The climax of the Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on-going in Turkey was reached on 15th November 2006 with the election of 46 Member States to sit on the ITU Council.

The Council represents the membership of the Union in the interval between Plenipotentiary Conferences and its role is to consider, within the period, broad telecommunication policy issues to ensure that the Union's activities, policies and strategies fully respond to today's dynamic, rapidly changing telecommunication environment.

It also prepares a report on ITU policy and strategic planning. In addition, the Council is responsible for ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of the Union, coordinating work programmes, approving budgets and controlling finances and expenditure.

Each of the five administrative regions is entitled to a number of seats, that Member States compete for through balloting, to make it to Council. The competition this time round was fiercest in Region D (Africa) where 20 countries contested for the 13 allotted seats.

In a tense voting session to decide the Council Members, Ghana retained its seat on the Council with an improved performance from the last Plenipotentiary Conference. Ghana placed ninth this time (107 votes) as against the 13th position (83 votes) it occupied in 2002 in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The casualties from the Africa Region were Uganda, Burundi, Sudan, Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Rwanda and Zambia, as they failed to make it to the Council. Ghana's Minister for Communications, Professor Mike Oquaye was earlier in the year elected Chairman/Coordinator of the Commonwealth ITU membership.

Ghana, as Coordinator for Commonwealth positions in the Plenipotentiary Conference, was in the forefront of the negotiations that saw the election of Mr. Hamadoun Toure of Mali to the top position of Secretary General of the ITU.

Prof. Mike Oquaye was mandated by the Africa Group and the Commonwealth ITU Group to seek the support of the other Regions of the ITU in the crucial third round voting that eventually secured the seat for Africa. The task involved diplomatic skills and saw the Ghanaian Minister winning great admiration in the process.

Ghana had to withdraw the candidature of Mr. John R. K. Tandoh in the contest for the Position of Secretary General of the ITU, because the topmost position had been won by an African and for that matter the ITU would not vote for a second official from Africa.

For the same reason, Patrick Masambu of Uganda who was the front-runner for the Position of Director of the Development Bureau succumbed to Al Basheer of Saudi Arabia for a position that was well deserved for Africa.

The conference will end on 28th November 2006 with the ratification of various Acts to guide the Telecommunications sector.

Ghanaian Chronicle