United Nations


The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the organization responsible for setting the global rules governing trade among nations.

  • To keep peace throughout the world
  • To develop friendly relations among nations
  • To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms
  • To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals

The U.N. has 193 member states.


The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the U.N., comprising all 193 members. The Secretariat carries out the day-today work of the organization and provides studies, information, and the facilities needed by the U.N. Due to its unique international character, the U.N. can take action on a wide range of issues.

The U.N. includes 15 agencies and several programs and bodies.

There are a number of specialized programs and agencies that could serve as potential vehicles for fisheries subsidies reform. These include the following:

  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The decision-making process in U.N. agencies is publicly accessible and transparent, allowing for civil society interaction. However, the U.N. is also notorious for its bureaucracy. While decision-making is fairly straightforward, the size and complexity of the bureaucracy can be daunting and confusing for outsiders. It is typically recommended that organizations that want to seriously engage with U.N. agencies seek the knowledge of former U.N. staff who can help them comprehend internal processes, procedures, and timelines.

Below are profiles for each of the agencies listed above. Each agency was profiled and assessed individually for its specific/unique potential to produce outcomes related to fisheries subsidies reform. Outcomes from the U.N. agencies, in turn, affect what the UNGA is capable of acting on.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is the U.N. body responsible for trade, investment, and development. UNCTAD is a subsidiary body of the UNGA and has 194 members.

UNCTAD’s goals are to “maximize the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to integrate into the world economy on an equitable basis.”

UNCTAD produces analyses that form the basis for recommendations to economic policymakers. UNCTAD is also a forum where representatives of all countries can freely engage in dialogue and discuss ways to establish a better balance in the global economy.

In addition, UNCTAD offers direct technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, helping them to build the capacities they need to become equitably integrated into the global economy and improve the well-being of their populations. It also holds discussions with civil society, including at an annual symposium where members of the public can express their views and interact with country representatives.

Every two years, UNCTAD organizes the World Investment Forum, which brings together major players from the international investment community to discuss challenges and opportunities and to promote investment policies and partnerships for sustainable development and equitable growth.

Governance and Decision-Making

UNCTAD is led by a Secretary-General. The primary intergovernmental machinery of UNCTAD includes the Conference, the Trade and Development Board, Commissions, and expert meetings.

The Conference, a ministerial-level meeting, meets every four years to assess trade and development issues and to discuss policy options and global policy responses. The Conference also sets the organization’s mandate and work priorities.

The Trade and Development Board oversees the activities of the organization between the quadrennial conferences. It meets in regular session and up to three times a year in executive sessions to deal with urgent policy issues.

There are commissions mandated to follow Trade and Development; Investment, Enterprise and Development; and Science and Technology for Development. The commissions meet once a year, and each Commission convenes a number of expert meetings on specific topics.

History and experience of UNCTAD on fisheries subsidies

Since he took office in September 2013, the UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi has reinforced the relevance of fisheries subsidies and asserted the urgent need to phase out subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. Notably, the Secretary-General specifically called for the WTO to make fisheries subsidies a priority in its post-Doha round program.

UNCTAD and the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) are also working closely together on developing a clear course of action on fisheries subsidies reform. With UNCTAD’s assistance as a close advisor, UNEP’s Economics and Trade Branch (ETB) is working actively to promote integrated and well-informed responses to the need for fisheries subsidies reform. Through a series of workshops, analytic papers, and country projects, the ETB seeks to improve the understanding of the impact of fisheries subsidies and to present policy options to address harmful impacts.

What could UNCTAD produce/do on fisheries subsidies?

UNCTAD has the potential to make significant contributions towards global fisheries subsidies reform, given the current Secretary-General’s commitment to the issue and UNCTAD’s ability to interact at high levels with other organizations, such as the WTO, other U.N. agencies, and around trade agreements. Two specific outcomes could include 1) an official endorsement of fisheries subsidies reform as one of the targets in a standalone marine conservation Sustainable Development Goal, and 2) the elevation of fisheries subsidies discussions to the highest levels in other organizations and trade negotiations.

The following are some other activities UNCTAD could undertake:

  • UNCTAD, particularly the ministerial-level Conference, could promote and support international consensus building for fisheries subsidies reform.
  • UNCTAD could provide international support to advance workable measures for fisheries subsidies reform and provide technical assistance to countries or other organizations.


United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
Palais des Nations
8-14, Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10

Tel: +41 22 917 1234
Fax: +41 22 917 0057

Email: [email protected]

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the U.N.’s global development network. Its mission is to “advocate for change and connect countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.” UNDP is at the center of the U.N.’s efforts to reduce global poverty.

UNDP works in four focus areas:

  • Poverty reduction and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals
  • Environment and Energy for Sustainable Development
  • Democratic Governance
  • Crisis Prevention and Recovery

UNDP has offices in 177 countries and territories and plays an important role as a partner to countries for national-level development work.

Governance and Decision-Making

UNDP is led by the UNDP Administrator and is also the chair of the U.N. Development Group (UNDG). The UNDG brings together the 32 U.N. agencies that work on development.

The Executive Board of UNDP is comprised of representatives from 36 countries. It is responsible for providing intergovernmental support to activities undertaken. Decisions are adopted by consensus among members of the Executive Board.

Board members are elected for three-year terms with a geographic breakdown of membership as follows: African States (8), Asian and Pacific States (7), Eastern European States (4), Latin American, and Caribbean States (5), and Western European and other States (12).

The Executive Board holds two regular sessions and one annual session each year.

What could UNDP produce/do on fisheries subsidies?

One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference of 2012 was the agreement by U.N. members to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), geared towards replacing the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. The UNDP is facilitating the deliberations around the SDGs.

The first draft of the SDGs includes a goal addressing marine conservation. This goal is comprised of ten targets, including one dedicated to fisheries subsidies:

By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing, and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and e,fective special and di,ferential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiation taking into account ongoing WTO negotiations and WTO Doha Development Agenda and Hong Kong Ministerial Mandate.

The SDGs are currently being finalized, including measures for implementation and a framework for monitoring and reviewing implementation. A U.N. Summit for the adoption of the SDGs will be held in September 2015 in New York. This Summit will be convened as a high-level plenary meeting of the UNGA.

Overall, the SDGs are the preeminent structure to achieve global recognition towards reforming harmful fisheries subsidies. In addition, if the marine conservation goal is established in the final SDGs, there will be dedicated funding over the next decade to address the targets, which currently includes fisheries subsidies.

What could UNDP produce/do on fisheries subsidies?

The most significant outcome would be producing a standalone SDG for marine conservation that maintains the fisheries subsidies language close to its current form.

The following are some other activities UNDP could undertake:

  • UNDP could produce non-binding declarations and joint statements that make recommendations on member policies and activities involving fisheries subsidies.
  • UNDP could set a global level of ambition for fisheries subsidy reform against which the national performance of governments could be compared.
  • Through the Poverty-Environment Initiative, UNDP could also assist government policymakers with financial and technical support, to manage resources in a way that improves livelihoods and leads to sustainable growth.


United Nations Development Programme Headquarters
One United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
United States

Tel: +1 212 906 5000
Fax: +1 212 906 5364


United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) coordinates the U.N.’s environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices.

UNEP assesses international, regional, and national environmental trends and issues and works on developing solutions at each scale. Another key aspect of UNEP’s work includes strengthening institutions for the wise management of the environment.

Governance and Decision-Making

UNEP is led by an Under Secretary-General and Executive Director. The U.N. Environmental Assembly (UNEA) is the governing body of UNEP. All 193 U.N. member countries and observers participate in the discussions and decision-making of UNEA.

UNEA is mandated to take strategic decision and provide political guidance in UNEP’s work. UNEA meets biennially and concludes with a two-day high-level segment.

The Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) is a subsidiary inter-sessional body of UNEA. The CPR is composed of representatives of all members states accredited to UNEP. The CPR provides policy advice to UNEA, contributes to decisions to be adopted by UNEA, and oversees their implementation. The CPR meets biennially. It also organizes briefings and thematic debates as necessary to consider particular issues in depth.

History and experience of UNEP on fisheries subsidies

UNEP has, helped draw international attention to the subject of fisheries subsidies reform since the mid-1990’s by facilitating critical dialogue among the trade, environment, and fisheries policy communities. UNEP has also contributed to the discussion of fisheries subsidies through workshops, analytical papers, and country projects.

UNEP’s Economics and Trade Branch (ETB) is working on promoting the need for fisheries subsidies reform, improving the understanding of the impact of fisheries subsidies, and presenting policy options to address harmful impacts. UNEP works in close collaboration with other U.N. agencies, governments, NGOs, and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, primarily through workshops, publications, and country projects. As mentioned under the UNCTAD profile, UNEP is collaborating with UNCTAD on an integrated response to fisheries subsidies reform.

Overall, UNEP is clearly committed to the issue of fisheries subsidies reform. However, its primary role is as a convener and producer of policy and technical information.

What could UNEP produce/do on fisheries subsidies?

UNEP continues to lead international efforts to raise awareness about the need for fisheries subsidies reform. A key role is providing UNDP with the tools and information needed to ensure that language on fisheries subsidies reform in the SDGs remains strong and can be made operational. Similarly, UNEP can take an important education and advocacy role to ensure that a standalone marine conservation goal, including fisheries subsidies, becomes a reality in the final SDGs.

  • UNEP could aid in the formulation of guidelines and international agreements on fisheries subsidies.
  • UNEP could play a role in developing international conventions, promoting fisheries subsidies science and information and illustrating the way those can be implemented.
  • UNEP could play a lead role in facilitating dialogue among stakeholders at the international level. It could also contribute to the discussion through the organization of workshops, the publication of analytical papers, and country projects.
  • UNEP could support countries wishing to explore pathways for fisheries reforms at the regional or national levels. It could provide essential knowledge and capacity for countries to obtain the necessary ability and investments to enact reforms.


United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Avenue, Gigiri
PO Box 30552, 00100

Tel: +254 20 7621234

Email: [email protected]

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is an intergovernmental organization and the largest autonomous agency within the U.N.

The FAO’s mandate is to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, and improve agricultural productivity and the livelihood of rural populations. Its work addresses land and water development, plant and animal production, forestry, fisheries, economic and social policy, investment, nutrition, food standards, and trade.

The FAO is headquartered in Rome and is present in more than 130 countries. The FAO is composed of six departments, including the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.

The FAO’s long-term strategy and activities related to fisheries are defined by its vision of a world in which the responsible and sustainable use of fisheries and aquaculture contribute to human well-being, food security, and poverty alleviation. The FAO seeks to strengthen global governance and the managerial and technical capacities of its members and to lead consensus-building towards improved conservation and utilization of aquatic resources.

Every two years the FAO publishes its premier fisheries document The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA). This document provides a comprehensive view of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture, including associated policy issues.

The FAO also aims to make a significant contribution to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and the targets set by the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the World Food Summit.

Governance and Decision-Making

The FAO is governed by the Conference of Member Nations.

The Conference elects a Director-General to head the agency for a four-year term. The Conference also elects a Council of 49 member nations to act as a governing body. Country representatives meet biennially at the FAO Conference to review global governance issues and international frameworks. They also evaluate the ongoing work and approve the budget for the next biennium.

The Committee of Fisheries (COFI) is a subsidiary body of the FAO Council. It is the only global intergovernmental forum where major international fisheries issues are examined and recommendations addressed to the FAO, governments, regional fisheries bodies, and other stakeholders. COFI is also used as a forum where global agreements and non-binding instruments can be negotiated.

COFI can establish committees and has put in place a Sub-Committee on Fish Trade, which provides a forum for consultations on the technical and economic aspects of international trade in fish and fishery products. The reports presented through COFI are almost always prepared by the staff of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, and discussed and agreed to prior to COFI meetings. The actual COFI meetings typically are used for political matters and for the convening of the broader international fisheries community.

History and experience of fao on fisheries subsidies

The FAO has a long history with fisheries subsidies. The agency’s involvement dates back to its technical examinations of subsidies to the fishing sector in the 1960’s. Throughout the 1990’s, it helped draw international attention to the subject of fisheries subsidies reform. For many decades, the FAO has also provided invaluable information about fisheries subsidies to development, environment, and policy communities through workshops and analytical papers and studies.

What could the FAO produce/do on fisheries subsidies?

As the sole globally recognized source for unbiased fisheries data, the FAO has an important role to play in 1) advancing worldwide discussion and action to address harmful fisheries subsidies, and 2) supporting the United Nations Development Programme’s efforts to produce fisheries subsidies language in the Sustainable Development Goals.

The following are some other activities the FAO could undertake:

  • The FAO could collect, analyze, and make information on fisheries subsidies available to global stakeholders.
  • The FAO could also provide direct development assistance, offer policy expertise to governments, strengthen political commitment and cooperation to address fisheries subsidies, and act as an international forum for debate on the topic.


Food and Agriculture Organization Headquarters
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome

Tel: +39 06 57051
Fax: +39 06 570 53152

Email: [email protected]

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