Home / World Organisations / World Organisations- SPECIALISED AND OTHER AGENCIES




There are sixteen specialised agencies related to the UN. These are autonomous organisations set up to deal with specific issues involving international cooperation. Each agency has its own organisation, members and rules, and each has signed an agreement with the UN. ECOSOC coordinates their work with the UN and with each other.

Some other intergovernmental agencies working with the UN are also discussed below.

 The United Nations (World Organisations)


The FAO was conceived at the 1943 International Conference on Food and Agriculture held in Virginia. An Interim Commission was then set up with a mandate to draw a constitution for the organisation. This constitution was signed in October 1945 in Quebec City, Canada. The headquarters is in Rome, Italy.

The FAO is dedicated to improving nutrition and living standards among the world population. It also works to increase production and ensure better distribution of food and agricultural produce, eliminate hunger, encourage sustainable agriculture and rural development, promote natural resources conservation and efficient use of forest resources and maintain global biodiversity. For the purpose, it promotes and provides investment in agriculture, soil and water management, bio-engineering, aquaculture, livestock etc., and also provides technical assistance in these fields. In addition, the FAO is instrumental in collecting, analysing and disseminating information on agricultural production and commodities. The organisation is a cosponsor, with the UN, of the World Food Programme. Other special FAO programmes include the Special Programme for Food Security, Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), and the Global Information and Early Warning System.

All members of the FAO (197  member states as of 2019, with Puerto Rico as an associate member) are represented in the FAO Conference that meets every alternate year to determine the organisation’s policy and approve its work and budget. The governing body is the Council of 49 member-countries.

The Director-General is elected for a six-year term.


The ICAO was formally set up on April 4, 1947, less than three years after the convention providing for its establishment was created by the International Civil Aviation Conference. The ICAO convention replaced the Paris Convention (1919) and the Pan American Convention on Air Navigation (1928). The headquarters of the ICAO is in Rome, Italy.

The ICAO lays down technical standards for safe air navigation, conducts studies on aviation economics and provides facts and figures on air transport, develops air law conventions and provides plans for ground facilities. Countries are also provided technical assistance for development of their civil aviation.

The 192 members of the ICAO (as in January 2019) are represented in its Assembly which elects the Council comprising 33 states for a three-year term. The Council is almost continuously in session. The ICAO’s subsidiary bodies are the 15-member Air Navigation Commission, the Personnel Committee, the Finance Committee, the Committee on Joint Support of Air Navigation Services, the Committee on Unlawful Interference, the Air Transport Committee, the Technical Cooperation Committee and the Legal Committee.


The proposal for setting up the IFAD was made at the World Food Conference in 1974. Consequently, the IFAD was created in 1977. The headquarters is in Rome, Italy.

The IFAD focuses on the poor, rural population for agricultural and rural development in Third World nations. It conducts projects and programmes for the purpose and provides resources through concessional loans and grants.

All the 176 member-countries (As of February 2015) are represented in the Governing Council, the highest body. Activities are supervised by the 18-member Executive Board which reports to the Governing Council.


The ILO was set up in 1919 as an autonomous body within the League of Nations. In 1946, it became the first specialised agency to be associated with the UN. The headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ILO attempts to improve labour conditions, better standards of living of people around the world and encourage productive employment. The ILO lays down international standards, by way of International Labour Conventions and Recommendations. It extends technical cooperation, including expert missions and a fellowship programme to governments.

The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, adopted in 1998, requires member-states to promote the right of workers and employers to freedom of association and collective bargaining, eliminate forced labour; abolish child labour; and ban discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. A convention banning the grave forms of child labour was adopted in 1999.

The ILO is a tripartite structure, in which governments, employers’ groups and employees’ groups have representation.

The organisation’s highest body is the International Labour Conference which meets every year at Geneva. Each national delegation is composed of two government representatives, one employer’s’ representative and one employees’ representative. The Conference elects an executive council, called the Governing Body, which has 28 members representing governments (ten of them, belonging to governments of nations of industrial importance, hold permanent seats), 14 workers’ members and the same number of employers’ members. The ten permanent seats are of Brazil, China, Germany, France, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the US and the UK. The International Labour Office is the organisation’s secretariat as well as the operational head. quarters.

The ILO set up the International Institute for Labour Studies at Geneva in 1960 which focusses on education and research studies on social and labour policy. An International Training Centre has also been established in Turin to focus on training programmes carried on by the ILO.

The ILO had 187 members in 2019. It was awarded the 1969 Nobel Peace Prize.


Originally known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO), the IMO was estab lished in 1948 at a UN maritime conference in Geneva. The IMCO began its operations in January 1959 and adopted its present name, the IMO, in 1982. The headquarters is in London, the UK.

The IMO promotes cooperation among countries on technical issues related to merchant shipping, facilitates international maritime traffic and works to control pollution in seas. It convenes international maritime conferences to further its goals and provides technical aid for development of maritime activities. It also acts as a depository authority for international conventions regulating maritime affairs.

With 174 members and two associate members (as of 2019), the IMO has an Assembly that convenes once every two years and a Council of 32 member-states which also acts as the governing body.

Four main committees deal with the issues of maritime safety, legal matters, marine environment protection and technical cooperation.


The IMF was established by an agreement signed at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, on July 22, 1944, effective December 27, 1945. It began its formal operations on March 1, 1947. The IMF became a UN specialised agency by an agreement with the ECOSOC (approved by the General Assembly on November 15, 1947). The IMF is headquartered at Washington DC, the US.

The main purpose of the IMF is to promote international monetary cooperation, expansion of international trade and exchange rate stability; assist in the removal of exchange restrictions and the establishment of a multilateral system of payments; and alleviate any serious disequilibrium in members’ international balance of payments by making the financial resources of the IMF available to them, usually subject to economic policy conditions to ensure the revolving nature of IMF resources.

Another major responsibility of the IMF has been to supervise the operation of the international exchange rate system in order to maintain stability among the world currencies and prevent competitive devaluations.

In October 1985, the Board of Governors approved the creation of a Structural Adjustment Facility (SAF) to provide low-income countries with concessional loans in support of national policy changes designed to resolve persistent BoP problem. The SAF, funded by SDR $2.7 billion was formally established in March 1986. At the October 1987 joint IMF/World Bank annual meeting, the Fund announced the establishment of an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) funded by SDR $6 billion from 20 countries, led by Japan and West Germany but not including the United States. In October 1999, ESAF was re-named as the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). In August 1988, the Compensatory and Contingency Financing Facility was established. The new facility provides broader protection to members pursuing IMF-supported adjustment programmes.

In coordination with the World Bank, the IMF also addresses the problems of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) through the Initiative for HIPCs, launched in 1999.

The IMF operates through a Board of Governors, a Board of Executive Directors, an Interim Committee on the International Monetary System, and a managing director and staff. Upon joining the Fund, each country is assigned a quota that determines both the amount of foreign exchange a member may borrow under the rule of the fund (its “drawing rights” or SDRs) and its approximate voting power on IMF policy matters. The US is the largest contributor.

There were 189 members of the IMF as of December 2019.


The International Telegraph Union, established in Paris in 1865, was renamed the International Telecommunication Union in 1934. It became associated with the UN as its specialised agency in 1947. The headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ITU promotes rational use of telecommunications and their efficient utilisation by aiding in development of technical facilities and offering technical assistance to countries. It coordinates efforts to different nations in the process.

The ITU has a Plenipotentiary Conference, which is the highest organ of the ITU, and a 46-member Administrative Council, which oversees the coordination of the four permanent organs-the General Secretariat; Radiocommunication Sector; Telecommunication Standardisation Sector; and Telecommunication Development Sector.

The ITU has 193 Member States and around 800 public and private sector companies, scientific and technical companies as communication members.


In 1945, the governments of the UK and France held a conference for creating an educational, scientific and cultural organisation of the UN. UNESCO thus came into being on November 4, 1946. The headquarters is in Paris, France.

UNESCO works for world peace and security through education, comnunication, culture and science. The aim is to promote universal respect for justice, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The education programme aims at revitalising and restructuring education systems to ensure lifelong education for all; improving and extending basic education; and promoting free and compulsory education for all. The communication programme works to better the quality of media services throughout the world, The science programme is aimed at promoting international scientific cooperation and encouraging scientific research in order to improve overall living conditions. In the cultural arena, UNESCO emphasises the link between culture and development and helps member-nations in the study and preservation of both physical and non-physical heritage of their societies.

UNESCO has a General Conference which represents each member-state of the organisation. It elects 55 government representatives to form the Executive Board. There is a Secretariat as well.

UNESCO had 193 members as of January 2019. (The United States and Israel left UNESCO on 31 December 2018)


UNIDO was established by the UN General Assembly as an autonomous set-up and part of the UN Secretariat in 1966. It became a specialised agency in 1985. The headquarters is in Vienna, Austria.

UNIDO works for industrial advancement in developing nations by laying down policies and technical and management methodology for industrial promotion and providing advice and funds. It collaborates with the regional economic commissions of the UN to develop international industrial partnerships and provide technical cooperation services.

Meeting once every two years for policy and budget approval, UNIDO’s General Conference includes representatives from all UN member-states. It elects the UNIDO governing body, the 53-member Industrial Development Board for a four-year term and a 27-member Programme and Budget Committee every two years. It also appoints the UNIDO Director-General who enjoys a four-year term.

UNIDO had 168 members as of May 17th, 2018.


The UPU was created on July 1, 1875 after the Universal Postal Convention approved by the Postal Congress of Berne in 1874 had been enforced. Known as the General Postal Union till 1878, the UPU became a specialised agency in 1948. Its constitution came into force at the Vienna Congress of 1964. The headquarters is in Berne, Switzerland.

The UPU promotes organisation of various postal services and development of international cooperation in this field.

With 192 member-countries (as of 2019), the UPU has a Universal Postal Congress which convenes once in five years. There is also a Council of Administration and a Postal Operations Council. The International Bureau functions as the permanent secretariat.


The World Bank is composed of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). The two institutions, in conjunction with the International Finance Commission (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) are referred to as the World Bank Group.

1. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)

The IBRD was one of the two main products of the UN Monetary and Financial Conference held at Bretton Woods (New Hampshire, USA) in July 1944. The Bank was conceived as a centre for mobilising and allocating capital resources for the reconstruction of wartorn states and the expansion of world production and trade. Its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was created to maintain order in the field of currencies and exchange rates and, thus, to prevent a repetition of the financial chaos of the 1930s. The agreement came into effect on December 27, 1945 following the ratification by the required 28 states.

The main objective of the Bank is to offer loans at reasonable terms to member developing countries willing to engage in projects that will ultimately increase their productive capacities and reduce poverty. The IBRD has characterised economies into low income, middle income and high income economies.

The IFC and the IDA were created in 1956 and 1960 respectively within the IBRD’s framework to undertake development responsibilities for which the IBRD itself was not qualified under its Articles of Agreement. In 1985, the Bank approved a charter for another affiliate, the MIGA, to provide borrowers with protection against non-commercial risks such as war, uncompensated expropriations or repudiation of contracts by host governments without adequate legal redress for affected parties. The MIGA, operating as a distinct legal and financial entity, came into force on April 12, 1988.

The activities of the IBRD are mainly concerned with borrowing, lending, aid cooperation and technical assistance and related services. Most funds available for lending are obtained by direct borrowings on world financial markets. Most of the Bank’s operating funds are obtained by issuing interest-bearing bonds and notes to public and private investors.

In the field of aid coordination, the Bank has taken the lead in promoting a multilateral approach to the development problems of particular countries by organising groups of potential donors to work out long-range comprehensive plans for assistance. In addition, the Bank has worked on projects with a large number of multilateral financial agencies, including the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Development Fund and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.

The IBRD, alongwith the IDA and the IFC, is headquartered at Washington DC, USA. The president of the IBRD is elected to a five-year renewable term by the executive directors, serves as their chairman, and is responsible for conducting the business of the bank as well as that of the IDA and IFC.

All the IBRD’s powers are formally vested in the Board of Governors which consists of a governor and an alternate appointed by each member-state. The IBRD governors are usually finance ministers or equivalent national authorities and serve concurrently as the governors of the IMF as well as of the IFC, the IDA and the MIGA, assuming that a given country’s affiliations extend beyond the parent organisation.

The Board meets each fall to review the operation of these institutions within the framework of a general assessment of the world financial and economic situation. One in three meetings is held away from Washington.

Most of the powers of the Board of Governors are delegated to the IBRD’s 24 executive directors, who meet at least once a month at the bank’s headquarters and are responsible for the general conduct of the bank’s operations. Five of the members are separately appointed by those members holding the largest number of shares of capital stock (France, Germany, japan, the United Kingdom and the United States). The others are elected for two-year terms by the remaining IBRD members, who are divided into 19 essentially geographic groupings each of which selects one director. (Since Saudi Arabia by itself constitutes one of the geographic entities, its ‘election of a director amounts to an appointment in practical terms. The same is true for the People’s Republic of China since 1980 when it replaced Taiwan as a member of the IBRD and agreed to a 60 per cent increase in the country’s capital subscription, and for Russia, which joined the bank in June 1992.) Each director is entitled to cast as a unit the votes of those members who elected him.

The Bank operates on a weighted voting system that is largely based on individual country subscriptions (themselves based on IMF quotas), but with the poorer states being accorded a slightly disproportionate share. As of 2019, the Bank had 189 members.

2. International Development Association (IDA)

The IDA was established by Articles of Agreement concluded at Washington DC on January 26, 1960, and became effective on September 24, 1960. It became a UN specialised agency on March 27, 1961. The main purpose of the IDA is to assist in financial economic development in less-developed member states by providing them with development credits on special terms, with particular emphasis on projects attractive to private investors. As an affiliate of the IBRD, the IDA has no separate institutions; its directors, officers, and staff are those of the IBRD.

The IDA is the single largest multilateral source of concessional assistance for low income countries. Most IDA commitments are made to countries with annual per capita incomes of less than $ 785.

The vast majority of the IDA credits have been provided for projects to improve physical infrastructure: roads and railways, electrical generation and transmission facilities, irrigation and flood-control installations, educational facilities, telephone exchanges and transmission lines, and industrial plans. Increasingly, however, loans have been extended for rural development projects de signed specifically to raise the productivity of the ruraldwelling poor. These credits cut across sectoral lines and also include provision for feeder roads, rural schools and health clinics.

3. International Finance Corporation (IFC)

The IFC was established by Articles of Agreement concluded at Washington DC on May 25, 1955, effective July 20, 1956. The IFC became a UN specialised agency by agreement on February 20, 1957.

The main purpose of the organisation is to further economic development by encouraging the growth of productive private or partially governmental enterprises. The IFC concentrates its efforts in five principal areas: investments, promotion, capital markets programme, syndication and technical assistance. It conducts its own investment programme, investigates the soundness of proposed projects in order to furnish expert advice to potential investors, and generally seeks to promote conditions conducive to the flow of private investment into development tasks.

As an affiliate of the IBRD, the IFC shares the same institutional structure. The president of the IBRD is also the president of the IFC, and those governors and executive directors of the IBRD whose states belong to the IFC hold identical position in the latter institution. The corporation has its own operating and legal staff but draws on the Bank for administrative and other services. The daily operations are directed by an executive vice-president.

The IFC has 184 members. As in the case of the IBRD and the IDA, the IFC employs a weighted voting system based on country subscriptions, but with less-developed states holding a disproportionate share of voting power.

4. International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)

The ICSID was established in 1966 with the aim of enhancing flows of international investment by arranging for facilities for the conciliation and arbitration of disputes between governments and foreign investors. The Centre itself is not directly involved in any conciliation or arbitration.

Other activities of the ICSID include undertaking and publishing research, and rendering advice on foreign investment law.

The ICSID is located at the World Bank.

5. Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)

MIGA became operational in April 1988, and acts as the insurance wing of the World Bank. It protects investments against different kinds of non-commercial risks such as war and expropriation.

MIGA is located at the World Bank. It had 181 member-countries as of 2019.


The Constitution of WHO was adopted on July 22, 1946 and enforced on April 7, 1948. The headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

WHO aims at “the attainment of all peoples of the highest possible level of health”. It works to strengthen health services in countries around the world, eradicate diseases, promote health of mothers and children, in particular, undertake medical research, improve standards of training in health professions, and that of nutrition, housing, sanitation, working conditions and environmental health. The organisation can propose agreements and conventions on matters related to international health, establish and promote basic standards regarding foods and biological and pharmaceutical substances.

In the recent past, the focus of WHO was on national and global strategies for ‘Health for All by the Year 2000’.

WHO is also collaborating with the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which became operational in 1996.

WHO is composed of the World Health Assembly, the Executive Board and the Secretariat. The Assembly, where each of the 194 member-states (as of 2019) can seek representation, meets annually in Geneva. The Executive Board with 32 members is constituted by health experts, The Secretariat is headed by director-general. WHO also has regional organisations to perform health-related work in member-states.


The concept of protection of intellectual property dates back to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886). WIPO was established by a Convention signed in 1967 at Stockholm by 51 countries. The Convention entered into force in April 1970, and WIPO became a UN specialised agency in 1974. The headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

WIPO aims at protecting intellectual property-industrial property, and copyright and neighbouring rights related to the literary, musical, audio-visual and other fields. For the purpose, it promotes a programme among developing countries for training of officials, formulation of laws and treaties and exchange of relevant information to legislators and members. The programme also aims at providing advice on gaining and storing and acquisition of knowledge and skills. WIPO conducts studies on intellectual property and registration services, and promotes information technology as a tool for storing, accessing and using the information. It administers 21 treaties (15 on industrial property, 6 on copyright). It helps membercountries in harmonising and simplifying their respective procedures for registration of intellectual property. The organisation also facilitates the resolution of private intellectual property disputes through the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre.

WIPO has entered into a joint agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to provide assistance to developing countries to meet their obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Training and research activities are carried out through the WIPO Worldwide Academy,

WIPO is composed of the General Assembly, the Conference and the Coordination Committee. The General Assembly reviews reports, adopts the budget and instructs the Director-General, who is the executive head of WIPO. It is formed by WIPO member-states who are members of the union set up by the Paris Convention and Berne Convention. The Conference consists of such members as well as other WIPO members—those from states that belong to the UN and have embraced the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and which were invited to join WIPO by the UN General Assembly. There are also a number of Permanent Committees.

WIPO had 191 member-states as of January 2019.


The Convention establishing the WMO was adopted by the International Meteorological Organisation (established in 1873) in 1947. It entered into force in March 1950, and the first session of the WMO was held in March 1951 in Paris. The headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

The WMO furthers international cooperation for setting up networks of stations for meteorological, hydrological observations and provision of meteorological and related services. It promotes standardisation of all observations and uniform publication of related statistics. Extending meteorological applications to agriculture and other fields and promoting research and training in meteorology are its other functions.

With 186 member-states and six member-territories, the WMO has a permanent Secretariat at its headquarters. It has Congress as the supreme organ. It convenes once in four years to approve policies, budget and regulations. The Executive Council meets at least once every year to work on studies and recommendations and ensure that the Congress’ resolutions are carried out in practice. The WMO has eight technical commissions of experts. There are regional and sub-regional offices also.


These are the following-


The IAEA was set up in July 1957, following the signing of its Statute at a UN conference in 1956.

Broadly, the agency aims at increasing the contribution of atomic energy to world peace and prosperity while ensuring that it is, directly or indirectly, not misused by nations for fulfilling military purposes. The IAEA, under the terms of treaties such as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, works to ensure that nuclear fissionable material intended for peaceful purposes is not employed for nuclear weapons. It also assists developing countries on nuclear power development, nuclear safety, radioactive waste management, legal aspects of atomic energy use, use of radiation and isotopes in industry, agriculture, medicine and hydrology.

The IAEA safeguards for verifying peaceful uses of nuclear material now cover more than 95 per cent of civilian nuclear installations (excluding the major nuclearweapon countries which are also permanent members of the UN).

The IAEA’s research laboratories are located in Monaco and Austria. Along with UNESCO, it operates the International Centre for Theoretical Physics which was set up at Trieste in 1964.

The IAEA has a Secretariat with a Director-General and a 35-member Board of Governors. It holds an annual General Conference. It presents annual reports to the General Assembly.

The IAEA had 171 member-countries in 2019.


The ISA was founded under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 1994 agreement providing for the implementation of Part XI of the Convention. It became operational in June 1996. The headquarters is in Kingston, Jamaica.

UNCLOS deals with ocean space and its uses, which include fishing, shipping, navigation and overflight, and resource exploration. It has laid down guidelines for defining maritime zones, drawing sea boundaries, specifying legal rights, duties and responsibilities of states and settling maritime disputes. It also addresses the issues of sea resource exploitation, pollution and conservation.

The ISA is currently involved in drawing a mining code. Besides, it undertakes research work on exploration and sustainable exploitation of deep sea mineral resources and development of suitable technologies for the same.

The ISA consists of the Assembly which is the highest decision-making body and consists of representatives from all member-states; the council which is the executive arm; two subsidiary bodies–the Legal and Technical Commission, and the Finance Committee; and the Secretariat, which looks after the day-to-day activities of the ISA and is in charge of the Enterprise organ. (The deep seabed activities of the ISA are carried out by the Enterprise organ.) The disputes regarding ISA’s activities are settled by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The Tribunal, based in Hamburg, was set up in 1996.


The WTO is the successor organisation to the multilateral General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Negotiated in 1947, GATT came into force as an interim arrangement on January 1, 1948. Originally, it had only 23 signatories-members of the preparatory committee set up to detail guidelines for the then intended International Trade Organisation which, however, never came to be. GATT remained the only world body laying down trade rules. Eight rounds of negotiations were conducted under GATT to liberalise world trade and evolve a common code of conduct in world trade and trade relations between nations. In December 1993, there were 111 contracting parties and 22 other countries applying GATT rules on a de facto basis. The eighth round, the last, called the Uruguay Round, was concluded on December 15, 1993 by 117 countries accounting for about 90 per cent of international trade. The largest-ever agreement in history was signed on April 15, 1994 in Marrakesh, Morocco, and the WTO came into being on January 1, 1995.

The headquarters of GATT, in Geneva, Switzerland, now serves the WTO.

The WTO, the legal and institutional basis of the multilateral trading system, aims at liberalisation of world trade. Member-countries are required to apply fair trade rules covering commodities, services and intellectual property. The Uruguay Round also commits the members to lowering of tariffs on industrial goods, abolition of import duties on a variety of items, progressive abolition of quotas on garments and textiles, reduction of trade-distorting subsidies and import barriers, agreements on intellectual property and rules for civil aviation, telecommunications, financial services and the movement of labour.

The ultimate decision-making body of the WTO is the two-yearly ministerial meeting. In the interregnum, its functions are carried out by the General Council consisting of representatives of all member-countries. The General Council is assisted by the Council for Trade in Goods, the Council for Trade in Services and the Council for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and by a large number of committees, working groups etc. A seven-member Standing Appellate Body under the Dispute Settlement Body oversees the process of settlement of disputes between member-countries.

The WTO had 164 members in 2019.


These programmes and funds report directly to ECOSOC and/ or to the General Assembly. They include the following.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Though initially set up in 1946 with the aim of providing relief to children in the post-War years, UNICEF now focusses on providing a better quality of life to children and mothers in developing countries through improved health services, nutrition, sanitation, water availability and education. Its work has spread across 150 nations. The low-cost and result-oriented health care techniques it promotes are aimed at expanding immunisation, monitoring child growth, promoting breast-feeding and popularising oral rehydration therapy. It is the world’s largest vaccine supplier. It works in close coordination with the WHO. The State of the World’s Children Report is UNICEF’s annual publication.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The UNDP is the largest agency in the world for technical and pre-investment cooperation at the multilateral level. It is mainly the UNDP that provides funds for technical assistance provided by the UN. Funds for the UNDP’s activities are obtained from voluntary contributions not channelled through the UN budget. The UNDP is headquartered in New York.

The UNDP also administers certain special-purpose funds. These include the UN Capital Development Fund, a multilateral donor agency aimed at developing new solutions for poverty reduction in the least developing countries; the United Nations Volunteers (UNV); and the UN Development Fund for Women, aimed at empowering women and ensuring gender equality at all levels.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

UNFPA, to promote awareness of population problems in countries of the world and to help them deal with the problems, covers over 130 nations and territories. Established in 1969, it accounts for the largest international population assistance to Third World nations.

UNFPA also provides for most of the funding for the United Nations Population Information Network (POPIN), a community of population institutions which identify, establish, strengthen and coordinate population information activities at various levels and facilitate the availability and exchange of population information and related issues.

The State of the World Population Report is published by UNFPA annually.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The UNEP was established in 1972 to promote sustainable development through environment-friendly practices, and to establish an early warning mechanism and emergency response capacity to cope with environmental disasters and emergencies. The UNEP has already established the Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS); Global Resource Information Database (GRID); INFOTERRA; and International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC).

UNEP brings out the State of the Environment Reports and Global Environment Outlooks periodically.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Headquartered at Geneva, Switzerland, the office of the UNHCR is a humanitarian programme for safeguarding the rights and interests of refugees worldwide. It started functioning on January 1, 1951 for a three-year period and was charged primarily with re-settling 1-2 million European refugees rendered homeless as a result of the Second World War. However, its mandate has since come in for renewal for successive five-year periods.

The UNHCR aims at improving the legal status of refugees in the countries where they seek refuge by encouraging governments to provide legislation and administrative assistance for their benefit. It ensures that refugees are not forced to return from or expelled from the countries where they seek residence. It also provides material aid in the form of food and other supplies, and shelter to refugees while efforts are on for their voluntary repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

The High Commissioner who is elected by the UN General Assembly follows policy directives laid down by the Assembly or the ECOSOC.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded twice to the UNHCR-in 1955 and 1981.

UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)

The UNRWA was set up by the UN General Assembly in 1949 as a temporary relief agency for refugees after the formation of the State of Israel. It assisted persons displaced in the wake of renewed hostilities in the Middle East region in 1967. The Agency provides education, health services, supplementary feeding and other aid. Over 80 per cent of its budgetary funds caters to basic health care and education alone.

The UNRWA’s mandate is renewed by the General Assembly time after time.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR)

The CHR is the coordinating agency for all human rights activities of the UN. Set up by ECOSOC in 1946, the Commission is assisted in its work by a Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

The General Assembly set up a post of High Commissioner for Human Rights by consensus on December 20, 1993. The UN Secretary-General appoints the High Commissioner for a four-year term which can be renewed once.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

UNCTAD aims at promoting international trade, particularly by developing countries, in an attempt to increase their participation in global economy.

World Food Programme (WFP)

The WFP is the world’s largest international food aid organisation, and is committed to both emergency relief and development programmes.

United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP)

The UNDCP was established in 1991 to combat drug abuse and trafficking. It works with the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) and the Centre for International Crime Prevention (CICP). The Commission on Narcotic Drugs oversees the UNDCP.

UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)

The Centre was established in 1978 and aims at providing adequate housing conditions to all.


The UNO also consists of six autonomous training and research institutes. The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) was established in 1963 to provide training to UN personnel working at various levels of the organisation. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) was set up in 1980 for research on disarmament and related issues. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), established in 1976, is specifically concerned with research work aimed at the betterment of women and their integration into the development process. It is based in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) works to highlight the social dimensions of development policies and processes of economic, social and environment changes. Established in 1963, the UNRISD is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The United Nations University, established in 1973, promotes research work of different institutions and individuals on problems of human survival, development and welfare. It also aims at strengthening research and training capabilities of institutions in developing countries. The UNU is based in Tokyo, Japan.

The University for Peace undertakes research work on issues related to disarmament, resolution of conflicts, international relations and human rights. The University was established in 1980 in Costa Rica.

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