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The International Telecommunication Union is the second-oldest international organization still in existence (the oldest being the Rhine Commission), established to standardize and regulate international radio and telecommunications. It was founded as the International Telegraph Union in Parismarker on 17 May 1865. Its main tasks include standardization, allocation of the radio spectrum, and organizing interconnection arrangements between different countries to allow international phone calls — in which regard it performs for telecommunications a similar function to what the UPUmarker performs for postal services. It is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations, and has its headquarters in Genevamarker, Switzerlandmarker, next to the main United Nations campus.


The ITU is made up of three sectors:

A permanent General Secretariat, headed by the Secretary General, manages the day-to-day work of the Union and its sectors.


The ITU is headed by a Secretary-General, who is elected to a four-year term by the member states at the plenipotentiary conference.

At the 17th Plenipotentiary Conference (2006) in Antalyamarker, Turkeymarker, the ITU's Member States elected Dr. Hamadoun Touré of Malimarker as Secretary-General of the Union.

Directors and Secretaries-general of ITU

Directors of ITU
Name Beginning of Term End of Term Country
Louis Curchod 1 January 1869 24 May 1872 Switzerlandmarker
Karl Lendi 24 May 1872 12 January 1873 Switzerlandmarker
Louis Curchod 23 February 1873 18 October 1889 Switzerlandmarker
August Frey 25 February 1890 28 June 1890 Switzerlandmarker
Timotheus Rothen 25 November 1890 11 February 1897 Switzerlandmarker
Emil Frey 11 March 1897 1 August 1921 Switzerlandmarker
Henri Étienne 2 August 1921 16 December 1927 Switzerlandmarker
Joseph Räder 1 February 1928 30 October 1934 Switzerlandmarker
Franz von Ernst 1 January 1935 1 January 1949 Switzerlandmarker
Secretaries general
Léon Mulatier 1 January 1950 1 January 1953 Francemarker
Marco Aurelio Andrada 1 January 1954 18 June 1958 Argentinamarker
Gerald C. Cross 1 January 1964 29 October 1965 United Statesmarker
Manohar Balaji Sarwate 30 October 1965 19 February 1967 Indiamarker
Mohamed Ezzedine Mili 20 October 1967 31 December 1982 Tunisiamarker
Richard E. Butler 1 January 1983 31 October 1989 Australia
Pekka Tarjanne 1 November 1989 31 January 1999 Finlandmarker
Yoshio Utsumi 1 February 1999 31 December 2006 Japanmarker
Hamadoun Touré 1 January 2007 present Malimarker


The international standards that are produced by the ITU are referred to as Recommendations(with the word ordinarily capitalized to distinguish its meaning from the ordinary sense of the word). Due to its longevity as an international organization and its status as a specialized agency of the United Nations, standards promulgated by the ITU carry a higher degree of formal international recognition than those of most other organizations that publish technical specifications of a similar form.


ITU member states

The work of the ITU is conducted by its members. As part of the United Nations structure, a country can be a member, in which case it is referred to as a Member State. Companies and other such organizations can hold other classes of membership referred to as Sector Member or Associate status. As of September 2007 there were 191 Member States and more than 700 Sector Members and Associates.

Sector and Associate memberships enable direct participation by a company in the development of standards (something not allowed in some other standards bodies such as ISO, where formal ballots are processed by a single entity per country and companies participate only indirectly through national delegations). Various parts of the ITU also maintain liaison relationships with other organizations.

Members are almost all of the UN members plus the Vatican City Statemarker. Only Palaumarker and East Timormarker are not participating at this time. Other entities not represented are the Palestinian Authority and Taiwanmarker, although the Palestinian Authority is granted non-voting observer status .


The ITU decides matters between states and private organizations through an extensive series of working parties, study groups, regional meetings, and world meetings.



  • Geneva 1925
  • Prague 1929
  • Luzern 1933
  • Montreux 1939
  • Copenhagen 1948
  • Stockholm 1952
  • Stockholm 1961
  • Geneva 1975
  • Geneva 1977
  • Geneva 1984
  • WRC 2000
  • Geneva 2006

World Summit on the Information Society

Main article: World Summit on the Information Society

The ITU was the lead organizing agency of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a United Nations summit aiming at bridging the digital divide and turning it into digital opportunity for all. WSIS provided a global forum on the theme of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) for development, involving for the first time all stakeholders - governments, international organizations, civil society and business. WSIS was a pledge for building a people-centered development-oriented Information Society. Other big themes of the Summit were Internet governance and Financial mechanisms for meeting the challenges of ICTs for development.

The idea of holding WSIS came from the Tunisian President Ben Ali on the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Minneapolis in 1998. The process was launched late in 2002 on the initiative of Kofi Annan. The first phase of the WSIS summit took place in December 2003 in Genevamarker and the second and final phase took place in Tunismarker in November 2005.

See also


ITU headquarters, Geneva
  1. Report on election of Toure
  2. ITU Membership Information and access to membership list
  3. Resolution 99, "Status of Palestine in ITU", ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, Minneapolis, 1998
  4. World Summit on the Information Society: Redirect

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