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ITU Plenipotentiary 2014: RIPE NCC Report

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary 2014 (PP-14) took place over three weeks in Busan, South Korea, from 20 October to 7 November. RIPE NCC staff attended the conference, alongside colleagues in the Internet technical community, and welcome the overall outcome of the event.

Plenipotentiary conferences are the ITU's top decision-making assemblies and take place every four years. They are closely watched by all ITU stakeholders, though officially only Member State representatives can contribute to the meeting. Going into PP-14, the RIPE NCC and other Internet technical community participants were concerned about issues surrounding the role of the ITU in the administration of Internet number resources, development of public policy in relation to routing of IP traffic, and the ITU's role in Internet governance.

As well as voting to elect members of the ITU Council and key position holders in the ITU secretariat [see all election results], participants in a Plenipotentiary conference discuss and agree on a number of Resolutions and Decisions. Member States can propose new Resolutions or (in the majority of cases) edited versions of Resolutions carried over from previous Plenipotentiary conferences.

A number of proposals discussed at PP-14 were of specific concern to members of the Internet technical community. Proposals to edit Resolutions 101, 102, 180, and a new Resolution proposed by the Indian government were of most relevance to the RIPE community and RIPE NCC membership.

101 Internet Protocol-based networks [2010]
102 ITU's role with regard to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses [2010]
180 Facilitating the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 [2010]
IND-1 Proposed Resolution: ITU's role in realizing Secure Information Society [2014]

RIPE NCC staff also followed developments on Resolutions relating to cybersecurity, internationalized domain names and the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

RIPE NCC Focus Areas

Of most interest were proposals to update Resolution 180, which was first adopted at the 2010 Plenipotentiary, and particularly the proposals put forward by the Regional Commonwealth in the field of Communications (RCC, made up of Eastern European and Central Asian states including Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus etc.). Alongside new language on the importance of cooperative capacity building and the needs of developing countries, this proposal included new directives with the intent:

“to enable ITU to become an Internet registry, in order to assist those Member States which require support in the management and allocation of IP addresses…”

Such a move would have significant implications for the existing Internet registry system and the bottom-up model of policy development.

India proposed a new Resolution, IND-1, directing the ITU and government to embark on a range of new initiatives, including:

“to develop policies for allocation, assignment and management of IP resources including naming, numbering and addressing which is systematic, equitable, fair, just, democratic and transparent and need to be adhered to by entities designated with the responsibilities of allocating or assigning resources and dealing with day-to-day technical and operational matters;

“to develop and recommend public telecom network architecture which ensures effectively that address resolution for the traffic meant for the country, traffic originating and terminating in the country/region takes place within the country;

“to develop and recommend public telecom network architecture which ensures that effectively the traffic meant for the country, traffic originating and terminating in the country remains within the country;

“to develop and recommend a routing plan of traffic for optimizing the network resources that could effectively ensure the traceability of communication;"

“to collaborate with all stakeholders involved in studying the weaknesses of present protocols used in telecom networks and develop and recommend secure, robust and tamper proof protocols;

The RCC, the Arab States, Argentina and others proposed edits to Resolutions 101 and 102 to give a greater role to the ITU in Internet Exchange Point (IXP) deployment and regulation, and in Internet governance discussions.

Outcomes

Discussions surrounding the Internet-related Resolutions took place in the Working Group of the Plenary and an Ad-Hoc group that met over the course of the second and into the third week of the conference. RIPE NCC staff on site provided information to many Member State delegations throughout the lengthy negotiations. Agreement was reached on all of the documents, with the final text available in the Final Acts of the 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.

The final agreed texts did not contain any of the proposals that were of concern to the RIPE NCC.

The agreed edits to Resolution 180 focused on the importance of capacity building, cooperation between the public and private sectors and attention to the specific challenges for developing areas. The new Resolution proposed by India was not accepted, though a statement by the Indian delegation was included in the Report of the Working Group of Plenary Chairman, noting agreement on:

“an understanding that for these issues of concerns for many Member States, contributions can be made in various fora dealing with development of IP based networks and future networks, including ITU.

Changes to Resolutions 101 and 102 were not as extensive as initially feared, with a strong coalition of Member States arguing against any expansion of the ITU's remit in relation to Internet governance, and for continuing its cooperative approach to working with other stakeholders and organisations. The Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues (CWG Internet), a Member State-only group that had been the focus of some concern in the Internet technical community, will continue to operate as a closed group but will expand its outreach to other stakeholders for feedback and input.

Analysis

There are many elements that factor into the outcome of a conference such as this one, and many of those are unrelated to the RIPE NCC, the RIPE community or our engagement strategy. Issues concerning the budget of the ITU were a significant topic of discussion over the course of the conference, with many Member States concerned at plans to dip into the Union's reserve accounts to cover the budget. This has an obvious impact on the level of support for the Union expanding into new roles or activities. At the same time, numerous political situations played into Member State negotiations.

Having said that, the good relationships that the RIPE NCC has developed with governments in our service region, coordination with RIPE community members participating as part of their own countries' national delegations, and coordination with other I* organisations and Internet technical community members all contributed to the RIPE NCC being able to engage effectively and ensure that Member State representatives had timely access to relevant information and analysis.

PP-14 saw a strong contingent of Member States willing to speak out in support of a multistakeholder Internet governance model and existing bottom-up Internet policy-making processes. We can see this as an outcome of effective communication by the RIPE NCC, our community and industry partners about the fundamental importance of such processes to the growth of a global Internet.

At the same time, there are a number of governments who remain unconvinced, and who are pursuing a different agenda in relation to Internet governance. We are likely to see ongoing arguments over broader issues (such as the value and implementation of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance) in other venues.

The outcomes of the ITU Plenipotentiary 2014 should be seen as extremely positive, and the successful engagement activities of the RIPE NCC, the RIPE community and others in the multistakeholder Internet community contributed to those outcomes. It is clear that the relationships created through that engagement can be productive well beyond the immediate sphere of ITU activities, as initiatives like the IPv6 Roadshow (jointly organised by the RIPE NCC and public sector organisations in the Arab region) and the recent Internet Exchange Point trainings in Georgia and Montenegro (cooperative efforts with the Internet Society and the ITU) have demonstrated.

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