List of specialized agencies of the United Nations

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Specialized agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations and each other through the coordinating machinery of the United Nations Economic and Social Council at the intergovernmental level, and through the Chief Executives Board for coordination (CEB) at the inter-secretariat level.[1] Specialized agencies may or may not have been originally created by the United Nations, but they are incorporated into the United Nations System by the United Nations Economic and Social Council acting under Articles 57 and 63 of the United Nations Charter. At present the UN has in total 15[2][3][4] specialized agencies that carry out various functions on behalf of the UN. The specialized agencies are listed below.[5]

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)[edit]

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO's mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy. FAO is the largest of UN agencies and its headquarters is in Rome, Italy.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)[edit]

ICAO flag.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was founded in 1947. It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth. Its headquarters are located in the Quartier international de Montréal of Montreal, Canada.

The ICAO Council adopts standards and recommended practices concerning air navigation, prevention of unlawful interference, and facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation. In addition, ICAO defines the protocols for air accident investigation followed by transport safety authorities in countries signatory to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, commonly known as the Chicago Convention.

It also solves disputes between two countries.[citation needed]

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)[edit]

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was established as an international financial institution in 1977, as one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference and a response to the situation in the Sahel. IFAD is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. Its headquarters are in Rome, Italy.

International Labour Organization (ILO)[edit]

ILO flag.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) deals with labour issues. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Founded in 1919, it was formed through the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles, and was initially an agency of the League of Nations. It became a member of the UN system after the demise of the League and the formation of the UN at the end of World War II. Its Constitution, as amended to date, includes the Declaration of Philadelphia on the aims and purposes of the Organization. Its secretariat is known as the International Labour Office.

International Maritime Organization (IMO)[edit]

IMO flag.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), formerly known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), was established in 1948 through the United Nations to coordinate international maritime safety and related practices. However the IMO did not enter into full force until 1958.

Headquartered in London, United Kingdom, the IMO promotes cooperation among government and the shipping industry to improve maritime safety and to prevent marine pollution. IMO is governed by an Assembly of members and is financially administered by a Council of members elected from the Assembly. The work of IMO is conducted through five committees and these are supported by technical sub-committees. Member organizations of the UN organizational family may observe the proceedings of the IMO. Observer status may be granted to qualified non-governmental organizations.

The IMO is supported by a permanent secretariat of employees who are representative of its members. The secretariat is composed of a Secretary-General who is periodically elected by the Assembly, and various divisions including, inter alia, marine safety, environmental protection, and a conference section.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)[edit]

International Monetary Fund (IMF) is sometimes considered to be a specialized agency. It is part of the United Nations system and has a formal relationship agreement with the UN, but retains its independence.[6] The IMF provides monetary cooperation and financial stability and acts as a forum for advice, negotiation and assistance on financial issues. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States of America.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)[edit]

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was established to standardize and regulate international radio and telecommunications. It was founded as the International Telegraph Union in Paris on 17 May 1865. Its main tasks include standardization, allocation of the radio spectrum, and organizing interconnection arrangements between different countries to allow international phone calls — in which regard it performs for telecommunications a similar function to what the UPU performs for postal services. It has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, next to the main United Nations campus.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)[edit]

UNESCO flag.
Main article: UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations established in 1946 with its headquarters in Paris, France. Its stated purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)[edit]

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations system, headquartered in Vienna, Austria. The Organization's primary objective is the promotion and acceleration of industrial development in developing countries and countries with economics in transition and the promotion of international industrial cooperation.

UNIDO believes that competitive and environmentally sustainable industry has a crucial role to play in accelerating economic growth, reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The Organization therefore works towards improving the quality of life of the world's poor by drawing on its combined global resources and expertise in the following three interrelated thematic areas:

  • Poverty reduction through productive activities;
  • Trade capacity-building; and
  • Energy and environment.

Universal Postal Union (UPU)[edit]

UPU flag.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU), headquartered in Berne, Switzerland, coordinates postal policies between member nations, and hence the worldwide postal system. Each member country agrees to the same set of terms for conducting international postal duties.

World Bank Group (WBG)[edit]

Main article: World Bank Group

The World Bank Group is part of the United Nations system and has a formal relationship agreement with the UN, but retains its independence.[6] The WBG comprises a group of five legally separate but affiliated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the International Development Association (IDA), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. Its mission is to fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment by providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships in the public and private sectors. The WBG headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., United States of America.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)[edit]

The IBRD makes loans to developing countries for development programmes with the stated goal of reducing poverty. It is part of the World Bank Group (WBG).

International Finance Corporation (IFC)[edit]

The IFC is the largest multilateral source of loan and equity financing for private sector projects in the developing world. It is part of the World Bank Group (WBG).

International Development Association (IDA)[edit]

The IDA's mandate is close to that of IBRD, with the focus on the poorest countries. It is part of the World Bank Group (WBG).

World Health Organization (WHO)[edit]

WHO flag.

The World Health Organization (WHO) acts as a coordinating authority on international public health and deals with health and sanitation and diseases and sends medical teams to help combat epidemics. Established on 7 April 1948, and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health Organization, which had been an agency of the League of Nations. It was established in April 7, 1948 when 26 members of the United Nations ratified its Constitution. April 7 is celebrated as the World Health Day every year. The WHO is governed by 194 Member States through the World Health Assembly. Its headquarters are at Geneva in Switzerland.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)[edit]

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations created in 1967 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Its purpose is to encourage creative activity and to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world. The organization administers several treaties concerning the protection of intellectual property rights.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO)[edit]

WMO flag.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873. Established in 1950, WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations for modern meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences. It has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)[edit]

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) was established in 1974 in Madrid, Spain, to replace the International Union of Official Tourist Publicity Organizations (IUOTPO). UNWTO has 160 member states and 350 affiliated members representing private organizations, educational institutions and others. It is headquartered in Madrid, Spain. The World Tourism Organization serves as a forum for tourism policies and acts as a practical source for tourism know-how.

Former specialized agencies[edit]

The only UN specialized agency to go out of existence is the International Refugee Organization, which existed from 1946 to 1952. In 1952, it was replaced by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland), which is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly.

Related organizations[edit]

There are many other intergovernmental organizations that have concluded cooperation agreements with the United Nations like, IOM, UNIDO, WFP, IMSO (International Mobile Satellite Organization) and many more. In terms of cooperation structures, some agreements come very close to the relationship agreements concluded under articles 57 and 63 of the UN Charter with the specialized agencies, but due to Charter requirements that the agencies deal with "economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related fields", organizations with such agreements are not formally specialized agencies of the United Nations.[7][8][9][10][11][12] The IAEA established such an agreement with the UN in 1957, and the OPCW and the CTBTO used this model for agreements of their own with the UN.[11][12][13]

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission[edit]

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission preparatory commission is tasked with preparing the activities of the nuclear non-proliferation organization.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)[edit]

IAEA flag.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an intergovernmental organization for scientific and technical cooperation in the field of nuclear technology. It seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for military purposes. The IAEA was set up as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957. Prior to this, in 1953, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned the creation of this international body to control and develop the use of atomic energy, in his "Atoms for Peace" speech before the UN General Assembly.[14] The organization and its former Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize announced on 7 October 2005. As of March 2015, the IAEA's membership is 164 countries.[15]

Due to historical reasons and the political nature of its work, the IAEA is not a specialized agency. Instead, its relationship to the United Nations is governed by a special agreement as well as by its statute that commits the IAEA to report annually to the General Assembly and, when appropriate, to the Security Council.[16]

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons[edit]

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an intergovernmental organization, located in The Hague, Netherlands. The organization promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits of the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction. The verification consists both of evaluation of declarations by members states and on-site inspections.

World Trade Organization (WTO)[edit]

The WTO was established instead of the failed proposal for a specialized agency dealing with trade issues, the International Trade Organization. WTO headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.


No. Logo Official name Abbreviation Location Established Precursor established Members states Other participants Map and reference
- Emblem of the United Nations.svg United Nations UN USA, New York City 1945 1920 United Nations membership of Sovereign States.png [1]
Specialized agencies
1 FAO logo.svg Food and Agriculture Organization FAO Italy, Rome 1945 FAO members and observers.png [2]
2 Flag of ICAO.svg International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO Canada, Montreal 1947 ICAO.png [3]
3 International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD Italy, Rome 1977
  • the UN members except Andorra, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Federated States of Micronesia, Monaco, Montenegro, Palau, Poland, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine
  • Cook Islands, Niue
  • observers: Holy See
IFAD.png [4]
4 Flag of ILO.svg International Labour Organization ILO Switzerland, Geneva 1919
  • the UN members except Andorra, Bhutan, Liechtenstein, Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, North Korea, Tonga
International Labour Organization.png [5]
5 Flag of the International Maritime Organization.svg International Maritime Organization IMO UK, London 1959
  • the UN members except Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Belarus, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Mali, Micronesia, Nauru, Niger, Rwanda, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Zambia
  • Cook Islands
IMO Participation.svg [6]
6 International Monetary Fund IMF USA, Washington, D.C. 1945
  • the UN members except Andorra, Cuba, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and North Korea;
  • Kosovo
International Monetary Fund.png [7]
7 International Telecommunication Union ITU Switzerland, Geneva 1865 Member states of the International Telecommunication Union.png [8]
8 Flag of UNESCO.svg United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO France, Paris 1946 1922 UNESCO member states.png [9]
9 United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO Austria, Vienna 1985 1966
  • the UN members except Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Estonia, Iceland, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand (as of 31 December 2013), Palau, San Marino, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United Kingdom, United States
Map of UNIDO membership as of 2010.png [10]
10 Flag of UPU.svg Universal Postal Union UPU Switzerland, Bern 1874 Universal Postal Union membership.png [11]
11 World Bank logo.svg World Bank Group WBG USA, Washington, D.C. 1945
  • the UN members except Andorra, Cuba, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Nauru, North Korea
  • Kosovo
World Bank Group.png [12]
12 Flag of WHO.svg World Health Organization WHO Switzerland, Geneva 1948 1907 World Health Organization membership status map.png [13]
13 World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO Switzerland, Geneva 1967
  • the UN members except Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, South Sudan
  • Holy See, Niue
WIPO.png [14]
14 Flag of the World Meteorological Organization.svg World Meteorological Organization WMO Switzerland, Geneva 1950 1873
  • the UN members except Andorra, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, Liechtenstein, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and San Marino
  • Cook Islands, Niue
WMO members states and territories.png [15]
15 World Tourism Organization UNWTO Spain, Madrid 1974 1925
  • the UN members except Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Comoros, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Kiribati, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Suriname, Sweden, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States
UNWTO.png [16]
Related organizations
16 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission CTBTO Prep Com Austria, Vienna 1996
  • the UN members except Bhutan, Cuba, Dominica, India, Mauritius, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Tonga, Tuvalu
  • Cook Islands, Holy See and Niue
CTBT Participation.svg [17]
17 Flag of IAEA.svg International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA Austria, Vienna 1957
  • the UN members except Andorra, Bhutan, Cape Verde, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Maldives, Micronesia, Nauru, North Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Suriname, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu
  • Holy See
IAEA member states.svg [18]
18 Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons OPCW Netherlands, The Hague 1997 CWC Participation.svg [19]
19 World Trade Organization WTO Switzerland, Geneva 1995 1948
  • the UN members except Algeria, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belarus, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kiribati, Lebanon, Libya, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, North Korea, Palau, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan
  • customs territory members: European Union, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan
WTO members and observers.svg [20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The United Nations System" (PDF). 
  2. ^ "REPERTORY OF PRACTICE OF UNITED NATIONS ORGANSSUPPLEMENT No. 10 (2000-2009) - ARTICLE 17(3)" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 2013-09-18. The number of specialized agencies thus rose to fifteen. 
  3. ^ "The Specialized Agencies". 
  4. ^ Eckart Klein: United Nations, Specialized Agencies, para.9. In: Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law.
  5. ^ UN structure and organization, Specialized Agencies
  6. ^ a b "REPERTORY OF PRACTICE OF UNITED NATIONS ORGANSSUPPLEMENT NO. 9 (1995-1999) - VOLUME II - ARTICLE 17(3)" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 2013-09-18. 
  7. ^ List of Agreements between Specialized Agencies and the United Nations
  8. ^ "The UN System, Chief Executives Board for Coordination". Retrieved 2013-01-22. : "The Executive Heads of IAEA and WTO are invited to meetings of the CEB like any other specialized agency head."
  9. ^ The United Nations System chart, Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information, December 2007
  10. ^ Organizational Chart of the UN System and the CEB
  11. ^ a b Bothe, Michael; Ronzitti, Natalino; Rosas, Allan, eds. (1998). The New Chemical Weapons Convention: Implementation and Prospects. Kluwer Law International. p. 6. The Organization is not a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), but it will have a special relationship with it, to be organized on the basis of an agreement between the two organizations. It could not be a specialized agency within the meaning of Articles 57 and 63 of the UN Charter, as these provisions presuppose that the functions of the agency fall within the powers of the UN Economic and Social Council, which is clearly not the case with the OPCW. Its status will rather be comparable to that of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 
  12. ^ a b Lattanzi, Flavia; Schabas, William, eds. (20014). Essays on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 2. Il Sirente. p. 64.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ "International Affairs". 53 ("4-6"). Znanye Publishing House. 2007: 63. Retrieved 2013-01-30. IAEA, for example, is not a UN specialized agency. It submits annual reports to the UN General Assembly and to the Security Council, when necessary. If any questions arise that fall within the purview of the Security Council, the IAEA notifies the SC accordingly. The IAEA's special relationship with the UN and UN SC is also specified in an agreement between the IAEA and the UN in 1957. Under this agreement the IAEA cooperates with the Security Council by furnishing it, at its request, with such information and assistance as may be required in the exercise of its responsibility for maintenance or restoration of international peace and security. This agreement has since served as a model for UN agreements with nonproliferation organizations such as the OPCW and the CTBTO 
  14. ^ About IAEA: History
  15. ^ About IAEA: By the Numbers
  16. ^ Johan Rautenbach: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), para.2. In: Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law.
  17. ^ Regional organizations allowed by their member states to speak on their behalf.
  18. ^ Listed in the table are only these UN observers that participate in the 15 specialized agencies, IAEA, ICJ and WTO.

External links[edit]