EPA collaborates with a wide variety of multilateral organizations to protect human health and the environment. Many pollutants released abroad directly affect the populations and ecosystems within our borders. In addition, foreign partners often seek solutions to environmental problems from EPA and U.S. experts who have demonstrated leadership on a variety of issues.
These institutions provide a forum for encouraging collective actions for common solutions and help leverage resources as we seek to manage ongoing and emerging environmental threats in new ways.
Learn More about Our Work with International Organizations:
The United Nations
The United Nations (U.N.), with its many component bodies, is foremost among the multilateral, intergovernmental organizations with which EPA engages on environmental and sustainable economic development issues. Cooperation to manage natural resources and reduce transboundary pollution is fundamental to building safe, stable and prosperous societies. This helps to ensure that U.S. stakeholders are operating on an equal footing with international counterparts.
The U.N. system includes subsidiary bodies which support its environmental efforts. EPA works with several of these, which are described below.
The United Nations Environment Programme
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), established in 1972, is the designated entity addressing environmental issues at the global and regional level for the United Nations. EPA has had a long and successful relationship with UNEP, including concrete partnerships and programs, which have had resulted in measurable improvements to human health and the environment. This cooperation with UNEP includes work on chemicals and waste, air quality and climate, marine and water issues, and sustainability.
The World Health Organization
EPA has a longstanding program of cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) to address the direct link between protecting public health and supporting a clean environment. We cooperate on a wide range of environmental and children’s health issues, including those associated with air quality and climate, toxic chemicals and pesticides, and water and sanitation. We also work with WHO to assess risk, to understand how environmental factors contribute to disease, and to develop WHO guidelines for environmental standards (e.g. for air and drinking water quality).
The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
A founding charter body of the United Nations, ECOSOC is the place where the world’s economic, social and environmental challenges are discussed. ECOSOC is composed of subsidiary bodies and convenes various high-level gatherings related to UN efforts on sustainable development. ECOSOC's efforts have included consultations which led to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ECOSOC also supports the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development that was called for at Rio+20, to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). EPA has engaged in the CSD and related ECOSOC efforts since their inception and continues to follow the work of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs, providing key technical input to the U.S. Department of State, which leads U.S. engagement in ECOSOC.
International Maritime Organization
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) was created in 1948 to promote cooperation between governments and industry in the regulation of shipping engaged in domestic and international trade and to encourage the adoption of the highest practicable standards concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation, and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships. EPA’s work has contributed to the adoption of cost effective, energy efficiency standards for new ships; stricter fuel sulfur standards and emission limits on criteria air pollutants such as NOx, SOx and particulate matter (PM); the implementation of an Emissions Control Area (ECA) for most of North America and the U.S. Caribbean; controls on multiple types of marine pollution including ballast water, sewage, garbage/marine litter, and ocean dumping; the development of environmental provisions in the IMO’s Code for Shipping in Polar Waters (IMO Polar Code); and controls on harmful anti-fouling substances.
The Arctic Council, established in 1996, promotes cooperation among Arctic nations, their indigenous inhabitants, and interested non-Arctic nations on sustainable economic development and environmental protection in the Arctic. As the Arctic environment changes, leading to increased shipping, economic, and other activities, it becomes increasingly important that the U.S. work closely with our Arctic allies. In support of larger foreign policy objectives articulated by the White House and the State Department, EPA leads U.S. government participation in the Arctic Contaminants Action Programme (ACAP) Working Group, which seeks to reduce contamination from hazardous chemicals and waste, such as mercury, POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants), and PCBs, as well as reduce short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), and improve air quality, and solid waste management. In addition, ACAP supports the environmental goals of indigenous communities of the Arctic in these project areas. EPA represents the U.S. government on the Arctic Council’s Project Support Instrument (PSI) which is the financial mechanism that supports implementation of Arctic Council projects. EPA is also involved in the Arctic Council’s work to prevent, prepare for, and respond to oil spills in the Arctic, as well as follow-up to the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a forum for governments committed to democracy and the market economy to support sustainable economic growth, boost employment, raise living standards, maintain financial stability, assist other countries' economic development, and contribute to growth in world trade. EPA leads U.S. engagement with the OECD’s Environment Policy Committee (EPOC) and related subsidiary bodies.
For additional information on EPA's work with International Organizations, contact:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460