How to not look like a newbie at an ITU Council meeting

Note: I am attending the ITU Council 2016 meeting as a member of the Australian delegation; however, any of the views I express in this blog post are entirely my own. This post does not reflect the official Australian position, nor is its content endorsed in any way by the Australian government.

ITU Council can be a daunting experience for newbies and old timers alike. As well as the formal etiquette and procedures (such as a confusing array of document types) there are the things that nobody ever tells you. This is a guide to some of that hidden etiquette:

  1. The first time you take the floor, congratulate the Chair on being elected. You must do this, even if your first intervention doesn’t happen until the second week of the meeting.
  2. Don’t take a selfie while you’re sitting behind your country’s flag. If you really must take a selfie, make sure you don’t do it while you’re on the big screen showing the webcast of the meeting.you-are-on-camera
  3. Decide what approach to take when the person next to you/in front of you/behind you is making an intervention and you appear on the big screen as well. Will you look directly at the person making the intervention and look interested? Do you prefer to appear to be taking notes studiously? Or are you so cool that you don’t care that you’re appearing at twice life size on the big screens at the front?
  4. If you haven’t figured out how to turn your phone to silent mode, do. Not everyone may appreciate your taste in music. And not everyone may appreciate hearing that music when you leave the room and your phone rings. And rings. And rings.
  5. Take your earpiece off before you turn your microphone on to make an intervention. Else, a high-pitched squeal will pierce the ears of everyone else in the room. And they will not thank you for it.
  6. Learn how to effectively smuggle liquids into the Popov meeting room by hiding them in your bag. If you carry them openly, the bouncers[1] at the door are likely to prevent your entry.
  7. Make sure you have the Geneva “three kiss” protocol perfected. It’s not one kiss. It’s not two kisses. It’s three. And absolutely no hand kissing, unless you want to look like a time traveller from the 19th century.
  8. Learn how to use the cheap coffee vending machine correctly. First, insert 1CHF, then choose the sugar level, and finally choose coffee type. The order is not logical, but this is Geneva. Accept it.
  9. Before you begin your serious intervention between coffee break and lunch, don’t forget to thank the Member State that just paid out for the coffee and croissants. Especially if that country is an ally or your country hasn’t paid for a coffee break in a long time.

[1] The bouncers are there to ensure that only suitably accredited people enter the room.

DiploRoo goes to ITU

DiploRoo first made its appearance at ITU Council 2014 in May and was an instant celebrity. Other Member States spent thousands on their election campaigns during Council. All Australia had to do was blow up a plastic kangaroo and delegates were lining up in the aisles to have their photos taken with the marsupial superstar.

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DiploRoo was called on again to help Australia’s cause at Plenipotentiary. If anyone could help Australia be re-elected to Council, DiploRoo could.

A day in the life of a Diplomatic Kangaroo

It starts with a bus ride.

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…Followed by a rather too intimate body scan at the security check point at BEXCO.

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You brainstorm Australia’s last-minute Council election campaign strategy with the humans.

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You then listen intently to Channel 1 (English) during Plenary.

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Word gets around that a celebrity is in the room. (Standing on the desk at the front of the room makes you hard to miss.)

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Everyone wants a photo with you.

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You get papped.

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Even your fans don’t always treat you with the respect you deserve.

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You get a bit of loving, which makes things better.

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You participate in the official Australian post-Council-win photo shoot.

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Yet more fans want to meet you.

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After a long day, you then spent hours debating text in a late-night ad hoc group, which leaves you feeling rather deflated.

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Will DiploRoo make another appearance?

Keep an eye on late night ad hoc group meetings. He may pop in to brighten up his fans’ coffee breaks.

And a big thanks to the Aussie delegation, who provided me with photos 2, 3 and 5.

Badge envy at ITU PP14

Overheard this morning as a Member State delegate inspected the collection of electioneering badges on another delegate’s lanyard: “Aw, you’ve got the Chinese one. I really wanted one of those!”

Yes, folks, the most coveted items at PP14 are election badges being distributed by States. Personally, I’m coveting the “Bruce” badge from Canada.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you have any intention of voting for the country whose badge you are wearing/are trying to obtain. What matters is that the badge is cool. Australia’s koala badge is cool. Australia’s wattle blossom flower badge is not. There are still plenty of Australian wattle badges, if you want an extra badge and aren’t particularly fussy about what’s on it.

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A light-hearted look at PP14 Day 1: delegates are just like you and me

pp14-busan-twitterBy “you and me”, I don’t mean the average person on the street, by the way. I’m thinking about the crazy crew of Internet governance folk who attend meetings such as IGF, ICANN and the like.

1. They embrace and kiss each other warmly after not seeing each other for sometimes… whole weeks.

Do not laugh, Internet governance people. You are extremely guity of this – moving from this week’s Internet governance-related meeting to next week’s Internet governance meeting and greeting each other like you haven’t seen each other in years. Two kisses, one on either cheek, or the air space next to each cheek, seems to be the norm here.

2. Part of the unofficial greeting protocol is to ask each other when they arrived and where they’re staying.

Those who’ve hit the ground running the same day as arriving after a long flight get respect. They also perform ad hoc Tripadvisor-like reviews on their hotels. One hotel here is charging $17 for a coffee: “It’s even more if you request it via room service”. A cheaper hotel doesn’t provide irons: “I want my business shirts to look crisp.” Another provides a mini-kitchenette: “But I won’t have any time here to use it. I’ll just buy some fruit and maybe some juice and keep it in the fridge.” A different hotel has a large dining room table in a delegate’s room: “Perfect for having a a small dinner party!”

3. They take group selfies.

I haven’t seen anyone take an individual selfie yet. Maybe there’s an unwritten ITU delegate rule that individual selfies are uncool. Group selfies, however, are to be embraced with enthusiasm.

4. They don’t pay attention to the boring bits.

Member States all want to have their five minutes in the spotlight with a Policy Statement, but that doesn’t mean they want to pay attention to anyone else’s statement. Instead, have a chat on the side, or come back late from that lovely afternoon tea sponsored by Rwanda.

5. They get cheesed off when the wifi and mobile phone signals are taken away

If you take away ITU delegates’ ability to check their Facebook pages, they get  cranky. In this case, it was during the Opening Ceremony where South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, addressed the participants. She may be president, and therefore need the security of jammed frequencies, but we need to upload grainy smart phone shots of the ceremony to Instagram, dammit!

6. They have trouble with basic tech functions, just like a lot of Internet governance policy folk.

“Have you pushed the plug in far enough?”

plug-forceA more seriously summary of Day 1 to follow shortly…