The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) was founded in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on 2 August 1946 by 22 United Nations Associations (UNAs). 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 organization with the primary mission of supporting the principles and purposes of the United Nations.
WFUNA’s founders had extensive experience in international cooperation and were aware of the fundamental importance of public understanding of the role of the United Nations in shaping international relations.
Over the years, United Nations Associations have been established all over the world, as new nation states were formed and joined the UN.
The UN General Assembly has adopted resolutions expressing appreciation for WFUNA’s 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. 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 brought together 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 conference on this topic. Other NGOs followed WFUNA’s campaign which continued until 1975 when the Final Act was signed in Helsinki by 35 governments, establishing the CSCE process.
WFUNA, including its African UNA members, 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 of any kind”.
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. In 2015, UNAs around the world embraced the 2030 Agenda, and gave the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a high priority on their agendas.
WFUNA has actively supported reform of the UN and its capacity to meet new tasks and challenges. In 2016, it launched historic Security Council Election Debates with candidates competing for non-permanent seats.
For several decades during the 20th century, WFUNA conducted a fundraising 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.