First Woman Selected to Lead UN’s Telecom Agency
BUCHAREST, Romania — An American was chosen to be the first woman to lead the United Nations’ telecommunications agency, the International Telecommunication Union, in its 157-year history after an overwhelming vote Thursday in Romania.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, the new secretary general of the agency, received 139 votes out of 172 votes cast. She’s the first American to serve in that position for over 50 years.
While the union was created in 1865, it became a United Nations specialized agency in 1947. The international telecom agency oversees the coordination of radio spectrum and satellite orbits. The agency is also tasked with improving communications infrastructure globally and is currently working to expand broadband access in developing countries.
Bogdan-Martin is currently serving as the director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, where she’s been the chief architect of the agency’s global development work, emphasizing the need for a digital transformation that will usher in economic prosperity and social justice reforms like gender equality.
“Whether it’s today’s children or our children’s children, we need to provide them with a strong and stable foundation for growth,” Bogdan-Martin said in a statement.
“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 received overwhelming support from her home country with President Joe Biden issuing a supportive statement urging fellow U.N. members to vote for her.
“Bogdan-Martin possesses the integrity, experience, and vision necessary to transform the digital landscape,” Biden said.
“She understands the importance of connecting every school to the internet and making sure every student can access virtual learning, providing women and girls the digital tools they need to succeed, and extending the benefits of online health and educational resources.
“It is hard to believe that in today’s digital world, 2.9 billion people globally have no access to the internet and its many benefits. That’s a challenge that holds all of us back.”
Federal Communication Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel applauded the U.N. members’ decision to elect Bogdan-Martin on the first round of voting.
“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,” Rosenworcel said in a statement.
“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% of us to today’s modern communications technologies.”
Fellow commissioner Geoffrey Starks is currently in Romania as part of the United States delegation for the election where he stumped for Bogdan-Martin.
“I applaud the ITU for electing Doreen Bogdan-Martin as the next secretary general. Her election, confirmed with the overwhelming support of the international community, shows her vision for our collective digital future is the right one,” Starks said in a statement.
“Additionally, I want to celebrate the fact that Doreen is the first woman elected to lead the ITU since its establishment in 1865. She made history today.”
Bogdan-Martin will continue serving as the director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau through the end of the year before stepping into her four-year position as secretary general in January of 2023.
Madeline can be reached at [email protected] and @ByMaddieHughes
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