Revisionist History

Did you know that the upcoming WTPF 2013 will be the fifth World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum hosted by the International Telecommunication Union? If not, you might also be surprised, as I was, to learn that it was authorized in 1994 during the Kyoto ITU Plenipotentiary. That seemed odd to me since WTPF 2009 was a World Telecommunication Policy Forum; notice the lack of ICT in the name.

I was surprised that the ITU wouldn’t have used the term ICT in 2009, given that it was authorized back in 1994, and found it strange that the Secretary General’s June 2012 speech to the Informal Expert Group for WTPF 2013 was labeled “World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF), Meeting of the Informal Experts Group (IEG), Opening Welcome Speech”. It turns out this isn’t strange or unusual.

The ITU’s website variously refers to the WTPF by inclusion or exclusion of the acronym ICT. I wondered why that might be and began rummaging around the ITU web site looking for the Kyoto Resolution (2) authorizing the WTPF. I found a handy copy under the WTPF96 site that the ITU maintains. It doesn’t reference ICTs. In fact the only occurrence of “ict” I could find was in the word restrict.

Having failed to find the term, I went looking for revisions to Plenipotentiary Resolution 2 and found them in Marakesh and Guadalarja (I think there’s a song in there somewhere). The 2002 Marakesh revision doesn’t mention ICTs either, but at Guadalajara in 2010, they come in with a vengeance, appearing 26 times. In fact, they make such a strong appearance they are able to change the wording of the 1994 Kyoto resolution. Resolves 1 of Guadalajara Resolution 2 states:

that the world telecommunication/ICT policy forum, as established by Resolution 2 (Kyoto, 1994) of the Plenipotentiary Conference subsequently revised in Resolution 2 (Rev. Marrakesh, 2002), shall be maintained…

But if we’re maintaining the forum that was established Kyoto and revised in Marakesh, that’s the WTPF but without the “/ICT”. Introduction of the “/ICT” in Resolves 1 (and elsewhere in the Guadalajara Resolution) is factually incorrect. Is this important? Perhaps.

I am not a lawyer, and especially not an ITU lawyer. With that caveat, I note that since no “world telecommunication/ICT policy forum” was ever established by the ITU in Kyoto or revised in Marakesh, it doesn’t exist and consequently it is impossible to maintain (but stranger things have happened). Alternatively, we could look at the introduction of “/ICT” as an overzealous application of “global find and replace” and determine that where the introduction of “/ICT” results in factual errors, it should be dropped. That would result in a Resolves 1 from Gudalajara as follows:

that the world telecommunication policy forum, as established by Resolution 2 (Kyoto, 1994) of the Plenipotentiary Conference subsequently revised in Resolution 2 (Rev. Marrakesh, 2002), shall be maintained…

Of course other ITU documents (like Council Decision 562), the web site, printed material, etc. would have to be updated to more accurately reflect the history of the World Telecommunication Policy Forum. Or not.

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