URI and the UN

URI holds the prestigious distinction of being a non-governmental organization (NGO) with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and has long-standing partnerships with several other UN agencies.

Read the latest news about URI and the UN.

Joint anniversary celebrations for URI and the UN

The United Religions Initiative and the United Nations hold joint-anniversary celebrations in June 2015.


The Rev. Victor Kazanjian, Jr., Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative (URI), and Dr. Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations on April 10, 2018, affirming a partnership that has grown over the past three years. Learn more about the partnership.

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Left to right: Mussie Hailu, Global Envoy of URI, Continental Director for URI-Africa and URI Representative to the United Nations in Nairobi; Monica Willard, URI Representative to the United Nations; Ms. Simona Cruciani, United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect; The Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., Executive Director of URI; and H.E. Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations on the Prevention of Genocide.

United Religions Initiative (URI) and the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect have signed a partnership agreement, enhancing their working partnership at the global level to promote a culture of peace. The agreement was signed at the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 20, 2018. Learn more about the partnership.

“We were intoxicated by a vision,” the Right Rev. William E. Swing recalls. “If there was a United Nations, what about creating a United Religions?”

Over the decades, the connection between URI and the UN has flourished. URI’s UN representatives provide an ongoing URI presence at the UN in New York City and Nairobi, and URI thought leaders have spoken at UN Assemblies on topics like nuclear disarmament, sustainability, and women's rights. URI also sends a yearly delegation of youth representatives to participate in UN events at the New York City headquarters. In 2015, URI was invited to join the 70th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations.

All over the world, URI Cooperation Circles celebrate the UN International Day of Peace and World Interfaith Harmony Week. In fact, several URI groups have won the World Interfaith Harmony Week contest, an international honor sponsored by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.  

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“We hope to build more formal partnerships which allow both our Cooperation Circles and regional offices to be in closer contact with UN agencies,” the Rev. Victor Kazanjian says. “It allows the UN to see us as a partner in distributing materials to the grassroots, and allows us to be a partner in strategic policy work that affects the communities in which we work around the world.”

The partnership between URI and the UN is especially fruitful because it embraces the specific strengths of each organization. Reaching people on a grassroots level has historically been a challenge for the UN, whereas URI excels at community education.

URI is able to get things into the hands of people at a grassroots level, and translate high-level policy statements into a context community groups find relevant and useful. At the same time, the reach and impact of the UN is a considerable advantage for smaller URI groups whose voices need amplification.

Monica Willard, URI Representative to the United Nations in New York, adds, “The URI presence at the United Nations and our grassroots programs around the world add spirit, focus, prayer, and multi-faith cooperation to help build strong communities and a more caring world.”

For more information about URI and the United Nations, contact our URI Representatives Monica Willard and Mussie Hailu.

Watch a video of the Right Rev. William E. Swing's speech at the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and the 15th anniversary of URI's charter signing, Grace Cathedral, June 27, 2015.