International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

ITU has been seeking an Internet Governance mandate since the mid-1990s, which has been an issue of conflict between ICANN and ITU. At the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 1998, the ITU member states rejected the ratification of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Domain Name System (new gTLD MoU of the International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC)) and supported the establishment of ICANN. Nevertheless, ITU has tried repeatedly to obtain responsibility for domain names and IP addresses since then. The Internet-Governance-related ITU resolutions 101, 102, and 133, which are revised and updated every four years by the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, are regularly the subject of political controversy. But ITU has still not yet been assigned any competencies for the DNS.

In 2012, the conflict led to a split within the ITU. At the ITU World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) held in that year, half of the ITU member states refused to sign the new “International Telecommunication Regulation (ITR)” because they feared it would open the door for ITU to gain an Internet Governance mandate. Other than his predecessors Yoshiro Utsumi (1998 – 2006) and Hammadou Toure (2006 – 2014), ITU General Secretary Houlin Zhao, who was elected in 2014 at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, South Korea, has tried to ease tensions with ICANN.

Nevertheless, individual ITU members (especially Russia and Saudi Arabia) continue to request in the various ITU bodies that Internet Governance responsibilities be assigned to ITU.

There are several bodies that report to the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. Here are the most important of them:


ITU Council

The ITU Council meets once a year and acts as the ITU’s governing body in the interval between the Plenipotentiary Conferences held at four-year intervals. Two of the Council’s Working Groups (WG on WSIS & WG Internet Related Public Policies) focus on Internet Governance.

Die World Telecommunication Standardisation Assembly (WTSA)

The WTSA is held every four years and oversees the so-called Study Groups of the ITU Telecommunication Standardisation Sector (ITU-T). At present, there are eleven active ITU-T Study Groups, including the Future Networks and Cloud Group, Security, Broadband Cable & TV Group, Multimedia Group, and the Economy & Policy Issues Group. In 2016, ITU established the ITU-T Study Group 20, which has the task to address the standardisation requirements of the Internet of Things.

Die World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC)

The WTDC meets every four years in the period between two Plenipotentiary Conferences to consider topics, projects and programmes relevant to the development of telecommunication infrastructure. At the WTDC 2017, an attempt was made to gain ITU an extended mandate for cyber security through the WTDC.


The ITU WISIS Forum, held annually since 2010, is a global platform with a mandate to look at the progress achieved in the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines. In recent years, however, the topics discussed by the Forum went well beyond the WSIS Action Lines and duplicated the discussion at the IGF.



Conference Reports on: ITU


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