Q2/2020 - International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

ITU Council, 9 – 12 June 2020, virtual meeting

The annual Session of the ITU Council scheduled for June 2020 was postponed. Some urgent agenda items were discussed at a virtual meeting held from 9 to 12 June 2020. They included the postponement of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) scheduled for November 2020 in Hyderabad. The Indian government has proposed to set a new date between 23 February and 5 March 2021. The ITU Council had been submitted some reports with an indirect relation to Internet governance.

The report of the Chair of the Working Group on International Internet Related Public Policy Issues (CWG-Internet), Majed M. Al-Mazyed from Saudi Arabia, contains an executive summary of the discussions held at the meetings that took place in September 2019 and February 2020. A series of open virtual consultations on the subject of expanding Internet connectivity is planned to start for the CWG-Internet in September 2020. No decisions were pending. The ITU Council took note of the report[1].

Report by ITU Secretary-General on cyber security, 5 May 2020

The report by ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao to the ITU Council on the implementation of the ITU G7 resolutions 101, 102, 133, 180 and 206 was also merely noted[2]. The five resolutions deal with issues related to the Internet, such as next generation Internet, domain names, IP addresses, ENUM, Internet exchange points and OTT. The report gives a survey of the various activities of the ITU-T study groups and focus groups. Quite a few of the themes discussed in those groups carry political implications like the development of technical standards for Digital Video Surveillance (SG16), Deep Packet Inspection (SG13) and the Internet of Things (SG 20). The same applies to subjects like Network Interconnection, Voice over Internet Protocol, Cloud Services and Broadband Coverage that are discussed in the Study Groups 1 and 2. Especially the discussion on a new Internet protocol (New IP) that has been started in the Focus Group on Technologies for Network 2030 (FG-NET 2030) bears potential for controversies[3]. The recommendations made by the ITU-T study and focus groups are evaluated by the four-yearly ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) and forwarded for decision to the ITU Plenipotentiary (PP), which also takes place every four years. The WTSA planned for November 2020 in Hyderabad has been postponed to February/March 2021. The next ITU Plenipotentiary will be held in October 2022 in Bucharest.

The ITU Council also had a report on hand by the ITU Secretary-General on the guidelines for the application of the Global Security Agenda (GSA).

The ITU GSA was created as a result of the WSIS process. In the “WSIS Geneva Plan of Action” (2003), the ITU was named as the leading organisation for the implementation of the WSIS Action Line C5 “Building Confidence and Security in the Use of ICTs”. The 2006 ITU Plenipotentiary in Antalya mandated the then acting ITU Secretary-General Hammadou Toure to draft an ITU cyber security agenda. A High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) chaired by the Norwegian judge Stein Schjølberg presented a report in 2009, whose five recommendations (pillars) were confirmed by the 2010 ITU Plenipotentiary in Guadalajara. The GSA and the HLEG report have since been considered as a guideline for ITU activities in the field of cyber security. The ITU Plenipotentiary 2018 in Dubai decided to evaluate the GSA and ITU then started a consultation. The comments of ITU members were incorporated into the report now presented by ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao to the ITU Council.

The GSA comprises five strategic pillars:

  • Legal Measures (experience exchange for drafting national cyber security laws, international agreements like those on cyber security of the Council of Europe, the African Union, the ASEAN countries and in the cyber security negotiations within UNO),
  • Technical and Procedural Measures (standardisation and collaboration with other Standards Development Organisations (SDOs) like IETF, 3GPP, OEEE, ETSI),
  • Organisational Structures (establishment of Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTS/CERTS) and promotion of international cooperation (FIRST),
  • Capacity Building (training programs, in particular for government representatives from emerging countries, and building public awareness),
  • International Cooperation (coordination within the UN ecosystem, WSIS-Forum and IGF, multistakeholder cooperation).

The report by the ITU Secretary-General of 5 May 2020 sees no need to make major changes to the structure of the GSA and the HLEG recommendations of 2009. However, it does contain some interesting nuances that could lead to a readjustment of the role of the ITU in the global cyber security negotiations in the 2020s, including in the context of the UN Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. The report

  • Emphasises more vehemently than ever the role of ITU as a multistakeholder organisation and the importance to cooperate with other stakeholders[4];  
  • Integrates ITU in the complex and dynamic global cyber security ecosystem, yet claims a leading role within the UN family with regard to cyber security issues;
  • Identifies cyber security as a key issue of international politics of the 2020s that must be discussed at the highest political level by heads of states and governments and proposes a holistic approach (Whole-in-Government-Approach)[5];
  • Reminds the ITU member states that they must take into consideration their human rights obligations based on international law when adopting national laws on cyber security[6];  
  • Emphasises the limited mandate of ITU: “ITU’s focus has been on the areas of cybersecurity that are within its core mandate and expertise, notably the technical and development spheres”;
  • Offers the ITU-T Study Group 17 to act as global coordinator for cyber security standards[7];
  • Offers assistance by ITU to developing countries in establishing capacities for an effective cyber defence (CERTS/CIRTS) and in drafting national laws;
  • Aims at ITU to distinguish itself as a service provider for the global community by building repositories and indexes on cyber security and as a platform for experience exchange regarding the implementation of national cyber security strategies and legislation;
  • Acknowledges the role of multistakeholder discussion platforms as important partners for ITU, differentiating between the WSIS Forum as more related to the SDGs, and the Internet Governance Forum as more related to governance[8];
  • Offers to take on a leading role in implementing the recommendation 4 of the UN High-Level panels on Digital Cooperation (Global Commitment on Trust and Security[9].

The report includes six recommendations for the ITU to position itself in the developing global cyber security ecosystem[10].

ITU conferences, WSIS Forum & AI for Good Summit, Geneva

The ITU conferences “WISIS Forum” and “Artificial Intelligence for Good Global Summit” originally scheduled for the 2nd quarter of 2020 have been postponed and will be held in form of a series of virtual meetings. This includes the High-level Meeting WSIS+15 which has been planned as part of the WSIS Forum. The WSIS Forum started on 20 June 2020 and will be terminated with a closing week lasting from 7 to 10 September 2020. Gustavo Montalvo, Minister from the Dominican Republic, was appointed Chair of WSIS+15 and the WSIS Forum[11]. The ITU Summit on Artificial Intelligence will also be held in form of virtual workshops from 21 to 25 September 2020[12].

Mehr zum Thema
  1. [1] ITU-Council, 9 – 19 June 2020, REPORT BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL WORKING GROUP ON INTERNATIONAL INTERNET-RELATED PUBLIC POLICY ISSUES (CWG-INTERNET), ITU-Doc. C20/51-E of 30 March 2020, see: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C/en
  2. [2] ITU-Council, 9 – 19 June 2020, Report by the Secretary-General, ITU INTERNET ACTIVITIES: RESOLUTIONS 101, 102, 133, 180 AND 206, ITU-Doc. C20/33-E of 30 March 2020, see: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C/en
  3. [3] See: ITU-Focus Group on Technologies for Network 2030, https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/focusgroups/net2030/Pages/default.aspx
  4. [4] ITU-Council, 9. -19. Juni 2020, Report by the Secretary-General, GUIDELINES FOR UTILIZATION OF THE GLOBAL CYBERSECURITY AGENDA, ITU-Doc. C20/65-E of 5 May 2020: 6.1 ITU has forged a range of multi-stakeholder partnerships, be it through: 1. Formal mechanisms such as MoUs or similar arrangements (e.g. with FIRST, Interpol, UNODC, WEF, and others); 2. Initiatives such as Child Online Protection, in partnership with more than 30 entities from all stakeholder groups; or 3. Mechanisms such as Focus Groups e.g. the FGs on Digital Ledger Technologies, Quantum Technologies, AI and Health, etc., which provide a platform for all stakeholders to discuss trust and confidence issues in emerging technologies. 6.11 Significantly expanding its multi-stakeholder membership in the past decade, especially the range of private sector companies and academic institutions, ITU benefits from a wide membership of 193 Member States and nearly 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations, thereby reflecting the rapidly changing nature of today’s digital society.“, in: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C-0065/en
  5. [5] ITU-Council, 9 -19 June 2020, Report by the Secretary-General, GUIDELINES FOR UTILIZATION OF THE GLOBAL CYBERSECURITY AGENDA, ITU-Doc. C20/65-E of 5 May 2020:,“1.16: There has been growing recognition among all stakeholders, including governments, on the diversity of urgent actions that need to be taken to advance cybersecurity, ranging from protection of critical infrastructure to safeguarding user privacy. As an issue that could pose a national security threat to all countries, cybersecurity has reached the agendas of the highest political levels of governments, who are increasingly investing in governance and administrative measures to drive a whole-of-government response for the purpose of strengthening their national cyber resilience.“, in: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C-0065/en
  6. [6] ITU-Council, 9 -19 June 2020, Report by the Secretary-General, GUIDELINES FOR UTILIZATION OF THE GLOBAL CYBERSECURITY AGENDA, ITU-Doc. C20/65-E of 5 May 2020:,“ „2.9d. Member States are urged to design and develop any appropriate legal measures in accordance with their human rights obligations.“, in: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C-0065/en
  7. [7] ITU-Council, 9 -19 June 2020, Report by the Secretary-General, GUIDELINES FOR UTILIZATION OF THE GLOBAL CYBERSECURITY AGENDA, ITU-Doc. C20/65-E of 5 May 2020: Within ITU, ITU-T SG17 is the lead study group for security standards – having published over 200 standards focused on security. It is currently working on a variety of emerging technology areas, including FinTech security, IoT security (including industrial internet security), Intelligent Transportation System security, Distributed Ledger Technology, Quantum Key Distribution, Machine Learning for Countering Spam, Security of 5G, Edge Computing, Protection of Personally Identifiable Information, multi-party computing, and guidelines for the creation, operation and automation of cyber defence centers, among several others“, in: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C-0065/en
  8. [8] ITU-Council, 9 -19 June 2020, Report by the Secretary-General, GUIDELINES FOR UTILIZATION OF THE GLOBAL CYBERSECURITY AGENDA, ITU-Doc. C20/65-E of 5 May 2020: While a “Global Conference” was suggested in Recommendation 1.15 of the HLEG Report 2008 , current conferences, forums, and processes that have emerged from the WSIS process and strengthened subsequently—the WSIS Forum for development matters and the IGF for governance matters—could also be better leveraged for the same.“ in: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C-0065/en
  9. [9] ITU-Council, 9 -19 June 2020, Report by the Secretary-General, GUIDELINES FOR UTILIZATION OF THE GLOBAL CYBERSECURITY AGENDA, ITU-Doc. C20/65-E of 5 May 2020: Based on the WSIS Process and taking into account the efforts of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation – especially Recommendation 4 (Global Commitment on Trust and Security), ITU should help strengthen facilitation efforts in bringing different players together, including the conveners of the various processes. These could be through the mechanisms offered under Action Line C5 related processes through the WSIS Forum, as well as those offered by the IGF, among others.“, in: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C-0065/en
  10. [10] ITU-Council, 9 -19 June 2020, Report by the Secretary-General, GUIDELINES FOR UTILIZATION OF THE GLOBAL CYBERSECURITY AGENDA, ITU-Doc. C20/65-E of 5 May 2020: „Section 7. General Guidelines for the GCA Framework: The process of developing guidelines for utilization of the GCA yielded a few broad cross-cutting guidelines that are applicable and relevant across the work of the ITU and the five Pillars of the GCA. Recognizing the strong interlinkages between the Pillars, and the need for ITU and its members to work towards a holistic and comprehensive vision of action on cybersecurity, these general guidelines are proposed below: a. Given the proliferation of stakeholders, organizations, partnerships, and venues that are working on cybersecurity and driving different aspects of progress, ITU should continue to strengthen and expand its collaborations and engagements to the collective benefit of all such stakeholders, in order to enhance knowledge sharing and exchange of information and expertise while also avoiding duplication of efforts. b. ITU should serve as a repository of information for the various global activities, initiatives, and projects that are being carried out on different facets of cybersecurity by other stakeholders and organizations active in this field, and who may have the lead mandate, role and/or responsibilities in those specific facets, in order to enable the international community to have an easy point of access to all such resources. c. All work carried out by ITU pursuant to the GCA should be guided by a clear assessment of the needs and objectives of its members, the deliverables required to meet them, and in accordance with appropriate metrics and measurements that are designed specifically for this purpose. d. ITU should continue to follow the development and use of new and emerging ICTs in order to guide Member States and stakeholders on the security aspects of these technologies and, where relevant, their potential application to counter cyber threats. e. Given the intrinsically transnational and cross-sectoral impact of cybersecurity, ITU should promote activities, initiatives, and projects that can help Member States foster a whole-of-government approach to tackle the issue. f. In acknowledgment of the urgent challenge posed by cybersecurity at the national and international levels, countries are encouraged to continue elevating the issue of cybersecurity to the highest channels of policy-making and governance within their governments.“ see: https://www.itu.int/md/S20-CL-C/en
  11. [11] WSIS Forum 2020 & WSIS+15, see: https://www.itu.int/net4/wsis/forum/2020/
  12. [12] AI for Global Good Summit, ITU, https://aiforgood.itu.int/programme-2020/