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ITU Plenipot: Old men and young women

Category : Internet governance, Journalism · (9) Comments · by Oct 19th, 2010

The International Telecommunication Union is a walking contradiction.

There are many things wrong with the organisation: its closed nature; its budgeting; its out-of-date and out-of-control procedures – and yet not only is the ITU aware of this, but there are formal proposals here in Guadalajara to make changes to fix many of them.

The ITU is stuck in the past, but at the same time its staff and many of its members are living in the immediate present, sitting at the cutting-edge of technology. So why is there such a huge cultural disparity?

An answer of sorts comes in the form of Syria’s permanent representative to the ITU, Nabil Kisrawi. Mr Kisrawi used to work for the ITU – between 1979 and 1992. Since then – nearly 20 years – he has been a constant feature of the ITU.

Mr Kisrawi has an encyclopedic knowledge of the organisation and its procedures. Younger delegates speak admiringly about how he helped them understand the complexities of the ITU when they joined. He is also admired for his ability to follow events in multiple rooms and turn up at the right moment to speak to the room – which he does with no more than a notepad and a bundle of the latest papers. And he is, I am told, a pleasant and friendly person to converse with.

Unfortunately, on the basis of every intervention I have seen Mr Kisrawi make in the past week – and there have been hundreds of them – he is also the most obstructive, unhelpful, out-of-touch and stubborn government representative I have ever come across. And that is some achievement.