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"ITU" redirects here. For other uses, see ITU (disambiguation).

International Telecommunication Union
Union internationale des télécommunications
Unión Internacional de Telecomunicaciones
Международный союз электросвязи
الاتحاد الدولي للاتصالات
Flag of the ITU
Org type UN agency
Acronyms ITU
Head Hamadoun Touré
Status Active
Established 17 May 1865
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), originally founded as the International Telegraph Union (French: Union Internationale des Télécommunications), is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.[1] The ITU coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards.

ITU also organizes worldwide and regional exhibitions and forums, such as ITU TELECOM WORLD, bringing together representatives of government and the telecommunications and ICT industry to exchange ideas, knowledge and technology.

The ITU is active in areas including broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.

ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations Development Group.[2] Its membership includes 193 Member States and around 700 Sector Members and Associates.

ITU sectors

The ITU comprises three sectors, each managing a different aspect of the matters handled by the Union, as well as ITU Telecom:

Radiocommunication (ITU-R)
Managing the international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources is at the heart of the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R).
Standardization (ITU-T)
ITU's standards-making efforts are its best-known – and oldest – activity; known prior to 1992 as the International Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee or CCITT (from its French name "Comité consultatif international téléphonique et télégraphique")
Development (ITU-D)
Established to help spread equitable, sustainable and affordable access to information and communication technologies (ICT).
ITU Telecom organizes major events for the world's ICT community. ITU Telecom World 2011[3] is ITU Telecom's 40th Anniversary with the first event in 1971.

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

Legal framework of ITU

The basic texts of the ITU[4] are adopted by the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.[5] The founding document of the ITU was the 1865 International Telegraph Convention, which has since been amended several times and is now entitled the "Constitution and Convention of the International Telecommunication Union". In addition to the Constitution and Convention, the consolidated basic texts include the Optional Protocol on the settlement of disputes, the Decisions, Resolutions and Recommendations in force, as well as the General Rules of Conferences, Assemblies and Meetings of the Union.


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

At the 17th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (2006) in Antalya, Turkey, the ITU's member states elected Dr Hamadoun Touré of Mali as Secretary-General of the Union.[6] He was re-elected for a second four-year term at the 18th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (2010) in Guadalajara, Mexico.

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 Switzerland Switzerland
Karl Lendi 24 May 1872 12 January 1873 Switzerland Switzerland
Louis Curchod 23 February 1873 18 October 1889 Switzerland Switzerland
August Frey 25 February 1890 28 June 1890 Switzerland Switzerland
Timotheus Rothen 25 November 1890 11 February 1897 Switzerland Switzerland
Emil Frey 11 March 1897 1 August 1921 Switzerland Switzerland
Henri Étienne 2 August 1921 16 December 1927 Switzerland Switzerland
Joseph Raber 1 February 1928 30 October 1934 Switzerland Switzerland
Franz von Ernst 1 January 1935 31 December 1949 Switzerland Switzerland
Secretaries general
Léon Mulatier 1 January 1950 31 December 1953 France France
Marco Aurelio Andrada 1 January 1954 18 June 1958 Argentina Argentina
Gerald C. Gross 1 January 1960 29 October 1965 United States United States
Manohar Balaji Sarwate 30 October 1965 19 February 1967 India India
Mohamed Ezzedine Mili 20 February 1967 31 December 1982 Tunisia Tunisia
Richard E. Butler 1 January 1983 31 October 1989 Australia Australia
Pekka Tarjanne 1 November 1989 31 January 1999 Finland Finland
Yoshio Utsumi 1 February 1999 31 December 2006 Japan Japan
Hamadoun Touré 1 January 2007 present Mali Mali


Membership of ITU is open to governments, which may join the Union as Member States, as well as to private organizations like carriers, equipment manufacturers, funding bodies, research and development organizations and international and regional telecommunication organizations, which can join ITU as non-voting Sector Members.[7]

There are 193 member states of the ITU, which includes 192 UN member states (all except Palau) and the Vatican City.[8] The most recent member state to join the ITU is South Sudan, which became a member on 14 July 2011.[9]

The Republic of China (Taiwan) was blocked from membership by the People's Republic of China, but nevertheless received a country code, being listed as "Taiwan, China".[10] The Palestine was admitted as an observer in 2010.[11]

World Summit on the Information Society

The ITU was the lead organizing agency of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).[12]

World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12)

In December 2012, the ITU facilitated the The World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12) in Dubai. WCIT-12 was a treaty-level conference to address International Telecommunications Regulations: international rules for telecommunications, including international tariffs.[13] The previous conference to update the Regulations (ITRs) was held in Melbourne in 1988.[14]

In August 2012, ITU called for a public consultation on a draft document ahead of the conference.[15] It is claimed the proposal would allow government restriction or blocking of information disseminated via the internet and create a global regime of monitoring internet communications – including the demand that those who send and receive information identify themselves. It would also allow governments to shut down the internet if there is the belief that it may interfere in the internal affairs of other states or that information of a sensitive nature might be shared.[16]

Telecommunications ministers from 193 countries attended the conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.[16]

Changes to International Telecommunication Regulations

The current regulatory structure was based on voice telecommunications, when the Internet was still in its infancy.[17] In 1988, telecommunications operated under regulated monopolies in most countries. As the Internet has grown, organizations such as ICANN have come into existence to manage key resources such as Internet addresses and Domain Names. Some outside the United States believe that the United States exerts too much influence over the governance of the Internet.[18]

Proposed Changes to the Treaty And Concerns

Current proposals look to take into account the prevalence of data communications. Proposals under consideration would establish regulatory oversight by the U.N. over security, fraud, traffic accounting as well as traffic flow, management of Internet Domain Names and

The WCIT-12 activity has been attacked by Google, which has characterized it as a threat to the " and open internet."[24]

On 22 November 2012, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging member states to prevent ITU WCIT-12 activity that would "negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online".[25] The resolution asserted that "the ITU [...] is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over the internet".[26]

On 5 December 2012, the lower chamber of the United States Congress passed a resolution opposing U.N. governance of the Internet by a rare unanimous 397–0 vote. The resolution warned that "... proposals have been put forward for consideration at the [WCIT-12] that would fundamentally alter the governance and operation of the Internet ... [and] would attempt to justify increased government control over the Internet ...", and stated that the policy of the United States is "... to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful Multistakeholder Model that governs the Internet today." The same resolution had previously been passed unanimously by the upper chamber of the Congress in September.[27]

On 14 December 2012, an amended version of the India and the United Kingdom. The Head of the U.S. Delegation, Terry Kramer, said "We cannot support a treaty that is not supportive of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance". New global telecoms treaty agreed in Dubai".

WCIT-12 Conference Participation

The conference itself was managed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). While certain parts of civil society and industry were able to advise and observe, active participation was restricted to member

See also


External links

  • History of ITU Portal (official site)
  • ITU Telecom World 2011
  • Protect Global Internet Freedom Coalition
  • ITU defines the future of mobile communications
  • ICANN and the United Nations' ITU relationship
  • Ryan/Glick: The ITU Treaty Negotiations: A Call for Openness and Participation
  • Renda, Andrea. The Wall Street Journal, 25 April 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  • Thierer, Adam. Forbes Magazine, 6 May 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  • Cerf, Vinton. The New York Times, 24 May 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  • Harrington, Matt., 29 May 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  • Peterson, Josh., 24 May 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  • Coverage of Free State Foundation, 30 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  • Kang, Cecilia. The Washington Post, 31 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  • Shaw, Stephen. ZDNet. 30 May 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012.

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