Vienna - Official Seat of International Organisations & Institutions

Vienna International Center
Vienna International CenterPicture: Austrian Views/Popp

Vienna is one of the most important headquarters of international organisations emerging as a hub for the promotion of peace, security, sustainable development, disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Further emphasis is given to fight against crime, drug abuse and terrorism. 

Already during the Cold War Austria served as platform for international dialogue due to its geopolitical position and its neutral status. This position could be strengthened by the opening of the Vienna International Center (VIC), also called UNO City, in 1979. Since then, Vienna is seat of the United Nations (UN) beside New York, Geneva and Nairobi.

The International organisations based in Austria employ more than 5.000 people, whom of approximately 1.500 are Austrian citizens. On the long run these figures tend to rise.

The VIC currently houses the following International Organisations:

Having been established in 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, current Director-General Yukiya Amano) was the first of the international organisations to be based in Vienna and, with its 2.550 employees, it is still the largest. Over the past few years, the IAEA has shifted its emphasis from the promotion of atomic energy to nuclear safety and the prevention of the improper use of fissile material.

Another Vienna-based organisation is the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), which was set up in 1966 and is currently headed by Li Yong. This is the only organisation within the UN system to provide support for industrialisation in Third World countries and in the Central and Eastern European transition countries through technical assistance, consultation and mediation as well as research and study programmes aimed at the most eco-friendly industrialisation on the one hand, and through the promotion of industrial co-operation between developing and industrialised countries on the other. 

The UNOV Secretariat unit (United Nations Office at Vienna), set up at the opening of the VIC in 1979, gives administrative support to various UN bodies and institutions, and is responsible for conference planning and interpretation services for more than 2,000 conferences and meetings a year as well as for the security services at the Vienna International Centre. UNOV also includes the Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), the Division of Administrative and Common Services (DACS) and the United Nations Information Service (UNIS). 

Secretariat units which report to other Secretariat entities include the United Nations Commission on International Trade (UNCITRAL) and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). Apart from the above-mentioned organisations of the UN family, the VIC also houses the branch-office of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the regional bureau of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In the course of the reforms of the United Nations, in 1997 Vienna became a major centre of all UN efforts aimed at combating crime, drug abuse and terrorism. As a result, the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), renamed the ODC/Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC) in autumn 2002, was set up in Vienna. Since 2010 it has been headed by Yury Fedotov as Executive Director, who at the same time holds the offices of Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the UNOV (United Nations Office at Vienna). The ODC consists of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and the Centre for International Crime Prevention (CICP).

Since 1997 the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) has been operating in Vienna. A sophisticated data centre is attached to the secretariat. Lassina Zerbo took office as Executive Secretary in summer 2013.

The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), founded in 1998, is engaged in ensuring sustainable and ecological management of the Danube River. Besides it supervises the implementation of the Danube River Protection Convention, signed in 1994, and the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EG).

Further international organisations are located outside of the VIC.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), founded in Baghdad in 1960, has been based in Vienna since 1965. This intergovernmental organisation is dedicated to coordinating its member countries’ oil producing policies, achieving stable prices for petroleum-producing countries and to assuring reliable economic supplies to consumer countries. The organisation consists of the ministerial Conference of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Governors’ Council and the Secretariat, headed by the Secretary General (Abdalla Salem El-Badri) who is appointed by the Conference.

The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), established by the OPEC Member Countries in January 1976 is also based in Vienna. The OPEC Fund (Director-General Suleiman Jasir Al-Herbish), which is financed through voluntary contributions derived from the member countries’ oil revenues, seeks to contribute to the development of Third World countries by offering loans and grants to non-OPEC developing countries and to international development agencies.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), headed by Secretary General Lambero Zannier is an organization which promotes stability, cooperation and security in Europe. In the past decade, the OSCE has become an operating organization launching 18 missions in the area of the former Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) area and on the Balkans.
In close technical and organizational cooperation with OSCE institutions (the Forum for Security Co-operation and the Permanent Council) the bodies set up by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and the open Skies Treary hold meetings in Vienna.

The global successor to COCOM, the Secretariat of the Wassenaar Arrangement on export controls for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, which started operating in 1997.

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia was established in the same year by a EU Council regulation and took up office in Vienna in 1998. Following the Council Regulation Nr 168/2007, it was transformed into the European Fundamental Rights Agency (EFRA). Its current director, Morten Kjaerum, assumed his post on June 1, 2008. It has been mandated with providing the European Union and its Member States with objective and comparable information on racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic phenomena discernible at the European level. The Racism and Xenophobia European Network (RAXEN) was established to support the EFRA in the tasks generally related to the collection and provision of data.

A further step towards strengthening Vienna’s position as an official seat of international organisations was taken in 2002, when the liaison office of the Hague Code of Conduct against the Proliferation of Ballistic Missiles (HCOC) moved into its office on the premises of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In the same year the European Space Agency (ESA) decided to establish the newly founded European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) in Vienna.

In 2006, the Energy Community Secretariat was established in Vienna. The Parties to the Treaty establishing the Energy Community are the European Union, on the one hand, and six Contracting Parties, namely, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. With an ultimate aim to extend the EU's internal energy market to the South East Europe, the Energy Community strives to create a stable and uniform regulatory market framework capable of attracting investment, to enhance security of supply, to improve the environmental situation and to stimulate competition.

In 2011 several International Organizations opened premises in Austria. Vienna’s profile as a platform for peace and security was underpinned by the establishment of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP), the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the opening of a liaison office of the International Peace Institute (IPI).

Since 2011 Vienna also hosts three offices of the World-Bank Group (International Bank for Reconstruction and DevelopementIBRD, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency – MIGA, International Finance CorporationIFC). Furthermore the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which fosters the international cooperation in the realm of migration established a regional office in Vienna in the same year. The liaison office has a special focus on Eastern- and Southeastern-Europe as well as Central Asia.

The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) was established in 1993 upon initiative of Austria and Switzerland. The Headquarter of this International Organisation is located in Vienna. ICMPD has become an important partner for its now 15 Member States and for the EU in the development of innovative and sustainable migration concepts and projects, in particular when it comes to cooperation with Third Countries in the Eastern or Southern neighbourhood of the EU.

Moreover the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) was inaugurated in 2011.

Finally, in the same year, the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) was founded in Laxenburg.

Apart from international organisations, a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other institutions with sui generis status, such as the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Vienna Institute for Development and Co-operation and the International Press Institute are also located in Vienna.

Most recently, the office of the Sustainable-Energy-for-All-Initiative (SE4All) became operative in summer 2013, following the nomination of former Secretary General of UNIDO, Kandeh Yumkella for special representative of the UN for sustainable energy in August 2012.