Meeting the Moment: The U.S. and the UN in 2023

UN Funds, Programs, and Specialized Agencies

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

UN funds and programs are financed through voluntary rather than assessed contributions, and include the following:


As part of the Ebola Emergency Response, World Food Programme (WFP) helps contain Ebola by providing food to Ebola survivors and people that may be potentially carrying the virus. WFP has been supporting over 492,500 persons with food and nutrition assistance since August 2018. Weekly food parcels delivered by WFP and its partners allows carriers of the virus to stay home while being treated, without the need to go out to buy food. People receiving food are also found to be more willing to cooperate with registration, vaccination and treatment. Since WFP distributions are carried out at sites where Ebola have been traced, families receive one-week rations, encouraging them to come back for medical check-ups at least once per week over the course of 28 days, as is the case here in Muchanga in the Katwa health zone, outside of Butembo.
Photo Credit: Martine Perret/UN Photo

UN Children’s Fund

UNICEF provides long-term 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 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 tens of millions of people in countries undergoing conflict and natural disasters. In 2020, in recognition of its lifesaving work, WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

UN Development Programme

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.

The UN Refugee Agency

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, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.

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 impoverished 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 forced from their homes by 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.

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.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Photo Credit: Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo

The UN’s specialized and technical agencies 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 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 has 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

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 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.

Photo Credit: JC McIlwaine/UN Photo

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

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 in five broad areas: 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, 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

IOM works to support 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 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 connect seamlessly, ITU’s work helps make communicating possible even in some of the world’s most remote locations.

World Meteorological Organization

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 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 in all territories, the UPU enables U.S. businesses to utilize the postal system to conduct business at low costs.