22 October to establish this Group and to designate its chairman and vice-chairmen. The group will be open to all ITU Member States with the terms of reference prescribed in the annex to the resolution.
Further, the Council is instructed to allocate the necessary funds within the available resources in order to implement the resolution. The Secretary-General is instructed to conduct a study on the existing mechanisms within other United Nations organizations with respect to the entry into force of the amendments to their "basic instruments" and to report to the 2011 or 2012 session of the Council. He will also circulate the results of the study to all Member States for them to prepare their contributions to the next Plenipotentiary Conference in 2014.
ITU’s role in implementing the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society
During the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005, ITU was named as sole moderator/facilitator for two of the Action lines: Action Line C2 on information and communication infrastructure and Action Line C5 on building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT). In addition, ITU, alongside the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was tasked to play a leading facilitating role in the overall implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action adopted during phase 1 of WSIS.
In 2008, the parties involved in implementing WSIS outcomes agreed to designate ITU as the moderator/facilitator for WSIS Action Line C6 (enabling environment). This gave ITU much greater responsibility than previously, when the Union had simply been a co-facilitator of this action line.
Also, since the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held in Antalya in 2006, the ITU Council Working Group on WSIS has been facilitating inputs from Member States on the role of ITU in implementing WSIS outcomes, and the ITU Council has approved road maps for WSIS Action Lines C2, C5 and C6.
To take account of these changes, and of the enormous efforts required to build an inclusive and development-oriented information society, updates have been made to Resolution 140 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) on “ITU’s role in implementing the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society”.
The revised resolution emphasizes the need to integrate implementation of the Hyderabad Action Plan with current multi-stakeholder work on implementing WSIS outcomes. The revised resolution also stresses that the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) has to prioritize WSIS Action Line C2, to implement information and communication infrastructure, because such infrastructure forms the physical backbone of all e-applications.
The Secretary-General and Directors of the Bureaux will of course continue the work previously outlined in the resolution, but the revised text tightens up the deadlines. In particular, specific tasks and deadlines will be incorporated into the operational plans of the General Secretariat and the Sectors, and a final and comprehensive report on ITU activities to implement WSIS outcomes is to be submitted to the next plenipotentiary conference, to be held in 2014.
WSIS outcomes are important to everyone, not just ITU, and the revised resolution invites Member States, Sector Members and Associates to contribute to the WSIS stocktaking database (which is maintained by ITU), and to participate actively both in the Council Working Group on WSIS and in further adapting ITU to the information society. All the work on WSIS outcomes costs money, so the revised resolution invites Member States, Sector Members and Associates to contribute to the Special Trust Fund set up by ITU to support the WSIS-related activities outlined in the resolution.
After negotiations led by the Chairman of the Conference, Fernando Borjón, and ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré and with the active participation of the parties concerned, a compromise was reached with regard to revisions to Resolutions 99 (Rev. Antalya, 2006) on the “status of Palestine” and 125 (Rev. Marrakesh, 2002) on “assistance and support to Palestine for rebuilding its telecommunication networks”.
Resolution 99 has been updated and resolves that, pending any further change in the current status of Palestine as observer in ITU, Palestine shall participate in all ITU conferences, assemblies and meetings and in treaty-making conferences with the following additional rights to what they already have:
- the right to raise points of order;
- the right to co-sponsor proposals;
Palestine shall have the right to attend the Heads of Delegation meetings. It shall also have the right to request the verbatim insertion of any declaration made during the course of a debate.
Assistance and support to Palestine for rebuilding its telecommunication networks
Resolution 125 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) first recalls the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to use the designation "Palestine" in the United Nations system. The update considers that the international community has an important role in assisting Palestine to develop a modern and reliable telecommunication network. It states that a large part of the Palestinian telecommunication infrastructure has been significantly damaged in recent years. Other changes to the resolution call upon Member States to make every effort with a view, among other things, to providing all forms of assistance and support to Palestine, bilaterally or through executive measures taken by ITU, in rebuilding, restoring and developing its telecommunication network. In this regard, the Council is invited to allocate the necessary funds, within available resources, to implement the updated resolution. The Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) is instructed to take appropriate measures, within the mandate of BDT, to facilitate the establishment of international access networks, including terrestrial and satellite stations, submarine cables, optical fibre and microwave systems.
Revisions to Resolution 25 on strengthening ITU’s regional presence were also approved by the conference, based on proposals from Member States and on the 2009 report of the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations entitled “Effectiveness of the ITU Regional presence”. The revised resolution calls for additional evaluation of regional presence. To this end, it requests the Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau to develop operational and financial indicators to be used for evaluating regional presence. In addition, the evaluation criteria in Annex 1 to Resolution 25 were completely revised.
As the Chairman of Committee 6, Bruce Gracie, explains “the resolution recognizes the need for equitable treatment of regions in terms of budgetary allocations and gives more autonomy to regional and area offices. It requires the development of stronger mutually beneficial working relationships with Member States, for instance through stronger collaboration with regional organizations.”
Arrears and special arrears accounts
Presenting a document on the financial operating report of the Union for the bienniums 2006‑2007 and 2008-2009 to Committee 6, the Administration and Finance Department made the observation that the evolution of arrears and the slow settlement of arrears and special arrears accounts continue to be of great concern. The amounts available in the special Reserve for debtors' accounts are to be used only to write off debts that the Union is unable to recover. The balance of the Reserve for debtors' accounts at 31 December 2009 was CHF 62 619 742, covering 93.93 per cent of total arrears, special arrears accounts and cancelled special arrears accounts.
Unlike many other United Nations specialized agencies, ITU does not have a working capital fund to ensure the financing of its activities. The Union has instead a Reserve Account, which is financed mainly by unused appropriations cancelled at the close of each financial period and credits entered in the ordinary budget to adjust the balance of the account. In 2006, the Plenipotentiary Conference requested the Council to aim, under normal circumstances, at keeping the Reserve Account at a level above six per cent of annual expenditures.
Resolution 41 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) on “arrears and special arrears accounts” has been revised to address these concerns. It expresses regret at the increasing level of arrears and slow settlement of special arrears accounts. It underlines that it is in the interest of all Member States, Sector Members and Associates to maintain the finances of the Union on a sound footing. It instructs the Council “to review the guidelines for repayment schedules, including a maximum duration, which would be up to five years for developed countries, up to ten years for developing countries and up to fifteen years for least developed countries, as well as up to five years for Sector Members and Associates”.
The Council should also consider the following appropriate additional measures in exceptional circumstances:
- Temporary reduction in class of contribution in conformity with No. 165A of the Constitution and No. 480B of the ITU Convention.
- The write-off of interest on overdue payments, subject to each Member State, Sector Member and Associate concerned complying strictly with the agreed repayment schedule for the settlement of the unpaid contributions.
- A repayment schedule for up to thirty years maximum for countries in special need due to natural disasters, civil conflicts or extreme economic hardship.
- An adjustment in the repayment schedule in its initial phase to permit payment of a lower annual amount, provided that the total accrued amount is the same at the end of the repayment schedule.
When this revised resolution was tabled for approval in a night session of the Plenary on 20 October, the Marshall Islands reiterated its plea that it would not be able to repay its debts to the Union in the foreseeable future (see issue No.7 of the Highlights).
Other revised resolutions
- Resolution 58 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010): Strengthening of relations between ITU and regional telecommunication organizations and regional preparations for the Plenipotentiary Conference
- Resolution 136 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010):The use of telecommunications/information and communication technologies
for monitoring and management in emergency
and disaster situations for early warning,
prevention, mitigation and relief
- Resolution 157 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010): Strengthening of the project execution function in ITU
- Resolution 122 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010):The evolving role of the World Telecommunication
- Resolution 91 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010): Cost recovery for some ITU products and services
- Resolution 153 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010): Scheduling of Council sessions and plenipotentiary conferences
- Resolution 66 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010): Documents and publications of the Union
|Decisions and resolutions abrogated by the conference
Resolution 47 (Rev. Minneapolis, 1998): Compensation matters
Resolution 49 (Kyoto, 1994): Organizational structure and grading in ITU
Resolution 108 (Marrakesh, 2002): Improvement of the functioning of the Coordination Committee, including the tasks of the Deputy Secretary-General
and the role of the other elected officials
Resolution 147 (Antalya, 2006): Study on the management and functioning of the Union
Resolution 156 (Antalya, 2006): Scheduling of conferences
Resolution 155 (Antalya, 2006): Establishment of a management and budget group of the Council