United Nations Entities
last updated 13 June 2013
Within the United Nations system, several principal organs, or main bodies, comprise the overall structure for the system. The first main body is the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly is the primary “deliberative, policy making, and representative organ of the [UN].”[1] The second main body is the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). ECOSOC addresses the world’s economic, social and environmental challenges.[2] The third main body is the Secretariat. The Secretariat’s staff provides a wide range of duties. These duties include peacekeeping operations, mediating disputes, and examining international economic and social issues, including preparing findings relating to human rights.[3] Several of these bodies address the issue of violence against women, with most of that responsibility residing in ECOSOC. The subsidiary organizations that comprise the UN are divided into several classifications, and report to a specified main body.[4]
The first classification is comprised of UN programs and funds that report to the General Assembly and ECOSOC, These organizations work to improve the conditions of specific populations, including women. The UN programs and funds are self-governed and have their own budgets and secretariats. Members of this group include: United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The second classification is comprised of independent organizations, known as specialized agencies, which report to ECOSOC. These agencies are linked to the UN through cooperative agreements. Specialized agencies are autonomous bodies created through international agreements. Specialized agencies have a wide spectrum of international responsibilities and work on a number of related issues, such as economic, social, education, and health issues. Some of the specialized agencies address issues that are relevant to ending violence against women, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The third classification is comprised of research and training institutes, which report to the General Assembly and ECOSOC. These institutes provide extensive research and training to UN staff and to UN Member States. The institutes are created in an ad hoc manner; with the projects determined by the individual institutes’ managing and governing bodies. The priorities of the institutes include “economic and social development, disarmament, security matters, gender issues, crime prevention, and criminal justice.”[5] One such research and training institute is the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).
The fourth classification is comprised of departments and offices, which report to the Secretariat, The UN system has an extensive network of departments and offices worldwide including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Office of the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General (OSAGI) focusing on issues relating to violence against women.[6]
The fifth classification is comprised of other entities. These entities are either a part of the UN system or are not officially a part of the UN system, but maintain close ties with the UN, such as some intergovernmental organizations. Some of the entities in this classification that are part of the UN system and report to a main body are The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which reports to ECOSOC, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which reports to the General Assembly and ECOSOC. Intergovernmental organizations that are not part of the UN but work closely with UN programs and specialized agencies as well as other non-governmental organizations include the International Organization for Migration (IOM).



[1] “General Assembly of the United Nations,” United Nations, http://www.un.org/en/ga/.
[2] United Nations Economic and Social Council, http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/index.shtml.
[3] “Secretariat,” United Nations, http://www.un.org/en/mainbodies/secretariat/.
[4] “The United Nations System,” United Nations, http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/structure/pdfs/un-system-chart-color-sm.pdf.
[5] “Report of the Secretary-General: VI. United Nations research and training institutions,” United Nations, http://www.un.org/mandatereview/research.html.
[6] “Secretariat,” United Nations, http://www.un.org/en/mainbodies/secretariat/.