Nº 10 2012 > World Conference on International Telecommunications | Special report
Member States react to new treaty
The World Conference on International Telecommunications was about trying to reach consensus in a rapidly changing technological and economic climate, where there has been convergence between telecommunications and the Internet.
Statements were made by several countries following the approval of the updated treaty, as well as during the signing and closing ceremonies on 14 December. Here we highlight some of the reactions to the new treaty in the final hours of the conference.
Countries supporting the new Regulations
On signing the treaty, Brazil stated that “In all international forums, we defend the current model of governance of the Internet being improved so that it can really be based on the principles of multisectoralism, multilateralism, democracy and full transparency”, adding that “We do not believe that this treaty is a threat to anyone”. Brazil regretted that the conference had resorted to a vote, betraying the hope that all countries would reach consensus on modifying the Regulations to make the world more connected and the telecommunication network more relevant than ever.
China called the treaty a balanced document, and said that differences of opinion were understandable among countries at different levels of development. China signed the treaty, stressing that “The conference has expressed an important message, which is that ITU Member States have a common goal.”
According to Botswana, “The provision of right of access to international telecommunications greatly guarantees our future and the future of our children or grandchildren.” The delegate of Botswana signed the treaty, observing that “Contrary to media speculation, I have been pleasantly surprised that the conference has not sought to become an impediment to the growth of the Internet and associated services”.
Azerbaijan saw the Regulations as providing “new opportunities to expand cooperation between Member States”.
Egypt believes “the text which has been adopted will contribute to the development of the telecommunication sector, especially in the developing countries”. Uruguay, as a supporter of a free and open Internet, confirmed that “the ITRs approved in the treaty do not include provisions on the Internet, and content has been expressly excluded from the scope of the Regulations”.
The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity said that ITU is a family, and it is not unusual for families to quarrel, but was confident that members would join together to move ITU forward as a leading international organization in ICT in the world.
South Africa observed that “nobody got everything that they wanted. This is because it is a negotiated document and agreement. But I would like to urge every one of us and all of us to continue working together as countries, in consultation with all the stakeholders, to make greater efforts to understand each other. In particular, it is important to continue to address the challenges facing developing countries in the telecommunication sector and ICT sector. If we do this, we will ensure that ICT will be a force for social and economic development. We committed ourselves to the outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society and the Millennium Development Goals. We cannot leave 4.5 billion people unconnected, excluded from the benefits of the Internet.”
Alluding to the heated discussions during the conference, the Republic of Korea expressed satisfaction with many of the outcomes, except in regard to the Internet. In this context, the delegation stated that “The Republic of Korea strongly believes that the discussions regarding the Internet should be open to all of the international community — as the Internet is open to all nations and all individuals. We believe that Internet issues can be and shall be discussed anywhere. The international community can gather, not only at ITU, but also at OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), and the Cyberspace Conference (being organized in 2013), and at ICANN”. The Republic of Korea considered that the international community should have an open attitude to the Internet, and that topics such as cybersecurity and Internet-related matters should be properly addressed in the relevant forums.
Saudi Arabia emphasized that “the new Regulations contain provisions that would guarantee States and individuals alike freedom of access to all international communications”, making it “crystal clear that ITU has an important role to play in this issue”. Saudi Arabia stressed that the new Regulations do not deal with Internet governance, even though the situation regarding Internet governance is unsatisfactory, warning that “there are no agreed international policies that would ensure there is no unilateral control over the Internet”. This led Saudi Arabia to ask “How do we expect Member States to invest billions and billions of dollars in building their networks, and in changing their transactions into electronic operations, when they might find themselves overnight unable to use them because there are no international regulations to protect these investments and networks?”
Lebanon “believes in keeping the hands of States, governments, individuals, and organizations off content, and in assuring our citizens and businesses of the privacy and the confidentiality of their data. We reaffirm our support to the multistakeholder governance model of the Internet —and definitely with multinational cooperation”. Lebanon regretted that, despite many compromises, some delegations ended up not signing the treaty.
Singapore captured the feeling of many signatories, saying “Singapore is proud to be part of this historic treaty, as it seeks to increase greater telecommunication access for all peoples of the world. We look forward to working closely with all members of the ITU family”.
Some countries still need to consider or consult
Japan felt that the bridge between the diverse views had not been built, and the chart of the future ITRs had not yet matured. In the light of that, Japan’s decision on whether or not to sign the Final Acts was still to be taken.
Sweden had serious concerns with respect to some of the provisions of the ITRs, notably those relating to content and security. Sweden was also uncomfortable with the new resolution on fostering an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet, saying that the text did not adequately recognize the existing multistakeholder arrangements for Internet governance and the Internet market. Further consultations with its capital were needed.
New Zealand also reserved its right to consult its capital, expressing regret that the revised ITRs contained text relating to the Internet, spam and security issues, all of which were outside the scope of the Regulations and should remain so.
Poland had held public consultations on the proposals for revision of the ITRs and, insofar as the delegation had a mandate from not only the Polish Government, but also Polish citizens, it was unable to accept the current text and reserved the right to consult the Polish public.
The Netherlands had also prepared for the conference by consulting all stakeholders, with the aim of achieving a satisfactory treaty text. However, it now shared the concerns voiced with respect to certain provisions of the treaty and the resolution on the Internet. It therefore intended to present the treaty to the country’s ministers and parliament for an assessment of its acceptability.
Kenya’s objectives set through multistakeholder meetings at the domestic level had unfortunately remained unmet, and it therefore reserved its right to conduct further consultations at that level.
Costa Rica, Chile, the Philippines, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Switzerland, Italy, Norway and India all also expressed the need to carry out further consultations. For example, Costa Rica stated that it would maintain consultations, since it has hearings in its democratic system, and has concerns on some of the provisions included, which it believes could expand the scope of the ITRs.
Other countries opt out
Commitment to a multistakeholder model of Internet governance, along with fears that the treaty text and the resolution on the Internet jeopardized that model, was the main reason why the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia could not sign the treaty.
The United States said that “The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years, all without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with the multistakeholder model of Internet governance. As ITU has stated, this conference was never meant to focus on Internet issues. However, today we are in a situation where we still have text and resolutions that cover issues on spam and also provisions on Internet governance”. The United States “continues to believe that Internet policy must be multistakeholder driven. Internet policy should not be determined by Member States, but by citizens, communities, and broader society, and such consultation from the private sector and civil society is paramount. This has not happened here. We live in an interconnected world, which is becoming more interconnected with every passing day. We came to this conference with a hope for finding ways to advance our cooperation in the telecommunications arena, and continue to believe that is an important goal”.
Australia said it was not in a position to sign the Final Acts with the ITRs as they currently stand, explaining that “A key point for us is that the Internet should not be included in the ITRs, and should not be included in the associated resolutions. This is a point on which we cannot compromise. Australia remains committed to the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, which we believe is the best way to sustain the Internet’s growth and innovation”.
Looking ahead, however, even the countries that did not sign the treaty were ready to continue working constructively with ITU. The United States remained committed to finding other ways of advancing shared goals. The United Kingdom would continue to work in a positive spirit with all Member States.
Canada believed that the scope of the ITRs should remain unchanged, and that the text on operating agencies, security, spam and Internet governance certainly extended it. Canada too “is committed to continuing to work with all States and all stakeholders, in all settings, to advance work in these important areas. We will work with ITU in its area of mandate. But we are also committed to working within the existing multistakeholder bodies, which are flexible, adaptable and have a proven record of success, to continue to further improve their inclusivity”.
Australia emphasized that it was not stepping back from its commitment to, and engagement with, ITU. “The ITU does great work in connecting the world and we greatly value ITU’s capacity-building work in the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world. We are proud to be part of that work.”
Exceptional Chairman congratulated
Delegations congratulated the Chairman of the conference, Mr Mohamed Nasser Al-Ghanim, on his competence, wisdom, patience, calm and good humour. They recognized the skill that he had shown in bringing people together, and the efforts he had made to reach consensus on many of the matters debated over the course of the two-week conference. Delegations were unanimous in their praise of the Chairman’s able leadership.
In terms of overcoming the challenges and controversies, Dr Touré paid tribute to the exceptional chairmanship of Mr Al-Ghanim, commemorating his success in managing the often difficult discussions by awarding him ITU’s Gold Medal, the organization’s highest honour.
“Mr Al-Ghanim has played a vital role in the work of the conference,” said Dr Touré. “He has managed to keep his calm and nerve throughout the long days and nights we have spent together, and he has epitomized the key ITU value of global consensus.”
Mr Al-Ghanim characterized the importance of the revised International Telecommunication Regulations as lying in the common desire to bring equitable access to ICT to drive global development.
“We came to this conference with a wide divergence of views,” said Mr Al-Ghanim. “Different countries contend with vastly different market environments, but all understand how critical ICT will be to their ongoing social and economic development. While we did not manage to get universal consensus, I believe we nonetheless achieved a huge milestone in getting such broad agreement, and I am confident that these new ITRs will pave the way to a better, more connected world, and a more equitable environment for all.”