United Nations (UN)

  • In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter.
  • The United Nations officially came into existence on 24th October 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and a majority of other signatories.
  • Original founding members of the UN are 51 (Poland signed it later but is considered as an original member). India is also a founding member.
  • The original members of Un are those countries that signed the January 1942 declaration by the UN or took part in the San-Francisco Conference or which signed and ratified the Charter.
  • United Nations Day is celebrated on 24th October each year.
  • The Charter is the constituting instrument of the Organization, setting out the rights and obligations of member states and establishing the United Nations' organs and procedures.
  • The purpose of the United Nations, as set forth in the Charter are to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples; to cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these ends.
  • The United Nations family, however, is much larger, encompassing 15 agencies and several programs and bodies.
  • The United Nations family of organizations (the "United Nation system") consists of the United Nations Secretariat, the United Nations funds and programs (such as UNICEF and UNDP), the specialized agencies (such as UNESCO and WHO) related organizations.
  • The funds and programs are subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly.
  • The specialized agencies are linked to the United Nations through special agreements and report to the Economic and Social Council and/or the General Assembly.
  • The related organizations including IAEA and the World Trade Organization address specialized areas and have their own legislative bodies and budgets.
  • The headquarters of the UN is in New York City (USA).
  • US President Franklin D. Roosevelt devised the name United Nations.
  • UN flag consists of the global map projected from the North pole and embraced in twin olive branches (symbol of peace). The flag was adopted on October 20, 1947, by the General Assembly.
  • New members can be admitted to the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council and members can be suspended also.
  • The United Nations Commission on Human Rights was set up in 1945.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the UN on December 10, 1948. It is observed as Human rights day every year.
  • There are six official languages of the UN, namely Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Arabic. Arabic was added by the General Assembly in 1973 and by the Security Council in 1982. Although, Arabic is not used as its working language.
The Charter established six principal organs of the United Nations. They are
  1. The General Assembly
  2. The Security Council
  3. The Economic and Social Council
  4. The Trusteeship Council
  5. The International Court of Justice
  6. The Secretariat.
Each of these is described below in brief.

1. General Assembly:

  • It is called the 'Town meeting of the world' or 'Parliament of the World'.
  • The General Assembly meets at least once a year and the session commences on the third Tuesday of September.
  • The Assembly can also meet for special; emergency sessions.
  • The Presidency of the Assembly rotates each year among the five geographical groups of the countries viz. African, Asian, East European, Latin American and West European & other states.
  • It appoints the Secretary-General of the UN Secretariat on the recommendation of the Security council. it is also empowered to admit new members.

2. Security Council:

  • The Security Council bears the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • It is designed to be the UN's only action agency and is often described as the enforcement wing of the UN.
  • The Security Council originally consisted of eleven members but expanded to fifteen in 1965. Security Council comprises of five permanent members namely, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, United States and France.
  • 10 non-permanent members, elected for a term of 2 years by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. Five non-permanent members retire every year. Retiring members cannot be re-elected immediately.
  • The permanent members have the power to VETO any move. If a permanent member abstains, it is not considered a VETO.
  • The presidency of the security council is held in turn by the members of the security council in the English alphabetical order of their names. Each president holds office for one calendar month.
  • Decisions on procedural as well as substantive matters are taken by an affirmative vote of 9 members. On substantive matters involving action by member nations, all permanent members must vote in the affirmative. A single VETO can prevent the proposals from being accepted.

3. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC):

  • ECOSOC's objective is to promote social progress and better standards of life.
  • It comprises 54 members. 18 (one third) of whom are elected every year by the General Assembly of UN, to serve a three-year term. The retiring members as well as the President are eligible for immediate re-elections.
  • The functions of ECOSOC are performed by nine functional commissions, five regional commissions and a number of standing committees.

4. Trusteeship Council:

  • The Trusteeship Council aims at helping countries under foreign rule to attain independence.
  • There were eleven such countries that had come under this system after the Second World War. Most of them have attained independence by now. 

5. International Court of Justice (ICJ):

  • The headquarters of ICJ is located in "The Hague" (De-FActo capital of the Netherlands).
  • It comprises 15 judges, elected by the General Assembly and Security Council for a term of 9 years. Each one of them has to be from a different country.
  • The ICJ itself elects its President and Vice-President for a term of 3 years.
  • All decisions are made by the majority vote of the Judges present, with nine judges constituting the quorum.
  • The President of the ICJ may cast the second deciding vote in a case of a tie.
  • English and French are the official languages of the ICJ.

6. The Secretariat:

  • The Secretariat - an international staff working in duty stations around the world carries out the diverse day-to-day work of the organization.
  • It services the other principal organs of the UN and administers the programs and policies laid down by them.
  • The Secretariat is treated as the headquarters of the UN.
  • The Secretary-General, who is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council, is the Chief Administrative Officer of the UN.
  • Secretary-General has a tenure of five years and can be re-elected.
  • Secretary-General can appoint his own staff including Deputy Secretary-General and also he defines his own work.
  • Deputy Secretary-General is the second-highest rank official of the UN.

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