Mr Hamadoun I. Touré, Mali
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 ITU is facing today the greatest challenges in the context of technological progress, globalization of market, competition and new economic rules.
There is no question in my mind that a UN agency such as the ITU that commands the respect and trust of both the industrialized and developing worlds should continue to be the independent broker seeking to ensure fair arrangements for the good of all nations and people. This will remain the key raison dêtre of the ITU and must be reinforced.
There are a number of issues related to the ITU reform and one should use more the strengths of the organization while correcting its weaknesses, which are mainly due to bureaucracy and lack of transparency.
As an elected official I will ensure that the dialogue is maintained between the developing and developed countries, between the industry and the market. There will be a catalytic role for the BDT and this means, for the BDT staff, more transparency and a mentality of Shareholder-Customer-Client relationship.
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?
It is important for the world body to play a leading role in the development of the Global Information Society while keeping its intergovernmental status and be open to the private world. The Organization should work more closely with key International and regional players such as the WTO (to promote new signatories to the agreement and ensure its proper implementation), other UN agencies, and Sub-regional Telecommunications organizations (such as APT, CANTO,,CTU, CITEL, CEPT, ETNO, LAS, PATU, ETSI, RCC, etc.). This will avoid unnecessary duplications and, in the case of the BDT, enable a more efficient use of the resources. The BDT should also co-operate more with the other ITU sectors.
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?
Since its creation, the ITU has played a significant role as a honest broker seeking to achieve a global, equitable and fair development of telecommunications. Today it is facing the new information age with the introduction of new services and new players requiring new strategies in a multi-billion dollar industry. In playing its role the ITU will continue to face conflicting issues. Its ability to solve those issues will depend on an open dialogue. There are some other equally important issues such as the gender issue that need more attention as more competent women are in all sectors of the industry and this should be reflected in the ITU management.
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?
The upcoming ITU plenipotentiary conference will determine the direction of the world body for the next four years and most importantly for the entry into a new millennium.
The ITU will have to decide on a number of issues such as: its own reform, the strategic plan, the re-definition of its mission and objectives, the budget, its relationship with other organizations and global players, the growing disparity and tension between developed and developing countries, the gender issues, the ITU 2000 recommendations and the role of the existing and future sectors.
Today various options are available about the contribution of the members, the mobilization of resources and the way those resources should be spent. In the particular case of the BDT I do believe that this sector should not be a commercial entity. It should set its priorities with the available resources and find partners for other projects. The BDT should not be a substitute in the management of projects.
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 stimulating role of the ITU in general and the BDT in particular will lead to a transfer of technology from developed to developing countries. As director of the BDT I will make serious efforts to create an appreciation of genuine common interest between the industrialized and developing member states and their corresponding industrial sectors through the promotion of genuine strategic partnerships. Only such a partnership, in which the private sectors in both parts of the world economy see themselves as having a common interest, will produce a proper environment conducive to global cooperation through mutual and equitable interests.
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?
In order to communicate its message effectively, the ITU, and the BDT in particular, will have to increase its credibility, embark in a very transparent management and be more attentive to the needs of its members. After regaining its credibility, the organization should use the very tools that it is promoting to promote itself: the information technology.
What would be your top three priorities for the period up to the next Plenipotentiary Conference?
In order for the BDT to succeed, the three main priorities are:
1. making it more lean and transparent
2. a real decentralization of the organization by way of regional representation and the establishment of a proper channel of cooperation with the regional organizations. It is to be noted that the regional representation should be achieved by way of proper staff re-allocation without the additional financial burden.
3. be more active as a catalyst for development and encourage partnership.
Any other message you would like to communicate?
There is an obvious need for change in the ITU today to adapt to the new telecommunications environment. This adaptation starts by the recognition of the need to change. Fortunately this desire has been expressed by a very large number of member countries.
The Development sector is an important part of the ITU. The active participation of both developed and developing countries through activities such as the study groups should be encouraged to increase the dialogue. It is important for the BDT to play a role of stimulant and catalyst in partnership. The BDT should prioritize its tasks, create measures for accountability and measurement of goals.
In this sector, it is important that we perceive the development needs as an opportunity as opposed to the traditional perception of it as a handicap. The essence of the problem will be more in the optimistic way of facing this challenge. The sector should finally, operate in a more efficient way.
I believe that my experience in the Public sector, the intergovernmental organizations and the Private sector will motivate my management style in conducting the BDT through the new millennium.n
Produced by ITU Press & Public Information Service
English | Français | Español