The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) depends on voluntary contributions to provide adequate and stable funding to carry out vital spectrum and satellite coordination functions, develop technical standards and provide services to its members.
ITU's total budgeted revenues in 2021 amounted to around 164 million Swiss francs (CHF), or slightly above 165 million US dollars (USD) at current exchange rates.
These came mainly from two principal sources:
- Membership fees (76%) paid annually by national governments, participating companies and organizations, and academic institutions; and
- Cost-recovery activities (24%), mainly consisting of publication sales and radiocommunication filing and registration fees.
Membership fees: Who pays what?
ITU's membership currently encompasses 193 Member States and more than 900 other entities, including private companies, international and regional organizations, and academic institutions. Altogether, ITU members provided about CHF 125 million (USD 126 million), or 76% of ITU's total funding in 2021.
Member States alone accounted for 66% of ITU's total revenue in 2021. The largest donors were Japan (30 units, amounting to CHF 9.5 million) and the United States (also 30 units; CHF 9.5 million), followed by Germany (25 units; nearly CHF 8 million), France (21 units; CHF 6.7 million), China (20 units; CHF 6.4 million), Italy and the Russian Federation (each 15 units; CHF 4.8 million), and Australia and Saudi Arabia (each 13 units; CHF 4.1 million), and Canada (11 units; CHF 3.5 million).
Together, these top 10 Member State contributors accounted for 37% of ITU's total annual budget revenues. The remaining 183 Member States, including the world's least developed countries, provided 29%. See the list of ITU's leading Member State contributors.
Non-State Members – defined collectively as Sector Members, Associates and Academia – contributed 10% of ITU's total budget in 2021. These contributors include private companies, other organizations, and academia, mainly paying through membership fees for different degrees of engagement.
ITU membership allows businesses to network with information and communication technology (ICT) regulators and policy-makers, contribute to global standards and best practices, and advise governments on ICT policies, standards, and development strategies.
See ITU's highest contributing industry members, or companies that have memberships in all three key sectors of ITU work as Platinum Sector Members.
Other funding sources
ITU generated around 24% of its total funding in 2021 as cost recovery, mainly from sales of ITU publications, satellite network filing fees, and the registration of Universal International Freephone Numbers (UIFN).
In addition, ITU cultivates partnerships with other organizations and entities that may provide voluntary contributions earmarked for specific projects, particularly in developing and least developed countries. These contributions, however, are not included in the regular ITU budget.
ITU membership fees: How they work
National governments, also known as Member States, pay their membership fees under a free-choice system of contributory units, each worth CHF 318,000 (USD 320,000) annually. Basing annual contributions on units denominated in a common currency provides budgetary predictability and stability.
At the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held every four years, each Member State commits to annual contributions defined by these units, with larger contributors providing up to 40 units each year, while others may limit their unit contributions to 1½, 1, ½, ¼, 1/8, and 1/16 each year.
Only Member States listed by the UN as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), or those exceptionally authorized by the ITU Council to do so, may opt for the 1/8 and 1/16 unit classes of contribution. This stipulation ensures that LDCs can participate actively in all aspects of ITU's activities.
Similarly, the basic contributory unit for Sector Members is CHF 63,600 (USD 64,000), with Radiocommunication (ITU-R) or Telecommunication Standardization (ITU-T) participation requiring a minimum annual ½ unit contribution and reduced fees available for Telecommunication Development (ITU-D) participation.
Sector Members may freely choose to contribute an amount above their minimum required fees. To ensure broad and inclusive global engagement, member companies and organizations from developing countries benefit from preferential rates, as do Academia Members.
Companies and organizations can join as Associates to participate in only one ITU Study Group and pay reduced fees.
Any ITU Member State or Sector Member can elect to increase its existing number of contributory units at any time and by any amount up to the ceiling amount.
If a Member State needs to scale back its contributions, it is asked to reduce its stipulated number of contributory units by no more than 15 percent at any given ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.
Last update: May 2022