The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) - Structure

The new structure of ITU combines the activities of its previous bodies into three "pillars" supporting the work mandated by the Plenipotentiary Conference: the Radiocommunication Sector, the Telecommunication Standardization Sector, and the Development Sector. Each sector's work is directed by international and regional conferences, supported by a bureau under the administration of a director. The bureau directors are assisted by "Advisory Groups" that are open to representatives of national telecommunication administrations, authorized organizations, and study groups. The Plenipotentiary Conference also elects the ITU Council, which acts as an intersessional administrative body guiding the work of the organization in the four-year intervals between conferences. The organization's General Secretariat, headquartered in Geneva, is administered by a Secretary-General, assisted by a Deputy Secretary-General as well as the directors of Radiocommunication Bureau, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, and the Telecommunication Development Bureau. Yoshio Utsumi of Japan was elected ITU Secretary-General by the Minneapolis Plenipotentiary Conference (October 1998).

Plenipotentiary Conference

The supreme body of the ITU is the Plenipotentiary Conference, in which each member has one vote. Previously, it met at intervals of five or more years—in Atlantic City in 1947, Buenos Aires in 1952, Geneva in 1959, Montreux in 1965, Torremolinos in 1973, Nairobi in 1982, and Nice in 1989. In 1992 the extraordinary Additional Plenipotentiary Conference met in Geneva to fundamentally revamp the organization. The first session of the Plenipotentiary Conference after the restructuring was held in Kyoto, Japan, in September 1994. The Plenipotentiary Conference convened in Minneapolis in 1998.

The Plenipotentiary Conference sets general policies for fulfilling the purposes of the union; receives reports on the organization's activities since the previous conference and takes decisions on those reports; establishes the budget in light of decisions taken by the ITU Council; fixes salary scales; elects member nations to the ITU Council; elects the secretary-general; the deputy secretary-general; the directors of the bureaus of the three sectors, and the members of the Radio Regulations Board; considers and adopts amendments to the constitution and the convention; concludes agreements between ITU and other organizations that may be concluded by the ITU Council. In general the conferences focus on long-term policy issues.

The ITU Council

The ITU Council (formerly called the Administrative Council) traces its history back to the New Jersey Plenipotentiary Conference of 1947. It is composed of 46 member nations elected by the plenipotentiary along a regional formula: the Americas have eight seats, Western Europe has eight seats, Eastern Europe has five seats, Africa has 13 seats, and Asia and Australasia has 12 seats. The council members hold office until the next plenipotentiary, at which time they may be reelected.

The ITU Council guides the work of the union between sessions of the plenipotentiary. It approves the budgets of the union and controls its finances. It is responsible for the coordination of ITU's work with other United Nations organizations.

The members of the ITU Council as of 2002 were: Region A (Americas): Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Suriname, United States, Venezuela; Region B (Western Europe): France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey; Region C (Eastern Europe): Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Russia; Region D (Africa): Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda; and Region E (Asia and Australasia): Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Japan, Korea (Republic of), Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Vietnam.

The Radiocommunications Sector

World Radiocommunication Conferences

World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs) revise the radio regulations and any associated frequency assignment and allotment plans; address any radiocommunication matter of worldwide character; instruct the Radio Regulations Board and the Radiocommunication Bureau, and review their activities; and determine questions for study by the Radiocommunication Assembly and its study groups in preparation for future Radio-communication Conferences. WRCs are normally convened every two or three years.

Radiocommunication Conferences and Assemblies

Every two to three years the Radiocommunication Conference and a Radiocommunication Assembly meet to review and revise the Radio Regulations on the basis of an agenda adopted by the ITU Council. Radiocommunication conferences are open to all ITU member administrations and to the United Nations and its specialized agencies, regional telecommunication organizations, and intergovernmental organizations operating satellite systems. In addition, telecommunication operators authorized by their country to participate in the work of the Radio Sector are admitted to the conferences.

The Radiocommunication Assemblies provide the technical basis for the work of the conferences. The assemblies create study groups of experts and decide on the priority, urgency, and time-scale for study of specific issues. The study groups are made up of experts from both administrations and public/private sector entities.

Radiocommunication Bureau

The Radiocommunication Bureau, or BR, is the executive arm of the Radiocommunication Sector, and is headed by an elected director. The director of BR acts as Executive Secretary to the Radio Regulations Board, and is responsible for the coordination of the work of the sector. The BR provides administrative and technical support to radiocommunications conferences, assemblies, and study groups; records and registers frequency assignments and orbital characteristics of space services; provides advice to member states on the fair and effective use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, and assists in resolving cases of harmful interference; prepares and edits publications developed within the sector; provides technical information, and works closely with the Telecommunication Development Bureau in assisting developing countries.

Radio Regulations Board

The Radio Regulations Board is a part-time, 12-member body of experts that approves the rules of procedure to register radio frequency assignments and equitable utilization of the geo-stationary satellite orbit. It also investigates complaints by ITU members about frequency interference, and formulates recommendations to resolve such problems. It holds up to four meetings a year in Geneva. The board members, elected at the Plenipotentiary Conference, serve as custodians of international public trust and not as representatives of their respective member states or region, hence they cannot be part of national delegations at conferences. The Radio Regulations Board replaced the former five-member International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB), which was a full time body.

The Telecommunication Standardization Sector

World Telecommunication Standardization Assemblies

These assemblies are held every four years to approve, modify, or reject draft standards (called "Recommendations" because of their voluntary character). The conferences set the work program for the study groups that elaborate these recommendations. The Telecommunication Standardization Study Groups are groups of experts in which administrations and public/private sector entities participate. They focus on the standardization of telecommunication services, operation and performance of equipment, systems, networks, services, tariffs, and accounting methods.

Telecommunication Standardization Bureau

The bureau is headed by a director elected by the plenipotentiary. It prepares for assemblies and meetings and processes and publishes information received from administrations about the application of the International Telecommunication Regulations. This information includes international telephone routes, statistics, notifications, and operational bulletins. It also is responsible for updating the documents and data bases of the Telecommunication Standardization Sector.

The Telecommunication Development Sector

World and Regional Telecommunication Development Conferences

These conferences fix objectives and strategies for balancing worldwide and regional development in telecommunications. They serve as a forum for studying policy, organization, operation, regulatory, technical, and financial questions related to the needs of developing countries. A World Telecommunication Development Conference is held every four years and a number of Regional Telecommunication Development Conferences are held within that same period. The resolutions, decisions, recommendations, and reports of the conferences are submitted to the plenipotentiary. The development conferences direct the work of the Telecommunications Development Bureau. The conferences also set up study groups on issues specific to developing countries.

The Telecommunication Development Bureau

This body is the administrative arm of the Development Sector. Its duties and responsibilities cover a variety of functions including program supervision, technical advice, collection and processing of relevant information for publication in machine-readable and other formats. The bureau is headed by an elected director who organizes and manages the work of the Sector.

General Secretariat

The General Secretariat is at ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It handles arrangements for ITU conferences and meetings and maintains liaison with member states and with the UN, the specialized agencies, and other international organizations. It also carries out the ITU's extensive publication program. It is headed by the secretary-general. Yoshio Utsumi of Japan was elected ITU Secretary-General by the Minneapolis Plenipotentiary Conference in 1998.

The Secretariat also organizes an international commercial telecommunications exhibition called TELECOM, held in Geneva every four years. It also cosponsors regional telecommunications exhibitions with member administrations (Asia TELECOM, Africa TELECOM, Americas TELECOM, and Europa TELECOM). These trade shows feature a comprehensive display of telecommunication equipment and services, including digital transmission, switching technologies, and digital networks. In conjunction with TELECOM, ITU sponsors a FORUM which deals with emerging trends in telecommunications technology, administration, management, financing, research, and equipment supply.

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