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The ITU Plenipotentiary: Member States Decrease Financial Contributions

The ongoing ITU Plenipotentiary Conference wraps up at the end of the week. The more than 2000 people present in Busan Korea from 171 countries—overwhelmingly government bureaucrats—have been busily polishing nearly a hundred resolutions on everything that ails them. The good news is that some sanity seems to have prevailed and most of the really extreme provisions apparently disappeared during the ensuing dialogue. One of the reasons for the change of heart is the realization that the ITU emperor’s budget for clothes is disappearing.

One of the most significant stories of the conference will not appear in an ITU press release. A dozen Member States—presumably fed up with the declining value proposition of the organization—decreased their financial contributions significantly. This trend has actually been quietly ongoing now for the past two decades and is one of the ITU’s best kept secrets.

Unlike other U.N. specialized agencies, the ITU’s income largely comes from dues that its Nation State members volunteer. The amount gets established at each Plenipotentiary Conference every four years when every country indicates how much it is willing to contribute to the ITU for its work.

Over the past twenty years, 35 of the ITU’s Member States cut back their contributions amounting to nearly ten percent of the organization’s budget. The trend continued at the ongoing Busan Plenipotentiary where twelve countries announced they were cutting back their contributions. The biggest reduction was from Canada which reduced its contribution by 27%. Also significant was France which dropped its contribution by 16%—on top of a previous reduction several years ago for a total of 30%. France’s actions were additionally notable because it gave birth to the organization’s precursor in 1865 and was significantly engaged in its work until the 1990s when the ITU’s value fell dramatically.

Other nations dropping their contributions at Busan included: Spain (-25%), Sweden (-20%), Finland (-33%), Belgium (-25%), Denmark (-25%), Portugal (-25%), Croatia (-50%), Panama (-50%), Syria (-50%), and Ukraine (-50%). The financial losses to the ITU would have been even greater if six nations didn’t modestly increase their contributions: China, Mexico, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Guinea.

In monetary terms, the current annual decrease due to the reduced contributions is about 3.3 million Swiss Francs (about $3.4 million). However, over the past two decades, the total reductions have amounted to about 10.6 million Swiss Francs (or about $11 million). And that’s just the Member State contributions. The private sector decrease in contributions has been far greater in numbers, albeit a much smaller percentage of the organization’s overall membership revenue.

These fiscal trends strongly parallel who actually uses the organization today—with Korea and China constituting between 75 and 90 percent of the input submissions and participation in many of the ITU’s telecommunication standards groups.

The overall twenty year changes are shown below in Contributory Units. Each Unit is currently equal to 318,000 Swiss Francs.

MEMBER STATES DECREASINGCurrent UnitsChange 1994–2014

MEMBER STATES INCREASINGCurrent UnitsChange 1994–2014
France21– 9China144
Canada13– 5Saudi Arabia133
Germany25– 5India105
Italy15– 5Korea (Rep.of)105
Switzerland10– 5South Africa41
United Kingdom10– 5Mexico32
Sweden4– 4United Arab Emirates32
Denmark1.5– 3 1/2Malaysia21
Finland2– 3Bahrain11/2
Netherlands5– 3Oman11/2
Spain6– 2Qatar11/2
Belgium3– 2Romania11/2
Australia13– 2Azerbaijan 13/4
Pakistan1– 1Kenya13/4
Lithuania1/4 – 3/4Kazakhstan1/2 1/4
Portugal1.5– 1/2Mali1/4 1/8
Hungary1/2 – 1/2Tanzania1/4 1/8
Philippines1/2 – 1/2Rwanda1/4 3/16
Argentina1/2 – 1/2Uganda1/4 3/16
Croatia0.25– 1/4Guinea1/41/8
Panama0.25– 1/4Kyrgyzstan1/4 1/8
Syria0.25– 1/4Zambia1/8 1/16
Ukraine0.25– 1/4
Bahamas1/4 – 1/4
Paraguay1/4 – 1/4
Uruguay1/4 – 1/4
Uzbekistan1/4 – 1/4
Micronesia1/16– 3/16
Montenegro1/8 – 1/8
Yemen1/8 – 1/8
Cabo Verde1/16– 1/16
Djibouti1/16– 1/16
Guinea-Bissau1/16– 1/16
Marshall Islands1/16– 1/16
Somalia1/16– 1/16

By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

The author is a leader in many international cybersecurity bodies developing global standards and legal norms over many years.

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