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Thanks to VE3HBF & VE3CDM

In 1924, the American inventor and radio amateur Hiram Percy Maxim, President of the American Radio Relay League, realized that amateur radio had become international in scope, and that there should be a global organization to take advantage of that growth. In addition to solve the problems that would accompany such growth. He was also very aware that radio frequencies thought to be of little use, which had been assigned to amateurs, were capable of long range communication with low power and simple antennas. This resulted in administrations reconsidering the re-assignment of these frequencies from amateur use into the commercial and military arena. This made another compelling reason for an international amateur organization

In March of 1924 Hiram P. Maxim met in Paris with an international group of talented amateurs from France, Great Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Canada and the USA which made preliminary plans for an international organization to be known as the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). A Congress was arranged in Paris in April 1925 to create the permanent global amateur organization

During the Easter holidays of April 1925, the Amateur Radio representatives of 23 countries met again in Paris to create the International Amateur Radio Union and to adopt a constitution. The original IARU differed a bit from the present constitution, but the goals were much the same -

  • To encourage fraternalism,
  • To promote and co-ordinate Amateur Radio worldwide, and
  • To represent Amateur Radio at the World Radio Conferences of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

To encourage fraternalism,

To promote and co-ordinate Amateur Radio worldwide, and

To represent Amateur Radio at the World Radio Conferences of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

While most of the 23 countries represented at the April 1925 meeting were from Europe, there were also delegates from North and South America, and from Japan. On April 17,1925 the first constitution of the IARU was unanimously adopted. At the final plenary session on April 18 some 25 countries were in attendance. All actions of the organizing Congress were approved and the International Amateur Radio Union was born; Hiram P .Maxim was its first President

Since that April day in Paris 75 years ago, the history of IARU has been of gradually increasing effectiveness with very clear signs that its effectiveness and influence has increased markedly in the past twenty years. The IARU has grown from an organization whose emphasis was the issuance of operating achievement awards and reporting of exciting exploits of long-distance communication, to one whose primary emphasis is now on the promotion and protection of the Amateur and Amateur Satellite Services. Today IARU actively participates in the international and regional telecommunications conferences, as well as in the on-going study and working groups which are part of the ITU structure.

It was recognized many years ago that international lobbying was essential to the continued existence of Amateur Radio, in what was now a far more competitive and aggressive environment. To this end and subsequent to WARC-79 a carefully planned restructuring has made the IARU more truly international, not only in scope but in leadership and administration.

Let us take a look at the structure of the IARU. There are striking similarities between the structure of the IARU and the ITU: -

In a great majority of countries there are national radio societies, groups of amateurs banded together for mutual support and cooperation. Currently in each country a single national Society has been chosen to represent its members in IARU. For example, in Canada it is the Radio Amateurs of Canada, in the US the ARRL , in the UK the Radio Society of Great Britain, and in Japan Amateur Radio League.

Each Member Society has a considerable amount of responsibility and authority within the IARU. Basically each Member Society has the responsibility of adequately representing Amateur Radio within its own country or territory. IARU like the ITU operates on the principle of "one country-one vote"

This means that each Society should establish strong and effective liaison with its own telecommunication officials. Only by such effective liaison can the needs of radio amateurs within a country be adequately addressed, and thus in turn can the goals of IARU, world-wide, be shared with each administration.

IARU has divided its Member-Societies into three geographical regions that coincide with the three regions of the ITU. One of these IARU Regions holds a conference each year, a conference at which the Member Societies gather to discuss mutual problems and to seek mutual solutions. Each Member Society has the responsibility to attend the triennial conferences of its own regional organization. At such conferences, each Member Society can speak with authority on behalf of its members in shaping IARU policies.

IARU is composed of the following: -

the Member Societies (MS) the Administrative Council (AC) the Regional Organizations : Regions 1, II and III the International Secretariat (IS)

a) The authority of the IARU resides collectively in the Member Societies who exercise this authority by voting in accordance with the Constitution. There shall be only one Member Society representing a country or separate territory

b) The policy and management of the IARU shall be carried out by the Administrative Council (AC). The Members shall be the President and Vice-President, Secretary and two members from each of the three Regional Organizations. The AC meets, in person, at least once a year at the site of a regional conference. Its primary functions are to a) coordinate the representation of the interests of Amateur Radio at international telecommunications conferences under the direction of the president, b) to establish long range planning to preserve the basic purposes of the IARU, and c) to adopt suc  resolutions and recommendations that will facilitate the functioning of the IARU.

c) The regional organizations are formed by Member Societies representing countries or separate territories in the following areas:

Region I. Europe, Africa, ex USSR countries ,Middle East (excluding Iran) and Mongolia Region II North ,Central and South America including Hawaii, Johnston and Midway Islands Region III The rest of Asia and Oceania

The International Secretariat (IS) is a permanent clearing house serving IARU Member Societies, which since 1925 has been operated by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). ARRL has borne the cost of operating the International Secretariat, but the Regional Organizations set aside 10% of their gross annual membership receipts which are remitted annually to the International Secretariat.

The IARU has observer status at the ITU, and the Regional Organizations in Regions I, II and III have similar status with CEPT, CITEL and APT.

Because the IARU cannot vote at ITU, or the regional telecommunications organizations, how therefore can IARU be effective? The answer may be found in the operation of consumer, environmental and citizen's groups of all kinds found in our society.

IARU is a global organization whose mandate is to favorably influence administrations and the ITU , on the technological and sociological contributions of the Amateur Service and Amateur Satellite Service, which is similar in its function to the American Medical Association, the Canadian Federation for Small Business or the Greenpeace Foundation,

Such special-interest groups know their subject matter well and give advice to government, acting of course, in the interests of their members. Some groups are concerned only with internal domestic matters, but some have international interests and try to gain the support of administrations at international conferences.

At ITU conferences where IARU maintains a watching brief as an accredited observer, amateurs and others with a stake in telecommunications, attend and advise their government's delegates of their wishes. Positions on matters which might affect Amateur Radio are ironed out well in advance first by Member Societies, then internationally at meetings of the three Regions.

An example of the success of this kind of concerted action was seen at the World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) in 1979, where new amateur bands at 10,18 and 24 MHz were approved. Since that time IARU observers have been present at all the subsequent WARCs, now known as World Radio Conferences WRC. WRCs are held more often and with more limited agendas, that the WARC of the past. These more frequent meetings in turn also generate more preparatory meetings.

This ITU restructuring has the effect of requiring an ongoing IARU presence at many more meetings, resulting in greater financial and manpower investment than in the past, which places a further burden on the IARU volunteer organization.

This brief overview of IARU provides a closer look at its creation, operation and its continuing efforts 52 weeks of every year on behalf of the world amateur community

Amateur radio owes a great debt of gratitude to the foresight and leadership of Hiram P. Maxim and his colleagues who were responsible for its creation. From the beginning in 1925, staffed entirely by a dedicated group of volunteers, their energy and vigilance over the past seventy-five years has promoted, preserved and protected the Amateur Service and left a legacy that will long be remembered by all of us of who call ourselves Radio Amateurs.

(This article appeared in The Canadian Amateur and is reproduced with the permission of the authors for wider circulation).