A US candidate defeated his Russian rival to become the next head of the UN’s top technical body on Thursday in a poll that looked at how many countries still sided with Moscow after the war in Ukraine.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin won the election for secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the UN body that sets standards for new technologies – with 139 votes out of 172, defeating Russian Rashid Ismailov who won 25.
“I have worked for more than three decades for this moment,” Bogdan-Martin said after winning a secret ballot in Bucharest.
The ITU veteran pledged to improve digital connectivity and use technology to tackle challenges such as the climate crisis, food security and the gender divide.
“This is a symbolically very important election,” said Olaf Weintzeck, director of the Geneva office of the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation. “It’s a way to measure how many countries are still on Russia’s side,” he added, describing the result as a “severe defeat” for Moscow.
Ismailov, who has worked for Huawei and Nokia as well as the Russian government, has made technology human-centered as a campaign proposition and is committed to building bridges to bridge the digital divide.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy was not immediately available for comment.
Some observers called it a battle for control of the Internet between countries seeking open standards and tighter controls on communications.
“It’s a good story, but not a very realistic story. The secretary-general doesn’t set policy,” ITU deputy secretary-general Malcolm Johnson told Reuters.
He said the agency’s 193 member countries made high-level decisions and most of the standardization work was done by private sector members.
Bogdan-Martin is the first woman to head the Geneva-based agency that sets standards for artificial intelligence and other new technologies, allocating radio frequencies and satellite orbits. He replaces Zhao of Chinese Haul.
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