- UN Charted was adopted on June 25, 1945, and came into effect on October 24, 1945.
- Five of its principal organs, the General Assembly, Security Council, Secretariat, Trusteeship Council, and Economic and Social Council, are headquartered in New York, while the sixth one, ICJ, is at the Hague.
- As of now there are 193 members of the UN.
- The Trusteeship Council remains suspended since November 1, 1994.
In this era of rapid globalisation, international organisations play a key role in building an interdependent community around the world. Each nation has its unique issues which are to be dealt within itself but not without the support of the international community. Though international diplomacy and healthy relations across countries have always been an important factor, it has gained importance in today’s world like never before. Such organisations facilitate the smooth working of international healthcare, economies, and disputes, and envisage plans to tackle global issues such as climate change, resource depletion, pandemics, etc.
The UN has been an organisation dealing with international peace and development since its inception. Its functions have an impact worldwide which are carried out through an efficient framework of its principal organs. This article explains in detail about each of them.
The United Nations Organisation
The UN was a successor of the League of Nations which was the first intergovernmental international organisation formed in 1920. Following its failure in preventing World War II, there was unanimous agreement on the need to form another organisation that would have a better framework for peacekeeping and security. Thus, the UN Charter was adoptedin San Francisco, on 25 June 1945, and it came into effect on 24 October 1945. The number of members the UN had at its founding was 51, which has grown to 193 as of 2011. It was Franklin.D Roosevelt who coined the term United Nations.
The UN headquarters is situated in New York with regional offices in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. It has six official languages, which are, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic.
According to the Preamble of the UN Charter, the main objectives of the Organisation are:
i. To save the succeeding generations from the war.
ii. To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person.
iii. To reaffirm faith in the equal rights of men and women, and all nations large and small.
iv. To establish conditions under which justice and respect for international law and international obligations can be maintained.
v. To promote social progress, etc.
vi. To maintain international peace and security.
vii. To ensure that armed forces shall not be used, save in the common interest.
viii. To promote the economic and social advancement of all the people.
Membership to the UN is granted only if the following criteria are cleared:
i. It must be a State.
ii. It must be peace-loving.
iii. It must accept all conditions of the UN Charter.
iv. It must be willing and should carry out the obligations of the UN Charter.
The purpose of the UN is to prevent power politics between nations in determining relations between them, to build a friendly environment for the coexistence of nations, and to ensure each nation its independence and sovereignty. These goals are strived towards with the help of its six principle organs which are as follows.
I) General Assembly
The General Assembly is the most important organ of the UN which is constituted of all its member states. It is headquartered in New York City and has the UN Secretary-General as its President. The General Assembly is responsible for drafting the UN budget, appointing non-permanent members of the Security Council, appointment of the UN Secretary-General, receiving reports from other organs of the UN, and making recommendations through resolutions. It is also empowered to establish and administer any subsidiary organs to advance or assist in its broad mandate.
Powers and Functions
According to the UN Charter, the General Assembly may:
- Consider and approve the United Nations budget and look into the financial assessments made by its member states and also allot the amount each of them should contribute to the UN budget.
- Elect non-permanent members of the Security Council and appoint the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the Security Council.
- Decide upon the measures to be taken on international disputes, except those which are currently under discussion at the Security Council, and make recommendations.
- Initiate studies and make recommendations to promote international political cooperation, the development and codification of international law, the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and international collaboration in the economic, social, humanitarian, cultural, educational and health fields.
- Work towards maintaining international peace and resolving any issue that might hamper friendly relations among countries.
- Consider and deliberate upon reports from the Security Council and other United Nations organs.
All 193 members of the UN are members of the General Assembly too with one vote for each. The election, admission, suspension, or expulsion of its members can be carried out by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. The majority of resolutions are adopted without voting. The last member to join was South Sudan, in 2011.
The first session of the United Nations General Assembly was held on 10 January 1946 at Central Hall in London. The Assembly meets at least once every year with its full membership which is the third Tuesday of September. Special Sessions can also be convened on request of the Security Council, by the majority of its member states, or by one member whose request can garner majority acceptance. Apart from this, Emergency special sessions can also be called in case of an issue that cannot be deliberated upon by the permanent members of the Security Council.
II) Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is a body with wide ambit of powers which includes dealing with international peace and security, giving recommendations to the General Assembly for admission of new members, and also approving any changes to the UN Charter.It is the Security Council that is in charge of international peacekeeping operations, enacting international sanctions, and authorizing military action. The UNSC is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states. It is headquartered in New York City.
Powers and functions
The powers and functions of the UNSC are as follows:
- To conduct investigations on issues threatening international peace
- To recommend procedures directed towards a peaceful resolution of international disputes
- To direct other member states on interruption of economic relations as well sea, air, postal, and radio communications completely or partially. This also includes any diplomatic relations. To enforce its decisions militarily, or by any means necessary.
- To recommend the new Secretary-General to the General Assembly and also new states for admission into the UN.
There are 5 permanent members to the UNSC namely, USA, UK, China, France and Russia. These nations were victorious powers of World War II or their successor states. They possess the veto power as to express disagreement on any UN resolution or proposal.
Along with them, there are ten non-permanent members of the UNSC who take seats on a rotation basis every 2 years, and who are elected by the General Assembly on a geographical basis. They are usually involved in global security briefings of the Council.
III) The Secretariat
The Secretariat is the chief executive organ of the UN. It carries out all the administrative functions of the organisation. The Secretariat sets the agenda for the working of all principle organs of the UN and makes sure of its implementation.
It comprises of the Secretary-General and such staff as may be required. The Secretary-General is elected for a period of five years. He
Powers and Functions
- Provide government officials with adequate information and facts on various issues.
- Facilitate all organs of the UN in carrying out its operations and decisions.
- Organise international conferences.
- Translate speeches and distribute documents into the UN’s official languages.
- Keep the public informed about the working of the United Nations.
IV) International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, was constituted to settle international disputes by international law. It is also one of the primary sources of international law, based on its rulings and opinions. It is entitled to provide advisory opinions on international legal issues. It is the successor to the Permanent Court of Justice. The ICJ is the only international court of its kind. It is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.
It consists of 15 judges for a term of nine years. They are elected by the General Assembly and Security Council separately and can also be re-elected.
All 193 members of the UN are parties to the statute of the ICJ. They are all entitled to participate in cases brought before the Court.
V) Economic and Social Council
The United Nations Economic and Social Council is responsible for coordinating the economic and social functions of the various organs of the UN. It also formulates policies for each member state of the UN. It is headquartered in New York City.
Powers and Functions
- Central mechanism for all activities of the UN and its specialised agencies in the social, environmental and economic domains.
- Encourage debates and innovative thinking, form a consensus on future courses of action, and coordinate towards the same.
- Follow-up on summits and conferences.
- Act as a link between the agencies, conventions and organizations of the UN.
- Work towards attaining a balanced integration of the three pillars of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental.
- Acts as an international meeting point for governments, leaders, academicians, policymakers, parliamentarians, NGOs, etc.
The ECOSOC has 54 members elected by the General Assembly every year, for a period of three years. Each member has one vote, and decisions are taken by a simple majority of members present and voting. It also has over 1600 NGOs that are given consultative status.
VI) Trusteeship Council
The Charter of the UN provides for an International Trusteeship system to work towards the advancement of the inhabitants of the Trust territories and their rights to independence. Trust territories included territories that were detached from enemy States as a result of the Second World War. However, they all have attained independence as of today and the Trusteeship Council has suspended its operations since 1 November 1994.
The United Nations plays a key role in maintaining world peace and working towards the betterment of the global community by focusing on specific issues, without any vested interests, to facilitate peaceful negotiations and settlements. It strives to maintain a healthy and cooperative environment under which treaties can be maintained. Though it had to face several difficulties during times of the Cold War, and recently during the COVID crisis, it stands tall as an international organisation promoting world peace.