The United Nations (UN) is an international organization founded on 24th Oct,1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States. Its mission and work guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter and implemented by its various organs and specialised agencies.
The United Nations has four objectives, according to the UN charter:
Ø To safeguard the international peace and security
Ø To develop and maintain friendly relations among nations
Ø To cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights
Ø To promote sustainable development and delivering humanitarian aid.
The membership of the United Nations is open to all the peace-loving nations that accept the commitments of the Charter and are able and willing to carry out all the commitments given in the charter. The entry to UN is done by a two-third majority vote by the General Assembly upon the recommendations of the Security Council.
There are six principal organs of the UN: the General Assembly, Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice and the Secretariat.
The foundation history of UN
§ In 1899, the International Peace Conference was held in The Hague to elaborate instruments for settling crises peacefully, preventing wars and codifying rules of warfare.
§ It adopted the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes and established the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which began work in 1902. This court was the forerunner of UN International Court of Justice.
§ The League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations. The league of Nations was an organization conceived in circumstances of the First World War, and established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles "to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security."
§ The International Labour Organization (ILO) was also created in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency of the League.
§ The name "United Nations", coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A document called The Declaration by United Nations was signed in 1942 by 26 nations, pledging their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers and conscience together to have peace.
§ United Nations Conference on International Organization (1945) was held in San Francisco (USA), was attended by representatives of 50 countries and signed the United Nations Charter.
§ The UN Charter of 1945 is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, as an inter-governmental organization.
The Main Organs of UN
The General Assembly
The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. It is the only UN body having universal representation i.e all 193 members state of UN are represented in the general assembly. It starts it’s beginning with 51 members. Each member can send upto five representatives, though there is only one vote per nation. Member States may also assign advisers, technical advisers, experts or persons of similar status to these committees. All the organs, except the International Court of Justice have to submit their annual reports to the General Assembly, making it compulsory to play a vital role in their activities. It meets once a year, in September, the full UN membership meets in the General Assembly Hall in New York for the annual General Assembly session, which attended by head of state. Special session can also be called in time of crisis by the members themselves or the Security Council. Its function is to discuss and make decisions about international problems such as security and peace to consider the UN budget and what amount each member should pay, to elect the Security Council members and to supervise the work of the many other UN bodies. Unlike the league of Nations, it doesn’t required unanimous decision. The decisions which are of very high importance required two-thirds majority of the General Assembly, otherwise a simple majority is enough in decisions. The President of the General Assembly is elected each year by assembly to serve a one-year term of office. All speeches and debates are translated into six official UN languages - English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic. The Draft resolutions can be prepared for the General Assembly by its six main committees: (1) First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), (2) Second Committee (Economic and Financial), (3) Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural), (4) Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), (5) Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), (6)Sixth Committee (Legal). In addition, there is a General Committee which composed of the President of the General Assembly and 21 Vice-Presidents of the Assembly and the Chairmen of the six Main Committees. I It meets periodically throughout each session to review the progress of the General Assembly and its committees and recommendations for furthering such progress. There is also a Credentials Committee, which role is to to examine the credentials of representatives of Member States and to report to the General Assembly.
The Security Council
The UN Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining the international peace and security, under the UN charter. The Security Council is made up of fifteen member states, consisting of five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly on a regional basis. These five permanent members, therefore, have veto power over all Security Council decisions. From 1945 to 2004, the veto had been used 257 times, the largest number (122 vetoes) being used by the erstwhile Soviet Union and the second largest number (80) by the United Nations. The veto is the unconditional power possessed by the five governments that is seen as the most undemocratic character of UN. The critics also claim that veto power is the main cause for international inaction on war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, the United States refused to join the United Nations in 1945 unless it was given a veto. The absence of the United States from the League of Nations contributed to its ineffectiveness. Supporters of the veto power regard it as a promoter of international stability, a check against military interventions, and a critical safeguard against U.S. domination. The Security Council resolutions are legally binding under the international law. There is always been a conflict to increase the numbers of permanent members and give seats to potentially rise powers like Germany, Japan, Brazil, India and so on. It must change according to the today’s world and modern powers.
The Economic and Social Council
Economic and Social Council is the principal body of United Nation responsible for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals. It has 54 Members, elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms, each member has one representative and one vote. The Council meets throughout the year and holds a major session in July. The president is elected for one year and may be re-elected immediately. It is the UN central platform for the debate and Innovative thinking on the sustainable development. Each year, ECOSOC structures its work around an annual theme of global importance to sustainable development. This ensures focused attention, among ECOSOC’s array of partners, and throughout the UN development system. It coordinates the work of the 14 UN specialized agencies, ten functional commissions and five regional commissions, receives reports from nine UN funds and programmes and issues policy recommendations to the UN system and to Member States. Although the council itself has very limited powers. It can only study, discuss and recommend and a subordinate of the General Assembly. Notably, around 70 percent of the UN’s budget fund are related to ECOSOC activities.
The Trusteeship Council
The Trusteeship Council was established in 1945 by the UN Charter, under Chapter XIII.Trust territory is a non-self-governing territory placed under an administrative authority by the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. United Nations trust territories were the replacer of the remaining League of Nations mandates, and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to exist in 1946. A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League of Nations. It had to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories that had been placed under the administration of seven Member States, and ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self-government and independence. By 1994, all Trust Territories had attained self-government or independence. The Trusteeship Council suspended operation on 1 November 1994. A proposal has been made forwarded by the Secretary- General to reconstitute the council in which member countries will have collective responsibility for the integrity of global environment and issues related to ocean, atmosphere and space.
The International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.The ICJ is the successor of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was established by the League of Nations in 1920. All countries which are parties to the statue of the court can present their cases. No private party can present a case. Other organs like the General Assembly, Security Council and other specialized agencies can have the advice on the legal questions within the scope of their activities. The court consists of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council, for a term of nine years(five returning every third year). It is present in the Hague, Netherlands.
The jurisdictions of the court dealt in the disputes between the states, all the questions of advisory and disputes refer by the parties and all matters provided by the UN charter and treaties and conventions in force. The disputes concerning the jurisdiction of the court is settled in court itself. States also may bind themselves by the ruling of the jurisdiction of the court in special cases, by signing treaty or convention reference related to the court or making special declaration for it. The Security Council can under article 94,can decide on the measures taken to give effect on the judgement of the ICJ, not done yet but it lead to a situation where it doubt the utility of the disputes of the court , whether it will be accepted by the disputants.
The Secretariat comprises the Secretary-General and tens of thousands of international UN staff members who carry out the day-to-day work of the UN as mandated by the General Assembly and the Organization's other principal organs. The Secretariat consists of departments and offices with a total staff of 9,000 under the regular budget and nearly 25,000 under special funding, Duty stations include UN Headquarters in New York, as well as UN offices in Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi and other locations. The Secretary-General is chief administrative officer of the Organization, appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year, renewable term. In order to ensure impartiality, he is not from one of the major powers. He acts as the main spokesperson for the UN and is always lead the international affairs, trying to sort out the world's problems .staff members are recruited internationally and locally, and work in duty stations and on peacekeeping missions all around the world.
UN Contributions and Impact in the World
§ Peace and Security
The UN have made major contribution to the world like by sending peacekeeping and observer missions to the world’s trouble spots over the past six decades, the United Nations has been able to restore calm, allowing many countries to recover from conflict. For over the five decades, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has served as the world’s nuclear inspector. IAEA experts work to verify that safeguarded nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes. To date, the Agency has safeguards agreements with more than 180 States. The United Nations also brought about the first-ever treaty to combat genocide—acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. The 1948 Genocide Convention has been ratified by 146 States, which commits to prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and in peacetime. The UN tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as UN-supported courts in Cambodia, have put would-be genocide perpetrators on notice that such crimes would no longer be tolerated.
§ Social Development
The UNESCO has helped 137 countries to protect ancient monuments and historic, cultural and natural sites. It has negotiated international conventions to preserve cultural property, cultural diversity and outstanding cultural and natural sites. More than 1,000 such sites have been designated as having exceptional universal value as World Heritage Sites. The first United Nations conference on the environment (Stockholm, 1972) helped to alert world public opinion on the dangers faced by our planet, triggering action by governments.
§ Economic Development
The economic development by the UN various specialized agencies have promote a big Change in the world economy. Since 2000, promoting living standards and human skills and potential throughout the world have been guided by the Millennium Development Goals. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) supports more than 4,800 projects to reduce poverty, promote good governance, address crises and preserve the environment. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 150 countries, primarily on child protection, immunization, girls' education and emergency aid. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) helps developing countries make the most of their trade opportunities. The World Bank provides developing countries with loans and grants, and has supported more than 12,000 projects in more than 170 countries since 1947. The World Tourism Organization is the UN agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
§ Human Rights
UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.It has helped to enact dozens of legally binding agreements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights .UN human rights bodies have focused world attention on cases of torture, disappearance, illegal detention and other violations. It has played a major role in ending apartheid in South Africa, also in 1979 the UN convention on the elimination of all the forms discrimination against women have been ratified by 189 states, it has promoted the rights of women worldwide.
Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides foundation for UN members to settle agreements to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and help countries to adapt to its effect. Global Environment Facility, which brings together 10 UN agencies, funds projects in developing countries. Also the UNEP and World Metrological Organisation have done a commendable job in highlighting the damage caused to ozone layer
The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer,1985 provided the framework necessary to create regulatory measures for international reductions in the production of chlorofluorocarbons. The Montreal Protocol,1987 is an international environmental agreement with universal ratification to protect the earth’s ozone layer by eliminating use of ozone depleting substances (ODS) such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halogens. Also, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants-2001 seeks to rid the world of some of the most dangerous chemicals ever created.
§ Humanitarian Affairs
The UN have always tired their best to work on the humanitarian grounds for the refugees. UN high Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) seeks long-term or "durable" solutions by helping refugees repatriate to their homelands, if conditions warrant, or by helping them to integrate in their countries of asylum or to resettle in third countries. Refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, mostly women and children, are receiving food, shelter, medical aid, education, and repatriation assistance from the UN. It has provided relief and human assistance to four generations of Palestine refugees with education,health care and self services.The World Food Programme (WFP) under the UN, is fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is promoting the right of individuals to make their own decisions on the number and spacing of their children through voluntary family planning programmes. The Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) coordinates global action against an epidemic that affects some 35 million people. Polio has been eliminated from all but three countries—Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan—as a result of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. A 13-year effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) resulted in smallpox being declared officially eradicated from the planet in 1980. Some of the more prominent diseases for which WHO is leading the global response for some of the more prominent diseases including Ebola, meningitis, yellow fever, cholera and influenza, including avian influenza.
Reforms in UN
The biggest reason which drove to makes reforms in the United Nations is the role of US. Four factors lead to reform the UN after 2000 that are the United Nations is on financial crisis, non payment of the UN assets and pullback of US to provide financial aid. The US wanted serious institutional changes, the cost of expansion of UN peacekeeping force rose drastically to 60%, after the post cold war, involved in humanitarian aid, fighting terrorism. Also the election of the secretary general who have made this reform a hallmark one.
In 1996, after the opposition from U.S, the Security Council and General Assembly appointed Kofi Anann of Ghana as seventh Secretary General of UN. He delivered is commitment to issuing ‘Renewing the United Nations’ in which administrative and financial reforms are made in the history of UN. He has made various reforms in the next six years like consolidated 12 Secretariat entities to 5, cut UN personnel by 25 per cent , reduced administrative cost by 33 per cent, development account has been made in which the cost cutting savings can be put for the development of poor countries and decentralisation to enhance the role and authority of the UN in all the countries where the organisation had programmes and to have togetherness into all the UN agencies. The reform lead to enhancing the accountability requirements of the UN specialized agencies and subdivisions from near bankruptcy. In 2004,the panel headed by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, presented their report in which they called a paradigm shift. Main changes are making global issues as the agenda rather than institution at its centre for the work. The UN must recognize that global civil society now wields real power in the name of citizens, also including actors in its deliberations for permanent partnerships. A attempt to being global with the local and implementing their programmes well in local with the help of sub national local actors. Also the UN should tried to become a actor itself in the Society rather than being an intergovernmental organisation which will present its ideology , values and support its institution. The UN charter which is like a foundational document for UN have been amended five times in UN’s history and majority of reforms are made from informal revisions in UN practice. The cold war pressure, growth in UN membership, financial crisis, the opposition from US and Peacekeeping and the changes demand in the new era in the organisation have lead to reforms in the United Nation.
Despite having many short-comings, UN has played a crucial role making this human society more civil, more peaceful & secure in comparison to time of its origin at second World War. The general direction in which the UN should move is to anticipate any potential problems and conflicts, promotion of settlement of disputes and formulation of general norms for the international affairs. As earlier discussed the UN should work at the local level problems and raising the standard of living of local population with promoting international stability by promoting human rights within the countries. United Nations, being the world’s largest democratic body of all nations, its responsibility towards humanity is very high in terms of making a democratic society, economic development of people living in poverty with security and preserving the Earth’s ecosystem in concern with the Climate Change.
•International Politics: Concepts, Theories and Issues by Rumki Basu
•Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe
•  https://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text
- Submitted by Yashwin Agarwal