2024 Briefing Book


Each year, the Better World Campaign and the United Nations Association of the USA publish a comprehensive guide to America’s leadership on the world’s biggest stage, equipping supporters, policymakers and inquiring minds with insights to understand the value of U.S. engagement in the United Nations.

Here’s what we hope to achieve:


payment of outstanding arrears and full funding of our nation’s UN regular budget and peacekeeping assessments on time and without conditions


U.S. assistance to UN peacekeeping operations to strengthen each mission’s capabilities in logistics, training, doctrine, and management expertise


the value of UN funds, programs, and agencies in advancing U.S. interests


constructive engagement on structural and management reforms at the UN and the continued implementation of ongoing reforms


for full U.S. engagement with key UN bodies


action toward achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals


U.S. Senate ratification of key multilateral agreements

The United States and the United Nations: An Essential Partnership to Tackle Global Challenges

More than three-quarters of a century ago, in the wake of the deadliest and most destructive conflict the world has ever witnessed, the United States and its allies came together to establish a new intergovernmental body—the United Nations. Tasked with preventing and suppressing threats to international peace and security, encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and facilitating cooperation on a broad suite of international economic, social, and humanitarian issues, the UN became a core component of the international order that the U.S. helped build and maintain after World War II. And while the world has changed significantly since 1945, the UN’s role as a force multiplier for the U.S.—a key platform for multilateral diplomacy to mitigate conflict and marshal the resources and political will to address challenges that no country is capable of resolving alone—remains as vital as ever.

The work of the UN and its affiliated agencies, programs, and initiatives covers a wide set of issues and advances core American national interests.

Get to know the UN family:

  • Peacekeeping Operations

    Peacekeeping operations are deployed to conflict zones around the world and tasked with ensuring stability, protecting civilians from violence, facilitating humanitarian assistance, supporting democratic elections, and helping to lay the foundation for sustainable long-term peace. As one of five permanent, veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, the U.S. effectively has final say over the decision to deploy UN peacekeepers, and U.S. diplomats play a central role in crafting the mandates the peacekeepers are expected to carry out. UN peacekeeping operations have been repeatedly shown to be effective in reducing civilian deaths, preventing conflicts from spreading over borders, and averting the recurrence of large-scale violence once fighting has stopped. They are also extremely cost-effective, having been found by the U.S. Government Accountability Office to be one-eighth the cost of deploying U.S. forces.

  • Special Political Missions

    Special Political Missions are based in a number of locations, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen, designed to help mediate negotiations between warring parties, monitor and investigate human rights violations, train and provide technical assistance to election administrators and other key democratic institutions, and coordinate international humanitarian and development assistance.

  • Humanitarian Agencies

    The UN’s humanitarian functions provide lifesaving assistance every year to tens of millions of people around the world impacted by armed conflict, political instability, and natural disasters. Through the work of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), World Food Programme (WFP), and others, the UN system acts as a global 911 service, providing food, shelter, clean water, cash assistance, vaccines, educational support, reproductive health care, and other critical services to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

  • Human Rights

    The UN’s human rights agencies investigate and expose human rights violations around the world and provide a tool for pressuring repressive governments and holding abusers accountable.

  • UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

    UNESCO helps lead international efforts to promote literacy, scientific and technological innovation, press freedom, Holocaust education, and the protection of cultural heritage sites. UNESCO—which the U.S. rejoined in 2023—has also emerged as an important forum for multilateral efforts to create ethical guardrails around the development and use of artificial intelligence.

  • International Atomic Energy Agency

    The IAEA helps to verify Member State compliance with multilateral nuclear non-proliferation treaties and carries out a range of nuclear safety and research activities. Currently, the IAEA plays an essential role in monitoring Iran’s nuclear program and ensuring the safety and security of Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

  • World Health Organization

    The WHO is a UN specialized agency, which works to coordinate the international response to public health threats, including global pandemics.

None of the work of the UN would be possible without strong U.S. engagement and support—political, financial, and otherwise. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the UN’s largest financial contributor, and host of UN Headquarters, the U.S. has long played a more powerful role than most other Member States in driving the UN’s agenda.

Similarly, the U.S.—as a global economic and military superpower—also depends a great deal on the efforts of the UN and other international organizations to create a more stable, just, healthy, and peaceful world. While Congress and the Administration have recognized this and made significant progress recently in restoring U.S. leadership at the UN, there is still work to be done.

For example, the U.S. continues to accrue arrears on its financial assessments for UN peacekeeping operations, which currently total well over $1 billion. Failing to meet our financial obligations to the UN not only harms critical programs that advance American interests and values, but also sends a signal to our global competitors—particularly China, Russia, and other authoritarian governments—that the door is open for them to influence the organization in a way that more closely aligns with their own national interests. To prevent this, the U.S. must persist in concentrating on robust and constructive engagement with the UN and the rest of the international system that it worked so hard to create in the middle of the 20th century.

To underscore the importance of U.S. engagement with the UN, this guide provides information on various aspects of the UN’s work and how it advances U.S. interests. It is our hope that this Briefing Book can be a helpful resource for both policymakers and members of the public as the U.S.-UN relationship continues to evolve in the coming years.

The U.S.-UN Relationship

Advancing U.S. Economic Interests

While the UN is primarily thought of as an organization focused on international peace and security, global economic cooperation is a crucial component of its work. 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 UN founders who believed 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.

  • International Civil Aviation Organization

    ICAO enables safe air travel everywhere by setting global standards for navigation, communication, and airline safety. These standards map out airspace jurisdiction and establish “free range” airspace over oceans and seas. The agency also sets international standards for limiting environmental degradation and works to strengthen aviation security by conducting regular audits of aviation security oversight in ICAO Member States.

  • International Maritime Organization

    IMO sets international safety standards for ships, ports, and maritime facilities, develops ship design and operating requirements, and leads global efforts to prevent maritime pollution. Standards promulgated by IMO are central to the health of the U.S. economy, as more than 90% of all international trade is carried out on ships. IMO also works with Member States to address piracy, terrorism, and other security threats to the international shipping industry.

  • World Intellectual Property Organization

    According to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, intellectual property-intensive industries directly and indirectly support more than 45.5 million jobs in the U.S., constituting 30% of all employment. WIPO encourages innovation and economic growth through the registration and protection of patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property, as well as through adjudication of cross-border disputes on intellectual property.

  • International Telecommunication Union

    ITU facilitates the connectivity and interoperability of the world’s telecommunications networks, which is of critical importance to the U.S. telecommunications industry and American defense and intelligence communications capabilities. By allocating radio spectrum and satellite orbits, as well as developing technical standards to ensure that networks interconnect seamlessly, ITU helps make communicating possible even in some of the world’s most remote locations. ITU is also working to provide a neutral platform for governments, the private sector, and academia to build a common understanding of the capabilities of emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and needs around technical standardization and policy guidance.

  • Universal Postal Union

    UPU facilitates postal service across the globe, helping Americans conduct business everywhere, from Beijing to London to São Paulo. By setting standards for the worldwide postal system and promoting affordable basic postal services globally, UPU enables U.S. businesses to utilize the postal system to conduct business at low costs. UPU also plays an important role in mail security and is taking steps to combat the trafficking of illicit drugs, particularly opioids, through the mail.

Contracting with U.S. Businesses

The UN Secretariat has nearly 35,000 staff and a large global presence. To carry out its global operations, the UN purchases goods and services like telecommunications equipment, financial services, construction, food production, medical care, office equipment, and armored vehicles from private vendors.

According to the UN Global Marketplace, the organization purchased nearly $2.4 billion in goods and services from U.S. companies, the most of any country. This is more than what the U.S. paid in UN regular budget and peacekeeping dues in FY 2022. 88% of contracts awarded to U.S. companies were $1 million or more. The top three sectors for U.S. company contracts were the pharmaceutical sector, followed by management/administrative services and engineering/research. The U.S. also became the largest supplier of travel, food, and lodging services.

Economic Benefits for New York

In addition to contracting with American companies, the UN generates billions of dollars in revenue each year for New York City, which hosts UN Headquarters. A 2016 report by the New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs found that the UN boosts the local economy by $3.69 billion each year, the equivalent of hosting more than seven Super Bowls annually.

American Attitudes Towards the UN

For nearly two decades, the Better World Campaign has measured public sentiment towards the United Nations. In a 2023 poll of nearly 2,000 registered voters, 73% of respondents from across the political spectrum support America’s engagement with the UN.

Conducted by Morning Consult in August 2023, the survey found that roughly two-thirds of Republicans and 86% of Democrats believe that it is important for the U.S. to “maintain an active role” in the UN.

More than half of all voters support fully paying our dues to the UN’s regular budget, and an even greater percentage (nearly 60%) are in favor of fully paying dues to the UN’s peacekeeping budget.

Consistent with polling conducted by BWC in 2022, overwhelming majorities of Americans in both parties hold strong views on the importance of countering the influence of China (74%) and Russia (73%) when it comes to global affairs.

These numbers reflect similar nationwide data – including a 2023 survey by Pew Research – noting strong UN favorability among Americans.

Editor’s note: While the questions in this year’s poll remain consistent with prior years, the methodology used to compile results vary. Nevertheless, data continues to reflect steady support of the UN and UN Peacekeeping Operations. The poll conducted by Morning Consult has a margin of error of +/- 2

U.S. Reengagement with UNESCO

The last several years have witnessed a number of significant milestones in the U.S.-UN relationship. One of the most important of these occurred in July 2023, when the U.S. rejoined the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization after a five-year absence. The culmination of a years-long campaign to reassert U.S. leadership at the Paris-based UN specialized agency, the U.S. reentry could not have occurred at a more critical time, as UNESCO has increasingly become an arena for U.S. competition with China and a forum where weighty issues—such as international standards for artificial intelligence—are discussed.

UNESCO’s core work has long been critical to U.S. national interests. UNESCO’s mandate covers a vast range of programs and initiatives related to promoting education, intercultural dialogue, human rights, scientific research and innovation, the arts, and communication, many of which reflect longstanding American strategic objectives and core values.

Explore UNESCO’s impact:

  • UNESCO is the leading international organization on global education.

    UNESCO’s Education For All program seeks to ensure that all children—particularly girls, minorities, and those in difficult circumstances—have access to quality primary education.

    UNESCO’s mandate to promote inclusive and equitable quality education worldwide is also playing a role in efforts to combat violent extremism. With U.S. support, UNESCO organized its first-ever High-Level Conference on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) through Education, and developed an accompanying teacher’s guide on CVE.

  • UNESCO played a key role in responding to the education disruptions of COVID-19.

    In response to widespread school closures in the beginning of the pandemic, UNESCO established a taskforce to disseminate technical assistance and information on best practices to governments working to provide education to students that are out of school. In addition, UNESCO launched the Global COVID-19 Education Coalition with members of the private sector, including Microsoft, to help countries deploy remote learning systems to their students. UNESCO also disseminated guidance to countries on effective practices for keeping schools open, as well as ways to help students that fell behind during the pandemic, including how to identify at-risk students and concrete steps to promote learning recovery.

  • UNESCO recognizes that Holocaust education is fundamental to promoting human rights.

    UNESCO encourages all member states to incorporate Holocaust education into their national curricula.

    Since 2007, UNESCO has been working to develop educational materials and run training seminars for teachers to help impart the lessons of the Holocaust to schoolchildren around the world. In 2022, as part of annual commemorations tied to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, UNESCO organized a number of events, including a commemoration ceremony and panel discussion on Jewish artists who were killed in the Holocaust. UNESCO has also launched Protect the Facts, a campaign to raise public awareness in order to combat Holocaust denial.

  • UNESCO sets standards on information and communications.

    The agency is dedicated to improving freedom of information, promoting standards for the safety of local journalists and foreign correspondents, and working with governments to ensure legal freedom of the press.

    In the Middle East, for example, journalists in a UNESCO program have been trained in investigative journalism skills, ethics, professionalism, conflict sensitivity, and the interactions of media and democracy. These types of programs are particularly important in light of growing authoritarianism and threats against journalists worldwide.

  • UNESCO’s World Heritage program benefits the U.S.

    UNESCO’s World Heritage Programme was created in 1972 with the leadership of the U.S. to protect and preserve tangible and intangible cultural and natural heritage around the world.

    Of the thousands of items on the list, 25 are in the U.S., with dozens of additional sites in the country jockeying for World Heritage designation due to the economic benefits that can accrue from such recognition. Past studies have shown in some places an overall economic impact of $100 million, with 1,000 new jobs, and bringing in an additional $2 million in hotel tax revenue.

  • UNESCO protects cultural heritage sites.

    This is especially critical given the fact that extremists have sought to destroy treasured archeological sites and sell items of cultural value on the black market.

    The organization supported efforts by the Malian government to reconstruct and restore 14 13th-century mausoleums destroyed by extremist Islamist groups who occupied Timbuktu in 2012.

    Outside of the Sahel region, UNESCO has been front and center in rebuilding heritage sites in Mosul, many of which were destroyed in fighting between ISIS and Iraqi and Western coalition forces. “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” has mobilized funding to rebuild the city’s iconic Al-Nouri Mosque, along with homes and schools in the Old City of Mosul.

    More recently, UNESCO is active in Ukraine, where more than 337 cultural sites have been damaged by Russia’s invasion. The agency delivered equipment to Ukraine to help protect monuments and works of art threatened by the invasion, and is supporting preservation and digitization of the country’s artistic and documentary heritage, in addition to working with the Ukrainian government to develop a broader recovery plan for the country’s cultural sector.

  • UNESCO is helping lead global conversations around ethical guidance for AI technology.

    The advent of AI is changing the world and holds enormous promise and peril for numerous sectors of our society. To ensure that the gains from this technology do not reproduce societal inequalities, threaten fundamental human rights and freedoms, or fuel division and violence, UNESCO has promulgated a comprehensive framework on how the world can shape the ethical development and use of AI technologies. Adopted by UNESCO member states in 2021, these recommendations were the product of two years of consultations with experts, developers, and other stakeholders around the world.

    Moving forward, UNESCO will continue to be a key international forum for evaluating the impact of AI on society, a growing concern for U.S. policymakers.

Despite the importance of these activities, however, U.S. engagement with and financial support for the agency has not always been forthcoming. In 2011, UNESCO’s General Conference voted to admit Palestine as a member state, immediately triggering U.S. laws enacted in the 1990s that prohibit funding for any UN agency “which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” This triggered a financial crisis at UNESCO, as the organization lost 22% of its assessed budget overnight. In 2018, after years of remaining a member of the organization while simultaneously racking up more than $600 million in arrears due to non-payment of our financial assessments, the Trump Administration formally withdrew from UNESCO, severing U.S. participation.

One unintended consequence of the U.S. decisions to defund and withdraw from UNESCO was the elevation of China’s role within the organization. Following the U.S. departure, China replaced it as the organization’s largest funder, contributing more than 15% of its assessed budget. This gave Beijing leverage to use UNESCO as a platform to advance its own interests, including efforts to push UNESCO to support vocational and job training programs in countries partnering with China on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Given the BRI’s potential implications for U.S. national security and economic interests—particularly in the Asia-Pacific region—this was a concerning development. Unfortunately, due to its absence from UNESCO, the U.S. was limited in its ability to push back against these efforts.

Recognizing the harm disengagement from UNESCO was doing to U.S. interests, Congress decided to provide the Administration with flexibility to restart financial contributions to the organization. The FY 2023 omnibus appropriations bill carried language allowing the President to waive the 1990s-era funding prohibition if he certified that doing so “would enable the United States to counter Chinese influence or to promote other national interests of the United States.” The enactment of this waiver authority ultimately paved the way for the U.S.’s reentry last year. In order to maintain our seat at the table, however, it is critical that Congress appropriate sufficient funds to pay our annual dues to the organization and begin paying down our substantial arrears. It is also vital that Congress extend the Administration’s waiver authority beyond its current sunset date of September 30, 2025.


UN Budget

Since the UN’s inception in 1945, the U.S. has been its largest financial contributor. As a permanent member of the Security Council and host of UN Headquarters in New York City, the U.S. enjoys a significant amount of clout at the UN, and its leadership in providing financial support to the organization further cements that influence. Funding from Member States for the UN system comes from two broad sources: assessed and voluntary contributions.

  • Assessed contributions are payments that all UN Member States are required to make under the UN Charter. These assessments provide a reliable source of funding to core functions of the UN Secretariat via the UN regular and peacekeeping budgets. In addition, UN specialized agencies have their own assessed budgets.
  • Voluntary contributions are left to the discretion of individual Member States. These contributions are vital to the work of the UN’s humanitarian and development agencies—including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and World Food Programme (WFP)—that do not have assessed budgets.

Assessments for the UN Regular Budget and Specialized Agencies

The UN regular budget funds the UN’s core bodies and activities outside of peacekeeping. These include:

  • Special political missions operating in Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and other countries that are either undergoing or emerging from conflict, where they work to advance peace negotiations and mediation processes, investigate human rights abuses, support the development of effective governing institutions, and facilitate free and fair elections;
  • Efforts to ensure international implementation and compliance with sanctions adopted by the Security Council against terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda and rogue states like North Korea; and
  • Much of the organization’s core international human rights monitoring and advocacy work, as more than 40% of funding for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights comes from the regular budget.

The UN’s regular and peacekeeping budgets are approved by the UN General Assembly. For 2024, the regular budget totals $3.59 billion, approximately one-fifth of which is for special political missions. This covers nearly 35,000 employees in duty stations around the world at a level equivalent to just one-quarter of the budget of the state of Rhode Island.

Member State assessment rates are also determined by the General Assembly, with renegotiations taking place every three years. The current assessment structure sets maximum (22%) and minimum (.001%) rates, with a country’s rate based on its ability to pay. That is determined by a formula which factors in a Member State’s gross national income, per capita income, and several other economic indicators.

Given its high level of economic development and per capita income relative to other countries, the U.S. pays the maximum rate. Over time, the U.S. has negotiated several reductions in its share, most notably an agreement in 2000 to establish the current maximum and minimum assessment structure, essentially capping U.S. contributions at 22% of the UN’s regular budget. Prior to this agreement, the U.S. was assessed 25%. Without this ceiling, the U.S. would likely today be assessed more than one-quarter of the regular budget and as much as one-third of the peacekeeping budget.

Assessments for UN Peacekeeping Operations

The UN peacekeeping budget funds a massive global military deployment: nine missions with more than 87,000 personnel spread across three continents. Nevertheless, at just over $6 billion annually, the UN peacekeeping budget comprises approximately 0.2% of annual global military spending.

Member State assessments for peacekeeping are largely based on the same criteria as for the regular budget, with one additional factor: the five permanent members of the Security Council—China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.—pay a premium, and are therefore assessed at a slightly higher rate for peacekeeping than for the regular budget. Since the P5 countries hold veto power over Security Council decisions, no UN peacekeeping mission can be deployed without their support. The P5’s higher financial responsibility is therefore meant to reflect this unique role in authorizing peacekeeping missions and crafting their mandates.

Similar to the regular budget, peacekeeping rates are revised every three years by the General Assembly, and new assessment rates for 2022-2024 were approved unanimously by Member States in December 2021. Over the past two decades, the U.S. rate has declined from a high of 31.7% of the peacekeeping budget in 1994. In 2021, the U.S. was assessed 27.89%. After the most recent rate discussions, the U.S. rate declined even further, to 26.94%, the first time it has been below 27% since 2009. At the same time, other countries’ assessment rates have increased. For example, China’s has risen dramatically, from just 3.14% of the peacekeeping budget in 2009 to 18.68% today, a testament to the country’s expanding economy and growing role on the world stage.

Why Are Assessed Budgets Necessary?

Each year, the vast majority of the funding contributed by the U.S. to the UN is voluntary. For example, in 2022, Congress appropriated more than $3.1 billion to pay U.S. assessments for UN peacekeeping missions, the regular budget, and other international organizations. During that same year, however, the U.S. made more than $14.9 billion in voluntary contributions to the UN, more than 75% of which was for WFP, UNHCR, and UNICEF alone.

Nevertheless, there have been periodic calls for the UN to do away with assessed budgets entirely and rely solely on voluntary contributions. Such proposals are impractical: instead of saving American taxpayers money, an entirely voluntary funding system could lead to significant budgetary shortfalls for critical UN programs and activities that advance U.S. national interests, necessitating additional contributions above what the U.S. pays now.

  • Assessed funding structures require other countries to share the financial burden.

    A major advantage of assessed funding is that it ensures the financial burden for core UN activities is spread across the entire international community, rather than being the primary responsibility of a single country. While the U.S. is the largest single contributor to the UN’s regular and peacekeeping budgets, the UN’s other Member States still collectively shoulder the vast majority of costs. The fact that all Member States, even the least developed, are required to contribute to the organization at specified levels prevents the U.S. from being saddled with the burden of financing these activities alone.

  • U.S. leaders and experts agree that voluntary funding is problematic.

    Successive Administrations and outside experts have recognized the limitations inherent in voluntary funding structures. A 2005 Congressionally mandated bipartisan report on UN reform led by Newt Gingrich and George Mitchell noted that such schemes are often slow and lead to U.S. priorities being underfunded. Later that year, the House passed the United Nations Reform Act of 2005, which proposed that the U.S. withhold dues from the UN unless certain specific reforms were met, including switching to a system of voluntary financing. The Bush Administration said it had “serious concerns” about the legislation because it “could detract from and undermine our efforts” and requested “that Congress reconsider this legislation.”

  • Voluntary financing could lead to shortfalls for U.S. priorities.

    The UN’s assessed budgets fund many of the organization’s most consequential and politically sensitive activities. The reality is that any large organization needs stability and predictability in its budget. In particular, planning for peacekeeping missions and other massive logistical operations requires significant lead time and preparation that can happen only with assured funding streams.

    Adoption of voluntary financing arrangements for the UN’s regular, peacekeeping, and specialized agencies budgets would almost certainly lead to underfunding from other countries. For example, the UN’s voluntarily financed humanitarian and global health activities, far less controversial than the organization’s peacekeeping and human rights work, are perennially short of need. In 2022, UN humanitarian agencies and partner organizations ultimately needed a total of $51.7 billion to provide aid to tens of millions of people in humanitarian emergencies around the world, including in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen. By the end of the year, however, they had received only $25.8 billion, or just under half of the total they needed. By requiring all Member States to contribute, assessed funding structures can help avoid these types of shortfalls.

U.S. Assessed Financial Contributions to the UN

In recent years, U.S. assessments for the UN regular budget, peacekeeping operations, and specialized agencies have amounted to approximately $3 billion annually, equivalent to around 0.06% of the total federal budget. Annual funding to pay UN assessments is provided by Congress through three accounts in the State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations bill: Contributions to International Organizations (CIO), Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA), and Peacekeeping Operations (PKO). Each year, the Better World Campaign formulates recommendations based on anticipated funding needs for these accounts. A summary of recent funding for these accounts and our Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 recommendations is provided below.


Account FY22 Omnibus FY23 Omnibus FY24 POTUS Request FY24 House SFOPS FY24 Senate SFOPS FY24 Omnibus FY25 POTUS Request FY25 BWC Recs.
CIO $1,662,928 $1,438,000 $1,703,881 $245,795 $1,622,825 TBD TBD $1,725,881
CIPA $1,498,614 $1,481,915 $1,940,702 $601,590 $1,481,915 TBD TBD $2,745,185
PKO $455,000 $460,759 $420,458 $420,458 $415,458 TBD TBD $567,814

Dollar amounts in this table are listed in thousands.

  • Contributions to International Organizations (CIO): $1.725 billion

    The CIO account funds U.S. assessments for the UN regular budget (UNRB) and more than 40 other international organizations, including UN specialized agencies and non-UN organizations such as NATO and the Organization of American States. Funding through CIO helps support the work of the UN and its family of agencies on an array of U.S. policy priorities, including:

    The work of the World Health Organization (WHO) to coordinate the international response to global health threats;

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been working to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants in Ukraine during the current conflict;

    The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which focuses on long-term efforts to fight hunger and support sustainable agriculture, food safety, and animal health;

    Special political missions operating in Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and other countries that are either undergoing or emerging from conflict, where they work to advance peace negotiations and mediation processes, investigate human rights abuses, support the development of effective governing institutions, and facilitate free and fair elections;

    Much of the UN’s core international human rights monitoring and advocacy work.

    In addition to funding the UNRB and all other international organizations funded by this account, our recommendation for CIO includes $150 million for the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which the U.S. defunded in 2011 and withdrew from entirely in 2018, but formally rejoined in July 2023. Our funding recommendation would allow for a down payment to be made to begin addressing U.S. arrears to UNESCO, which total approximately $612 million. UNESCO does essential work in a number of areas, including promoting international Holocaust education and press freedom, disseminating guidance to governments to minimize educational disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, and helping to protect and restore cultural heritage sites that have been threatened or destroyed by extremists in Iraq and the Sahel. The U.S. absence from UNESCO has starved these activities of needed resources and given strategic adversaries, especially China, greater room to advance their own interests, often at cross purposes with the founding principles of the organization, which are grounded in international human rights norms. It is therefore critical that the U.S. moves to return to the organization and restart dues payments.

    Our CIO figure also includes slightly increased funding for WHO, in recognition of the $130.3 million in assessed contributions agreed to at the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA) in May of 2023. The WHO plays a pivotal role in extending the reach of U.S. global health investments as a lead technical partner and implementer of key U.S. programs, including global health security, health system strengthening, global immunizations, and parasitic diseases and malaria. At WHA, Member States agreed to a gradual increase in WHO assessed contributions to increase predictability in financing to address pressing global health challenges and ensure maximum impact of U.S. government health investments.

    In addition to providing adequate funding for CIO, Congress and the Biden Administration must work together to address the timing of payments to the UN. Since the 1980s, the U.S. has paid its UNRB dues in the fall every year, despite the fact that the UN’s fiscal year begins on January 1st and bills are sent to Member States in the first quarter. This practice has exacerbated regular liquidity challenges at the UN, repeatedly threatening the organization’s ability to pay staff and vendors and forcing the Secretary-General to periodically institute hiring restrictions, spend down cash reserves, and take other undesirable austerity measures. No organization, particularly one as consequential as the UN, can adequately fulfill its obligations when operating under such persistent budgetary uncertainty. As a result, our figure also includes a $40 million down payment for resynchronization of our UNRB assessments. We appreciate the Administration’s inclusion of this funding in its FY24 budget request, which, while a modest amount, represents an important acknowledgement of the need to more closely align our UNRB payments to the UN’s budget timeline.

  • Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA): $2.745 billion

    CIPA funds U.S. assessments for 9 UN peacekeeping missions, including critical operations in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Golan Heights, Lebanon, and South Sudan. All of these missions were approved by the UN Security Council—of which the U.S. is a permanent member with veto power—and play an essential role in promoting stability, protecting civilians, and mitigating conflict in strategically significant regions of the world. UN peacekeeping operations are extremely cost-effective and do not require the U.S. to put boots on the ground.

    Assessment rates for peacekeeping are determined by each country’s ability to pay, with permanent members of the Security Council paying slightly more than they do for the regular budget in recognition of their unique responsibility for greenlighting peacekeeping missions. Under the current formula, the U.S. is assessed at a rate of 26.94%. Unfortunately, since the mid-1990s, U.S. law has capped U.S. contributions at 25%. While Congress frequently waived this requirement on an ad hoc basis in the past, between FY17 and FY23 it did not do so, causing the U.S. to accrue more than $1.28 billion in cap-related arrears under CIPA.

    In part because of these underpayments, the UN is unable to sufficiently reimburse countries who participate in peacekeeping for their contributions of personnel and equipment. This creates significant challenges for troop contributors, most of which are lower-income countries that rely on reimbursements to help sustain complex peacekeeping deployments. U.S. underpayments also threaten to:

    Erode U.S. influence at the UN in favor of its global competitors. China, which like the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council, has significantly increased its participation in UN peacekeeping in recent years. Currently, it is the 10th-largest troop contributor (providing more than France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. combined), and the second-largest financial contributor. China is seeking to use this expanded profile to more aggressively articulate its agenda at the UN, including by challenging the aspects of UN peacekeeping mandates related to human rights and civilian protection.

    Undermine U.S. ability to push for critical reforms at the UN. During the Obama Administration, the U.S. and UN worked together to adopt several critical reforms and efficiencies, cutting the cost per peacekeeper by 18% and reducing the number of support staff on missions to lower administrative costs. The UN also undertook important efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel, including an unprecedented policy calling for the repatriation of entire units whose members engaged in widespread instances of abuse. This was all done at a time when the U.S. was not enforcing the 25% cap. The U.S. failure to pay its assessments in full alienates like-minded countries whose support is needed to make progress on reform priorities and makes it less likely that future U.S. entreaties around cost, efficiency, and accountability will be taken seriously.

    BWC’s FY25 recommendation for CIPA includes sufficient funds to pay the estimated U.S. FY25 peacekeeping dues at the full assessed rate (approximately $1.465 billion), plus an additional $1.28 billion to fully pay back arrears. To make these payments, language will need to be inserted into the FY25 legislation waiving the cap.

  • Peacekeeping Operations: $567.8 million

    The PKO account supports several non-UN regional peacekeeping operations and bilateral security initiatives, including an international observer force in the Sinai Peninsula that monitors security provisions of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty. PKO also finances U.S. assessments for the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), which provides critical equipment and logistical support to African Union forces in Somalia. By working to help local forces defeat Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to Al-Qaeda that has carried out numerous attacks in Somalia and the wider region, both entities play an essential role in advancing U.S. counterterrorism objectives in East Africa. BWC’s FY25 recommendation would allow the U.S. to fulfill its current financial obligations to UNSOS, as well as pay back an estimated $108 million in arrears accrued from FY17 to FY23 due to application of the peacekeeping cap.

UN Peacekeeping

For more than seven decades, UN peacekeeping has been one of the most important tools the UN has at its disposal for conflict mitigation and stabilization. Helping countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace, peacekeeping has unique strengths, including high levels of international legitimacy and an ability to deploy and sustain troops and police from around the globe, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to advance multidimensional mandates. Today’s peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to stabilize conflict zones and separate warring parties but also to protect civilians from violence; assist in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants; support the organization of elections; protect and promote human rights; and help restore the rule of law.

UN peacekeeping operations are authorized by the UN Security Council, and the U.S. has long used its position as a permanent member of that body to advocate for broadening the size and scope of peacekeeping mandates to more effectively meet the world’s evolving security and civilian protection challenges. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have recognized the value of UN peacekeeping, because:

  • Peacekeepers save lives and reduce conflict. As a November 2021 article in Foreign Affairs, “The Astonishing Success of Peacekeeping,” explains: “Decades of academic research has demonstrated that peacekeeping not only works at stopping conflicts but works better than anything else experts know. Peacekeeping is effective at resolving civil wars, reducing violence during wars, preventing wars from recurring, and rebuilding state institutions. It succeeds at protecting civilian lives and reducing sexual and gender-based violence. And it does all this at a very low cost.” The article also notes that “to convince other countries to contribute financially, the United States needs to set a better example by paying its own assessed dues.
  • Peacekeeping missions are cost-effective. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found in separate reports issued in 2006 and 2018 that UN operations are one-eighth the cost to American taxpayers of deploying comparable U.S. missions. Overall, at a total yearly cost of just over $6 billion, UN peacekeeping operations as a whole are less than half the annual budget of Rhode Island.
  • Peacekeeping promotes multilateral burden-sharing. The UN has no standing army and therefore depends on UN Member States to voluntarily contribute troops and police to its peacekeeping operations. While the U.S., as a permanent member of the Security Council, plays a central role in the decision to deploy peacekeeping missions, it provides just several dozen out of 65,000 total uniformed personnel. A range of countries—including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania—provides the rest.

Key UN Peacekeeping Missions Currently in the Field

There are currently more than 78,000 peacekeepers (soldiers, police, and civilians) serving on 11 missions across Africa, the Middle East, southeastern Europe, and South Asia.

Explore current UN peacekeeping sites: 

  • South Sudan

    The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (known by its acronym, UNMISS) was first deployed in 2011 when South Sudan gained independence, tasked with helping to stabilize the world’s newest country and support state-building efforts. Two years later, when civil war erupted between military factions supporting the President and Vice President, UNMISS was forced to quickly pivot to civilian protection. In a critical move, UNMISS opened the gates of its bases across the country to civilians fleeing the violence, saving the lives of more than 200,000 people who otherwise could have been targeted or killed for their ethnicity or perceived political affiliations.

    In 2018, the main parties to the conflict concluded a peace agreement. Since then, violence has diminished and threats facing civilians have decreased significantly in some areas of the country. Nevertheless, implementation of the agreement has been halting and serious political challenges remain. For example, the 2018 peace agreement included a transitional period meant to allow the South Sudanese government to complete a number of critical tasks, including drafting a permanent constitution and holding elections. Unfortunately, the work towards achieving many of these benchmarks is behind schedule, and in 2022 the transition period was extended for an additional two years, with national elections slated for December 2024. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has announced that the government plans to stick to this schedule. However, serious concerns have been raised that South Sudan is still not ready. In a briefing before the UN Security Council in December 2023, Nicholas Haysom, the head of UNMISS, warned that key prerequisites for holding free and fair elections have not been put in place by the South Sudanese authorities, including a permanent constitutional framework, election security plans, unified security forces, and a mechanism for resolving election disputes, among other things. Given this uncertain and fluid situation, the presence of UN peacekeepers remains critical to mitigating any violence that might break out before, during, or after the elections.

  • Lebanon

    The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—a UN peacekeeping mission that was first deployed to the region in 1978—has long worked to reduce tensions along the Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon. UNIFIL’s Tripartite Forum, which features monthly meetings between the UNIFIL Force Commander and senior officials of the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, is the only formal mechanism where Israeli and Lebanese representatives meet at any level. This is an important tool for facilitating communication and information-sharing and formulating peaceful solutions to disagreements, reducing the risk of flare-ups and providing an off-ramp when tensions escalate. UNIFIL also monitors the border through regular patrols to detect ceasefire violations, deploys troops to locations when incidents occur to ensure that the situation is contained, and undertakes demining activities in areas near the Blue Line, which is heavily contaminated by unexploded ordnance that pose a threat to civilians. Such activities are vital to ensuring stability in a volatile and strategically important region. UNIFIL’s efforts to stabilize the Israel-Lebanon border region have been particularly crucial since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel, given the mounting tensions in the region and fears that a second front could open up between Hezbollah and Israel.

  • Cyprus

    The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was created to help stem fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, most notably maintaining a buffer zone separating Turkish forces in the north and Greek Cypriot forces in the south. While the conflict remains frozen, UNFICYP’s presence has been critical to preventing a resumption of fighting between the forces, which almost certainly would draw in other global powers on each side. In addition to helping maintain the ceasefire, the UN has worked to support ongoing peace talks between the two sides.

UN Political Missions

In addition to peacekeeping operations, the UN operates special political missions (SPMs) engaged in conflict prevention, mediation, and post-conflict peacebuilding around the world. Authorized by the Security Council, SPMs are tasked with an array of responsibilities, including supporting political dialogue and reconciliation processes, facilitating free and fair elections, monitoring human rights violations, coordinating international development and humanitarian assistance, and encouraging the development of effective rule of law institutions. Funded by Member State dues, SPMs account for more than one-fifth of the UN regular budget. The work of several SPMs currently in the field is highlighted below.

  • Afghanistan

    First deployed in 2001 after the U.S. invasion, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has supported numerous activities critical to the country’s stability and development over the years. In the wake of the Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021, the UN’s work in Afghanistan has become significantly more complicated. However, the UN remains focused on coordinating the delivery of critical humanitarian and development assistance to Afghan civilians, who continue to experience historic levels of economic dislocation and food insecurity.

    Remote village school in Afghanistan

    After the fall of the internationally recognized government, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) worked to prevent the collapse of the country’s health system by directly paying the salaries of 25,000 doctors, nurses, and other health care workers across 2,200 health facilities. UNDP also established a program, supported by the Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan, to finance a variety of local activities, including grants to support small businesses, especially those run by women; cash-for-work projects offering short-term income to the unemployed to restore local infrastructure; and basic income support to people with disabilities, elderly people, and other vulnerable individuals. This program, known as ABADEI, seeks to help 2 million people over the next two years, and like the efforts to pay health care workers, provides assistance directly to beneficiaries, thereby skirting the Taliban authorities. Beyond these efforts, the UN has worked to respond to the broader humanitarian crisis in the country, providing food and nutrition assistance, clean drinking water, shelter, vaccines, and other lifesaving forms of humanitarian assistance to millions of Afghans over the past year.

    UNAMA also continues to track human rights violations in the country and has persistently called on the Taliban to ensure equal rights for women and girls, including access to education, work, and freedom of movement. Building off of this work, the UN Human Rights Council voted in late 2021 over Chinese and Russian objections to establish a special rapporteur to investigate abuses committed by the Taliban. The Council renewed this position in October 2023. Since beginning work, the special rapporteur has worked to document abuses by the Taliban, including the targeting of government critics, former officials, human rights activists, and others through detentions, physical abuse, intimidation, and killings. The special rapporteur’s work has also focused on the Taliban’s systematic efforts to exclude women and girls from all aspects of Afghan society, including employment and education.

  • Somalia

    For more than two decades, Somalia has been in a protracted state of political and humanitarian crisis, a situation further complicated by the presence of Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to Al-Qaeda. In order to help stabilize the country, the U.S. supports the work of UNSOM, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia. UNSOM provides policy advice and technical assistance to Somalia’s internationally recognized federal government on a range of critical state-building issues, including aiding efforts to create a new constitution; building the government’s capacity to carry out security sector reform and strengthen the criminal justice system; helping Somali authorities institute a nationwide disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program for ex-combatants; and promoting negotiations among Somalia’s disparate political and regional groups. The UN has also worked alongside the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs to strengthen the ability of the Somali Police Force to carry out criminal investigations and counter Al-Shabaab.

    UNSOM coordinates its efforts closely with a force led by the African Union (AU) that has fought alongside Somali security forces to secure territorial gains against Al-Shabaab in recent years. The UN Support Office for Somalia, which works with UNSOM, provides crucial equipment and logistical support to AU forces as they seek to weaken Al-Shabaab and help extend the Somali government’s authority throughout areas controlled by the group. The AU mission, which is in the process of transitioning all security responsibilities to Somali forces, is authorized by the UN Security Council to operate through the end of the year.

  • Colombia

    In 2016, the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas signed a historic peace agreement, ending a devastating 57-year civil war that had cost more than 220,000 lives. To support the agreement, the UN Security Council authorized a special political mission, initially to verify the end of hostilities and the FARC’s disarmament and subsequently to verify other aspects of the peace deal, including the demobilization and reintegration of 13,000 former FARC combatants into society. The mission is also charged with supporting the work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a transitional justice mechanism set up to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes during the conflict. Implementation of the peace agreement has been slow and marked by setbacks as violence against former FARC combatants, human rights defenders, and Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities continues to be a significant concern, as does violence perpetrated by other armed groups in the country. But the disarmament and demobilization of the FARC has helped bring a level of stability to Colombia not seen in decades. It also has provided a jumping-off point for addressing the deeper root causes of insecurity in the country. As a monitor of the peace agreement, the UN will continue to have an important role in pressuring all parties to live up to their commitments in the year ahead.

Key Issues

Humanitarian Assistance

For the world’s most vulnerable people, the UN functions as a global 911 service—a first responder that helps deliver food, shelter, clean water, medical assistance, and education to those caught in the middle of deadly conflicts or suffering in the aftermath of natural disasters. Given its high degree of international legitimacy, capacity, and reach, the UN is uniquely positioned to coordinate and lead these types of relief efforts.

Last year, 20% of the world’s children lived in, or had fled from, a conflict zone, over 250 million people faced acute hunger, and one in 73 people worldwide were displaced—a figure that has doubled in just 10 years. Thanks to the generosity of key donors like the United States, however, the UN and its humanitarian partners were able to reach 128 million people with life-saving assistance in 2023. A growing funding gap, however, meant that UN-coordinated support had to be scaled down significantly from ambitions established at the beginning of 2023, preventing the organization from reaching millions of people in need. Facing a long list of protracted armed conflicts, new and emerging climate emergencies, the lingering economic impacts of COVID-19, and competing demands for donors’ limited resources, this unfortunate reality will make 2024 another challenging year for the world’s most vulnerable communities and the humanitarian organizations working to serve them.

To meet these needs and in recognition of the operating realities at hand, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs called for $46.4 billion in its 2024 Global Appeal. The 2024 request is a departure from previous years, openly addressing the routine “needs-and-resources gaps” that have restricted the reach of UN humanitarian operations over the past several years as challenges have ballooned. Instead of capturing a wide view of every crisis, the 2024 appeal adopts a more disciplined focus on the most urgent needs, tightening budgets and maximizing the UN’s ability to deliver where it matters most. As a result, the UN’s 2024 appeal targets fewer people, and its price tag has been significantly reduced: $46.4 billion to reach 180 million people in 2024 compared to $56.7 billion to reach 245 million people in 2023. Despite this more methodical approach, the UN’s ambition to reach everyone that needs assistance is unwavering, and the call for donors to dig deep and fully fund all the response plans is as urgent as ever.

  • Sudan

    Since April 2023, Sudan has been engulfed in a war between rival military factions—the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces—that has pushed the country to the brink of collapse. So far, an estimated 10,000 people have been killed and basic essentials like food, water, and fuel have become extremely scarce. Khartoum, the country’s capital, has been utterly devastated and the RSF stands accused of committing ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

    These conditions have forced 6.1 million people to flee their homes, and combined with 3.8 million internally-displaced persons (IDPs) from past conflicts, have made Sudan the largest internal displacement crisis in the world. In addition to the nearly 10 million IDPs, more than 1 million refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrant and refugee returnees have left Sudan, opting to seek out safety in Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan—countries that are themselves already facing overwhelming humanitarian demands. The crisis is expected to continue to deteriorate through 2024, leaving upwards of 30% of the country’s 45 million people food insecure.

    Since the start of the war, the UN has been working overtime in Sudan, ultimately reaching approximately 5 million people with assistance in 2023. The UN’s 2024 humanitarian response calls for $2.7 billion to accelerate the scale-up of lifesaving assistance to avert a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation for nearly 15 million people out of the 25 million that need assistance. The UN will also, where possible and as conditions evolve, work to restore safe and unhindered access to critical basic services and livelihood opportunities—UN projects and efforts that had to be paused when the fighting erupted—and attempt to prevent further erosion of coping capacity among the most vulnerable.

  • Myanmar

    Myanmar’s February 2021 coup has ignited an unprecedented human rights, humanitarian, and political crisis that has left more than 18 million people in need of assistance. Claiming widespread fraud in the November 2020 election, the Myanmar Armed Forces declared a state of emergency and arrested elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as many high-ranking members of her National League for Democracy, reversing years of democratic progress after five decades of military rule. Since then, the junta has violently repressed domestic opposition, carrying out hundreds of airstrikes on villages, burning down more than 60,000 homes, arresting more than 20,000 political prisoners, killing protesters and pro-democracy leaders, and displacing 2.5 million people.

    As of early 2024, 12.9 million people in Myanmar were moderately or severely food insecure. As a result of the conflict, rights violations, and the adoption of negative coping strategies, more than 12.2 million people are considered to have protection needs, up from 11.5 million the previous year. The situation has been further exacerbated by the military’s restrictions on humanitarian aid, particularly in the northwest and the southeast—a deliberate strategy employed by the authorities to prevent assistance such as rice, medicine, and fuel from reaching those who need it and thereby further punishing communities viewed as political opponents. These untenable conditions mean Myanmar began the year with the equivalent of one-third of its population, including 6 million children, requiring some sort of humanitarian assistance—almost 19 times higher than those in need prior to the coup.

    In spite of these difficult conditions and a significant reduction in the humanitarian operating space, the UN and its humanitarian partners are aiming to enhance the protection of 3 million people in Myanmar in 2024, as well as reduce the suffering and morbidity risks of 3.7 million displaced, returned, stateless, and other crisis-affected people by providing timely and dignified access to essential education and health services. To carry out these functions, the UN requested $994 million for its 2024 Humanitarian Response Plan for Myanmar, which is approximately $100 million more than the 2023 plan. The increase is the result of a more ambitious 2024 response target and the rise in cost of delivering assistance in hard-to-reach and insecure areas.

  • Ukraine

    Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago, the UN system and the more than 1,400 UN personnel have been delivering emergency aid and assistance to people across the country and neighboring areas—particularly women, children, elderly people, and those with disabilities. In 2023, the UN and its partners reached nearly 11 million people with life-sustaining assistance— including providing 7.2 million people with health care, nearly 6 million with water and hygiene services, and 4 million with food and livelihood support. Altogether, nearly 22 million people have received some form of humanitarian aid since the start of the war.

    The conditions under which this assistance has been delivered are extremely fraught, with escalations in ground fighting and the constant threat of bombing making it difficult to implement regular humanitarian programming. Despite the dangers, nearly 100 special supplementary inter-UN agency convoys were dispatched during the first 10 months of 2023, delivering essential aid, including high thermal blankets, generators, shelter repair items, and emergency food items. These deliveries, which were in addition to assistance provided in areas served by regular programs, reached more than 380,000 people in front-line areas.

    The UN estimates that 40% of Ukraine—nearly 15 million people—will need humanitarian assistance in 2024, with the hardest hit populations in the south and east. This year, the UN’s response will continue to focus on people with the most severe needs, including the most vulnerable displaced people and returnees. In total, the UN is targeting about 8.5 million people for assistance—which will require $3.1 billion—implementing a strategy that aims to provide timely life-saving assistance to ensure the safety and dignity of Ukrainian civilians.

Global Health

For decades, the United Nations has been actively involved in promoting and protecting the health of children and families worldwide. With a presence in more than 190 countries, key UN agencies including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and World Health Organization (WHO) have the reach to deliver assistance in every corner of the globe. The UN works closely with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations, governments, and the private sector to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages. These investments also help to achieve many U.S. foreign policy and development objectives.

The extraordinary impact of the convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, related economic shocks exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, and multiple complex crises around the world has driven global health needs higher than ever. Below are several major areas where the U.S. and UN are working together to promote better health around the world.

  • Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response

    The COVID-19 pandemic revealed both the interconnectedness and fragility of global health architecture and the necessity of being better prepared for the next public health emergency. Global action spearheaded by the U.S., UNICEF, WHO, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, successfully procured and delivered nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 146 countries, averting an estimate 2.7 million deaths. At the same time, however, the pandemic severely delayed child immunization and malaria campaigns around the world, disrupted supply chains for global health interventions and personal protective equipment, and triggered major health workforce shortages. This resulted in the biggest decline in childhood immunization in the past 30 years and the largest rise in malaria deaths in 20 years.

    The U.S. government is negotiating with other WHO Member States to strengthen the global health architecture and improve communication about health emergencies, while also protecting national sovereignty. One important initial outcome was the establishment of a pandemic preparedness and response fund at the World Bank. The fund seeks to incentivize countries to identify and close health capacity gaps and create more inclusive, country-driven collaboration that helps identify and stop diseases at their source before they spread.

    Other reforms under discussion would ensure better preparation for and response to disease outbreaks, strengthen the health workforce, and apply lessons learned from partnerships developed during the depths of the pandemic.

    Objectives include:

    • Improve transparency and early warning of potentially dangerous outbreaks
    • Ensure health workers have the tools and protection they need
    • Facilitate faster development and deployment of vaccines and medicines worldwide, through greater investment and coordination through U.S. government, Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Response (CEPI), and the private sector
    • Improve global laboratory and surveillance capabilities
    • Increase the resilience of health systems to stressors and shocks by increasing access to primary health care

    The complex negotiations on a new, global instrument to prevent the next pandemic will continue throughout 2024. It is imperative for the U.S. and our global partners to remain focused and committed on turning the lessons learned from COVID-19 into long-term solutions for pandemic preparedness.

  • Polio

    Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was created in 1988, polio cases have plummeted by 99% globally. In 2020, thanks to sustained funding from the U.S. government through CDC and USAID, UN partners like UNICEF and WHO, and the coordinated efforts of GPEI, Africa was certified as polio-free. Now, only two endemic countries remain: Pakistan and Afghanistan. There were only six wild polio cases in each country in 2023, and transmission was over 60% lower in 2023 than the previous year. In addition, coordinated GPEI intervention and country leadership stopped a 2022 outbreak in Malawi and Mozambique from spreading further, with no new detections of wild polio since August of that year.

    However, immunization disruptions caused by the pandemic have resulted in variant polio outbreaks, which occur when the weakened strain of the poliovirus contained in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) reverts to an infectious form within under-immunized communities. GPEI has identified four key countries driving most of these outbreaks (Nigeria, DRC, Somalia, and Yemen), but variant polio has also appeared in locations long considered to be polio-free, including Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the U.S. Even though globally there were fewer cases of variant poliovirus in fewer places (454 in 24 countries in 2023 vs. 615 in 29 countries in 2022), a single case of polio underscores that if the virus exists anywhere in the world, it is a threat to every country.

    We cannot allow these remaining challenges to undo years of progress when achievement of our goal is within reach. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to achieve and secure a polio free world.

  • Childhood Immunizations

    UNICEF reaches nearly half the world’s children every year with lifesaving vaccines, partnering with the U.S. government as its largest contributor, as well as local NGOs and host-country governments. In 2022, UNICEF procured nearly 2.5 billion doses of pediatric vaccines for 108 countries, reaching 46% of the world’s children under the age of five. The agency also led efforts to deliver more than 884 million COVID-19 vaccines and related supplies to 110 countries at the height of the pandemic.

    Due to COVID-19, between 2019 and 2021 an estimated 67 million children missed out on lifesaving vaccines. Of these, 48 million received no vaccine whatsoever. While efforts have been made to catch up, it is clear that investing in strong immunization programs and health workforce enhances humanitarian outcomes by reducing the spread of infectious diseases in fragile settings. It is also extremely cost effective, with one of the highest returns on investment in public health; every dollar invested in childhood immunization yields up to $52 in savings for low- and middle-income countries in health costs, lost wages, and economic productivity.

    The agency also works to reduce disruptions in the global supply chain caused by shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic, including improving vaccine procurement, freight, logistics, temperature management, storage, and delivery. From the development and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in record time, to vaccines that protect against polio and measles, to promising new vaccines like those that target malaria and HIV/AIDS, UNICEF is an irreplaceable partner alongside the U.S., CEPI, Gavi, WHO, and private sector partners that ensure safe, affordable, and effective vaccines reach the world’s most vulnerable children.

  • Women's Health

    Since restoring funding to UNFPA at the start of the Biden Administration, the U.S. has helped the organization deliver lifesaving services to millions of women and girls worldwide. Unfortunately, there has been little progress to end preventable maternal deaths and fill the unmet need for family planning. Each year, more than 303,000 women and girls die from largely preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Additionally, 214 million women would like to delay or avoid pregnancy but do not have access to contraception. Access to modern methods of contraception would decrease unintended pregnancies by 70%, maternal deaths by 67%, and newborn deaths by 77%.

    Around the world, UNFPA provides safe birthing and dignity kits after disasters, helps install solar lighting in refugee camps to deter gender-based violence, and provides contraceptives in more than 150 countries to prevent maternal mortality and improve the status of women. As the world continues to face an unprecedented pandemic and numerous crises, UNFPA plays an irreplaceable role in the provision of reproductive and maternal health services, gender empowerment programs, and other critical services in humanitarian emergencies.

    For example, in Ukraine, UNFPA aided women escaping the horrors of Russia’s invasion, including helping expectant mothers whose maternity wards were bombed and dispatching mobile hospitals to provide sexual and reproductive health services around the country. UNFPA also operates 172 Family Health Clinics in Afghanistan where women can receive needed services, even as rights for women continue to be narrowed by the Taliban-led government.

  • HIV/AIDS and the Global Fund

    The U.S. is one of the largest contributors to the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and is the largest funder of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund), key programs to fight the AIDS epidemic. UNAIDS has been an essential partner of the U.S. government since the launch of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003 and plays a critical role in global efforts to end the AIDS epidemic. UNAIDS helps articulate the vision and mobilize the political will and resources that support U.S. goals and priorities: saving lives, achieving epidemic control, and increasing global burden-sharing.

    Programs supported by the Global Fund since its inception in 2002 have helped save more than 59 million lives. In 2022, the Global Fund provided 24.5 million people living with HIV and AIDS antiretroviral therapy, treated 6.7 million people for TB, and distributed more than 220 million insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria. Beyond supporting the global COVID-19 response and fighting three of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, the Global Fund’s efforts to help strengthen health infrastructure around the world has enabled countries to more quickly identify and respond to new disease threats and prevent these diseases from spreading to other countries.

  • Malaria

    The U.S. has long prioritized combating malaria, progress that has been made possible by U.S. leadership through the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), as well as U.S. contributions to and partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Roll Back Malaria partnership, UNICEF, and WHO.

    While countries have worked hard to hold the line against further setbacks to malaria prevention, testing, and treatment during the pandemic, the recently released WHO World Malaria Report 2023 still shows malaria cases were higher than pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, 608,000 people died from malaria, out of 249 million cases.

    These staggering numbers underscore the importance of sufficient funding for malaria research and development, and the development and rollout of next generation insecticide-treated bed nets, antimalarial drugs, surveillance tools, and rapid diagnostic tests. In addition, the data also indicate the growing threat of rising drug and insecticide resistance and a new invasive mosquito species on the African continent. WHO approved two malaria vaccines – RTS,S and R21. The former led to a 13 percent drop in all-cause early childhood deaths in the communities where it was administered, compared with communities where the vaccine was not introduced. The second safe and effective malaria vaccine, R21, will help close the gap in malaria vaccine supply and unprecedented demand, with mass rollout of the vaccine beginning in 2024.

Climate & Environment

The UN is a key international forum for confronting a range of issues related to the health of our planet—from addressing the climate emergency, to protecting biodiversity, to combating plastic pollution. None of these issues can be addressed by any single country acting alone, as they transcend national borders, putting at risk the health, safety, and livelihoods of people around the world. As such, they demand a multilateral response, involving all countries large and small, rich and poor. Given its convening power and mandate to catalyze collective solutions to international challenges, the UN is uniquely placed to help formulate solutions with broad buy-in from the international community to global environmental problems.

  • The Human Impact on the Environment

    The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Over the past two centuries, modern energy, agriculture, and industrial practices have greatly increased the level of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide and methane) in the atmosphere. There is broad scientific agreement that the world is warming as a result, with damaging and unpredictable impacts on weather. The world is already experiencing the effects of unchecked climate change, including increasingly severe storms and wildfires, extreme droughts, and devastating floods threatening people, ecosystems, and economies.

  • The Role of the UN

    The UN is at the forefront of the effort to save our planet. In 1992, its Earth Summit led to the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a first step in addressing the climate crisis. The treaty committed signatories to avoiding dangerous human interference with the climate system and reducing emissions commensurate with their levels of development. U.S. President George H.W. Bush signed the treaty, and the Senate unanimously ratified it.

    In 1998, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) founded the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide governments with the best scientific information so policymakers could develop sound climate change policies. In 2014, the IPCC provided more clarity about the role of human activities in climate change when it released its Fifth Assessment Report. Its conclusion: climate change is real, and human activities are the main cause.

    More recently, the IPCC has found that the impacts of climate change are already more widespread and severe than expected; that even if the world rapidly decarbonizes, some climate impacts are unavoidable; and that for every one-tenth of a degree of warming above 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, threats to biodiversity, food security, and access to clean water, among other things, rise dramatically.

  • Climate Negotiations

    After years of negotiations facilitated by the UNFCCC, including the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, a breakthrough was achieved with the Paris Agreement in 2015.

    The agreement charted a new course in global climate efforts by bringing all nations together for the first time under a common framework to combat climate change. The agreement’s central aim is to keep the global temperature rise well below 2°C above preindustrial levels while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

    The agreement is based on national action plans, called nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are to be strengthened over time every five years starting in 2020. The agreement also reaffirmed a commitment to mobilize $100 billion each year from public and private sources to help developing economies limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

  • Challenges and Steps Forward

    Despite the adoption of the Paris Agreement, given the enormity of the task of putting the world on a low-GHG emissions trajectory, progress has been slow. Global emissions continue to rise, and 2023 was the hottest year on record, as well as the first year when all days were more than 1°C warmer than the pre-industrial period.

    In late 2023, parties to the UNFCCC gathered for the COP28 in Dubai. The conference had a number of relatively modest though noteworthy outcomes, including an agreement for countries to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.” This is the first time such language around transitioning away from fossil fuels has been agreed to by the COP.

    Moreover, Member States agreed to operationalize a dedicated fund to be administered by the World Bank to support developing countries whose contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are low, but who are disproportionately experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change. Finally, 118 countries, including the U.S., issued a pledge to triple renewable energy capacity and double the global rate of energy efficiency by 2030.

    There have been important developments with regards to climate outside of the COP process, as well. In September 2022, for example, the Senate approved U.S. ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a UN treaty that seeks to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

    HFCs, which are used in air conditioners and other types of refrigeration, are greenhouse gases that are hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Restricting their use in line with the Kigali Amendment will avoid 4.6 billion tons of emissions by 2050. Ratification was supported by a diverse coalition of organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and Natural Resources Defense Council. The Chamber stated that ratification “would enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers working to develop alternative technologies, and level the global economic playing field.” That is because the world’s leading producers of substitutes for HFCs are in the U.S., while the world’s fastest-growing markets for refrigerators and air conditioners are overseas.

Recent Action on Other Environmental Priorities

Protecting Marine Biodiversity through the High Seas Treaty

In March 2023, UN Member States reached agreement on a comprehensive treaty to protect the biodiversity of the high seas, areas more than 200 nautical miles from shore that are not under any country’s jurisdiction. Currently, international waters are largely governed by a fragmented patchwork of global agreements and organizations, and there is no international body committed to preserving biological diversity in regions outside territorial seas or setting ground rules on accessing genetic resources found in international waters. The High Seas Treaty creates a legal mechanism for the establishment and management of “marine protected areas” in international waters, addressing the effects of overfishing, pollution, and climate change on ecosystems in these areas, which cover nearly half of the earth’s surface. The Treaty was formally adopted in June by the UN General Assembly and needs to be ratified by at least 60 countries before it will enter into force. The U.S. signed the treaty on September 21, 2023, but has yet to ratify it.

Preventing a Potentially Catastrophic Oil Spill in the Red Sea

Moored off of the coast of Yemen, the FSO Safer was a decaying supertanker that could have spilled more than one million barrels of oil into the Red Sea, resulting in an environmental, humanitarian, and economic catastrophe near a nation where 17 million people already need food aid. In August 2023, a UN-coordinated operation transferred the oil from the 47-year-old Safer to a secure replacement vessel. The oil transfer prevented a spill that would have been four times greater than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident.

Advancing Efforts to End Plastic Pollution

In March 2022, UN Member States endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally-binding agreement by the end of 2024. The resolution addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design, and disposal, as well as pushes for international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity-building, and scientific and technical cooperation. Plastic production has soared from 2 million tons in 1950 to 348 million tons in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at $522.6 billion.

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations has unparalleled global reach: its ability to operate and reach people around the world has long made it a preferred forum for hashing out and putting in motion solutions to challenges that reach across national borders. Smallpox, for example, was eradicated more than 40 years ago because Member States, with leadership from the World Health Organization, made ending the deadly virus a priority.

In 2015, Member States came together at the UN in pursuit of another ambitious but achievable objective: ending extreme poverty by 2030. The result of that process, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), brought together national governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, religious leaders, and citizens from around the world to create a set of 17 goals to address shared challenges to international development. The SDGs encompass a full suite of issues most recognize as inhibiting progress toward ending extreme poverty.

These goals include:

  • Eradicating poverty
  • Promoting responsive, effective, transparent, and inclusive governing institutions
  • Ending preventable diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria
  • Improving access to food, quality education, water, and sanitation
  • Preventing maternal deaths
  • Combating climate change and its impacts
  • Ensuring gender equality

sustainable development goals infographic

Human Rights

The fight for human rights has been a core tenet of the UN’s mission since its inception. The UN Charter commits Member States to promoting “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” What constitutes these fundamental rights and freedoms was elaborated by the UN General Assembly when it adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) more than 75 years ago, in December 1948. This seminal document—drafted by representatives from around the world, including former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt—articulates a series of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights to which all human beings are entitled.

While not legally-binding, the UDHR has nevertheless proved to be quite influential. In the years since its adoption, the UDHR’s principles, many of which echo the U.S. Bill of Rights, have been incorporated into the constitutions of numerous countries that have become independent or transitioned to democracy. Its principles have also served as the foundation of several binding UN treaties that have significantly expanded the scope of international human rights law.

The UN’s human rights work is multifaceted and carried out by an array of entities, one of the most significant of which is the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Composed of 47 Member States elected to three-year terms by the General Assembly, the Council passes resolutions on country-specific human rights situations, orders inquiries, holds special sessions to respond to emergencies, and appoints independent experts. While the Council’s decisions are not legally-binding, they do carry important moral weight and can be used as a tool for naming and shaming human rights abusers.

Since the Council’s establishment in 2006, U.S. engagement has ebbed and flowed. While the UNHRC is not perfect, history has shown that the U.S. is far more effective in improving the Council’s record when it is a member. For example, when the U.S. was fully engaged in the Council’s work from 2010 to 2018, it made progress on several fronts.

  • The proportion of country-specific resolutions targeting Israel declined by 30% during U.S. membership versus the previous three-year period under the Bush Administration (2006-2009) when the U.S. was not a member. The number of special sessions devoted to Israel also fell considerably, from six during the first three years of the Council’s existence, to just two during the subsequent eight years when the U.S. was engaged. Of special note, Item 7 of the Council’s permanent agenda, which subjects Israel to unique scrutiny, came about in 2007, again when the U.S. had decided to shun the Council.
  • When resolutions targeting Israel under Agenda Item 7 did come up, fewer countries voted for them when the U.S. was a member of the Council. In March 2018, just three months before the U.S. resigned its seat, the State Department itself reported “the largest shift in votes towards more abstentions and no votes on Israel-related resolutions since” the Council’s creation.
  • During the years when the U.S. was engaged, the Council deepened and broadened its repertoire, adopting resolutions strongly supported by the U.S. on a range of pressing human rights issues. This included the creation of groundbreaking Commissions of Inquiry (COIs) to investigate human rights violations in Syria and North Korea, the establishment of a special rapporteur to monitor the human rights situation in Iran, and the authorization of the first-of-its-kind independent expert focused on combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Since returning to the Council at the beginning of 2022 after a 3 ½ year absence, the U.S. has built on this prior record of successful engagement, working with allies and other like-minded countries to notch wins on a broad range of country-specific human rights priorities. Several of these are discussed in greater detail below.

  • Ukraine

    Within days of Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, the UNHRC met in emergency session and overwhelmingly adopted a U.S.-supported resolution establishing a COI to investigate war crimes committed during the conflict and preserve evidence “for future legal proceedings.” Since then, the COI has traveled repeatedly to Ukraine and released reports accusing Russian forces of an array of violations amounting to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, including summary executions, attacks on civilians, unlawful detention, torture, rape, and forced transfers and deportations of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia. Specifically, the COI has estimated that more than 90% of civilian casualties have been caused by explosive weapons in attacks mostly launched by Russian forces; documented “a widespread pattern of summary executions in areas that Russian armed forces controlled”; and noted that torture has been a systemic feature of arbitrary detention by Russian forces across occupied areas of Ukraine, a possible crime against humanity. The COI has also developed a list of individual perpetrators and military units responsible for international crimes. The COI’s work could ultimately aid efforts by the International Criminal Court and other judicial bodies to prosecute those who perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict. The COI’s mandate was extended by the UNHRC for another year in April 2023, by a vote of 28-2, with 17 abstentions.

  • Russia

    The UNHRC has also focused on human rights violations within Russia itself. In October 2023, the Council voted to renew for an additional year the mandate of a special rapporteur charged with investigating arbitrary arrests, crackdowns on civil society and independent media, limitations on freedom of speech and assembly, and other abuses committed by the Russian government against its own citizens. This is the first special rapporteur ever appointed by the UNHRC to look specifically into the human rights record of a permanent member of the Security Council.

    In another important development in October, Russia lost its bid to return to the UNHRC as a member, 18 months after it was suspended from the Council due to its invasion of Ukraine (making it only the second Member State and first permanent member of the UN Security Council to ever receive such a sanction). Instead, the General Assembly elected Bulgaria and Albania—both U.S. allies—to serve on the Council. The UNHRC membership vote was followed by two other high-profile diplomatic defeats suffered by Russia at the UN in late 2023: Russia failed to win a seat on UNESCO’s Executive Board, and a Russian judge was defeated for reelection to the International Court of Justice by a Romanian candidate.

  • Sudan

    Since April 2023, Sudan has been rocked by violence between the Sudanese military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary organization, killing thousands, displacing millions, and leading to a severe humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the RSF—which grew out of the Janjaweed militia that carried out genocide in Darfur in 2003—has been accused of ethnic cleansing in that same region. In light of this crisis, the UNHRC voted to establish a fact-finding mission to investigate the situation in Sudan and “identify, where possible, individuals and entities responsible for violations or abuses of human rights or violations of international humanitarian law, or other related crimes…with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.” The Sudanese government strongly opposed the creation of this investigative mechanism and attempted to defund it during consideration of the 2024 UN regular budget, but was unsuccessful due to push back from the U.S. and other likeminded countries.

  • Venezuela

    In October 2022, the UNHRC voted to renew the mandate of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela—an entity established in 2019 to assess the human rights situation in the country—for an additional two years. Since its establishment, the fact-finding mission has released a series of hard-hitting reports documenting the Venezuelan government’s responsibility for torture, arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, and other acts of political repression. Most recently, in fall 2023, the fact-finding mission warned that attacks by the Maduro regime on civil society groups have intensified recently through policies aimed at silencing criticism and dissent.

  • Nicaragua

    The human rights situation in Nicaragua has deteriorated significantly in recent years, as President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista political party have violently suppressed dissent, shuttered independent media, and carried out fraudulent presidential elections. In response, the UNHRC established a group of three human rights experts with a mandate to conduct thorough and independent investigations into all alleged human rights violations committed in Nicaragua since 2018. In April 2023, the Council voted to renew the group’s mandate for an additional two years by a vote of 21-5. By training a spotlight on Nicaragua, the UNHRC’s action deepened the Ortega government’s international isolation and ensured that efforts to demand accountability for its violations of human rights will remain on the international community’s agenda.

  • Afghanistan

    The fall of Afghanistan’s internationally recognized government in August 2021 raised urgent concerns about the Taliban’s commitment to basic human rights norms. Shortly after the takeover, the UNHRC voted overwhelmingly to establish a special rapporteur on Afghanistan, a position that was renewed by the Council unanimously in October 2023. Since beginning work, the special rapporteur has worked to document abuses by the Taliban, including the targeting of government critics, former officials, human rights activists, and others through detentions, physical abuse, intimidation, and killings. The special rapporteur’s work has also focused on the Taliban’s systematic efforts to exclude women and girls from all aspects of Afghan society, including employment and education.

  • Iran

    Following the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran’s morality police in September 2022, mass anti-government demonstrations broke out across the country. Iranian security services responded violently, killing hundreds of protesters and jailing thousands. In an emergency session convened in November of that year to discuss the situation, the UNHRC adopted a resolution condemning the crackdown and establishing a fact-finding mission to investigate rights violations committed by Iranian authorities, “especially with respect to women and children.” Since then, the fact-finding mission has repeatedly criticized the Iranian government, reporting in September 2023 that “state harassment of women and girls is on the rise” and that “authorities are exacerbating punitive measures against those exercising their fundamental rights, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” The fact-finding mission is scheduled to present a comprehensive report detailing its findings in March 2024.

The U.S. is scheduled to remain on the Council through the end of this year, when it will be eligible to run for another term. Over the next year, the Council will continue to grapple with an array of human rights challenges, including those outlined above. As these discussions move forward, it will be critical for the U.S. to remain at the table, leveraging a policy of principled engagement to advance its own interests and ensure that the Council continues to fulfill its responsibility to human rights defenders around the world.

Nuclear Safety

The UN serves as a key platform for countries to work together to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and advance the safe and peaceful use of nuclear technology, providing venues for countries to share resources and information, address breaches of international agreements, and build unified fronts against rogue states. The work of the UN in several specific areas is described below.


Several Key Multilateral Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaties and Organizations

  • Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT): The NPT, which came into force in 1970, is a landmark agreement aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. The Treaty, joined by all but five UN Member States, includes three overarching commitments: (1) states without nuclear weapons shall not acquire them; (2) states with nuclear weapons (currently recognized as the U.S., Russia, France, UK, and China) pledge to work towards eventual disarmament; and (3) all countries can access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. To prevent the diversion of nuclear materials and technologies for weapons use, Article III of the NPT tasks the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with concluding safeguards agreements with non-nuclear-weapon states and carrying out inspections of their nuclear facilities.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency: The IAEA is a UN-affiliated specialized agency that verifies compliance with the NPT and other nonproliferation agreements, having concluded safeguards agreements with 182 countries. These activities can provide the international community with advanced warning of and trigger a global response to the existence of an illicit nuclear weapons program, including providing a basis for action by the UN Security Council. The IAEA also carries out a variety of nuclear safety and research activities.
  • Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT): The CTBT, ratified by 157 UN Member States, obliges parties not to detonate nuclear weapons or support those who do. The U.S. has signed but not ratified the CTBT.


Ensuring the Safety of Nuclear Facilities in Ukraine

Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy: prior to the Russian invasion, 16 reactors across four nuclear power plants produced more than half of the country’s electricity. Unfortunately, the war has increased the risks that these facilities will be caught up in the fighting, potentially precipitating a nuclear accident. As such, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is playing a central role in efforts to ensure the safety of these facilities.

In September 2022, the agency dispatched a team of experts and inspectors to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is in Russian-occupied territory close to the front lines and has been subjected to repeated episodes of shelling. Later that year, the IAEA also installed teams of safety and security experts at all other nuclear stations across Ukraine, including the defunct Chernobyl plant, in response to Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure. These officials remain in place and continue to play a critical role in monitoring operations at the plants, determining when repairs, new equipment, or spare parts are needed, and ensuring their continued safe functioning and security while the war continues.

Monitoring Iran’s Nuclear Program

The international agreement adopted in 2015 to constrain Iran’s nuclear program (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) imposed a number of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities and empowered the IAEA to monitor, inspect, and verify every aspect of Iran’s compliance with them. Despite the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA in 2018, the IAEA has continued to implement its robust inspections regime in Iran in the years since, with an eye towards providing critical advance warning should Iran attempt to divert nuclear materials or technologies for military purposes.

In late December 2023, the IAEA reported that Iran had “increased its production of highly enriched uranium, reversing a previous output reduction from mid-2023.” Because of these types of detailed and honest reports, Iran has increasingly sought to marginalize the agency: in September 2023, the government withdrew the designation of several experienced international inspectors assigned to the country. The IAEA condemned the action and called on Iran to fully cooperate with it. In late December 2023, the U.S., France, UK, and Germany issued a joint statement calling on Iran to reverse steps to produce larger amounts of highly enriched uranium and “de-escalate its nuclear program,” as well as to “fully cooperate with the IAEA to enable it to provide assurances that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, and to re-designate the inspectors suspended in September 2023.”

UN Reform

Ensuring that the UN is fit for purpose and able to address the growing list of challenges facing the international community is a key priority for both the organization’s leadership and the U.S. Since first taking office in 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has worked with Member States to implement reform, modernization, and accountability efforts on a number of tracks, including through improvements to budgetary and management processes, creating new performance assessment tools for peacekeeping operations, and redoubling efforts to root out misconduct, particularly cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, by UN personnel.

These issues are discussed in below.

  • Budgetary and Management Issues

    On December 22, 2023, the UN General Assembly approved the organization’s 2024 regular budget, which funds much of the UN’s core work. Overall, the 2024 UN regular budget totals $3.59 billion, nearly 21% of which finances special political missions. Among other provisions, the budget includes a $50 million increase in funding for human rights monitoring mandates authorized by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) from last year’s level. This additional funding was supported by the U.S. and its allies.

    During debate in the General Assembly’s 5th Committee, Russia and some of its allies introduced a series of proposals to cut funding for UN human rights mandates. In one particularly brazen example, Russia offered a resolution that would have zeroed-out funding for an entire series of country-specific UNHRC-established mandates, including special rapporteurs, commissions of inquiry, groups of experts, and other investigative mechanisms looking into human rights violations in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Nicaragua, and Eritrea. Ultimately, this proposal was defeated by a vote of 73-17, with 52 countries abstaining. Other proposals aimed at rejecting the use of regular budget resources to support an independent mechanism that supports prosecutions of war crimes in Syria and an independent fact-finding mission created to probe human rights abuses in Sudan fell by similarly lopsided margins.

    In addition to holding the line on UN human rights mandates, the 2024 regular budget also for the first time approved $50 million in assessed contributions to the Peacebuilding Fund, a UN mechanism that finances various conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities, including supporting dialogue processes, capacity-building, employment opportunities, and basic service delivery in conflict-affected regions. The UN estimates that this investment in the Peacebuilding Fund could save the organization as much as $800 million in crisis response expenditures.

  • Peacekeeping Reform

    Since taking office in 2017, Secretary-General Guterres has implemented a restructuring of the peace and security architecture of the UN Secretariat to prioritize conflict prevention and enhance the effectiveness and coherence of UN peacekeeping and special political missions. A key step in this process was the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, launched in 2018, which brought together all of the key stakeholders in UN peacekeeping (members of the Security Council, troop-contributing countries, top financial contributors, and countries that host peacekeeping missions) around a set of reform priorities.

    Among these reforms, one of the most innovative is the Comprehensive Planning and Performance Assessment System (CPAS), which better enables leadership within a mission to assess and improve performance on the ground. CPAS was piloted in the Central African Republic to help the UN peacekeeping mission there (MINUSCA) coordinate and track its support for implementation of a peace agreement signed in December 2019. By tracking such indicators as the number of conflict-related civilian deaths, children released from armed groups (a commitment under the agreement), and public buildings being occupied by armed groups, MINUSCA has been able to more readily see where its support to the peace agreement is bearing fruit and where it is not. Having worked successfully in the Central African Republic, CPAS has evolved from a pilot project to a system that is used in all UN peacekeeping missions.

    In addition to considering the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations, for years there have been discussions in New York about whether, how, and to what extent the UN should support regional peacekeeping and peace enforcement initiatives, particularly those undertaken on the African continent by the African Union (AU). The growing saliency of this issue reflects the fact that regional organizations like the AU are often best placed to anticipate and respond quickly and effectively to regional security challenges. In late December 2023, the UN Security Council made significant progress on this issue, adopting a U.S.-supported resolution to provide AU-led peace support operations with access to UN assessed funding on a case-by-case basis as determined by the Security Council. Among other things, the resolution specifies that any AU operation receiving UN assessed funds must be authorized by—and ultimately accountable to—the Security Council, and that UN financial contributions may not exceed 75% of the mission’s annual budget. The resolution also stipulates that any UN support for AU operations must be delivered in line with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, which requires support for non-UN security forces to be consistent with international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law.

  • Combating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

    In recent years, the UN has implemented new policies to address instances of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN personnel, including peacekeepers. These measures have been wide-ranging and are summarized below.

    • The UN has appointed victims’ rights advocates, both at UN Headquarters and in the field, who work across the UN system to make sure victims have access to urgent assistance, can file complaints safely and reliably, and get timely information on the progress of their case.
    • Since the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2272 in 2016, the Secretary-General has enjoyed expanded authority to repatriate entire military or police units that engage in widespread or systematic violations. To date, the Secretary-General has utilized these powers in the Central African Republic to send home troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon.
    • The UN expanded a vetting database in place for civilian personnel to cover all troops and police serving on UN peacekeeping missions.
    • In order to ensure transparency, the UN maintains a publicly available online database of credible allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse made against personnel in field missions. The database provides information on the nationality of uniformed personnel accused of misconduct—a critical element in holding troop- and police-contributing countries accountable for the conduct of their citizens—as well as information on interim actions taken, the duration of investigations, and details around steps taken by Member States, including criminal prosecutions and administrative sanctions.
    • UN investigative entities are now required to conclude their investigations into sexual exploitation and abuse cases within six months, shortened to three months in cases suggesting “the need for greater urgency.” The Secretary-General has taken other steps, too, requiring troop-contributing countries to deploy national investigation officers (NIOs) with sufficient experience and expertise to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse cases by their personnel. In partnership with Member States, the UN works to support the capacity-building and training of these NIOs.
    • The Secretariat has developed a mandatory online training program for all UN personnel on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
    • The UN administers a trust fund to provide critical services to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse and people in communities where these crimes occur, including psychosocial assistance, medical care, access to legal help, assistance in establishing paternity claims, vocational training, and income-generating activities. The trust fund is financed in part through reimbursement payments that are withheld from troop-contributing countries when allegations against their troops are substantiated. Since the trust fund’s establishment in 2016, project funding has been disbursed in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, and South Sudan, providing support to more than 43,000 victims and community members.

UN System

The UN Charter that created the United Nations in 1945, established six principle organs of the new international organization. While the Trusteeship Council, created to administer colonial territories as they transitioned to self-governance or independence, is currently inactive, the other five bodies remain key pillars of the UN system today. A description of the structure and functions of each is provided below.

  • UN Security Council

    The Security Council is the UN’s premier decision-making body, empowered to impose legally binding obligations on Member States. Conferred by the UN Charter with “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” the Council has several tools at its disposal for conflict prevention and management. Chapter VI of the Charter authorizes the Council to make recommendations to resolve threats to international peace and security by various peaceful means. If that is unsuccessful, the Security Council may authorize enforcement measures, including sanctions and military force, under Chapter VII.

    The Security Council is composed of 15 Member States: five permanent members (also known as the P5), made up of the “Big Four” Allied Powers from World War II or their continuator states (China, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.) plus France; and 10 rotating non-permanent members, elected to two-year terms by the UN General Assembly on the basis of equitable geographic distribution among regional groups. Votes on non-procedural matters require the concurrence of the P5, effectively giving them a veto over such decisions.

    Since its establishment, the Council has served as a key forum for addressing security challenges. The Council has authorized more than 70 peacekeeping missions to help stabilize conflict zones around the world; set up international sanctions regimes targeting the finances and access to weapons of rogue regimes like North Korea and terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS; and sought to deepen international cooperation on everything from terrorist financing to nuclear nonproliferation.

    Nevertheless, the P5 countries’ veto power has, at times, prevented the Council from fully asserting its role as a guarantor of global order. This was especially true when U.S.-Soviet tensions were at their height during the Cold War. While the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought on a period of increased cooperation, disputes over crises in Israel/Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen have exposed divisions among the P5 and limited the Council’s effectiveness in some contexts.

  • UN General Assembly

    Unlike the Security Council, the UN General Assembly has universal membership: all 193 UN Member States have a vote, and no country possesses veto power. While its decisions are generally non-binding, they still carry important political and moral clout, serving as a marker of

    the views of the international community. Over the years, the General Assembly has approved numerous noteworthy decisions, including:

    • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The UDHR, a landmark document outlining basic global standards for human rights, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948. Eleanor Roosevelt, former U.S. First Lady and chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, played a central role in drafting and shepherding the UDHR to passage.
    • Setting the Global Development Agenda: In 2000, the General Assembly adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight time-bound targets aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality, improving access to education, and combating the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria. In 2015, the Assembly adopted the successor to the MDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals, a new set of development objectives to build on the important progress achieved by the MDGs with a 2030 due date.

    The General Assembly has other important functions as well, including developing and approving the UN’s regular and peacekeeping budgets and assessment rates for Member States, electing the non-permanent members of the Security Council and other UN bodies, and appointing the Secretary-General.

  • UN Secretariat

    The UN Secretariat is staffed by nearly 35,000 personnel worldwide and carries out the day-to-day operations of the UN, implementing mandates adopted by the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, and other relevant UN bodies. Below are some of its main functions:

    • Planning and managing peacekeeping and political missions
    • Mediating international disputes
    • Assisting implementation of Security Council sanctions
    • Coordinating disaster relief across dozens of humanitarian agencies
    • Promoting social and economic development and publishing related statistics and research
    • Facilitating discussion and meetings among Member States.

    All of this is done with an annual budget of $3.59 billion, equivalent to approximately one-quarter of the budget of the state of Rhode Island.

    The Secretariat is led by the Secretary-General, who is selected every five years by the Security Council and approved by a majority vote of the General Assembly. Although there is no formal limit to the number of terms a Secretary-General may serve, by custom they have served no more than two. The current Secretary-General is former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres, who assumed office on January 1, 2017, and is in his second term.

  • UN Economic and Social Council

    The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is the central UN forum for discussing and formulating policy recommendations on international economic, social, cultural, educational, and health issues. According to the Charter, ECOSOC is tasked with the following:

    • Promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress
    • Identifying solutions to international economic, social, and health problems
    • Facilitating international cultural and educational cooperation
    • Encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms

    As part of this work, ECOSOC helps to coordinate the work of the UN’s numerous specialized agencies, funds, and programs, and—by granting consultative status to non-governmental organizations—serves as a key venue through which civil society can participate in the work of the UN. ECOSOC is made up of 54 Member States that are elected to three-year terms by the General Assembly.

  • International Court of Justice

    The ICJ is the UN’s judicial organ, composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms by the General Assembly and Security Council. The purpose of the ICJ is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes between states. This is a key element of the international security order envisioned by the UN Charter, which commits countries to undertake several methods, including judicial settlement, to peacefully resolve disputes. The ICJ also gives advisory opinions on legal questions submitted by other UN organs or agencies.

    The ICJ does not have the authority to weigh in on any international legal dispute it wishes; instead, the Court’s ability to hear a case is derived from the consent of the Member States concerned. States involved in a dispute can accept ICJ jurisdiction in three ways:

    • Two or more states can enter into a special agreement to submit their case to the Court
    • A jurisdictional clause in a treaty may require countries that have ratified the treaty to submit disagreements over interpretation or application of the document to the Court (more than 300 treaties, both bilateral and multilateral, contain such clauses)
    • A state may submit a unilateral declaration accepting the Court’s jurisdiction as compulsory in the event of a dispute with another state that has made a similar commitment.

    Member States are bound to comply with ICJ decisions in any case to which they are a party. According to the Charter, if a Member State fails to perform its obligations under an ICJ judgment, the case can be referred to the Security Council, which can then apply enforcement measures. Over the years, the U.S. has been involved in several cases before the Court. In 1980, for example, the ICJ ruled against Iran in a case brought by the U.S. over the 1979 hostage crisis.

UN Funds, Programs and Specialized Agencies

The UN system is composed of more than 30 affiliated organizations, programs, funds, and specialized agencies, each with their own membership, leadership, and budgetary processes. These entities work with and through the UN Secretariat to promote peace and prosperity.

The United Nations System

On the other hand, UN funds and programs are financed through voluntary rather than assessed contributions.

Learn more about the funds and programs of the UN:

  • UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

    UNICEF provides humanitarian and development assistance to children and mothers, working to help increase the number of girls enrolled in school worldwide and providing clean water, sanitation, educational support, and nutritional assistance to children in disaster zones and war-torn regions around the world. UNICEF is also responsible for procuring vaccines that reach 45% of the world’s children, saving the lives of 2.5 million children each year.

  • World Food Programme (WFP)

    WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency dedicated to the goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition, delivering food assistance in emergencies, and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, the agency provides food aid, cash assistance, and nutrition support to more than 160 million people around the world in countries experiencing conflict, natural disasters, and other disruptions. In 2020, in recognition of its lifesaving work, WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
    world food program trucks
    A Man Prepares Food Rationing For Refugees To Kule Refugee

  • UN Development Programme (UNDP)

    UNDP is the UN’s global development network, focusing on the challenges of democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and environment, and HIV/AIDS. UNDP is one of the implementing bodies for UN electoral assistance, helping to facilitate elections in around 60 countries every year, including nations undergoing sensitive post-conflict political transitions.
    Aloha Logo

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

    UNHCR protects refugees worldwide and facilitates their resettlement or return home. UNHCR is currently working on the ground to help tens of millions of people displaced by famine, armed conflict, or persecution in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.
    A group of children playing in the camp on international land

  • UN Office on Drugs and Crime

    UNODC is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs, organized crime, corruption, human trafficking, and terrorism. The organization helps Member States address these challenges by providing field-based technical support to enhance the capacity of criminal justice systems and adherence to the rule of law, assisting in the implementation of relevant international treaties, and serving as a source of research and information to help guide policy decisions on countering drugs and crime.

  • UN Population Fund

    UNFPA is the largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programs in the world. UNFPA helps women, men, and young people plan their families, including the number, timing, and spacing of their children, go through pregnancy and childbirth safely, and avoid sexually transmitted infections. UNFPA also combats violence against women and child marriage. UNFPA does not provide, support, or advocate for abortion, nor does it support, promote, or condone coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

  • UN Environment Programme

    UNEP coordinates the UN’s environmental activities, developing international environmental conventions, assessing global environmental trends, encouraging new civil sector partnerships, and strengthening institutions so they might better protect the planet. UNEP covers international environmental issues affecting the U.S. that no one nation working alone can adequately address, such as plastic pollution in the ocean, the transboundary movement of toxic chemicals, and illegal trade in wildlife.

  • UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

    UNRWA provides an array of vital services, including education, health care, economic opportunities, and emergency food assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. The organization was founded by the UN General Assembly in 1949 to assist Palestinians who were displaced from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. More than half of UNRWA’s annual budget goes to its schools alone, which provide nearly 525,000 children with a curriculum focused on tolerance, gender equality, human rights, and non-violence.
    Palestinians crowd to receive food and supplies from UNRWA
    Gaza schoolchildren study outside their home after schoolPalestinians receive food aid at a United Nations Distribution Center
    Palestinians come to receive food aid from UNRWA

  • UN Women

    UN Women coordinates the UN response to three issues globally, nationally, and locally: elimination of discrimination against women and girls; empowerment of women; and achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action, and peace and security.

Specialized Agencies

The UN system includes affiliated specialized and technical agencies that work with and through the UN to advance international cooperation and progress. Through this work, these agencies promote core U.S. foreign policy, national security, economic, public health, and humanitarian objectives. UN specialized agencies are funded through their own assessed budgets (which are separate from the UN regular and peacekeeping budgets) and voluntary contributions from Member States.

  • World Health Organization (WHO)

    WHO serves as a coordinating authority on international public health. It is responsible for orchestrating international collaboration and developing solutions to confront global health emergencies, monitoring outbreaks of infectious diseases, spearheading global vaccination efforts, and leading campaigns to combat polio, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening diseases. WHO helped lead the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing personal protective equipment and tests, conducting awareness-raising activities, supporting research into treatments, and helping distribute vaccines around the world.

  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

    The IAEA works to prevent, detect, and respond to the illicit or non-peaceful use of nuclear material, conducting monitoring and inspection activities in 140 countries to verify compliance with international nuclear safeguard agreements. The IAEA also plays a critical role on nuclear safety issues, and inspectors from the organization are currently deployed to Ukraine to monitor conditions at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and other facilities.

  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

    FAO fights hunger worldwide by promoting sustainable agricultural development and supporting efforts to rebuild agricultural livelihoods in the wake of natural disasters. In addition, FAO works to develop global standards for food safety and plant and animal health. These measures help protect American farmers and consumers and facilitate international trade.

  • World Bank

    The World Bank focuses on poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards worldwide by providing low-interest loans, interest-free credit, and grants to developing economies for education, health, infrastructure, and communications.

  • International Monetary Fund (IMF)

    The IMF fosters global monetary cooperation, facilitates international trade, promotes high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduces poverty. It offers financial and technical assistance to its members, making it an international lender of last resort.

  • International Maritime Organization

    IMO sets international safety standards for ships, ports, and maritime facilities, develops ship design and operating requirements, and leads global efforts to prevent maritime pollution. Standards promulgated by IMO are central to the health of the U.S. economy, as more than 90% of all international trade is carried out by ship. IMO also works with Member States to address piracy, terrorism, and other security threats to the international shipping industry.

  • International Civil Aviation Organization

    ICAO enables safe air travel everywhere by setting global standards for navigation, communication, and airline safety. These standards map out airspace jurisdiction and establish “free range” airspace over oceans and seas. The agency also sets international standards for limiting environmental degradation and works to strengthen aviation security by conducting regular audits of aviation security oversight in ICAO Member States.

  • UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

    UNESCO administers an array of programs education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. UNESCO’s work includes promoting freedom of the press, access to primary education for all children, AI standards, and international Holocaust education.

  • International Labour Organization

    The ILO is responsible for formulating and overseeing implementation of international labor standards. The agency works to promote workers’ rights and improved working conditions around the world, seeks to abolish forced and child labor, and supports the creation of greater opportunities for employment.

  • International Organization for Migration

    The IOM supports humane and orderly migration by promoting international cooperation on migration issues and providing humanitarian assistance to migrants.

  • World Intellectual Property Organization

    WIPO encourages innovation and economic growth through the registration and protection of patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property, as well as through adjudication of cross-border disputes on intellectual property.

  • International Telecommunication Union

    ITU supports connectivity and interoperability of the world’s telecommunications networks, which is of critical importance to the U.S. telecommunications industry and American defense and intelligence communications capabilities. By allocating radio spectrum and satellite orbits, and developing technical standards for networks to seamlessly connect, ITU’s work helps make communicating possible in some of the world’s most remote locations.

  • World Meteorological Organization

    The WMO facilitates the unrestricted international exchange of meteorological data, forecasts, and warnings, and works to further their use in the aviation, shipping, agriculture, energy, and defense sectors.

  • Universal Postal Union

    The UPU facilitates postal service around the globe, helping Americans conduct business from Boston to Bali. By setting standards for the postal system and promoting affordable basic postal services in all territories, the UPU enables worldwide trade and communication.