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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The History of the International Organization Affairs Bureau (IO)


On June 24, 1949, Secretary of State Dean Acheson established the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) as part of the U.S. effort to meet the needs of post-World War II diplomacy.

According to Department records, the new bureau’s primary responsibilities were to “…promote the most effective use of the machinery of international organizations in the conduct of foreign affairs…act as the official channel between the United States and international organizations of an inter-regional character…and to formulate United State positions on political and security matters of an inter-regional nature and on social, refugee, and displaced persons, health, human rights, freedom of information and trusteeship and dependent areas policies; the constructive development of the world community, and the development of the world community, and the development of the United nations and its charter, with the advice or review of other areas of the Department, as appropriate.”

Just four months later, IO was renamed the Bureau for United Nations Affairs, only to revert to International Organization Affairs in 1954.

Throughout its history, the Bureau of International Affairs has been responsible for U.S. participation in the United Nations, its technical specialized agencies, and other international organizations. In the last decade, IO has focused increasingly on management and accountability within the United Nations and its agencies in an effort to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Today, the IO Bureau works not only through the United States Mission to the UN in New York, but also through the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome, the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization, the U.S. Mission to the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the U.S. Mission to the UN Environmental Program.

In all these fora, IO works through multilateral engagement to advance strategic U.S. policies and interests and ensure that the UN and other international organizations remain effective through appropriate reform.


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