Other fields of economic and social intervention
Three of the eight Millennium Development Goals directly concern health, although all of them are to some extent involved: reduce child mortality (six infections account for 90% of the 9 million annual child deaths); improve maternal health (500,000 women die during pregnancy each year); combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases by reversing their incidence by 2015.
To meet these goals, three organisations have a special role: the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, (UNAIDS), and the International Drug Purchase Facility (UNITAID).
The World Health Organisation sets standards and provides technical assistance. It is a lead agency and sets up partnerships when joint action is needed, while monitoring the health situation. In the case of AIDS, the WHO works with UNAIDS, which coordinates the work of ten UN organisations against AIDS. The WHO takes an active part in preventing, treating and detecting malaria epidemics, focusing especially on pregnant women, and works in close cooperation with the Stop TB Partnership.
Two “vertical funds”, devoted to specific themes, outside the UN system but of increasing importance, influence UN action in these fields:
the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, commits $18,4 billion, supporting 572 programmes in 140 countries
in drugs access, UNITAID, hosted by the WHO, facilitates the supply to developing countries of drugs against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria via innovative funding, particularly via a solidarity tax on plane tickets. Its 2009 budget sums up to to$705 million in products, of which 85% are intended for Least Developed Countries.
Trade and industry
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established in 1964 and is the General Assembly’s main organ dealing with international trade and development, and related topics: finance, technology, investment, competition, and sustainable development. The UNCTAD is particularly involved in the preparation of the Fourth Conference on the Least Developed Countries, which is scheduled to take place in 2011.
The mission of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) is to promote and accelerate industrial development in developing countries for cooperation at global, national, regional and sectoral level. UNIDO has three main activities: poverty reduction through productive activities; trade capacity-building by promoting industrial investment and technology; and energy and environment, with support programmes for ecologically sustainable industrial development strategies and technologies.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) aims to promote intellectual property and copyright by international treaties and national legislation, as well as technical assistance, information and services. WIPO addresses such matters as technology transfer, cultural diversity, access to drugs, internet regulation and fair access to and benefit sharing of genetic resources.
World Trade Organisation (WTO)
The WTO is a related organisation of the UN, dealing with the rules of trade between countries. It is based on agreements negotiated and signed by most of the world’s major trading countries and ratified by their parliaments. The purpose is to help the producers, exporters and importers of goods and services to do their work.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) encourages cooperation in the regulation of technical questions. It fosters the general adoption of maritime safety standards, puts the resources of maritime services at the disposal of world trade by abolishing discriminatory measures and prevents pollution at sea by vessels and sea-based installations.
A healthy air transport network is a major economic asset for many countries and a catalyst for tourism, the world’s largest industry. The definition and modernisation of reference practices are the job of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Its aim is to ensure the safe, orderly development of international civil aviation. The ICAO is a forum for presenting, analysing and debating rules and procedures for standardisation before a decision is made. The ICAO’s mission is now changing to address the new challenges of terrorism and the environment.
Food and agriculture
The Millennium Development Goals are all addressed by organisations working in the field of farming and food production. This is particularly true of the first MDG, which directly targets the more than a billion under-nourished people in the world. The early date of foundation (1945) of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations attests to its importance. The trend towards higher prices for foodstuffs and questions of food security have revived interest in the organisation. The World Summit on Food Security, held in November 2009, established a global partnership for agriculture, food security and nutrition.
The FAO’s role is to promote agriculture, nutrition, forestry, fisheries and rural development, as well as to eradicate hunger. It is a world focus for information and knowledge on food and agriculture and has a major standard-setting role (Codex alimentarius). The recent food crisis led to the establishment of a task force of all UN agencies concerned, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General. It also prompted a global partnership between political, scientific and financial bodies in which the FAO will play a key role.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was set up to fund agricultural projects in developing countries, in response to food crises. IFAD is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. Working with governments, donors, NGOs and many other partners, IFAD focuses on tailor-made solutions, which may involve country-dwellers’ access to markets, technology and natural resources.
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is the main cooperation body promoting international postal services ensuring universal coverage and solidarity between its members.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) brings together public authorities and the private sector to encourage the development of telecommunications and establish the necessary standards.
The World Summit on the Information Society, suggested by the ITU, was a four-year process with phases in Geneva (2003) and Tunis (2005), marking the determination of the international community to comprehensively address all aspects of the information society. It produced 11 key principles, listed in the Geneva Declaration, as well as the idea of digital solidarity and the need for regulating the internet, recognised as a “global public resource”.
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) seeks to stimulate job creation by tourism, encourage the protection of the environment and tourist heritage and promote sustainable, responsible tourism and understanding among nations.
Update : July 2010