Why are almost all of the United Nations headquarters located in Europe or America?

Why aren't there any headquarter of UN department in Asia or Latin America or Africa?

See this Wikipedia list:


  • 4
    Being a Switzerland is a good start. – DeepS1X Jan 28 '17 at 21:47
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    Switzerland, USA, Italy, France, Spain, etc... little chance of serious upheaval, decent infrastructure, etc. What surprises me,actually, is that there are so few in the US. – CGCampbell Jan 28 '17 at 22:49
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    There IS UN headquarters in Africa, in Nairobi. – Anixx Jan 28 '17 at 23:55
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    Most UN offices are in places where the bureaucrats can luxuriate in posh circumstances and take advantage of their salaries. They would not put themselves in any position where they might actually have to work or suffer discomfort. – sabbahillel Jan 29 '17 at 3:51
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    You should reformulate your question in light of the The United Nations Human Settlements Programme being headquartered in Nairobi, Africa. – Drux Jan 29 '17 at 8:03

Where are they?

Six are in Switzerland, presumably due to its reputation for neutrality. Four of them seem to have replaced organizations that predated the United Nations.

Three are in Italy, all related to food and agriculture. Two are newer, so they might have split off from the first.

Two are in Austria. Note that at the time that they were established, Austria was a neutral country that bordered the eastern bloc countries dominated by the Soviet Union. The first came shortly after the Soviets and the western allies withdrew from their postwar occupation in 1955.

Two are in the United States of America, both related to money and banking. The US was the largest economy and expected to fund the rebuilding of Europe and Japan. Giving it control of the banking organizations probably made sense at that point.

One in the United Kingdom, related to maritime operations. The UK has a long history as a noted naval power with lots of economic activity related to shipping.

One in France, related to culture, science, and education.

One in Canada, related to aviation.

One in Spain, related to tourism.

Only four located in permanent Security Council members.


Note that most of them were established shortly after World War II, so they were likely intended to draw the European countries closer together. Putting them in Europe made sense at that time, particularly as Switzerland had held the immediate predecessor to the UN: the League of Nations.

Looking at the League of Nations, most of Africa was considered colonies of other powers. Most of Asia was the Soviet Union and China.

In general, Europe and North America provide most of the funding for the United Nations. It would be unsurprising if they wanted to keep track of their investments. Similarly, note that most US agencies are located close to Washington, DC even though their clients are elsewhere. For example, the Interior department oversees national parks, mostly land in the west. DC is in the urbanized east, while a great deal of rural land is more centrally located.

Inertia keeps organizations where they were founded, even as circumstances change later. Washington, DC is reasonably located in the middle of the original thirteen colonies, but the center of the US is now in Missouri (closer to St. Louis or Kansas City). Yet they've never moved the capital.

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  • 1
    Nice analysis. I just noticed, thanks to only two being listed in the US, that several agencies with HQ in New York are omitted. But the basic answer remains: it reflects the Euro-American dominance of international affairs after the second world war. I'm pretty sure Austria was not in the Soviet sphere, though, certainly not in 1957 or 1967. – phoog Jan 29 '17 at 17:39
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    The fact that many member nations of the U.N. today were colonies at its inception is the key historical fact. Not only was much of the world in colonial status when the U.N. was founded, one of the most effective U.N. programs (in terms of achieving its stated goals anyway) was the effort to grant independence to colonies. – ohwilleke Jan 30 '17 at 6:21

There is an old website, but with updated information, about the United Nations in Russia. One section specifies about the UN Information Centre in Moscow (UNIC).

Established in 1948, the UN Information Centre in Moscow is the oldest UN office in the country. It is in a way a compact UN "information agency". It is also a repository of knowledge, global best practices and standards in a wide range of areas – from environmental protection to outer space – being at the same time a sort of a local UN public relations service.

And contact information:

UN Information Centre in Moscow
Leontyevsky pereulok, 9, 125009
Tel: (495) 787-21-07
Fax: (495) 787-21-43
E-mail: unic.moscow@unic.org
Website: http://www.unic.ru

[EDIT] (after question edit and comments)

I think that HQs are located only within some countries because of the following:

  • relations with Soviet Union and then Russian Federation were far from being good. UN existence intersected a lot with the Cold War just for a start.
  • relations with China were far from "unicorns and rainbows", because of the communist regime which had problems for decades regarding human rights)
  • other countries: most probably because a headquarters require special security and infrastructure that is not available in less developed countries
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  • I am talking about headquarters. Like Switzerland has headquarters of several UN departments. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – user4514 Jan 28 '17 at 20:42
  • > then after the invasion of Taiwan: what exactly are you talking about? Who invaded whom in Taiwan? – dannyf Jan 28 '17 at 21:26
  • @dannyf - thanks, I have removed wrong information. – Alexei Jan 28 '17 at 21:32

Why are all United nations headquarters in Europe or America?

The UN is primarily a west-led and west-funded organization. So it makes sense that its employees are primarily citizens from the western countries, and such.

That's pretty much true for most of the world institutions.

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  • Somebody argued that Russia is a part of the west. So,what about Russia? – user4514 Jan 28 '17 at 21:17
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    > Somebody argued that Russia is a part of the west. people argue all sorts of crazy things. that doesn't mean you have to agree to any of them. – dannyf Jan 28 '17 at 21:18
  • Most employees in headquarters locations are foreigners, so that doesn't seem to be the reason. – phoog Jan 28 '17 at 22:22

enter image description here

I'm pretty sure this pic is all the explanation you need.

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  • 2
    The people who created the map probably live in the yellow areas. If you were to ask the people in the red areas to create a map it could very well be different. – WinEunuuchs2Unix Jan 29 '17 at 2:30
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    I'd be willing to bet that all the UN buildings on the list were built before 2014... – David says Reinstate Monica Jan 29 '17 at 3:39
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    @DavidGrinberg I'd be willing to bet that the map didn't look so different when UN headquarters locations were chosen. – phoog Jan 29 '17 at 7:58
  • @phoog, I'd be willing to bet that the map looked quite different in 1947 -- among other things, more than half the countries on the current map didn't exist at the time – Mark Feb 1 '17 at 1:41
  • @Mark maybe not as independent countries, no, but their borders as colonies of foreign powers were more or less the same, and, more to the point, the relative degree of corruption in those areas is probably similar. – phoog Feb 1 '17 at 2:26

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