|Hamadoun Touré is secretary-general of the ITU|
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has always prided itself on being one of the most pragmatic organisations of the United Nations. Engineers, after all, speak a similar language, regardless where they come from. Even during the cold war they managed to overcome their differences and negotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR), a binding global treaty that even today governs telecommunications between countries.
But the internet seems to be an even more divisive than cold-war ideology. The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, where the ITU met to renegotiate the ITR, ended in failure in the early hours of December 14th. After a majority of countries approved the new treaty, Terry Kramer, the head of the American delegation, announced that his country is “not able to sign the document in its current form.” Shortly thereafter, at least a dozen countries—including Britain, Sweden and Japan—signalled that they would not support the new treaty either. Of the 144 countries which had the right to sign the new treaty in Dubai, only 89 have done so.
America’s willingness to stand up for the internet should be welcomed. But it has to be said that in doing so it also defended its interests: no other country benefits as much from the status quo in the online world.