The ITU, a link in the chain of the information society

The ITU is a specialised agency of the United Nations and an important player in the evolution of telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT) in the world. It promotes the advancement of telecommunications in the world and explores approaches to combating the digital divide which exists between the developed countries and the less developed countries. The ITU is also a universal centre for management of the frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, and a global forum where technical standards which guarantee the interconnection of communication systems are drawn up.

Founded in 1865, the ITU is the oldest intergovernmental organisation for technical cooperation. Today, it is made up of 193 Member States and more than 700 non-state members (NGOs, equipment suppliers, universities, etc.). Switzerland, and OFCOM in particular, are closely involved in the ITU, which is based in Geneva.

OFCOM and the ITU

OFCOM represents Switzerland in the ITU, in close collaboration with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the players in the Swiss telecommunications and ICT markets. Within it, the Office expresses the positions of Switzerland and defends its interests and those of international Geneva.

The supreme body of the ITU is the Conference of Plenipotentiaries, which meets every four years. OFCOM led the Swiss delegation to the most recent Conference of Plenipotentiaries, which took place from 20 October to 7 November in Busan, South Korea (PP-14).

The Council, which is the managing body of the ITU, meets annually in Geneva in the interval between the Union's Conferences of Plenipotentiaries. At the last Conference of Plenipotentiaries, Switzerland was re-elected as one of the 48 countries sitting on the Council. The statute of host State of the Union and the constructive support that the Swiss delegates bring to the work of the ITU explain why Switzerland is a valued member of the Council.

On 17 May 2015, Switzerland organised a reception on the occasion of the festivities marking the 150th anniversary of the ITU. The celebrations of the ITU's 150 years brought together 1000 guests in Geneva. OFCOM and Switzerland's permanent mission to the Office of the United Nations and to the other international organisations in Geneva organised the event jointly.

Activities and structure of the ITU

The ITU is organised into three main sectors of activity within which OFCOM is active: 

  • The Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), which has the task of ensuring the rational, fair efficient and economical use of the frequency spectrum by all radiocommunication services, including those which use satellite orbits, and is tasked with undertaking studies and adopting recommendations on radiocommunications issues.
  • The Telecommunication Standardisation Sector (ITU-T), composed of the Study Commissions of the ITU's Telecommunication Standardisation Sector, which brings together experts from all over the world to draw up international standards. These are known as ITU-T Recommendations and are a key element of the global infrastructure of information and communications technologies (ICT).
  • The Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D), which encourages international co-operation and solidarity with a view to providing technical aid to developing countries and creating, developing and improving telecommunications/ICT equipment and networks in these countries.

The ITU has an annual budget of approximately CHF 160 million.

Specialist staff
Last modification 29.10.2021

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