ITU Election: Who Has Controlled ITU Longest?

August 24, 2022

Written by Caio Castro
ITU headquarters in Geneva

Data gathered by 6GWorld reveal that the ITU highest position, Secretary-General, has only achieved constancy in recent years. According to numbers, this will be the first time three consecutive mandates will last about the same duration.

In 1999, member states elected Yoshio Utsumi, from Japan, who stayed 2,890 days in charge of the international body. He was followed by Malian Hamadoun Toure, whose mandate spanned 2,921 days. Chinese Houlin Zhao, current ITU Chairman, is set to end his tenure also with 2,921 days.

Before 1999, the mandates varied greatly – one case stands out: India’s Manohar Balaji Sarwate spent 477 days as Secretary-General between 1965 and 1967, while his successor, Mohamed Ezzedine Mili, from Tunisia, stayed 5,793 days in the same role, between 1967 and 1982, the longest tenure of any elected Secretary-General.

However, it was not until 1948 that the position of Secretary-General would be chosen by election. Between 1869 and 1947, the ITU was not part of the United Nations yet, as it is now, and the government of Switzerland appointed its chairman. The role itself had another name: Director.

Therefore, combining pre- and post-election periods, the international body has been majorly directed by representatives of Switzerland – and by a mile. Out of 54,896 days of ITU administration, Swiss representatives spent 52.9% as chairs.

This year’s election may set another breakthrough: Doreen Bogdan-Martin, current Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, may become the first woman to be elected Secretary-General. She had already made headlines for being the first woman to ever be elected an ITU official.

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