ITU milestone commemorated in Madrid
The origins of ITU date back to 1865,
but it was 75 years ago that it received its current name, with the signing of a
convention on 9 December 1932 in Madrid, Spain. To mark the 75th anniversary, a
ceremony was held in Madrid on 10 October 2007, organized by ITU, the Spanish
Government, and the Official College of Telecommunication Engineers (Colegio
Oficial de Ingenieros de Telecomunicaciones).
The ceremony was led by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of
Spain, and attended by the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade Joan Clos;
the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and the Information Society
Francisco Ros; the Minister of Public Administrations Elena Salgado; the Dean
and President of the Official College of Telecommunication Engineers Enrique
Gutiérrez Bueno; Deputy Dean of the college Francisco Mellado; ITU
Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré, and the Permanent Representative of Spain to
the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Geneva-based International
Organizations, Ambassador Juan Antonio March Pujol.
Left to right: Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade Joan
Clos; His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain; ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I.
Touré; and Secretary of State for Telecommunications and the Information Society
From telegraph to telecommunication
On 3 September 1932, the fifth Plenipotentiary Conference of
what was then known as the International Telegraph Union was opened in Madrid by
then President of Spain, Manuel Azaña. It was chaired by Spain’s Interior
Minister Santiago Casares Quiroga. The event was a complex affair, as it ran in
tandem with the fourth International Radiotelegraph Conference. Jointly (through
a committee), they were to decide, among other matters, how to create and name a
new, merged international organization.
The outcome was the amalgamation of the International
Telegraph and International Radiotelegraph Conventions to form the single
International Telecommunication Convention. It created what has since been known
as the International Telecommunication Union.
After arduous deliberations, the new convention was signed on
9 December 1932. The Madrid Conference not only created a single treaty and
organization for telecommunications, but it also marked ITU’s attainment of true
international status by virtue of the number of signatory States. The new name
of the Union, which came into effect on 1 January 1934, was chosen to reflect
the full scope of ITU’s responsibilities, which by this time covered all forms
of wireline and wireless communications.
Host country, Spain, regarded the ground-breaking conference as a great
success. With the 75th anniversary, it wished to mark an event of such
importance for Spain and for world telecommunications. His Majesty the King
addressed the commemorative event, noting the significance of the celebration
and affirming that Spain would do its utmost to contribute to the fostering of
information technologies (see article Remarks by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of
Dr Touré commented that "the Madrid Telecommunication Convention laid a
strong foundation for today’s ITU. We will continue to build on this foundation,
whether to bridge the digital divide or ensure peace in cyberspace. We will
remain grateful to Spain for its historic contribution."