Geneva, Switzerland, 11 to 21 July
The Council, composed of 48 Member States of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), acts as the Union’s governing body in the interval between plenipotentiary conferences. It considers broad telecommunication policy issues and ensures that the Union’s strategy responds to changes in the telecommunication environment.
Helping digital technologies reach their full potential and bringing their benefits to all 8 billion people on Earth — that’s why we’re all here at ITU Council 2023.
State of the Union address by ITU Secretary-General
Extreme poverty and hunger are on the rise. The world just had the hottest June on record. 2.7 billion people are still offline worldwide. And only about 15% of the targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are on track. As the world looks for solutions to these pressing global challenges, digital is taking center stage and with it some of the greatest questions of our time. Will digital help rescue the SDGs? Who is the digital revolution really for? And will its benefits outweigh the downsides? ITU Member States have set two clear strategic goals going forward: universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation — for an ITU that is fit-for-purpose and fit for the future. Watch the State of the Union address.
Annual Report 2022 to 2023
The Council approved the report on the implementation of the strategic plan and the activities of the Union, July 2022 to April 2023. This period covered one of the most intensive and decisive periods in ITU’s history, with three statutory conferences that underlined the pronounced ambition of the ITU membership to have the Union play a key role in the global digital landscape. While technology is racing ahead at warp speed, digital inclusion, however, is not accelerating fast enough. As this report makes clear, the world is still facing crippling digital divides affecting least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and vulnerable populations such as women and rural communities, both within and between countries. See the data-based impact of the Union’s work.
Collaboration with the United Nations system
Digital technology is a top priority of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General. The digital agenda has continued to grow at the United Nations headquarters in New York and across the whole UN system. Digital themes are more present in major UN conferences such as the 2023 SDG Summit and the 2024 Summit of the Future. They are also appearing in more UN Secretary-General reports, resolutions and outcome documents such as Our Common Agenda, including the Global Digital Compact. As the UN specialized agency for telecommunications and information and communication technology, ITU actively collaborates and engages with, and participates in, various processes, mechanisms and coordination networks within the UN system such as those referenced above, in addition to working with UN sister agencies on joint projects. Demand and opportunities for ITU’s contributions and collaboration are expected to continue to grow.
World Summit on the Information Society
The Council adopted a revised Resolution 1332 on ITU’s role in the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and a revised Resolution 1334 on ITU’s role in the overall review of the implementation of the outcomes of the Summit. ITU Member States, Sector Members, and other stakeholders are invited to continue to engage in the implementation of WSIS activities including the WSIS Forum and its special initiatives, make voluntary contributions to ITU’s WSIS Trust Fund, and help enrich the WSIS Stocktaking database. In 2024, the WSIS+20 Forum High-level Event is to take stock of the achievements and key trends, challenges and opportunities since the first WSIS Summit held in 2003. Member States emphasized ITUs important role in the WSIS+20 Review Process and to actively participate in the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on the WSIS outcomes in 2025, including relevant processes like the Summit of the Future and the SDG Summit. Ultimately, the membership is encouraged to continue contributing to the WSIS Process and its vision beyond 2025.
The Space 2030 agenda
ITU actively supports the implementation of the “Space 2030” Agenda, which aims at enhancing space-driven sustainable development. According to Resolution 218 (Bucharest, 2022) of the Plenipotentiary Conference, ITU’s role is crucial in ensuring equitable access to spectrum/orbit resources underlying the provision of space services. The Council noted the ITU report on the status of the Space Plans contained in the Radio Regulations and describing collaboration within the UN system through UN-Space. Along with the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, which serves as the secretariat for the Space 2030 Agenda, ITU strives to strengthen international cooperation and achieve the Agenda’s goals, making space a driving force in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Preparations for RA‑23 and WRC‑23
From 20 November to 15 December this year, ITU Member States will convene in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC‑23). Member States convene to update the Radio Regulations which are the rules (binding international treaty) that allow countries to use new wireless technologies and services, both on the ground and in space (satellites). The goal is to make sure that all these radio systems can work together harmoniously without causing harmful interference to each other. WRC‑23 will be preceded by the Radiocommunication Assembly (RA‑23) from 13‑17 November 2023 at the same location. The Council noted the progress of preparations for RA‑23 and WRC‑23. Read the report of the Conference Preparatory Meeting to WRC‑23. See the latest WRC‑23 News and ITU News Magazine special editions here.
World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly 2024
The Council approved the proposed dates of 15 to 24 October 2024 for the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-24) and thanked the Government of India for offering to host it in New Delhi, India, at the International Exhibition-Convention Centre Pragati Maidan. The Global Standards Symposium (GSS-24) is planned to take place at the same venue on 14 October 2024, the day prior to the start of WTSA-24.
World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, 17 May 2024
The Council decided that the theme for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day will be Digital Innovation for Sustainable Development in 2024 and Gender Equality in Digital Transformation in 2025. The day has been celebrated on 17 May every year since 1969. It is the day 20 States gathered in 1865 to find ways to overcome barriers and make telegraph services more efficient. For example, in those days telegraph messages had to be stopped at national borders and transferred to systems in neighboring jurisdictions. More on the history of WTISDs.
Youth engagement and initiatives at ITU
The Council noted that the ITU secretariat continues to engage colleagues across the organization and coordinate the ongoing implementation of the ITU Youth Strategy, including the Generation Connect initiative. Numerous activities have supported participation and engagement of young people in ITU events and conferences, such as Generation Connect Youth Envoys in the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2022, the Kaleidoscope conference, WSIS Generation Connect Youth Prize, GC-EUR Digital Jam, EQUALS, ML in 5G challenge and many more. The ITU secretariat is working to ensure that the youth perspective is incorporated in the work programmes, management approaches and human resources development activities such as internships, Junior Professional Officers and the ITU Young Professional Programme, engagement/partnership with academia, regular consultations/townhall meetings with youth staff and more. Check out the ITU Youth Strategy.
Accelerating implementation of the ITU Strategic Plan 2024‑2027
The Council noted that the new ITU leadership, immediately after the Plenipotentiary Conference 2022, took swift action by embarking on an ITU-wide consultation to envision what we need to get to where we want to be by 2030. Discussions centred around three topics: 1) Thought leadership; 2) Strategic partnership and membership engagement; and 3) Organizational excellence. The result was unanimous: ITU should focus on achieving financial stability and organizational excellence, building trust externally, increasing engagement with youth and strengthening ITU’s role in the digital future through foresight analysis and thought leadership on transformational technologies that have the potential for global impact. The secretariat has immediately started to implement the three pillars in alignment with the Strategic Plan for 2024–2027.
We need to adapt to a competitive digital environment in which we need to be dynamic and expeditious.
ITU needs to be fit for the rapidly evolving future, and change management is of critical importance to ensure successful outcomes and long-term sustainability. The Council gave the go-ahead for an ambitious transformation roadmap to achieve organizational excellence and thought leadership by the end of 2026 and approved the creation of a new Transformation Team. Change will focus on strengthening people and culture; financial management and planning; systems, processes and tools; as well as oversight, internal controls and governance. The Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General will champion the change process in consultation and close collaboration with the Directors of the three ITU Bureaux and senior management.
Creation of an Oversight Unit
The Council endorsed the creation of an oversight unit to encompass internal audit, investigation functions as well as evaluation, and invited the Secretary-General to submit a draft oversight charter for approval by ITU Council 2024.
Biennial budget of the Union for 2024-2025
The Council approved the balanced biennial budget of the Union for 2024-2025, within the limits set by the financial plan for 2024-2025. It amounts to CHF 329 million for the biennium. The biennial budget of the Union for 2024-2025 includes appropriations for the implementation of the two strategic goals, five thematic priorities and 43 outputs of the ITU Strategic Plan 2024-2027. It is based on the amount of the annual contributory unit for 2024 and 2025 of CHF 318 000 set by Decision 5 of the Plenipotentiary Conference 2022. More on how ITU is funded.
ITU-wide resource mobilization strategy
The ITU budget is funded mainly by contributions from its members and various products and services. Extra-budgetary funding in 2022 represented about 8 per cent of total revenues, a share that is small compared to that of many other UN agencies. There is the potential to deepen collaboration with development agencies and the private sector, foundations and philanthropic institutions to support various projects and initiatives. To this end, the secretariat presented initial ideas towards the development of a new partnership and resource mobilization strategy. The Council noted the recommendations for strengthening both the regular budget and extra-budgetary revenues, and provided guidance to help shape the future strategy. The ITU secretariat will now further refine the strategy for presentation to the Council Working Group on Financial and Human Resources and ITU Council 2024.
Union’s headquarters premises project
The Council approved the secretariat’s report on the new Headquarters building project. Progress on the building will be discussed further at the additional session of the Council to be held on 19 and 20 October 2023.
Fully committed to multilingualism
The Council reiterated its commitment to multilingualism as a core ITU value and “an intangible wealth and an intangible asset”, critical to ensuring inclusivity, diversity and multilateralism. Recognizing the invaluable work of ITU’s professional translators and interpreters in fulfilling this commitment, Councillors also noted the increasing use of new technologies such as the ITU Translate neural machine translation tool in helping to extend the range of ITU multilingual content available on the website. Check out ITU Translate on the ITU Council 2023 website.
25th Anniversary of Resolution 70 on Gender
The Council requested the development of a new gender action plan and decided to create a unit on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, inviting Member States to make voluntary contributions through existing programmes. The Council further requested the Secretary-General to form a coordination mechanism, including membership representatives from all ITU established Networks of Women in the three ITU Sectors, to maximize the networks’ benefits. ITU Member States first adopted Resolution 70 – affirming their commitment to include a gender perspective in all of ITU’s work and activities – at the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-98) in Minneapolis. Snapshots of ITU’s work programme on gender include Girls in ICT Day, Equals in Tech, Girls can Code, Women in Cyber, International Gender Champions, the ITU Gender Dashboard and Network of Women. Since 1998, women have achieved leadership positions in nearly every part of the organization, and a woman became ITU Secretary-General for the first time in January 2023. A timeline shows the names of the first women holding each leadership position in ITU’s statutory bodies and conferences.
Transfer of area office from Tegucigalpa to Panama City
The Council approved by acclamation the proposal by the Government of Panama to move the Area Office, Central America from Tegucigalpa to Panama. Honduras supported Panama in the Council. The Secretary-General expressed her appreciation to Panama for its offering and to Honduras for having hosted the office since 1984.
ICT Development Fund
The Council decided to transfer CHF 3 million from the Exhibition Working Capital Fund (EWCF) to the Information and Communication Technologies Development Fund (ICT‑DF) to augment the current funds in that Fund to be used to finance the implementation of development projects under the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2022 (WTDC‑22) adopted Regional Initiatives. The funds would serve as seed funds aimed at attracting external resources from partners that include ITU Member States, Sector Members, public- and private-sector entities, multilateral organizations, foundations, financial institutions, and development agencies. The Council further noted the need for additional funds to be identified and allocated for the financing of future projects under the ITU Regional Initiatives to be approved by the next WTDC in 2025.
Council Working Groups and Expert Groups
The Council appointed the chairs and vice-chairs of Council Working Groups and Expert Groups. The appointments are available here. The next cluster of council working groups (CWGs) will be held from 9 to 20 October 2023 at ITU Headquarters.
Additional Council session, 19 to 20 October 2023
The Council agreed to hold an additional session on 19-20 October to address the final report of the External Auditor on the 2022 financial statements and financial operating report on the audited accounts; the next steps regarding the new ITU Headquarters project; dates and format of next Council sessions for 2024, 2025 and 2026 and Council Working Group and Expert Group clusters for the next period.