UN Specialized Agencies
UN Specialized Agencies

When the UN was founded, a deliberate decision was made to keep it decentralized. Thus, the political operations of the UN are kept separate from the cooperative and technical branches of the UN’s specialized organizations. The specialized agencies are organizations with varying degrees of independence that agree to coordinate their work through agreements with ECOSOC. Each specialized agency negotiates its own agreement with ECOSOC, which leads to a very intricate system in which different organizations maintain different types of relationships with ECOSOC. This system has led to some severe criticism. Agencies, when not competing for resources, may duplicate one another’s work.

Lacking true coordination, the policies of one agency may directly conflict with the policies and, collectively, the agencies often fail to put forth a comprehensive and coalesced approach to complicated international problems. On the other hand, having specialized agencies often allows the international community to address specific problems without specifically entering into political debates. This approach ideally allows for more coordination among States on common technical concerns.

  • International Labor Organization– The International Labor Organization (ILO) was established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles, which also created the failed League of Nations, the predecessor of the UN. The ILO continued, despite the demise of the League of Nations, and in 1946, it became the first specialized agency of the UN. The ILO, deviating from the practice of other UN branches, has a tripartite structure: State Governments have one vote each, but Workers and Employers from every State also each have a vote to cast. The ILO concentrates on establishing labor standards on issues like working conditions and child labor. They also have a significant capacity to provide technical assistance to labor groups in States needing support, such as offering advice on labor laws and social security systems. In 1969 the ILO was the recipient of Nobel Peace Prize.
  • World Health Organization – Established in 1948, the goal of the World Health Organization (WHO) is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Their program of work includes monitoring and publicizing disease outbreak information, supporting vaccination drives, and educating health workers. Of all the specialized agencies, the WHO has the largest budget and perhaps the most authority within its specified field. The WHO can pass international health regulations that legally bind Member States, unless the State chooses to opt out.


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