Founded in 1865, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the specialised United Nations agency for information and communications technologies. The ITU allocates satellite orbits and parts of the global radio spectrum, develops the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies interconnect seamlessly, and strives to improve access to information and communications technologies to underserved communities worldwide. First established in Bern in 1868, the ITU moved its headquarters to Geneva in 1948, where it currently comprises three buildings – Varembé (built between 1959 and 1962), the Tower (inaugurated in 1973) and the Montbrillant building (inaugurated in 1999).
The oldest of these buildings, Varembé, is outdated and no longer meets today's fire, earthquake and thermal insulation standards, nor does it comply with accessibility standards for people with reduced mobility. The Varembé building project will make it possible to regroup the ITU's activities in two buildings instead of three to allow more efficient use of the site. In addition to allowing the ITU to meet its long term needs, the project will enable more efficient running of the buildings and provide modern, sustainable and environmentally-friendly facilities, reducing maintenance costs. The demolition and building works will start in January 2022 with the furnishing of temporary office space and are scheduled for completion in late 2026.
As host state, Switzerland is committed to the proper maintenance of the buildings of International Geneva. It is in Switzerland's interests to support the project of the ITU in order to ensure that it can operate in optimum working conditions and allow it to continue its activities in a building which is functional, safe and adapted to current standards. By hosting international actors based in International Geneva and providing them with optimal conditions, Switzerland contributes significantly to the smooth functioning of international relations.
Subject to approval by Parliament, the CHF 95.6 million interest-free loan – which is repayable over 50 years – will allow the demolition/reconstruction work to begin in 2022. In December 2016, Parliament approved a loan of CHF 12 million to finance the survey costs of the construction project. The Canton of Geneva will contribute CHF 42.4 million to the project.
Strengthening International Geneva is one of the priorities of the Federal Council's foreign policy strategy for 2020–23. One of the key thematic pillars of Switzerland's policy for International Geneva is to maintain and strengthen the city as a digital hub. This support is also essential to strengthen the image of International Geneva as the principal centre of global governance, in particular with respect to issues related to global internet governance.
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