Nº 5 2013 > Council 2013
A brief retrospective
What did Council 2013 achieve and what are some of the main challenges ahead?
The 2013 Council session reaffirmed ITU’s key role in shaping and widening the outreach of the future information and communication technology landscape for the benefit of all humankind.
The Council also reasserted ITU’s commitment to addressing major challenges such as the growing scourge of cybercrime; mitigating climate change impacts through information and communication technologies (ICT); the online protection of children; and the standardization of ICT to facilitate connectivity worldwide.
Setting the tone for what was to become a highly productive Council session, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for ITU to help make the world a better place for all. We at the ITU are more than ever convinced that connectivity is synonymous with socio-economic progress.”
Romania at the helm of Council 2013
Picking up on this theme was Marius Cătălin Marinescu, President of Romania’s National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM), following his election as Chairman of Council 2013. Mr Marinescu called for cooperation in order to live up to today’s challenges. “Industries change, new services arise and the world is transcending from one stage to the other, in years rather than decades.” He told councillors that it is “their role to ensure a better life for the citizens of the world through the means of telecommunications and IT. And that is no small part to play!” He proposed “Cooperation is the key to success” as the slogan for Council 2013.
The vice-chairmanship this year falls to Region D (Africa), and Aboubakar Zourmba from Cameroon was elected to this position. Caroline Greenway from Australia, formerly Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee on Administration and Management was elected its Chairman, alongside Vice-Chairmen Marcin Krasuski of Poland, who continues to serve in this role from last year, and Vernita Harris from the United States, who was elected this year.
Broad consensus was reached on many issues and policies were adopted on ICT accessibility to persons with disabilities, gender mainstreaming and equality, and free online access to certain ITU publications.
These positive outcomes certainly reflected the Council’s slogan — Cooperation is the Key to Success — and yet again proved the Council to be an effective forum for Member States to discuss many of the most pressing ICT-related issues of the day.
This year’s session brought together 382 participants representing the 48 Member States of the Council, 31 Member State Observers, four Sector Member Observers, and two Regional Telecommunication Organizations. Among the participants this year, the Council welcomed ministers from Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Ghana and Kuwait.
In a landmark decision, the Council endorsed ITU’s Accessibility Policy for Persons with Disabilities that aims to ensure “reasonable accommodation” to ITU services. The ITU Secretary-General praised the endorsement as a “historic moment that we can be proud of”. The document embodying the new policy is the first of its kind produced by an agency of the United Nations system.
In a communiqué proposed by Mexico to the Council, the ITU invited delegations participating in the United Nations High–Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Disability and Development (HLMDD), to be held on 23 September 2013, to acknowledge the key role that ICT are already playing to promote the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Councillors strongly supported the communiqué which requested the delegations participating in HLMDD to consider including specific recommendations to further expand access to ICT to persons with disabilities in their outcome document. The communiqué will be circulated to all HLMDD participants and to ITU Member States.
The Council endorsed ITU’s Gender Equality and Mainstreaming Policy and the process of reporting on its implementation of the UN System Wide Action Plan (SWAP) on gender equality and women’s empowerment. After the endorsement Dr Touré said: “I believe this will go down as a landmark event in ITU’s development. It is a key element in ensuring that all can reach their full potential.”
In another decision, free online access has been extended to Administrative Regulations, Council Resolutions and Decisions to the ITU membership. Free online access has also been extended to ITU–R Handbooks on radio-frequency spectrum management to the general public on a permanent basis. These include the ITU–R Handbooks on National Spectrum Management, Computer-Aided Techniques for Spectrum Management, and Spectrum Monitoring.
The Council also decided that paper copies of the ITU–R Handbooks on radio-frequency spectrum management will continue to be charged for on the basis of a two-tier pricing policy, whereby Member States, Sector Members, Associates and Academia pay a price based on cost recovery, whereas all others, such as non-members, pay a “market price” determined by ITU’s Sales and Marketing Division.
Council Decision 571 governing free online access has been modified to reflect these changes. The revised Decision also instructs the Directors of the Bureaux — with the help of their Sector Advisory Groups — to draw up lists of important publications proposed for free online access.
The Secretary-General will report to Council 2014 and to the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP‑14), to be held in the Republic of Korea in 2014, on the impact the implementation of revised Decision 571 will have on revenues. This report should be published on the Council website before its 2014 session to allow all ITU Member States and Sector Members to develop their views and proposals for PP‑14.
Providing free online access to Council Resolutions and Decisions is expected to help ITU Member States and Sector Members obtain information concerning plans, budget and activities of the entire Union in the four-year interval between plenipotentiary conferences.
Council instructed the Secretary-General to continue to express interest in ITU becoming the supervisory authority over a future space assets registration system and to maintain ITU participation as an observer in Preparatory Commission discussions on this issue. The Secretary-General was also instructed to submit to Council 2014 and the next Plenipotentiary Conference a report on the outcomes of the Preparatory Commission and the financial, juridical and technical implications of ITU assuming a supervisory authority role.
During the Council’s review of a report on ITU’s role in building confidence and security in the use of ICT, Dr Touré called for greater international cooperation to combat the growing threat of cybercrime. Addressing some of the main challenges to making the Internet and other ICT more secure, the Secretary-General emphasized that success in fighting the spreading scourge of cybercrime largely depends on the willingness of countries to cooperate and share their expertise.
Councillors expressed appreciation for the work of the ITU-IMPACT partnership — open to all stakeholders — in helping particularly developing countries to counter and build resilience to cybercrime. To assist countries in understanding the legal aspects of cybersecurity, ITU has updated the sixth edition of Understanding Cybercrime: A Guide for Developing Countries.
The report also noted inter alia that ITU:
- has undertaken work to facilitate the harmonization of cybercrime legislation in some 60 countries in Caribbean and Pacific islands and in sub-Saharan Africa;
- has developed recommendations of security requirements, guidelines and specifications to identify and counter cybercrime for ICT and IP-based systems;
- continues to provide an international platform for the development of protocols, systems and services that protect next-generation networks;
- is helping several Member States and regions to establish Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTs);
- has launched a project to enhance cybersecurity in the 49 United Nations-designated least-developed countries;
- has established new partnerships with numerous industry leaders to make cyberspace more secure and safer for consumers, businesses, children and young people.
Councillors unanimously reaffirmed their strong commitment to mobilize all resources at their disposal to ensure child online protection worldwide. The Secretary-General recalled that while children are the most frequent Internet users they are also the most vulnerable to online abuse. After noting the report of the ITU Working Group on child online protection, the Council requested ITU to pursue its mission to provide assistance to Member States in this regard.
Several countries expressed reservations about any move to introduce a filtering system for the Internet that might compromise their ability to self-regulate on this matter.
Councillors agreed to defer discussions on whether to open the ITU’s Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues to all stakeholders to PP‑14. Meanwhile, the Council confirmed that the Secretary-General can carry out or facilitate informal consultations with stakeholders. “I look forward to engaging with all stakeholders on international Internet public policy-related matters and to bringing the essence of these discussions to the Council Working Group on this issue for information,” Dr Touré said.
The Council adopted revisions to Resolution 1334 (modified 2013) on ITU’s Role in the Overall Review of the Implementation of the Outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Professor Vladimir Minkin of the Russian Federation, who chaired the drafting group on Resolution 1334, presented the revised version for discussion and approval. Mr Minkin also proposed that the next World Summit be held in the Russian resort town of Sochi in 2015.
Under the revised Resolution the Council resolved:
- to hold the WSIS+10 High-Level Event hosted by Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh on 13–17 April 2014;
- that the WSIS+10 High-Level Event will be an extended version of the WSIS Forum to address progress made in implementing WSIS outcomes under ITU’s mandate, while providing a platform for multistakeholder coordination, with the involvement and participation of all WSIS Action Line Facilitators, other United Nations agencies and all WSIS stakeholders;
- that the WSIS+10 High-level Event should review WSIS outcomes (2003 and 2005) and develop proposals on a new vision beyond 2015, potentially including new targets and an action plan beyond 2015 within ITU’s scope of responsibility. Other agencies are invited to contribute to these outcomes and proposals if they wish to do so. This should be implemented taking into account decisions of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly and will be followed by a further review and possible decision by the Plenipotentiary Conference in 2014;
- to establish an open and inclusive preparatory process similar to that of WTPF‑13 to develop draft outcome documents for consideration by the WSIS+10 High-Level Event, by 1 March 2014.
Council also decided on Broadband for Sustainable Development as the theme for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, 17 May 2014. The theme will help focus attention on multi-stakeholder commitment to achieve universal access to broadband connectivity and facilitate the delivery of a wide range of services and applications, and promote both investment and implementation of national broadband plans and Internet access at affordable prices to existing and new users.
ITU’s conformance and interoperability programme, based on four pillars — conformity assessment; interoperability events; capacity building; and establishment of test centres in developing countries — also received strong Council support. Pillars 1 and 2 are led by the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) and pillars 3 and 4 by the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT).
The Council approved the Union’s four-year rolling operational plans for 2014–2017. All four plans — covering the Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R), the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T), the Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D) and — point to a very busy period ahead — starting in 2014, with its many events including the sixth World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC‑14) and the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP‑14).
For the 2016–2019 period, the Council decided to establish a working group to elaborate the Strategic and Financial plans, which would be considered by the 2014 Council session and submitted to the Plenipotentiary Conference later that year.
The Council approved a budget of CHF 331.055 million for the 2014–2015 biennium broken down as follows: CHF 166.311 million for 2014 and CHF 164.744 million for 2015. It fixed Member States’ contributory units at CHF 318 000. The budget aims at increasing efficiency and reducing expenses and is based on zero nominal growth applied since 2006.
ITU and Egypt signed two Host Country Agreements to hold the next World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC‑14) in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh from 31 March to 11 April 2014, back-to-back with the High-Level Event on the Overall Review of the Implementation of the Outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10).
The Kuwaiti Minister of Communications, Salim Alozainah, called for the creation of a global information infrastructure to help prevent and mitigate the impacts of natural and man-made disasters. The Minister urged the ITU to give priority to linking all communication networks in the world in order to establish an interconnected global information system that could be used to prevent disasters and reduce their human and financial consequences.
Councillors gave a warm welcome to the nominated Chairman of the upcoming Plenipotentiary Conference in 2014, Mr Wonki Min, Director General of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea.
Last but not least, the Council agreed to create a committee to steer the commemoration planning process for ITU’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2015 that will mark the unique combination of its rich history and its contribution to innovation, while highlighting its central role in all major changes in telecommunications. Nasser A. Bin Hammad of the United Arab Emirates was appointed Chairman of the Committee, along with vice-chairmen representing ITU’s five administrative regions. It will serve as a platform for gathering opinions and ideas about the planning of events. It will work closely with the ITU secretariat in the preparation of the celebrations and submit a progress report to Council 2014. Dr Touré urged Member States to send in their ideas on how best to mark the anniversary and also encouraged them to organize national events to mark the occasion.
Chaired efficiently and expediently by ANCOM’s Marius Cătălin Marinescu, the Council session ended one day ahead of schedule. In commending Mr Marinescu’s chairmanship, the Secretary-General said: “He has not only led the Council to a successful conclusion, but has done so ahead of schedule. This is a tremendous achievement in any circumstances — and it is a record achievement at a Council session dealing with the budget.” Dr Touré then presented the Chairman with the ITU Silver Medal for his “outstanding service to the Union.”
“This Council was an excellent demonstration of how we continue to build on our long and honourable history of working together, to facilitate technical and technological progress, with trust and faith in one another. We have been true to the spirit of the Union, to the spirit that brings us together here for the common good, with our shared goals and shared aspirations,” he added.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a guest appearance at the closing ceremony. After receiving a warm welcome, Mr Annan commended ITU’s Beyond 2015 Global Youth Summit set to take place in San José, Costa Rica, on 9–13 September 2013, and which will engage youth in defining ways towards ensuring that all people can benefit from ICT in the framework of economic and social development.
Date and duration of the 2014 Session of the Council
The Council will hold its next ordinary session from 6 to 15 May 2014 in Geneva for a period of 8 working days.