The ITU Plenipotentiary is not only an opportunity for Government administrations to review progress toward its strategic goals, set new goals, budgets, and deal with administrative matters, it also hosts a function of primary importance – elections of the senior management.
There are three principal positions appointed via election: Secretary General; Deputy Secretary General; and the directors of the three bureaus: Standardization; Development; and Radiocommunications.
There are other elections, for the Radio Regulations Board and the Council of Member States.
Some are contested more hotly than others. Since term limits apply, Secretary General Hamadoun Touré will step down after eight years in the role, however, there is only one candidate to replace him. That is Deputy Secretary General Houlin Zhao. Zhao attended our last APNIC conference APNIC 38 in Brisbane and presented a key note address at our Opening Ceremony.
Similarly, there is only one candidate for the Development Sector. Brahima Sanou has completed only one four-year term in the role and looks set to spend a further four years until the next Plenipot.
APNIC is a D-Sector Member of the ITU since 2003, however, we are not permitted to vote in the election of the Director of ITU-D, or any other positions as only Member States are able to participate in the elections.
The elections pre-occupy the conference in the first week, with many of the Policy Statements including direct or indirect electioneering statements and calls for support for those standing for election. The elections also provide an opportunity for receptions. There are regularly two luncheon invitations to choose from and then two evening receptions, coffee breaks and so on. Guests are normally bestowed with small gifts to sweeten the deal.
At the China lunch reception on Day two, Secretary General Touré took to the stage and gave his subordinate a resounding endorsement. When Zhao took to the stage he discarded his speech (as he did at APNIC 38) and spoke enthusiastically about the opportunity before him, promising to “work in the best interest of the planet”.
By the end of the second day the conference was barely half way through a scheduled 90 Policy Statements, most of which stuck to the Connect 2020 report theme.
Afghanistan, for example, impressed with its track record of progress since 2002. At that time it had no telecommunications infrastructure and those wishing to make a phone call had to travel to neighbouring countries to place a call. Since then, however, there has been tremendous progress. This looks set to continue. “Three years ago the price of Internet bandwidth via satellite was $4,000 per megabit per month and hence totally unaffordable to our citizens. With optical fibre connectivity, the price has gradually dropped and is now $20 per megabit per month and we expect this to drop further over the coming years.”
There were one or two Member States who chose to stray from the Connect 2020 theme. Argentina, for example used its address to call for a renewed multilateralism. “We need to put a true multilateralism into practice. This is unavoidable. It is not enough to speak to the progress of telecommunications. We also need that in the framework of renewed multilateralism, we have communications which, first of all, respect national sovereignty, support for development, and the guarantee of technological sovereignty of each nation should be the basis of internationalism in this area, as should inclusive policies.”
The Untied Arab Emirates (UAE) used its time to announce it would offer to host the next Plenipotentiary in Dubai during 2018. The UAE is a significant supporter of the ITU and has held a string of World Conferences in Dubai including the WCIT (World Conference on International Telecommunications) in 2012 and more recently the World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC) earlier this year.
“This shows that we are reinforcing our position within the Union,” said the speaker.
The United Kingdom used its statement to call on the ITU to become more open, transparent and inclusive saying, “Lastly, we’d like to see the ITU proactively make its processes and fora open to all stakeholders and for information to be made publicly, transparently available whenever possible. This Union has proved on several occasions in WTPF2013, for example, that when it welcomes the contributions of all, its outputs benefit greatly.”
At the end of day two the focus turned to the upcoming 150-year birthday celebrations. On 17 May 2015, ITU will celebrate 150 years since the signing of the first international telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telegraph Union. The Celebration Anniversary year will start in January 2015, and will include a full year of activities, with a different theme being celebrated each month.
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