Takeaways from ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018

By on 17 Dec 2018

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The ITU’s 2018 quadrennial Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) ended on 16 November; the culmination of a process that began more than a year before.

APNIC participates in these meetings to provide technical insights to the delegations, and to keep the network operator community and the challenges they face at the top of mind during the negotiations.

We attend, we observe, and we work with other technical community representatives to monitor and analyse the discussions. The most important part of the work, however, is when we engage with different delegations to raise concerns when the discussions go in directions that would have unintended negative consequences for the global Internet or to proactively suggest courses of action that will be supportive of it.

The long road to Dubai

The preparatory process for ITU World Conferences generally starts at least a year in advance and is focused on regional inter-governmental organizations. To participate effectively, it’s necessary to be a part of the conversation from the beginning. The Plenipot is an inter-governmental treaty conference and as such, APNIC’s participation in the processes is limited to observer status.

In the Asia Pacific we are fortunate to have the exemplary team at the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) to coordinate the process through a series of preparatory meetings and to help the Asia Pacific delegations on the ground when we arrive at the Plenipotentiary.

Read about Adam’s involvement at preparatory events before ITU’s PP-18: Event Wrap: APT PP-18-4, Malaysia, Event Wrap: APT PP18-3, Australia, Event Wrap: APT PP18-2, Viet Nam

APNIC has developed a good working relationship with the APT since becoming an Affiliate Member in 2013. We participate in many of their forums and collaborate with them to run technical training workshops.

What happened at PP-18

The Internet occupied front and centre discussions during the negotiations at PP-18, with the so-called Internet Resolutions, a new Resolution on OTT applications, and the failed draft proposed Resolution on Artificial Intelligence being among the most contentious.

Read the excellent blog by Chris Buckridge, External Relations Manager at the RIPE NCC or Marco Hogewoning’s account from the perspective or a retired network engineer for a run-down on those negotiations and how they might shape government thinking on the Internet in the next four years.

Resolution 101: ‘Internet Protocol-based Networks’, is a document that outlines the way the ITU should collaborate with the relevant standards and governance bodies responsible for IP-based networks (including RIRs). Draft changes included: expanding the mandate of this resolution to include the ‘services’ that run on IP networks, and others that included the DONA Foundation as one of the ‘relevant’ organizations. The CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) contributions emphasized the work the already-listed organizations do to build and maintain the Internet.

In the end, the status quo was maintained with the addition of a useful update adding a reference to WTDC 2017 Resolution 77 that recognized “the work of the Internet Society, the Internet Exchange Federation and the regional IXP associations and other stakeholders in support of the establishment of IXPs in developing countries in order to promote better connectivity”.

Changes to the Resolution stressed that the responsibility for good relations between the ITU and these Internet organizations is shared. That these organizations need to be willing to collaborate with the ITU. The text constrains this by recalling the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society and its consensus decisions around responsibilities for Internet Governance.

One of the most puzzling Resolutions is 102: ‘ITU’s role with regard to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses’.

Draft changes to this Resolution included very strong language demonstrating the frustration some Member States have with the existing governance arrangements for Top Level Domain names. The changes referenced WSIS to emphasize the “unique role Governments play in the public interest”.

The changes argued that the Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues (CWG-Internet) could become a venue for a form of ‘enhanced cooperation’ by opening it to Sector Members and providing recommendations to be agreed and implemented by the ITU Council to enable governments to meet their obligations for public policy issues related to the Internet.

Ultimately no consensus could be found on changes to the Council CWG-Internet and the status quo will remain for the time being.

Draft changes for Resolution 133: ‘Role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names’, contained provocative language about the difficulties Member States face “to implement appropriate and language-specific requirements with the ICANN”. After negotiations, new texts provide useful encouragement to Member States and Sector Members to consider how to further promote universal acceptance with respect to internationalized domain names.

Over the past few conferences, a difference of opinion has formed over resolutions covering the deployment of IPv6. Some Member States feel this is best described as a transition from IPv4, while others argue the emphasis should be on deployment or adoption of IPv6 in addition to existing IPv4 networks. A compromise of sorts is being developed to include all three terms, resulting in a new title for Resolution 180, which is now ‘Promoting the Deployment and Adoption of IPv6 to Facilitate the transition from IPv4 to IPv6’.

The resolution now directly references the best practices and capacity-building efforts of organizations such as the Regional Internet Registries even though some Member States are reluctant to reference the work and responsibilities of Internet organizations in ITU texts.

The main disagreement in discussions relating to Resolution 130: ‘Strengthening the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies’ boiled down to a call from some regions for a more proactive role for the ITU in establishing a global multilateral cybersecurity agreement of some sort. It is a continuation of the negotiations from WTDC17 in Buenos Aires in 2017 when some Member States argued aggressively for an international convention on cybersecurity. Other Member States believe such a role in cybersecurity is not best performed by the ITU and continue to strongly resist the push.

One outcome of PP-18 provide to be a surprise for many. Discussions over a range of proposals about the International Telecommunications Regulations, an inter-governmental Treaty about International Telecommunications, were resolved far more easily than expected when the European countries withdrew their objection to any further work. The consensus decision to continue to study the ITRs and delay any decisions to hold another World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) sometime after the 2022 Plenipotentiary.

This inter-governmental advisory work has been an important part of my responsibilities at APNIC over the past six years, but my move into Product Management in 2018 means that I will hand it to Klée Aiken, APNIC’s Senior Advisor for Strategic Engagement and Capacity Building, who also joined me for the conference as a handover activity.

Read the agreed product of the conference.

Read a full wrap of APNIC’s activities at PP-18 Event Wrap: ITU PP-18.

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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