The UK government has just published a new report, authored with the support of GPD, which makes the case for greater stakeholder inclusion in national delegations to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The ITU is an important multilateral organisation of 193 member states, whose remit includes a broad range of issues related to telecommunications—from satellite orbits to management of the electromagnetic spectrum. Increasingly, some member states are pushing for the ITU to also look at issues relating to the digital environment, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. While it frequently makes decisions which have wide-ranging impacts on human rights, including privacy and freedom of expression, it is mostly closed to input and scrutiny by civil society organisations.
One of the few current ways that civil society organisations can engage at the ITU is by seeking to join (or at least input into) the national delegations of ITU member states at key events, such as the Plenipotentiary Conference and sector conferences. In practice, however, only very few member state delegations seek input from civil society, let alone allow them to join.
A notable exception in this regard is the UK, whose delegation has, for several years, hosted non-governmental stakeholder representatives, including civil society organisations like GPD and Article 19. Drawing on this experience, the UK’s report sets out the opportunities and benefits for national delegations in including other stakeholders, such as civil society organisations, industry and academia. These benefits include:
- Increased capacity for member states at conferences (which are often very long and with overlapping and parallel meetings);
- More expertise on many of the policy issues which fall under the ITU’s mandate;
- A fuller understanding of the impacts that different policy positions would have on different stakeholders in society; and
- Potentially greater buy-in to government positions from a wider range of stakeholders, where open and inclusive practices are used.
The UK’s report can be found here. We encourage all those interested and supportive of multistakeholder approaches at the ITU to share this report with their networks.