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ITU Secretary-General Elect Doreen Bogdan-Martin

Doreen Bogdan-Martin elected by the member nations of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as its 12th Secretary-General. (Photo: ITU)

This morning in Bucharest, Doreen Bogdan-Martin was elected by the member nations of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as its 12th Secretary-General. Of the 164 votes cast, she received 139—an overwhelming majority of 85 percent. Only 15 countries voted for her opponent, Rashid Ismailov of Russia, who sought to implement a divisive techno-political agenda.

In many ways, Doreen’s election mirrors the dynamics of 1959 when the U.S. candidate Gerry Gross was elected. Both had served in senior ITU elected positions for some years. Doreen began working at the ITU in the 1990s in a General Secretariat policy position, and then four years ago, election as head of its Development Sector. Like Gross, her knowledge of a complex organization was learned firsthand over some 25 years. In the 1950s, Russia had similarly become a kind of pariah nation engaged in tearing the ITU apart.

With all of this said, it should be noted that the ITU is a federation of four different bodies that are largely autonomous by design, and the Secretary-General runs only one of them—the General Secretariat—and serves at the direction of the Plenipotentiary Conference and the ITU Council. The ITU is not the United Nations but an amalgamation of separate treaty organizations brought together by the U.S. at Atlantic City in 1947 with their own separate existences going back to 1850 to serve operational international communication network needs.

Nonetheless, the Secretary-General can play a very significant coordination and leadership role for the entirety of the organization and deploy resources to benefit both the organization and the world. Doreen brings a fresh enthusiasm and vitality that has been sadly missing and resulted in a significant atrophy of engagement in its work despite remaining as the only global intergovernmental organization dealing with telecommunication and information networks, including the all-important unique role of coordinating radio spectrum.

Last but not least, her leadership will bring a new perspective to the West generally on the value of ITU participation that once existed. As the ITU’s de facto historian, her election as the first woman is worth noting. However, the Secretary-General elect deserves congratulations for her enduring dedication to her work and enthusiasm she engenders. She also deserves the support of everyone to help make her tenure a new renaissance of digital inclusion and cooperation.

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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