Background to the Pacific ICT Dialogue
Creating an ITU Sub-Regional Office in the Pacific
In past years, the ITU Regional Presence has been plagued by limited staff and financial resources, a lack of integration and coordination with ITU headquarter events and training opportunities, and a scandal involving fraud perpetrated by ITU staff in the Asia Pacific (Bangkok) Office. All these items have hampered the ability of this regional office to respond to the needs of the Pacific. These past challenges have been well documented by entities that include the ITU’s Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and the global consultancy PWC. Since then, the ITU has implemented a Results Based Management with the associated KPI’s and performance measurements as well as training for all BDT employees, including in the regional offices.
Many of the problems facing Pacific Island Countries are not shared by the larger countries or those in Asia. LDCs and SIDS countries do not receive enough assistance and the assistance they do receive are often not targeted directly to their needs. This is one of the reasons why many of the Pacific Island countries are united in their efforts to request that the ITU create a regional presence in the Pacific. It is also why many Pacific Countries have drawn closer to those Caribbean Island countries which share some of the same infrastructure, climate and other concerns facing Pacific Islands. There have been several capacity building events addressing these issues affecting all SIDS whether they are based in the Pacific or in the Caribbean.
In each of the last several Plenipotentiary Conferences the Pacific Islands has suggested that a regional presence in the Pacific would allow the ITU to participate more fully in United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks at the country level along with a host of other benefits but so far nothing has resulted from this efforts.
At a recent APT Policy and Regulation Forum for Pacific (PRFP) a working group was created to take a closer review and study for creating a sub-regional ITU presence in the Pacific Islands. It would be good to review the reports from this study and see how a larger feasibility study could be started that would lay the groundwork for the building of a sub-regional presence in the Pacific.
Resolution 25 “On Regional Presence of the ITU” from the Plenipotentiary Final Acts (Bucharest 2022) speaks directly to the expansion of the ITU’s regional presence. In this Resolution, it was thought that regional offices would strengthen synergies at various levels with regional United Nations organizations and help fulfill the UN-system wide strategy for south-south and triangular cooperation.
Resolution 25 (Bucharest 2022) states that some of the benefits of a regional presence, such as one in the Pacific, are that it enables the ITU to work more closely with its membership, serving as a channel for executing programmes, projects, and activities, disseminating information on the Union’s activities, developing closer ties with regional and sub-regional organizations and providing technical assistance to countries with specific needs.
Other benefits include the ability to continue to strengthen the functions of the regional and area offices so that they can play an important role in implementation of the ITU strategic plan, programmes and projects, and the regional initiatives set out in the Kigali Action Plan of the WTDC pursuant to Resolution 17 (Kigali, 2022)
Additionally, that the regional and area offices would help the ITU to be more aware of and more responsive to the priorities and specific needs of the regions. The resolution states that that every two years or earlier the ITU Council must review the ITU regional presence to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the member states in that region. The next ITU Council Meeting is scheduled for 11-21 of July 2023.
This Resolution calls for the ITU Council to continue including an item on strengthening of the regional presence on the agenda of each ordinary session of the Council to examine its evolution and adopt decisions for its continuing structural adaptation and operation, with the aim of fully implementing the mandate and the objectives of the strategic and financial plans of the Union through the coordination and complementary aspects of activities between ITU and regional and sub-regional telecommunication organizations. One of the outputs from the meeting would be to press the ITU Council in their July Meeting to add this issue to their agenda.
This timing gives Pacific Island Countries about five months to formulate a strong statement supported by all countries about the need for a sub-regional office, back up by the results from the PRFP working group on these issues. One of the outputs from the ITU Council meeting could be to call for the establishment of a feasibility study of creating a sub-regional office for the Pacific.
Resolution 25 (Bucharest 2022) calls for regional and area offices to pay greater attention to the LDCs, develop per-country assessments and action plans in terms of telecommunication/ICT development and report to the Council, as part of the overall regional presence report. This is a good opportunity for the Pacific Island countries to work on putting together a priority list of why a sub-regional office is necessary. They then can then present this to the ITU Council in 2023. Resolution 25 (Bucharest 2022) calls for a review of the ITU’s efforts at creating Regional Presence in respective regions that needs to be held before the end of 2024.
Currently very few of the UN agencies have offices in the Pacific which makes it much harder for these agencies to give Pacific Island countries enough time and resources. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has one person based in Fiji most of the office is based in Bangkok, Thailand. Another of the UN offices has a liaison office in Wewak in Papua New Guinea. The ITU could use these offices as a starting point for locating the sub-regional office.
Resolution 25 (Bucharest 2022) further instructs the Secretary-General:
- to facilitate the tasks of the Council by providing all necessary support for strengthening the regional presence as described in this resolution;
- to adapt, where necessary, the prevailing terms and conditions of host-country agreement(s) to the changing environment in the respective host country, after prior consultations with countries concerned and the representatives of the regional intergovernmental organizations of the affected countries;
- to submit each year to the Council a report on the regional presence containing, for each specific regional and area office, detailed information on how the goals and objectives identified in the strategic plan and the four-year rolling operational plans of the General Secretariat and the three Sectors are being delivered in the context of Resolution 151 (Bucharest, 2022) of this conference, on the improvement of results-based management (RBM) in ITU;
- To form a consultation with the Directors of the three Bureaux to take measures to further strengthen the regional presence as an extension of ITU as a whole, as well as measures to ensure that the activities of BR, TSB and BDT are effectively incorporated in the regional and area offices, as described in this resolution