First woman to lead UN’s telecom agency

Published September 30, 2022
Bucharest (Romania): Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the US delivers a speech after she was elected secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union on Thursday.—AFP
Bucharest (Romania): Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the US delivers a speech after she was elected secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union on Thursday.—AFP

GENEVA: Doreen Bogdan-Martin was elected on Thursday as the first woman to lead the UN’s telecom agency in its 157-year history, with the US contender beating a Russian rival to the post.

Bogdan-Martin will become the next secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union, which plays an important global role in setting the technical standards underlying mobile phones, television and the internet.

She claimed a landslide 139-25 victory over Russia’s former deputy telecoms minister Rashid Ismailov in an election among the ITU’s member states at a conference in Bucharest. “Today, we made history. After 157 years, we shattered the glass ceiling,” she said.

Bogdan-Martin has worked her way up through the ITU. She joined its development bureau — one of the ITU’s three main divisions — in 1993 and became its director in 2019, pushing digital transformation.

Contests for the top UN jobs are typically about the balance of power between regional blocs.

The vote to lead the UN’s Geneva-based information and communication technologies agency — which coordinates everything from radio frequencies to satellites and 5G — was unrelated to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the election was being seen as a test of Russia’s standing in the United Nations as the war in Ukraine grinds on.

Moscow’s reliable friends in UN circles have dwindled due to the war, though ITU member states had nonetheless blocked a bid to stop Russian candidates from running.

Bogdan-Martin’s pitch was about getting more of the world connected to the internet and pushing forward high-speed access.

“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,” she said.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2022

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