The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) was founded in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on 2 August 1946 as the peoples’ movement for the United Nations. This was one year after the UN Charter was proclaimed with the opening words “We the peoples of the United Nations”. Ever since, WFUNA has been the only global NGO that exists to support the United Nations family.
Its founders had long experience in international cooperation and were aware of the importance of public support as fundamental to the success of the United Nations.
The main goals of the Constitution adopted in 1946 included to promote tolerance, understanding, solidarity and co-operation among men, women and children throughout the world without distinction as to race, sex, language, religion, or political orientation.
Over the years, United Nations Associations (UNAs) have been established all over the world, as new nation states were formed and joined the UN. UNAs were born in a number of countries that were not yet UN members, serving as windows to the world organization. For example, this was the case in Hungary, Japan and Romania.
The UN General Assembly has adopted resolutions expressing appreciation for the Federations’ efforts to promote wider public support of the UN. In 1986 resolution 41/68 concerning questions relating to information dedicated an entire section to commending the efforts of WFUNA and UNAs around the world for their ‘mobilization of popular support for the programs and work of the United Nations’.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an active participant in WFUNA. Since the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she chaired, WFUNA considered human rights advocacy as a central part of its programs. A number of international seminars in different regions of the world have been organized by WFUNA on the teaching of human rights. The proposal for creating the position of a High Commissioner for Human Rights was on WFUNA’s agenda for many years.
In practical terms, WFUNA played a crucial role by helping people in those countries where human rights were violated, such as Franco’s Spain, some of the former communist countries in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East. WFUNA was the first international organization that brought together the people of divided countries – such as East and West Germany and Cyprus, and the opponents in conflicts, for example between Israel and Egypt in the late 1960’s.
WFUNA helped promote ‘Security and Co-operation in Europe’ (CSCE) by holding in 1967 the first ever conference on this topic. Other NGOs followed WFUNA’s campaign which continued until 1975 when the Final Act was signed at Helsinki by 35 governments, including USA and Canada, establishing the CSCE process. Further campaigning led in 1994 to the CSCE process that consisted of a Biennial Review Conference being raised to a Permanent Organization (OSCE).
WFUNA made significant contributions to the NGO campaign for the abolition of Apartheid. The 32nd General Assembly of the United Nations, in 1977, received a resolution from the 117th WFUNA Executive Committee meeting, which requested:
“The Security Council of the United Nations to give urgent consideration to the taking of immediate steps to ensure that no State, multinational or other body or person be allowed to provide South Africa or Rhodesia with any equipment, technology or production of nuclear weapons or any kind”.
African UNAs played a critical role in this struggle. WFUNA’s regional office in Accra has been an important focal point for these and other activities.
WFUNA facilitated high-level informal consultations on disarmament issues between key experts of the USA and USSR during the Cold War. It organized a number of NGO Seminars on Disarmament in cooperation with the UN, UNESCO and other NGOs.
During its history WFUNA has served as a forum for global dialogues on development. Several suggestions, like the establishment of an Economic Commission for Africa, were first adopted at WFUNA Plenary Assemblies and then endorsed by governments.
WFUNA has actively supported reform of the UN and its capacity to meet new tasks and challenges. WFUNA has continually received recognition from the highest ranks of the United Nations. The sentiments in this statement by UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammerskjöld, to WFUNA’s 12th Plenary Assembly were shared by all his successors: “I wish.….. to express my appreciation of your most essential service. At the same time, I wish to urge you to fresh endeavors. Over the years you have accomplished much and have acted with an ever increasing sense of your great responsibilities.”
For many years WFUNA conducted a fund raising program based on the sale of first day covers of UN stamps and lithographs produced by artists and celebrities, such as Picasso, Lou Zheng Jang, Miro, Salvador Dali, Ruben Leyva, Al Hirschfeld and Andy Warhol to promote the ideals of the UN. This highly successful program ran for several decades during the 20th century.
Now in the 21st century, WFUNA is rising to the challenges posed by the Millennium Summit and Forum Declarations. True to the vision of its founding members, WFUNA is searching for ways of giving voice to the peoples.
Link to WFUNA Reform Forum blog, an on-line venue, where
UNAs could discuss UN reform-related issues. Forum for global interaction and
CLICK HERE to view and download ‘We The Peoples’ 2003 PDF