The United Nations (UN) is an international (intergovernmental) organization founded to promote international co-operation in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States. The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.
The name "United Nations", coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.
History behind the formation of the United Nations (UN)
The earliest concrete plan for a new world organization to replace the ineffective League of Nations began under the aegis of the US State Department in 1939.
In 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco to draw up the United Nations Charter by representatives of 50 countries. Those delegates discussed the pros and cons of the proposals worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks, United States in August-October 1944.
The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries. Poland, which was not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became one of the original 51 Member States.
The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States and by a majority of other signatories. United Nations Day is celebrated on 24 October each year.
Purpose of the United Nations (UN)
• To maintain international peace and security and to that end; to take effective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace and to bring about the peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law adjustment or settlement, or international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.
• To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and to take appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.
• To achieve international co-operation in solving international problem of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
• To be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
Principles of the United Nations (UN)
• The organisation is based on the principle of sovereign equality of all its members.
• All members in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present charter.
• All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered.
• All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of United Nations.
• All members shall give the United Nations every assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
• The organisation shall ensure that States which are not members of United Nations act in accordance with these principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
• Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the member to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.
Organs of the United Nations
There are six main organs of UNs which are discussed below:
The General Assembly: It is the main deliberative organ of the United Nations and includes all its Members. It may discuss any matter arising under the UN Charter and make recommendations to UN Members (except on disputes or situations which are being considered by the Security Council). In the Assembly, each nation, large or small, has one vote and important decisions are taken by a two-thirds majority vote. It meets every year from September to December. Special sessions may be summoned by the Assembly, at the request of the Security Council, or at the request of a majority of UN Members. The work of the General Assembly is also carried out by its six main committees, the Human Rights Council, other subsidiary bodies and the UN Secretariat.
The Security Council: It has primary responsibility under the Charter for maintaining peace and security. It can be convened at any time, whenever peace is threatened. Member States are obligated to carry out its decisions. When a threat to peace is brought before the Council, it usually first asks the parties to reach agreement by peaceful means. If fighting breaks out, the Council tries to secure a ceasefire. It may then send peacekeeping missions to troubled areas or call for economic sanctions and embargoes to restore peace.
The Council has 15 members, including five permanent members: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The other 10 are elected by the General Assembly on the basis of geographical representation for two-year terms. Decisions require nine votes; except on procedural questions, a decision cannot be taken if there is a negative vote by a permanent member (known as the “veto”).
The Economic and Social Council: It is the central body for coordinating the economic and social work of the United Nations and the UN family of organizations. It has 54 member nations elected from all regions. As much as 70 per cent of the work of the UN system is devoted to promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development. The Council recommends and directs activities aimed at promoting economic growth of developing countries, supporting human rights and fostering world cooperation to fight poverty and under-development.
To meet specific needs, the General Assembly has set up a number of specialized agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and programmes such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The work of these agencies and programmes is coordinated by ECOSOC.
The Trusteeship Council: It was assigned under the UN Charter to supervise the administration of Trust Territories — former colonies or dependent territories — which were placed under the International Trusteeship System. The system was created at the end of the Second World War to promote the advancement of the inhabitants of those dependent Territories and their progressive development towards self-government or independence.
The International Court of Justice: It is the UN’s main judicial organ. Presiding over the ICJ, or “World Court”, are 15 judges, each from a different nation, elected by the General Assembly and Security Council. The Court settles legal disputes between nations only and not between individuals, in accordance with international law. If a country does not wish to take part in a proceeding it does not have to do so, unless required by special treaty provisions. Once a country accepts the Court's jurisdiction, it must comply with its decision.
The seat of the International Court of Justice is at The Hague in the Netherlands. The offices of the Court occupy the “Peace Palace”, which was constructed by the Carnegie Foundation, a private non-profit organization, to serve as the headquarters of the Permanent Court of International Justice, the predecessor of the present Court. The UN makes an annual contribution to the Foundation for the use of the building.
The Secretariat: It is consists of an international staff working at UN Headquarters in New York, as well as UN offices in Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi and other locations. It consists of departments and offices with a total staff of around 16,000, drawn from some 175 countries. Including civil staff in peacekeeping missions the total number comprises approximately 30,000 staff. Staff members carry out the substantive and administrative work of the United Nations as directed by the General Assembly, the Security Council and the other organs.
The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General. He is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year term. As the chief administrative officer of the Organization, the Secretary-General directs its work. He is also responsible for implementing decisions taken by the variou