ITU PP-14 Day 4: A day of elections

By on 24 Oct 2014

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Image credit: ITU Pictures

Day Four here in Busan began with an early start for delegates to attend the first round of elections, requiring the doors to the auditorium be sealed until all votes were cast.

Deputy Secretary General Houlin Zhao was unanimously elected to the post of Secretary General beginning next year. Zhao received all 152 votes cast; there were only four abstentions and no invalid votes. While Zhao was the only candidate, this is still a great result for his term as the leader of the ITU Secretariat.

According to procedures, if he didn’t get a majority of the possible votes, there would be a second ballot and so on until he did. So, as the only candidate, he would eventually succeed, but Member States could use this mechanism to demonstrate their displeasure. It seems he has a clear mandate for his work at the ITU to continue. This link is to a word document with Zhao’s candidate information.

He used his acceptance speech mostly to thank people, rather than to deliver a strong policy direction. Saying only: “As newly elected Secretary-General, I would like to assure you I will do my best to fulfil ITU mission and through our close cooperation to make ITU deliver services to the global telecommunications and Information Society at the level of excellence”.

Later in the day we heard the controversial news that the Delegation of the Democratic Republic of Congo were told before the election that they didn’t have the right to vote. It turned out that they were entitled to vote and so the Secretary General and Chairman of the Conference Mr. Wonki Min expressed there sincere apologies. Of course it would have made no difference to the outcome.

The Elections for Deputy Secretary General (DSG) were, or rather, continue to be of more intrigue. The post is important as the DSG is the chief operational manager of the affairs of the union. There will be up to four rounds of voting and if no candidate achieves a majority of votes, the eldest will be appointed.

The first round was very close as most Member States vote along roughly regional lines. After each round it is expected that the candidate with the least number of votes will voluntarily withdraw until one receives more than half the votes cast. You can see all the election results for the 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary elections, rather than me reproducing them here. After a second round of voting in the afternoon only three candidates remained and a subsequent vote was scheduled as the first item on the Plenary’s agenda for Day Five.

Next week will see the elections for ITU Council positions which are held by Member States rather than individuals. The candidate list for the 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Council Elections shows that some regions are more hotly contested than others. There will also be elections for the Directors of the three Bureaus and for the Radio Regulations Board (RRB).

Also on day four it turned out that I was wrong yesterday about how many policy statements it is possible to fit into an agenda and several more were delivered including an interesting one from the small Caribbean nation of Grenada. Their delegation testified to the success of Internet Exchanges, which are a hot topic among the ITU administrations at present. Grenada’s IXP cost less than $5,000 to build, and that investment was repaid in its first month of operation. “Our success is neither unique nor even a statistical outlier,” said their Minister of Information, Communication Technology. “Grenada’s experience has sparked a wave of Internet development within the Caribbean region, and many of these same milestones have now been achieved in neighboring countries, large and small.

“If Grenada and the other countries of the Caribbean can do this, so too can any nation. All that’s required is a commitment to the open governance mechanisms of the Internet, and a willingness to welcome competition and cooperation in the private sector.

From the United States we heard a call for the ITU to stay focused and true to its mission and a reminder that other UN organizations also had a role to play. “Our sister organizations within the United Nations system at the UNODC, the Human Rights counsel, UNESCO and the General Assembly and at the multistakeholder Internet Governance Forum are airing and exchanging views on ways to address the challenges of a hyper-connected world that are within their specific purview and expertise,” said the Ambassador. “We should embrace that work rather than trying to recreate, supplant or undermine it.”

Although it is not an Internet issue, our region has an emotional investment in the issue of aircraft flight monitoring following the disappearance of Malaysian Airways flight MH370 . Following the jet’s disappearance, the Malaysian Government began a push to have the up-coming World Radio Conference (WRC-15) place on its agenda, an item to consider the allocation of spectrum that would permit a satellite-based system for full-time tracking of civilian aircraft.

Nothing is ever this simple at the ITU, of course. The agenda for the WRC is set four years earlier at the previous WRC. The likely outcome, despite some negotiations, is likely to be that the Plenipotentiary will send a request to the WRC-15 to add this to its agenda and to take appropriate actions. Exactly what is said will need to be determined at this meeting.

With respect to Internet issues, with the nomenclature and procedural aspects out of the way, the Working Group of the Plenary reached its first Internet-related proposal. Each document needs to be introduced and explained briefly, and as is often the case, there are competing proposals from different regions and, also quite often, from individual Member States. Once these are all introduced, they are most frequently assigned to Ad-Hoc groups for further discussion and negotiation.

As we worked our way through the agenda creating Ad Hoc groups it became clear there would be little time on the weekend for sight seeing.

The WG-PL considered several groups of proposals including revisions to Resolutions 130, 174, and 179. There were proposals for new resolutions on Youth and ICTs and on Protecting Telecommunication Service Users/Consumers. The first of these Ad Hoc meetings will take place Saturday morning. Before then the WG-PL Plenary will meet on Friday to introduce a raft of new documents relating to the Internet, WSIS, Climate Change, and E-Applications.

Here are some proposals to some of the Resolutions under discussion:

RESOLUTION  130: Strengthening the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies

Proposals

USA/27R1-A3/4
CUB/70/2
RCC/73A1/16
B/75/4
ARB/79A2/13
EUR/80A1/14
INS/82/2

RESOLUTION 174: ITU’s role with regard to international public policy issues relating to the risk of illicit use of information and communication technologies

Proposals

CUB/70/3
B/75/6
ARB/79A4/4

RESOLUTION 179: ITU’s role in child online protection

Proposals

RCC/73A1/26
ARB/79A3/6
EUR/80A1/11

Proposals for a New Resolution on Youth

IAP/34R1-A1/24
ARB/79A4/2
EUR/80A1/22

Proposal for New Resolution on Consumer Protection

IAP/34R1-A1/7

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