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Daily Highlights Nº 6

13 November 2006

 A draft resolution sponsored by Argentina and Switzerland led to debate today in the Working Group of the Plenary on how to enhance the participation of civil society in the work of ITU. While several delegations underlined the positive contribution made by civil society in the WSIS process and argued that the WSIS outcomes could not be implemented without the support, experience and involvement of civil society, others considered that existing mechanisms to take part in ITU activities already enable civil society to be engaged in ITU work. Many also stressed that the impact and benefits of opening up to civil society had to be carefully assessed before a decision is made, particularly with respect to the relationship with existing categories in the membership that pay a contribution to the Union.

Several delegates endorsed the idea of enabling the active participation of new stakeholders from civil society but observed that the current basic texts of ITU did not offer any definition of civil society. The Philippines supported by Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Malaysia and several others suggested that it was essential to first arrive at a commonly agreed definition of what was meant by civil society, define the criteria and modalities for their participation, look into the different ways in which members of the civil society could participate in the work of ITU and how this could affect other categories of members. Canada agreed, adding that civil society should also be left to indicate how they want to be involved and in what areas. At the same time, Canada stated that the private sector, which currently participate as Sector Membesr in the work of ITU, should be consulted on the benefits they derive from their participation and the costs they bear so that the inclusion of civil society is made on a non-discriminatory basis. In response to delegates who considered that existing mechanisms were sufficient to allow civil society to be engaged in ITU work, Switzerland said that there was room for improvement, particularly when comparing with other UN agencies and that it might be more appropriate to establish a list of specific criteria of what is needed from civil society rather than attempting to define it. There was no need to "reinvent the wheel" — existing mechanisms used in UNESCO, UNDP and others that included both the rights and obligations of civil society should serve as a reference. "It is also important to send a strong signal to civil society indicating that ITU does not want to forego decisions made at WSIS on building an inclusive Information Society nor the multi-stakeholder approach", he said.

The Russian Federation reminded delegates that this debate had already taken place in the Working Group of the Council on WSIS and that agreement had been reached on a draft resolution calling for the setting up of a Working Group of the Council to examine all the pertinent issues.

"Civil society is needed to give credibility to the efforts deployed by ITU to close the digital divide", said the delegate from Morocco. Tunisia supported this view, adding that ITU was handicapped by the fact that its statutes do not visibly include civil society in its work. Tunisia went on to underline that: "Not only should the ITU instruments be amended, but also that the proposed working group to be set up to evaluate how to enhance the participation of civil society in ITU's activities should be open to both Member States and Sector Members". France and Senegal agreed but Syria, China and Iran (Islamic Rep. of ) felt that the working group should consist only of Member States.

To this end, an ad hoc group was set up, chaired by Argentina and Switzerland, to define the terms of reference of the Working Group of the Council on civil society and was asked to report back on Wednesday, 15 November.

Internet Issues

The Working Group of the Plenary also discussed internet-related issues. The US and the Arab Group, supported by Iran (Islamic Rep. of), presented proposals that aim to reflect the outcome of WSIS in the existing Resolution 101 on Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks. The discussions that followed showed general support for these proposals. Consequently, the Chairman asked the US and the Arab States to consolidate into a single document their proposals in order to facilitate the work of the Committee.

Europe, the Arab States and Iran (Islamic Rep. of) introduced their proposals concerning the amendment of Resolution 102 on the “Management of Internet domain names and addresses”. The Arab States proposal calls for ITU to play an active role in the Internet Governance Forum created at the request of WSIS, notably in the dissemination of information to governments on the Forum’s work particularly in the areas of the management of internet domain names and addresses. It also requires that ITU take the initiative in proposing the role that governments could play regarding internet policies, especially the management of domain names and addresses. The proposal also requests the Council to ensure that ITU Member States, especially the developing countries, are able to participate in decision-making concerning policies related to internet management.

Europe proposed to update Resolution 102 in order to take into account the technological evolution of the internet since 2002 and the outcomes of the two phases of WSIS. It also proposed the integration of Resolution 133 on the role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names into Resolution 102 in order to have a single resolution dealing with internet resources as a whole. The European proposal invites ITU to contribute to the work on internet governance and to the process towards enhanced cooperation to be started by the UN Secretary-General as requested by the Tunis Summit in 2005. It requests ITU to participate in the development of globally applicable principles of public policy issues associated with the coordination and management of critical internet resources. It also seeks to improve the multi-stakeholder involvement in its own processes.

The US on the other hand expressed the wish to keep Resolution 102 unchanged on the ground that it was sufficiently broad and relevant and to keep it separate from Resolution 133, which should be updated to reflect the outcome of WSIS. Australia would prefer no change or only minimal changes to Resolution 102, particularly as the IGF and the process of enhanced cooperation was only in its infancy. For Saudi Arabia, a lot has happened since Tunis and internet is one of the most important issues. ITU has dealt with internet issues for years and should continue to do so in the future. The Saudi delegation therefore expressed support for the European proposals.

After a protracted exchange on how to proceed, it was decided that Europe would produce a document indicating which parts of its revised Resolution 102 comes from Resolution 133 and that a working group would be set up under the chairmanship of Norway to prepare a report, along with a draft resolution by Wednesday, 15 November.

Results-based management

Committee 6 began its deliberations with the item on Results-based Management (RBM) based on a document presented by Bruce Gracie in his capacity as Chairman of the Council Group on Financial Regulations. The document deals with the annual review of income and expenditure and indicates that efforts are under way to improve the financial stability and transparency of the budgetary process. This has been linked to the need for annual as opposed to biennial budgets. There remains a concern on the impact of income variations on the financial stability of ITU. The following points have been noted by the Council:

  • ITU already provides the Council with details of income and expenditure on a quarterly basis

  • One of the features of the new International Public Sector Accounting Standards is the preparation of annual audited statements

  • Authority already exists for the Council not only to review, but also to adjust figures associated with income and expenditure on an annual basis

However, strengthening of the mechanism to adjust figures is required, he said.

Then, taking the floor on behalf of the Americas, Mr Gracie continued as the delegate of Canada to present Document 15/34 on the implementation of RBM. He said it was the next logical step after Results-based Budgeting (RBB), intended "to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and the economy of the management and administration of the Union". The delegate noted that considerable progress had been made in this regard. He added that in the interest of improving management throughout the UN system, the Joint Inspection Unit had issued a series of reports on RBM in 2004. Three distinct processes were identified:

  • Planning, programming budgeting, monitoring and evaluation

  • Delegation of authority and accountability

  • Staff performance, management and contracts

The Inter-American proposal recommended that in order to progress on implementing RBM, the draft resolution tabled by Canada ought to be adopted by the conference.

The United States suggested that the draft of the consolidated budget should include results-based budgeting information. This would be vital in determining the full cost of services and activities within the Union to assist in budget preparation and management.

Indonesia responded by saying that if “the intention is just to mainstream zero growth or even minus real growth then we are entering a dangerous environment to the detriment of the Union’s objectives”. This would affect its membership and, in particular, developing countries. "Results-based budget can only be implemented harmoniously in a democratic and open-minded process," said the delegate.

Indonesia proposed that the results-based budgeting mechanism should be reviewed critically by PP 06. The impact of budget cuts on the effectiveness of the Union’s activities should also be included. It should not focus primarily on forcing the Strategic Plan to conform to the financial limitations. The delegate made the distinction between "effective" and "efficient" results-based management.

Although the Inter-American proposal found some support (notably from Norway and Switzerland), Indonesia continued to press the point that the discussion on RBB was premature as other related issues had not been discussed. "At this juncture, we do not see the horizon," the delegate remarked.

In the end, it was decided to send to Committee 5 the draft resolution with amendments along with the Indonesian reservations.

Oversee or overmanage

Dealing with the New Council Oversight Group (NCOG), Mr Gracie considered it important to analyse results of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) project and to give guidance on whether to continue them. Mali recommended renewing the mandate of NCOG while reviewing its composition and working methods. The secretariat suggested that NCOG should deal more with substantive issues and less with details, adding that the KPI project was extremely valuable.

The Russian Federation reminded delegates that the purpose was to strengthen the Union and to avoid duplication of work. Saudi Arabia agreed and France added that the purpose of NCOG must not be to micromanage but to focus on the priorities of the Union between the Council meetings. The Committee agreed that the draft resolution that had been tabled by the African group on the extension of NCOG would be fine tuned on Tuesday morning.


Moving onto TELECOM issues, the Committee heard the European proposal calling for a Global TELECOM event and for dispensing with the current practice of distinguishing between Regional and World events. The rationale behind the proposal, according to the European countries backing it, is that, in the present economic context, the private sector may not be in a position to participate in several events during the same year. Furthermore, and most probably as a consequence of the previous element, ITU has been facing difficulties in the past five years in organizing successful and financially balanced exhibitions, even at a world level. Therefore, it should rather be tasked to organize only one significant event on a regular basis which could rotate. The African and Asia-Pacific delegates disagreed and proposed to continue with both Regional and World events. Africa added that the World event should also rotate, but that the two should not be held in the same year. The Secretariat clarified that World and Regional TELECOM events are never held in the same year.

The Arab proposal recommended that the exhibition and Forum should cover ICT and that the rotation of the World TELECOM event should give monetary benefits. The World event should be held every four years, the delegate added.

In response, the secretariat asked for direction from the Plenipotentiary regarding the holding of global and regional events. The Executive Manager of TELECOM explained that it was difficult to mix the demands of a commercial entity with the strict rules governing ITU. He invited delegates to study the issue. This was agreed by the Committee.

A small group was established to discuss the various proposals, along with the ITU TELECOM Executive Manager.

Private sector contributions

On the issue of determining the contributory unit for Sector Members, the Committee expectedly saw a heated debate which did not end in agreement. The question was whether to raise the ratio paid by Sector Members from 1/5 to 1/4. Under present membership levels and with the working figure of CHF 318 000, this would decrease the deficit by CHF 21 million, reducing it to roughly CHF 12 million from the current shortfall of CHF 33 million.

The argument was made that the cost of supporting the participation of Sector Members was as high as 40 per cent of their contribution and that this was disproportionate, as most opted to contribute the minimum class of contribution. This went against the spirit of contributions to the Union.

Argentina said that the free selection of class was no longer applicable. The rights of Sector Members have increased, and yet the level of contribution was much lower than in other organizations.

The Russian Federation suggested changing the existing scale in increments of ½, ¼, 1/8 and 1/16 class of unit.

Indonesia said that the proposal should not merely be used to cover shortages for the next budgetary period. The private sector should play a greater role not only in the activities of the Union, but also in shouldering some of the responsibilities. He said that the option should not be restricted to increasing the ratio to ¼; it could be increased further to 1/3, for instance. The delegate suggested putting the increased ratio in square brackets.

Members voiced apprehension that increasing the ratio would alienate the private sector and drive away Sector Members. The US and Japan emphatically objected to raising the ratio. Canada said that the Union could lose revenue as the private sector could exercise any of the following three options, should the ratio be increased:

  • Denunciation, i.e. renunciation of membership

  • Opt to become an associate member

  • Participate as members of national delegations

Indonesia countered by saying that the government of that country had discussed the issue with the private sector, and none had voiced any objection. The delegate went on to say that voluntary contributions no longer meet needs, and cited the difficulties the Union faced in finding funds to finance the WSIS process. "The question is: do we want ITU to execute projects or not," he asked. "If we want ITU to be responsible and assist developing countries, resources have to be allocated."

Argentina agreed, saying that the increased ratio would benefit Member States. The Chairman proposed to go along with the Indonesian proposal of placing the increased ratio of ¼ of the unit (as in “Option 2” of the draft Financial Plan) in square brackets before sending the text to Committee 5. New Zealand, supported by the US said that the discussion of the ratio was premature and should be taken up after the definitive contributory unit had been decided.

The Chairman then proposed postponing discussion on the matter until a later date.

The evolving role of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly

A number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region have submitted a proposal that seeks to update Resolution 122 on "The evolving role of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly" (WTSA). The proposal, among other things, seeks to instruct the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) "to take an active role in ensuring coordination between study groups, as appropriate, on high-priority standardization issues that are being studied in more than one study group."

The proposal also says that TSAG should take into account, and implement as necessary, advice given to it by other groups on effective coordination on high-priority standardization topics. The Asian countries backing the proposal would like to see a reference to Resolution 22 of WTSA-04 included in Resolution 122. Such a reference, they say, would highlight that "TSAG is empowered to ensure effective coordination of standardization topics in order to achieve suitable global solutions". Another provision would be added to draw awareness to the fact that the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) "aims to continue to provide a unique, worldwide venue for industry and government to work together to foster the development and use of open, interoperable and non-discriminatory standards which are both demand-driven and sensitive to the needs of users". Finally, another proposed addition would underline the fact that the rapid pace of change in the telecommunication environment demands that, in order to maintain its role, ITU-T should have the flexibility to make timely decisions between WTSAs on matters such as work priorities, study group structure and meeting schedules.

The Syrian Arab Republic also presented a proposal to amend Resolution 122. A key element of that proposal would require that the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) be instructed to consider organizing, on a regular basis, a worldwide standardization round table and coordination meeting, possibly in association with a WTSA. This would be done in consultation with relevant bodies and the ITU membership, and in coordination with ITU-D and ITU-R where appropriate, according to the proposal. Such a round table would be a one-day event immediately before WTSA, which would be invited to take into consideration its conclusions.

Both APT countries and the Arab States were asked by the Chairman of Committee 5 to discuss their proposals "offline" and merge them into a consolidated document. In so doing, the Chairman said that they should not add any new elements that were not originally in their proposals. The Republic of Korea said it would consult other countries in the Asia-Pacific region backing this proposal and report back.

Support for NEPAD

The proposed amendments to Resolution 124 on the "Support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development" (NEPAD), presented to Committee 5 last week by a group of African countries (see Highlights N°4) were considered and approved by Committee 5 today. Senegal had a similar proposal on NEPAD, and accepted to go along with the proposal of the group of African countries. New elements of the amended Resolution include mention of "the conclusions of the Geneva and Tunis WSIS phases and the work under way to implement the African Regional Action Plan for the Knowledge Economy (ARAPKE). A reference has been added to reflect the call made on 23 November 2004 by the Summit of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementing Committee (HSGIC) for an effective implementation of the NEPAD ICT programme. Another new element is the request made by the Abuja Declaration of African ministers in charge of telecommunications and ICT on infrastructure development to provide appropriate financial resources to support NEPAD ICT activities.

The United States proposed to include the following additional text to reinforce the resolution: "that African ICT and telecommunication infrastructure development requires regional and cross regional support of programmes and initiatives". Kenya, on behalf of the African group, welcomed this proposal, which was also endorsed by Committee 5 and will be included under "further recognizing".

Infrastructure: With regard to infrastructure, the annex to Resolution 124, entitled "Actions for NEPAD", has been amended to include preparation of master plans for ICT infrastructure development and facilitation of the introduction of digital technologies, especially for broadcasting. Also included in this annex is the call to support all projects which promote ICT development and subregional and regional integration. Other new elements focus on "the establishment and interconnection of national internet exchange points" and on evaluating "the impact and adoption of measures for strengthening functional capacities and the new missions of subregional maintenance centres". The establishment of technological alliances is also encouraged in order to promote research and development at a regional level.

Environment: New elements in this area include the development and implementation of an Africa-wide vision, strategy and action plan for ICT; a national vision and strategies for the development of ICT with maximum linkage to other national development strategies, notably the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP); elaboration of a national policy framework and strategy for universal access. There is also the call to provide support for the harmonization of policy and regulatory frameworks at the subregional level and capacity building, cooperation and partnerships.

Capacity building, cooperation and partnerships: The African Telecommunications Union needs to be supported in terms of administrative support and assistance in technical expertise and the elaboration of the planning and management of the frequency spectrum at national, subregional and regional levels. The annex calls for the strengthening of ICT training institutions and the network of centres of excellence in the region. It also calls for the establishment of a cooperation mechanism amongst regional institutions that provide development assistance to African countries in the ICT sector; the establishment of an ad hoc regional ICT think tank for Africa; strengthening of subregional telecommunication regulatory associations; strengthening of public-private partnership; the establishment of an African ICT database; and strengthening the capacities of Regional Economic Communities (REC) for better implementation of the ICT projects and initiatives.

Countries with economies in transition

A number of countries in the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC) presented a draft resolution last week that seeks to reflect the interests of countries with economies in transition in ITU documents (see Highlights No.4). The draft resolution from RCC calls for the provisions of all ITU documents relating to developing countries to be "extended to apply equally to countries with economies in transition". The Russian Federation, on behalf of RCC countries, said that in several resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), countries with economies in transition enjoyed equal status to that of developing countries. In particular, he made reference to the UNGA resolution on the "Integration of the economies in transition into the world economy", as well as to the documents adopted in the two phases of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

RCC countries also reinforced their case with the decisions of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (Florianopolis, Brazil in 2004) and the World Telecommunication Development Conference (Doha, in March 2006). At both these events, agreement was reached to the effect that provisions of documents of ITU-T and ITU Telecommunication Development Sector relating to developing countries would be extended "to apply also to countries with economies in transition". The delegate from the Syrian Arab Republic said that when examining a similar proposal at these two events it had been agreed that there was no need for a resolution, but a footnote the first time the expression "developing countries" appears in a text to explain that such a reference included "countries with economies in transition" as well. The Russian Federation agreed with the footnote approach.

However, Canada said it was still consulting with its Ministry of Foreign Affairs because, while they supported the decisions of WTSA-04 and WTDC-06 they could not simply lift text from conferences or assemblies that were not treaty-making and apply them to a legally binding-treaty, such as the basic instruments of ITU. A resolution would not work for Canada either, because that country does not support the use of resolutions to interpret provisions of the basic instruments. So the Chairman has asked both Canada and RCC to review the matter together and present a way forward to Committee 5 in the course of the week. He also suggested presenting the RCC proposal to Committee 6 in case it had financial implications.

Future host country agreements

The commitments of a host country for an ITU event, as well as the technical requirements for such an event are governed by a host country agreement and its annexes. These are duly signed by the inviting government and ITU. Today, a draft resolution was presented by Turkey that points to the need for host country agreements for ITU conferences and assemblies to be made available in advance of such events. This, according to the draft resolution tabled by Turkey, would not only increase the transparency, but would also serve as a measure for ITU to accept an invitation and for the governments to make a decision on an invitation to hold a conference or assembly. It was also necessary "for clarity of the technical requirements and timely implementation of the preparations of such events."

One of the provisions of the draft resolution would require ITU to prepare the template of host country agreements and the texts of respective annexes for each of the conference and assembly of the Union at least two years before the date of the opening of the assembly or conference. The Council would be required to review and approve the texts of host country agreement and the respective Annexes for each of the conferences and assemblies of the Union in advance of the events. It would also have to decide on which provisions of the host country agreement, the General Secretariat would be authorized to carry out negotiations with the inviting governments. Norway expressed support for the Turkish proposal saying that a template would provide efficiency to both parties.

Turkey proposes that the template for host country agreements and the text of annexes would be declared at least two years before the date of the opening of an assembly or a conference in order to facilitate the invitations of the Member States in a foreseeable environment. Also, these agreements and the respective annexes would be circulated to Member States in advance of the decision to be taken for the venue of each conference and assembly of the Union.

The ITU secretariat explained that there was no template, but that there was instead Council Resolution 83, which offered a flexible model. It has provisions which specify the requirements. Perhaps that resolution could be reconsidered in terms of lessons learned. The Chairman said he would exchange views with Turkey, but the proposal is on the table.

Stoppage of telecommunications

Georgia had proposed amending Article 34 of the Convention to include new wording, as well as a new provision. "Each Member State must take measures for the immediate interruption of telecommunication services, for the operational organizations recognized by the State which have organized illegal connection and may appear dangerous to the security of another State or contrary to its laws, to public order or to its decency." Georgia’s proposal argues that "in order to avoid the danger at the territorial borders of Member States, each State's telecommunication operator must not perform connection by crossing another country's territory illegally." The United States had proposed that there be no change to Article 34. Georgia’s proposal was put to the floor, but received no support. The Chairman concluded that it could not therefore be taken forward.

Advisory groups: in abeyance

The US and the European countries are to continue consultations to try to find a way forward on whether or not all Advisory Groups of ITU’s three Sectors should report through Directors of Bureaux or not. At present only the Radiocommunication Adivsory Group reports through the Director or the Radiocommunication Bureau. Reporting on the informal consultations with Europe, the US delegate said they needed more time, but that they maintained their position (see Highlights N° 5). The Syrian Arab Republic expressed support for the US position. If others wanted to join, it was a big table open for all to join. The Netherlands said they disagreed with the US proposal and would take their comments to the ad hoc group chaired by the US.

World Information Society Day

A brief discussion took place on the proposal from Senegal to amend Resolution 68 on World Telecommunication Day to become World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. The discussion was postponed pending a legal opinion as to whether ITU could adopt a resolution on World Information Society Day Germany and France argued that it was not clear to them whether ITU could adopt a Resolution on the World Information Society Day when it had already been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly.

Accredited media can download hi-res photos on PP-06 from using their username and password.

Background documents outlining some of the key issues to be discussed at the Conference are available to media at

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