International Telecommunication Union


Flag of the ITUThe International Telecommunication Union was founded in Paris on 17 May 1865 and is therefore the eldest organization in the UN system. The original name International Telegraph Union was changed in 1932 (effective from 1 January 1934) to properly reflect the full scope of the Unionís responsibilities, which by this time covered all forms of wireline and wireless communication. In 1948 the ITU Headquarters were transferred from Bern to Geneva.


The reason for twenty European states to come together to discuss international cooperation was the growing popularity of the telegraph. Unfortunately telegraph lines did not cross national borders, so every message had to be written out and handed over so it could be sent through the next network. Since 1865 the ITU has set more than 3.000 standards for all means of communication, radio, telephone, fax, internet. Even the picture format JPEG is based on an ITU standard.


Members of the ITU can be independent states (at the moment 190 states) and private companies in the field of communications, the Sector Members (over 600). The highest authority in the organization is the Plenipotentiary Conference which is held every five to seven years.


Two important committees were formed to deal with specific issues. The international Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee (CCITT) was formed in 1947 by the merger of the separate committees for telephone and telegraph (CCIF, 1924 and CCIT, ITU Monument, Berne, Switzerland by Giuseppe Romagnoli1927). In 1927 the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) was created.


ITU organises special fairs in the field of telecommunications. Since 1971 Telecom is held every four years, first in Geneva, in 2006 in Hong Kong. In the periods between two World Telecom events, regional Telecoms are held in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East and the Arab States.


On the upcoming occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Union in 1915, the conference in Lisbon in 1908 decided that a monument should be erected. The monument should be placed in Paris, but the French delegation suggested that Bern was a better place. The following competition was won by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Romagnoli (1872-1966) from Bologna. It shows a central figure depicting World Telegraphy surrounded by figures representing among others family, labour, suffering, fertility. The commemorative plaque on the back with the twenty founder states was covered with a new plaque in 1965 with all members by that date. During 2001-2003 the monument was restored by the Swiss Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics for around CHF 1.100.000. The stone plates with the texts could not be saved and were replaced by exact copies.


Since 1958 special stamps are issued by Switzerland for use on mail from the ITU Headquarters in Geneva. These stamps can be found in the stamp catalogue.





The website of the International Telecommunication Union.

Flag of the ITU in Flags of the World.

Article on the ITU in Wikipedia.

The history of the ITU monument in Bern and the sculptor from, platform for art, culture and society (in German and Italian).



Related subjects


ITU Centenary

ITU 125th anniversary


ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, Nairobi


International Radio Consultative Committee



World Summit on the Information Society

World Telecommunication Day


Invention of the Telephone Centenary



Stamp catalogue - general issues


Belgium††††††††††††††††††††† 17 April 1958









Up - Home



last revised: 5 October 2008