International Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy-making is made up of multiple stakeholders – governments, private sector, civil society, intergovernmental and international organizations – all of whom have an interest in ensuring its continued development. In order to realize an effective and productive Information Society, we must ensure that the diverse views of all constituents are taken into account when discussing its global development.
ITU is built on a foundation of multi-stakeholder participation. With 193 Member States and over 700 Sector Members, Associates and Academia, the Union works through consensus-based decision making on issues across the ICT sector, ranging from bridging the digital divide to using ICTs to boost environmental sustainability measures. This culture of collaboration and cooperation has allowed our organization to remain at the forefront of ICT development for the last 150 years.
On the opening day of the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-14), Member States decided to open all input and output documents to the general public, as well as opening the plenary sessions – including plenary sessions of the working group to the Plenary, and substantive Committees– to webcast and general public observers. Additionally, we are accepting inputs from civil society and publishing them on our Public Views page (if you are interested to share your view it is not too late, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Not only does this mean that members of civil society continue to engage with ITU’s strategic decision-making body, it demonstrates ITU’s continued readiness to involve all relevant stakeholders in our work and within the wider ICT community.
Civil society can actively participate in ITU’s work by joining as a Sector Member or Associate, enabling them to work closely with governments, regulators and private sector, playing a dynamic role in helping shape the ICT field. That is why I encourage Heads of Delegation to include civil society in their delegations at PP-14 – ITU’s strategic decision-making conference – to ensure that discussions about the future of the Union and ICT sector more generally remain as inclusive and open as possible, and that outcomes are beneficial for all stakeholders.
As ITU Secretary General, I strongly believe that open discussions with all stakeholders, who bring in their unique perspectives to the discussions based on their own roles, responsibilities and experiences, can help achieve ITU’s goal of connecting the world. Having civil society contribute to policy making discussions allows the international ICT community to benefit by sharing best practices, promoting meaningful dialogue, and most importantly, creating global consensus to ensure that decisions are effective.
By fostering inclusive debates, ITU is using its convening power to build consensus on sometimes difficult issues. In 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) invited civil society to participate in discussions as an equal member, helping to set the framework principles for future work in the area of the Information Society, as captured in the Tunis Agenda (2005). The WSIS+10 High Level Event held earlier this year reinforced these ideas, and I saw first-hand the engagement and commitment of civil society to implementation and action on the ground, which will undoubtedly help to ensure a positive impact for ICT development beyond 2015.
Civil society has also been represented at some of ITU’s biggest conferences, including WCIT-12 and WTPF-13, which was attended by some 900 delegates from diverse stakeholder groups, including non-ITU Members. ITU are also working to achieve greater transparency in our work by making greater use of the six official languages, and greater financial transparency. The Council Working Group of the Draft Strategic Plan and the draft Financial Plan for the Union for 2016 – 2019 hosted a public consultation on the ITU 2016 – 2019 Strategic Plan. These discussions demonstrate ITU’s enthusiasm to enable greater inclusiveness in our planning processes.
In October 2013, I launched ‘Open Talks’, a series of informal consultations on Internet related public policy issues. Recognizing that Internet-related policy making processes concern a wide range of stakeholders including the wider public, Open Talks encouraged worldwide participation in informal, open and inclusive discussion formats – an interactive discussion held in Geneva, a Town Hall meeting held in Bali during IGF 2013 and an online crowdsourcing platform. Contributors suggested that governments should increase transparency and operationalize the creation of multi-stakeholder fora at national and international levels to foster productive information exchange on Internet governance.
To ensure that international ICT policy making becomes effective and efficient for all, we must ensure that all relevant stakeholders are engaged in its development. That is why I am proud that ITU is actively pursuing measures to increase inclusiveness and civil society participation, helping us move one step closer to an Information Society built on consultation and collaboration.
By Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré has been Secretary-General of the ITU since January 2007; he was re-elected for a second term in October 2010. He has wide professional experience in both the public and private sectors. A national of Mali, Dr Touré is committed to ITU as an innovative, forward-looking organization adapted to meeting the challenges created by the rapidly-changing ICT environment, and to continuing to spearhead ITU towards implementing the resolutions of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Dr Touré is married with four children and two grandchildren