Highlights: ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2022
Stay updated with the Plenipotentiary Conference, the supreme decision-making body of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
At this highest-level meeting, 193 Member States will agree on ITU’s strategic and financial plans, leadership, and direction for the next four years.
Learn more about about PP-22 here, or scroll down for regular updates from the conference.
Photo of the day: Chair Sabin Sărmaș brings the 2022 Plenipotentiary Conference to a close.
Image credit: ITU/R. Farrell
Monday 26 September
Tuesday 27 September
Wednesday 28 September
Thursday 29 September
Friday 30 September
Monday 3 October
Tuesday 4 October
Wednesday 5 October
Thursday 6 October
Friday 7 October
Monday 10 October
Tuesday 11 October
Wednesday 12 October
Thursday 13 October
Friday 14 October
The final day of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) saw the signing of the Final Acts by 157 Member States.
The last plenary session proceeded with the closing ceremony, which began with Romania’s National Chamber Choir Madrigal–Marin Constantin performing a reprise of the official PP-22 hymn, ‘Connect and Unite.’
Next, Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae-Ionel Ciucă, addressed PP-22 delegates via video message.
“Digital transformation and telecommunication development are anchors of the economy of the future,” he said, expressing gratitude to delegates from across the world.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, whose tenure ends this year, delivered his final Plenipotentiary address.
“Serving as TSB Director, Deputy Secretary-General, and Secretary-General was the pride and honour of my life,” he said in his farewell speech, reflecting on his storied 36-year career.
“Over three decades, I witnessed first-hand how ICT innovations have changed the world – and how important ITU has been in advancing this digital transformation,” he added.
Zhao called on delegates to advocate for an ITU that is both a technical and a development agency, and to spread this message inside and outside the ITU family. “Like in all families, we have stood together in good and hard times,” he said, adding: “The future of ITU is in very capable hands.”
Outgoing ITU Deputy Secretary-General Malcolm Johnson, whose tenure also ends this year, addressed the Plenipotentiary Conference for the last time.
“It’s 40 years this year since I first participated in ITU,” said Johnson during his farewell speech, “firstly as a delegate, as Director of TSB, and finally as DSG.” He expressed hopes for the organization’s future, bolstered by “ITU’s unique tradition of reaching decisions by consensus.”
Citing the importance of collaboration, cooperation, and coordination, Johnson added:
“I look forward to a new era for an invigorated ITU that will face the challenges ahead.”
Also concluding his tenure in 2022, outgoing Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) Director Dr. Chaesub Lee, addressed the closing plenary:
“I am a lucky engineer, having had so many opportunities to contribute to the development of global networks – the essential infrastructure of today’s society,” he said, reflecting on his 35 years at ITU, including 8 as an elected official.
“My responsibility is ending, but my journey within the ICT community will not stop,” Lee added, noting how his farewell speech was delivered on World Standards Day.
ITU Medals and Certificates of Recognition were presented to the salient elected officials for their service and contributions to the development of global telecommunications.
“Historic achievements for the Union and its Member States gives us reason to be proud for the work we put in,” said PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș in his closing remarks.
“Together, we made this world a bit better. It’s up to each of us to continue what we started here in Bucharest.”
Extraordinary session of ITU Council 2023
Earlier on 14 October, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao welcomed and congratulated Member States newly elected to the ITU Council, whose role is to set the organization’s strategic direction and budget plans between Plenipotentiary Conferences.
César Martinez of Paraguay was elected Chair of ITU Council 2023, after which he highlighted the success of PP-22 on the conference’s closing day after arduous weeks of work.
“Now we start a new phase,” he said, noting the new Council’s focus on ITU’s strategic plan for 2024-2027, set out in the updated Resolution 71.
“I will spare no efforts in respecting the objectives of ITU endorsed at PP-22 through Resolution 71,” he added.
Also, during the extraordinary session, Frédéric Sauvage of France was elected Vice Chair of ITU Council 2023.
The first session of ITU Council is set to take place from 11 to 21 July 2023.
Learn more about the extraordinary session of ITU Council 2023.
The penultimate day of the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) saw Member States reach milestone agreements on a range of key topics, including the ITRs, Internet governance, cybersecurity, and ITU’s strategic plan for the next four years.
International Telecommunication Regulations review and revision
The revised Resolution 146, on the periodic review of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), calls to continue consideration of issues relating to the ITRs, including their review.
It instructs the ITU Secretary General to reconvene the Expert Group on ITRs (EG-ITRs), open to ITU Member States and Sector Members, with terms of reference and working methods established by the ITU Council.
The Council is instructed to review and revise the terms of reference for the EG ITR at its 2023 session, review EG-ITR reports at its annual sessions, and submit the final report of the EG-ITR to the 2026 Plenipotentiary Conference with the Council’s comments. Finally, the revised resolution invites the 2026 Plenipotentiary Conference to consider the EG-ITR final report and take necessary action.
ITU’s role in Internet governance
The final days of PP-22 saw delegates reach consensus number of resolutions on Internet governance following a series of long and complex discussions.
Delegates agreed to update Resolution 102 on ITU’s role in international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet, which says that ITU may assist Member States to identify and access advice and support from other relevant entities and organizations, which include the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the regional Internet registries (RIRs), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), among others.
Member States also resolved to strengthen the work of the ITU Council Working Group on Internet (CWG-Internet), so it can continue addressing international Internet-related public policy issues. CWG-Internet is tasked with contributing actively to implement the resolution and related international initiatives within the mandate of ITU.
In addition, revised Res. 102 instructs the ITU Secretary-General to participate in international discussions on the management of Internet domain names, addresses, and other Internet resources, the impact of new and emerging telecommunications/ICTs into account. The ITU SG is also tasked with the continued promotion of Internet connectivity for sustainable development, and to engage in other relevant UN activities on international Internet related public policy issues and to promote the work of ITU and its members.
When it comes to decisions affecting country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), Member States instruct ITU bureau directors to respect the sovereign and legitimate interests defined by each country in diverse ways, and to address them through flexible and improved frameworks and mechanisms.
Internet protocol-based networks
Recalling relevant Opinions of the Sixth World Telecommunication/Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy Forum (WTPF-21), Member States updated Resolution 101 to request the three ITU sectors (radiocommunication, standardization and development) to take the impact of new and emerging telecommunication/ICT services into account as they consider updates to their work programmes on IP-based networks.
Revised Res. 101 also invites Member States and Sector Members to participate in this work, and to increase awareness at national, regional, and international levels among all interested stakeholders.
Internationalized domain names
A multilingual Internet can help build digital skills and literacy, especially for people in developing countries who have yet to be connected. In this context, internationalized domain names (IDNs) promote greater Internet use by all, and can contribute to sustainable development by promoting Internet accessibility and use in local languages.
Recalling the need to continue the regional expansion of the Domain Name System (DNS) root server instances to increase its resilience, and to promote internationalized domain names (IDNs) to overcome linguistic barriers and increase Internet accessibility, delegates revised Resolution 133 on the role of Members States in managing internationalized (multilingual) domain names.
The revised resolution recognizes the importance of community engagement and information sharing to get a better understanding of existing challenges and to support solutions, particularly in developing countries.
Member States and Sector Member are invited to exchange information on IDN development, work on the further deployment and implementation of IDNs; to promote capacity building, information sharing, and the exchange of best practices among all stakeholders in IDN implementation and deployment; and to consider how to further promote the adoption of universal acceptance in respect of IDNs and to collaborate and coordinate with relevant organisations and stakeholders in enabling the use of IDNs in the Internet.
Revised Res. 133 also notes the need for consistent and continuous reporting to ITU Council on IDNs given ITU’s membership in ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). ITU leadership is instructed to report annually to ITU Council on activities and achievements, including related activities in the ICANN GAC.
In revised Resolution 180 on promoting Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) deployment, Member States agreed to support other Member States who request capacity building assistance, including support from relevant organizations, which include ICANN, the RIRs, IETF, ISOC, and W3C, among others.
Member States and Sector Members are invited to encourage IP-based telecommunication/ICT services and infrastructure support IPv6; share best practices in IPv6 deployment; to encourage industry and academia to participate in IPv6 deployment and capacity building; and to encourage government agencies and private-sector organizations to ensure their websites and services support IPv6.
Strengthening ITU’s role in building confidence and security in the use of ICTs
Revisions of Resolution 130 invite ITU Member States to encourage their national computer incident response teams (CIRTs) to collaborate with other national and subnational governmental agencies and encourage the engagement of experts in ITU’s activities in the area of building confidence and security in the use of ICTs.
ITU Member States are also invited to identify the basic security measures that their public should take to protect themselves from cyber risks, and promote them, as well as encourage information sharing on cybersecurity issues and best practices, at national, regional and international levels. They are also invited to support and engage in efforts that lead to sustainable, secure and stable national telecommunication/ICT infrastructure.
The revised resolution invites ITU Member States, Sector Members and Associates to promote the development of educational and training programmes to enhance user awareness of risks in cyberspace, especially for women, children, persons with disabilities, persons with specific needs, and persons with age-related disabilities, and the steps that they can take to protect themselves.
They are also invited to promote initiatives to encourage more people to enter the cybersecurity profession and to provide training opportunities for them and to provide initiatives so that women and girls can have access to studies and careers in cybersecurity.
Furthermore, ITU Member States, Sector Members and Associates are invited to contribute to the ITU’s repository of best practices on measures that facilitate and encourage more people to choose a career in cybersecurity, and are also invited to engage in the improvement of the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) process, including the discussion on the methodology, structure, weightage and questions, using the GCI expert group and to share best practices and information about digital certificates.
ITU strategic plan for 2024-2027
Member States have approved new goals and targets, along with updated priorities for advancing towards universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation, with a newly revised Resolution 71 outlining the ITU strategic plan for 2024-2027.
This latest four-year plan enhances ITU’s universal connectivity goal with targets for ensuring Internet access for all. It also bolsters ITU’s environmental priorities as part of sustainable digital transformation.
The plan’s targets for inclusive and secure infrastructure aim to enhance fixed and broadband connectivity and access, radiocommunications use, and digital skills and literacy worldwide, as well as upgrading knowledge and capacities among ITU members. The plan also promotes technology-centric innovation and entrepreneurship, along with innovative regulation to help developing countries advance digital inclusion.
Noting the world’s persistent digital divide, the revised strategic plan reaffirms ITU’s role in expanding connectivity worldwide and promotes technologies as a key driver for sustainable post-COVID development.
Revised Res. 71 also suggests enhancing the role of ITU’s regional offices, incorporating the gender perspective and mainstreaming diversity across ITU’s work, and continuing to implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The latest plan clarifies key areas of ITU’s work, provides a clear focus for the next four years, encourages strong coordination among ITU’s radiocommunication, standardization, and development sectors, and strengthens the framework for results-based management. It also paves the way for strengthening international cooperation and partnerships; updating human capacity, processes, procedures, and tools; and ensuring integration and harmonization with other UN organizations.
WTPF to address challenges and opportunities of new technologies
PP-22 on Thursday approved an updated Resolution 2 on ITU’s World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF) with an emphasis on addressing the challenges and opportunities arising from new and emerging telecommunication/ICT services and technologies.
The sixth World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF-21), held in a virtual format in December 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, succeeded in producing consensus opinions for consideration by ITU’s Member States and Sector Members and other stakeholders. The revised resolution encourages with sharing of WTPF reports and opinions with relevant UN agencies and committees and international and regional organizations.
Future networks in developing countries
International mobile telecommunication (IMT) systems and other technologies can help bridge the digital divide and promote affordable broadband connectivity, especially in developing countries.
With the costly nature of deploying future networks in mind, PP-22 delegates revised Resolution 137 on the deployment of future networks in developing countries to instruct ITU leadership to invite relevant international organisations to share information on creating an enabling environment to develop and deploy future networks affordably.
ITU Member States and Sector Members are invited to consider future developments to accelerate the digital economy, and to enhance the affordability and availability of telecommunications and ICT equipment to deploy future networks.
Fostering ecosystems for innovation
Revised Resolution 205 on ITU’s role in fostering telecommunication/ICT-centric innovation to support the digital economy and society directs ITU to support institutional capacity building and foster sustainable technology development that encourages innovation, through cooperation with stakeholders including government, academia, the private sector, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), start-ups, incubation centres, and young entrepreneurs.
Connecting refugee settlements to the Internet
Delegates agreed on a recommendation that instructs the ITU Secretary-General to continue collaborating with UNHCR and other relevant UN bodies regarding connectivity in support of refugees, taking into account specific mandates of different agencies, and within ITU’s budget. The ITU Secretary-General is also tasked with reporting to ITU Council meetings over the next period, and to the next ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, on actions taken.
PP-22 agreed to suppress Resolution 11 (Rev. Dubai 2018) on ITU Telecom events.
Thursday saw several other decisions and resolutions approved during two plenary sessions, including:
- Decision 5: Revenue and expenses for the Union for the period 2024-2027
- Res. 2: World telecommunication/information and communication technology policy forum
- Res. 77: Scheduling and duration of conferences, forums, assemblies and Council sessions of the Union (2023-2027)
- Res. 131: Measuring ICTs to build an integrating and inclusive information society
- Res. 139: Use of telecommunications/information and communication technologies to bridge the digital divide and build an inclusive information society
- Res. 167: Strengthening and developing ITU capabilities for electronic meetings and means to advance the work of the Union
- Res. 203: Connectivity to broadband networks
PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș opened the 16th Plenary by thanking all delegates for the commitment shown thus far.
“Over the past 3 weeks, you have helped break the glass ceiling by electing the first woman Secretary-General, and adopted historic resolutions that will take ITU forward,” Sărmaș said, inviting delegates to share their own highlights from the conference on their social media accounts using the hashtag #Plenipot.
Two delegates took the floor to share highlights from the prior week’s “Youth at PP-22 initiative” during which Generation Connect Youth Envoys and young social media creators organized three side events.
They expressed gratitude to Australia and Romania for their efforts to support youth at PP-22, and thanked all delegates for their positive impact on young leaders “who have so much to give to ITU in return.”
“The biggest smiles I’ve seen on delegates’ faces were after your events,” said PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș, thanking youth representatives for their energetic presence during the second week of the conference.
Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs recognized
During the 16th plenary session on the morning of 13 October, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao presented the Chair of each PP-22 committee with a certificate of appreciation in recognition of their leadership.
The Vice-Chairs of the conference were also thanked for their hard work and support.
Host country recognized
During the 17th plenary session on the afternoon of 13 October, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao presented certificates of appreciation to Sebastian Burduja, Minister of Research, Innovation, and Digitization of Romania and Vlad Stoica, President of Romania’s Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) for their efforts in organizing a successful Plenipotentiary Conference in Bucharest.
Delegates reached consensus on a number of key decisions at Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) on Wednesday, on topics including space sustainability and the role of telecommunications/ICTs in mitigating global pandemics.
PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș congratulated delegates on passing several new resolutions, saying: “we are doing better and better.”
Delegates reach consensus on space policy issues
During the 15th Plenary session, delegates agreed on several space policy issues, adopting two new resolutions.
A new resolution on the sustainability of the radio-frequency spectrum and associated satellite orbit resources used by space services underscores the urgent need to review technologies used in satellite networks in the geostationary satellite orbit (GSO), as well as the increased numbers of satellites within non-GSO satellite systems, with a view to addressing them in the Radio Regulations, if necessary, and in the processing of frequency assignments by the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau (BR).
The resolution also notes the urgency of addressing issues associated with non-GSO satellite systems before they are launched and operational.
As such, Member States instructed the Radiocommunication Assembly (RA) to urgently perform the necessary studies through ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) study groups to address the increasing use of radio-frequency spectrum and associated orbit resources in non-GSO orbits and the long-term sustainability of these resources. The resolution also instructs the RA to have ITU-R study groups investigate equitable access to, and rational and compatible use of, GSO and non-GSO orbit and spectrum resources in line with Article 44 of the ITU Constitution.
Delegates jointly expressed their gratitude to the administrations that helped create the new resolution, saying:
“Our concerns are reflected in this high-level compromise of what administrations were willing to address. However, this is only a first step in the right direction to ensure the rational use of satellite orbits, and addressing equitable access to space by all nations as provided by Article 44.”
They noted additional concerns that fall outside the scope of ITU’s mandate, such as environmental impacts, space safety and debris, pollution, and other critical issues, should be studied where necessary.
Also today, Member States approved a new resolution on ITU’s role in implementing the Space2030 Agenda, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 October 2021, on space as a driver of sustainable development.
Space technology and applications, as well as data derived from space, contribute to a range of sustainable development activities, from environmental protection to disaster risk reduction and emergency response, energy infrastructure to agriculture and food security, and more.
According to this new resolution, ITU should support the implementation of the Space2030 Agenda, especially the parts related to space services, given the organization’s unique role in facilitating access to radio spectrum and associated satellite orbits per Article 44 of the ITU Constitution.
At the same time, the resolution notes how national frequency assignments and allotments, especially those of developing countries, have been severely degraded over time, making it difficult for those countries to use them.
The upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) and subsequent WRCs are therefore instructed to continue prioritizing equitable access to satellites orbits with the special needs of developing countries in mind.
Learn more about the Space2030 Agenda.
Finally, Resolution 186 was revised to strengthen ITU’s role in transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities by instructing the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau (BR) Director to make satellite monitoring facility information available to governments.
Learn more about satellite monitoring activities on the ITU News blog.
“We are transiting through a new era of space development that poses a big challenge for ITU, and for the international community at large,” said newly re-elected ITU Radiocommunication Bureau Director Mario Maniewicz, adding:
“We are already receiving filings with thousands of satellites – something that never happened before in history. Dealing with all those using the same rules we used before is a real challenge – but we are ready to face it, with your support, when it comes to fulfilling new requirements to deliver. We are enthusiastic about these new developments that will bring more means of communication and a comprehensive way of using space for the benefit of humanity, and for the planet.”
New resolution on mitigating global pandemics
COVID-19 and its associated disruptions to public life have made affordable information and communication technologies (ICTs) and connectivity vital for countries worldwide. A new resolution adopted at PP-22 on Wednesday focuses on the role of telecommunications/ICTs in mitigating global pandemics.
UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/74/270 on global solidarity to fight COVID-19 urges UN agencies “to mobilize a coordinated global response to the pandemic and its adverse social, economic and financial impact on all societies.”
ITU’s new resolution calls for cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN organizations and stakeholders to promote existing, new, and emerging telecommunications/ICTs to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also asks Member States to consider how to reduce the severity and number of emergency situations caused by COVID.
The latest World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF-21) noted how technologies could strengthen future pandemic and epidemic preparedness and response. As COVID-19 has demonstrated, access to relevant information is crucial for public safety. Providing connectivity and informing communities in local languages, for example, can help save lives. Along with expanding affordable technology access and connectivity, the new resolution underlines the need for digital inclusion and skills to mitigate the effects of both COVID-19 and future pandemics.
Noting the ongoing ITU-WHO-UNICEF initiative to provide updated COVID-19 information, the resolution encourages international cooperation to raise awareness, build capacity, and share best practices and lessons in using existing, new, and emerging telecommunications/ICTs to respond to pandemics. It also invites engagement with telecom/ICT providers and others to support jobs, especially among small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and to continue education in the face of a pandemic.
Combating counterfeit and tampered devices
An expanded Resolution 188 on combating counterfeit telecom and ICT devices now covers devices subjected to tampering, encouraging cooperation with telecommunication/ICT standards development organizations, regional and international organizations including agencies like the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), and the World Customs Organization, as well as with industry, to detect counterfeiting and tampering. ITU’s Bureau Directors should promote solutions to mitigate the challenges emerging from counterfeit and tampered telecom/ICT devices.
Other decisions and resolutions passed at Wednesday’s plenary session include:
- Decision 11: Creation and management of Council working groups
- Res. 101: Internet protocol-based networks
- Res. 133: Role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names
- Res. 191: Strategy for the coordination of efforts among the three Sectors of the Union
- Res. 48: Human resources management and development
- Res. 162: Independent management advisory committee
- Res. 208: Appointment and maximum term of office for chairmen and vice-chairmen of Sector advisory groups, study groups and other groups
Participation of Sector Members from developing countries in radiocommunications and standardization
Companies and organizations from developing countries need support to engage in ITU radiocommunication and standardization work.
During a 10 October plenary session, Member States approved revised Resolution 170, which calls for focused engagement and additional support to ITU Sector Members from developing countries within the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) and the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU T), to encourage more such members to join and mobilize their expertise into ITU’s work.
The next Plenipotentiary Conference should make a final decision on such participation based on an evaluation by the Council Working Group on financial and human resources, with the assistance of the ITU secretariat.
India to host WTSA 2024
Also during the 15th plenary on Wednesday, delegates unanimously agreed on India’s invitation to host the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) in 2024.
Numerous Member States extended their appreciation to India for their flexibility, as the country was meant to host WTSA in 2020 but could not due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian delegation thanked Member States who expressed support.
“Standardization which provides interoperability is the main focus of the discussions,” they said, adding how they look forward to welcoming delegates to their country.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao took the floor to mention the major conferences to be held in forthcoming years: WRC-23 in the United Arab Emirates, WTSA-24 in India, WTDC-25 in Thailand, and PP-26 in Qatar.
Zhao also noted Rwanda’s invitation to host the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2027.
“The ITU secretariat will start to work with all host countries to reconfirm our arrangements, and report to Council to make decisions on these host country invitations,” he added.
Delegates reached consensus on another set of key decisions during Tuesday’s plenary session at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22), including two new resolutions.
New resolution on the use of frequency assignments by military radio installations for national defence services
In a landmark decision at PP-22, Member States agreed on how to address cases of possible misuses of Article 48 of the ITU Constitution, which addresses military radio installations for national defence services.
The new resolution considers the current lack of specific provisions or procedures in the Radio Regulations related to the invocation of Article 48 when processing, recording and maintaining in the Master International Frequency Register frequency assignments to stations that are part of military radio installations.
In case a Member State invokes Article 48 in relation to frequency assignments for space or terrestrial services, the new resolution says:
- The Member State undertakes obligations to use such frequency assignments for military radio installations.
- All relevant provisions of the Radio Regulations still apply for non-military radio installations.
- The Member State undertakes obligations to revoke the invocation of Article 48 if the frequency assignment is no longer used for military radio installations.
Moreover, if the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau receives information about a possible misuse of radio frequency assignments under Article 48, the Bureau should seek clarification from the Member State invoking Article 48.
Finally, Member States agreed on a mechanism to address persisting disagreements about a Radiocommunication Bureau assessment. In such cases, the matter shall be referred to the Radio Regulations Board (RRB) together with the Member State’s basis for the disagreement. If the Member State disagrees with the RRB decision, it may appeal to the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), and the RRB decision will remain on hold until the WRC decides on the matter.
ITU Radiocommunication Bureau Director Mario Maniewicz thanked Member States that sent ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) experts to the Plenipotentiary Conference to be able to adequately address this and other radiocommunication-related matters submitted to the conference.
“The resolution works as it was drafted,” he said. “It is a good resolution that shows the will of the membership for Article 48 to be used properly.”
ICTs, climate change, and environmental protection
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. While information and communication technologies (ICTs) form part of the problem due to their carbon emissions and e-waste, they can also help to mitigate climate change and environmental degradation.
Delegates at PP-22 agreed to revise Resolution 182 on the role of telecommunications and ICTs in the context of climate change and environmental protection.
The updated resolution encourages the telecommunications/ICT sector to minimize emissions by 2030 in line with Paris Agreement trajectories; to adopt science-based targets (SBT) in the short run and net-zero targets in the long run; and to report publicly on their efforts.
ITU’s leadership is tasked with considering online practices developed during the pandemic and leveraging ITU’s ICT Development Fund (ICT-DF) to help developing and least developed countries use ICTs to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts.
Among other calls to action, the newly updated resolution invites ITU members to:
- promote energy supply efficiency, including through smart grids and renewable energy sources;
- encourage telecommunications/ICT companies to assess their environmental impact along the entire value chain and assist them where appropriate;
- cooperate to maximize the enabling effect of telecommunications/ICTs in combatting climate change and protecting the environment while reducing their environmental footprint as much as possible;
- increase investments in emerging telecommunications/ICTs to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, and to improve e-waste solutions;
- consider increasing financing for telecommunications/ICTs in the context of mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change and natural disasters.
ITU’s future headquarters
Updates to Resolution 212 on ITU’s future headquarters premises welcome a new sponsorship by Kuwait and donations from Nigeria, and Ghana, on top of the project’s original sponsorships by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and a donation from the Czech Republic. The revised resolution also recognizes Switzerland’s offer to help ITU with conference-hosting solutions until the new building opens.
Through the revised Res. 212, Member States have confirmed their commitment to the construction of the future ITU headquarters, which will offer sustainable, state-of-the-art working and conference facilities at the heart of International Geneva.
Learn more about the new ITU Headquarters building project.
Ensuring business continuity
PP-22 approved a new resolution on ITU’s business continuity management for 2023-2026, in which Member States resolve to pay close attention to further developing, monitoring and adapting ITU business continuity strategy and policy.
Strengthening the ITU regional presence
An updated Resolution 25 says ITU’s regional and area offices should keep strengthening their relations with regional telecommunications organizations, deepen cooperation with UN country teams, and pay particular attention to the least developed countries.
Non-discriminatory access to ICT facilities, services and applications
At PP-22, delegates revised Resolution 64 on non-discriminatory access to telecommunication/information and communication technology (ICT) facilities, services and applications, including applied research and transfer of technology, and e-meetings, on mutually agreed terms. The updated resolution instructs ITU leadership to dedicate attention to activities related to this resolution during pandemics.
Other resolutions passed
Delegates also agreed on revised Resolution 148 on the tasks and functions of the Deputy Secretary-General, and Resolution 180 on promoting deployment of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).
On the first day of the final week of the 2022 Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22), delegates agreed on several key resolutions.
New resolution on artificial intelligence
Recognizing ITU’s important role in technology and development, PP-22 delegates passed an historic new resolutionon artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and telecommunications/ICTs.
“For the first time in its history, ITU has a resolution on artificial intelligence,” remarked Working Group of the Plenary (WG-PL) Chair Kwame Baah-Acheamfuor.
Resolution WGPL/1 notes work already underway across ITU, including but not limited to the AI for Good platform, convened in partnership with more than 40 United Nations partner agencies, and its AI repository. AI for Good seeks to identify practical applications of AI to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ongoing work takes place in several study groups, focus groups and capacity building activities examining the intersection between AI, telecommunications, and information and communication technologies (ICTs) to facilitate sustainable development.
Delegates resolved that ITU should continue its work on AI related to telecommunication and ICTs within its mandate and core competencies, including studies, information sharing, and capacity building. The resolution also calls for ITU to foster a telecommunication/ICT ecosystem for the deployment of AI technologies, while noting how the full realization of AI technologies in this context will bring both opportunities and challenges and will require bridging digital divides.
With developing countries in mind, the new resolution instructs the ITU Secretary-General, in consultation with ITU’s three Bureau Directors, to foster information-sharing and build understanding about the challenges and opportunities of deploying AI technologies in support of telecommunications and ICTs.
The high-level resolution also instructs the ITU Secretary-General, in consultation with ITU’s three Bureau Directors, to identify collaboration opportunities with other relevant organizations and stakeholders. It is important to note that ITU co-chairs, with UNESCO, the United Nations interagency working group on AI activities.
ITU Member States, Sector Members, and Academia Members are invited to promote a common understanding of how a strong telecommunication/ICT ecosystem can support AI technologies, considering the many AI use cases that contribute to sustainable development.
The resolution also invites ITU members to share experiences and contribute to international multistakeholder discussions, capacity building, and studies on AI applications aimed at helping to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in line with ITU’s mandate.
AI comprises a broad set of methods and disciplines, including computer vision, natural language processing, decision making, problem solving, robotics and other applications that enable machines to learn. While AI has the potential to advance economic development and drive progress across all SDGs, its use also entails extensive socioeconomic and ethical implications. Many governments and organizations are preparing for the widespread adoption and use of AI technologies with these opportunities and challenges in mind.
Mainstreaming a gender perspective in ITU
ITU Member States revised Resolution 70, which seeks to promote gender equality and empower women and girls through information and communication technologies (ICTs).
The revised resolution notes that unequal access to ICTs for women and girls harms everyone, especially in low-income countries. It also notes the importance of fully engaging men and boys, as agents and beneficiaries of change, to achieve gender equality.
It also encourages Member States and Sector Members to collect and contribute sex-disaggregated data to support ITU activities on gender equality issues, to highlight trends in the sector, and to set benchmarks towards achieving equality.
Member States also resolved to encourage the adoption of gender inclusive language in ITU’s work.
Revised Res. 70 invites Member States to actively encourage the participation of women in ITU activities such as Network of Women (NoW) initiatives and Women in Standardization Expert Group (WISE) activities, and to encourage greater participation of women in their delegations.
In the same vein, the ITU Secretary-General is instructed to facilitate the creation of a consultative mechanism that supports the alignment, cooperation and coordination of activities that empower women across all three ITU Sectors, in close consultation with their respective networks and groups; to continue supporting cross-sectoral training and upskilling of women delegates, within ITU’s available resources; and to consider creating a sponsorship programme that supports women delegates who have completed training and upskilling initiatives to attend ITU meetings, in order to facilitate a pipeline of women delegates to ITU conferences and assemblies.
Revised Res. 70 also invites ITU’s Member States and Sector Members to encourage men to support women and girls in leveraging the opportunities offered by telecommunications and ICTs.
PP-22 has sought specifically – with the stated aim of holding an inclusive, gender-responsive conference – to encourage the active participation of women in leadership roles, such as chairing committees. According to official conference statistics, 33 per cent of the delegates present are women.
Read about women delegates connecting and uniting at PP-22 on the ITU News blog.
Bridging the standardization gap
Holding ITU meetings at the broader regional level can increase the participation of developing countries within each of ITU’s designated regions. Resolution 123 on bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries was revised on this basis, with a particular focus on boosting the engagement of academia members from developing countries.
Revised Res. 123 calls for collaboration with relevant academia, in close collaboration between ITU’s Standardization Sector (ITU-T) and Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), while also taking into consideration the activities conducted through ITU Academy Training Centres and other capacity-building initiatives of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT).
Joint meetings with other organizations at the regional level could encourage more participation by developing countries.
The revised resolution envisages “joint meetings of regional groups of study groups, in particular if concatenated with a regional workshop and/or a meeting of a regional standardization body and meetings of the regional organizations” for any given region.
Such regional organizations include the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL), the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC), the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), the Council of Arab Ministers of Telecommunication and Information represented by the Secretariat-General of the League of Arab States (LAS), the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) and the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT).
ITU regional offices should be engaged in activities related to bridging the standardization gap, including raising awareness within developing countries. ITU’s Secretary-General and Bureau Directors are tasked with promoting active participation in all three ITU Sectors, and to propose candidates for study group chairmanship and vice-chairmanship positions, particularly from developing countries.
Youth empowerment through ICTs
For young people to engage meaningfully in society, they must be equipped with the skills and opportunities to advance their vision of a connected future. But a lack of connectivity along with numerous other barriers can prevent young people from obtaining digital skills and education.
Preparing youth with digital education and opportunities can contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals – and particularly Goal 8 on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all.
On Monday, delegates revised Resolution 198 on the empowerment of youth through information and communication technologies (ICTs).
The revisions were added to the already strong commitment ITU and its Member States made to youth empowerment, as mandated by PP-18 (Dubai).
The revised resolution additionally recognizes the ITU Youth Strategy as the operational framework for strengthening ITU’s capacities in engaging and empowering youth through ICTs. Within this framework, ITU’s Generation Connect initiative aims to engage and empower global youth, encouraging their participation as partners alongside today’s leaders of digital change.
The updated Resolution 198 calls for ITU to make youth engagement and participation regular aspects of its work, to encourage youth participation in ITU programs, events and activities, and to promote youth-related ICT policies among ITU Member States.
Member States, in turn, are invited to support ITU in promoting ICTs for the social and economic development of youth, including through the ITU Youth Strategy and Generation Connect initiative, with voluntary contributions and sponsorship if possible.
Reviewing WSIS outcomes and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
ITU’s Member States have expressed unanimous support for the Action Lines stemming from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to advance the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals.
On Monday, the PP-22 Plenary approved updates to Resolution 140 on implementing the outcomes of the WSIS process, identifying key trends, challenges and opportunities related to the WSIS Outcomes and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The revised Res. 140 recalls the pledge in UN General Assembly Resolution 75/1 that “we will improve digital cooperation,” along with annual General Assembly resolutions on ICTs for sustainable development and UN Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) resolutions on progress in implementing WSIS outcomes.
The latest World Telecommunications/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF-21), the Kigali Declaration from this year’s World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), and previous ITU Plenipotentiaries have also called for expanding digital infrastructure and making digital transformation relevant for everyone.
As new and emerging digital technologies and new regulatory challenges continue arising, ITU must evolve to keep pace, the revised resolution notes. This includes ensuring that the unconnected are connected.
In nearly two decades since the WSIS outcomes were established, ICTs have fundamentally transformed the world. Revised Res. 140 recognizes that infrastructure developed through investment and competition will increase global connectivity and thus help fulfil WSIS Action Lines and Sustainable Development Goals. Greater connectivity narrows the digital divide for everyone, including vulnerable groups in remote, rural, unserved, and underserved areas.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, while highlighting the critical role of ICTs for the continued functioning of societies, has brought to the fore the significant digital divides between and within countries. In this context, ITU should leverage the WSIS Framework to leave no one offline, despite the setbacks brought about by pandemics.
The success of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will depend on increasing ICT access, connecting the unconnected, and ensuring the inclusion of the marginalised and vulnerable, according to revised Res. 140. While the WSIS process must remain aligned with the 2030 Agenda, the WSIS Forum can provide a platform for reviewing implementation to date.
The upcoming WSIS Forum 2024 should feature “WSIS+20” review, including multi-stakeholder discussions and a stock-taking of achievements and key trends, challenges, and opportunities. It should be branded as “WSIS+20 Forum High-level Event in Geneva”.
ITU should continue to coordinate with relevant UN organizations where appropriate to support the overall review of WSIS outcomes by the UN General Assembly in 2025. This includes playing an active role in the process in accordance with ITU’s own WSIS+20 Roadmap and the review process established by the General Assembly. Subsequently, the ITU secretariat should submit a report on that review to the ITU Council and the Plenipotentiary Conference in 2026.
Connect 2030 including broadband
Revisions adopted on Monday to Resolution 200, outlining ITU’s Connect 2030 Agenda, highlight the need for new initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The revised resolution also calls for accelerating broadband connectivity to ensure connectivity for everyone, everywhere by the end of the decade.
Accelerating broadband development is especially challenging in hard-to-reach, rural and remote areas where topography or demography can impede returns on investment. Investments in telecommunication/ICT services and technologies should focus on all stages of development and deployment, including their mobilization for sustainable development at later stages, the revised Res. 200 suggests.
Affordability remains a major barrier among the most vulnerable or excluded populations, especially for persons with disabilities and indigenous communities.
The revised resolution affirms the critical role of telecommunications/ICTs in pandemic response and recovery, along with adjustment to the “new normal”. In this regard, ITU should further promote universal, secure, reliable, and affordable connectivity in line with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and WSIS Action Lines.
ITU’s leadership team is instructed to take account the pandemic’s impact and to ensure that information, experience, and expertise are shared among Member States and stakeholders in the pursuit of Connect 2030 goals.
Special assistance to broaden academia and industry representation
Resolution 30 outlines special measures for the least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing states (SIDS), landlocked developing countries (LDCs) and countries with economies in transition.
New revisions adopted on Monday note the “very limited representation” of those countries in ITU’s sector and academia membership.
Enhanced and effective participation by industry and academia, especially in the ITU standardization and radiocommunication activities, could help develop the information and communication technology (ICT) ecosystem for LDCs, SIDS, LLDCs and transitional economies.
More than half a century has passed since the UN first recognized LDCs as a category of states facing specific challenges. Today, LDCs and other specified categories require more focused efforts to bridge the digital divide.
The Doha Programme of Action, which emerged from the 5th UN Conference on the LDCs earlier this year, calls for “Leveraging the power of science, technology, and innovation to fight against multidimensional vulnerabilities and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing the urgent need to accelerate investment in the development and scaling of innovation and technology solutions for the most pressing problems that least developed countries face across economic, social and environmental fields that support their digital transition and strengthen efforts to bridge digital divides.”
The updated resolution therefore instructs ITU to help LDCs, LLDCs, SIDS and transitional economies enhance the engagement of their academia and industry representatives. One way could be to create a dedicated network for industry and academia from those countries.
Updates on alternative calling procedures
National approaches could promote competition, consumer protection, consumer benefits, dynamic innovation, sustainable investment and infrastructure development, and accessibility and affordability in relation to the global growth of alternative calling procedures, according to a PP-22 decision today.
Revisions to Resolution 21, Measuring concerning alternative calling procedures on international telecommunication networks, are in line with a revised Resolution 61 from the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) on countering and combating misappropriation and misuse of international telecommunication numbering resources, that was passed by the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly earlier this year.
With these updates, ITU’s Member States have recognized that:
- Although the understanding of alternative calling procedures is still evolving, there is wide agreement that they can serve persons with specific needs.
- Some forms of alternative calling procedures – which route voice traffic outside standard international calling and charging mechanisms – are widely used in today’s telecommunication/ICT markets.
- Alternative calling procedures have transformed the economies of both developed and developing countries, necessitating collaboration between ITU Member States and Sector Members.
- Studies are ongoing and relevant recommendations exist within ITU-T study groups.
ITU‑T Study Groups 2 and 3, and ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU‑D) Study Group 1, specifically, are requested to address:
- countering, combating, and addressing fraudulent activities due to number misappropriation and misuse of alternative calling procedures; and
- operational aspects of interworking between traditional telecommunication networks and evolving and emerging telecommunication/ICT architectures, capabilities, technologies, applications, and services.
The updated resolution invites ITU Member States to consider the interests of consumers and users of telecommunication services, as well as the benefits of competition in delivering lower costs and choice to consumers. The use of certain alternative calling procedures that are not harmful to networks may contribute to competition in the interests of consumers, the revised resolution notes.
Exposure to electromagnetic fields
New revisions to Resolution 176 on measurement and assessment concerns for electromagnetic fields (EMF) highlight the need for clear and accessible public information. People concerned about their EMF exposure may oppose the deployment of wireless infrastructure based on inaccurate or inadequate information, particularly in developing countries.
Work to raise awareness, therefore, should also include the dissemination of EMF measurement methodologies, consumer information, and frequently asked questions. ITU should continue cooperating with the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and other relevant international organizations, particularly on guidelines and limits for human exposure to EMF from both radiocommunication and non-radiocommunication sources.
Conformance and interoperability
New revisions to Resolution 177 instruct the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) to develop criteria for assessing the maturity of implementation of conformity assessments – Pillar 1 of ITU’s Conformity and Interoperability (C&I) programme – and for defining the ITU Mark concept.
ITU, as an international standardization body, can address impediments to the harmonization, interoperability, and growth of worldwide telecommunications. Its C&I programme should work closely with regional and national accreditation and certification bodies, as well as accredited testing labs, according to the updated resolution.
The interoperability of international telecommunication networks continues to be one of ITU’s main strategic goals, as well as the primary focus of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). In recent years, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced mobile networks (IMT-2020 and beyond) have increased the need for C&I testing to ensure interoperability in the latest telecom and ICT devices.
The Product Conformity Database and Testing Laboratories Database are key outcomes in ITU’s ongoing C&I action plan. Progress is also evident in the “living” list of ITU standards for non-radio technologies, also known as ITU-T Recommendations; a list of pilot projects involved in C&I testing; and a reference table of ITU-T Recommendations.
Mobile device theft
An updated Resolution 189 underlines the need to find innovative solutions and implement national, regional, and worldwide strategies to fight mobile device theft. The updated resolution instructs ITU’s directors to compile and share information on technical solutions and on the best practices developed by governments, industry, and other stakeholders in combating such thefts. ITU’s directors are also instructed to share information on measures to prevent access to mobile networks for ICT devices whose unique identifiers have been tampered with.
Insight from regions where the rate of mobile phone theft has fallen could be especially valuable, the updated resolution notes. While unique device identifiers can block access to networks, ITU’s members need to share insights on how to control tampering with those identifiers.
Other resolutions adopted
PP-22’s 13th Plenary also approved a series of additional resolutions, including Res. 119 on methods to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Radio Regulations Board; Res. 154 on use of the six official languages of the Union on an equal footing; Res. 170 on the admission of Sector Members from developing countries to participate in the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector and the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector; Res. 179: ITU’s role in child online protection; Res. 193: Support and assistance for Iraq to continue rebuilding and developing its telecommunication/information and communication technology sector; and Resolution 196 on protecting telecommunication service users/consumers.
Director-General Masahiko Metoki of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) delivered a policy statement during Monday’s afternoon plenary session.
Almost half of the world’s post offices have yet to be connected to the Internet, he said, adding:
“I firmly believe that by working together we can help to strengthen not only the ITU and the UPU, but also society as a whole.”
See more policy statements and plenary speeches delivered at PP-22.
Update on ITU Council Resolution 1408 on assistance and support to Ukraine for rebuilding their telecommunication sector
Monday’s afternoon Plenary session saw ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao update delegates on ITU Council Resolution 1408, adopted on 24 March 2022. He recognized the Member States that pledged financial support through the Partner2Connect initiative to help rebuild telecommunication infrastructure damaged by the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian delegation asked delegates to stand for a moment of silence for the victims of the war.
ITU Journal Editor-in-Chief recognized
Today’s Plenary also saw ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao present a certificate of appreciation to the founding Editor-in-Chief of the ITU Journal on Future and Evolving Technologies, Ian F. Akyildiz.
“The relationships that he has built are one of the ITU Journal’s greatest assets,” said Zhao, noting the journal’s unique position in the research landscape. ITU Journal is published free of charge for authors and readers.
“I hope we will cross a bridge between the academic world and the ITU world,” said Professor Akyildiz upon receiving the accolade.
Delegates continued deliberations at the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) on Friday, racing against the clock to conclude ad hoc discussions ahead of the Saturday 21h (EEST) deadline to prepare the documents for the final Plenary sessions starting next week.
New resolution on AI
During a Working Group of the Plenary meeting on Friday, delegates agreed on a new resolution on artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and telecommunications/ICTs, the first on this subject in ITU.
Support for WSIS implementation
Amid a wide range of topics on Friday, delegates also discussed updates to Resolution 140 on implementing the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process, reflecting unanimous support among ITU’s Member States for the WSIS Action Lines to advance the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Connect 2030 Agenda
Updates have been agreed upon for Resolution 200, on ITU’s Connect 2030 Agenda, with the revised version set for plenary discussion early next week.
ITU’s role in child online protection
Delegates have completed revisions of Resolution 179, which addresses ITU’s role in child online protection, noting increased online threats during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing need for broad cooperation to ensure a safe online environment.
Global Symposium for Regulators
On 6 October, the Plenary passed Resolution 138, which considers the importance of maintaining the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) for regulatory bodies to continue to share and exchange experiences.
The updated resolution notes new challenges for regulators over programmes to finance network deployment, particularly through universal service funds – a method of assessing long-distance telecom carriers to subsidize services to low-income households or high-cost areas.
The annual GSR has brought together heads of national telecom/ICT regulatory authorities from around the world since 2000. The updated Res. 138 calls for holding future GSRs in different regions of the world in rotation, while ensuring balanced regional representation among participants, speakers and stakeholders.
The Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) is instructed to consult Member States and stakeholders in advance on GSR topics and annual best practice guidelines to ensure GSR outcomes reflect the interests of stakeholders and attract participation from all countries. In addition, the BDT Director should promote the participation of regional and subregional regulatory organizations and associations in preparing GSR meetings and best practice guidelines.
The next edition of the Global Symposium for Regulators will be held in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 5 to 8 June 2023.
E-waste turned into art
For Romanian recycling company Reciclad`OR, recycling is an art. Along with other green partners, the organization is inviting PP-22 delegates to discover e-waste art installations throughout the expansive Palace of Parliament. The artwork will be displayed for the duration of the conference, which is set to conclude on International E-Waste Day, 14 October.
The works on display, made from 100 per cent recyclable materials, include paintings in the hallway of the Brancovenesc Reception Room, angel wings made from aluminium cans in the Unirii Hall, and the globe at the entrance to C1 Hall, onto which delegates are invited to stick “make the planet smile” messages or objects.
Learn more about efforts to green PP-22.
Photo competition winners announced
In the run-up to PP-22, ITU held a photography contest for both amateur and professional contributors from around the world. The Technology for Good Photo Competition attracted more than 270 contributors from 50 countries, each submitting images highlighting green, inclusive and gender-responsive technology use, in line with the PP-22 conference themes.
See the full set of winning photos here.
In-depth discussions and deliberations characterized the day at the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22), which culminated in the Thursday afternoon Plenary approving resolutions related to IoT, SMEs, accessibility, digital financial inclusion, and more.
IoT for smart and sustainable cities and communities
More than half of the world’s people live in cities, which account for more than 70 per cent of global carbon emissions. Recent developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) – the rapidly growing network of connected devices with built-in sensors and software – are driving the development of smart and sustainable cities and communities around the world.
The IoT enables billions of devices to connect with each other, collect real-time data, and send this, via wireless communication, to centralized control systems. These, in turn can be applied to improve a wide range of urban operations and services.
While no city exists where all urban systems and services are connected, many are already on the path to becoming smart and sustainable.
IoT systems can be used, for example, to enhance energy efficiency and waste management, improve housing and health care, optimize traffic flow and safety, monitor air quality, and more. Information and communication technologies like the IoT can help to accelerate the achievement of all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 11, which calls for creating sustainable cities and communities.
In ITU’s revised Resolution 197 on facilitating IoT for smart sustainable cities and communities, delegates noted ITU’s work to achieve SDG 11, including the work carried out by ITU-T Study Group 20 and other relevant ITU Study Groups as well as United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC), a UN initiative coordinated by ITU, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and supported by 15 other UN entities.
The revised resolution calls on the Directors of the three ITU Bureaux to promote and encourage the implementation of U4SSC key performance indicators (KPIs), as a method for smart, sustainable cities’ self-assessment.
The updated resolution also considers how smart and sustainable cities and communities (SSC&C) can use the IoT to discover and respond to regional and global crises; that in IoT and SSC&C environments, connected devices and applications represent a diverse range of ecosystems; and the key role of security aspects in the development of reliable and secure IoT ecosystems.
ITU’s Bureau Directors are instructed to support Member States, especially developing countries, in organizing forums, seminars and workshops on IoT and SSC&C, and to assist developing countries on the implementation of related ITU recommendations, reports and guidelines.
In addition, the revised Resolution 197 invites ITU Member States to cooperate and share knowledge, expertise, and best practices on IoT and SSC&C, as well as encourage consultations with stakeholders on national policies, strategies, action plans, capacity building, and knowledge-sharing for both the private and public sectors.
Strengthening support for SMEs
Resolution 209 encourages the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the work of ITU.
The updated resolution emphasizes the contribution of SMEs to infrastructure expansion in rural and underserved areas, especially in developing countries.
ITU’s Member States, especially developing countries, have invested in enabling sustainable SME growth. ITU, meanwhile, has welcomed SMEs as associate Sector Members with reduced fees. As the revised Res. 209 acknowledges, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting work disruptions initially hindered SME participation.
The updated resolution, therefore, extends the trial period for another four years, boosting such engagement, and invites ITU Member States to inform relevant organizations and encourage more SMEs to join.
Accessibility for persons with disabilities
New revisions to Resolution 175 encourage greater engagement of persons with disabilities, persons with specific needs, and their representative organizations, in ITU’s work.
ITU is urged, for example, to consult and actively involve persons with disabilities and persons with specific needs in the venue selection process for ITU conferences. The revised Rev. 175 also calls for improvements to organizational culture and relevant internal systems to ensure equal opportunities in the recruitment and retention process.
The resolution encourages continuity in workshops and management training to help ITU staff understand and champion accessibility and disability inclusion.
Resolution 175 (Rev. Bucharest, 2022) recalls prior accessibility resolutions by the ITU Radiocommunication Assembly (ITU-R 67-1; rev. Sharm el-Sheikh, 2019) and World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (Rev. Geneva, 2022).
The latest resolution invites Member States to develop, within their national legal frameworks, guidelines or other mechanisms to enhance the accessibility, compatibility and usability of telecommunication/ICT services, products, and terminals, and to offer support to regional initiatives related to ensuring accessibility. Notably, it also encourages the observation and celebration of the annual UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.
Member States and Sector Members are invited to encourage the participation of persons with disabilities and persons with specific needs in the work of ITU, including in the composition of delegations to conferences, assemblies and study group meetings.
Bridging the digital financial inclusion gap
Financial inclusion is a key enabler for reducing poverty and boosting prosperity. Around 1.4 billion people globally lack access to formal financial services, and over 50 per cent of adults in the poorest households are unbanked.
Bridging the digital financial inclusion gap can contribute to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 1 on poverty eradication, and SDG 10 on reducing inequality within and among countries.
Increased use of ICTs and financial inclusion policy reforms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have further underlined the importance of fintech and other digital applications in unlocking access to financial services for millions of people.
Noting the increased interest in emerging economies in using mobile financial services and emerging technology applications to advance financial inclusion, Resolution 204 on the use of information and communication technologies to bridge the financial inclusion gap instructs relevant study groups in the ITU Telecommunication Standardization and Development Sectors (ITU-T and ITU-D) to develop technical standards and guidelines that will allow developing countries to address the opportunities and challenges of emerging telecommunications/ICT for digital financial services.
Updates to Resolution 204 also instruct relevant ITU-T and ITU-D study groups to contribute to global efforts designed to deal with enhancing the cybersecurity and resiliency of the digital finance ecosystem by developing international standards and industry best practices.
In addition, the resolution was updated to invite Member States to include policies supporting access to financial services in their national ICT and financial inclusion strategies.
Academia members gain free access to ITU digital publications
Resolution 66 concerns marketing and distribution aimed at promoting increased use of ITU documentation and publications. The latest revisions give ITU Academia members free access to all ITU publications that are available in digital format.
This follows another PP-22 decision, whereby a revised Res. 169 encourages the participation of academia in the development of ITU technical work.
PP-22’s twelfth Plenary also approved Res. 136: The use of telecommunications/information and communication technologies for humanitarian assistance and for monitoring and management in emergency and disaster situations, including health-related emergencies, for early warning, prevention, mitigation and relief; Res. 138 on the Global Symposium for Regulators; and Res. 157 on strengthening of the project execution and project monitoring functions in ITU.
Thailand to host next WTDC
Thursday saw delegates unanimously support Thailand’s invitation to host the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) in Bangkok in 2025.
PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș asked Committee 6 to take the Plenary’s approval into account when revising Resolution 77 on the scheduling and duration of conferences, forums, assembles, and Council sessions of the Union.
Also on Thursday, regional coordinators were recognized with certificates of appreciation for their hard work in leading preparations for the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22).
Delegates continued their deliberations on new and revised resolutions in a series of ad-hoc meetings and informal consultations on Wednesday.
The day’s discussions involved revisions to strengthen and update existing resolutions on the Global Symposium for Regulators and ways to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, the Working Group of the Plenary (WG-PL) finalized updates to Resolution 123 on bridging the standardization gap between developed and developing countries; Resolution 198 on the empowerment of youth through telecommunication/information and communication technology (ICT); and Resolution 200 on the Connect 2030 Agenda for global telecommunication/information and communication technology, including broadband, for sustainable development.
These revised resolutions are expected to be approved by the Plenary in the coming days.
Shaping the next generation of ITU delegates
On the sidelines of the conference, the Generation Connect Youth Envoys and young social media creator delegates held a meaningful youth engagement workshop.
Deputy Secretary-General-elect Tomas Lamanauskas, the youngest person to be elected to that position in ITU’s 157-year history, opened the side event.
A CAMPUS field trip
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș joined a group of young delegates to visit the University Politehnica of Bucharest Center for Advanced Research on New Materials, Products and Innovative Processes (CAMPUS).
The group visited several of the institution’s 41 laboratories focused on a range of applied research topics, from 5G, open RAN and millimetre wave communications (mmWave) to the Internet of Things (IoT) for environmental monitoring and artificial intelligence.
The CAMPUS visit took place the day after PP-22 approved revised Resolution 169 on the admission of academia to participate in the work of the Union.
In the Tuesday morning plenary session, Member States unanimously approved Qatar’s request to host the 22nd ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Doha in 2026 (PP-26).
“Over the past years, Qatar has built state-of-the-art ICT infrastructure, making it a leader in the global digital arena,” said Qatar’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, H.E. Mohamed bin Ali Al Mannai, noting the country’s significant track record in hosting events.
“We are confident that Qatar can host PP-26 and all Member State delegations with tremendous success,” he added. “We are fully committed to working with each one of you and the newly elected ITU Council over the next four years to make ITU stronger and make the world a better place for the 2.7 billion still unconnected.”
Delegates at the current PP-22 in Bucharest expressed their support and gratitude for Qatar’s bid to host PP-26 in Doha.
“I’m very pleased to see the conference unanimously accept the invitation from Qatar to host PP-26,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “2026 is a very important year for ITU,” he added, noting the importance of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring that everyone is connected by the end of the decade.
Zhao went on to highlight Qatar’s rich experience in organizing international events, including ITU meetings such as WTDC 2006, the Connect Arab Summit 2012, and ITU Telecom 2014.
Read the full media release.
Newly elected and re-elected officials sworn in
PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș invited ITU’s newly elected and re-elected officials to accept their respective letters of appointment and to read and sign their oath.
The Plenary approved by acclamation the decision that the five officials (four newly elected and one re-elected) would take up their duties on 1 January 2023.
Next, the Plenary approved that newly elected members of the Radio Regulations Board would also take up their duties on 1 January 2023.
Outgoing RRB members recognized
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao presented certificates of appreciation to outgoing Radio Regulations Board members Tariq Alamri (Saudi Arabia), Lilian Jeanty (The Netherlands), Samuel Mandla Mchunu (South Africa), and Nikolai Varlamov (Russian Federation) for their service since 2019.
Tuesday’s Plenary also approved several revised resolutions.
Assistance to developing countries
Newly added points in ITU Resolution 135, which concerns technical assistance and advice to developing countries on information and communication technologies (ICTs), note the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, mention the UN Secretary-General’s plan for achieving universal connectivity by 2030, and point to an increasing role for ITU regional and area offices.
Under revised Resolution 135, recalling the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, and considering that COVID-19 has highlighted the critical role of telecommunications/ICTs and also brought to the fore the startling digital inequalities between and within countries, PP-22 agreed that ITU should assist countries, including through ITU regional offices, in particular developing countries, that request support for their infrastructure development plans, taking into account their technological migration plans, according to their actual situation and their development specificities.
Under the revised text, PP-22 also agreed that ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) shall: facilitate the implementation of projects under the regional initiatives by considering both cash and/or in-kind contributions from Member States. It shall work on increasing knowledge, awareness and capacity building and development programmes on the evolving role of telecommunication/ICTs in all aspects of life, through relevant platforms including ITU academy training centres and digital transformation centres. It shall also, through ITU regional and area offices, assist and support developing countries in keeping pace with technological development by implementing developmental projects or supporting national initiatives in cooperation with other stakeholders, if needed, within the available resources.
Academia in ITU activities
Revised Resolution 169 invites Member States to consider including members of academia in official delegations to major ITU conferences. It also invites Member States to inform their academia of the resolution, and to encourage and support them to participate in ITU activities.
Digital inclusion of indigenous people
Resolution 184 was amended to designate other mechanisms for sharing information to enable indigenous peoples to access relevant information on ITU fellowships.
The revision also encompasses taking equitable geographical distribution into account when providing ITU fellowships to indigenous peoples.
To enable the participation of indigenous peoples in ITU workshops, seminars and events, thus facilitating their digital inclusion, the revised resolution invites Member States to promote and design mechanisms for sharing information.
The Plenary on Tuesday also approved the following revised resolutions: Resolution 94: Auditing of the accounts of the Union; Resolution 150: Approval of the accounts of the Union for the years 2018-2021; and Resolution 151: Improvement of results-based management in ITU.
Youth at PP-22
Concluding the morning plenary session, PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș announced the presence at PP-22 of six young social media creators, who aim to bring unique insights from this high-level UN conference to their respective audiences, in their own languages.
“ITU will create a ‘best of’ of their work, to be posted on ITU social media accounts,” said Sărmaș, encouraging delegates to engage with these young social media creators and help them “discover the world of ITU.”
Read more about young social media creators at PP-22 on the ITU News blog.
Sărmaș went on to announce another youth initiative: 25 Generation Connect Youth Envoys are in Bucharest this week, engaging in line with ITU’s Youth Strategy. Their participation is funded by Canada and Australia, in coordination with Romania, he said, congratulating the young people on their presence at PP-22.
First intergenerational dialogue
The first of three Generation Connect Intergenerational Dialogues took place on the sidelines of PP-22 on Tuesday afternoon.
ITU Secretary-General-elect Doreen Bogdan-Martin addressed the young people gathered at the event.
“We need you: you are the drivers of change in our world,” she said in her opening remarks.
A panel that included Generation Connect Youth Envoys as well as experts from the telecommunications industry discussed the topics at hand: education, future jobs, and digital skills.
When asked how to digitally upskill the next generation of workers in Africa, John Omo, Secretary-General of the African Telecommunication Union (ATU), pointed out the lack of structured digital skills development programmes in much of the developing world.
“Governments need to develop a digital skills master plan for each and every country that brings the youth on board in terms of their needs,” he suggested.
Wassila Chtioui, Generation Connect Youth Envoy from Tunisia, shared that many areas in her country still struggle with accessing the Internet, which is “the biggest digital inclusion need for students.” Bringing all stakeholders together is key, she added.
Bogatoz Kaliyeva, Chief Specialist at the State Radio Frequency Service of Kazakhstan, highlighted the importance of “providing financial support to assist in bringing necessary equipment for training and study, and to provide high-speed connections.”
For Simran Sahni, Generation Connect Youth Envoy from India, young people have a responsibility to preserve the “essence” of policies. This can happen in several ways, such as understanding the policy on the ground; connecting and engaging with people concerned; and participating as much possible, she said.
“Don’t be shy to write an e-mail to someone higher up in the hierarchy,” she advised the young audience. “They do listen to you – this event is proof of that.”
As the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) entered its second week, ITU Member States elected the 12 members of the Radio Regulations Board as well as 48 Member States that will serve on the ITU Council for the next four years.
Election results for the Radio Regulations Board, 2023-2026:
- The Americas (2 seats) – Chantal Beaumier (Canada); Agostinho Linhares de Souza Filho (Brazil)
- Western Europe (2 seats) – Yvon Henri (France); Mauro Di Crescenzo (Italy)
- Eastern Europe and Northern Asia (2 seats) – Sahiba Hasanova (Azerbaijan); Rizat Nurshabekov (Kazakhstan)
- Africa (3 seats) – El-Sayed Azzouz (Egypt); Talib Hassan (Morocco); Edmund Yirenkyi Fianko (Ghana)
- Asia and Australasia (3 seats) – Revathi Mannepalli (India); Majed Alkahtani (Saudia Arabia); Jianjun Cheng (China)
ITU Council Member States elected for 2023-2026:
- The Americas (9 seats) – Argentina; Bahamas; Brazil; Canada; Cuba; El Salvador; Mexico; Paraguay; United States
- Western Europe (8 seats) – France; Germany; Italy; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Türkiye; United Kingdom
- Eastern Europe and Northern Asia (5 seats) – Azerbaijan; Bulgaria; Czech Republic; Poland; Romania;
- Africa (13 seats) – Algeria; Egypt; Ghana; Kenya; Mauritius; Morocco; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; South Africa; Tanzania; Tunisia; Uganda
- Asia and Australasia (13 seats) – Australia; Bahrain; China; India; Indonesia; Japan; Korea (Rep. of); Kuwait; Malaysia; Philippines; Saudi Arabia; Thailand; United Arab Emirates
Read the full media release here.
Find the complete set of election results here.
WSIS process beyond 2025
Delegates came together on the sidelines of the conference to discuss the continuation of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process, which is to be considered by the United Nations General Assembly in 2025.
Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and the Chair of WSIS Forum 2022, welcomed participants remotely and highlighted the importance of the WSIS process in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations for 2030.
Addressing participants, ITU Deputy Secretary-General Malcolm Johnson said:
“The WSIS process has proved itself over the years and is a force for global public good. It has gone from strength to strength.”
Ibrahim outlined some major achievements of the WSIS process, including uniting countries and institutions globally; gathering over 25,000 participants in person and another 100,000 virtually; providing a platform for connectivity during COVID-19; aligning WSIS Action Lines with the SDGs; conducting WSIS stocktaking since 2004; awarding WSIS prizes; supporting stakeholder-led WSIS special initiatives; forming a UN group on the information society; and aligning WSIS action lines and the SDGs with special days on the UN calendar.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao stressed the importance of maintaining WSIS to help connect the 2.7 billion people worldwide who still lack Internet access.
“It is important to have our WSIS Forum annual meetings continued,” he said.
Ibrahim thanked participants for their positive interventions, saying:
“We do hope that we will continue to implement the WSIS process [beyond 2025] in our countries and our institutions.”
The next annual WSIS Forum is scheduled to take place between 13 and 17 March 2023 at ITU headquarters in Geneva, with the option of remote participation.
UN Tech Envoy consults PP-22 delegates
Over the weekend, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology at the United Nations (OSET) held a consultation on the proposed Global Digital Compact, which aims to “outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all.”
Delegates in attendance expressed their views on its contents and direction, suggested ways forward, and shared their respective visions of what a shared digital future might look like.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao thanked the Tech Envoy, Amandeep Singh Gill, for conferring with PP-22 participants, underscoring the importance of “consulting the ITU family on this important topic.”
“Digital is looked at as one of the global commons, just like in the context of maritime, outer space, and other shared environments,” said Gill during the consultation.
“But we must make sure these are commons, not clubs. We must work to maintain them for everyone’s benefit, not only today, but also for future generations.”
“The Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology has a facilitating role – an enabling role,” Gill added, asking:
“How can we bring more visibility to the critical work you do here at ITU?”
“We will not stop here after this consultation,” concluded Zhao. “The Tech Envoy will try to keep in touch with us, and we will do our best to support him, so the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved.”
The day began with a women’s high-level networking breakfast jointly organized by host country Romania, ITU, and Australia, which provided financial support and training for more than 100 women to take on leadership roles at the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) of the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs).
“This is a historic breakfast, because yesterday we elected the first woman Secretary-General of ITU,” said outgoing Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who is also an International Gender Champion. “This is important not only for ITU, but for the whole business of ICT everywhere.”
Read more about Australia’s gender equality initiative and find in-depth coverage of the high-level women’s networking breakfast on the ITU News blog.
The morning continued in the PP-22 plenary with another set of policy statements.
Next, Zhao presented a certificate of appreciation to the outgoing Chair of the ITU Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues (CWG-Internet), Majed Al Mazyed, recognizing his “outstanding contribution to this important work, and deep knowledge of Internet-related activities within the ITU family, and skilful leadership to guide this group through 2009-2022.”
Al Mazyed expressed gratitude to the government of Romania for organizing the conference, and to ITU elected officials, delegations, and colleagues. “Thanks to my work here, my skills have been boosted,” he said.
“I call upon you to invest in ITU – this organization brings together elites from the whole world in the areas we work on.”
Bureau Directors elected
Also today, Member States completed the voting process to elect ITU’s three Bureau Directors.
PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș announced the winners in the order stipulated by the ITU Constitution and Convention.
Mario Maniewicz of Uruguay was re-elected as Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau (BR) with 174 votes and a required majority of 88.
In his acceptance speech, Maniewicz expressed deep gratitude to ITU Member States for their confidence in enabling him to hold the office of BR Director for the next four years.
“This expression of trust will help me redouble my commitment so that the ITU Radiocommunication Sector continues to meet the challenge of technological development and keeps up the energetic work required by Member States and its industry partners,” he said.
Mercedes Aramendia, President of the Uruguayan Regulatory Unit of Communication Services (URSEC), said: “We are extremely proud and would like to thank the ITU family for its support and reiterate the excellent work done over the past years with Mr Maniewicz as BR Director.”
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao offered congratulations on behalf of current ITU elected officials. With the election of Mario Maniewicz, he said, “we are ensured the radiocommunication business will be in good hands, and next year’s World Radiocommunication Conference will be handled by his skills, knowledge, and leadership capacities.”
Seizo Onoe of Japan was elected Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) with 93 votes. The required majority was 90.
Onoe thanked all Member States for their support across regions. “I am committed to further improving the ITU-T Sector and making it the best it can be,” he said in his acceptance speech.
“Being an outsider of ITU, which I humbly admit, I will bring a new diversity into ITU leadership.”
Hiroshi Yoshida, Vice Minister for Policy Coordination (International Affairs), Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan, expressed gratitude for the confidence in their candidate. “Seizo Onoe will quickly bring the benefits of ICT to ITU, governments and the private sector,” he said, adding: “Japan is ready to support the new and diversified ITU management team.”
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao offered congratulations on behalf of current ITU elected officials. “I am sure Mr. Onoe will ensure that TSB continues to work closely with industry and government to develop international telecommunication technology standards to meet market requirements, ” he said.
Cosmas Zavazava of Zimbabwe was elected to the post of ITU Telecommunication Bureau Director with 101 votes. The required majority was 83.
“I want to speak from the heart,” Zavazava said in his acceptance speech.
“My vision is very simple: meaningful connectivity, meaningful skills development and bridging the skills gap – because this is what faces most of the developing countries – but also digital transformation.”
Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Dingumuzi Phuti, expressed gratitude to the host for making history in several ways, evidenced by election results thus far. “This result is a victory for the entire membership, and charts a new path for a development-oriented discourse in the information and communication technology sector,” he said.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao offered congratulations on behalf of current ITU elected officials. “We are very confident in Dr. Zavazava’s long service with the ITU, always in BDT, and his very good understanding of our challenges. He will have a very good tenure for the next four years.”
Find more photos from the ITU elections so far here.
WRC-23: Host country agreement signing ceremony
Before the second round of voting for ITU’s next BDT Director, a signing ceremony took place between ITU and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is set to host the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai.
Newly re-elected Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau, Mario Maniewicz thanked the UAE for its generous invitation to host WRC-23.
“It is not the first time the UAE hosts a major conference of a United Nations specialized agency such as ITU,” he said. “I look forward to seeing you all in Dubai next year,” he added.
The official logo for WRC-23 was revealed in a video.
“With this invitation, UAE will become the first country of our family to host all major conferences,” remarked ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.
“The UAE’s strong commitment to digital transformation coupled with its expertise in welcoming the ITU family makes it an outstanding host for our upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference and a most fitting venue for forging the pathways of future digital communication.”
H.E. Engineer Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Director General of the UAE Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), said: “We are very happy today to officially sign the agreement to host WRC in the city of Dubai from 20 November to 15 December 2023. We have been determined to prepare all the components of success, hoping this will be yet another occasion to renew relationships with our friends from all countries of the world, for the benefit of international telecommunications in general and the radio sector in particular.” He thanked all countries for their trust in the UAE and its ability to host global activities.
Today marked the beginning of the process to elect ITU’s five-person executive leadership team, starting with the post of Secretary-General.
PP-22 Chair Sabin Sărmaș opened the day’s proceedings at the Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) by thanking Rwanda – the host country for ITU’s recent World Telecommunication Development Conference – for a lively drum and dance performance in the PP-22 Plenary. He then congratulated all ITU election candidates on their respective campaigns.
Next, the Secretary of the Plenary, Beatrice Pluchon, explained the election process.
Election for Secretary-General
The room was divided into five voting stations, each with a corresponding ballot box, and the doors were closed for the casting of the ballots. Member States were called in French alphabetical order, with each designated delegate scanning their badge before depositing their ballot.
After ballots were cast, the vote count took place in a separate room, followed by the announcement of the winner.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the United States was elected Secretary-General of ITU with 139 votes, pledging meaningful connectivity as her goal. In total, 172 Member States were present and voting, with a required majority of 83 to win.
Bogdan-Martin will be the first woman to lead ITU in its 157-year history.
“As Secretary General, I will continue to drive this institution to be innovative and increasingly relevant for our Member States, better positioning all of us to embrace this digital environment,” she said in her acceptance speech.
“After 157 years, we shattered the glass ceiling. I hope this day will be an inspiration for other women to follow,” she added.
Bogdan-Martin will begin her first four-year term as ITU Secretary-General on 1 January 2023.
Outgoing ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao congratulated Bogdan-Martin on her new mandate to lead the UN agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). “This is the result of your wonderful career development, and your wonderful work for ICT in the world,” he said, extending congratulations on behalf of the other ITU elected officials.
“We are very happy to have a woman elected Secretary-General for the first time in ITU history,” he added. “I am confident that ITU will go further and higher with the new Secretary-General, who is very competent to lead this organization.”
Numerous Member States offered their congratulations, starting with PP-22 host country Romania:
“Today, in Bucharest, Romania, the ITU is making history electing the first woman to the position of SG,” said Cristiana Flutur, Head of International Affairs at Romania’s National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM).
“It is an honour for me to say, on behalf of Europe, heartfelt congratulations, Madam Secretary-General. You are a role model for all women in ICT, and you are paving the way for all of us.”
Read Doreen Bogdan-Martin’s full acceptance speech and find the official ITU press release here.
Call to contribute to Global Digital Compact
Another set of policy statements was delivered during the conference plenary session.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, Amandeep Singh Gill, invited delegates to the UN Summit of the Future in 2024. “It will help us ensure the digital future we seek is open, inclusive, human-centric; respectful of human agency, fundamental freedoms, and human dignity; sustainable and secure,” he said.
Gill thanked the ITU community for its outstanding work and invited delegates to contribute to the landmark Global Digital Compact.
“It is time that within the UN family, the ITU is recognized, its profile is raised, and its contribution appreciated for the critical work that you do in a multi-stakeholder framework,” he added.
Election for Deputy Secretary-General
During the afternoon plenary on 29 September, Tomas Lamanauskas of Lithuania was elected ITU Deputy Secretary-General, with 105 votes. In all, 179 Member States were present and voting, with 89 votes as the required majority.
“Tomas will be the youngest ever Deputy Secretary-General of this great organization,” noted Marius Skuodis, Lithuania’s Minister of Transport and Communications.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao congratulated Lamanauskas on behalf of all ITU elected officials, saying: “This proves the young generation is now stepping in to help ITU move further and higher.”
Acknowledging the Deputy Secretary-General-elect as the youngest in ITU’s long history, Zhao added: “I am very confident he will assist Doreen Bogdan-Martin to lead ITU and to help the United Nations to accomplish the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] by 2030.”
Lamanauskas will begin his first four-year term as ITU Deputy Secretary-General on 1 January 2023.
Find more photos from the ITU election so far here.
Delegates convened on the third day of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) to continue their deliberations in a series of official meetings, ad hoc discussions, and informal consultations.
Also on Day 3, another set of policy statements was delivered during the fourth and fifth Plenary sessions.
A visit to the Ecotic Caravan
In the spirit of the ‘green’ theme of PP-22, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao visited the Ecotic Caravan, an e-waste ‘mobile museum’ parked outside host country Romania’s Palace of Parliament during the first week of the conference.
Valentin Negoiță, President of Ecotic, explained the organization’s mission to raise awareness about e-waste management, highlighting a series of initiatives from public information campaigns and training courses to developing e-waste collection infrastructure with recyclers across Romania.
Learn more about how ITU is greening PP-22 here.
Elections starting soon
Today’s proceedings transpired on the eve of elections of ITU’s new executive management team.
Voting is set to start tomorrow, with the election of the Secretary-General, followed by the Deputy Secretary-General.
Learn more about ITU’s official election process here.
Read exclusive interviews with each of the candidates here.
The second day of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) featured further high-level policy statements from ITU Member States on their respective digital transformation plans.
All policy statements given to date can be found here.
Three of six PP-22 Committees began their first official meetings, as did the Working Group of the Plenary (WG-PL).
Responsibilities are divided among committees as follows:
- Steering Committee
- Policy and legal issues
- Administration and management
and a Working Group of the Plenary.
The Plenary, WG-PL and the six committees establish daily schedules for the work to be covered at each of their sessions.
Find the PP-22 daily schedule here.
Video interviews underway in the ITU Studio
“This is the largest event of its kind that we’ve ever hosted,” said Romania’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Digitalization, Sebastian Burduja, when asked about the significance of PP-22 for the host country.
Burduja said the signing of the Bucharest Declaration at Romania’s pre-conference Ministerial Roundtable would go down as “one of the most significant moments” of the ITU Plenipotentiary.
“It essentially highlights our joint commitment with over 50 nations around the world – from all continents – to an open, secure, reliable, interoperable Internet: access to it, bridging the digital divide, as well as ensuring these opportunities for all,” he explained.
Slovenia’s Minister of Digital Transformation, Emilija Stojmenova Duh, outlined a strategy to drive digital transformation by bolstering connectivity nationwide. “By 2025, we plan to cover 100 per cent of urban municipalities with high-speed broadband, and by 2030 the rural areas as well,” she said, adding:
“In Slovenia, access to the Internet is a universal service, so everybody has the right to be connected.”
For Pawel Lewandowski, Undersecretary of State in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland, the Plenipotentiary Conference is “a great opportunity to talk face-to-face about problems that are the same almost everywhere in the world, such as Internet availability and bridging the digital gap.”
He expressed his country’s willingness to share experiences and to learn from other countries about tackling problems across the entire information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
“One of the highest priorities is cybersecurity,” said Peter Ocko, Deputy Minister for Digitization and Innovations, Czech Republic.
“We pushed for quick implementation of new legislation in the EU in this area.”
He also noted the “many synergies” of European Union plans and policies with ITU’s work on digital infrastructure and human-centric approaches to digital technology development.
For Spain’s Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure, Roberto Sánchez Sánchez, telecommunication networks are the “first essential step towards universal connectivity.”
He expressed pride in being part of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission, through which he aims to help drive the development of universal connectivity.
Check out the official PP-22 video playlist.
26 September – Opening day
The opening of ITU’s 21st Plenipotentiary Conference, also known as PP-22, brought about 2,000 information and communication technology (ICT) decision-makers from ITU’s 193 Member States to Bucharest, Romania, to advance digital transformation for the good of all.
The day began with a flag-raising ceremony ahead of the official conference opening.
To open the conference, the Cantus Mundi Choir and the National Chamber Choir Madrigal-Marin Constantin sang the Romanian national anthem. Delegates were then regaled with “Connect and Unite”, a surprise song composed specially for PP-22.
Deputy Prime Minister Sorin Mihai Grindeanu welcomed all delegates to Romania for three weeks of discussions on crucial global technology issues. “It is an honour and a privilege for us to organize the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2022 in a Member State of the European Union for the first time in the last 30 years,” he said.
“We are in the middle of a digital revolution,” he added. “How we live and use this technological advantage dictates the development of our economies and societies.”
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a video message to greet PP-22 delegates, noting how “digital transformation and connectivity are critical to rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals.”
“It is essential that we seize the opportunities of digital technology while protecting against its risks,” he said, calling on delegates to “put humanity’s progress at the centre of discussions.”
In his opening remarks, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao welcomed delegates and congratulated ITU’s Romanian hosts on their country’s rapid digital transformation.
“This is a momentous occasion, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our members, partners and others for their successful and tireless work in promoting ICTs,” he said.
Romania’s Minister of Research, Innovation, and Digitalization, Sebastian Burduja, wished delegates success, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to host PP-22 in Bucharest.
“It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the pace of innovation but also blessed that we can be here to discuss it, to debate it, to decide what we’ll do further and how we answer the difficult questions that lie before us,” he said in his remarks at the opening ceremony.
“Connecting and uniting: it is the mission of ITU. And it involves both adopting new technologies, but also preparing all of the citizens of the planet to use them.”
Read more about the opening ceremony of PP-22 here.
The conference’s first plenary session began with the adoption of the agenda and the appointment of the PP-22 Chair, Sabin Sărmaș, head of Romania’s parliamentary Information Technology and Communications Commission.
“We are here in Romania at a one-of-a-kind event,” Sărmaș said. “A once in a lifetime experience – under our flag − that carries a message to ‘Connect and Unite.’”
The newly confirmed Chair thanked the institutions involved in the organization of PP-22 for their time, efforts, and resources.
“In only three weeks, our work can have a huge impact. Let’s use them as a unique opportunity to make the world a better place,” Sărmaș said, adding:
“We can only achieve consensus through close collaboration. We must use our time wisely because it is limited.” He urged delegates to envisage a better future for humanity as they negotiate.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao also addressed the first plenary session, saying: “People everywhere recognize and appreciate the power of technology – but the world expects more from ICTs.”
He reviewed the four years since ITU’s last Plenipotentiary Conference in 2018, noting the disruptions surrounding COVID-19, and then laid out the challenges ahead.
“The world needs ICTs, and ICTs need ITU,” he concluded, wishing delegates a successful conference.
Delegates decided to maintain the contributory unit for ITU’s annual budget at 318,000 Swiss francs (CHF) per year for the period 2024-2027.
Monday’s plenary also saw government officials begin to share their countries’ plans to accelerate digital transformation, as outlined in a series of policy statements.
Dive into what each ITU Member State said about its key ICT priorities and plans on the PP-22 Policy Statements page.
At the final meeting of the 2022 session of the ITU Council on 24 September, delegates expressed their appreciation for the Government of Romania’s warm welcome and for hosting the Plenipotentiary in such a magnificent venue: the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest.
Delegates thanked the Italian external auditor, Corte dei conti, for their work and congratulated the UK national audit office on their appointment as incoming external auditor.
At the final session of ITU Council 2022, the United States announced an increase of their contributory unit from 30 to 35, for a total of CHF 11,130,000 per year, towards the organization’s general budget.
Delegates expressed their gratitude to ITU Council Chair Saif Bin Ghelaita of the United Arab Emirates for his extraordinary work over the past two and a half years and welcomed incoming ITU Council Chair César Martinez of Paraguay.
Secretary-General Houlin Zhao thanked delegates for bringing the last session of 2022 Council to a successful close.
“To describe the past cycle as ‘challenging’ would be an understatement,” he said, noting how the Virtual Consultation of Councillors enabled decisions to be taken by correspondence amid the pandemic, “showing growing interest from our Member States.”
Zhao presented certificates of appreciation to Council Working Group Chairs for their work over many years.
He also acknowledged Expert Group Chairs whose terms came to an end, and thanked all those who supported Council activities over the last four years.
Host country Romania organized a Ministerial Roundtable on the eve of the Plenipotentiary Conference, 25 September, where ICT ministers from around the world gathered to discuss building a better digital future for all.
The ministers signed a declaration on the need to continue accelerating digital transformation, universal connectivity, and inclusion to ensure that no one is left behind. The declaration also highlighted the need to facilitate new and emerging telecommunications/ICTs for sustainable development.