This article has been written by Ashutosh Singh, from Amity Law School, Amity University, Kolkata. The article gives a brief description about each of the specialized agencies of the UN system and what their role is in world affairs, dealing with peace, social security, economic development and sustainable growth.


The United Nations Organisation (UNO) is an international organisation devised to implement the law, ensure security and human rights,  promote economic development and social progress for countries around the world. It has 193 member countries and two permanent observer entities that cannot vote. It is headquartered in Manhattan city. 

The League of Nations was the international organization before the United Nations Organization (UN), in charge of ensuring peace and cooperation between the nations of the world. The league was founded in 1919 and only had 58 members. But in the 1930s, its success declined because the Axis Powers (Japan, Germany, and Italy) gained strength, which ultimately led to the start of World War II in 1939.  In the Declaration by the United Nations in 1942, Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term “United Nations.” This declaration during World War II was formally made to state the cooperation of the Allies (Great Britain, the United States, and the USSR) and other nations. However, the UN as we know today was not officially founded until 1945. This was done when the Charter of the United Nations was drafted at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, California.

Download Now

Functions of the United Nations Organisation

The functions of the United Nations Organization are as follows:

  • To maintain security and international peace is at the forefront
  • To endeavour to develop good and friendly relations among the different nations
  • To ensure respect for human rights and that they are not violated and the universal fundamental freedom is maintained
  • To arbitrate and garner cooperation to solve problems of social, economic, and cultural nature.

It’s main principles are:

  • Most important is that all member nations have to settle their disputes through a peaceful process.
  • The member nations are based on sovereign equality.
  • All member nations have to be faithful in fulfilling their obligations towards the charter and they are to provide full cooperation and assistance to the UN in actions taken by it in accordance with the charter.
  • The UN cannot intervene in matters which are within the jurisdiction of any nation (Internal matters of the state).
  • All member states are to desist from the use of threat or force against other member states.

Structure of the UNO

Its structure is founded around its Charter which defines six main organs, each with definite tasks and functions. The six main organs are:

  1. The General Assembly, 
  2. The Security Council, 
  3. The Trusteeship Council, 
  4. The Economic and Social Council, 
  5. The International Court of Justice, and 
  6. The Secretariat.

General Assembly (GA)

The provisions relating to the GA are laid out in Articles 9, 10, 11, and 12 of Chapter 4 of the UN Charter. The GA has almost universal representation as all 193 member states of the UN are represented in it. It is the main deliberative organ of the UN. Each member possesses a vote and is entitled to be represented by 5 delegates. Its main functions include accepting the budget of the UN otherwise it cannot be executed. The GA and Security Council together elect the Secretary-General and the Judges of the International Court of Justice. The members of the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council are elected by the GA at its initiative and it also has the power to amend the charter of the UN.

The Security Council

The provisions related to the Security Council are laid out in Articles 23 to 27 of Chapter V of the UN Charter. Article 23 contains the composition while according to Article 24 of the UN Charter, the main objective of the Security Council is to maintain international peace and security. There has been a huge discrepancy and inconsistency shown between promise and performance on its basis in this particular organ of the UN. The Security Council consists of 15 member states and five permanent members. These members are Great Britain, China, the United States of America, France, and Russia. Only these 5 permanent members have the power to ‘Veto’ any of the decisions being taken by the Security Council and there has to be a consensus of all the five permanent members for a decision to be taken. The Security Council also holds the power for amendment in UN Charter and it appoints the Justice of the International Court of Justice. 

Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

Provisions relating to the ECOSOC are present in Chapter X containing Articles 61 to 71 of the UN Charter.  It plays a crucial role in coordination, policy review, policy dialogue on many issues such as social and environmental and it also recommends economic prosperity, stability and justice. It can be said that it basically coordinates the economic and social work of the complete family of the United Nations Organisation. It consists of 54 members which are elected by the General Assembly.  Each year one-third of its members are elected by the General Assembly for a term/duration of three years. Only one representative in the ECOSOC is permitted to each member. India too is one of the members of ECOSOC.

The Trusteeship Council

The provisions relating to the Trusteeship Council are present in Articles 86 to 91 of Chapter XIII of the UN Charter. Its main objective under the UN charter is to supervise the administration of Trust Territories which are former colonies/dependent territories under the International Trusteeship System. The Trusteeship Council was created to promote the advancement of the people of the dependent territories to lead them towards independence and self-governance eventually, at the end of World War II. It’s great achievement lies in the fact that since its creation more than 70 colonial Territories, including all of the original ones, have attained independence with the help of the United Nations. In 1994, because of the huge success it received in this area, the Council decided formally to suspend its operation and to meet as and when an occasion might be required.

The International Court of Justice

The provisions relating to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) are laid in Articles 92 to 96 of chapter XIV of the United Nations Charter. The main judicial organ of the UNO consists of 15 judges from 15 different nations, elected for a term of 9 years by the General Assembly and the Security Council, both voting independently. All the judges are independent magistrates and do not represent their government. Also, there is a ‘Statute of the International Court of Justice’ annexed to the UN Charter which contains 70 articles (Articles 1 to 70). The ICJ headquarters are in Hague (Netherlands).  The ICJ basically gives an advisory opinion on legal matters to the UNO and decides the dispute between member States with their consent.


Articles 97 to 101 of Chapter XV of the UN Charter lays down the provisions relating to the Secretariat. All the activities of the UNO are administered and coordinated by the Secretariat. It comprises a Secretary-General and the staff that the organization may require in its administrative role. The Secretary-General is elected by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. Generally, it has been observed that the Secretary-General is an eminent person of a neutral state who is acceptable to all the five permanent members of the UN.

Subsidiary organs

The United Nations besides its 6 main organs also include subsidiary organs created by the General Assembly. Apart from these it also includes certain expert bodies or autonomous specialized agencies. The subsidiary organs report to the General Assembly/ECOSOC or both at times depending on the matter. The funding of some of these organisations is done directly by the UNO, voluntary contributions by different governments or even private citizens.

Specialized agencies

When the UNO  was created during the 1940s, the initial member states recognized that there were several problems poorly fitted to deliberations within the General Assembly, ECOSOC, and several of the problems were extremely technical. This was because the ability of communication systems needed the cooperation of stakeholders not represented in those 3 bodies such as the international labour law. Several of the specialised agencies predated the creation of the international organization system. The second oldest is the Universal communication Union, created in 1874 to coordinate communication policies and guarantee cross-border delivery of mail. Another is the International Labour Organization created as a part of the League of Nations in 1919.

So, the answer to this problem was the creation of specialised/expert and technical agencies. The specialised agencies are autonomous organizations tasked with raising these problems, setting international standards, and implementing them around the world. A key role of these agencies is international standard-setting.

Today, there are more than a dozen specialised and technical agencies. The keyword of these specialised agencies is “autonomous.” These agencies don’t report back to the ECOSOC. Their work is directed by their board and also the budget that the board approves. One of ECOSOC’s mandates is coordinating international organization activities and policies with the specialised agencies. The heads of the specialised agencies conjointly meet with the Secretary-General frequently. Several specialised agencies share resources and have interaction in joint work. The specialized agencies along with the United Nations are often collectively called the United Nations System.

At present, there are 17 specialized agencies which are as follows:

1)    International Labour Organization (ILO)

2)    International Maritime Organization (IMO)

3)    International Monetary Fund (IMF)

4)    Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

5)    International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

6)    International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

7)    United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

8)    Universal Postal Union (UPU)

9)    International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

10) United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

11) World Health Organization (WHO)

12) World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

13) World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

14) World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

15) World Bank Group (WBG)

16) Former specialized agencies

17)  Related organizations

The specialised agencies in brief

International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) was constituted in 1919, forming a part of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1946, ILO became the first specialised agency of the UN.  The ILO as a UN agency has a directive to advance social and economic justice through setting International Labour Standards.

The International Labour Organization comprises 187 member states, 186 of them are the member states of the UNO and the Cook Islands. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland with around forty field offices in different parts of the world, and it employs about 2700 staff members from more than 150 nations, of whom 900 are employed in technical cooperation programmes and projects.

In conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity, ILO’s international labour standards aim to ensure accessible, productive, and sustainable work worldwide. These are outlined in its conventions and treaties, eight of which are fundamental conventions covered in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, 1998. These fundamental subjects include freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, effective abolition of child labour, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination at the workplace in employment and occupation. For governance, there are four governance conventions, their significance emphasized by the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization in its follow up. 

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

A specialized agency of the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for the processes to develop the safety and security of international shipping. It is also responsible to prevent marine pollution from ships. It superintends every facet of worldwide shipping regulations, including legal issues and shipping efficiency. Ships and shipping lines tend to pollute the water and one of the key duties of IMO is to devise strategies and measures to keep the waterways clean by preventing marine pollution from ships. Legal issues relating to international shipping, such as liability and compensation matters, and the facilitation of international maritime traffic is also looked after by the IMO. 

Some of the important treaties of IMO are:

The most crucial treaty about safety at sea is SOLAS. After the sinking of the Titanic, the first draft of SOLAS was adopted in 1914, before the creation of the IMO.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

In a conference held in July 1994 at the Bretton Woods, 44 delegates from non-communist countries discussed an agreement about the international monetary system, its structure, and operation. The groundwork and foundation of the international monetary system were the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary fund (IMF). Although the IMF came into existence on 27 December, 1945, it launched financial operations only on 1 March, 1947. At the time, 29 countries signed its Articles of Agreement (it’s charter) while today (August 2020), the IMF has a count of 189 member countries. Incidentally, India is one of the founder members of the IMF.

The purposes for which the IMF came into being are listed in Article 1 of the Articles of Agreement (AGA). These are: 

  • To stimulate international coope­ration;
  • To accelerate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade,
  • To foster exchange stability, 
  • To support in the establishment of a multi­lateral system of payments, 
  • To ensure that its general resources are available to its members experiencing difficulty in the balance of payments and assist with adequate safeguards, and
  • To reduce the time taken and lessen the degree of disequilibrium in the international balance of payments of its members.

IMF’s main function is the regulation of the international monetary system which include:

  • Member countries are granted credit amid a temporary balance of payments deficits, 

  • Keeping a watchful eye over the monetary and exchange rate policy of member countries, 
  • Issuing policy recommen­dations. 

All these functions of the IMF can be combined into the regulatory, financial, and consultative type of fun­ctions.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The FAO is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations. It was constituted in 1945, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has its headquarters in Rome, Italy. The goal for which FAO was constituted was to provide food security for everyone and also ensure that high-quality food in sufficient quantities is available to people to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Each year, several major reports are published by FAO about food, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and natural resources of the world.

Its main functions can be listed as follows:

  • Coordinate the activities of governments and development agencies which are targeted to develop and improve agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other land and water resources. 
  • The FAO, to improve agricultural output and development, conducted research and provided technical assistance to various projects.
  • It conducts educational and training programs and also collects agricultural data and analyses it to improve yield and production.
  • The FAO is also involved with publishing several  publications/reports, such as:
  • the State of the World, 
  • the State of the World’s Forests, 
  • the Global Report on Food Crises, 
  • the State of Food and Agriculture, etc. 

Its other functions include executing current and prospective activities dealing with matters related to Food and Agriculture around the world, Programme of Work and Budget, administrative matters and financial management of the Organisation and constitutional matters.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

To manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), a specialised UN agency was established in 1944, known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO has 193 member states and it works with them and the industry groups to reach an agreement on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in the sustenance of an economically maintainable, efficient, safe and secure, and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector. The member states of ICAO use SARPs and policies to ensure that in their own country the civil aviation operations and regulations are of the same standards as the global norms.

ICAO’s main objectives include:

  • Monitoring as well as generating reports on the many air transport sector performance metrics,
  • For safety and air navigation, producing global plans to coordinate multilateral strategic progress, and
  • In the areas of safety and security, auditing States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities.

The ICAO has several component bodies. They are: 

  • An Assembly that meets every 3 years and has delegates from all member countries, 
  • A Council of representatives elected by and responsible to the Assembly from 33 member states, 
  • For addressing technical matters, an Air Navigation Commission appointed by the Council.

It is also responsible for various standing committees such as a Committee on joint support of Air Navigation Services and a Finance Committee.  A Secretary-General heads the Secretariat of ICAO and the Secretary-General is selected by the Council for a three-year term. The five main sections of the Secretariat are: 

  • the Air Navigation Bureau, 
  • the Air Transport Bureau, 
  • the Technical Cooperation Bureau, 
  • the Legal Bureau, and 
  • the Bureau of Administration and Services

These provide administrative and technical support to the various national representatives of the member states of ICAO.

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

It is a specialized United Nations agency which is an international financial institution. It was constituted in 1977, after the 1974 World Food Conference and since then it has been involved in offering grants and loans with low interest for associated projects. Its headquarters is in Rome(Italy) and it has 177 member countries. Its key function is to improve agricultural development and livelihoods of people in developing countries. It does this by helping to increase the productive capacity of the poor and rural people, enabling them to increase their food security, improve nutrition and raise their incomes. It supports many vulnerable groups such as foresters, fishers and small-scale entrepreneurs in rural areas by sharing the weather information, assisting in disaster preparedness, providing lessons in social learning and technology transfer which in turn empowers the farmers to feed growing populations and enhance the climate robustness of rural farming systems. IFAD mobilizes billions in loans and grants to support programs and projects in rural areas in partnership with recipient governments.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

UNIDO is a UNO development agency established by the General Assembly and constituted in 1967 but it became a specialised agency of the UNO only in 1987. Its headquarters is based in Vienna. UNIDO also has liaison offices in other parts of the world such as New York City and Geneva and many smaller field offices all across the world. India is also part of UNIDO.

Many developing countries and economies which are in transition sometimes get marginalized and UNIDO helps prevent that. It assists them by mobilization of information and technology, knowledge, and skills to push forward a competitive economy, beneficial employment and a sound environment. It also mobilizes cooperation not only at the global level but also at regional, national and sectoral levels. UNIDO is different from the other specialised agencies of the UNO as it has a constitution. It has its own policy-making organs and even its own regular budget. The voluntary contributions made to UNIDO are disposed of to finance developmental activities.

Another unique thing about UNIDO in the United Nations system is that it is the only organization promoting the creation of wealth and removing poverty through manufacturing. The focus of UNIDO is on three interrelated thematic priorities which are:

  • Environment and Energy 
  • Reduction of poverty through Productive Activities
  • Trade capacity-building

One of UNIDO’s achievements is that it has created the largest portfolio of projects related to building trade capacity in the UN system. UNIDO also plays an important role in the implementation of the Montreal Protocol (for prevention of ozone depletion) and the Stockholm Convention (removal of persistent organic pollutants).

The United Nations’ Universal Postal Union (UPU) 

Since mail is sent all across the world and it is received from all over the world, a need for uniformity was felt and hence as early as 1874, Universal Postal Union (UPU) was established. UPO basically does the job of fixing rates for international postal services and is also responsible for framing rules for international mail exchange. Its headquarter is in Bern, Switzerland and it comprises the Postal Operation Council, Congress, the Council of Administration, and the International bureau.

It is the second oldest international organization in the world and the oldest is the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which was established in 1865. It has 192 member countries and at present regulates 40 lakh postal outlets worldwide.

International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

The ITU is a specialized UNO agency for information and communication technologies. Everywhere across the world people feel the need to communicate. It is their fundamental right. ITU is therefore committed to connecting the entire world’s people and through its work, it protects and supports everyone’s fundamental right to communicate. ITU holds the distinction of being one of the oldest international agencies and was established in 1865. It has 193 member countries besides which about 800 private-sector entities and academic institutions are also associated with it. ITU has been based on the public or private partnership since its constitution itself and it is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Some functions of the ITU include: 

  • Coordination of the shared global use of the radio spectrum,
  • Promotion of international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits,
  • Working to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world.

It is also regulating areas that include :

  • broadband Internet, 
  • latest-generation wireless technologies, 
  • aeronautical and maritime navigation, 
  • radio astronomy,
  • satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, 
  • Internet access,
  • data,
  •  voice, 
  • TV broadcasting, and 
  • next-generation networks.

India has also been a member of ITU since 1869 and is a regular and active member of the ITU Council since 1952.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

UNESCO was constituted in 1945 before which existed the League of Nation’s International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.  UNESCO came into force only in 1946.  Its headquarters are in Paris, and currently, it has 193 members. UNESCO itself is also a member of UNDP. The broad objectives of UNESCO are promoting sustainable development, human rights, world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture. It carries out these objectives through five major program areas: 

  • Education, 
  • Natural Sciences, 
  • Social/Human Sciences, 
  • Culture, and 
  • Communication/Information.

Via these objectives, it sponsors projects that develop literacy, provides technical education and training, spreads knowledge of sciences, protects press freedom and independent media, and preserves regional and cultural history thereby promoting cultural diversity. UNESCO is also an environmental conservation organisation. There are many Culture Conventions of UNESCO which aim at the protection and preservation of the culture and natural heritage of the world. UNESCO has also declared some sites as World Heritage Sites and there are about 1000 such heritage sites across 167 nations which are declared because these sites have distinctive cultural or physical significance and they are considered to be of great value to humanity.

World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO is a specialised agency which works for the public health globally since the time it came into existence in 1948 and it is a member of the UN Development Group. It succeeded the health Organization which was a part of the League of Nations.  WHO has 194 members currently but post Covid-19 there have been some differences between the WHO and the US due to which the US is expected to withdraw its membership.  It’s headquarter is in Geneva and it is headed by its Director-General. The herculean objectives of WHO include:

  • The main objective is the achievement of the best possible health standard for all the people of the world.
  • To achieve the best health standard for all it collaborates with the UN specialised agencies, governmental health administration of the different member countries, and professional and other groups related to the health. In this regard, it helps countries to improve their health system by helping them build better health infrastructure, and set up local health centres, and assists in the development of national training institutions for medical and nursing personnel of the member states.
  • It works to eradicate diseases by promoting research to find new and better cures for the diseases.
  • It promotes maternal and child health and provides important drugs needed for their medical care. It runs an immunization programme for children against six major diseases such as Measles, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Tuberculosis, Polio and Whooping Cough.
  • It works to improve nutrition, sanitation, working conditions and other aspects of environmental health such as providing safe drinking water and adequate waste disposal. 
  • It also provides technical advice to the governments of member countries in the preparation of their long-term national health plans and sends out expert international teams to even conduct field surveys.
  • It sponsors various education and support programs to the health care professionals world-wide and provides fellowship awards to doctors, public-health administrators, nurses, sanitary inspectors, researchers, and laboratory technicians.
  • WHO also develops and promotes international standards regarding food, biological and pharmaceutical substances.

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

The UNWTO is a specialized agency of the United Nations which promotes tourism for not only economic growth but environment friendly and responsible tourism. The World Tourism Organisation went into operation in 1974 but became a specialised agency of the United Nations system in 2003. UNWTO has 158 member states, 6 territories and 2 permanent observers. The Executive Council is UNWTO’s governing body and it is headed by its Secretary-General. Some of the responsibilities it shoulders are as follows: 

  • It makes tourism universally accessible and also promotes sustainable and responsible tourism.
  • It focuses especially in the area of development of sustainable tourism in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
  • UNWTO helps develop tourism as a means of economic growth to promote the potential of tourism in fighting poverty specially focussing on the developing nations.
  • It prescribes the execution of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism to enhance the aid from tourism to socio-economic development, simultaneously ensuring minimum negative impacts.
  • It is steadfast in promoting tourism to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are for eliminating poverty and nurturing sustainable development and peace around the world.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

The origin of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873 to discuss and exchange meteorological information and it became a specialized agency of the UN in 1950. Now it is the expert in matters relating to the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere. It studies the Earth’s interaction with the oceans, the climate of the Earth and the resulting distribution of water resources. Currently, WMO comprises a total of 187 member states and 6 member territories.

Some of the functions of WMO are: 

  • To aid in the collaboration of establishment of a network of stations for meteorological, geophysical and hydrological, other observations about meteorology. 
  • To foster the formation and upkeep of centres responsible for meteorological and related services such as climatology.
  • To facilitate the formation and maintenance of systems for quick interchange of meteorological and related information.
  • It facilitates the calibration of meteorological and other related observations to ensure publication of such observations and statistics.
  • It organises the use of meteorological data to shipping, aviation, water and agriculture issues. 
  • It encourages research and training in meteorology and coordinates the facilitation of such research and training worldwide.

WMO also has a Hydrology and Water Resources programme (HWRP) which engages the efficient use of hydrology to study water-related disasters and provide assistance in its management at the lowest level that is the basin level.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) became a specialized agency of the UN system in 1967.  It originated from the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI), constituted in 1893, which was set up primarily to safe-guard and promote intellectual property (IP) to encourage creativity without it being stolen. This is ensured by many legal provisions and rules. Currently, WIPO has 192 member states and its headquarter is in Geneva, Switzerland.  Some of the WIPO treaties are: 

WIPO defines IPR (intellectual properties rights) as the original thoughts, concepts/creations that an individual envisions and develops some product. Intellectual property products could be mediums from the artistic to the industrial; they are legally identified as either works of industry or works of art and literature. WIPO’s activities thus revolve around such legal protections as provided by copyright, trademarks, patents, and industrial designs. So, to be able to accomplish this task, WIPO has a widespread network of registered trademarks, designs, and patents which enables member nations to access a comprehensive database for cross-checking inventions and creations to all nations.  This helps in establishing accountability and protection of intellectual property.

World Bank Group (WBG)

The World Bank Group consists of five international organisations which function towards eradicating poverty and assisting in economic development basically of developing countries. It achieves this by providing loans at a minimal interest and providing grants. The World Bank also provides loans to various government organizations for better health infrastructure, irrigation system, educational infrastructure, and water supply etc. It provides technical and monetary/financial advice to different projects of the member countries. The World Bank came into existence after the ratification internationally of the Bretton Wood agreement in 1945 and commenced its functioning in 1947 when it acquired the status of a specialized agency of the UN system.  The headquarters of the World Bank Organization in Washington D.C. Out of the 5 international organizations of the World Bank Group, only 3 (IBRD, IFC and IDA) are specialized agencies of the UN system. ICSID and MIGA are not Specialized Agencies of the UN system. Basically, the World bank group targets sustainable growth and promotes the socio-economic status of the society. Its 5 international organisations are as follows:

  1. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
  2. International Finance Corporation (IFC)
  3. International Development Association (IDA)
  4. International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)
  5. Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)

Former specialized agencies

These are those specialised agencies that no longer exist. Till date, there is only one such specialised agency which is the International Refugee Organization, which existed for the duration of 1946 to 1952.  It is now called ‘Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ and it is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly having its headquarter in Geneva, Switzerland.

Related organisations

Some intergovernmental organizations which have an agreement with the UNO and have a similar structure to the specialized agencies of the UN system are called related organisations. These related organisations do not deal with economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related fields as mandated by Articles 57 and 63 of the UN Charter with the specialized agencies. Some of them are explained in brief below:

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

IAEA deals with cooperation in the nuclear or Atomic energy field. IAEA was established in 1957 but then it was called ‘Atoms for Peace’. The Headquarter of IAEA is in Vienna, Austria. 171 countries are its member states and its main objective is to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the peaceful use of energy harnessed nuclear/atomic technology. India has been its member since 1957. The IAEA ensures exhaustive safeguards in non-nuclear-weapon states which is mandatory under NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). While it promotes and aids in research and development in the peaceful applications of nuclear technologies, it absolutely discourages its use for military purposes.

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Migration of people for better livelihood and opportunities is quite common in the global set up.  It also poses many problems between countries and to the migrants themselves. IOM is an inter-governmental organisation set up in 1951 for implementation of national and international projects pertaining to migration around the world. Its headquarter is in Geneva, Switzerland. Currently, it has 173 member states and 8 observer states. IOM’s mission is to support humanitarian and methodical migration of people by providing services and management and advice to governments and migrants.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) 

OPCW is also an intergovernmental organization of the UN, headquartered in the Hague, Netherlands. OPCW is the international body that was setup to put in effect the Chemical Weapons Convention which bans the usage of Chemical weapons of any kind and also necessitates their destruction. Its responsibilities include verification and evaluation of declarations by member’s states and on-site inspections.

World Trade Organization (WTO)

There was a proposal to have a specialised agency dealing with trade issues in the UN system but the proposal failed but in its place, was established the WTO which has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Its key goals are:

  • Resolution arising from trade disputes,
  • Setting a standard and enforcing rules for international trade,
  • To facilitate negotiations for further liberalization of trade,
  • Working towards a clean, transparent decision-making process as regards international trade,
  • To cooperate and work with other international bodies involved in global economic management, and
  • Most importantly assist and aid the developing nations get an advantage from the global trading system.

This basically ensures protection of the interests of small and poor countries against discriminatory trade practices of bigger powerful countries.


The UN specialized agencies are autonomous organizations which are associated with the United Nations through negotiated agreements. Provisions regarding their formation etc. are given in Articles 57 and 63 of UN Charter. They were all not created at the same time. Some existed as early as before World War I and some came into existing to meet the emerging needs after World War II.

United Nations Sustainable Development Framework (UNSDF) is a basis of collaboration, and strategies between the Government of India and the United Nations system and its specialised agencies in India to add to the realization of national priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UNSDF was framed based on widespread participation from all sectors such as with government entities, civil society representatives, academia, and the private sector. After this the focus areas that were decided under UNSDF are as follows: 

  • Education and employability
  • Urbanisation and poverty removal
  • Water, sanitation, and health
  •  Food Security and nutrition
  • Climate change, clean energy and combatting and managing disaster 
  • Entrepreneurship, improving skills and job creation
  • Youth development and gender equality

Some of the achievements of the UN specialised agencies in India are worth mentioning here.

FAO has been operating in India since 1948 and helped the nation in resolving issues such as food accessibility and sustainable agriculture. IFAD on the other hand, helped small Indian farmer’s capacity to avail market opportunities to enhance their income. Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) which is located in New Delhi is a UNESCO initiative in India dedicated to education for peace and sustainable development. Another important agency doing a lot of good work in India is WHO. The Indian Government with the assistance at every step from WHO has been successful in eradicating diseases such as cholera, Polio, and Small Pox etc. and has been successful in controlling Malaria and Tuberculosis. India is one of the founding members of the ILO and became one of the permanent members of its governing body way back in 1922. UNIDO in India helps in sustainable industrial development.

Thus, the UNO provides tactical and planned help to India so it can achieve its objectives to remove poverty and inequality and simultaneously promote sustainable development in alignment with the globally agreed SDGs.  India is the world’s largest democracy and the UN also supports the county’s ambitious projects for rapid change/growth and development priorities.


LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here