The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the critical role of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the continued functioning of societies. ITU Members have stepped up and engaged in activities that have proven essential in saving lives and keeping economies going. ITU has been helping countries fully utilize digital technologies to respond to and recover from COVID-19, and to build preparedness for similar future global emergencies. Now more than ever, the world needs to be able to rely on ICTs and ITU’s leadership in promoting universal, secure, reliable, and affordable connectivity.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Virtual Consultation of Councillors has allowed ITU Member States to progress on all of the items initially included on the agenda of the annual 2021 physical session of the ITU Council.
Councillors addressed the question of WTPF-21, scheduled to take place in Geneva from 16 to 18 December 2021. They heard from the chairman of the informal expert group on the progress being made towards finalizing the set of draft Opinions that will be presented to the Forum for discussion. The draft Opinions revolve around mobilizing new and emerging telecommunications/ICTs for sustainable development.
The supreme governing body of ITU is set to convene from 26 September to 14 October 2022 in Bucharest, Romania. A consultation by correspondence of Council Member States will be undertaken to strengthen the inter-regional preparatory process and endorse the scheduling of inter-regional meetings, which have no formal outcomes, to facilitate discussions and pathways to consensus in the run-up to PP-22, as well as promote a gender-responsive, inclusive, and green PP-22. Regional telecommunication organizations are strongly invited to send their regional preparatory meeting dates to the ITU Secretariat as soon as possible if they have not yet done so.
Councillors decided to undertake a consultation by correspondence of Council Member States to approve the establishment of a Council Working Group for the elaboration of the draft Strategic and Financial Plans for 2024-2027. The Group would convene for the first time in September 2021. The Working Group (CWG-SFP) would be open to Member States and, when addressing the draft Strategic Plan, also open to Sector Members. The draft is to be submitted to the 2022 Session of Council for review and approval and then forwarded for adoption to 2022 Plenipotentiary Conference four months before the conference.
One year into a pandemic, ITU’s mission to connect the world has never been so important to so many. ITU has led by example in the United Nations system by rapidly adapting our working methods and bringing our events and meetings fully online. This has resulted in more inclusive participation. We will continue to further our own digital transformation to deliver maximum value to ITU’s membership. ITU’s draft Annual Report for April 2019 to April 2021, pending approval by correspondence in the month to come, is a testament to building a stronger and more sustainable digital economy, and a fairer and more connected society. See the highlights here.
A consultation by correspondence of Council Member States will be undertaken to approve the proposal to maintain the contributory unit at the current level of CHF 318 000 which would result in zero nominal growth since 2016. How is ITU funded? Find out here.
The Union’s Headquarters Premises Project is on schedule and on budget. ITU is pleased to announce that the funding of the project has been ensured through the signature of the second part of the loan of CHF 138 million by the Swiss host country authorities. The teleworking experience we gained during the pandemic will help us transition successfully through the dismantling and construction phases to a new building.
The ageing of the global population will be the defining demographic trend of the 21st century—yet our societies struggle to see the opportunities that this trend can unfold. Telecommunications and ICT can contribute to achieving healthier ageing, and help people build smarter cities, combat age-based discrimination at the workplace, ensure financial inclusion of older persons, and support millions of caregivers across the world. Councillors were invited to approve the theme for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) 2022, ITU’s annual birthday celebration, “Digital technologies for older persons and healthy ageing,” by correspondence. How can we create age-friendly digital environments? Check out this video here, or this ITU report here.
WTISD-21’s theme, ‘Accelerating digital transformation in challenging times,’ emphasized the critical role of ICTs in the resiliency of societies, by showing how ITU membership stepped up and engaged in activities that have proven essential in saving lives and sustaining economies. Throughout 2021, the ITU Secretariat is aiming to inspire, guide and mobilize the transformation with its members, partners and other stakeholders.
ITU’s Connect 2030 Agenda addresses accessibility in Strategic Target 2.9 (“By 2023, enabling environments ensuring accessible telecommunications/ICTs for persons with disabilities should be established in all countries”). For more than ten years, ITU has undertaken a significant amount of work to make ITU services (which include facilities, events, documents and corporate communication tools, among others) more accessible for persons with disabilities and persons with specific needs, be they staff, consultants/experts, interns, or delegates/meeting participants, or the general public. Real-time captioning and sign-language interpretation have been offered in select ITU events for several years. The ITU Sectors of Radiocommunication, Standardization and Development have also worked extensively to make ICTs more accessible by, for example, developing standards and setting up trainings. A consultation by correspondence of Council Member States will be undertaken to endorse the draft policy. In this ITU podcast episode of Technology for Good, we explore the meaning of accessibility for all. Listen to the episode and subscribe to the series here.
In the digital age, cybersecurity is crucial to ensure a trustworthy cyberspace. Enhancing cybersecurity and protecting infrastructure have become essential to every nation’s social and economic development, and so has international cooperation. ITU is facilitating agreement on cybersecurity-related international standards. For example, a single ITU Study Group (SG17) approved more than 40 new or revised Recommendations/Standards on ICT security since July 2020. ITU has organized regional cybersecurity forums to build human and organizational capacity during the ITU Global Cyberdrill. ITU is also developing relationships and partnerships with various organizations and initiatives, such as the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative, INTERPOL and the World Bank. To promote the involvement of more young people in the field of cybersecurity, ITU will be launching the Youth4Cyber initiative. This backgrounder here provides more on ITU and cybersecurity.
Climate science has made the situation clear: we all must do more. ITU informed Councillors about the Organization’s planned activities to step up long-standing greening initiatives in line with the Strategy for Sustainability Management in the UN System 2020-2030. A consultation by correspondence of Council Member States will be undertaken to endorse the report on ITU’s environmental sustainability. Learn more about ITU’s greening efforts here.
The councillors agreed to provisional outcomes, which were presented at the beginning of each meeting, reviewed, and approved. These outcomes, as well as a powerpoint containing all outcomes may be found here (TIES users only). They will now be subject to a written consultation by Council Member States.
ITU is governed by the Plenipotentiary Conference and the Council. The Plenipotentiary Conference is the supreme organ of the Union which determines the direction of the Union and its activities. It meets every four years. The Council, composed of 48 Member States, acts as the Union’s governing body in the interval between plenipotentiary conferences.