Labour, Economic Affairs and Science
Geneva hosts most specialized UN agencies in the field of labour and economic affairs. With regard to scientific cooperation, CERN, a non-UN European inter-governmental organization, has received world-wide recognition for its research.
Labour issues are dealt with in Geneva by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which is the UN’s specialized agency devoted to social justice by advancing decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Its longstanding history dates back to 1919, when it was created along with the League of Nations by the Treaty of Versailles. The ILO draws up and oversees international labour standards. It brings together representatives from governments, employers and workers, thus being the only tripartite agency within the UN-System. Its main decision making body is the annual International Labour Conference, which brings together thousands of delegates representing governments, employers and workers from around the world. The Austrian Mission liaises closely with the ILO, while it is the Austrian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection which is primarily responsible for ILO-issues.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of the five regional economic commissions of the United Nations. It aims at promoting economic integration and cooperation among its 56 Member States which include all United Nations Member States from Europe and the entire former Soviet Union as well as Canada, Israel, and the United States. Its activities include policy advice, analysis, technical cooperation and standard-setting in the fields of transport, energy, environment, trade, and statistics. Austria participates in UNECE’s work notably in the fields of transport (UNECE Conference on Financing development of road and rail transport infrastructures in Vienna in November 2010), population (Conference on Ageing in Vienna 2012), and housing & land management (featuring the City of Vienna’s expertise in environmental-friendly housing).
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), another UN specialized agency, is mandated to develop and maintain an international intellectual property system which contributes to economic development while balancing rights of creators and inventors and public interest. Intellectual property includes copyright and related rights as well as industrial property (mainly patents and trademarks). Main challenges include the rapid scientific progress and the emergence of the internet. Austria participates in the work of WIPO mainly through experts from the Austrian Patent Office and the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), founded in 1865, is the oldest international organization in the UN family. It is the leading UN agency for information and communication technology issues, and the global focal point for governments and the private sector in developing networks and services. Austria participates through experts from the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology.
It should also be noted that, for the follow-up of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which took place in Tunis 2005 and to deal with internet governance issues, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was set up. Furthermore the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) hosted by the UNCTAD Secretariat is tasked with the supervision and implementation of the WSIS process. Austria has been a constant member of CSTD from its beginning.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is unique among Geneva-based institutions as it is neither affiliated nor related to the UN system, but a separate intergovernmental organization established in 1954 with currently 20 European member states. CERN, located both on Swiss and French territory, operates the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. Its achievements include numerous scientific discoveries (three Nobel Prizes in physics were awarded to CERN scientists), the construction of a number of particle accelerators (the largest being the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider LHC opened in 2008) and technical developments in other fields (most prominently the World Wide Web). Member states are represented in the intergovernmental structure of CERN through two delegates. Traditionally, the Austrian Permanent Representative serves as one of the Austrian CERN delegates whereas the other is a scientific delegate from capital.