UPSC (CSE) Prelims Exam 2021: List of UN Funds, Programmes and Agencies

United Nations and its various programmes and agencies are an important part of the UPSC Civil Services Prelims Exam syllabus. Every year 2-3 questions are asked from this section which makes the section necessary and important to read. In this article, we have provided a list of UN Funds, Programmes, and Agencies with their functions and other important details. 

Created On: Jan 7, 2021 12:01 IST
UPSC CSE Prelims 2021: List of UN (United Nations) Funds, Programmes & Agencies
UPSC CSE Prelims 2021: List of UN (United Nations) Funds, Programmes & Agencies

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization founded in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States. Its activities include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. To successfully run such diverse functions, the UN has constituted various institutions under its umbrella. The ‘UN System’, also known unofficially as the ‘UN Family’ is made up of the UN itself and many affiliated programs, funds and specialized agencies, all with their own membership, leadership, and budget. The programmes and funds are financed through volunt

ary rather than assessed contributions. The Specialized Agencies are independent international organizations funded by both voluntary and assessed contributions.

UPSC (IAS) Prelims 2021: Subject-wise Study Material for Complete Preparation

Let’s have a look at each of these agencies, funds, and programmes of the United Nations (UN). 

Funds and Programmes

United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP): 

➨ Headquartered in New York City, Formed in 1965

UNDP was created to help countries eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable human development. On the ground in nearly 170 countries, the UNDP is UN’s global development network, focusing on the challenges of democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and environment, and from HIV/AIDS recovery and prevention. 

  • The largest UN Development assistance program, the UNDP is headed by an administrator who oversees a 36 member Executive Board representing both developing and developed countries. 
  •  The UNDP administers aid through five year Country Programmes, which fund projects aimed at attracting investment capital, training skilled employees, and implementing modern technologies. 
  • It also assists developing countries through experts for the promotion of Good Governance by building political and legal institutions that are equitable, responsive, and open to public participation and to expand the private sector of their economies in order to provide more jobs. 
  • UNDP Resident Representatives in more than 125 developing countries help to coordinate the local activities of other UN agencies and programs as well as those of non-governmental organizations.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP): 

➨Headquartered in Gigiri, neighbourhood of Nairobi, Kenya, established in 1972

UNEP was a result of the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference).  UNEP coordinates in environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. Its activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance, and green economy.  Governments are the core of UNEP’s funding because UNEP is an intergovernmental organization owned by the 193 UN Member States. Each and every country is a donor, and each and every country is a recipient. 

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): 

➨ Headquartered in New York City, it initially began operation in 1969 as the UN Fund for Population Activities (the name was changed in 1987) under the administration of the United Nations Development Fund. 

  • In 1971 it was placed under the authority of the UNGA. A UN Organisation and a leading UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. Their work involves the improvement of reproductive health; including the creation of national strategies and protocols and providing supplies and services. 
  • The organization has recently been known for its worldwide campaign against obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation. 
  • Guided by the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the Millennium Development Goals, the organisation is working on the ground in about 150 countries in association with governments, other UN Agencies, Civil societies and the private sector to make a real difference to millions of people, especially the most vulnerable. 
  • It operates in all regions of the world with its specialized agencies and is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions.

United Nations Habitat (UN-Habitat):  

  • A UN program working towards a better urban future, its mission involves twin agenda: to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements developments and the achievement of adequate shelter for all. 
  • It was established in 1978 as an outcome of the First UN Conference on Human Settlements and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat I) held in Vancouver, Canada in 1976. 
  • The agency has three main divisions which each oversee a set of programs: (i) the Shelter and Sustainable Human Settlements Development Division; (ii) the Monitoring and Research Division; and (iii) the Regional and Technical Cooperation Division. 
  • Most of the agency’s budget comes in the form of voluntary contributions from governments and inter-governmental donors. 
  • Other partners, like local authorities, the Private sector, multi-lateral organization, and other UN bodies provide funding for specific programmes.

United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF):  

➨ Headquartered in New York City, Formed on December 11, 1946 

  • UNICEF was formed to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by WW-II. It provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. 
  • It is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments (about two-thirds of the organization’s resources) and private donors (nearly about six million individuals) through national committees.
  •  UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 and the Prince of Asturias Award of Concord in 2006. 
  • Most of UNICEF’s work is in the field, with staff in over 190 countries having about 200 country offices, guided by 7 regional offices that provide technical assistance to country offices as needed. The primary point of distribution of essential items such as vaccines, antiretroviral medicines for children and mothers with HIV, nutritional supplements, emergency shelters, family reunification, and educational supplies, etc. are done through Copenhagen based supply division. 
  • A 36 member executive board made up of government representatives, elected by the UN Economic and Social Council for three-year terms, establishes policies, approves programmes and oversees administrative and financial plans. 

World Food Program (WFP):  

  • Initially established in 1961, after the 1960 Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Conference and formally established in 1963 by the FAO and the UNGA on a three-year experimental basis. In 1965, the program was extended to a continuing basis. 
  • The WFP is governed by an Executive Board which consists of representatives from 36 member states. The European Union is a permanent observer in the WFP and as a major donor participates in the work of its Executive Board. • Its vision is a world in which every man, woman, and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. 
  • The WFP operations are funded by voluntary donations from world governments, corporations, and private donors. The organization’s administrative costs are only seven percent—one of the lowest and best among aid agencies. 
  • WFP food aid is also directed to fight micronutrient deficiencies, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat disease, including HIV and AIDS. 

UN Specialized Agencies

The UN specialized agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations. All were brought into a relationship with the UN through negotiated agreements. Some existed before the First World War. Some were associated with the League of Nations. Others were created almost simultaneously with the UN. Others were created by the UN to meet emerging needs.


Headquarters: Rome, Italy

The Food and Agriculture Organization leads to international efforts to fight hunger. It is both a forum for negotiating agreements between developing and developed countries and a source of technical knowledge and information to aid development.


Headquarters: Montreal, Canada

The International Civil Aviation Organization develops standards for global air transport and assists its 192 Member States in sharing the world’s skies to their socio-economic benefit.


Headquarters: Rome, Italy

The International Fund for Agricultural Development, since it was created in 1977, has focused exclusively on rural poverty reduction, working with poor rural populations in developing countries to eliminate poverty, hunger, and malnutrition; raise their productivity and incomes, and improve the quality of their lives.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The International Labor Organization promotes international labor rights by formulating international standards on the freedom to associate, collective bargaining, the abolition of forced labor, and equality of opportunity and treatment.


Headquarters: Washington, DC, USA

The International Monetary Fund fosters economic growth and employment by providing temporary financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payments adjustment and technical assistance. The IMF currently has $28 billion in outstanding loans to 74 nations


Headquarters: London, United Kingdom

The International Maritime Organization has created a comprehensive shipping regulatory framework, addressing safety and environmental concerns, legal matters, technical cooperation, security, and efficiency.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The International Telecommunication Union is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies. It is committed to connecting all the world's people – wherever they live and whatever their means. Through our work, we protect and support everyone's fundamental right to communicate


Headquarters: Paris, France

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization focuses on everything from teacher training to helping improve education worldwide to protecting important historical and cultural sites around the world. UNESCO added 28 new World Heritage Sites this year to the list of irreplaceable treasures that will be protected for today's travelers and future generations.

Headquarters: Vienna, Austria

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization is the specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization, and environmental sustainability.


Headquarters: Madrid, Spain

The World Tourism Organization is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism.


Headquarters: Bern, Switzerland

The Universal Postal Union is the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players. It helps to ensure a truly universal network of up-to-date products and services.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The World Health Organization is the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations system. The objective of WHO is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health, as defined in the WHO Constitution, is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The World Intellectual Property Organization protects intellectual property throughout the world through 23 international treaties.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The World Meteorological Organization facilitates the free international exchange of meteorological data and information and the furtherance of its use in aviation, shipping, security, and agriculture, among other things.

World Bank

Headquarters: Washington, DC, USA

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 countries for education, health, infrastructure, and communications, among other things. The World Bank works in over 100 countries.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)

International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)*

International Development Association (IDA)

International Finance Corporation (IFC)

Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)*

Other Entities and Bodies


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO, and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR protects refugees worldwide and facilitates their return home or resettlement.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research is a voluntarily funded autonomous institute within the United Nations. An impartial actor, the Institute generates ideas and promotes action on disarmament and security. UNIDIR brings together states, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and academia to work together—internationally, regionally and locally—to build and implement creative solutions that will benefit all states and peoples.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

An autonomous UN body established in 1963, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research is a training arm of the United Nations System and has the mandate to enhance the effectiveness of the UN through diplomatic training, and to increase the impact of national actions through public awareness-raising, education, and training of public policy officials. 


Headquarters: Copenhagen, Denmark

The mission of the United Nations Office for Project Services is to help people build better lives and help countries achieve peace and sustainable development. UNOPS helps the UN, governments, and other partners to manage projects, and deliver sustainable infrastructure and procurement in an efficient way.


Headquarters: Amman, Jordan

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees. It’s services encompass education, health care, relief, and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict.  It reports only to the UN General Assembly.


Headquarters: Turin, Italy

The United Nations System Staff College is the learning organization of the United Nations system. It designs and delivers learning programmes for staff of the UN system and its partners. It helps the United Nations become more effective by fostering a common leadership and management culture across the system.

Important Questions on Int’l Organizations from Previous Years Papers

UN Women

Headquarters: New York City, USA

UN Women merges and builds on the important work of four previously distinct parts of the UN system, which focus exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Related Organizations


Headquarters: Vienna, Austria

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization promotes the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (which is not yet in force) and the build-up of the verification regime so that it is operational when the Treaty enters into force.


Headquarters: Vienna, Austria

The International Atomic Energy Agency is the world's center for cooperation in the nuclear field. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure, and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The International Organization for Migration works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.


Headquarters: The Hague, Netherlands

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997. The OPCW Member States work together to achieve a world free of chemical weapons.


Headquarters: Bonn, Germany

The UNFCCC Secretariat (UN Climate Change) was established in 1992 when countries adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With the subsequent adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Agreement in 2015, Parties to these three agreements have progressively reaffirmed the Secretariat’s role as the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change.


Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

The World Trade Organization is a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements and a place where member governments try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other.

List of International Institutions India is a Member Country