The United Nations system



UN Headquarters, New York. The UN is involved in every aspect of international life from peacekeeping to the environment, from children's rights to air safety, but it cannot legislate.

The United Nations (UN) is an organization of sovereign nations. It provides the machinery for its Member States to help solve disputes or problems, and deal with matters of concern to all humanity. It does not legislate.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the UN.

The General Assembly is the UN's main deliberative body. All Member States are represented in it and each has one vote.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) coordinates the economic and social work of the UN.

The Security Council has primary responsibility for maintenance of international peace and security. It has five permanent members each with the right to veto, and ten others elected for two-year terms. Member States are obligated to carry out its decisions.

The Secretariat services all organs of the UN except the ICJ, doing the day-to-day work of the UN, ranging from administering peace-keeping operations to organizing conferences.

The Secretary-General controls and directs the Secretariat, and is chief administrative officer at all meetings of the General Assembly, Security Council ECOSOC and the Trusteeship Council.

The Trusteeship Council was established to ensure that governments responsible for administering Trust Territories took adequate steps to prepare them for self-government or independence. This task having been completed in 1994, the Council will now meet as and when required.

The specialized agencies and programmes have wide international responsibilities for development, health and economic, social, cultural, educational, scientific and technical, and other fields.


Principal organs of the United Nations:


United Nations programmes and organs (representative list only)
Specialized agencies and other autonomous organizations within the system
Other commissions, committees and ad hoc and related bodies
Cooperative arrangements between the UN and the newly established WTO are currently under discussion

Security Council Military Staff Committee
Standing committees and ad hoc bodies

Peace-keeping operations

Various programmes

General Assembly Main and other sessional committees
Standing committees and ad hoc bodies
Other subsidiary organs and related bodies
UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency
Economic and Social Council INSTRAW International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women
UNCHS United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)
UNCTAD United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
UNDCP United Nations International Drug Control Programme
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNFPA United Nations Population Fund
UNHCR Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund
UNIFEM United Nations Development Fund for Women
UNITAR United Nations Institute for Training and Research
UNU United Nations University
WFC World Food Council
WFP World Food Programme
ITC International Trade Centre UNCTAD/GATT


Commission for Social Development
Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice
Commission on Human Rights
Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Commission on Science and Technology for Development
Commission on Sustainable Development
Commission on the Status of Women
Commission on Population and Development
Statistical Commission


Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)



ILO International Labour Organization
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
WHO World Health Organization

World Bank Group

IBRD International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
IDA International Development Association
IFC International Finance Corporation
MIGA Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency

IMF International Monetary Fund
ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization
UPU Universal Postal Union
ITU International Telecommunication Union
WMO World Meteorological Organization
IMO International Maritime Organization
WIPO World Intellectual Property Organization
IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development
UNIDO United Nations Industrial Development Organization
WTO World Trade Organization

FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Agriculture Department

Animal Production and Animal Health
Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture (joint FAO/IAEA)
Land and Water Development
Plant Production and Protection
Agricultural Support Systems

Economic and Social Department

Agriculture and Economic Development
Commodities and Trade
Food and Nutrition

Fisheries Department

Fishery Policy and Planning
Fishery Resources
Fishery Industries

Forestry Department

Forestry Policy and Planning
Forest Resources
Forest Products

Sustainable Development Department

Research, Extension and Training
Women and People's Participation
Rural Development and Agrarian Reform

Technical Cooperation Department

Investment Centre
Field Operations
Policy Assistance

Regional (sub-regional) offices

Africa (Southern and East Africa)
Asia and the Pacific (the Pacific Islands)
Latin America and the Caribbean (the Caribbean)
The Near East (North Africa)
Europe (Central and Eastern Europe)

Liaison offices

Representations in over 100 member nations

International Court of Justice
Trusteeship Council