Earlier this month, ARTICLE 19 contributed to the first public consultation held by the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Council Working Group for strategic and financial plans for 2020-2023 (CWG-SFP). The consultation was held to solicit views on the ITU’s strategy for the upcoming study period.
The CWG-SFP was established following the 2017 meeting of the ITU Council, held in May. This CWG is mandated to develop drafts of the strategic and financial plans that will eventually take effect across all ITU sectors, where decision-making processes are conducted on transnational telecommunication issues. To develop these plans, the CWG-SFP has committed to conducting open, transparent, and inclusive processes and to considering the views of all stakeholders.
The ITU is a UN specialized agency that has expanded its mandate in recent decades to include Internet infrastructure development. As a result, the policies and standards produced through the ITU bear major implications for Internet users. We’ve already highlighted several issue areas within the ITU-T that can potentially compromise human rights online. However, there is virtually no opportunity for civil society participation and little transparency regarding these processes. As such, the CWG-SFP presents a unique yet critical platform from which civil society can fundamentally influence the direction of the ITU.
Our contribution to the CWG-SFP focuses on the ITU’s proposed strategic priorities for 2020-2023. Specifically, we call for structural reform towards facilitating greater multistakeholder participation and for reconsideration of the ITU’s current approach to several issues that impact human rights, including the ITU-T’s recent push towards establishing a mandate on privacy and the ITU ’s cross-sectoral focus on over-the-top (OTT) services. You can read our submission here.
The public consultation already concluded on July 7; it yielded few submissions overall, with even fewer civil society contributions among them. But fortunately, this was only the first in a series of consultations that the CWG-SFP will be holding in advance of the new study period. We strongly urge all civil society organizations interested in the ITU and its impact on human rights to closely follow these developments and to contribute to the conversation in subsequent consultations.