Preparing for Busan: Regional Unity in Inter-American Proposals to the 2014 International Telecommunications Union Plenipotentiary Conference

Like the song says, there are lots of things you can do alone, but it takes two to tango.  Last week in the home of that dance, the United States worked with our regional partners to see if we could find our rhythm in the Americas on issues critical to the future of global telecommunications.  We think we did.

With only two days to get the job done, the United States and our friends in other countries including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, and The Bahamas, hammered out an unprecedented 46 Inter-American Proposals for the upcoming International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference this October-November in Busan, Korea.

As a statement of regional unity and shared values, the importance of these proposals cannot be overstated.  With the leadership of an incredibly able Chairman from Canada and the good will of all involved, delegates formed a sensible center on some of the most controversial issues that the ITU conference will face, including those surrounding Internet governance.

As the U.S. government representatives prepared for the meeting in Buenos Aires, we knew we faced significant challenges on Internet governance.  It was our strong desire that the region would embrace the widest possible participation of stakeholders in any and all ITU meetings dealing with the Internet.  Our first preference was to move toward a participatory environment that would include all stakeholders, anyone who wished to participate.  We believe that this is the best, most well informed, most democratic process for discussing and debating issues related to the Internet.  But even before we arrived, several countries told us that they saw merit in allowing government-only ITU meetings to talk about Internet governance that exclude other stakeholders.  After all, they said, the ITU is a multilateral institution and governments come to the ITU to decide sensitive issues amongst themselves.  But when it came to the U.S. government position, we emphasized that opening up those discussions and decisions to multistakeholder participation could only improve outcomes.

We deliberated and debated in good faith for two days and at the end of the meeting, the region agreed on an Inter-American Proposal that opened Internet related discussions to all ITU members, including Member States, Sector Members (such as ATT, Verizon, CISCO, Microsoft and Intel) and academia.

The United States government also worked closely with our partners to achieve a common understanding that we needed to be careful about convening a new WCIT without first reviewing the necessity for doing so.  Before revising the ITU’s International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) -- as was done in Dubai in 2012 -- we should first review whether such revision is necessary. Further we should base that decision on analysis of the success or failure of the new ITRs that come into force early next year.

We achieved agreement on many other issues as well, including an Inter-American Proposal on the ITU’s role on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that avoids a call for a new Summit and focuses the ITU’s attention on the implementation of WSIS Action Lines for which it is the lead facilitator.  The Americas desire an open and transparent process when it comes to implementing WSIS goals, and now as a region, we have articulated how we propose to accomplish this.  We also held back a push to open well-established resolutions that govern the role of the ITU in cybersecurity.

All in all, we found a way to manage a complex dance with multiple moving parts without stepping on each other’s toes.  And in this case, the number of partners was more than two.  In short, it was a very successful final regional preparatory meeting for the United States– a success we share with others in our region and that we believe establishes a sound platform for success in October in Busan.

About the Author: Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB).



Ali S.
Connecticut, USA
September 20, 2014
I'm actually waiting to see how this goes on
Hari k.
Utah, USA
September 20, 2014
thanks for sharing this article. nice post
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