Michael Donovan (by way of pgp@pgpmedia.com (pgpMedia)) on Sat, 19 Apr 1997 03:33:17 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> ITU governance - crisis in the making?

>X-Sender: amr@mail.netmagic.com (Unverified)
>Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 15:51:26 -0400
>To: dns-law@wia.org
>From: Tony Rutkowski <amr@netmagic.com>
>Subject: ITU governance - crisis in the making?
>Mime-Version: 1.0
>During the past several weeks, there has been increasing
>discussion and exchange of memoranda concerning the basis
>on which the ITU is involved in:
>1) preparation of an Internet-related intergovernmental
>   agreement, the DNS MoU
>2) establishing related new policies and law
>3) signing such an agreement
>4) receiving such an agreement
>5) assuming jurisdiction and exercising a role under
>   such an agreement.
>In addition to private citizens, government authorities
>have begun researching the matter and formally asking
>questions.  The matter is relevant, because there is no
>authorization for any of the above five activities and
>actions, explicit or implied, by the ITU's two governing
>bodies - the Plenipotentiary Conference, and the Council.
>At a briefing yesterday in the Washington DC area, it
>was asserted by several IAHC representatives including
>an ITU staff member, that the ITU Secretariat regards
>itself as the ITU, and could make decisions and engage
>in broad agreements as the ITU.
>This raises some very significant legal, international
>organizational, and policy questions - that could give
>rise to confrontation.  It has been well-settled for
>nearly 130 years that only the ITU's governing bodies
>may act for the ITU or approve new activities, on
>anything other than purely routine administrative
>matters.  The General Secretariat - which is not a
>governing body - has no independent substantive
>discretion or authority.
>The precedents in this matter go back virtually to the
>inception of the ITU - as the International Telegraph
>Union under the Treaty of Paris in 1865 - and revolve
>around the sometimes strong personalities elected in
>leadership positions.  At the ITU's Vienna 1868 meeting
>of its governing body, a secretariat in the form of the
>Berne Bureau was established, and Louis Curchod of
>Switzerland became its head.  After one year, he
>resigned in protest, asserting he wasn't accorded
>necessary powers to act independently for the Union.
>When the governing body met again in 1871, it refused
>to give him any more independence, but worked out an
>arrangement through the Swiss government that provided
>sufficient face-saving that Mr. Curchod returned to
>serve for many years.
>Throughout the years, various heads of bureaus and
>Secretary-Generals have tested the bounds of those
>constraints - always unsuccessfully.  The reasons for
>this long-standing, fundamental policy go to the
>basics of intergovernmental organization, and the
>significant dangers of any departures.
>The very existence of intergovernmental bodies
>derives from sovereign states collectively
>delegating some of their powers to an entity
>created to perform neutral administrative functions.
>The staff that are elected or employed hold a
>kind of international trust where they are expected
>to follow the directions of the governing member
>States, and act in strict neutrality.  If these
>premises are not followed, the foundation for
>the intergovernmental organization falls apart,
>and all kinds of serious mischief is possible.
>In the current case involving the Internet, the
>ITU General Secretariat and Secretary-General are
>literally challenging the fundamentals of the
>organization by engaging in activities and taking
>actions on behalf of the Union that have never been
>authorized or approved.  These are matters which
>should have been taken to the ITU's governing Council
>that normally meets every year in June.  Instead,
>the General Secretariat and its head have simply
>chosen to act as if they were the Council - between
>its meetings - trying to create a fait accompli
>prior to the next meeting.
>Historically, this appears to be the most serious
>and blatant challenge to the ITU's internal
>governance during it's 132 year history, as well
>as a serious tear in the fabric underpinning public
>international organizations in general.  It is an
>extremely bad precedent, and cause for real concern.

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