Dr. Krastu Ivanov Mirski, Bulgaria
Candidate for the post of Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT)
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?
The mission of the ITU is to be "a pre-eminent international forum where the Member States and Sector Members work together to enable the development of telecommunication networks and to facilitate universal access to communication and information services" /Draft Strategic Plan/. The Union has to fulfill it promptly and steadily! The upheavals of the telecommunication industry, though very powerful and dynamic, are a matter of course in the ever changing world. The ITU has to adapt to the shifts! The threat is not in the telecommunication industry changes but in not making changes in the Union.
The todays telecommunications are not technological means only. They are simultaneously a technological, economic, social, cultural, informational, media, even psychological and political phenomenon.
Its evident that the ITU cannot be "the focal point for all matters relating to telecommunications in the global information economy and society" /the goal which was set up in Kyoto/. The enormous complexity and variety of aspects of telecommunications created conditions for the establishment of various specialized organizations dealing with different telecommunication problems. The WTO, as well as the regional entities, newly created forums and other telecommunication organizations have their specific goals and scope of work. At the same time the different aspects of telecommunications cannot be treated completely separately. None of these organizations is able to solve the problem entirely by itself.
The ITU is naturally centre-staged among all the organizations concerned with telecommunications because of its mission, its full devotion to the telecommunications, its world-wide range and its characterization as an UN intergovernmental organization. But to be adapted to the new environment, it has to be well aware of the scope of work of the other organizations, to follow closely the way of treatment of the telecommunication problems in them, to analyze the interrelations and the expected consequences and to take the necessary steps within its prerogatives. The ITU has not to compete with the WTO and the other organizations but to co-operate with them. To be the primary initiator of this co-operation, to be the main co-ordinator, to find "the modus operandi" for the establishment of partnership between all telecommunication organizations is the most important ITU task for the near future. This is the way for ITU to maintain and reinforce its pre-eminent role! It has to be clear that this role is not a goal but a tool for ITU to fulfil its mission!
The ITU has to make every effort to establish close relations with the other organizations concerned with telecommunications. Some practical steps during the next period will be to:
- analyze the existing ITU agreements with such organizations and, where necessary, update them in compliance with the new circumstances;
- conclude agreements with appropriate organizations where such agreements dont exist;
- complete the agreements with operational plans /periodically updated/ with concrete common actions;
- organize regular meetings with representatives of the other organizations;
- formalize the participation of these organizations in the appropriate meetings of the ITU;
- seek the opinion of other organizations on important problems;
- organize joint forums on hot topics of common interest.
These tasks require the process of refinement of the ITU goals and of the Union reform to continue.
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?
ITU is one of the most "elderly" international organizations. It is rich and strong with its traditions. But if an organism does not develop, it would perish. When I was a young engineer, for me the ITU meant the nice colourful books: the Green, Red, Yellow, Blue etc. ones, with the CCITT and CCIR recommendations. At that time its activity was directed mainly towards establishing conditions for compatibility of technical equipment and bringing closer the rules for operation and settlement of accounts. Today ITU is a complex organism which has the vocation to introduce harmony into world telecommunications /the nervous system of mankind!/ and to create the necessary conditions for the development of the Global Information Society.
Based on the purposes of the Union /set out in Art.1 of its Constitution, with the proposed amendments/, the core competencies of ITU for the next period should be in the field of policy and regulatory matters /incl. its irrevocable role for the effective use of radio-frequency spectrum/ and in the organization of collaboration for achievement of smooth world telecommunication development. The main issues the ITU should focus on for the next period are:
- to analyze the world tendencies in telecommunications /in connection with the world economic and political tendencies/ and to take appropriate steps in policy and regulatory aspects;
- to analyze and summarize and to suggest /by resolutions, recommendations, opinions etc./ for implementation by Member States the main principles of the telecommunication sector reform;
- to be a driving force for the development of partnership /from which everyone will benefit!/ between all organizations concerned with telecommunications and all telecommunication players;
- to be a co-ordinator in global scale for the bridging of the gap between "rich" and "poor" in telecommunications and in information and for the development of the Global Information Infrastructure as a prerequisite for the Global Information Society.
The regional telecommunication organizations are able to play an extremely important role, especially in the field of telecommunication development. They have to be initiators for solving problems of common interest, to develop the most suitable for the regions ways to follow the world tendencies, to propose joint projects for regional development. The ITU itself has to strengthen its regional presence /mainly for the purposes of the development/, to decentralize the activities and to work with the regional organizations as main partners in the respective regions.
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?
The globalization of the telecommunications and the establishment of multi-national corporations of operators and manufacturers, working in global or regional scope are among the main features of the contemporary telecommunications. This is a reflection of the global process of the "opening" of the world and the formation of a new global economy. The problems /Id rather refrain from using the term "collision"/ which appear with the globalization process and the national sovereign rights in the field of telecommunications is a challenge for the ITU which has to find a solution /together with its partners/.
I see several steps on the way to solve this problem:
- The problem has to be fully recognized by the Member States. The ITU has to fulfil a real "missionary mission": to analyze promptly the problem and to present it to the Members in all its aspects. The joint work with the WTO, as well as the deep involvement of the Sector Members will be of great help.
- Possible practical solutions of the problem have to be sought on regional, inter-regional and global level. The regional telecommunication organizations will be the main players in this process, involving the Member States and Sector Members concerned.
- The expedient solutions have to be formalized. This can be done in different ways: by special individual agreements, by regional agreements, by inter-regional agreements etc. If a global consensus is reached, it can be reflected in the International Telecommunication Regulations or, if necessary, separate Regulations can be worked out.
The globalization will be a more and more dynamic process. This needs more general changes in the way and the mechanism to respond to the new challenge. It would be advisable to consider the idea that the ITU fulfils some activities of an International Regulatory Body for the telecommunications, provided by international operators. Now these problems are "nobodys territory". The scope of the matters to be internationally regulated and the mechanism by which the ITU should perform such responsibilities need a careful study. Such a Regulatory Body has to be "of a new type" - not to impose its own rules on the players, but to be an initiator and mediator in the elaboration of common agreements between the players.
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?
Having in mind the famous phrase of Ostap Bender "The rescue of the drowning men is a business of the drowning men themselves!" /I.Ilf & E. Petrov, "The twelve chairs"/, we have to look for a combination of ways to solve the financial problems of the ITU. Several of them are already mentioned in ITU documents. When someone has a limited amount of money, there are two ways only: to use the money sparingly and/or to earn money in some way.
The first approach requires improvement as much as possible of the ITU working methods. This is one of the main tasks of the management of the General Secretariat and the Sectors. I would mention only several measures in this respect: the cost-allocation as a strong managerial tool, involvement in the work of more experts from the Union membership, decentralization of office activities, using modern technologies etc. However this approach has its limits beyond which the ITU work will be jeopardized. /In Bulgaria we say "The economy is mother of poverty!"/
The second approach can be realized by different methods:
- implementation of cost-recovery principle; it has to be used very cautiously, only when the expenditure for this work is not reasonable to be covered by the normal budget; to implement it, at first criteria have to be determined upon which the identification of products and services, subject to cost-recovery, will be done;
- use of revenue-generation options; its necessary /again on the basis of determined criteria/ to specify possible services which can generate revenue; the provision of these services ought to be not very cost- and time-consuming;
- more substantial share of the expenses from Sector Members.
In my view the last point is very essential. At the same time I dont think that the financial contributions of the Sector Members have to be directly connected with their role in the Union. The strength of ITU lies namely in the fact that it is a union of equal Member States: even the least developed country has the same rights and obligations as the most developed one, regardless of the States financial contribution. The Sector Members will be willing to "pay" more, if they are convinced that the ITU reacts quickly and works steadily and rapidly for solving the actual world telecommunication problems and the results of the activity are practically oriented and have concrete addresses. In this respect the Sector Members are able to contribute a lot. They have to be included very deeply in the work of the Sectors: in the Advisory Groups /where their role is irreplaceable!/, in the Study Groups, in ad-hock working groups with a short-term mission. Their expertise ought to be sought in every complicated case which needs a special professional opinion. They have to participate in the strategic and operational planning, including the financial aspects. For better effectiveness they have to be provided with all the necessary information. For me the involvement of Sector Members in the work of the Telecommunication Development Sector is a task of first priority.
I consider the proposed amendments to the Instruments of the Union concerning the involvement of the Sector Members in the ITU work as a beginning only of this process. New forms ought to be sought together with the Sector Members.
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 most cost-effective way to address the competing needs of the different members of the ITU is to concentrate the efforts on the fields of intersection of the interests.
Independently of how diverse the interests of the ITU membership can be, there are always common ideas, common intentions, common will. The problem is to specify correctly the most hot topics, the issues of concerns of all /or almost all/ players. This needs again the development of a strong partnership between all telecommunication players and the deep involvement of the Sector Members in the work. They have to fully participate not only in the definition of strategic guidelines but in the determination of the main actual tasks and in the operational planning also. The ITU has to ensure a full transparency in its work.
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?
This question reminds me the paradox that the best chief is the chief whose absence is not noticed.
Seriously speaking, this is again the problem of the full openness and full transparency of the ITU work.
Concrete steps should be taken at different levels:
1. At international and governmental level:
- As the ITU is in the framework of UN, UN can be better used for dissemination of information about the world telecommunication development and the ITU role and achievements in it. As an example only - in connection with the end of the 2nd millenium the ITU Secretary General may prepare a special report to the UN Plenary Assembly in order to explain the crucial role of the modern telecommunications for the global economic, social and cultural development, and to seek for the support from the governments the telecommunication development to be stressed as a task of priority.
- To use every appropriate important international event, organized by UN or other international intergovernmental or non-governmental organizations to popularize the ideas and work of ITU.
2. At telecommunication administrations level
Normally the telecommunication administrations represent the states in the Union. However in some cases the governments themselves are not very well aware of the ITU mission and role, how they can help ITU and how they can profit from its work. The ITU ought to help the telecommunication administrations, involving them more in its work /the best way at regional level/ and supplying them with specialized documents and materials.
3. At the level of the telecommunications players:
- If the Sector membership is concerned, the partnership between Sector Members can be used, including the appropriate measures in the plans.
- With the players which are not Sector Members, special meetings at different levels can be organized, trying to attract them to become Sector Members or at least to contribute to the ITU work.
4. At the telecommunications customers level:
- To arrange meetings with the appropriate organizations of customers.
- To ask the ITU membership to use all the ways possible /i.e. the national and local media/ to acquaint the public with the mission and role of ITU.
Having in mind the importance of the work of the Telecommunication Development Sector and the requirement to be open for the needs of the developing and least developed countries, the personal meetings and "in the field" acquaintance with the specific problems should become an everyday practice.
In any case its advisable to use the modern technology - i.e. web links to be established between the ITU web-site and the web-sites of the relevant organizations.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
1. To ensure the successful accomplishment of the Telecommunication Development Sector tasks for the period
The tasks of the Telecommunication Development Sector are clearly defined in the Strategic Plan /approved by PP-98/ and the documents of the 2nd WTDC. The single criterion for the successful fulfilment of the tasks will be to receive practical results, to achieve a real bridging of the gap between developed and developing /with special attention to the least developed/ countries /both in technological and information aspect/, to bring the world closer to the harmony.
"To ensure" means a lot of things:
- to strengthen the partnership between the Sector Members and to elaborate concrete action plans;
- to involve in the work other organizations /financial, regional, non-governmental etc./;
- to introduce in the work much more pragmatism, practical actions, flexibility and transparency;
- to rationalize the working methods, decentralizing the work, intensifying the activity in regional aspect and creating an open and business working atmosphere with a strict control over quality of performance.
2. To make ready the Telecommunication Development Sector for the next 4-years period:
- to redefine the mission and goals of the Sector in accordance with the new challenges - the real beginning of the Information Era.
- to create the organizational conditions for the accomplishment of the new mission.
3. To assist to the development of ITU into an actual co-ordination centre called to bring the harmony in the world telecommunications.
Any other message you would like to communicate?
As you saw I defend the harmony in the world. Harmony means understanding and understanding is achieved with a smile. That is why my motto in the work, which I announced as early as my chairmanship of the ITU Council is: LET US WORK TOGETHER, WITH A SMILE! I expect your active collaboration, Im looking for your sincere smile!n
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