Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao
ITU Council 2019: Closing ceremony
20 June 2019, Geneva, Switzerland
After 9 days of intensive work, Council 2019 draws to a close. A strong spirit of cooperation presided over this session of Council. The debates on issues where Member States have different views were at times difficult. But in the end, the ITU family spirit prevailed and we managed to complete our work. Let me mention some of the decisions and actions of Council 2019 that will strengthen the work of ITU in the months and years to come.
Important decisions were made, including the approval of:
- the 2018 Financial Operating Report, with the allocations of the 2018 results;
- the 2020-2021 budget for an amount of 332 million Swiss Francs;
- additional appropriations for the implementation of Resolution 131;
- the revision of Decision 482 concerning the cost recovery mechanisms for complex/large non-GSO satellite filings;
- a new Council Decision on General Audit of Fraud at a Regional Office and allocation of the necessary funding;
- the Report on the Implementation of the Strategic Plan and the activities of the Union for 2018-2019;
- the Operational Plans for 2020-2023;
- the Terms of Reference of the Expert Group on ITRs;
- the strengthening of the Regional presence and its review by an external entity.
As Council instructed, we will work on a report explaining how ITU is currently utilizing the Global Cybersecurity Agenda. With the involvement of Member States, we will develop appropriate guidelines for utilization of this framework by ITU for the consideration and approval of Council 2020.
I was very pleased to see the high level of interest among Members States during this session of Council in engaging SMEs in our work. Building on the decision of PP-18 to establish a new reduced fee option for SMEs, Council 2019 finalized eligibility criteria and gave us the green light to launch this option in January 2020.
As for the Union's new building, we have had very intensive discussions on the project. During the discussions, many issues are clarified while some information is requested. As I mentioned earlier, we respect your right to receive information on the project. We will prepare the additional information requested by Council as quickly as possible in collaboration with the architect's consortium, Hill International experts and the host country experts. I am confident we all wish to go ahead with the new building project and we will get a new building. I encourage membership to follow the example of Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Czech Republic and Ghana who have kindly contributed to the financing of the new building. We are very grateful for your support.
Let me thank the External Auditor and IMAC for their constructive feedback and recommendations.
The recent fraud case has revealed some weaknesses in our internal controls, but I am confident that ITU will come out of this much stronger. We have already established an Internal Working Group to strengthen our internal controls, and we are working to fix all the issues identified by Internal and External Audit and IMAC.
We want to thank the membership for allocating resources to continue the investigation. This will allow us to identify any other instances of fraud or financial misconduct and establish the required mechanisms to prevent future incidents.
Let me also remind you that ITU has a zero tolerance approach to misconduct − including fraud, corruption, abuse of power and sexual harassment.
I believe Council 2019 has set a new milestone in ITU history in having agreed on when and where our major ITU events will take place in the next four years. And all of this at the first session of a new four-year cycle!
This Council decided that WTSA-20 would be held in Hyderabad, India. It agreed that WTPF-21 would take place back to back with the WSIS Forum, with a very forward looking theme – “How new and emerging digital technologies and trends are enablers of the global transition to the digital economy." Council decided that WTDC-21 would be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 8 to 19 November 2021. WTDC-21 will be the first of such conferences to take place on African soil since the establishment of ITU-D. And Council decided that PP-22 would be held in Bucharest, Romania from 26 September to 14 October 2022. It will mark the return of PP to Europe after PP-89 in Nice, France and PP-2006 in Turkey.
Thank you to India, Ethiopia and Romania for the hosting of these events. We are also pleased to have received an invitation from Vietnam to host ITU Telecom 2020 and I thank the Vietnamese Government for their kind invitation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We had 375 participating in this Council meeting − representing the 48 Member States of Council, 27 Member State Observers, the State of Palestine, 5 Sector Member Observers, and 3 Regional Telecommunication Organizations.
We had the opportunity to hear directly from the Ministers from Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia and Poland. We also heard from UN Assistant Secretary-General Hochschild, who briefed Council on the new tech report and recommendations of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation.
Having the support of Heads of Government on ICT is something very important. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet on the margins of Council between 10-12 June with the Prime Minister of Tunisia, the Prime Minister of Russia, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, the King of Eswatini, and the Prime Minister of Palestine to discuss cooperation with ITU.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me thank our Acting Chair, Mr. Fabio Bigi of Italy, who brought a wealth of experience to this Council. Dear Fabio, thank you for stepping in at such short notice and for instilling a spirit of international cooperation in our debates. Your deep knowledge of ITU, your goodwill to helps us, your remarkable skills in managing the sessions, and your extraordinary friendship with all colleagues contributed to the success of this Council. On behalf of ITU Management, I will present you with the ITU Gold Medal as a token of our appreciation.
Let me also thank the Vice-Chair of Council, Mr. Saif Bin Ghelaita of the United Arab Emirates, who spared no effort in learning how to manage a session of Council. I am sure he will be an excellent Chair of Council 2020.
I want to thank the Chair of the ADM committee, Mrs. Stella Erebor of Nigeria, for her outstanding leadership. Her talent, skills, calm, sense of humor and her big smile won us over. She is a remarkable daughter of Africa! We are very proud of her! She was assisted by two outstanding Vice-Chairs, Mrs. Lindl Rowe of Australia and Mr. Dirk-Olivier Von der Emden of Switzerland. Thank you both for your commitment and dedication.
Thank you to all the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Council Working Groups and other groups: Mr. Stephen Bereaux (WTPF); Mr. Kishore Babu and Mr. Mario Canazza (CWG-Internet); Mr. Kwame Baah-Acheamfuor (ITRs); Mrs. Chrystiane Roy (Fraud Case); Mr. Santiago Reyes-Borda (Dec. 563); Mr. Saif Bin Ghelaita (GCA); Mr. Vyacheslav Erokhin (merging R1336 and R1344); and Prof. Vladimir Minkin (Res. 1332).
Thank you to all Councilors and delegations for your active contribution and participation, to my colleagues the Elected Officials, to Switzerland for the wonderful excursion last weekend.
We thank Côte d'ivoire for their evening reception, Ethiopia and Kuwait for their coffee breaks
− and to the interpreters, captioners and technicians.
I want to thank Mrs. Béatrice Pluchon and Mr. Alassane Ba for their instrumental role in supporting the Plenary and ADM, and express my appreciation to all other ITU staff who have assisted with this session of Council.
Please give them all a big round of applause!
As you go back to your capitals, I hope you take with you the remarkable spirit of this Council and bring it back to our major upcoming events
– from GSR-19 to ITU Telecom World 2019 to RA-19 and especially to WRC-19!
I wish you all a safe journey home.