by Gerald Boerner
“The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members.”
— Harry S. Truman
“Humor has a way of bringing people together. It unites people. In fact, I’m rather serious when I suggest that someone should plant a few whoopee cushions in the United Nations.”
— Ron Dentinger
“More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, my friends, is why we have the United Nations.”
— Kofi Annan
“From this vision of the role of the United Nations in the next century flow three key priorities for the future: eradicating poverty, preventing conflict and promoting democracy.”
— Kofi Annan
“The United Nations, whose membership comprises almost all the states in the world, is founded on the principle of the equal worth of every human being.”
— Kofi Annan
“If the United Nations does not attempt to chart a course for the world’s people in the first decades of the new millennium, who will?”
— Kofi Annan
“If the United Nations once admits that international disputes can be settled by using force, then we will have destroyed the foundation of the organization and our best hope of establishing a world order.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
“The primary, the fundamental, the essential purpose of the United Nations is to keep peace. Everything it does which helps prevent World War III is good. Everything which does not further that goal, either directly or indirectly, is at best superfluous.”
— Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
“The heroes of the world community are not those who withdraw when difficulties ensue, not those who can envision neither the prospect of success nor the consequence of failure — but those who stand the heat of battle, the fight for world peace through the United Nations.”
— Hubert H. Humphrey
“I don’t think any one person or any one organization should have the final word. That being said, I am working for a better United Nations. Nothing is perfect. You should never rely on only one source, but rather rely on those you believe in the most.”
— Angelina Jolie
The United Nations
The United Nations Organization (UNO) or simply United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and the achieving of world peace. The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue. It contains multiple subsidiary organizations to carry out its missions.
There are currently 192 member states, including nearly every sovereign state in the world. From its offices around the world, the UN and its specialized agencies decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout the year. The organization is divided into administrative bodies, primarily: the General Assembly (the main deliberative assembly); the Security Council (for deciding certain resolutions for peace and security); the Economic and Social Council (for assisting in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development); the Secretariat (for providing studies, information, and facilities needed by the UN); the International Court of Justice (the primary judicial organ).
Additional bodies deal with the governance of all other UN System agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Program (WFP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The UN’s most visible public figure is the Secretary-General, currently Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who attained the post in 2007. The organization is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states, and has six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
Following in the wake of the failed League of Nations (1919–1946), which the United States never joined, the United Nations was established in 1945 to maintain international peace and promote cooperation in solving international economic, social and humanitarian problems. The earliest concrete plan for a new world organization was begun under the aegis of the U.S. State Department in 1939. Franklin D. Roosevelt first coined the term ‘United Nations’ as a term to describe the Allied countries.
The term was first officially used on January 1, 1942 when 26 governments signed the Atlantic Charter, pledging to continue the war effort. On 25 April 1945, the UN Conference on International Organization began in San Francisco, attended by 50 governments and a number of non-governmental organizations involved in drafting the Charter of the United Nations. The UN officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council—France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States—and by a majority of the other 46 signatories. The first meetings of the General Assembly, with 51 nations represented, and the Security Council, took place in Westminster Central Hall in London in January 1946.
Since its creation, there has been controversy and criticism of the UN organization. In the United States, an early opponent of the UN was the John Birch Society, which began a "get US out of the UN" campaign in 1959, charging that the UN’s aim was to establish a "One World Government." After the Second World War, the French Committee of National Liberation was late to be recognized by the US as the government of France, and so the country was initially excluded from the conferences that aimed at creating the new organization. Charles de Gaulle criticized the UN, famously calling it le machin ("the stuff"), and was not convinced that a global security alliance would help maintaining world peace, preferring direct defence treaties between countries.
United Nations General Assembly hall.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative assembly of the United Nations. Composed of all United Nations member states, the assembly meets in regular yearly sessions under a president elected from among the member states. Over a two-week period at the start of each session, all members have the opportunity to address the assembly. Traditionally, the Secretary-General makes the first statement, followed by the president of the assembly. The first session was convened on 10 January 1946 in the Westminster Central Hall in London and included representatives of 51 nations.
When the General Assembly votes on important questions, a two-thirds majority of those present and voting is required. Examples of important questions include: recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; and, budgetary matters. All other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member country has one vote. Apart from approval of budgetary matters, resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may make recommendations on any matters within the scope of the UN, except matters of peace and security that are under Security Council consideration.
Conceivably, the one state, one vote power structure could enable states comprising just eight percent of the world population to pass a resolution by a two-thirds vote. However, as no more than recommendations, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which a recommendation by member states constituting just eight percent of the world’s population, would be adhered to by the remaining ninety-two percent of the population, should they object.
United Nations Security Council chamber.
The Security Council is charged with maintaining peace and security among countries. While other organs of the United Nations can only make ‘recommendations’ to member governments, the Security Council has the power to make binding decisions that member governments have agreed to carry out, under the terms of Charter Article 25. The decisions of the Council are known as United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The Security Council is made up of 15 member states, consisting of 5 permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – and 10 non-permanent members, currently Austria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Japan, Libya, Mexico, Turkey, Uganda, and Vietnam. The five permanent members hold veto power over substantive but not procedural resolutions allowing a permanent member to block adoption but not to block the debate of a resolution unacceptable to it. The ten temporary seats are held for two-year terms with member states voted in by the General Assembly on a regional basis. The presidency of the Security Council is rotated alphabetically each month, and is held by Austria for the month of November 2009.
The United Nations Secretariat
Building at the United Nations
headquarters in New York City.
The United Nations Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by United Nations bodies for their meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the UN Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies. The United Nations Charter provides that the staff be chosen by application of the "highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity," with due regard for the importance of recruiting on a wide geographical basis.
The Charter provides that the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any authority other than the UN. Each UN member country is enjoined to respect the international character of the Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff. The Secretary-General alone is responsible for staff selection.
The Secretary-General’s duties include helping resolve international disputes, administering peacekeeping operations, organizing international conferences, gathering information on the implementation of Security Council decisions, and consulting with member governments regarding various initiatives. Key Secretariat offices in this area include the Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that, in his or her opinion, may threaten international peace and security.
Proposed logo for a United
Nations Parliamentary Assembly,
which would involve direct
election of a country’s
representative by its citizens
Since its founding, there have been many calls for reform of the United Nations, although little consensus on how to do so. Some want the UN to play a greater or more effective role in world affairs, while others want its role reduced to humanitarian work. There have also been numerous calls for the UN Security Council’s membership to be increased, for different ways of electing the UN’s Secretary-General, and for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
The UN has also been accused of bureaucratic inefficiency and waste. During the 1990s the United States withheld dues citing inefficiency, and only started repayment on the condition that a major reforms initiative was introduced. In 1994, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was established by the General Assembly to serve as an efficiency watchdog.
An official reform programme was begun by Kofi Annan in 1997. Reforms mentioned include changing the permanent membership of the Security Council (which currently reflects the power relations of 1945), making the bureaucracy more transparent, accountable and efficient, making the UN more democratic, and imposing an international tariff on arms manufacturers worldwide.
In September 2005, the UN convened a World Summit that brought together the heads of most member states, calling the summit "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take bold decisions in the areas of development, security, human rights and reform of the United Nations." Kofi Annan had proposed that the summit agree on a global "grand bargain" to reform the UN, renewing the organization’s focus on peace, security, human rights and development, and to make it better equipped at facing 21st century issues.
The result of the summit was a compromise text agreed on by world leaders, which included the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict, a Human Rights Council, and a democracy fund, a clear and unambiguous condemnation of terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations", and agreements to devote more resources to the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to spend billions more on achieving the Millennium Development Goals, to wind up the Trusteeship Council because of the completion of its mission, and that the international community has a "responsibility to protect" – the duty to intervene in when national governments fail to fulfill their responsibility to protect their citizens from atrocious crimes.
Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:
The United Nations that can be found at…