Houlin Zhao of China will be the next Secretary General of the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) after receiving 152 of 156 votes from member nations at the ITU conference in Busan, South Korea. This UN agency has attracted attention in recent years as a number of foreign governments, including China, Russia, and Iran, have sought to empower the ITU as a regulator of the global online world.
The ITU was founded in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, and in 1947 it became a UN agency specializing in information and communications technologies (ICTs). The ITU currently manages international radio spectrum and satellite orbits, recommends standards to promote technological interconnection, and works to improve access to ICTs worldwide.
While praising the ITU’s current mission, Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda, the top U.S. official at the Busan conference, recently stated: “[T]here are some who want to manipulate or change the mandate of the ITU in ways that would purport to give governments the sole authority over the Internet’s content, technologies, or services. The U.S. government categorically rejects this proposal.” Ambassador Sepulveda argued that such a plan would encourage censorship by repressive regimes and undermine the strength and freedom of the Internet.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: October 31, 2014