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On the plus side

Of course, the worst situations are also the most visible. So it's only fair to highlight areas where the ITU works, and works well.

For one, the organisation has moved quite successfully to an electronic document model — far more successfully than other organisations of the same size. Sure, there are still plenty of physical documents on the tables in the main room, but it's nothing short of extraordinary how smoothly the enormous number of documents produced — including new documents every day and revisions of existing documents — are relayed, linked to, and made accessible through the ITU's website.

Well, unless you don't have login privileges to the website, of course, in which case you're wasting your time.

Also, it is only fair to point out that the Plenipotentiary is the big, arcane monster of the ITU. The organisation runs many other global meetings on many different aspects of its work. They can be a little stuffy, but they're professionally run and bring together a lot of people with a shared focus.

On other aspects at this meeting, the ITU has also managed to tackle difficult subjects and come up with solutions. There was agreement today, for example, to open up the organisation to academia — and at a far lower price than normal: $4,000. There was also an agreement to charge for access to documents on a cost-recovery basis for members, and open up documents to non-members at market price — a crucial development, and one that should help the organisation appear more relevant.

When it comes to finances, the meeting agreed on a raft of 20 sensible measures to cut costs. And it has also passed gender-equality and disability measures, opening the 19th century shutters and letting in the light.

But even so, two worlds currently coexist here: the old men, rooted in the old ways, sitting at the top and doing what they can to maintain the status quo; and the new world, demonstrated by the surprisingly large number of young women at the conference — but almost all of those women sit behind the top table.

It's a generational shift sitting in the same room. And you get the feeling that members of the old guard are clinging to symbols — the arcane procedures, the late-night meetings, the stubborn formality — while their world is gradually eroded by the determined efforts of others.

In that context, Kisrawi and others like him are determinedly demonstrating that they still retain power with their use of interventions, square brackets, and marathon stalling sessions. Unfortunately they are sadly unaware that the result of this effort to display virility is a frankly embarrassing public spectacle.

Steak is for real men!

Speaking of young women: two days ago, sick of the roast beef paninis, buffet splodges, and the 101 different ways that Mexicans can serve beans and bread, I decided to head to the steakhouse — called a Butcher's House for some weird reason — at the Hilton opposite the venue.

It's a bit of a strange layout — more jazz club than restaurant — and the lighting is so low that you have trouble figuring out exactly what it is you are putting in your mouth. But I ordered a beer from the waiter and then started going through emails on my phone, as one does.

I was somewhat surprised a few minutes later to find a half-naked woman wearing what can only be described as a leather fantasy outfit standing next to me opening my beer. Now, I'll be honest, this isn't the first time a half-naked woman has poured me a beer in a dark room in Mexico — but never the Hilton!

It was also lunchtime. Which, frankly, was a little disconcerting.

It seems that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Hilton in Guadalajara is renowned for this unusual kind of waitressing. And if leather isn't your thing, there's another waitress dressed in a red two-piece fluffy cowgirl outfit, serving fajitas.

I would love to say the food was good, but as with everywhere else in this world, the quality of food is inversely proportional to the amount of flesh on display.

Nevertheless, you can't help but wonder that if you took all the old men in the negotiating room out for dinner at the Hilton and left their female second-in-commands behind, we would all be heading home tomorrow morning with a full set of resolutions. ®

This article originally appeared in slightly different form on kierenmccarthy.com.

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