Reporting from ITU Plenipotentiary: I’ll pay full attention so you don’t have to


Have you heard various weird and wonderful things about the big meeting happening in Busan beginning next week?

Have you heard some people say that ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 (PP14) will be looking at proposals that support governments taking over the Internet?

Did you consider attending, but couldn’t get onto your government’s delegation and aren’t a Sector Member of the ITU?

Do you have a day job that means you really don’t have time to follow a three-week meeting, but still care how the outcomes might affect  Internet governance and the Internet world more generally?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any or all of the above, you may be happy to know I’ll be in Busan from Day 1 of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 (Monday 20 October) right through to the very end (Friday 7 November).

An experiment in crowdfunding neutral reporting of a key event in the Internet governance calendar

If you have appreciated my live tweeting and analysis of Internet governance meetings in the past, please consider being part of this initiative. I’m hoping to have funding from as wide a range of stakeholders as possible to ensure that there are no perceptions that my reporting from Busan has been influenced or captured by any single stakeholder group.

So far, organizations have committed USD 13,000 to this project, but I still need a further USD 11,500 to turn the three weeks from a charitable donation by me for the rest of the community into something that allows me to do this professionally. Amounts big or small are gratefully received. And funds do not have to be provided before the Plenipotentiary begins, as I’ll be absorbing the cost differences up-front.

Diplo is kindly helping support the crowdfunding of my attendance. More information at Crowdfund neutral reporting of ITU Plenipotentiary 2014.

What I’ll be doing at PP14


For all those people out there who were disappointed that I didn’t tweet IGF 2014 (I was flat out working for the IGF Secretariat working on the Chair’s Summary and taking photos), here is your opportunity to enable me to concentrate on producing a constant stream of informational, and sometimes (hopefully) funny, tweets live from a key meeting of interest to folks working in the world of Internet governance and Internet operations.


I’ll be blogging to provide summaries of what’s happening at PP14 as well as to provide background to explain or speculate why negotiations are happening the way they are. As I did with WCIT, I’ll strive to post documents that show the differences between old versions of ITU’s Internet-related resolutions and the status of changes happening at PP14. I’ll also post some post-PP14 blogs analyzing what PP14’s outcomes may mean for future Internet governance discussions and the WSIS+10 UNGA event coming up in 2015. The blog posts will be published under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence 4.0, enabling people or entities to publish parts or all of the articles, or tailor the articles for specific communities.


This is dependent on me figuring out how to use my brand new digital microphone and audio editing app during ICANN 51. My plan is to talk to PP14 participants to find out more about what people are thinking about Internet-related discussions at PP14. In particular, I am hoping to talk to those who aren’t the standard set of cheerleaders for multistakeholder Internet governance. The reason for this is the fact that I believe that if we’re ever to bridge the ideological and political divides that exist in the Internet governance sphere, we need to start listening to each other, and not just talk at each other.

WSIS+10 Vision statement: MPP version versus Chair’s new version

Blow is an annotated version of “Proposal by Chairman of WSIS+10 High-Level Event” (11 June),, showing differences between text included or excluded from the earlier draft of the Vision statement, as agreed at the end of the sixth MPP meeting, the MPP Chair’s report, and

This is an unofficial annotated version of the document and is in no way associated with the conveners of the WSIS+10 High-Level Event MPP process. It is entirely the rushed work of of me, @sgdickinson, performed in the lunch break of Day 2 of the HLE. [1.2mb]

The WSIS+10 HLE 6th MPP meeting and its aftermath

I was partly wrong and partly right when I blogged previously about how I thought the sixth and final Multistakeholder Preparatory Platform (MPP) for the WSIS+10 High Level Event (HLE) would happen. I was wrong in thinking the meeting would go well into the night: it actually only lasted 2.5 hours, finishing just before 4:30 pm. I was right, though, in believing that the fundamental political differences that prevented the fifth MPP meeting from reaching consensus on Action Lines C5, C8 and C9 would also be difficult to overcome in the sixth meeting.

Activities between the fifth and sixth MPP meetings

On the morning before the sixth MPP meeting began, the word in the corridors was that a series of bilateral meetings had resulted in all States agreeing to accept UNESCO’s compromise text on Action Line 9, Media. That agreement was said to have included even the States from the fifth MPP meeting that had been reluctant to accept language about freedom of expression (without mentioning “responsibilities”), a reference to new types of media production (the argument being that “bloggers” and “social media producers” have not been formally recognized media types in any UN resolutions), and gender equality (facepalm, facepalm, facepalm). The pre-meetings also included States that wanted more vigorous language about freedom of expression and protecting the safety of journalists and that didn’t want to add “and men” to text about encouraging equal opportunities and the active participation of women in the media.

UNESCO’s proposed compromise text is included below:

“Media will benefit from the broader and expanded role of ICTs that can enhance media’s contribution to fulfilling the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The right of freedom of expression, as described in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is essential for media’s role in information and knowledge societies.

  • Recall the Geneva Declaration of Principles, para 55, which describes the role of media in the Information Society;
  • Affirm that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, and that this is applicable to media on all platforms;
  • Encourage equal opportunities for men and women in media;
  • Promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists and media workers, and facilitate the implementation of the UN Plan of action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.”

Notice that it talks about human rights (pleasing one group of MPP participants) while it also adds “and men” to text that was originally about women (pleasing another group of participants). As Russia subsequently stated in the sixth MPP meeting, the text wasn’t completely to their liking, but they were aware that everyone would be compromising on an “equally unhappy basis”.

The series of negotiations between the announcement of the sixth MPP meeting and the meeting itself did not appear to include any non-government stakeholders. Instead, it appears that it was hoped that if governments could be persuaded to accept the UNESCO text, then other stakeholder groups would as well.[1]

Discussions during the sixth MPP meeting

Unfortunately, when the sixth MPP started, the pre-meeting efforts to get all governments to agree to the UNESCO text didn’t work out quite as planned.

Many of the States said that, while they weren’t particularly happy with the UNESOC text and didn’t think it went far enough in protecting freedom of expression, etc., they could accept the text in the spirit of compromise. Even Russia and Cuba, which had both been opposed to various bits of the previous versions of the text during the fifth MPP meeting, were resigned to accepting the UNESCO compromise text. Iran, however, was not.

Corridor whispers had suggested that Iran had agreed to the compromise text in the private negotiations before the sixth MPP meeting, but in the meeting, Iran stated that they could not accept the text as it stood. While they were willing to be very flexible and accept human rights-related language in C9—at a previous meeting they had accepted human rights language in the preamble as a compromise solution to prevent human rights appearing within individual Action Lines—they needed to some adjustments to the language to make it clearer.

In response, a number of States, including Sweden, USA, and the European Union, stated that for them, the UNESCO text was the lowest common denominator text that they could possibly accept and that the only way they could continue to accept it was if there was not a single change to the text. Many representatives from civil society and business organizations also stated that they could not accept any changes to the UNESCO text, which many felt was already considerably diluted when compared to earlier pro-freedom of expression, pro-equal gender rights proposed texts.

Iran, which clearly viewed the human rights text in Action Lines C9 to be of significant concern, had brought its Geneva-based Ambassador to the meeting. Iran made it clear that it had a “red line” in its instructions from capital that it was not able to cross, but that it was willing to engage in more collaborative drafting at the MPP to find text that was agreeable to all. Iran had prepared some revised text for discussion in the meeting.

However, a number of other States were very reluctant to go down this path. Various participants proposed that as it was abundantly clear that there wasn’t any room left for finding further compromise, the meeting should end immediately and maintain the agreement made at the fifth MPP meeting: that none of the Action Lines text should appear in the final version of the WSIS+10 Vision statement.

Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan all expressed support for listening to Iran’s request to continue discussions on C9, stating that even if as individual States, they could accept the UNESCO text, if another State—Iran—had problems with it, the meeting should listen to that State’s concerns. Notice that the language used by these four States was suggesting a reversion to an intergovernmental mentality. It wasn’t about “if one participant [in this multistakeholder process] has concerns, the rest of the participants should listen”. It was about “if one government has concerns, the rest of the governments should listen”. I suspect this was happening for three reasons:

  1. The majority of States not wanting to re-open drafting on C9 were developed countries and not part of the G77 family. In contrast, Iran was. There was therefore some geopolitics at play, with G77 States supporting Iran as an act of solidarity, even if they didn’t agree with Iran’s position.
  2. For States that prefer a more intergovernmental model, it was somewhat offensive to have non-government stakeholders say that they opposed the request of a State to reopen negotiations.
  3. Sri Lanka and Pakistan, who don’t seem to have been at the last MPP—or if they were there, they didn’t say anything—weren’t aware quite how difficult the debate was over the four days of the fifth MPP meeting and therefore weren’t aware how infinitesimally small the chance was of making any progress in only a few hours at the sixth MPP.

Iran tried many, many times to re-open the drafting on C9, but without success. Officially, there was opposition based on the fact that re-opening drafting wasn’t likely to bridge a gap between positions. Unofficially, though, I suspect that many were opposing even looking at Iran’s proposed amendments partly in response to the fact that Iran (along with some other States, including Cuba and Saudi Arabia) refused to allow the “UK+friends” compromise text to be presented at the fifth MPP.[2]

The MPP Chair, Prof. Minkin, suggested that given the positions in the room, there really wasn’t any point continuing the debate on C9. China asked if it was possible to park C9 for the moment and go back to the other non-consensus Action Lines (C5 and C8) to see if consensus could at least be reached on those items. The Chair said that it was possible to spend a couple of hours on C5 and C8, but eventually the meeting would have to tackle C9 again, and at that point, the same debate would be recycled all over again.

Iran asked if other participants could possibly accept the remainder of the Action Lines text being included in the final version of the Vision statement while the non-consensus C9 was kept out. But the general response in the room was “No”. All Action Lines needed to have consensus text, or none of the Action Lines could be included.

The outcome of the sixth MPP meeting

Ultimately, the 2.5 hours of discussion in the sixth MPP meeting didn’t change any of the decisions (or non-decisions) made at the fifth MPP meeting:

WSIS+10 Statement on the Implementation of the WSIS Outcomes

There is consensus on all text in the draft. All text goes forward to the High Level Event for endorsement. The final version of the document is available here.

WSIS+10 Vision for WSIS Beyond 2015

There is consensus on:

  • Part A, Preamble
  • Part B, Priority areas to be addressed in the implementation of WSIS Beyond

Parts A and B of the Vision document go forward to the High Level Event for endorsement. The final version of the document is available here.

Part C, Action Lines, does not go forward to the High Level Event for endorsement, but instead appears in the Chair’s report of the MPP process. The following Action Lines reached consensus as standalone text blocks, but due to the non-consensus on three other Action Lines (more on these after the following list), none of these texts appear in the final version of the Vision document:

  • С1. The role of public governance authorities and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development
  • С2. Information and communication infrastructure
  • С3. Access to information and knowledge
  • C4. Capacity building
  • C6. Enabling environment
  • C7. ICT applications: benefits in all aspects of life, including sub-sections on:
  • E-government
  • E-business
  • E-learning
  • E-health
  • E-Employment
  • E-environment
  • E-agriculture
  • E-science
  • C10. Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society
  • C11. International and Regional Cooperation

The three Action Lines that didn’t reach consensus were:

  • С5. Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs
  • C8. Cultural Diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content
  • C9. Media

There was consensus on substantial parts of C5 and C8, but there was absolutely no consensus on any text on C9. For background on why there was no consensus, see What’s going on with WSIS+10? Part 1: Some context.

In addition, there was no consensus on four paragraphs of the final section of Part 3:

  • Section III, Action Lines beyond 2015: Looking to the Future

MPP-related negotiations continue through HLE’s first days

Corridor whispers at the start of the first day of the High Level Event suggested that ITU Secretary-General Toure had been making a last ditch effort to encourage Iran to agree to UNESCO’s C9 text in the hope that Part C of the Vision document could also be presented to the HLE.

It’s not clear how Toure was planning to deal with the remaining non-consensus items of Action Lines C5 and C8. Perhaps he was hoping to approach all MPP participants after getting Iran to accept C9, and encourage everyone to agree to remove all the non-consensus paragraphs. However, I doubt that would be a particularly easy task to achieve, given negotiations would now need to include anyone and everyone at the HLE who is interested in the Action Lines: the number of people at the HLE vastly outnumbers the small number of States and non-governmental entities that attended the MPP meetings.

Whatever Toure’s plans may have been, on HLE Day 1, Iran seems to have made it very clear that it had no intention of accepting UNESCO’s C9 text when it called for an immediate end to the misuse of media and the media’s distribution of discriminatory information. It did this while reading out a Policy Statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It is unclear whether the other NAM States had developed the Policy Statement as a consensus speech, or whether it was being delivered by Iran on behalf of all NAM States.

Other States and non-government stakeholders also made Policy Statements that expressed their support for the documents developed through the MPP and, quite frequently, their frustration with the lack of consensus on Action Line C9. My favourite was from Sweden, which included a reference to bloggers. Given Cuba had been strongly opposed to any reference to “bloggers” in C9, Media, during the fifth MPP meeting, whether intended or not, Sweden’s reference to bloggers seemed to be a high level underlining of their support for the text that Cuba had opposed.

We mustn’t forget that this is Toure’s last year as Secretary-General of the ITU, and he, no doubt, would like to end his time in the role on a high, with all ITU-coordinated and ITU-hosted meetings being seen as outstanding successes. But just as the best behind-the-scenes efforts of ITU staff were unable to encourage a number of States to sign the revised International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) at WCIT a couple of years ago, it may not be possible to push a sovereign State at this meeting to cross a “red line” that it has repeatedly made clear it cannot cross. Alternatively, it might be possible that multilateral negotation techniques come into their own at this point, and Iran can accept crossing that C9 red line in return for getting something it wants in some other, non-MPP, non-HLE arena. Recalling Brazil’s Policy Statement from yesterday, it very much can be possible for multistakeholder and multilateral processes to co-exist. Whether they should co-exist within a single process is perhaps less clear.

A final note

Yes, Iran was the only party at the sixth MPP that could not accept the UNESCO C9 text. We should not assume, though, that by preventing consensus on C9, Iran was and is being a recalcitrant State. A lot of States weren’t at the sixth MPP meeting. Or at any of the MPP meetings. It is quite possible that other States would support Iran’s position on C9.

To flip the situation around for a moment, we shouldn’t forget that many of the States supporting the UNESCO C9 text—and earlier stronger text—are the same States that were in Iran’s position during the WCIT. At WCIT, the USA, Sweden, UK and others were the minority view and were being strongly criticized by the majority of developing States wanting unanimous signing of the ITRs. Sticking to principles and preventing consensus in the process works both ways. Sometimes we may agree with the minority and other times not. Demonizing the minority view may make people feel better in the moment, but in the long term, it’s more constructive to understand that minority’s view in the hope that consensus can be reached at some future time.

[1] I am not sure that having a series of private governmental negotiations in the lead-up to the final meeting of a multistakeholder process was in keeping with the spirit of multistakeholderism. The desire to have side discussions is not the problem: often the only way forward from a public stand-off in a meeting is to privately take aside those with the strongest opinions and hope they will be more candid and reveal what compromises they’re really willing to accept.

If the private meetings had involved the loudest voices on Action Line C9 from the fifth MPP, it would have included non-government voices, such as Richard Hill from civil society and Nick Ashton-Hart from the business sector. By not including non-government participants who clearly expressed strong views on Action Line C9, the last-minute negotiations seem to have made an unfortunate step backward into more intergovernmental negotiation practices. I’m a little surprised that the ITU Secretariat, which has been making a lot of efforts to present itself as a multistakeholder-friendly organization, would not have seen the danger in allowing this to occur. Or was everyone so desperate to make the MPP reach consensus in the short-term that longer-term goals were forgotten in the moment?

[2] While a tit-for-tat approach may sound like a petty reason to object to a State’s proposal, it demonstrates the fundamental importance that trust and respect, and the loss of that trust and respect, plays in difficult negotiations. During the last day of the fifth MPP, the UK had developed its UK+friends compromise text with an honest hope it had crafted it in a way that Iran and some of the other States would be able to accept. However, Iran, Cuba and Saudi Arabia had refused to even allow the UK+friends text to even appear on screen at the fifth MPP. So at the sixth MPP, with many in the room having heard that Iran had agreed to accept the UNESCO text in informal negotiations, it was probably a genuine shock to hear that Iran wasn’t accepting the UNESCO text in its current form. It appeared that Iran wasn’t playing nicely, and given Iran hadn’t played nicely at the fifth MPP when UK+friends had tried to suggest a compromise text as a way forward, there was no way that Iran’s compromise text would be accepted for discussion in the room. In short, many of the other participants in the sixth MPP were highly suspicious about the motives of Iran in wanting to reopen the drafting on Action Line C9. If Iran hasn’t participated in the blocking of discussion of the UK+friends text, but had allowed it to be presented and then stated that they didn’t support it, I suspect that there may not have been such strong opposition to Iran’s text. But in refusing to engage with that UK+friends compromise proposal in any way, it set the scene for the UK+friends to respond similarly when Iran wanted to suggest its own compromise proposal.

ITU Council 2014 – Day 1

Note: I am attending the ITU Council 2014 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.

Photo credit: ITU pictures via Flickr

Photo credit: ITU pictures via Flickr

Quick facts and stats

  • Over 500 people registered to attend Council 2014, but the main room only accommodates 260, so the overflow is being sent to Room C.
  • This being the year of the Plenipotentiary Conference, with its many elections for various positions within the ITU, five government ministers—from Australia, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana and Mali— are gracing the ITU Council 2014 with their presence.
  • The Council continued the tradition of electing the previous year’s Vice-Chair[1] to the position of this year’s Chair position. Mr Aboubakar Zourmba of Cameroon, therefore, is the Chair of ITU Council 2014.
  • Following the tradition of ensuring geographic diversity, it is the turn of Region E (Asia and Australasia) to hold the position of Vice-Chair. Secretary General Toure will report back soon on which member of the Asia Pacific region will hold the position.
  • Australia’s Caroline Greenway was re-elected as Chair of the Standing Committee on Administration and Management (excuse me while I’m parochial for a minute… Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!) Marcin Krasuski (Poland) and Vernita Harris (USA) will also continue their roles as Vice-Chairs in 2014.
  • The Council session has received 26 contributions by Member States. 17 of these were submitted by the deadline (22 April, which is two weeks before the meeting starts). You can find who submitted what and when at the Contributions index page).
  • Freely available versions of all Council 2014 documents have been made available on the WCITLeaks website.

Some of key quotes from Day 1

“There is no beginning and there is no end. There is only change.”—Chair of ITU Council 2013, Catalin Marinescu (Romania)

“One of the Secretaries General of the Union, Mr Mohamed Ezzedine Mili, described the Internet as an explosive marriage between the computer and telecommunications. If we are not careful, those of our people who have difficulty reading and writing may be left by the wayside.”—Chair of ITU Council 2014, Aboubakar Zourmba (Cameroon)

“The Dubai Declaration recently adopted at the WTDC-14 describes telecommunications and ICT infrastructure, services and applications as powerful tools for economic growth and innovation. This is true of course, and yet, infrastructure, services and applications will not foster innovation and from that, economic growth, if innovation is hampered in other ways. Governments cannot legislate innovation, but what we can and should do is make it much easier for businesses in our countries to innovate.”—Australia’s Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull

ITU Council 2014

Photo credit: ITU pictures via Flickr

Summary of the most interesting topics (to me) on Day 1

1. Report on the implementation of the strategic plan for 2012-2015 and activities of the Union for 2010-2014

ITU must have one of the best PR and marketing departments of any organization I’ve ever come across. Instead of making participants of ITU Council 2014 sit through a really long read-through of the summarizing this 82-page report, the media folks at ITU put together a slick and glitzy video highlighting ITU’s major achievements over the past few years. The technical bodies of the Internet governance world could certainly learn a thing or two from ITU about producing videos that highlight key achievements in such easily digestible forms. (In contrast, take a look at how the Internet governance world fails to effectively communicate what it’s doing, and manages to confuse many of its own true believers here.)

2. ICTs and people with disabilities

This really is low hanging fruit issue that is impossible for anyone to object to. Like the whole “think of the children”/child online protection issue, anyone who objects to activities that help a group of people with intellectual or physical disabilities really is entering Cruella De Vil territory. Of interest, though, was a suggestion by a Member State to use the term “disabilities and specific needs” in all future ITU documents on this issue (this term made its first appearance in the ITU context in the documents of the recent WTDC-14 held in Dubai).

3. Gender mainstreaming and promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women through ICTs

After the protracted debate on the equal participation of women in Internet governance at last week’s CSTD WGEC (I’m still to blog on this… watch this space), it was a relief to hear overwhelming support by the Council members for the need to encourage equal participation of women in the ITU sphere. It was less encouraging that of the seven interventions from the floor supporting the ITU’s work in this area, six of the interventions were made by men.

The ITU Secretariat provided some historical data on women’s participation in ITU (and its previous incarnations). The first woman to take the floor was from the Soviet Union during a 1932 meeting (that’s 67 years after the creation of International Telegraph Union). And the first woman to be a head of delegation was from Bolivia, in 1962 (97 years after the creation of the Union). These statistics aren’t published on the ITU website yet, but the staff responsible for implementing Plenipotentiary Resolution 70 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) are compiling more information about the history of women’s participation in ITU and the result of that work will hopefully be published on the ITU website in some form soon.

A written statement by ITU Secretary General Touré, read out by Deputy Secretary-General Houlin Zhou, noted that the implementation of gender mainstreaming was a high priority for ITU in 2014. As part of its gender mainstreaming activities, ITU will be launching the GEM (Gender Equality and Mainstreaming) awards at a side event on gender issues during ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 (PP-14).

ITU Council 2014

Photo credit: ITU pictures via Flickr

4. Free access to ITU publications

While ITU has expanded the number of publications available for free, in 2013, its revenues from the sale of publications increased when compared to the previous year’s sales. Interestingly, CDs and DVDs have experiences the largest growth in sales since 2009, with the overall sales of paper-based publications dropping dramatically between 2010 and 2012. Paper-based publications doubled in sales between 2012 and 2013 however (13% to 26% of sales). Sale of online publications (downloadable formats such as PDFs) has remained extremely small (only 1% of publication sales in 2013). These figures are important because ITU is considering how many other publications to make freely available and how much free availability of documents will affect ITU’s income stream. There were some concerns expressed in the room that additional free documents could have a negative impact on ITU’s budget (ITU is already trying to work out how to do an expanding list of things its members want it to do while also juggling budget constraints). Based on the discussions on Day 1, a draft proposal to make additional documents available freely will be amended by the author State and another interest State.

5. Council Working Group report on WSIS activities

There were two documents submitted by the CWG: C38, which was an overall report on WSIS activities by the ITU, and an Addendum to C38 (which was a report on the CWG’s meeting held on Monday, 5 May 2014). There was a bit of discussion over the way that the Council would take action on the two documents: it was proposed that C38 be “noted” while C38 Addendum 1 be “approved”. Some Member States were reluctant to “approve” the Addendum, given it was a mix of summary paragraphs on the Monday meeting as well as proposals on the way forward. But when the Chair pushed for closure on the topic, asking if anyone had strong objections to the document, Member States kept silent, so the document was approved.

6. Defining “ICT”

The long Council discussion on the definition of “ICT” cheered me up immensely. It put the ongoing debates about what “enhanced cooperation” is, and the never-finalized-but-still-a-working-definition-after-10-years “Internet governance” into perspective. The definition was part of a report by the Correspondence Group on the Elaboration of a Working Definition of the Term “ICT”. The working definition included in the report is:

Technologies and equipment that handle (e.g., access, create, collect, store, transmit, receive, disseminate) information and communication.

The report of the Correspondence Group is meant to be forwarded to the PP-14 for their consideration, but a number of Council members objected to the definition being included in the report as they felt that the definition was not yet “mature” enough. The Chair intervened with “We’ve been discussing this since 2006 and still don’t have a definition of ICT.” Other Member States said that that since the Correspondence Group had been tasked with coming up with a definition by the last Plenipotentiary Conference (in 2010), it was important to report back to PP-14 on the status of its work, even if the current definition wasn’t the final one. A couple of States supported the idea of submitting the report of the Correspondence Group along with a summary of the discussion about the definition of ICTs held here in Council.

After about half an hour of this to-ing and fro-ing, the Secretary General intervened: “This is a chess game. It’s starting again.” At the heart of the definition of ICTs, he said, was the fact that the Internet was lurking in the background. “ICT does include the Internet. Let’s face it. […] This is a very innocent definition […] But it’s not going to fly […] It’s harmless. Whether we define it or not, we’ll continue to work. We’ve been working for 150 years and will continue to work for another 150 years.”

The day ended with the Chair proposing that a small group get together and work on the definition outside of plenary in the hope of finding a consensus solution.

More to come…

Key issues of interest to Internet governance folk:

  • The Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (CWG-Internet) (Thursday 8 May)
  • ITU’s Internet activities (Thursday 8 May)
  • Opening ITU documents to the general public (Friday 9 May)

[1] Official ITU language only recognizes the terms “Chairman” and “Vice-Chairman”. However, I am not similarly constrained to use such gender-biased terms, and will only use “Chair” and “Vice-Chair”… even if the positions are still overwhelmingly filled by men.