Many consider that the ITU is threatened by the upheavals of the telecommunication industry. New organizations such as the WTO or regional bodies take center-stage and industry fora that are less formal and more focused multiply. What future do you see for the ITU? What would be your personal contribution (what initiatives/focus would you bring) as elected official to bringing innovation and fostering the adaptation of the Union to the driving forces of change so as to keep the ITU a pre-eminent forum for international telecommunications?
I believe that the ITU does indeed have a future. If it didnt exist, something like the ITU would have to be invented. However, the ITU does need to further evolve in order to continue to play a leading role in the field of telecommunications. This, of course, is not new. The ITU has been constantly evolving and adapting to the changing environment during its 133 year lifetime but now the environment is changing ever more rapidly.
At the outset, one must be clear on what one means by the ITU. The ITU is composed of its membership and secretariats headed by elected officials. The policy decisions governing the ITU and its operations are made by the membership and, at the highest level, by the Member States since the ITU is an inter-governmental organization. It is rather unique though in that it has members in its three sectors which come from the private and public sectors. That is one of the strengths of the ITU. It is also one of its challenges particularly with the growing role of the private sector in the field of telecommunications. The role of the secretariat is to implement the decisions of the membership and to serve them in the most efficient and effective way. This is not meant to minimize the importance of strong leadership on the part of the secretariat and, in particular, at the level of the elected officials. While the important policy decisions which will shape the future ITU will be taken by the ITU Member States, I believe that the elected officials can provide leadership in many ways including by ensuring transparency of ITU activities and providing all essential information so that Member Sates can take informed decisions, by improving the management of the Unions scarce financial and human resources, by developing options for consideration of the Unions decision making bodies, by being responsive to the needs of the membership, etc. Decision making meetings of the membership must be well prepared and efficiently run if the Union is to adapt to the challenges ahead. And stewardship of the scarce human and financial resources entrusted to the elected officials carries with it an enormous responsibility in these days of rapidly rising workloads and scarce resources.
While still a Director General with the Canadian Government, I was very active in the last major ITU reform activity, participating in every meeting of the High Level Committee and heading the Canadian delegation to the Additional Plenipotentiary Conference in 1992. I would note that the only significant structural reform at that time occurred in the radiocommunication activities of the ITU when the former CCIR and IFRB were combined into the ITU Radiocommunication Sector and the two secretariats were combined into what is now the Radiocommunication Bureau which in the process meant that there is now only one full-time elected official where once there were six. Managing this transition in my first term at the ITU has been an interesting challenge but I feel the restructuring has led to greater synergies, considerable savings and improvements in efficiency.
Now I believe it is time for further and urgent reform in the ITU perhaps more along the lines of improved working methods, governance and management rather than structure but one should not necessarily rule out the latter. It was for that reason that I personally participated as Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau in every meeting of the RevCom and ITU-2000 process.
In todays telecommunication environment, it is no longer realistic to believe that the Union can be the focal point for all matters relating to telecommunications in the global information economy and society. The world is now too complex and telecommunications too pervasive for a single organization to be the focus of all issues of concern to the international community. What do you consider to be the core competencies of the ITU? What issues should ITU focus on and what could be phased out of ITUs mandate or left to regional/sub-regional organizations? What should be ITUs role in telecommunication sector reform?
I agree that the ITU cannot be all things to all people in the field of telecommunications even though entering into many new activities can sometimes be tempting. While the secretariat can provide leadership, it is important that the ITU membership take such policy decisions. Certainly the ITU needs to broaden its activities but this should not be at the expense of those core activities which must remain core. The core activities are set out in Article 1 of the ITU Constitution which gives the purposes of the Union. Several of the core competencies of the ITU are found in the work of the Radiocommunication Sector. No other body apart from the ITU is responsible for the allocation of the scarce frequency and orbital resources among competing radio services and the treaty level Radio Regulations adopted by World Radiocommunication Conferences are a core product of the ITU. The application by the Radiocommunication Bureau of the procedures contained in these complex regulations is another aspect of this core competency. One aspect of this core competency is the filing by Member States of their planned use of the radio frequency spectrum for coordination with other Member States and for registration in the Master International Frequency Register. Likewise, efforts to eliminate harmful interference between radio services of different countries is an ITU core activity carried out in the Radiocommunication Sector. Conducting technical studies leading to Recommendations, handbooks and other technical publications is another ITU core competency carried out by the Radiocommunication Study Groups. In all of these activities, the provision of assistance in various ways to those countries in need of such assistance is also a core activity of the Radiocommunication Sector. While the ITUs Development Sector has the lead role for such assistance, I believe that all sectors of the Union have a responsibility towards assisting developing countries in the Sectors specific sphere of technical competence and responsibility.
I believe that a stronger partnership needs to be forged with regional and sub-regional organizations as their work relates to ITU activities. It was for this reason that the Radiocommunication Bureau has worked more closely with such organizations in the preparations for the last World Radiocommunication Conference which was acknowledged as being quite successful in spite of its lengthy and complex agenda in large measure because of good preparations by administrations and by the Radiocommunication Bureau.
Recent ITU conferences have shown that the requirements of global networks and national sovereign rights are increasingly on a collision course. How can they be reconciled in an ITU context?
It is true that an increasing number of telecommunication operators are global rather than national in nature and that is raising some interesting issues for national governments and national regulators. Certainly such competition has been felt for some time now in the area of competition for the scarce frequency and orbit resources but again, in the treaty sessions that establish the international Radio Regulations, it is the Member States who must take the decisions governing the rules for sharing these scarce resources. I believe that any differences of views or objectives in life can only be settled by dialogue. The ITU provides many such forums. We have seen the success of the first World Telecommunication Policy Forum which harmonized the national sovereign rights of Member States and the interests of global telecommunication operators and service providers as well as equipment manufacturers. The recent World Radiocommunication Conferences also demonstrated the ability of the ITU to play an honest broker role in balancing the interests of various parties.
Demands on the organization are increasing faster than its resources: deregulation brings more players on the scene and, in turn, more members in the ITU; on the other hand, the financial foundation of the organization is eroding because of the smaller number of contributory units chosen by members. Various proposals to strengthen the ITU including cost-recovery and revenue-generation options have met stiff resistance as did the proposal to grant the industry a greater say in the allocation of resources and in the setting of priorities in exchange for a more important share in the expenses. What would you advocate as the way forward?
It is true that one of the biggest challenges facing the Union in the coming years is the growing gap between the resources available to fund the operation of the Union and the demands placed upon it, largely by its membership. This was already recognized at the last ITU Plenipotentiary Conference which was held in Kyoto, Japan four years ago. That conference adopted a Resolution calling for an identification of the costs associated with the specific functions and activities of the ITU, an examination of options for reducing costs and for charging fees for ITU services which are sought on a discretionary basis or to a greater extent than the level of facilities generally provided and finally, encouraging a wider financial participation by those other than Member States.
That is why soon after taking office in 1995, I initiated with the cooperation of the General Secretariat, a detailed costing study of the products and services of the Radiocommunication Sector and especially of the Radiocommunication Bureau. For the first time, Sector Members and Member States could see in a transparent way where their contributions were being spent and what the various products and services were costing based upon a full allocation of all costs. This was so well received by the Council that it asked that the study be extended to the other parts of the ITU which has since been done. It is only with information such as this that priorities can be established by the membership and that opportunities for the greatest savings can be identified as well as possible opportunities for other forms of funding. The ITU membership must decide which products and services they wish to have and how they wish to fund them. The majority of ITU activities are today funded from the contributions of the membership, who select in a voluntary way, their level of contribution. Some activities are funded under full or partial cost recovery. Other activities are funded by voluntary contributions or donations either financial or in kind. And finally, some activities are funded by means of various support mechanisms involving other organizations.
Given the broad membership of the organization (vendors, scientific organizations, service providers, broadcasters in countries from the poorest of the planet to the most powerful nations), how can the organization address their competing needs in a cost-effective way?
The broad membership of the ITU as mentioned above is, of course, the strength of the Union but also one of its biggest challenges. The Union must be careful to serve the needs of the entire membership not just the more economically or politically powerful and in a time of resource constraints throughout the world, this challenge is even greater. Ways must be found to level the playing field more such as improving access to the electronic superhighways and using to a greater extent, modern electronic means in the ITUs operations so that its members can be properly informed and effectively participate in the ITU decision making processes.
The 1995-1999 Strategic Plan said "At present, the ITU is surely one of the least known international organizations, in spite of the fact that the development of the global telecommunication network is increasingly vital to the welfare of humanity. The Members of the Union have asked it to play a leadership role in the international community. To do this, the ITU must communicate its message more effectively than it does at present, to ensure that governments are aware of the importance of telecommunications as a tool for social and economic development". What concrete steps would you take to fulfill this objective, what would be your "Communication" agenda?
The best communication strategies or programmes cannot make up for a lack of results and so I think our first priority is to ensure that the ITU is performing well. But communicating what is being done and our successes is essential as well. Unfortunately, to do a better job of communicating takes resources - time and money - and it is not uncommon to find people in an organization who are so busy doing their jobs that they dont take time to explain to the outside world what it is that they are doing. I think there has been a growing awareness of the ITU largely due to the growing importance of telecommunications. One can hardly pick up a newspaper these days without reading at least one article about telecommunications and there is a good chance that you will find several articles. Is the ITU always mentioned? No, but it is mentioned more than it used to be and we need to do more to get our message out.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
The draft strategic plan submitted to the Plenipotentiary Conference contains nine priorities for the Radiocommunication Sector and five priorities for management of the ITU secretariats and so, if these are adopted by the Member States at the Plenipotentiary Conference, they are obviously my priorities as well! However, I might just mention three as requested in the question.
First of all, given our experience during the first four years of the restructured and reformed Radiocommunication Sector, I have stressed the need for improvement of the ITU-R conference process, a point which the Radiocommunication Advisory Group and, subsequently, the Council accepted and which is now a priority in the draft ITU Strategic Plan submitted to the Plenipotentiary Conference. I think we need to fine tune somewhat the reforms made in 1992 since, in some areas, there are difficulties. Agendas for World Radiocommunication Conferences are not limited as intended by the High Level Committee. Planning of agendas and associated technical studies is not being conducted on a four year basis as foreseen in the HLCs review. We have now agendas for conferences two years hence that cover almost every radio service and every frequency range. In the period between conferences, this is posing serious problems for the memberships and the secretariats preparations for these conferences. During these conferences, we have seen the number of pages of documentation handled rise from about 7 million pages at the 1995 World Radiocommunication Conference to some 25 million pages at the 1997 conference. The delegates and the secretariat simply cannot cope with such volumes in a four week conference.
Secondly, I believe that a big part of the reform of the ITU must centre around what I call management reform. While being a UN Specialized Agency and part of the UN Common System gives rise to certain constraints, I believe we can be much more progressive in our management culture and systems and this is an area which elected officials can and must push for further reform. Since I believe actions speak louder than words, let me cite just a few examples of what I mean.
I have pushed for greater budget delegation and transparency and where I had the authority, I implemented this. For example, I delegated the budget for the work of the Study Groups to the Study Group Chairmen - real budgets in Swiss francs. This has allowed Study Group Chairmen with their Study Groups to decide upon priorities and to make tradeoffs knowing for the first time, the cost of various items such as translation, interpretation, documentation, etc. This has enabled them to hold more meetings and produce a greater output even within an overall reduced ITU-R Study Group budget.
Concerning the ITU-2000 recommendation with respect to the involvement of the sector advisory groups in financial matters, I had already been practising this since coming here. For example, as part of an overall operational plan and budget review by the Radiocommunication Advisory Group (RAG), the allocation of the Study Group budget among the Study Group Chairmen is placed before the RAG for comment and advice after it has also been the subject of consultation in a meeting of the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the Study Groups.
I have also instituted annual operational plans for the Radiocommunication Bureau which are also placed before the RAG for comment and advice especially with a view to establishing priorities. These operational plans are made available to all Sector Members and Member States and can be found on our Web site under the RAG documentation. My department heads submit a written report to me every three months on the results achieved against their objectives in the operational plan. These are but a few examples of the type of management reforms that are so long overdue.
Thirdly, I believe that the work of the ITU Study Groups that are developing the Recommendations that are critical to building the infrastructure that is needed to support the Global Information Society is a priority. It is observed by many that more and more of this standardization work is being undertaken outside the ITU in various forums and groups. My approach has been to try to embrace these groups and to develop partnerships. There is a current example of this which is like a forum seeking to quickly develop a standard for particular radiocommunication devices. While it is currently in the process of being established, many of the participants, in fact, are also participants in our ITU-R Study Group work. I have attempted to build strong links with this group and to develop a partnership with them which, of course, is subject to the approval of the ITU Member States. This group has already joined the ITU-R Sector as a Sector Member and has invited the ITU to become an Associate Member of their organization. I believe it is by means such as this that we can have a win-win situation as initial work on some standards can sometimes take place more quickly outside the ITU (and indeed will be in any event with or without ITU) and yet the players can see the benefits of truly global standards and can be encouraged to bring their work into the ITU Study Group process for finalization and approval.
Thus while much reform depends on decisions of the Member States, much can be done by the team of elected officials.
Any other message you would like to communicate?
While it is interesting to read answers to questions such as these, I believe that for a candidate seeking re-election such as myself, what is far more important than words are the persons accomplishments during the past Plenipotentiary Period. I have always believed that actions speak louder than words. I have worked hard and have striven over the past four years to serve the entire membership of the Union to the best of my abilities. I would sincerely welcome the opportunity to continue serving them for the coming plenipotentiary period.n
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