Outcomes from the International Telecommunication Union 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Republic of Korea
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, which concluded on November 7, is a three week, high-level policy conference held every four years. Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, led the U.S. delegation to a successful outcome that will greatly support the development of global telecommunications infrastructure and networks. The Plenipotentiary Conference sets the ITU general policies, adopts four-year strategic and financial plans, and elects the ITU senior management team, members of Council, and members of the Radio Regulations Board for the next four years.
The U.S. delegation achieved its four primary objectives, and all outcomes were agreed by consensus with other member states. The U.S. delegation was elected to another four year term on the ITU Council with more votes than we received four years ago, and Ms. Joanne Wilson was elected to the Radio Regulations Board (RRB). Member states improved the ITU’s fiscal and strategic management and transparency policies and improved the ability of all stakeholders to view and participate in the work of the Union. The member states agreed to no changes to the ITU’s legal instruments (the Constitution and Convention of the Union). Finally, member states decided not to expand the ITU’s role in Internet governance or cybersecurity issues, accepting that many of those issues are outside of the mandate of the ITU. The leadership of the U.S. delegation was instrumental to each of these efforts.
Ambassador Sepulveda was selected as Vice Chairman of the Plenipotentiary Conference for the America’s region. On October 27, the United States was reelected to the ITU Council, receiving 22 more votes than at the last Plenipotentiary Conference in Guadalajara. The United States has continuously held a seat on the Council since 1947.
Joanne Wilson, a private sector member of the delegation who supports NASA, was elected to the Radio Regulations Board (RRB) by a wide margin. Ms. Wilson’s election not only keeps an American on the RRB, but also contributes to the gender balance of the board, as Julie Zoller’s term on the RRB ends this year.
Internet and Cybersecurity Issues
The United States built a broad consensus that led to success on Internet and cybersecurity issues keeping the ITU’s work focused on its current mandate. The United States worked with other members to mitigate and remove proposed language from resolutions that would have improperly expanded the scope of ITU work and curtail the robust, innovative, multi-stakeholder Internet we enjoy today, while providing clear guidance to the ITU on the efforts it can and should work on.
The U.S. also worked successfully with partners to eliminate proposed language that could have provided a mandate for the ITU in surveillance or privacy issues; inhibited the free flow of data; regulated Internet content and service companies; undermined the multi-stakeholder process; or called on the ITU to develop international regulations on these issues.
Finally, a compromise was reached on the Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy (CWG-Internet), which will provide for physical consultation meetings, open to all stakeholders, to be held prior to each of the CWG-Internet meetings. These meetings will allow all Internet stakeholders to directly contribute to the work of the CWG-Internet.
Financial and Management Reform
The United States worked with other member states to build consensus and approve resolutions to develop a strategy for greater coordination between the three ITU sectors, enhance membership oversight of memoranda of understanding with financial or strategic implications, and execute the ITU strategic plan over the next four years. Members states also agreed to make input and output documents for ITU conferences and assemblies freely and publicly available online. The ITU Council Working Group on Financial and Human Resources will develop a new policy on document access that ITU Council is authorized to adopt. External audit reports as well as the report by the Independent Management Advisory Committee (IMAC) will also be made freely available online.
The ITU financial plan stresses efficiency savings and increasing contributory units from member states, instead of new charging schemes and a withdrawal from the reserve account to address a budget deficit.
International Telecommunication Regulations
The U.S. delegation secured agreement that another World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), the conference that revises the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR’s) should not be scheduled until an expert group reviews the existing treaty regulations from 2012 and assesses whether any update is necessary. This expert group will submit recommendations that will be forwarded to the next Plenipotentiary Conference in 2018 for it to decide on whether to schedule another WCIT treaty conference.
The Plenipotentiary Conference successfully addressed six Radiocommunication related matters, all in a manner consistent with U.S. objectives.
The Plenipotentiary Conference decided that the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) would be the appropriate body to address the conditions under which the RRB would reconsider a previous decision. Additionally, all members of the RRB will sign a declaration committing to adhere to the relevant provisions of the ITU Constitution and avoid conflict of interests.
The Union reached consensus on the U.S. proposal that the WRC is the proper conference to examine and modify the procedures for registering frequencies used by satellite networks and not the Plenipotentiary Conference.
The Plenipotentiary Conference decided that the ITU could continue to express interest in taking on the role of the Supervisory Authority of the International Registration System for Space Assets and that Council would continue to monitor developments.
The Plenipotentiary Conference decided to bring the issue of extending the deadline for bringing into operation a Colombian satellite system (SATCOL) to the attention of the next WRC.
The Union achieved consensus on a new resolution on strengthening the role of ITU with regard to transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities and dealt with the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau’s role in addressing harmful radio-frequency interference to satellite transmissions, particularly to international broadcast transmissions.
The United States supported adding the issue of global flight tracking to the WRC-15 agenda.
Conformance and Interoperability and Counterfeit
The Union achieved consensus on modifying the existing conformance and interoperability resolution to address capacity building activities in developing countries and to use the results of existing conformity assessment systems to address their needs. Member states agreed to a new resolution to address the proliferation of counterfeit products.
More information and public statements on the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference can be found here: