The World Health Organisation (WHO) was awarded on Wednesday one of Spain's top honours, the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, for 2009.
The Geneva-based UN health agency was one of 26 nominees from 12 countries in the race for the prize, worth 50,000 euros (68,000 dollars). It will officially receive the award from Crown Prince Felipe in October.
The jury praised the WHO's role in the eradication of pandemic diseases such as smallpox; the prevention and control of infectious diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; and the reduction of child mortality rates.
"The WHO is considered one of the most respected international institutions for its efforts towards the coordination and cooperation between countries in health matters," a statement said.
The jury did not specifically mention the WHO's recent efforts to fight the outbreak of swine flu which have thrust the organisation into the global spotlight.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the award "would further inspire and motivate the entire organisation" to work towards "creating a healthier world in which the burden of disease is reduced, particularly amongst the world?s poorest and most vulnerable people."
"We are humbled when we see the distinguished list of people and organisations this award has gone to in previous years," she added in a statement.
Last year the prize went to former US vice president Al Gore for his efforts to combat climate change.
Other previous winners of the award include former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who presided over the reunification of East and West Germany, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its efforts to fight malaria, AIDS and other diseases.
The prize for international cooperation is awarded to a person, institution or group of people "whose work has contributed to mutual understanding, progress and brotherhood among nations in an exemplary and significant way."
The Prince of Asturias awards are also given in the fields of communication and humanities, arts, scientific and technical research, social science, letters, international cooperation and sport.
Named after Crown Prince Felipe, the awards are presented in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, capital of the Asturias region, at a glittering ceremony that is broadcast live on Spanish television.