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Doreen Bogdan-Martin elected ITU Secretary-General

September 29, 2022

By Colin Mann

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Member States of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have elected Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the United States of America as the organisation’s next Secretary-General.

Bogdan-Martin will be the first woman to lead ITU, which was established in 1865 and became a United Nations specialised agency in 1947.

The election took place during ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-22) in Bucharest, Romania, with representatives of Member States voting during the meeting’s morning session. Bogdan-Martin won the position with 139 votes, out of 172 votes cast.​​

“Whether it’s today’s children or our children’s children, we need to provide them with a strong and stable foundation for growth,” said Bogdan-Martin. “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 has held leadership positions in international telecommunications policy for over two decades. Throughout her career, she has brokered innovative and visionary partnerships with the private sector, civil society, and other United Nations agencies to accelerate digital inclusion and connectivity. Bogdan-Martin will begin her four-year term as ITU Secretary-General on 1 January 2023.

The Secretary-General-elect has pledged “to continue driving this institution to be innovative and increasingly relevant for our Member States, better positioning all of us to embrace the digital environment and make progress on achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals and connecting the unconnected.”

Bogdan-Martin was endorsed by her country’s government as a candidate to make the digital future inclusive and accessible for everyone, especially in developing countries.

US President Joe Biden, in a September 20th statement backing her candidacy, said: “Ms. Bogdan-Martin possesses the integrity, experience, and vision necessary to transform the digital landscape.”

As chief architect of ITU’s development work in recent years, Bogdan-Martin has emphasised 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. Her current term as Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau ends on December 31st 2022.

Among her campaign priorities, she said she would “lead ITU into a new era of global and regional partnerships,” adding that the organisation “must evolve and sometimes break from old ways” to stay relevant.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary Of State, said: “I congratulate Doreen Bogdan-Martin on her historic election to serve as the next Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  This outcome reflects a broad endorsement by member states of Ms. Bogdan-Martin’s vision for universal connectivity, digital empowerment, and leadership at the ITU that is innovative, collaborative, and inclusive. With her election, the ITU itself has become more inclusive and representative, as Ms. Bogdan-Martin is the first woman elected as Secretary-General in the Union’s 157-year history.”

“The United States strongly supports the ITU’s vision and looks forward to working with Ms. Bogdan-Martin to close the digital divides, connect the 2.7 billion people who remain without reliable access to the Internet, and chart a course for the ITU that expands cooperation among all relevant stakeholders. That kind of cooperation is the central purpose of the ITU, and it is vital to fostering the connectivity and interoperability of the world’s telecommunications networks.”

“US support for Ms. Bogdan-Martin’s campaign reflects a renewed determination by the United States to ensure that international organizations are well-run, responsive to their memberships, and accountable for their performances.  We have made clear since the earliest days of the Administration that American leadership in multilateral venues, including the United Nations, is crucial to ensuring the international community is best positioned to address our shared challenges.  Today’s outcome at the International Telecommunication Union supports that objective.”

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel welcomed Bogdan-Martin’s election. “I commend the ITU membership on electing Doreen to be Secretary General, a proven leader who is dedicated to achieving universal connectivity for all people. At a time when almost one-third of the world lacks broadband access, she has the experience, skills, and dedication to help the ITU drive greater broadband access in all countries. And four years ago, she became the first woman elected to a leadership position in the 157-year history of the ITU, a role I’m familiar with as the first permanent Chairwoman of the FCC. I look forward to working with Doreen so we can connect 100 percent of us to today’s modern communications technologies.”

Joe Kane, director of broadband and spectrum policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), said “Ms. Bogdan-Martin’s tireless work for universal connectivity and Internet openness makes her a proven leader in international telecommunications policy. Her election by ITU member states shows the international interest in ensuring the technology and the policies that surround it empower individuals rather than become a tool of control for authoritarian regimes. The victory of Bogdan-Martin’s vision, rather than that of her Russian opponent, will likely result in standards and policies that benefit countries, consumers, and commercial entities around the world. The ITU’s work is now more important than ever, and it will be in capable hands.”

At the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, Member States will also elect candidates to the posts of Deputy Secretary-General, Radiocommunication Bureau Director, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau Director, and Telecommunication Development Bureau Director.

The voting for ITU’s senior leadership will be followed by elections for the 12-member Radio Regulations Board and for regionally allocated Member State places on the 48-seat ITU Council, which governs ITU between quadrennial Plenipotentiary Conferences.

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