The UN & international institutions


The UN has been active from its earliest years in efforts to promote economic and social development, introducing the ideas of development aid in 1950s, sustainable development in the 1980s, human development in the 1990s, the Millennium Development Goals in the 2000s, and now the Sustainable Development Goals. 


However, the UN has never played a central role in international economic relations. Although economic topics appear on the agenda, much of the decision-making has always taken place in institutions that have never really been part of the UN system.


The Bretton Woods institutions – the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) – while technically part of the system, have operated quite independently.


The World Trade Organisation (WTO), established as the successor of the GATT in 1995), the Group of 7 (G-7), the Group of 20 (G-20), major corporations, and banks are all outside the UN system.

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