While the UN is often primarily thought of as an organization focused on international peace and security, global economic cooperation is a crucial component of its work, and has been since the very beginning. Article 55 of the UN Charter mandates the organization to promote “higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development” as well as “solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems.” This reflected the conviction of the UN’s founders that global economic interdependence and prosperity were essential to help prevent the outbreak of another devastating world war.
UN technical and specialized agencies are a critical part of the organization’s efforts to promote multilateral economic cooperation. By establishing international rules and guidelines for everything from intellectual property, to telecommunications, to air travel and postal delivery, UN specialized agencies provide a “soft infrastructure” of universal standards that help American businesses access foreign markets and compete globally. The work of several of these agencies is reflected below.