The head of the U.S. delegation to the International Telecommunication Union’s 20th Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18), which closed today in Dubai, called the conference a “major success.”
“We achieved all of our objectives,” Robert Strayer, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary–cyber and international communications and information policy, told TR Daily in a telephone interview from Dubai. He said U.S. delegation members were up to 5:30 a.m. ahead of the close of the PP-18.
First, he noted, the U.S. successfully convinced a majority of ITU member states that voted to elect Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the U.S. as director of its Telecommunications Development Bureau (TR Daily Nov. 1). He noted her election came on the first ballot.
She is the first woman to be elected to one of the top five ITU management positions in its 153-year history.
Mr. Strayer said it took a huge amount of outreach over the past year to convince countries to vote for Ms. Bogdan-Martin, a former telecommunications policy specialist at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
“Many people said it was impossible for us to get an American citizen elected to that position,” Mr. Strayer said.
He said the U.S. also had success in the resolutions the ITU adopted during the conference, which began Oct. 29 (TR Daily, Oct. 29).
He said it approved sufficient governance and oversight processes for the ITU. He noted a financial and strategic plan governing its activities for a four-year period that he said had provisions that were a priority for the U.S.
Mr. Strayer also said that provisions in a cyber resolution reflect the U.S. vision “for interoperable, secure and reliable cyberspace.” And he said of resolutions dealing with cyber, technology, and innovation issues that “importantly, we ensured that there were no operational or regulatory provisions or mandates for the ITU.”
The innovation resolution established “preconditions for … additional competition and innovation of emerging technologies,” he said.
The U.S. has been assured that studies that will be conducted on emerging technologies will be done through the multistakeholder process and include the views of the private sector as well as non-government entities, he said.
In a news release, the ITU hailed the outcome of the conference, saying that member states reaffirmed a commitment to expand connectivity globally.
“We have many challenges ahead of us. Far too many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy. Substantial digital divides still exist within and between countries. We need to continue our efforts to leverage ICT to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. I am pleased that PP-18 supports ITU's work towards this end,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.
“The ICT sector has never been free of challenges. On the contrary! If I have learned one lesson in my journey in this sector – and as the Chair of PP-18 – it is that the need for performance advancement remains relevant, driven by the world around us," said Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, deputy director general of the United Arab Emirates Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. “In fact, the only thing that is constant in life is change. That's why we must always be ready to adapt to developments, and explore ways to increase flexibility and speed our work mechanisms in ITU and other organizations.”
“The PP-18 agenda focused on the UN Development Goals,” said Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, director general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and chairman of the board of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. “We have four years of work ahead on what has been decided in this esteemed conference. These pillars include digital divide, social integration, gender balance, digital literacy, enhanced international collaboration, digital commerce, electronic security, emerging technology and others.”
The Plenipot is ITU’s highest decision-making body. At the event, which is held every four years, members elect leadership and chart out a road map for the next four years. The conference drew more than 2,300 participants from 180 countries, compared with 171 countries in 2014.
The ITU stressed in the news release that the Plenipot “saw a number of breakthrough records towards gender parity.”
“ITU Member States elected the first woman ever to one of five top management positions in the 153-year history of the organization,” the organization noted.
“Nearly three out of 10 PP-18 participants were women, up from two out of 10 at the last Plenipotentiary Conference, held in 2014,” the ITU added. “In addition, for the first time in the history of ITU Plenipotentiary Conferences, ITU Member States elected more women than men to Committee Chairs, with four out of seven. They also elected three women to the Radio Regulations Board; for the past four years only two women served on the Board, which approves the Rules of Procedure in the application of the Radio Regulations, the international treaty on the allocation and use of radio frequencies and the use of satellite orbits.”
“ITU Member States resolved to strengthen efforts to make progress on gender equality within ITU and in the ICT sector, e.g. by reviewing their respective policies and practices to ensure that recruitment, employment, training and advancement of women and men in the ICT sector are undertaken on a fair and equitable basis,” the news release said.
Member states also reelected Mr. Zhao of China as secretary-general, Malcolm Johnson of the United Kingdom as deputy secretary-general, and Chaesub Lee as director of the Telecommunications Standards Board. Mario Maniewicz of Uruguay was elected director of ITU's Radiocommunication Bureau.
Also, among the members elected to the 48-member ITU Council for Region A (the Americas) was the U.S.
“ITU Member States approved the Union's Strategic and Financial Plan which sets the targets for 2020-2023, asserting ITU's role in facilitating progress towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through ICTs,” the ITU noted. “These targets are divided into five strategic goals: growth; inclusiveness; sustainability; innovation; and partnership.”
The ITU today also highlighted other accomplishments by member states at PP-18, including (1) passage of a resolution “to promote an enabling environment for telecommunication/ICT-centric innovation by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), start-ups, incubation centres and young entrepreneurs”; (2) passage of a resolution that “recognizes the positive roles of OTTs [over-the-top services] in fostering socioeconomic benefits and that mutual cooperation between OTTs and telecommunication operators can be an element to foster innovative, sustainable, viable business models”; (3) a decision “to promote investment in the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), and smart sustainable cities and communities to support the Sustainable Development Goals”; (4) resolving “to continue ITU's work relating to the deployment of future ICT networks in developing countries”; (5) resolving “to promote the increased participation of developing countries in ITU's standardization process so they can develop their digital economy faster”; (6) instructing the ITU “to share best practices implemented in favour of accessibility to telecommunications/ICTs for people with disabilities and people with specific needs and to promote the collection and analysis of statistical data on disabilities and accessibility that Member States can consider when preparing and designing their own public policies to promote accessibility”; (7) resolving that ITU's Child Online Protection (COP) Initiative should “work with Member States and partners to disseminate methodological frameworks for data production and statistics with the purpose of maximizing data comparison among countries”; and (8) resolving “to strengthen the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, such as by promoting a culture in which security is seen as a continuous and iterative process and by supporting the standard-setting activities of ITU.”
Meanwhile, the election of Ms. Bogdan-Martin, a former telecommunications policy specialist at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, continued to draw praise from parties.
“We congratulate Doreen, a very seasoned ITU veteran with deep experience in telecommunications development, for becoming the first woman to be elected to one of the top five positions in this venerable institution’s 153 years. We rejoice that the men and women of the United States Delegation came together, enthusiastically working to help Doreen shatter the crystal ceiling. We also rejoice, together with numerous delegates, and particularly women delegates worldwide, in this pioneering step,” said Freedom Technologies, Inc., a consulting firm whose work includes involvement in international telecom issues. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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