News

ITU elects American as new secretary-general by 139-25

Doreen Bogdan-Martin.jpg

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has elected an American, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, as its secretary-general by an overwhelming majority.

Bogdan-Martin (pictured), the first woman to lead the ITU in its 157-year history, received 139 votes. The only other candidate, Rashid Ismailov of the Russian Federation, received just 25 votes.

The voting, in Bucharest this morning, gives Bogdan-Martin well over the required majority of 83 among the 172 ITU member states that were present and voting.

Bogdan-Martin will assume office on New Year’s Day for a four-year term. Previous secretaries-general have served for two terms, so she is likely to be in office from 2023 to the end of 2030.

She has been chief architect of ITU’s development work in recent years, emphasising the need for digital transformation to achieve economic prosperity, job creation, skills development, gender equality, and socio-economic inclusion, as well as to build circular economies, reduce climate impact, and save lives.

After the election result was declared, Bogdan-Martin said: “The world is facing significant challenges – escalating conflicts, a climate crisis, food security, gender inequalities, and 2.7 billion people with no access to the internet. I believe we, the ITU and our members, have an opportunity to make a transformational contribution. Continuous innovation can and will be a key enabler to facilitate resolution of many of these issues.”

Bogdan-Martin is the first American to hold the post since Gerald Gross, who served from 1958 to 1965.

Her immediate predecessors were Hamadoun Touré of Mali, in office from 2007 to 2014, and Houlin Zhao of China, from 2015 to the end of this year.

“Whether it’s today’s children or our children’s children, we need to provide them with a strong and stable foundation for growth,” she said.

US President Joe Biden supported her candidature, saying: “Ms Bogdan-Martin possesses the integrity, experience, and vision necessary to transform the digital landscape.” Other US government officials, including secretary of state Antony Blinken, supported Bogdan-Martin, believing that she will oppose moves to bring the internet under control of national governments.

Later in the ITU’s four-yearly conference, member states will elect a deputy secretary-general of the ITU, to replace Malcolm Johnson of the UK, who steps down after eight years in December, as well as directors of the Radiocommunication Bureau, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau and Telecommunication Development Bureau.

The ITU dates back to the International Telegraph Union, established in 1865, and it became a United Nations agency in 1947.