Mohamed Ezzedine Mili, of Tunisia, spent more than a quarter of his ninety-five year lifespan contributing to the work of ITU. He was elected Deputy Secretary-General at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Montreux in 1965, and then took on the interim post of ITU Secretary-General in 1967 after the death of Manohar Balaji Sarwate. The next Plenipotentiary Conference, held in Malaga-Torremolinos in 1973, formally elected Mili as Secretary-General, and he continued in that role for a further eleven years. All together, he was one of the longest serving members of ITU’s leadership team.
Even before becoming an elected ITU official, Mili had, since 1956, led the Tunisian delegation at nearly all major ITU conferences. In addition, from 1960 to 1965 he represented Tunisia on the ITU Administrative Council.
Mili was born in Djemmal (also Jemmal), a town near Monastir in Tunisia, in 1917. Following education in France, in 1946 he qualified as a telecommunications engineer. Two years later, he joined the Tunisian Posts and Telecommunications Administration. In 1957 he became Director-General of Telecommunications, and was responsible for the modernization of the Tunisian telephone network.
During his long tenure as Secretary-General, Mili’s first priority was to ensure that ITU paid special attention to the needs of developing countries. He oversaw and encouraged the work of the Department of Technical Cooperation, which helped create, for example, the Pan-African Telecommunication Network (PANAFTEL). Side by side with the general development of networks, Mili promoted the development of the human resources needed to operate them. A large number of national and regional training centres and institutes were founded.
Mili also sought to raise awareness of ITU and its work. He encouraged the establishment of World Telecommunication Day, first celebrated on 17 May 1968. And looking to the needs of industry, he initiated exhibitions to showcase technological advances. TELECOM 71, the first World Telecommunication Exhibition, was held in Geneva in 1971. At its opening, Mili said that all who had visited the exhibition “were able to appreciate the fundamental role played by ITU in the spectacular evolution of telecommunication techniques and in the rapid expansion of the world network to which it has made such a large contribution.”
Mili himself made an enormous contribution to ITU over nearly twenty-five years, culminating in a leadership marked by great energy, vision and innovation.