International Y2K Coordinators Are Mapping Year-End Strategy (United Nations--USIA) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

USIA Washington File...

17 June 1999


(International conference begins June 21) (1580)
By Judy Aita
USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- With a little over six months left before the year 2000, national coordinators from more than 160 countries will be gathering at UN headquarters June 21-23 to assess their progress in fighting the so-called "Y2K bug" threatening computers and chart a work program for the rest of the year.

Although he reminds everyone that "we'll find out in the end how we did," Bruce McConnell, director of the International Y2K Cooperation Center, sounds cool, calm, and optimistic as he plans for the three-day session in New York.

"Its clear that there's a global effort underway," McConnell said in an interview with The Washington File. "This is demonstrated by the fact that we have over 160 countries coming to the meeting. Virtually all the countries of the world have Y2K programs that are moving forward."

Referred to by several terms -- the Y2K bug or millennium bug or Y2K effect -- the problem will occur when computer dating systems face the transition from years starting with 19 to those starting with 20. Not inherently difficult to fix, the problem is of such major concern because of the number of computers and systems involved around the world and their interaction affecting everything from the world banking system to heating homes.

International cooperation began in earnest late last year under the direction of Ambassador Ahmad Kamal, Pakistan's chief UN envoy and chairman of the UN working group on infomatics, and the US President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion. The first conference -- a day-long session that brought together coordinators from about 130 countries -- was held at UN headquarters December 11.

"We are all competing in a race against time...and despite all the efforts and the committed work of individuals and institutions, we are far from the objective of ensuring Y2K compliance by the inflexible, deadline of 31 December 1999," Kamal told the December conference. And he stressed that it was important not to spend time talking about the past or trying to place blame, instead "let us see what we can do and let us do the maximum that we can to the best of our abilities."

A major offshoot of the December conference was the International Y2K Cooperation Center (IY2KCC) launched in February 1999 to coordinate global action. A lean organization with little staff and a small office physically based in Washington, IY2KCC is a "virtual organization" linked through e-mail to Y2K coordinators and experts around the world.

The staff and steering committee don't go through diplomatic channels -- which can take too much time; they keep in touch the fastest ways possible -- e-mail and telephone; have held teleconferences to help regional groups get started; and recruited volunteers to help Y2K coordinators with specific questions and problems.

"While some countries started later than others, everyone has a program to address the problem. We will find out at the end how we did, but I think the level of attention is such that the major issues will be addressed," McConnell said June 16 as he worked on the final details of the conference.

McConnell feels that "it is too early to tell actually where people are going to come out. You can tell the US and some of the more industrialized countries are well along; they shouldn't have any major problems. Some of the world is an open question at this point, but we're optimistic."

Some sectors -- such as banking, telephone, and air traffic control -- are very far along and are even testing systems on a regional basis, he also pointed out.

"A lot of work is going to get done" in the remaining 200 days before the "final exam" at midnight December 31, he predicted.

"Our work in the first half of the year has been to promote and strengthen individual country programs by providing technical resources and assistance; to get countries talking on a regional basis so that they are addressing cross-border issues such as 'will the electrical power or gas pipelines work across the border, customs services be available at the border,'" McConnell explained.

"We've had a number of successful conferences at the regional level...and we have been organizing the international sectors like the International Telecommunications Union, the International Civil Aviation Association and others which have good Y2K programs to make sure they are in touch with national coordinators," he said.

"That laid down a good network of people who are working together on various details of the problem. Of course you don't fix any problems in meetings, but you can at least connect people," McConnell said.

McConnell said he's not surprised by the high level of international cooperation and "very pleased at the level of activism, energy, and initiative that people are showing and willingness to work outside their own area and pitch in and help out on a group basis."

What has been frustrating is getting national and international institutions to move quickly, he said.

"As a general matter, it is fair to say the international institutions and even the national institutions are ill equipped to deal with something where decisions have to be made quickly," he said. "It is not a crisis in the sense that people can see bad things happening now, so sometimes it's hard to get people's attention and say we have to decide this right away," McConnell said.

Now that the coordinating has been accomplished, IY2KCC is going to focus on two major areas: promoting disclosure of information to the public and drafting disaster recovery plans, he said.

McConnell said it is important that governments let both their own citizens and other nations what they are doing not only to prevent public panic but also to let investors know how a country is addressing the issue so they can have confidence to keep doing business in that country.

Good public information is important, McConnell stressed. "People are going to make decisions either based on what they think is going to happen or what they know is going to happen. If there's no information, they're going to base their decisions on fear and rumor. But if there's good information, they're more likely to take rational decisions."

"That's why we're pushing countries to reveal as much as they can about what they are doing and how they're dealing with the problem so that people can make rational decisions rather than panic decisions.... You can't just tell people everything will be fine," he said.

The conference begins on June 21 with regional meetings for Asia, Central America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe/Central Asia, Middle East/North Africa, South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Western Europe to give each area a chance to assess where they are. The regional groups will report to a plenary session, chaired by Ambassador Kamal, on June 22.

McConnell said that each region has had strong coordinators who have been pulling together the neighboring countries.

"Africa is a good example," he said. IY2KCC "basically sponsored a couple of conference calls....Through e-mails we advertised that we wanted to have an Africa conference. Coordinators said they wanted to participate. We held a couple of conference calls."

As a result the coordinators formed a steering committee of representatives from five or six countries who have now organized Sub-Saharan Africa, McConnell said.

IY2KCC just provides "a little bit of infrastructure to make it happen, because everybody sees the need -- they depend on each other for power, water and other things -- so they understand the need to cooperate," he said. "They just needed someone to connect them a little bit."

Also on the plenary program are McConnell, UN Undersecretary General for Management Joseph Connor, and Dr. Carlos Primo Braga director of InfoDev of The World Bank.

Two special sessions are also planned for June 22. The first, entitled "Public Information and Public Confidence" features David Bohrman, Executive Vice president of CNN; Eric Auchard, technology reporter for Reuters; Roger Ferguson, governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board; Hiroharu Koike, national Y2K coordinator for Japan; and David Henry, national Y2K coordinator for New Zealand.

The second session on "Disaster Preparedness and Event Management" features James Lee Witt, head of the (US) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Don Pallandino, Executive Vice President of Save the Children; David Spinks, business manager of AEA Technologies; Amable Aguiluz, national Y2K coordinator for Philippines; and a representative of UN Emergency Response Coordinator's office.

On June 23, the participants will hear a presentation on "Social Responsibility of Private Vendors" from Gary Beach, publisher of CIO Magazine, and Harris Miller, chief executive officer of World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA). There will also be "sector updates" on: air transport by Michael Lam of the International Civil Aviation Organization and Michael Comber of the International Air Transport Association; energy by Rodrigo Moraga, IY2KCC member from Chile, Marcos Ozoria de Almeida of Brazil, and Marta Zaghini of Argentina; finance by Jim Devlin of CitiCorp and Bill Mundt of Global 2000; Telecommunications from Ron Balls of the International Telecommunications Union and Jeongwon Yoon, IY2KCC member from the Republic of Korea; maritime from Rear Admiral George Naccara of the US Coast Guard and Jack Booth of the International Maritime Organization; and health by Kate Priestley, IY2KCC member from the United Kingdom.

There will be other meetings on: resolving Y2K disputes, community preparedness/local Y2K initiatives, contingency planning, and communications training. A risk management session will discuss lessons learned, contingency planning, and a self-assessment process.

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 17, 1999


2nd United Nations National Y2K Coordinators' Meeting: 21-23 June 1999 members/y2k/y2k2nd/

UN Y2K page... y2k/

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 17, 1999.

Diane, is your Thorazine prescription OK? Have you stocked up?

Inquiring minds want to know.

-- Chicken Little (, June 17, 1999.

They'll miss Ed Yourdon at the United Nations ... sigh.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, June 17, 1999.

Correct, A & L.

I also miss that hemorrhoid I had removed a while back.

It had as much worth to me as Mr. Yourdon would have to any U.N. proceedings.

-- Chicken Little (, June 17, 1999.

... something about a chicken running around with its head cut off ...

-- Ashton (, June 17, 1999.

Chicken Little: I'm sure the hemorroid the same opinion about you.


The first time I've heard of an asshole complaining about a hemorroid,

-- kozak (kozak@formerusaf.guv), June 17, 1999.

LOL.... Ashton.

Even with it's head chopped off the claws of a dead chicken keep trying to run around clawing at anything.


See also...

IEAs Y2K Oil Supply & Ripple Effects (United Nations Web-site) 000y8B

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 17, 1999.

Darn correction: I'm sure the hemorroid has the same opinion about you

-- kozak (kozak@formerusaf.guv), June 17, 1999.


I was at one of the "Community Conversations" today in Frankfort, Kentucky. John Koskinen was the first speaker, and he happened to briefly mention that 160 nations would be meeting at the UN on Monday to discuss Y2K. I hear it from Koskinen this morning and then see this article about it later in the day.

Today was...interesting, in many ways. I'll post something about today's "Community Conversation" after supper. Thanks for the link and article.

-- Linkmeister (, June 17, 1999.


Good one. They seem to forget that there is another valid way to look at things and your direct reminder put it back in perspective. Thanks.

-- Gordon (, June 17, 1999.

Look forward to your report Linkmeister.

And please... what are your first-hand impressions of the K-man himself?


-- Diane J. Squire (, June 17, 1999.

I would not be giving Thorizine a bad name.....

Even the Old "Bomb Shelter" tapes (See the "Atomic Cafe" for those interested) Suggested that your shelter should have tranquilizers on hand. "About one hundred for each shelter occupant should be sufficent"

Well think about it, When the clock strikes midnight and the party is over.... Will you have your "thorizine"

Coffee, Tea, or milk ...

-- You (, June 17, 1999.

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