IGF 2017 - Day 3 - Room XXVII - WS256 What's Going on at the ITU How It Affects Governance and Why You Should Probably Care


The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17 to 21 December 2017. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 



>>  GUS ROSSI:  Hello. Only four minutes late on the schedule, which is great for me, as a procrastinator, I am late every place. So, I am glad we are starting on time.  Thank you for being here.  Today we are going to talk about what it's going at ITU.  Next year is the year of the Plenipotentiary conference of the ITU. When we pulled this panel together, we were thinking about what is going to happen next year at the ITU, but longer than that, has consequences of impacts for Internet governance and we should keep an eye on what's going on and we are thinking of who are the best people who can give us perspective on how the issues are going ;and we thought of inviting Ambassador Benedicto Fonseca, who is the Director of the Department of Scientific and Technological Teams for the Brazilian government; Ambassador Thomas Schneider from the Swiss government, who is also following some of the issues; Robert Pepper who is the Global Connectivity and Technology Policy head at Facebook and Mehwish Ansari, who has experience in ITU and Internet governance; and also (?) from Article 19.  She works daily following ITU issues and Internet policy aspects; and Deborah Brown from APC; she leads the global work on advocacy.  Also following some issues.

We want to make this panel as interactive as possible.  We will start with one question for each of the panelists and then we will open the ‑‑ so, more of a conversation.  So I wanted to start with Benedicto, asking him, as coming from Latin America, what are priorities for Plenipot and what are your reflections on what happened on the one hand, WTC, what you expect from Plenipot and what are the main outcomes that you see coming from ITU on Internet related issues? 

>> BENEDICTO FONSECA:  Thank you and thank you for the invitation.  Thank you for hosting this event.

Well, first of all, I will take a step back just to explain a little bit the way we see negotiations going on at ITU from a wider perspective, which is the one we take from foreign affairs.  So we are not at the forefront of the negotiations from the perspective that our negotiating team is led by ANATEL, which is our regulatory agency.  However, we are tasked and mandated according to our Constitutional mission to provide political guidance to ensure consistency, what is being done elsewhere.

So this is to indicate my role in the context of the Brazilian government in a way, is to provide for some coordination in regard to follow‑up of the outcomes of WSIS's process as a whole, including of course in which it relates to ITU.   So our approach to ITU is very precise in regard to what ITU does in regard to governance‑related aspects.  We are not addressing the whole ITU agenda from our agenda at least.  There are other branches in the Ministry and government that will do that, but not us. 

So, in regard to what is on the discussion on ITU, I would say we are increasingly interested in being part of the preparation for the meetings that will take place this year leading to the Plenipot.  We noticed that ITU is engaging in very important discussion.  For example, and I think maybe the most important aspect being discussed now is how ITU will position itself in regard to OTT's (?) and what kind of disciplines or rules, if it is the case to be done in the ITU.  I think this is a very important discussion; we are very interested and we want to make sure that our position as a country's government reflects the whole of government approach to this.

So, for the moment, there are ongoing consultations in Brazil led by ANATEL, very broad, very inclusive.  All parties are being asked to come and contribute to the discussion.

You may have noticed that the last CWG Internet meeting, that the reporting coming from Brazil was basically describing the process that is being followed in Brazil more than the substantive aspects of the discussion.  And we think it's very important that ANATEL is doing that and we want to make sure that, in preparation for Plenipot, we will also be of assistance in line with what is required from us to make sure that the position we take to Plenipot is totally consistent with what we are defending in other international processes and for consistent of course also with our national legislation, you know, Brazil has adopted back in 2014, Marco Civil, the Internet Bill of Rights and we want to make sure.  ‑‑ of course, some parts are still under discussion, like data protection and so on and so forth and it reflects a dynamic debate in Brazil.  Of course, the way each ‑‑ I would say even each stakeholder or even each government branch sees topics around the Internet is not a monolithic thing. I think that is the thing that happens in other countries.  

So we are working in a very dynamic environment.  We want to make sure from the perspective of foreign affairs that the position we take will reflect our approach to Internet governance as a whole; that we will seek to explore the ‑‑ in the most appropriate way, in the fullest way, the role for ITU, we certainly see there is a role for ITU in regard to aspects of the discussion.  This was recognized by WSIS Outcome Documents.  So it's something that is there.  And we want to make sure that everything we do which is consistent with that framework is also consistent with the, let's say, general approach we take to Internet governance‑related topics.

So, I will stop here and maybe I will come back at another stage of the debate.  

Thank you.

>> GUS ROSSI:  Thanks.  I forgot to introduce myself.  I am Gus.  I am with Public Knowledge, an advocacy organisation in DC. Thomas, you are from the European region. What are the priorities of Switzerland on Internet issues at the ITU; what are your priorities for 2018, particularly around Plenipot?

>>  THOMAS SCHNEIDER:  Thank you and good morning.  Maybe before I go into the Plenipot, a few words about why the ITU is an important institution for us.  And it goes in the same lines as Benedicto said.  First of all, I think as you know the ITU is a UN specialized agency, so it's part of the UN system.  It's one of the oldest UN agencies. It's much older than the UN nor the oldest and so it has survived many developments in the last more than 100 ‑‑ 150 years.  The fact that it is part of the UN system and the fact that it is based on a notion of consensus to work with, gives it some legitimacy; it gives it also some responsibility.  But it is an inclusive institution with almost 200 member‑states and also members in different ‑‑ on different levels and in different forums from business and academia and others, so it has also a tradition of various forms of multistakeholder cooperation also since the very first days.

As you probably know, it has three sectors that all have important tasks.  The radio frequency sector is important for every government that has to allocate frequencies on national level, coordinate with the neighboring countries and so on and so forth.  So this is a fundamental aspect of infrastructure, allocation and management that is done at ITU by member states, which is something that is irreplaceable, basically, and is one of the core functions of providing infrastructure and allocating frequencies and other aspects of the technical telecom infrastructure. 

Standardisation is also something important.  The development sector has a unique role in terms of capacity‑building in the telecom and ICT area that is for us of fundamental importance because nobody else does this in a specialised way worldwide like the ITU with several offices in several countries where they really support people on the ground in developing infrastructure in particular. 

And also their activities, like, for instance, the cooperation with the ITU and UN Women on supporting women in tech industry, in technical professions, is something that is also very important for us in Switzerland because we face the same challenge in our country that we don't have enough women that think this is an attractive field to work in; and the more important ICTs, of course, we think this shouldn't all be developed by men's brains and men's physics. 

There are a number of more activities that are maybe not that visible, not that known or not that controversial where the ITU is playing an important role that we think is essential for, yeah, bringing us towards an inclusive information society.

And as has been referred to also by Benedicto:  The ITU was the key driver behind the World Summit and the Information Society.  We were the host of the first phase; we have been working with them closely and they have a convening power. 

We wouldn't with be sitting here if the ITU hadn't had the idea, took the initiative to start the WSIS process and then open it up to others, UNESCO, UNCTAD and other institutions.  And also the role of the ITU as a facilitator for implementing the action lines, organizing discussions, I think that is something that is very, very useful.

And at this stage, I think one of the key things that the ITU has done, the ITU is the organisation that is most coherent about the importance of ICTs and the digital transformation with regard to achieving the SDGs.  This is something that, in New York, has not been on the radar for a very long time in the UN and the ITU has been consistent in the past years in producing reports, working with others, like, for instance, the World Economic Forum, where they partner on an Internet For All initiative to signal that ICTs, if used in the right way, are important for SDGs.  That for us is also of fundamental importance. 

I have been co‑chairing with an Argentinian colleague, a Working Group at the ITU from 2006, on enhancing stakeholder participation. 

So, from the WSIS times ‑‑ actually, the WSIS Summit was going very far in terms of multistakeholder inclusion in the discussions.  It was still an intergovernmentally‑led process; but compared to other UN Summits, I think also because of the experience that the ITU had working with the stakeholders, we have been able to push inclusion of nongovernmental actors quite far in the WSIS and since then, that has had an effect on the CSDD for example that has opened up to other stakeholders. SO there is a movement to be more inclusive,  yeah, working more in cooperation with other UN entities but also with other entities.

Now I am coming to some of the goals for us with the Plenipot.  We think that, given the challenges we face and the opportunities that are there, we support the ITU to further strengthen its openness, further develop their cooperation with other actors to work together for shared goals.

So, openness and multistakeholder cooperation on the ground and at the strategic and political level we think is something that we think can and should be further enhanced; and also, of course, transparency and accountability is an issue for every big institution whether part of the UN system or private sector led institution:  If you have a certain size, then you have responsibilities in terms of transparency and accountability.  That is an ongoing work.  And of course, we also very strongly support efforts to enhance this also at the ITU, like anywhere else. 

So these are, let's say, the key points for us for the Plenipot.  And something I think ‑‑ that brings me back to where I started.  The ITU does not do what the Secretary General or anybody else wants.  It is a member states‑driven institution.  Whatever member states demand ITU, they will discuss it.  If there is a consensus, ITU will do it.  If not a consensus, it will not do it.  Let's keep in mind that is how the system works. 

Of course, there is some maneuverability (?) to play with these things but basically this is how the system is built and it is up to the member states to agree on what should be done and how things should be done.

>> GUS ROSSI:  Thank you.  The first takeaway from the government is it essential is that you see some value in some aspects for ITU work, but, Robert, from your work at Facebook what is the value that you see for an engagement at the ITU.

>>  ROBERT PEPPER:  Thanks, Gus and thanks for putting the panel together.  So the value in the private sector, just being very practical ‑‑ I mean, I could echo everything Thomas said, especially in the R sector.  So, for a company, what we are trying to do is connect the 4 billion people not connected on the planet and we are building systems and inventing technology and taking a long‑term view on technology development and deployment.

The fact that everybody's being connected to their devices by radio.  So, you know, we spent a lot of time at WRC 15; we are going to spend a lot of time at WRC 19.  We are involved in all of the prep meetings.  Nothing happens without spectrum.  So, you have this global resource that ‑‑ the ITU essentially sets the global structure for sharing of spectrum.  So it is an essential function. 

If you go through the thought exercise:  If there was no ITU, so what?  The first thing people would say is we need something to have global conversations and agreements on spectrum.  So, it's, again, very, very, very practical.  What's interesting, having been doing this for a very long time, is the evolution, even within the R sector, moving from traditional, very, very traditional command and control; you know, licensed spectrum. 

If you go back 20, 25 years at the RDC even conversations about unlicensed was, mm, not so much.  Well, the evolution has really moved.  And, you know, it's a process, it's a journey.  And, you know, we're moving into the next generations of looking at spectrum.  Which, the next big thing in spectrum is spectrum sharing. 

There will always be licensed or at least for the foreseeable future, there is going to be new techniques for sharing, there will be new models for unlicensed, very high frequencies; and those are the conversations that are really, really important and very constructive.

And so that, to me, is sort of the real value.  I think that one of the things, though, that is important ‑‑ by the way, I agree completely with Thomas on the capacity‑building.

From, again, a private sector perspective, you go back now maybe 20 years within the D sectors s it was getting starting and some of the nwork that Hamid and Tory (?) did creating the global symposium for regulators.  When it started, you could fit all of the independent regulators into this room and there'll be empty seats.

That's evolved over time and some of the work done through the GSR on regulatory principles, the importance of competition; the structure and recommendations on creating independent regulators globally with those principles has been extremely valuable and it really moved the needle.  The third thing is, you know, the ‑‑ we tend to, you know, when we talk about ‑‑ have these conversations about ITU, people focus on the Plenipot or WTDC last month and so on.  They are at a very different level, working level.  There are some incredible staff who are doing some really, really good work.  We have partnered with them. 

There is ‑‑ an advert for this afternoon: there's a panel being put together with OECD and ITU on rural      broadband connectivity.  There are people there who actually I have partnered with doing research, publishing, looking at things like mapping, you know, machine‑to‑machine and IoT to the SDGs.  So, at the working level, you know, there is a lot of value. 

I do think, though, that we have to ‑‑ you know, all of this is great; but I think the ITU as an organisation also has to really evolve into a genuine 21st century organisation.  It's not there yet.  And maybe we can talk about some of those things.  Because that is really important. 

In order for the world to get the value, it needs to be forward‑looking.  And, you know, with any large organisation, there is inertia.  So, that's just the reality.  But I really think we need to think about it going forward.

>> GUS ROSSI:  That is right.  Mehwish, as a civil society representative what are your takeaways from your engagement, your constant engagement, all of the trips you do to Geneva; you are here so often.

>>  MEHWISH ANASARI: thanks, Gus, thanks for reminding me how often I come back to Geneva.


>> MEHWISH ANSARI:  I think we've been talking about a civil society perspective ‑‑ I don't claim to speak for all of civil society everywhere but at least from Article 19's perspective, it is important to take a step back and take a look at the ITU's mandate on infrastructure.  It really comes down to infrastructure. 

And, from a civil society perspective, Internet infrastructure is an essential consideration.  And initially it seems ‑‑ it's ‑‑ I consider it to be an ironic concept when we think about infrastructure in the sense that it is the most physical aspect of the Internet and yet the most intangible when we think about the Internet as it exists in our daily lives. 

But it is the infrastructure, whether we are talking about the physical aspects of the Internet or the standards and protocols that govern its interoperability that really defines how information flows across the network; where it is flowing from, to, who has access. 

If from a civil society perspective we think of the Internet as a civic space, considering the infrastructure is key to understanding the potential of the Internet to exist as that civic space; and specifically, as a factor of that, to enable the exercise of human rights online.  So that's really the position with which Article 19 has approached the ITU; particularly in the last couple of decades where the ITU has expanded its focus to look more at Internet‑related policy and standards development.

And what we have seen from that perspective, just in terms of Article 19, Article 19's engagement has largely been focussed within the "T" sector, the standardization of the ITU.  We see that with increasing focus on Internet and Internet‑related technologies. 

The ITU is increasingly moving into areas that have implications for human rights.  So we see the ITU begin to talk about privacy, about identification in the context of IoT; we've see the ITU talk more about OTT's, over the top services.  And so there is definitely an element in which these factors end up having impacts on the rights of Internet users.

The thing is, though, that the ITU is a multilateral organisation; and even as Robert has said:  Talking about connectivity, how important it is, it is a multilateral institution, and yet we have seen that there is very little capacity or expertise to talk about the dimensions, the implications, human rights implications.  So, it is really important for a civil society to remain engaged; to first of all to understand that the ITU as a space ‑‑ is a space that does impact human rights on the Internet; but then to also address the issues. 

We talked a little about that ‑‑ Benedicto and Thomas talked about inclusiveness, the importance of multistakeholders when it comes to the ITU.  I think that is valuable when we consider civil society and its role or perhaps its interaction with the ITU.

It's difficult for civil society to engage. It's difficult.  That is compounded by the fact that it is difficult for civil society to really follow decisionmaking processes within the ITU as an external stakeholder.  And so, considering the fact that a lot of the work that's happening not only at the governing conference level, the high‑level meetings, the WTA's,  the WTC's, the Plenipots but even at the study group level it is important for the civil society to consider the ITU but also figure out ways of sustainable engagement in the ITU.  Working in even understanding it is a multilateral structure, working within that structure, but still finding ways of engagement I think is important.

>> GUS ROSSI: Deborah, we put together this panel (?) APC sector member of ITU.  Your organisation clearly spends a lot of resources in engaging in ITU.  What are your priorities and what are the challenges of being a civil society member of the ITU?

>>  DEBORAH BROWN:  Thank you, Gus.  I think you can maybe describe us as a hybrid of some of the last speakers because we are a nonprofit society organisation and network of members; but we are also a nonpaying sector member of the ITU, which means that we are able to engage to a certain extent in the ITU's work but not as much as the government or a full paying sector member would.  So we've the experience of being able to actually participate in working level meetings as APC.  But if we wanted to attend Plenipot or higher level meetings at ITU, we do have to join a government delegation, which is not an ideal position for an independent or nonprofit organisation.

I think I will pick on a few points raised across the panel.  A few reasons we care about the ITU is because we work on access and connectivity issues, so the ITU plays a clear role in infrastructure and enabling environments in that respect.  But we also, like Article 19, work on human rights.  And there have been proposals and discussions over the years at the ITU that deal with accessed information, privacy, security issues.  And on the issue of multistakeholder participation at the ITU, this can take many forms.  I followed the ITU for a number of years now. 

We have seen evolution, from the famous WCIT conference, telecommunication regulations conference, a progression over the years.  At that time, we weren’t a sector member.  Fewer sector members were from civil society organisations and access to information was quite difficult.  I think it was Plenipot where there was more of a robust discussion around having access to information policy.  Now there's a temporary one in place.  So now, as a default, documents being discussed at the ITU are open.  It just takes one member state to say we want this not to be open and be behind a pay wall ‑‑ I mean a password that comes with sector or government membership to have that information not available to the public.

And so, while we have seen progress, that is not quite enough progress.  Because in order to meaningfully engage as a member of the public, as a civil society organisation you have to be able to know what's being discussed.  And there are ways to get that information.  A number of member states have said they will give information available if requested.  But if we're talking about meaningful engagement on public policy issues related to the Internet, we can't pick and choose; you can't know what one government's proposing not what another is.  We have to recognize where there have been progress and where there are barriers still. 

I should mention that policy will be formalized, perhaps modified at Plenipot.  So that is one thing to look out for.  In terms of participation as a nonpaying sector member, as an NGO primarily working in the Global South, we face typical limitations, including participation in meetings.

The ITU, as an organisation that works on connectivity and telecommunications, does have has opportunities for remote participation.  But in our experience, trying to engage as a sector member, we were unable to participate remotely through speaking in a recent meeting because we were only heard in the remote room, we couldn't make a presentation to the floor.  I think these are the type of things that might seem practical and small but they really do make a difference if the ITU is trying to engage sector members and who don't have permanent missions in Geneva or are able to travel here frequently. 

And then, as I said, we work on connectivity issues, so we see a role for ITU in facilitating enabling an environment for community based access and connectivity solutions.  So we have members engaged deeply on the issues and seen it to be a useful forum. 

One issue we work on is network shutdowns.  We see that as possibly an area where the ITU can play a meaningful role.  There's a study group that looks at the economic impact of ICT policy.  How about the economic impact of network shutdowns?  So we're not of the position that the ITU doesn't have a role on connectivity issues, on ICT but we see the role as focussed. 

When, for example, the ITU is working on gender and the digital divide in our view ‑‑ and we are an organisation that works quite a bit on gender issues, infrastructure is only a part of it.  So the ITU can certainly create an enabling environment but in order to overcome the underlying barriers to access to the Internet for women, including economic, social and political barriers, the ITU must work with others in the Internet ecosystem including the Best Practices Forum on Gender and Access, the really good work the office the High Commission of Human Rights is doing.  I want to put pros and cons, or positives and drawbacks of working with the ITU as a non‑paying sector member and civil society organisation. I will stop there.

>> GUS ROSSI:  We promised a dynamic conversation.  We're going to try and deliver on that. I am going to open the floor.  Please try to keep your questions and or interventions to under a minute.

Richard, one second.  Introduce yourselves when you get the microphone so everyone knows who you are.  Again, please keep it short so we actually can have a conversation.  We don't have much time.  Transparency, infrastructure, connectivity, engagement, OTT's.  Issues of cybersecurity, privacy, closing the digital divide, the many aspects of the digital divide and the gender gap.  So, the floor is open.  Richard, you were the first one.

>>  AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you, sorry, I will be slightly more than a minute.  I am Richard Hill.  I've spent most of my life in the private sector, including building one of the biggest IP networks at the time for Hewlett‑Packard.  From 2001 until 2013 I was at the ITU working on a lot of sensitive issues, as people know. Now I'm having fun. because I'm a civil society activist. I'm retired and I can finally say what I think.


>>  RICHARD HILL:  So the human rights issue ‑‑ I think that's a very important point. if you look at the Constitution of 1865, the Telegraph Convention, when the ITU was created, you will see they already had human rights there.  There are articles on the right of states to suspend communication services ‑‑ that is what we call Internet shutdowns today ‑‑ and secrecy, which today we call privacy.  Those articles have basically survived and they are quite similar to what's in Article 19 in terms of right to communicate and suspension of service. 

In my view, they need to be modernized.  In particular, the secrecy one needs to be beefed up so that we have real privacy and also the right to suspend should be beefed so that it's much less easy for states to cut off communication and still claim that they are being conformant to international law.  Now, you can do that at the Plenipot.  And I am very disappointed that I haven't seen any of the states, who are arguing vociferously for this stuff to be improved, actually present proposals to the ITU to modify the Constitution in Convention which is international law, I remind you; and international law applies equally online as offline.  So these are important instruments.  Now, in terms of the capacity on people who show up to discuss this stuff, that is true.  Right now, I think we are getting too many technical people and I would invite people who are experts in this matter to join, for example, in your government delegation.  I sit on the Swiss delegation to ITU.  And by the way, since some people know about WTO, I have been refused to sit in the Swiss delegation of WTO. 

Now, whether it's difficult for not as civil society to join ITU actually depends on whether you are willing to pay.  If you are willing to pay, you can pay to join ITU or you can get an exemption, which some organisations have like the Internet Society, for example.  Lately, they haven't granted exemptions. 

The only real difference in nonstate actors in ITU or WIPO or the UN et cetera is the fact that the ITU kind of wants you to pay by default and they don't make it easy not to pay.  Whereas in the UN ‑‑ I have gone through it twice ‑‑ you go through an elaborate process and you get ECOSOC status and then you don't have to pay.  But the rights are the same.  In all of these governmental organisations, we as civil society members are observers most of time with speaking rights including that ITU observers can speak but of course not participate in decisionmaking.  Again, except for WTO.  WTO is unique because it has absolutely no formal mechanism for participation of nonstate actors not even as nonspeaking observers.  So I am shocked that some people think we should discuss Internet stuff in WTO. 

Anyway, back to ITU.  Now, as Deborah said, most of the documents are open and, no, one member state cannot block the publication of document, they can only block the publication of their own document.  So any member state can say "I don't want my proposal to be public."  That's happened once or twice.  We hope they will become so embarrassed it won't happen anymore.  By the way, I was personally instrumental in getting the policy changed.  I think all documents should be published.  I think the policy they have is antiquated.  I fully agree with Robert: We need to modernize that. And again, I would urge everybody to go activate your governments to say come on, let's get this around.

Now, it's not that difficult to get a password.  I have several passwords that allow me to access all documents quite legitimately.  Lots of people do.  Most member states will let you have a password for the ITU documents fairly easily, which, again, is not the case for some other institutions, like WTO.  Now many people mentioned that ITU does good things.  I just wanted to make it concrete because I like specific examples. 

Don't you think it is a miracle that WiFi works everywhere in the world, whereas you go through this incredible hassle with the power plugs?  Well, the reason WiFi is standardized around the world is for two reasons. There is a technical standard from IEEE but then the frequencies were normalized by the ITU.  So the unlicensed spectrum that we use for WiFI was the ITU that did that, obviously with inputs from the radio sector.  And I believe, Robert, you were instrumental in that back then, if I am not mistaken.  Other things the ITU does: MPEG, ADSL and, believe it or not, in 1988 in an instrument called the International Telecommunications Regulation, which has bad memories from 2012, but in 1988 there's  actually a little‑known clause in there that enabled the private use of leased lines which actually enabled the the Internet.  Without the use of the '88 ITRs we wouldn't have the internet today.

>> GUS ROSSI:  Richard, we have ‑‑

>>  RICHARD HILL:  I know. I am getting there. I liked the way Robert looked at it.  If there is no X organisation what happens? So, if there are no international standard organizations, we don't have any cars, any nuts and bolts, any airplanes, et cetera.

If we don't have the ITF, we don't have the Internet.  If we don't have the ITU, we don't have anything.  Because you need some of the ITU stuff in order to run the Internet and you need it for mobile phones and so on.  Now just a negative word:  I'm afraid that Plenipot is going to be a big mess because it's going to reflect the new world order where nobody's agreeing on anything of which the WTO meeting was an example of that. 

I don't think the America First policy is particularly helpful from that point of view.  I still have trouble trying to understand whether that is America either (?) or something else.  We'll see.  So the risk is real, that the ITU gets stuck in this global dissent about anything and we are unable to modernize along the lines Robert just mentioned. 

It needs to be more open, it needs to be transparent, it needs to focus on certain things and not other things. But if they can't agree on anything, nothing's going to happen.  I urge everyone here to go back to your governments and say, let's how can we use this institution for good and improve it.  Thank you.

>> GUS ROSSI:  More comments or short interventions or questions?  Yes.

>>  AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you, my name's Paul Blake, representing the UK government at the ITU and also one of the Vice Chairs of the ITU's Council Working Group Internet.  Thank you very much to the panel for organizing this session.  I think we certainly agree with many of the observations and many of the frustrations that have been made. 

The ITU is a very political organisation.  As others have said, it's driven by its member states and sometimes decisions can be made for political reasons without a strong evidence‑based ‑‑ sometimes stakeholders are excluded.  The ITU's Council Working Group Internet meets behind closed doors.  Stakeholders are not allowed into the room and they cannot see any of the documents. 

Sometimes at the ITU now it is becoming political that we see proper consensus decisionmaking processes breaking down.  And although there are good relationships at the working level, the ITU often doesn't properly recognize the roles of other organisations and too often it tries to do everything itself.  And there's a real challenge, we think, for the ITU.  Because, back in the '60's and '70's telecoms were largely run by state‑run monopolies and it made sense in those days to have an intergovernmental organisation to manage international agreements.

But we are looking at a completely different picture now.  ICT's, the Internet has expanded into every aspect of life.  The regulatory landscape is so much more complicated and we think ITU is still struggling to come to terms with that massive change and is still stuck very much in the 20th Century. 

And it's very frustrating, because we think the ITU could play a really important and positive role.  It has some unique strengths; unique strengths as a UN agency and unique links to developing countries.  It is a place where developing countries can go and find the support and help that they need.

So, from the UK point of view, we would really like to see reform at the ITU in order that it can play that role.  We would like it to play a much more strategic role.  The ITU cannot do everything by itself anymore.  It needs to play that more strategic role. 

We want it to help its member states, particularly developing countries, to navigate the complex new landscape that we are all facing.  It should be signposting its members to the appropriate places to deal with issues or to get supports they need. 

We would like to see ITU champion internationally recognized standards, not just its own standards, because standards are important, as Richard said. 

We think the ITU is best when it opens its doors to other stakeholders; and WSIS is a really good example of it.  The good that ITU can do when it works genuinely with other stakeholders and we would like the agenda to open up, being more transparent pushed further at Plenipot next year. 

We would like the ITU to recognize much more explicitly the roles and mandates of other organisations, especially in the Internet space, and build more genuine and reciprocal partnerships with them; not pretending they don't exist.  In ITU resolutions, for example. 

And we also ‑‑ I think someone else on the panel mentioned this ‑‑ we really want the ITU to continue to be an effective global champion of the role that ICTs can play in sustainable development.  And actually we think the SDGs do not reflect the importance of ICTs for development as much as they should and there is a lot more the ITU needs to do in New York and globally in order to make sure the ICTs are absolutely at the heart of the sustainable development agenda. 

So, there is a really important job for the ITU to be doing but the ITU needs to change in some important ways if it is going to do that job as well as it should be.  Thanks.

>> GUS ROSSI:  Reactions from the panel?  Robert?

>> ROBERT PEPPER:   Thanks, Paul.  I would agree that is a great sort of shopping list, if you will, when I talked about modernization.  And particularly the cooperative ‑‑ the cooperation with other agencies.  When you talk about the SDG's, SDG 9 is the infrastructure, linked back directly to the ITU.  So, people were actually very concerned ‑‑ just off in a corner ‑‑ but if you think about it, a lot of the conversation and subsequent work on the SDG's recognizes that it's not necessarily ICTs but digital technology becomes horizontal and has a potential positive effect across virtually every one of the SDG's, whether it's education, health, food security, water security, et cetera.

And one of the ‑‑ I ‑‑ one of the questions ‑‑ that is why what you are pointing out is so important in terms of cooperation, across many of the UN agencies is, in the future, as we think about this, does it really need to be sort of the technology embedded in only one organisation for the UN family or does it need to be horizontally across every UN organisation in order to use and benefit from the technology?  And I think that's a major sort of future structural question. 

And again, on those types of issues, if you were, Richard, going through the thought exercise of sort of not having something, starting with a blank piece of paper, how would you organise it?  You could end up on those things with Chief Technology Officers in every UN agency talking about how do you use technology for the mission ‑‑ not the agency like internally but externally to meet the goals, whether it's the food organisation, development organisation, healthcare, et cetera.  That is kind of different but does not mean that you would not want still the coordination of some of the other issues within the ITU

I do think that the ‑‑ a number of people talked about the transparency, the access to information and a genuine consensus process built upon a multistakeholder process in which all of the stakeholders actually have a seat at the table, including Council Working Groups.  Because A lot of the work that gets done is at the Council Working Group level. 

Again, these are the types of really important questions that we need to be addressing when we are talking about an ITU for the 21st century.  Change is always difficult.  And in any large organisation, change is really difficult.  But I think that's a great sort of shopping list and To Do list.  And I think ‑‑ I hope the UK puts those kind of things on the agenda for the Plenipot.

>> GUS ROSSI:  Yes?

>>  MEHWISH ANSARI:  I also wanted to echo some of Paul's excellent points.  I particularly want to underscore the fact ‑‑ and I think this is something that all of the panelists here have reflected on:  The fact that the ITU does important work, has an important role in legal and technical capacity building in the work of spectrum management and allocation.  These are crucial areas.

And so I think the concern comes when ‑‑ I mean it really can be boiled down to mandate when we see that the ITU is moving into areas in which it does not have the capacity or the expertise and that is a consequence of its organisational structure, again, as Paul reflected on.

And so I think the key issue here is that the ITU is a relevant organisation but its relevance is not derived from its organisational structure; it's derived from its original mandate, its core mandate.  And I think that should be the key reflection when we consider the role of the ITU in general and the idea of inclusiveness and multistakeholderism as part of that.

>>  PANELIST:  Just a few comments I want to reflect on.  Brazil has been one of the countries consistently supporting expanded participation of nongovernmental stakeholders in ITU, in Internet governance related discussions and access to documents is freely given by request.  So there is no problem about that. 

We think this is totally in line from the foreign affairs perspective with the intent we have to translate to reality the principles that emanate from WSIS:  Full participation of all stakeholders and in their respective roles and responsibilities.  So we think it is right and fair that in context of ICANN for example, we are not seeking not an enlarged role for government.  Sometimes it is misunderstood.  We sit from our perspective to ensure the right appropriate participation for government. 

We think, in spite of the fact that some other people argue that governments have high status, we think that in practice, as we look to decisionmaking processes, the inputs from government is sometimes overlooked and we try to look into that.  There is some jurisdictional aspects.  I do not want to deviate but to say that the same point we raise in the context of how we can seek to make a reality, in the multistakeholder approach, the relevant participation, we also look at in ITU, we think for ITU the context is different.  I think it is the ITU it is the opposite, the issue is to seek full participation of all stakeholders.  We are fully behind it. 

We think in each and every case, the full participation of stakeholders ensures more consistent, more legitimate, more sustainable solutions.  And we are in support of that. 

One thing in relation to Brazil internally, is that I would say the same discussion in regard to what is legitimate for ITU to look into those areas is taking place in Brazil, because our legislation is very clear that the Internet is not telecommunications.  Internet for us is added service.  So, ANATEL, the regulatory agency does not have mandates to the Internet since it's not telecommunication.  But of course, the same discussion taking place in ITU is taking place in Brazil:  What are the limits for this, because there are things that ANATEL does legitimately and ITU as well. 

What are the boundaries?  Where do you start.  What is totally in the mandate, what is not?  I would like to flag that is part of what is being discussed in Brazil.

>> GUS ROSSI:  Yes, if we can keep it short.  We have five minutes left then interventions and a closing round.

>>  AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you. My name is Kipala (?) I am from Botswana.  Well, I will speak as an NGO or a civic society rather than as a government official because it's not a government position.  Just to share, having participated in both the ITU and also at ICANN and at other various multistakeholder forums, what I have observed coming from a developing country is we have civic societies which are very, very at an infancy level.  They cannot fully participate.  We have a private sector which cannot fully participate up to this level.  So you will find that as government officials, we mostly have to play that role.  One of the things which I have always had a battle with most of them is they participate in the activities in developing countries, but they operate in our market; but they don't participate in the activities in our market.  So that they can influence the government decisions.  So that when you go to ITU you are able to take their views on board.  You'll only meet them at the last moment when you get to the conference.  But they do operate in the market.  And I said to them, when you are doing your national preparation, can you come and share your knowledge with us, so at least you enrich the government position, so that whatever position they take, your views are taken on board.  But one of the things is we are having that challenge.  And I think some of those things because we are taking this multistakeholder approach that as we are managing the infrastructure we are becoming more regulated.  We are coming from a multistakeholder position.  We want everybody to participate.  But that participation is very likely and we need to find the gap, how far we close.  We just realized, one of the things in most of this organisation going forward, like Richard just highlighted, once we got there, we do not go there to discuss only what concerns.  You go there in a locked position that you do not have any discussion.  Is just that I said no, I said yes; and until you spend four weeks, whatever, talking and at the end of the day you go back home or rather you vote, which voting does not help, because you need the consensus to move forward. 

You know, I know there has been the debate about the issue of of Internet and telecoms and for me, from a developing countrny, it has been very difficult for as a telecom regulator, I am the one trying to facilitate the connectivity in terms of broadband and access.  Yes, in terms of dealing with content regulation of Internet, I do not get there.  But to separate the Internet regulation in terms of access is very difficult to say now I am providing you with telecom access, I am not providing you with Internet access; because both of them they are provided on the same platform and those are the things which you need to do on a day‑to‑day basis.  So you will find that it's very difficult to separate some of the issues.

>> GUS ROSSI:  We are out of time.  So, our closing round.  Mehwish, 30 seconds, one minute if you can.

>> MEHWISH ANSARI:  I will try.  I think talking and having a panel that reflects different stakeholder groups is important to start talking about the ITU.  I think ‑‑ like it seems like we keep coming back to the same ideas, the same issues of stakeholdership, stakeholder participation in multilateral forums.  I think we have different views on the structural reform within the ITU and to what extent, what that looks like.  But beginning to talk about that, both within the ITU and outside of the ITU is vitally important.  So I think that's where I will leave it.

>> PANELIST:  Now it works. Thank you.  It was I think a good start of the discussion.  I don't think we are at the end of this discussion; that we will continue for sometime.  I agree, the ITU should make it into the 21st century but that goes for all institutions older than the 21st century.  We have different views on what that means, that the ITU should become a 21st century institution.  And that will be something that we will have to discuss.  But I think if you want to be a 21st century institution, you also have to allow the ITU to some extent to experiment like everybody else and find their role.  Because if we knew it all now, we could say this is what the ITU is going to do.  But that I guess is not the case and is not the case for any institution.  In the end it is a member‑states driven institution.  If the member states agree or where the member states agree then this is where I think it should go.  But I think one of the key roles ‑‑ and I fully agree with Paul from the UK:  There is more that can be done on raising awareness on the importance of ICTs for SDGs. 

The ICT already does a lot like nobody else.  It is up to us to explain to our people in New York that ** are coming from other ends that maybe this is not just techie stuff but this is stuff that really matters.  And I think also as member states, US businesses and society, you have a role in explaining to others that don't work with these issues that maybe ICTs can help in achieving the SDGs.

>>  PANELIST:   Thanks. I think I will close by saying the Internet is not an issue; it is a number of different issues, ranging from human rights to economic policy to telecom policy.  I think the ITU would do very well to focus its mandate on infrastructure and telecommunications and know that it's not alone within the UN system or the broader world. 

There is a lot of knowledge that other UN agencies hold; there is a lot of resources on how to become more inclusive and open.  I just want to point out a report from the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression and opinion, which did a report recently on access to information within international organisations.  I think there are a number of useful recommendations for the ITU there. 

So, I think there is a lot of resources, there is a lot the ITU can do and I just want to close by saying that it would have been better to have the ITU be part of the conversation.  Perhaps they are here and we can talk to them afterwards.

>>  PANELIST: I want to thank you, Gus and civil society for convening this because this is a really important conversation, a multistakeholder conversation.  Government, private sector, academic, civil society, et cetera.  That is the conversation we need to have.  About all of the institutions, right?  Not just the ITU.  And it's changing, evolving, right?  Because in the past it was only multilateral, only intergovernmental, only government to government. 

We are in the process of the journey to making it genuinely multistakeholder.  We are not there yet, but we are on the way.  And I think this is a really important conversation.  So, thank you and I am hoping to have this continued.

>> GUS ROSSI:  Thanks, everyone.  To close, one thing ‑‑ I am going to remove my hat as moderator and speak as civil society.  If you are a civil society group and you want to engage at the ITU level, whether for Plenipot or other processes or you want to engage more with your national telecom regulator, please reach out to any of us at the table representing civil society.  We are happy to help you in the process.  And we think it's important. 

We are saying what happens at the telecommunications, ITU level affects many of us who work on Internet governance and human rights.  It is not, as we discussed today, it is not super easy to engage but we can help this that process and we think that the more the merrier and we want to transform this organisation for some issues.  Thank you very much for being here.  Thank you very much for the panel for taking the time joining us.  And have a nice day.


(Session concluded at 10:00 a.m.)