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United Nations and the Oceans

UN bodies, programmes, specialized agencies and related institutions


The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945.  It is currently made up of 193 Member States.  The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.    Due to the powers vested in its Charter and its unique international character, the United Nations can take action on the issues confronting humanity in the 21st century.

The UN system, also known unofficially as the 'UN family', is made up of the UN itself and many programmes, funds, and specialized agencies, all with their own leadership and budget.  The programmes and funds are financed through voluntary rather than assessed contributions. The Specialized Agencies are independent international organizations funded by both voluntary and assessed contributions.  UN System Chart at July 2023

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), based in London, United Kingdom, is a Specialized Agency of the UN.  In 1948 an international conference in Geneva adopted a convention formally establishing IMO (the original name was the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization, or IMCO, but the name was changed in 1982 to IMO).

IMO and several other members of the 'UN family' share ongoing and planned ocean-related activities within their remit and competencies. This is done with a view towards identifying areas for collaboration and promoting coordination and coherence of United Nations system activities related to oceans and the law of the sea.