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United Nations

United Nations (UN), international organization established immediately after World War II. It replaced the League of Nations. In 1945, when the UN was founded, there were 51 members; 193 nations are now members of the organization (see table entitled United Nations Members).

Organization and Principles

The Charter of the United Nations comprises a preamble and 19 chapters divided into 111 articles. The charter sets forth the purposes of the UN as: the maintenance of international peace and security; the development of friendly relations among states; and the achievement of cooperation in solving international economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems. It expresses a strong hope for the equality of all people and the expansion of basic freedoms.

The principal organs of the UN, as specified in the charter, are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council (see trusteeship, territorial), the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. Other bodies that function as specialized agencies of the UN but are not specifically provided for in the charter are the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the associated International Finance Corporation and International Development Association, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Labor Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the Universal Postal Union, the World Health Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the World Meteorological Organization. Temporary agencies have included the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the International Refugee Organization (whose responsibilities were later assumed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which is still in existence.

The official languages of the UN are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. The working languages of the General Assembly are English, French, and Spanish (in the Security Council only English and French are working languages).

The Secretariat and the Secretary-General

All UN administrative functions are handled by the Secretariat, with the secretary-general at its head. The charter does not prescribe a term for the secretary-general, but a five-year term has become standard. Trygve Lie, the first secretary-general, was succeeded by Dag Hammarskjöld (1953–61), who served until his death. U Thant, acting secretary-general, was elected secretary-general (1962), was reelected in 1966, and served through 1971. Succeeding secretaries-general were: Kurt Waldheim (1972–81); Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1982–91), Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1992–96), Kofi Annan (1997–2006), and Ban Ki-Moon (2007–). (See also the table entitled United Nations Secretaries-General.) The secretary-general transcends a merely administrative role by his authority to bring situations to the attention of various UN organs, by his position as an impartial party in effecting conciliation, and especially by his power to "perform such … functions as are entrusted to him" by other UN organs. Also strengthening the office of secretary-general is the large Secretariat staff, which is recruited on a wide geographic basis and is required to work exclusively in the interests of the organization.

The General Assembly

The only UN body provided by the charter in which all member states are represented is the General Assembly. The General Assembly was designed to be a deliberative body dealing chiefly with general questions of a political, social, or economic character. It meets in a regular annual session beginning the third Tuesday in September; special sessions are sometimes held. It has seven main committees set up to deal with specific matters designated as (1) political and security, (2) economic and financial, (3) social, humanitarian, and cultural, (4) trusteeship, (5) administrative and budgetary, (6) legal, and (7) special political. It also has procedural, standing, and many ad hoc committees. The assembly passes on the budget and sets the assessments of the member countries. It may conduct studies and make recommendations but may not advise on matters under Security Council consideration, unless by Security Council request. In the assembly, decisions on routine matters are taken by a simple majority of members voting; a two-thirds majority is required for matters of importance, such as the admission of new members, the revision of the charter, and budgetary and trusteeship questions.

The Security Council

The Security Council was constructed as an organ with primary responsibility for preserving peace. Unlike the General Assembly, it was given power to enforce measures and was organized as a compact executive organ. Also unlike the assembly, the Security Council in theory functions continuously at the seat of the UN.

The council has 15 members. Five—China (until 1971 the Republic of China [Taiwan]; since then the People's Republic of China), France, Great Britain, the United States, and Russia (until 1991 the USSR)—are permanent. The 10 (originally six) nonpermanent members are elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly; equitable geographic distribution is required. Customarily there are five nonpermanent members from African and Asian states, one from Eastern Europe, two from Latin America, and two from Western Europe and elsewhere. In the council the presidency is occupied for one-month terms in the alphabetical order of the members' names in English.

In 1997 a UN commission proposed changes to the council, including adding five new permanent members without veto powers, adding four additional nonpermanent members, and placing restrictions on the use of the veto. The proposed changes were regarded by many nations as a groundwork for negotiations on the eventual restructuring of the council. Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, and South Africa have sought permanent seats on the council, and in July, 2005, the first four nations submitted a General Assembly resolution calling for the expansion of the council (but not for veto-power for new permanent members). The African Union, however, has called for new permanent members to have the veto and for Africa to receive two permanent seats. There has been no significant progress on the issue, but in Sept., 2008, the General Assembly unanimously called for intergovernmental negotiations on the enlargement of the council, which began in Feb., 2009.

There are two systems of voting in the Security Council. On procedural matters the affirmative vote of any nine members is necessary, but on substantive matters the nine affirmative votes required must include those of the five permanent members. This requirement of Big Five unanimity embodies the so-called veto. In practice the council has, on most substantive matters, not treated an abstention by a permanent member as a veto. In two situations, however, those of recommending applicants for UN membership and of approving proposed amendments to the charter, the actual concurrence of all permanent members has been required. The veto has prevented much substantive action by the UN, but it embodies the reality that resolution of major crises requires agreement of the major powers.

Under the charter the council may take measures on any danger to world peace. It may act upon complaint of a member or of a nonmember, on notification by the secretary-general or by the General Assembly, or of its own volition. In general the council considers matters of two sorts. The first is "disputes" (or situations that may give rise to them) that might endanger peace. Here the council is limited to making recommendations to the parties after it has exhausted other methods of reaching a solution. In the case of more serious matters, such as "threats to the peace," "breaches of the peace," and "acts of aggression," the council may take enforcement measures. These may range from full or partial rupture of economic or diplomatic relations to military operations of any scope deemed necessary. By the terms of the charter, the UN was forbidden to intervene in matters "which are essentially … domestic," but this limitation was not intended to hinder Security Council measures to prevent threats to peace. The charter was intentionally ambiguous regarding domestic issues that could also be construed as threats to peace and left a potential opening for intervention in domestic issues that threaten to have dangerous international repercussions.

History

Origins

The earliest concrete plan for the formation of a new world organization was begun under the aegis of the U.S. State Department late in 1939. The name United Nations was coined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941 to describe the countries fighting against the Axis. It was first used officially on Jan. 1, 1942, when 26 states joined in the Declaration by the United Nations, pledging themselves to continue their joint war effort and not to make peace separately. The need for an international organization to replace the League of Nations was first stated officially on Oct. 30, 1943, in the Moscow Declaration, issued by China, Great Britain, the United States, and the USSR.

At the Dumbarton Oaks Conference (Aug.–Oct., 1944), those four countries drafted specific proposals for a charter for the new organization, and at the Yalta Conference (Feb., 1945) further agreement was reached. All the states that had ultimately adhered to the 1942 declaration and had declared war on Germany or Japan by Mar. 1, 1945, were called to the founding conference held in San Francisco (Apr. 25–June 26, 1945). Drafted at San Francisco, the UN charter was signed on June 26 and ratified by the required number of states on Oct. 24 (officially United Nations Day). The General Assembly first met in London on Jan. 10, 1946.

It was decided to locate the UN headquarters in the E United States. In Dec., 1946, the General Assembly accepted the $8.5 million gift of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to buy a tract of land along the East River, New York City, for its headquarters. The principal buildings there, the Secretariat, the General Assembly, and the Conference Building, were completed in 1952. The Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Library was dedicated in 1961.

Original Vision and Cold War Realities

In practice the UN has not evolved as was first envisaged. Originally it was composed largely of the Allies of World War II, mainly European countries, Commonwealth countries, and nations of the Americas. It was conceived as an organization of "peace-loving" nations, who were combining to prevent future aggression and for other humanitarian purposes. Close cooperation among members was expected; the Security Council especially was expected to work in relative unanimity. Hopes for essential accord were soon dashed by the frictions of the cold war, which affected the functioning of the Security Council and other UN organs.

The charter had envisaged a regular military force available to the Security Council and directed the creation of the Military Staff Committee to make appropriate plans. The committee—consisting of the chiefs of staff (or their deputies) of the Big Five—was unable to reach agreement, with the USSR and the other four states on opposing sides; thus no regular forces were established. The same split frustrated the activities of two special Security Council bodies, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Commission on Conventional Armaments. Hence no arrangements were concluded for regulating the production of atomic bombs or reducing other types of armaments (see disarmament, nuclear). The charter anticipated that regional security agreements would supplement the overall UN system, but in fact such comprehensive alliances as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization of American States, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, and the Warsaw Treaty Organization to an extent bypassed the UN system.

There were some early instances of Soviet cooperation with the United States and other powers that allowed for UN successes in restoring or preserving peace. These included the settlement (1946) of the complaint of Syria and Lebanon that France and Great Britain were illegally occupying their territory; the partitioning of Palestine (see Israel); the fighting over Kashmir between India and Pakistan (see India-Pakistan Wars); and the withdrawal of the Dutch from Indonesia. However, in many other issues of more direct importance to the great powers, conflict between the USSR and the remaining members of the Big Five prevented resolution. The Security Council was crippled by the veto, which by the end of 1955 had been used 78 times, 75 of them by the Soviet Union.

Growing Activity of the Assembly

In reaction to the limitations that the cold war imposed on the Security Council, the United States, Britain, France, and other nations tried to develop the General Assembly beyond its original scope. In the assembly the United States and Great Britain had strong support from among the Commonwealth and Latin American countries and generally commanded a majority. The Soviet Union could muster only a smaller bloc, sufficient to create debate between East and West but less effective in voting.

Of more importance were procedures evolved in the Korean crisis in 1950. At that time the Soviet Union was boycotting the Security Council because of the UN refusal to admit the People's Republic of China as a member. Since the USSR was not present to cast a veto, the Security Council was enabled to establish armed forces to repel the North Korean attack on South Korea (see Korean War). Thus, at a time when the young organization had begun to seem politically sterile, it gave birth to the first UN army and to the widest "collective security" action in history up to that time, although the United States provided the bulk of both fighting personnel and matériel. In addition, firmer UN action in future crises was prepared for when, in Nov., 1950, the assembly adopted the "Uniting for Peace" resolution, which permitted it to take its own measures when use of the veto paralyzed the council. Although the assembly has been convened a few times under this resolution, its authority to require action by members has remained vague, and it has never developed workable enforcement machinery.

Some areas were opened for UN intervention, however, where world opinion and great power responsiveness favored it. In the struggle for independence in Morocco, Algeria, and elsewhere, the ruling colonial powers claimed these conflicts to be domestic; with their seats on the Security Council they were in a position to veto assembly resolutions, and with the official governments of rebellious territories under their control they were enabled to forestall UN intervention. In the Hungarian revolt (1956), requests that the USSR withdraw its troops from Hungary and that UN observers be admitted to the country were rejected by the Soviet Union. In the Suez crisis (1956), however, the General Assembly resolution for an immediate cease-fire and for withdrawal of invading forces was heeded by Great Britain, France, and Israel (see Arab-Israeli Wars).

Expanding Role of the Secretary-General

Parallel to the growing activity of the assembly was the expanding role of the secretary-general. Trygve Lie, as secretary-general, made vigorous efforts to muster world opinion in such difficulties as the Korean crisis, but his labeling of North Korea as the aggressor earned him Soviet enmity and thus limited his effectiveness. Under the "quiet diplomacy" of Dag Hammarskjöld the secretary-generalship gained greater scope. The secretary-general, not the deadlocked Security Council, was entrusted with organizing and establishing UN forces in the Suez crisis. He worked closely with the General Assembly on other issues. In 1958, when an assembly resolution asking for a strong force of UN observers in Lebanon had been vetoed by the council, the secretary-general nevertheless followed the assembly's recommendation.

Beyond such missions Hammarskjöld interpreted his office as responsible for preserving peace even when the assembly itself was deadlocked and could issue no definite instructions. In practice he operated largely under a General Assembly mandate but frequently took executive steps that could not be completely detailed by instructions. Thus the office of secretary-general was evolving as the UN's de facto executive authority in matters of international conflict, and the Security Council began to meet much less frequently.

Effects of a Growing Membership

By the late 1950s the UN was being revolutionized by a change in membership. Since the inception of the UN there had been a steady growth of feeling that the organization should comprise all the nations of the world. But new membership was long blocked by East-West rivalry; each side was antagonistic to admission of new members unfavorable to its views, and as non-Communist countries outnumbered Communist ones the USSR was especially intransigent. From 1947 to 1955 only Yemen (1947), Pakistan (1947), Myanmar (1948), Israel (1949), and Indonesia (1950) gained admission. The way to a compromise was led by Canada in 1955; 16 new members were admitted in that year, and thereafter expansion was rapid.

Accompanying expansion came voting realignment. The clear majority of the United States and its allies disappeared as the Afro-Asian group of nations (see Third World) obtained over half of the assembly seats. New voting blocs formed, including the NATO nations, the Arab nations, the Commonwealth nations, and, increasingly, a general Afro-Asian bloc. Latin America shifted away from its pro-U.S. position. Other themes began to equal that of the cold war in assembly debates, and more militant stands were taken against remnants of colonialism.

The changed nature of the UN was revealed in UN Africa policy in the early 1960s. The UN acted strongly in the crisis in the Congo, and during its involvement there the secretary-general developed his office to an unprecedented extent. When the UN was invited (1960) by the Congo government to send troops there, a UN force was quickly organized by Hammarskjöld from among neutral European and African states. The UN troops, confronted by social and political chaos, engaged in direct military action to force Katanga province to reintegrate with the Congo, which it finally did in 1963.

UN action in the Congo and later in sending peacekeeping forces to Cyprus (1964) demonstrated a willingness to intervene in basically internal situations, both to restore order and to prevent the spread of disorder to neighboring states. This willingness was especially evident in the attention paid to the remaining colonial areas, mainly in Africa. The UN repeatedly condemned the colonial policies of Portugal (until that country began to free its colonies after the 1974 coup) and the racial policies of South Africa and Rhodesia, against which severe economic sanctions were applied.

Diminished UN Influence and Its Uncertain Revival

Having lost its automatic majority in the assembly, the United States joined the Soviet Union in limiting UN power and authority, mainly by keeping major issues within the purview of the Security Council and the veto, with inaction the usual result. There was a corresponding decline in the freedom of movement allowed the secretary-general. In the wake of Hammarskjöld's Congo operation and accidental death, the Soviet Union's "troika" plan for a three-person secretary-generalship—an Eastern, a Western, and a neutralist member, each with a veto—was a sign that the USSR would not tolerate another activist secretary-general. Although its plan was defeated, the USSR's goal was largely achieved, since succeeding secretaries-general avoided actions that might be controversial.

Severe financial pressures have also served to restrict UN action. A number of countries, including the USSR, have refused to pay for UN actions, such as the Congo operation, not directly approved by the Security Council. The United States successfully pushed for a reduction of its assessment to 25% of the UN budget in 1977, instead of one third or more, but has still been in substantial arrears. (By the late 1990s the problem of U.S. arrears had grown so great that the United States was in danger of losing its vote in the General Assembly.)

Finally, the major powers have tended to deal with each other outside the framework of the UN. While certain agreements in peripheral areas of disarmament and international cooperation have been worked out within the UN—e.g., the peaceful use of atomic energy (see Atomic Energy Agency, International), cooperation in outer space, and arms limitation on the international seabed—most major negotiations and agreements have been on a bilateral basis.

As a result, until 1991 the UN played a relatively secondary role in most world crises, including the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1967 and 1973; the India-Pakistan War of 1971; the Vietnam War; and the Afghanistan War. However, with Soviet cooperation, the UN played a major role approving action in the Persian Gulf in 1991 to drive Iraq from Kuwait, and it actively supervised the subsequent cease-fire, embargo, and removal of strategic weapons from Iraq (see Persian Gulf War).

Since the early 1970s, the UN expanded its activity in the development of less developed countries. The UN and its related agencies have had a significant impact in disease control, aid to refugees, and technological cooperation. It has provided a mechanism through which developed countries can jointly contribute with a minimum of national antagonism and from which less developed countries can receive aid with a minimum of suspicion and resentment. The UN has also been active in setting standards of human dignity and freedom, such as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the establishment of international labor standards, and has been a forum for discussion on some environmental issues, such as at the "Earth Summit" in 1992.

The current UN is an all but universal global institution. Its peacekeeping forces were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988, and in 2001 the UN itself, along with Secretary-General Annan, was awarded the prize. Beginning in the 1990s, the UN was increasingly involved in peacekeeping efforts throughout the world. Although the UN played a subsidiary role in the Persian Gulf War, its potential to gain a more prominent peacekeeping role was enhanced with the end of the cold war. In recent years the UN has supervised the 1993 elections in Cambodia (as part of its largest peacekeeping effort ever) and the 1999 referendum in East Timor (although it could not prevent the violence the followed), and it has mounted peacekeeping operations in Angola, Bosnia, Congo (Kinshasa), Eritrea and Ethiopia, Haiti, Kosovo, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan and Chad among others. In addition, the UN has provided police forces in regions, such as Kosovo, Bosnia, and East Timor, where the local government could not.

The Security Council's assertiveness in enforcing the Gulf War cease-fire resolutions in the early 1990s seemed indicative of a new vigor. Later divisions on the council over that issue, however, and limited success with respect to peacekeeping in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Sierra Leone, and Côte d'Ivore indicate that, unless the parties overseen by such forces are desirous of peace, perhaps the council can assert itself successfully only when the great powers are convinced that their interests are at stake. The fact was made all-too-obvious by the divisions that emerged between the United States and Britain, on one side, and France, Russia, and China over whether to approve military action against Iraq in 2003. Other divisions hampered the UN's ability to develop (2007) a fully workable peacekeeping mission in Sudan and Chad, where rebellion in Sudan's Darfur region and bordering parts of Chad created large numbers of refugees beginning in 2003. On the other hand, the UN peacekeeping mission along the Eritrea-Ethiopia border (2000–2008) was ended after the two benefiting nations undermined it.

In an effort to ensure that UN peacekeeping missions that are mounted are effective, Annan pushed for forces that were large enough to be able to enforce the peace, though that was not always possible. UN peacekeeping forces have also become more assertive about using force to protect themselves and civilians and more active in enforcing the peace. In 2011, in response to fighting in Libya, the Security Council authorized a no-fly zone in Libya to protect civilians and imposed sanctions on the government, but the NATO-Arab mission enforcing the zone also acted at times in apparent support of the rebels, who ultimately overthrew the government. A peace mission to Syria in 2012, which only involved UN observers, was not successful in stemming the Arab Spring conflict there. A UN peacekeeping force was deployed in the Central African Republic in 2014, in response to fighting between Christian and Muslim militias following the overthrow of the government; the force superseded and absorbed an African Union contingent that had been deployed in the country in 2013.

A related and pressing problem has been the financial crisis created by the arrears owed by the United States and other nations, a crisis exacerbated by the expense of increased peacekeeping operations. Even as the nations of the world have been expanding the UN's role as peacekeeper, its ability to fund such operations has been hampered by nonpayment of UN dues. American dissatisfaction with the UN has led to opposition within Congress to payment of UN dues and resulted in unyielding U.S. opposition to the reelection of Boutros-Ghali as secretary-general. Kofi Annan, who succeeded Boutros-Ghali in 1997, worked to streamline UN operations and reduce costs, in part to restore American confidence and interest in the organization. In 1999 the U.S. Congress passed legislation that would pay some of the nation's back dues, but it also called for a further reduction in the assessment that the United States is expected to pay. An agreement in Dec., 2000, called for a reduction in U.S. dues to 22% of the UN's budget. In 2000, U.S. arrears had reached $1.3 billion, according to UN calculations, but by the end of 2004 that had been reduced by more than 80%.

In 2004 the UN's reputation was tarnished by revelations about corruption in the oil-for-food program that allowed Iraq, beginning in 1996 and ending after the U.S.-led invasion, to export oil to generate income that was to be used to purchase food and other humanitarian relief. Saddam Hussein's government received sizable kickbacks through the program (although the money Iraq earned through smuggling oil abroad was much greater), and many outside Iraq illicitly profited as well. A detailed UN investigation into the program, led by Paul Volcker, began in 2004, and it released its final report in 2005. The investigation accused the UN official who had headed the program of personally benefiting from it, and faulted the conduct of others, including two of Annan's close advisers. The integrity of Annan's son, who benefited from employment and payments from a company involved in the program, was questioned, although Annan himself was not accused of benefiting or of manipulating the program to benefit anyone. However, Annan was criticized for having exercised inadequate oversight (as was the Security Council) and for having failed to make a thorough inquiry into the affair when questions first arose about it.

Also in 2005 Annan attempted to win international support for a group of comprehensive reforms within the United Nations, but agreement proved difficult to secure. UN members did approve the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission, intended to aid war-torn nations in reestablishing political stability and economic growth. In Dec., 2005, under pressure from the United States and other wealthy nations, UN members approved a two-year budget with a spending cap for 2006 that was expected to be reached in June of that year. The intention was to link the approval of further spending to passage of management reforms by the General Assembly.

The General Assembly approved (Mar., 2006) the replacement of the UN Human Rights Commission with a Human Rights Council. The move was designed to restore credibility to the UN's human rights body, which was criticized for having included among its member nations many countries that had been denounced for violations of human rights, but the new body soon faced similar criticisms. In May the Assembly refused to approve the centerpiece of Annan's ambitious administrative reform plans for the United Nations; some modest reforms were approved in July. The budget cap, meanwhile, had been removed in June by the General Assembly. Annan was succeeded as secretary-general by South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-Moon in 2007.

Bibliography

The United Nations publishes a series of comprehensive yearbooks (1947–). See also M. Waters, The United Nations (1967); L. M. Goodrich, E. I. Hambro, and A. P. Simons, Charter of the United Nations: Commentary and Documents (3d ed. 1969); D. W. Wainhouse, International Peacekeeping at the Crossroads (1973); L. M. Goodrich, The United Nations in a Changing World (1974); D. P. Moynihan, A Dangerous Place (1978); Conference on United Nations Procedures, Global Negotiations and Economic Development (1980); E. Luard, A History of the United Nations (2 vol., 1982–89); J. P. Humphrey, Human Rights and the United Nations (1983); P. R. Baehr and L. Gordenker, The United Nations: Reality and Ideal (1984); Department of Public Information, The United Nations and Human Rights (1984); R. Riggs and J. Plano, The United Nations: International Organization and World Politics (1987); P. J. Fromuth, ed., A Successor Vision: The United Nations of Tomorrow (1988); A. Roberts, United Nations, Divided World: The UN's Role in International Relations (1988); R. Berridge, Return to the United Nations: UN Diplomacy in Regional Conflicts (1991); S. Meisler, United Nations: The First Fifty Years (1995); T. Hoopes and D. Brinkley, FDR and the Creation of the U.N. (1997); S. C. Schlesinger, Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations (2003); M. Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (2009); R. Jolly et al., UN Ideas That Changed the World (2009).

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS

UNITED NATIONS. The United States was a key force behind the establishment of the United Nations (UN) at the end of World War II. The term, the "United Nations," was first used on 1 January 1942 in an agreement that pledged that none of the Allied governments would make a separate peace with the Axis Powers. The actual Charter of the United Nations that was finalized in 1945 was very much a U.S. document, in contrast to the Covenant of the League of Nations that had been based primarily on both U.S. and British drafts. The UN Charter flowed from discussions at Dumbarton Oaks (outside Washington, D.C.) in 1944 between the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and later China. Fifty governments signed the Charter in June 1945. UN membership exceeded 120 by the early 1970s, was over 150 by 1980, and reached 185 nation-states by the 1990s. Despite the central role of the United States in the establishment of the UN, and in many of its subsequent operations, Washington's relationship with the organization has not been without friction over the years.

The Origins and Establishment of the United Nations

There is considerable debate about the United States' motives for the establishment of the UN. From the point of view of some commentators, the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933–1945) viewed the UN as a potential pillar of a wider effort to construct an international order in which U.S. manufacturers and investors would be able to continue to benefit economically following the end of World War II. Other observers emphasize the role of liberal (or Wilsonian) idealism in the foundation of the UN and its importance as an effort to move beyond the Great Power rivalry of the pre-1945 era. Related to this perception is the view that Roosevelt envisioned the UN as a vehicle by which the Soviet Union could be brought into a more cooperative and less confrontational international order. From this perspective, the UN was a way of maintaining and broadening the alliance after 1945 between the victorious powers in World War II.

At the same time, even if the establishment of the UN represented an immediate response to World War II, it built on rather than displaced the ideas about, and the practices of, international relations that had emerged prior to the 1940s. For example, the UN was clearly a successor organization to the League of Nations. But, given the discredited reputation of the League, the UN could not be established directly on its foundations. Many observers regard the UN as an improvement on the overall structure of the League of Nations. From the perspective of the United States and its wartime allies, one of the most significant improvements was to be the way in which the UN was even more explicitly grounded in the principle of the concert (or concerted action) of the Great Powers. The notion that the Great Powers had unique rights and obligations in international relations was already a major element behind the establishment of the League of Nations, particularly its main decision-making body, the Council. In the UN, however, the major allied powers were given permanent seats on the Security Council, which came with the right of veto on any UN security initiative. The main framers of the UN also sought to enlarge the organization's role in social and economic affairs (in contrast to the League). This flowed from the knowledge that a broad international effort would be required to deal with a range of problems related to reconstruction following the end of World War II. There was also a sense that mechanisms for countering the kind of wholesale violation of human rights that had characterized the Nazi regime needed to be set up. Furthermore, in light of both the Great Depression and World War II there was a growing concern that economic inequality and poverty facilitated crisis and war.

The Operation and Growth of the United Nations

The Security Council, as already suggested, is the most important body of the UN. It is in permanent session and is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has the power to call on the armed forces of member governments to provide peacekeeping forces and to intervene in conflicts and disputes around the world. The Security Council was established with five permanent members and ten rotating members. The permanent members are the major allied powers that won World War II: the United States, the Soviet Union (now Russia), Great Britain, France, and China (Taiwan held the Chinese seat until 1971). The five permanent members all have an absolute veto on any resolution of the Security Council. After 1945 international power politics, as played out at the UN, were directly linked to the (sometimes dubious) proposition that these five states were the most politically and militarily significant in world affairs. The veto also meant that although these five powers were prevented, in theory, from using force in a fashion that went against the UN Charter, their veto in the Security Council protected them from sanction or censure if they


did engage in unilateral action. The Security Council thus represented a major arena for Cold War politics at the same time as the Cold War, which pitted its members against each other, ensured that the ability of the Security Council to act was often profoundly constrained.

While the Security Council's focus was on issues of peace and war, the General Assembly was given particular responsibility for social and economic issues. Over the years, as this brief has grown, a range of specialized, often semiautonomous, agencies have emerged. For example, the International Labor Organization, which had been set up by the League of Nations, was revitalized. The UN also established the World Health Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization, not to mention the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the United Nations Development Programme. By the 1990s there were nineteen separate UN agencies. Some of the most significant UN organizations that emerged after 1945 now operate almost entirely independently. This is particularly true of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank).

The Cold War, Decolonization, and the United Nations in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s

The UN, as already emphasized, was profoundly shaped by the emerging Cold War. In this context the United States increasingly perceived it as an important element in its policy toward Moscow. For example, a U.S. Department of State memorandum in April 1946 observed, "[t]he Charter of the United Nations affords the best and most unassailable means through which the U.S. can implement its opposition to Soviet physical expansion." Meanwhile, Moscow's early resistance to Washington's preferred candidates for the presidency of the General Assembly and the post of the UN's first Secretary-General ensured that the UN would be an important forum for the wider Cold War. The UN was also directly involved in and shaped by the rising nationalist sentiment against colonialism and the move toward decolonization, as well as the question of racial discrimination that was directly or indirectly connected to the colonial question. For example, the UN passed a resolution on 29 November 1947 that called for the end of the British mandate in Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state, with Jerusalem being put under international administration. The Arab delegates at the UN were unhappy with these proposed arrangements and responded by walking out of the General Assembly. On 14 May 1948 the state of Israel was officially proclaimed, followed by the start of open warfare between the new state of Israel and neighboring Arab states. A cease-fire was eventually agreed to under the mediation of Ralph Bunche (a U.S. citizen and senior UN official), who subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize. Israel was formally admitted to the UN in May 1949. The conflict between the Dutch colonial government in the Netherlands East Indies and the de facto government of the Republic of Indonesia was also brought before the UN in the late 1940s. The United States exerted its influence inside and outside the UN, and in March 1949 the Dutch government agreed to move quickly to decolonize and recognize Indonesian independence. The Cold War backdrop was important in this trend. The United States was concerned that Moscow's support for national liberation movements, such as that in Indonesia, might enhance the influence of the Soviet Union, and it realized at the same time that U.S. support for decolonization would advance U.S. influence.

The Korean War (1950–1953) was a turning point for the UN, and for U.S. Cold War policy. In September 1947 the United States placed the Korean question before the General Assembly. This was done in an effort to wind back the United States' commitment to the Korean peninsula. Subsequently the General Assembly formally called for the unification of what was at that point a Korea divided between a northern government allied to the Soviet Union (and later the Peoples' Republic of China, or PRC) and a southern government allied to the United States. Following the outbreak of war between the north and the south on 25 June 1950, the Security Council quickly began organizing a UN military force, under U.S. leadership, to intervene in Korea. This was made possible by the fact that Moscow had been boycotting the Security Council since the start of 1950. The Soviet Union was protesting the fact that China's permanent seat on the Security Council continued to be held by the Kuomintang (KMT) government that had been confined to Taiwan since the Chinese Communist Party's triumph on the mainland at the end of 1949. In Korea it quickly became clear that the United States (and its UN allies) were entering a major war. The resolutions of the General Assembly on Korean unification were soon being used to justify a full-scale military effort against the North Korean regime. The initial aim of U.S.-UN intervention to achieve the limited goal of ending northern aggression was quickly transformed into a wider set of aims, centered on the reunification of the peninsula under a pro-U.S.–UN government. The ensuing conflict eventually brought the PRC directly into the war.

It was initially thought that U.S.-UN intervention in Korea indicated that the UN had overcome the paralysis that had afflicted the League of Nations in any conflict where the rival interests of Great Powers were involved. But, once the Soviet Union resumed its seat on the Security Council in August 1950, Moscow challenged the validity of the resolutions of the Security Council that underpinned UN operations in Korea. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was also highly critical of Secretary-General Trygve Lie's keen prosecution of UN actions in Korea. Moscow opposed his reelection in 1951, but the United States managed to ensure that he remained in the post until the end of 1952. At the same time, Moscow's delegation at the UN avoided having anything to do with the Secretary-General, dramatically weakening his position. In the wake of the signing of an armistice agreement in Korea on 27 July 1953, U.S. influence at the UN went into relative decline. Another result of the Korean War was two decades of Sino-U.S. hostility. Until 1971 Washington successfully prevented all attempts at the UN to have the PRC replace the KMT in China's permanent seat in the Security Council.

The decline of U.S. influence in the 1950s was primarily a result of the way in which the process of decolonization increasingly altered the balance of power in the General Assembly. A key event in the history of decolonization and the growth of the UN was the Suez Crisis that followed the seizure of the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956 by the Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1954–1970). The canal was of considerable commercial and strategic importance to Great Britain and France. Despite the objections of the Security Council, London and Paris, with the support of the Israeli government, attacked Egypt. The UN responded, with U.S. and Soviet support, by setting up and dispatching a 6,000-strong United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to manage a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Anglo-French troops from the Canal Zone. The UNEF, which continued to operate as a buffer between Egypt and Israel from 1956 to 1967, was important for the history of future peacekeeping efforts. It flowed from a resolution of the General Assembly and clearly set the precedent (not always followed) that UN peacekeeping forces should work to prevent conflict between opposing sides rather than engage in the conflict.

The growing significance of decolonization for the UN became clear when, following Congo's independence from Belgium in 1960, a UN force (Opération des Nations Unies au Congo, or ONUC) was asked to intervene. The UN operation in the Congo, from July 1960 to June 1964, was the biggest UN action since the war in Korea in the early 1950s. The Congo crisis started with a mutiny in the former Belgian colonial military establishment (Force Publique) that had become the Armée Nationale Congolaise following independence. When troops attacked and killed a number of European officers, the Belgian administrators, and other Europeans who had remained behind after independence, fled the country, opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite. Shortly after this, Moise Tshombe led a successful secessionist effort to take the wealthy Katanga province out of the new nation. At the end of 1960 President Kasa Vubu dismissed the new prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, and a week later Colonel Joseph Mobutu seized power, holding it until February 1961, by which time Lumumba had been killed. Meanwhile, Belgian troops intervened to protect Belgian nationals as civil war spread in the former Belgian colony. The assassination of Lumumba precipitated a Security Council resolution on 21 February 1961 that conferred on ONUC the ability to use force to stop the descent into civil war. Prior to this point ONUC had only been allowed to use force in self-defense. During operations in the Congo, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was killed in a plane crash and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. Even with upwards of 20,000 UN-sponsored troops in the Congo, however, a cease-fire was not agreed to and Katanga was not brought back into the Congo until 1963. All ONUC troops were withdrawn by the end of June 1964, in part because the UN itself was on the brink of bankruptcy (a result of the French and Soviet government's refusal to contribute to the costs of ONUC). It was not until the UN operation in Somalia in 1992, almost thirty years later, that the UN again intervened militarily on the scale of its operation in the Congo in the early 1960s.

The UN and the Third World in the 1970s and 1980s

By the 1970s the emergence of a growing number of new nation-states in Africa and Asia over the preceding decades had clearly altered the balance in the UN in favor of the so-called "Third World." This shift was readily apparent when the Sixth Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in April 1974 passed the Declaration and Programme of Action for the Establishment of a New Economic Order. This represented a formal call for a New International Economic Order in an effort to improve the terms on which the countries of the Third World participated in the global economy. In the late 1970s the UN also established the Independent Commission on International Development (the Brandt Commission), presided over by former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. However, by the start of the 1980s, calls at the UN and elsewhere to address the North-South question were increasingly rebuffed, particularly with the Debt Crisis and the subsequent spread of neoliberal economic policies and practices. With the support of Margaret Thatcher's government in Britain (1979–1990) and the administration of Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) in the United States, the IMF and the World Bank increasingly encouraged the governments of the Third World to liberalize trade, privatize their public sectors, and deregulate their economies. This trend was strengthened by the end of the Cold War, by which time virtually all branches of the UN had become sites for the promotion of economic liberalism and what has come to be known as globalization.

The United Nations after the Cold War

The Cold War had undermined the expectation, prevalent in the late 1940s and early 1950s, that the UN would provide the overall framework for international security after 1945. With the end of the Cold War, however, the UN was presented with an opportunity to revive the major peacekeeping and security activities that many of its early proponents had anticipated. For example, while the UN dispatched a total of 10,000 peacekeepers to five operations (with an annual budget of about $233 million) in 1987, the total number of troops acting as peacekeepers under UN auspices by 1995 was 72,000. They were operating in eighteen different countries and the total cost of these operations was over $3 billion. Early post–Cold War initiatives were thought to augur well for the UN's new role. The major civil war in El Salvador, which had been fueled by the Cold War, came to a negotiated end in 1992 under the auspices of the UN. Apart from El Salvador, the countries in which the UN has provided peacekeepers and election monitors include Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, East Timor, Macedonia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, and the Western Sahara. While Cambodia and East Timor, for example, are seen as UN success stories, the failure of the UN in Angola and Somalia highlights the constraints on the UN's role in the post–Cold War era.

The UN's new post–Cold War initiative in relation to peacekeeping was linked to the appointment of Boutros Boutros-Ghali as Secretary-General at the beginning of 1992. Shortly after taking up the new post, Boutros-Ghali presented the Security Council with his "Agenda for Peace." This document laid out a range of major reforms to facilitate a greatly expanded peacekeeping role. Boutros-Ghali wanted member states to provide permanently designated military units that could be deployed quickly and overcome the UN's well-known inability to act quickly in a time of crisis. A number of states expressed an interest in such an arrangement at the same time as changes were made at UN headquarters in New York. The UN military advisory staff was expanded with a focus on intelligence activities and long-range planning, and efforts were made to enhance communications between officers on the ground and UN headquarters. There was even some talk of forming a multinational military establishment, made up of volunteers that would be under the direct control of the UN. These initiatives made little progress, however, in the context of an organization comprised of nation-states that were very wary of providing soldiers and equipment in ways that might diminish their sovereignty. Furthermore, there was little or no possibility of a more effective and united intervention by the UN in situations where the national interests of the major powers were thought to be at stake. At the same time, the fact that a number of countries, including the United States and Russia, fell behind in their payment of dues to the UN suggested the prospects for a more activist and revamped UN were still limited. As a result of concerted U.S. opposition, Boutros-Ghali was not reappointed as Secretary-General for a second term, further dampening the momentum toward a more assertive UN. His replacement, Kofi Annan, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, has emerged as a much more cautious and conciliatory Secretary-General.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Armstrong, David. The Rise of the International Organisation: A Short History. London: Macmillan, 1982.

Hilderbrand, Robert C. Dumbarton Oaks: The Origins of the United Nations and the Search for Postwar Security. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

Meisler, Stanley. United Nations: The First Fifty Years. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995.

Wesley, Michael. Casualties of the New World Order: The Causes of Failure of UN Missions to Civil Wars. Basingstoke, U.K.: Macmillan, 1997.

Mark T.Berger

See alsoDumbarton Oaks Conference ; United Nations Conference ; United Nations Declaration .

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United Nations

United Nations

STRUCTURE

PEACE AND SECURITY

OTHER ISSUES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The United Nations (UN) is a global organization of states that aims to find cooperative solutions for international security, economic, and social problems. The first formal use of the term United Nations appeared in the Declaration by the United Nations (January 1, 1942), in which twenty-six Allied countries pledged to defeat the Axis Powers and subscribed to the principles of the Atlantic Charter (August 14, 1941) during World War II (19391945). These principles included the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security.

From August to October 1944, delegates from the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of China met at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington, D.C., to negotiate the formation of a new organization to replace the League of Nations. Most of the outstanding issues were settled at the Yalta Conference (February 411, 1945) among the leaders of the Big Three nations: U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945), British prime minister Winston Churchill (18741965), and Soviet general secretary Joseph Stalin (18791953). Shortly thereafter, delegates of fifty nations met in San Francisco to finalize the negotiations, culminating in the signing of the UN Charter on June 26, 1945. On August 8, 1945, the United States became the first country to ratify the Charter. The United Nations Organization came into being on October 24 (celebrated since 1948 as United Nations Day) when the majority of original signers, including the great powers (the four Dumbarton Oaks conveners and France), had ratified the Charter.

STRUCTURE

Although the UN Charter opens with the famous phrase We the peoples of the United Nations, the United Nations is primarily an organization of sovereign states. Membership is open to all peace-loving states (Article 4), but disputes over the admission of new members fell victim after World War II to the cold war conflict. In 1955 the United States and the Soviet Union reached a compromise that allowed for the admission of sixteen new members. Still, controversy persisted over the membership status of the partitioned states of Germany, Korea, Vietnam, and China. Both German states were admitted in 1973 and both Korean states in 1991. Vietnam entered as a single state in 1977. Nationalist China (Taiwan) represented China until November 1971, when the United States ended its objection to the membership of the Peoples Republic of China. In 2006 the United Nations had 191 member states.

The UN Charter also established the six principal organs of the United Nations: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. The General Assembly is the United Nations plenary body. Aside from occasional special sessions, it meets in annual sessions that usually start in September and last for three months. The General Assembly oversees subsidiary bodies, calls international conferences, approves the budget, and adopts nonbinding resolutions on a wide variety of issues. General Assembly decisions are taken by majority vote based on a one-stateone-vote principle. Since 1987, after lobbying by the United States, critical votes on the budget are taken by unanimity rule (instead of the historical two-thirds majority) in an effort to curtail large annual budget increases. Budget assessments are made on a capacity-to-pay basis. As of 2005, the United States was responsible for 24 percent of the UN budget, followed by Japan (19 percent) and Germany (8 percent). Countries do not always meet their budget obligations in a timely manner: In September 2005 member states owed the United Nations $3 billion in outstanding peacekeeping and regular budget payments ($1.2 billion from the United States alone).

The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Under chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council can adopt coercive measures, including economic sanctions and the use of force, which are binding on individual member states. The Security Council has five permanent members (China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and ten nonpermanent members that are elected for two-year, nonrenewable terms by the General Assembly. (Until 1965, the Security Council only had six nonpermanent members.) Security Council resolutions require an affirmative vote of nine members, including the five permanent members. By 2005 the permanent members had exercised their veto right 244 times, but on only twenty occasions since 1990. The veto threat is, however, still a powerful tool to block unwanted resolutions.

The Economic and Social Council coordinates and supervises the work of numerous commissions and expert bodies on economic and social matters, including human rights. Members are elected for three-year terms by the General Assembly. The Economic and Social Councils membership has gradually expanded from eighteen to fifty-four. The Economic and Social Council has limited powers other than its ability to submit recommendations to the General Assembly (by majority vote). Formally, the Economic and Social Council coordinates the activities of various specialized agencies, including the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Developing countries have long, and unsuccessfully, pushed for a greater role for the Economic and Social Council vis-à-vis these organizations. Other specialized UN agencies, each with its own budget, membership, and charter, include the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Trusteeship Council was set up to monitor UN trust territories that were not designated as strategic by their administrating powers (strategic trust areas were the Security Councils responsibility). The Trusteeship Council ceased its operations on November 1, 1994, when the last remaining trust territory (Palau) became independent.

The International Court of Justice, located in The Hague, Netherlands, issues advisory opinions on legal questions brought to it by other UN organs and settles legal disputes submitted to it by member states. Its fifteen judges are elected for nine-year terms by the General Assembly and Security Council. By 2005 the International Court of Justice had delivered twenty-five advisory opinions and eighty-seven judgments on contentious cases, primarily on border and maritime disputes. The binding nature of International Court of Justice opinions depends on whether state parties have previously agreed to its compulsory jurisdiction.

The Secretariat is the United Nations bureaucracy. In 2005 it employed around nine thousand international civil servants who answer to the United Nations alone for their activities. While most civil servants are stationed at the UN headquarters in New York, the United Nations also maintains staffed offices elsewhere. The Secretariat is headed by the secretary-general, a prestigious post that has been occupied by Trygve Lie (Norway, 19461952), Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden, 19531961), U Thant (Burma [Myanmar], 19611971), Kurt Waldheim (Austria, 19721981), Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (Peru, 19821991), Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt, 19921996), Kofi Annan (Ghana, 19972006), and Ban Ki-moon (South Korea) who was sworn in on December 14, 2006, and began serving on January 1, 2007. Critics have charged that the demands of being the worlds primary diplomat sometimes undermine the secretary-generals ability to also be an effective manager of a large bureaucracy.

PEACE AND SECURITY

When states sign the UN Charter, they agree not to use or threaten force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations (Article 2). There are two circumstances under which force is consistent with the United Nations purposes: when it is exercised in self-defense (Article 51) and when the Security Council approves a collective action under chapter VII. The first important authorization of a collective action occurred in 1950 (July 7), when the Security Council authorized the United States to install a central command under the UN flag to restore peace and security following the armed attack by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) against the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

UN action in Korea was possible only because the Soviet Union had temporarily vacated its Security Council seat in protest against nationalist Chinas representation. After the Soviet delegate returned, the General Assembly adopted the Uniting for Peace resolution, which allowed the General Assembly to circumvent a deadlocked Security Council through special emergency sessions. This procedure has been invoked ten times, most notably in 1956 to order the French and British to end their military intervention in the Suez Canal and to create the UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) to provide a buffer between Egyptian and Israeli forces.

UNEF I was the first large-scale example of peacekeeping, an activity not mentioned in the Charter. During the cold war, peacekeeping missions were generally limited to providing a buffer between warring parties at the invitation of those parties, prime examples being the longstanding UN forces in Cyprus and Lebanon. An exception was the more ambitious 20,000-person force employed in the Congo between 1960 and 1964. This operation failed to achieve its main objectives, led to a protracted conflict about peacekeeping financing, and cost respected Secretary-General Hammarskjöld his life when his plane crashed in the Congo on September 18, 1961.

UN activity in international security was reinvigorated with the end of the cold war. In 1988 and 1989, for the first time in a decade, the Security Council authorized new peacekeeping missions that were sent to cold war hotspots such as Afghanistan, Angola, Namibia, and Nicaragua. A transformation in UN collective security occurred with the adoption of Security Council Resolution 678 on November 29, 1990, which authorized the use of all necessary means if Iraq would not vacate Kuwait by January 15, 1991. The resolution conferred legitimacy on the use of force against Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition. Since then, the Security Council has granted similar authorizations to (groups of) states in eleven cases, including East Timor (with Australia as the leading state) and Haiti (with the United States as leader).

A second significant shift occurred in 1992, when the Security Council authorized the deployment of large peacekeeping forces to end civil wars in Cambodia and Yugoslavia. This was merely the prelude to increased UN involvement in domestic conflicts across the globe. Between 1991 and 2005, the Security Council authorized forty-eight peacekeeping and other multinational uses of force, almost all concerning civil conflicts rather than interstate wars. These efforts were not without risk: more than two thousand UN peacekeepers have lost their lives, most since 1991. The United Nations has also become actively involved in postwar reconstruction and has even run transitional administrations, most notably in East Timor and Kosovo. Moreover, it has created international tribunals to try war crimes in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and the former Yugoslavia.

Despite its active record since the cold wars end, the United Nations contribution to the preservation of peace and security has come under serious scrutiny. First, the United Nations has been unable to prevent genocides in Rwanda (1994) and the Sudan (2005). Second, the Security Council has been deadlocked on important cases and has not been able to prevent states or coalitions of states from going it alone in the absence of UN authorization, as illustrated by the intervention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kosovo in 1999 and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Third, weak and understaffed UN missions have occasionally done more harm than good, as illustrated by the United Nations failure to maintain the promised safe haven of Srebrenica (1995). Fourth, UN-imposed sanctions on Iraq caused much suffering among the Iraqi population while failing to resolve the conflict. Moreover, the UN Oil for Food office allowed massive fraud to occur in the administration of the sanctions.

Some critics justifiably lament UN bureaucratic and peacekeeping practices, as acknowledged by the United Nations remarkable Brahimi Report (2000). Yet, the United Nations ultimately remains an organization of states. The United Nations can be a useful vehicle for cooperation on those issues where states are committed, but it has few means beyond persuasion to compel states to make committed efforts. In all, most analysts believe that the United Nations has had a modest but significant positive impact, especially on the resolution of civil wars.

OTHER ISSUES

The United Nations has played an active role on a large range of other issues. The United Nations was an important arena for the transformation of former colonies into sovereign states. To many new states, UN membership served as the affirmation of their sovereignty. Moreover, General Assembly Resolution 1514 (December 14, 1960) became the most influential political declaration of the existence of a right to self-determination and the illegitimacy of colonial rule.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides the foundation for the treatment of human rights in the United Nations. The United Nations administers other global human-rights instruments, such as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987), and organizes global conferences, such as the Beijing Womens Conference (1995), that set the normative debate on human rights. It has, however, few enforcement mechanisms other than public shaming through the Human Rights Commission, which critics charge is political and selective.

The United Nations has also provided a forum for arms control negotiations and administers important disarmament treaties. An independent agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), monitors observance of nuclear treaties and can refer violators to the Security Council, which can then decide on coercive measures.

The United Nations also plays an important role in economic development and humanitarian relief, primarily through special programs and funds, such as the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development program (UNDP), and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR provides a crucial coordinating role in providing relief to the worlds refugees (around twenty million in 2005). UNDP is most active in the development and monitoring of the UN Millennium Development goals: an ambitious set of development targets to be achieved by 2015.

The most difficult issue for the United Nations continues to be the Middle East. The United Nations was instrumental in creating the state of Israel and in resolving the 1956 Suez crisis. Yet, its ability to play a constructive role has been compromised by increased politicization. Israel and its defenders charge that the United Nations regularly adopts inflammatory resolutions that unfairly target Israel. For example, between 1975 and 1991, the General Assembly annually adopted a resolution that equated Zionism with racism, a charge that resurfaced at the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. Defenders of Palestine contend that Israel has repeatedly ignored General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, as well as International Court of Justice rulings.

Reform is also perennially on the United Nations agenda. Reform attempts generally involve the creation of a blue-ribbon committee, including the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, established in 2003. The recommendations of these committees rarely lead to fundamental changes. Instead, the United Nations regularly reinvents itself in response to major events and the ensuing new demands on the organization.

SEE ALSO League of Nations; Multilateralism; Peace; Peace Process; World War II

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Atlantic Charter. 1941. U.S. Department of State International Information Programs: Basic Readings in U.S. Democracy. http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/democrac/53.htm.

Charter of the United Nations. 1945. http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/.

Claude, Inis L. 1971. Swords Into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organization. 4th ed. New York: Random House.

Doyle, Michael, and Nicholas Sambanis. 2000. International Peacebuilding: A Theoretical and Quantitative Analysis. American Political Science Review 94 (4): 779801.

Malone, David, ed. 2004. The UN Security Council: From the Cold War to the 21st Century. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (Brahimi Report). 2000. http://www.un.org/peace/reports/peace_operations/.

Roberts, Adam, and Benedict Kingsbury, eds. 1993. United Nations, Divided World: The UNs Roles in International Relations. 2nd ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Schlesinger, Stephen. 2003. Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Ziring, Lawrence, Robert E. Riggs, and Jack A. Plano. 2004. The United Nations: International Organization and World Politics. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Erik Voeten

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS

As of 2003, The United Nations (UN) is an organization of 191 states that strives to attain international peace and security, promotes fundamental human rights and equal rights for men and women, and encourages social progress. The successor to the league of nations, the United Nations stems from the 1941 Inter-Allied Declaration signed by representatives of 14 countries (not including the United States) and the Atlantic Charter signed by President franklin d. roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom. In 1942, 26 countries met in Washington, D.C., and signed the Declaration by United Nations in a cooperative effort to triumph over German dictator adolf hitler during world war ii. In addition, wartime conferences in Moscow, Tehran, Yalta, and Washington, D.C. (at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Georgetown), laid the foundation of the future organization. On June 25, 1945, delegates from 50 nations met in San Francisco and unanimously adopted the Charter of the United Nations. By October 24, 1945, China, France, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and a majority of the charter's other signatories had ratified it, and the United Nations was officially established. Shortly thereafter the U.S. Congress unanimously invited the United Nations to set up headquarters in the United States, and the organization chose New York City as its permanent home.

The United Nations is open to all "peaceloving" states, a requirement construed liberally over the years. The United Nations consists of six major organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, the international court of justice (World Court), and the Trusteeship Council. The Trusteeship Council, which was established to encourage governments to prepare trust territories for self-government or independence, has largely completed its original task of supervising 11 non-self-governing territories. In 1994 the Security Council terminated the Trusteeship Agreement of Belau, a trust territory in the western Pacific that had been administered by the United States. As all other trust territories had previously obtained independence or self-government, the Trustee-ship Council amended its rules and as of 2003 meets only as situations requiring action arise.

The main deliberative body of the United Nations, the General Assembly, somewhat resembles a parliament; each nation has one vote. The General Assembly has no power to compel any action by a member state, however. It only has the right to discuss and make recommendations on matters within the scope of the UN Charter. Headed by a president elected at each session, the assembly ordinarily meets from mid-September to mid-December; other sessions are held as necessary. Ordinary matters require only a majority vote, but important matters, such as recommendations on peace and security, election of members to the Security Council or the Economic and Social Council, or admission of member states, require a two-thirds majority. The assembly also approves the UN budget (including peacekeeping operations), sets policies, determines programs for the UN Secretariat, and, in conjunction with the Security Council's recommendation, appoints the UN secretary-general, the chief administrative officer of the United Nations.

The Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security. Five permanent members—the United States, China, France, the Russian Federation (replacing the Soviet Union), and the United Kingdom—join ten other members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. A representative of each member of the Security Council must always be present at UN headquarters so that the council can convene any time peace is threatened. Unlike the other UN organs, member states are obligated under the charter to carry out economic and diplomatic decisions by the council. All decisions require nine votes, but on all questions except procedural matters, the permanent members must vote unanimously or abstain. This veto power has been exercised many times and can seriously

undermine the Security Council's ability to take bold steps in tenuous situations.

The Security Council usually seeks peaceful means such as mediation or settlement when international peace is threatened. Peacekeepers may be sent to prevent the outbreak of a conflict, or the council may issue a cease-fire directive once fighting has begun. The Security Council may impose economic sanctions and order collective military action.

The United Nations was involved in 56 peacekeeping operations between 1948 and 2003; military personnel are drawn from member states; more than 750,000 persons have served. Almost 1,800 peacekeepers have lost their lives. In 2003, 14 UN operations deployed approximately 37,000 personnel, including troops, civilian police, and military observers, from 89 countries.

The reality of UN peacekeeping efforts often falls short of the organization's ideals. For example, in the early 1990s UN troops attempted to restore order and provide humanitarian relief during the civil war in Somalia. Warring Somali factions greatly impeded the troops' efforts, however, and in 1995 the UN forces withdrew without succeeding in their mission. In addition, UN members sometimes pledge support for a mission but fail to deliver tangible evidence of that support. In 1994 the secretary-general determined that 35,000 troops would be needed to deter attacks on so-called safe areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Member states authorized fewer than 8,000 troops and took a year to provide them. Nevertheless, the United Nations has had some successes: its operations in Kashmir, Cyprus, Lebanon, Suez, Cambodia, and Mozambique have been highly praised. The UN established six new missions in 1998–2000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, East Timor, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia-Eritrea to deal with conflicts and crisis. The United Nations also monitored or observed elections in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and South Africa.

The Economic and Social Council, which has 54 members, coordinates the economic and social work of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and institutions. Among other tasks, the council recommends and directs activities to promote economic growth in developing countries, promotes the observance of human rights, and attempts to foster cooperation in creating housing, controlling population growth, and preventing crime.

Fourteen specialized agencies are separate, autonomous organizations connected to the United Nations by specific agreements, mainly through the Economic and Social Council. Specialized agencies include the World Health Organization (WHO), the world bank, the international monetary fund (IMF), and the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund (originally the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund), is a semi-autonomous organization reporting to the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. UNICEF has programs in 144 countries that address children's needs, including immunization, nutrition, primary health care, and education. A joint UNICEF-WHO program claims to have immunized 80 percent of the world's children against polio, tetanus, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, and tuberculosis.

The United Nations also provides humanitarian aid for countries stricken by war, natural disaster, or famine through UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and other UN programs. In addition, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, part of the Secretariat, helps assist and protect many millions displaced by strife.

With a staff numbering in the thousands, the Secretariat carries out the United Nations dayto-day functions in New York and throughout the world. Headed by the secretary-general, the Secretariat's staff represents nearly every member country. The Security Council recommends a candidate for secretary-general to the General Assembly, which appoints the secretary-general for a five-year term. In addition to administrative duties, the secretary-general plays an active role in worldwide peacemaking through diplomacy, by employing mediators, or by sending representatives to negotiate settlements or otherwise assist in resolving conflicts.

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is the judicial branch of the United Nations and meets in The Hague, Netherlands. The General Assembly and the Security Council elect its 15 judges for nine-year terms. Jurisdiction applies only to countries, not individuals. Unless required by a treaty, a country is not obligated to submit to the court's jurisdiction. However, a country agreeing to have a matter determined by the World Court is obligated to comply with the court's decision.

Competing needs, shifting alliances, problems of managing a huge worldwide bureaucracy, and the inevitable politics of the organization make it difficult for the United Nations to attain the goals set forth in its charter. Financial difficulties present further challenges. The United Nations is funded by dues from member states and is prohibited from borrowing from financial institutions. By the late 1990s the United States was responsible for a substantial part of the debt by failing to pay its dues. However, after the september 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President george w. bush moved quickly to pay off the debt. By December 2001 the UN had received $1.67 billion from the United States, which amounted to payment of two-thirds of the debt. These payments, coupled with the payment of almost $5 billion of annual dues by members placed the UN in better financial shape that it had been in many years. It established a $150 million reserve fund for peacekeeping missions because of its improved financial condition.

further readings

Daws, Sam, and Paul Taylor with Sara Lodge, eds. 2000. The United Nations. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate/Dartmouth.

Holtje, James. 1995. Divided It Stands: Can the United Nations Work? Atlanta: Turner Publishing.

Ross, Stewart. 2004. United Nations. Chicago: Raintree.

United Nations. Available online at <www.un.org> (accessed August 16, 2003).

Ziring, Lawrence, Robert E. Riggs, and Jack C. Plano. 2000. The United Nations: International Organization and World Politics. Fort Worth, Tex.: Harcourt College Publishers.

cross-references

International Law; International Monetary Fund.

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United Nations

United Nations (est. 1945). President Franklin D. Roosevelt foresaw the need for “Four Policemen”—the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and China (France was added later)—to order the post–World War II world and repel all attempts at aggression and violence. Meeting in San Francisco in 1945, the founders of the United Nations tried to fulfill that vision by creating a Security Council with five permanent members charged with saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

The UN Charter set up a military staff committee—consisting of the chiefs of staff or their representatives from the five permanent members—to take over the strategic direction of any military operation of the Security Council. Although this committee has met regularly for more than a half century, it has never directed any UN military operation. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union could never agree sufficiently on military issues to share a joint command. Even after the Cold War, this kind of cooperation proved impractical. Yet, despite an inert military staff committee, the United Nations has been heavily involved in military action.

In one instance, the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950, the Security Council did act like a team of Roosevelt‐inspired policemen. The Council condemned North Korean aggression, called on the world to aid South Korea, and authorized a UN command under U.S. Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur. But the United Nations managed to do all this only because the Soviet Union was boycotting sessions of the Security Council to protest the denial of a Council seat to Communist China. Although fifteen other countries dispatched troops or air support to Korea under a UN flag, the Americans commanded and dominated the UN force and fought the three‐year Korean War as if it were their own.

Aside from the accident of the Soviet boycott during the initial Korean crisis, the United Nations had no significant role in dealing with the Cold War. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, for example, the United Nations served as no more than a theater as U.S. ambassador Adlai Stevenson displayed photographic evidence of the Soviet Union installing missiles and launchers in Cuba. And Secretary General U Thant earned only contempt from President Lyndon B. Johnson during the late 1960s for trying to mediate an end to the Vietnam War.

The United Nations dealt instead with crises on the periphery of the Cold War. A major innovation in UN work arose from the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. Looking for a way to ease the British, French, and Israeli troops out of Egypt after their ill‐fated intervention, Dag Hammarskjold, the urbane Swedish bureaucrat who headed the United Nations as secretary general, persuaded all sides to accept UN troops in their place. That had never been done before. In a remarkable feat of management and energy, Hammarskjold and his chief aide, the African American Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ralph Bunche, put together in one week the United Nations' first peacekeeping force—6,000 troops from 9 countries. The United States offered surplus helmets, which were quickly painted blue and passed to the troops, the first “Blue Helmets,” as UN peacekeepers would come to be known.

In 1960, the United Nations dispatched Blue Helmets to the former Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to restore law and order out of bloody chaos and replace the Belgian troops, who no longer had any place in an independent African country. Hammarskjold, who would die in a plane crash while on a Congo mission, interpreted Security Council resolutions as broadly as possible and directed his troops to put down the secession of Katanga. The suppression was so controversial and bloody, however, that UN peacekeepers would not engage in military offensives for another thirty years. Quiet patrolling of cease‐fire lines in trouble spots like Cyprus (between Greek and Turkish Cypriots), the Sinai (between Egyptians and Israelis), and the Golan Heights (between Syrians and Israelis) would become the hallmark of UN peacekeepers, earning them the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.

The character of UN peacekeeping was transformed by the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Cold War. Euphoria over the Persian Gulf War of 1991 contributed to the change. Although this war was not officially declared a UN war as the Korean War had been, the Security Council played a key role with resolutions authorizing the United States and its Coalition partners to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. The war persuaded UN diplomats and bureaucrats that the Security Council, as long as the United States and Russia agreed, could now literally attempt anything. Some analysts felt that Franklin Roosevelt's dream would be realized at last.

The United Nations found itself dealing with a host of crises in different ways: monitoring human rights violations, supervising elections, creating democratic institutions, feeding the hungry, as well as policing the peace in such flashpoints as El Salvador, Cambodia, Angola, Haiti, and Rwanda. But its new confidence was swiftly shattered by ill‐fated missions to Somalia and Bosnia.

When eighteen U.S. Army Rangers died in Mogadishu in October 1993 during their abortive manhunt for a Somali warlord, President Bill Clinton decided to withdraw all U.S. troops, crippling the mission. Although the fallen rangers had operated outside UN command, aides of Clinton unjustly put the blame on Secretary General Boutros Boutros‐Ghali, despoiling the image of the United Nations in American eyes. That image worsened in the Bosnian crisis (1992–95). The United Nations proved incapable of halting Serb aggression and protecting Muslim civilian populations from massacre in towns that had been designated “safe areas” by the Security Council. This impotence stemmed from the failure of the United States and its European allies to agree on a strategy for dealing with Serb aggression. UN peacekeepers found themselves patrolling Bosnia under the authority of scores of contradictory toothless resolutions from the Security Council. When the United States brokered a peace agreement at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, NATO troops supplanted the UN peacekeepers and enforced the agreement.

The animosity toward the United Nations so intensified in the United States that Congress refused to pay all the assessments that Washington owed, precipitating a financial crisis. UN diplomats and officials commemorated the fiftieth anniversary in October 1995 in a depressed mood, convinced that the United Nations no longer would have the funds or public support to mount many peacekeeping missions.
[See also Berlin Crises; Internationalism; Somalia, U.S. Military Involvement in.]

Bibliography

Brian Urquhart , Hammarskjold, 1972.
John Bartlow Martin , Adlai Stevenson and the World, 1977.
Robert J. Donovan , Tumultuous Years: The Presidency of Harry S Truman, 1982.
Brian Urquhart , A Life in Peace and War, 1991.
Brian Urquhart , Ralph Bunche: An American Life, 1993.
Stanley Meisler , United Nations: The First Fifty Years, 1995.

Stanley Meisler

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS

The United Nations, successor to the League of Nations, was conceived and created by the allies during World War II. In 1944 the USSR and the United States, with other major nations, met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., to plan a postwar organization that would provide a forum for the settlement of disputes. Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill solidified plans for the United Nations at Yalta (1945), compromising on substantive issues regarding voting procedures, territorial trusteeships, and the admission of various countries. In April 1945 the allies met in San Francisco and wrote the charter of the new organization, and the United Nations officially came into existence on October 24, 1945, following the charter's ratification by the major powers. All member nations received one vote in the General Assembly, but the five major powers enjoyed the right of veto in the Security Council.

Disputes in the United Nations between the Soviet Union and the United States paralleled the growing bitterness of the Cold War. In 1946 the Soviet Union and the United States clashed over the issues of Soviet troops in Iran and the control of atomic weapons. In both cases American victories led to increasing Soviet disaffection from the international body. The United States scored another success in 1950, when a boycott of the Security Council by Soviet ambassador Yakov Malik over the seating of China allowed the United States to win United Nations support for military assistance for South Korea.

The United Nations remained largely impotent in the face of a determined superpower. When Soviet troops moved to crush the Hungarian uprising in 1956, appeals for assistance from the freedom fighters to the United Nations were ignored. Nevertheless the USSR and the United States agreed that same year to allow United Nations monitors into the Middle East to help end the Suez Crisis. In the fall of 1960 Khrushchev attended the opening session of the General Assembly and delivered a speech attacking the Western powers. During a reply to the Soviet leader, members of his delegation hit their fists on the desk in protest; Khrushchev proceeded to bang the table with his shoe, creating one of the more memorable images of the Cold War. In October 1962, when the USSR denied that it had placed offensive missiles in Cuba, the United States presented photographic evidence of the missile sites at the United Nations and convinced world opinion of its position.

The Soviet view of the United Nations slowly changed over the next two decades, as the emergence of new nations in Africa and Asia shifted the balance of power in the General Assembly away from the United States. After seeing the United Nations as an unfriendly body for its first twenty years of existence, and thereby exercising its right to veto many United Nations resolutions, the Soviet Union began to perceive the General Assembly as a more sympathetic body. Both the USSR and the United States continued to use the United Nations as a forum for influencing other nations. Fierce arguments continued over the Middle East, surrogate wars in Africa, Korean Airline 007, and other issues.

During the Gorbachev era the USSR sought better relations with the West and became more cooperative at the United Nations. The first major test of this new policy occurred when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, and Gorbachev brought Soviet policy into line with that of the Western powers. Since that time, Russia has attempted to maintain cordial relations with the United Nations.

See also: cold war; league of nations; united states, relations with

bibliography

United States. (1945). United States Statutes at Large (79th Congress, 1st Session, 1945), 59(2):10331064, 11251156.

United States. Department of State. (1944). Department of State Bulletin, vol. 11. Washington, DC: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs.

United States. Department of State. (1945). Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945 (Foreign Relations of the United States diplomatic papers 6), 969984. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

United States. Department of State. (1945). Department of State Bulletin, vol. 13. Washington, DC: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs.

Harold J. Goldberg

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United Nations

United Nations. The UN replaced the failed League of Nations after the Second World War. The term was first used in the 1942 declaration by 26 anti-axis states. Wartime negotiations between Russia, America, China, and Britain produced a blueprint for a new global security institution, rejecting Churchill's preference for institutionalized spheres of influence. Following minor amendments at the San Francisco conference in 1945, the United Nations came into being on 24 October 1945 with 51 member states. By 2000, there were 188.

The institutions of the UN bore some similarity to those of the league, though the General Assembly was empowered to act on majority votes, rather than the principle of unanimity. But the five main powers, UK, USA, USSR, France, and China, gave themselves a power of veto in the Security Council, which Britain retains, though her right to do so has been questioned.

The effectiveness of the UN in maintaining global security has rested to a large extent on the superpowers being in agreement. UN peacekeeping activities proliferated at times of relaxation during the Cold War, and after 1989, but were rarer when the two main powers were trading vetoes with each other in the 1950s or the 1980s. The UN was able to intervene in the Korean War because the USSR at the time was boycotting the Security Council.

In the League of Nations, the absence of the USA and Russia allowed Britain and France to play leading roles, which have not been repeated in the UN. Britain's reliance on her understanding with the USA has limited her scope for independent initiatives. In addition, the ‘clubby’ traditional style of British diplomacy has fitted uneasily at times into the rhetorical style which became common in both the General Assembly and the Security Council at the height of the Cold War.

The United Nations has occasionally proved useful to Britain—for example, in relieving her of her burdensome commitments in Palestine in 1947. Although the General Assembly condemned Britain's action over Suez in 1956, the dispatch of peacekeepers to the canal enabled Britain to extricate herself with some dignity. British soldiers have also played a part in UN peacekeeping activities, notably in Cyprus and in Bosnia. But strong disagreements over policy towards Iraq in 2003 weakened UN authority.

Christopher N. Lanigan

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UNITED NATIONS

UNITED NATIONS. Full form United Nations Organization. Short forms UN, U.N., UNO, U.N.O. An international organization of nation-states set up in 1945 as successor to the League of Nations, with the aim of promoting peace, security, co-operation, and the self-determination of nations. Its headquarters are at the UN Building in New York. Its name originated as a cover term for the countries which fought against the Axis in the Second World War. When first constituted, there were 51 members; in 1995, there were 186 members (most of the sovereign nations of the world). The UN has a wide range of institutions (such as the General Assembly and Security Council) and agencies (such as the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, and the Food and Agricultural Association, FAO). Its five official languages are English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese; of these, English is the most widely used, notably in peacekeeping and aid projects. Official UN documents in English follow British print conventions; submissions by the US follow AmE print conventions, but any UN comments on them will be in the BrE style. In 1977, the US spacecraft Voyager One left Earth on a journey to Jupiter and beyond. On board was a recorded greeting on a golden disk to any sentient beings whom the craft might one day encounter in deep space. On it, Kurt Waldheim, an Austrian, spoke in English. He began: ‘As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, an organization of a hundred and forth-seven member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet.’ This was followed by brief messages in 55 other languages.

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United Nations

United Nations (UN) International organization set up to enable countries to work together for peace and mutual development. It was established (June 1945) by a charter signed in in San Francisco by 50 countries. By 2000, the UN had 188 members, essentially all the world's sovereign states except for North and South Korea and Switzerland.

http://www.un.org

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United Nations

U·nit·ed Na·tions (abbr.: UN) an international organization of countries set up in 1945, in succession to the League of Nations, to promote international peace, security, and cooperation.

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS


At the end of World War I (19141918), President Woodrow Wilson (19131921) advocated the League of Nations to the American public. An international organization devised to foster international cooperation and the peaceful resolution of conflict, the League of Nations was a centrally weak but well-meaning organization. Its successor, the United Nations (UN), is substantially stronger. Created in 1945 after World War II (19391945), the UN began with 50 members. Among them were the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and China.

With a purpose to promote international harmony, peace, and cooperation between the world's nations, the United Nations is involved in many issues, including economic, social, cultural, health, and human rights matters. Its actions are divided between six main bodies: the General Assembly, a deliberative group to which all UN members belong; the Security Council, which attempts to maintain peace through economic sanctions or military action; the International Court of Justice, established to issue advice and settle disputes within its jurisdiction; the Economic and Social Council, to advise on economic and social issues; the Trusteeship Council, which administers non-self-governing territories; and the Secretariat.

The Secretariat is the UN's main administrative body and is headed by a secretary-general. It settles disputes, carries out peace-keeping activities, gathers information regarding political and economic trends, and oversees the activities of the organization's specialized agencies. The Secretariat is in charge of directing all bodies of the UN in fulfilling its goals.

There are many agencies within the organization that carry out specific tasks. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is among them. It stabilizes the exchange rates between countries and may also play a role in lending money to nations. The World Bank lends funds for infrastructure projects. To deal with health problems on both an international and a local scale, the UN operates the World Health Organization. To specifically administer to the health and welfare of children worldwide, the UN directs projects through the United Nations' Children's Fund (UNICEF), one of its most well-known agencies.

While UNICEF may be the organization's most popular agency, the Security Council is one of the UN's most controversial. Through the Security Council, the UN deploys peacekeeping forces and administers economic sanctions. Since it was created in 1945, the UN has sent peacekeeping forces to India and Pakistan (1948, 1965), Korea (1950), Cyprus (1964), Israel and Syria (1974), Lebanon (1978), Angola (1988), Iraq and Kuwait (1991), Western Sahara (1991), and the former Yugoslavia (1993). Not all of these ventures were successful in keeping the peace. Support for actions like these is not always unanimous within the organization.

The United Nations is funded by member fees, which are based on per capita income, national income, and ability to meet obligations. Fifty years after its founding in 1945, the United Nations has grown to be a larger organization (184 members as of 1994), stronger than its predecessor, the League of Nations, and a prominent participant in world affairs.

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United Nations

United Nationsbanns, glans, Prestonpans, sans •Octans •Benz, cleanse, Fens, gens, lens •Homo sapiens • impatiens • nolens volens • delirium tremens • Serpens •vas deferens • Cairns • Keynes •Jeans, means, Queens, smithereens •Owens • Robbins • Rubens • gubbins •Hitchens • O'Higgins •Huggins, juggins, muggins •imagines • Jenkins • Eakins • Dickens •Wilkins • Hopkins •Dawkins, Hawkins •Collins • Gobelins • widdershins •matins • Martens • Athens • avens •Heinz • confines • Apenninesbonze, bronze, Johns, mod cons, Mons, St John's •Downs, grounds, hash-browns, Townes •Jones, nones •lazybones • sawbones • fivestones •New Orleans, Orléans •Lions, Lyons •Gibbons • St Albans • Siddons •shenanigans • Huygens • vengeance •goujons • St Helens • Hollands •Newlands • Brooklands • Netherlands •Siemens • Symons • commons •summons • Lorenz • Parsons •Goossens •Lamentations, United Nations •Colossians • Sextans • Buttons •Evans • Stevens • Ovens • Onions •Lutyens •Cousins, Cozens •Burns

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United Nations

United Nations

PROFILE
HISTORY
AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY
192 Members of the United Nations
PRINCIPAL ORGANS
THE UN FAMILY
REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN SECRETARIES GENERAL
U.S. REPRESENTATION
U.S. POLICY IN THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

Last Updated: March 2008

Official Name:

United Nations

Editor's note: The information for this article was compiled and edited from UN Fact Sheets and other releases available through the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

PROFILE

Beginnings, Purpose, and Structure

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt, flanked by the leaders of 26 Allied countries, first coined the term “United Nations”to describe the continued fight against the Axis Powers. Following World War II, the allies adopted the term to define a worldwide body of nations. On June 26, 1945, fifty nations signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California. The United States Senate ratified the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. The United Nations came into effect on October 24, 1945. October 24 is now celebrated around the globe as UN Day.

The United Nations’ aims are set out in the preamble to the UN Charter: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to achieve international cooperation in solving 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 common ends.

The principal organs of the United Nations include the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. (The Trusteeship Council, an original principal organ, suspended operations in 1994 when it fulfilled its function by overseeing the independence of the UN's last remaining trust territory.)

In addition to its principal organs, the United Nations system is made up of a complex mix of commissions and funds created by the General Assembly, such as UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) and the World Food Program; specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the International Monetary Fund; and other UN entities, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the peacekeeping missions established by the Security Council.

The headquarters of the United Nations is located in New York City. The General Assembly building and the Secretariat were built in 1949 and 1950 on land donated by the Rockefeller family. The property is now considered international territory. Under special agreement with the United States, certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the United States apply.

The regular biennial budget of the UN in 2004-05, as revised, was $3.608 billion. For the calendar year 2003, the United States’ assessed contribution to the UN regular budget was $362 million. In addition, the United States’ assessed contribution to UN specialized agencies amounted to well over $400 million.

The United States also contributed $1.1 billion in assessments to the peacekeeping budget in calendar year 2004; $72 million for the support of the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia; and, nearly $5 million for preparatory work relating to the UN Capital Master Plan. Moreover, each year the United States provides a significant amount in voluntary contributions to the UN and UN-affiliated organizations and activities (largely for humanitarian and development programs). In sum, U.S. contributions (both cash and in kind) to the UN system in 2003 were well over $3 billion.

The United Nations currently has 192 member states. The official languages of the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. More information about the UN is available on its web site at www.un.org.

HISTORY

The idea for the United Nations was elaborated in declarations signed at the wartime Allied conferences in Moscow and Tehran in 1943. President Franklin Roosevelt suggested the name “United Nations.” From August to October 1944, representatives of the U.S. U.K., France, U.S.S.R., and China met to elaborate the plans at the Dumbarton Oaks Estate in Washington, D.C. Those and later talks produced proposals outlining the purposes of the organization, its membership and organs, as well as arrangements to maintain international peace and security and international economic and social cooperation. These proposals were discussed and debated by governments and private citizens worldwide.

On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organizations began in San Francisco. The 50 nations represented at the conference signed the Charter of the United Nations two months later on June 26. Poland, which was not represented at the conference, but for which a place among the original signatories had been reserved, added its name later, bringing the total of original signatories to 51.

The UN came into existence on October 24, 1945, after the Charter had been ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council-China, France, U.S.S.R., U.K., and U.S.-and by a majority of the other 46 signatories. The U.S. Senate, by a vote of 89 to 2, gave its consent to the ratification of the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. In December 1945, the Senate and the House of Representatives, by unanimous votes, requested that the UN make its headquarters in the U.S. The offer was accepted and the UN headquarters building was constructed in New York City in 1949 and 1950 beside the East River on donated land, which is considered international territory. Under special agreement with the U.S., certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the U.S. apply.

UN membership is open to all "peace-loving states” that accept the obligations of the UN Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to fulfill these obligations. The General Assembly determines admissionupon recommendation of the Security Council.

Preamble to Charter of the United Nations

We the Peoples of the United Nations Determined

  • To Save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • To Reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women of nations large and small, and
  • To Establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends

  • To Practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and
  • To Unite our strength to maintain nternational peace and security, and
  • To Ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • To Employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
  • Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims. Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY

Maintaining the Peace

The UN's role in international collective security is defined by the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the power to:

  • Investigate any situation threatening international peace;
  • Recommend procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;
  • Call upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal, and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and
  • Enforce its decisions militarily, if necessary.

The United Nations has helped prevent many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts. It has opened the way to negotiated settlements through its service as a center of debate and negotiation, as well as through UN-sponsored fact-finding missions, mediators, and truce observers. UN peacekeeping forces, comprised of troops and equipment supplied by member nations, have usually been able to limit or prevent conflict. Some conflicts, however, have proven to be beyond the capacity of the UN to influence. Key to the success of UN peacekeeping efforts is the willingness of the parties to a conflict to come to terms peacefully through a viable political process.

UN peacekeeping initiatives have ranged from small, diplomatic or political delegations to large mobilizations, the most extensive of which was the 500,000-strong 1950-53 defense of South Korea against an attack by North Korea. In the first few years following the end of the Cold War the number of peacekeeping operations increased dramatically. The proliferation of operations reflected the view that, in the post-Cold War era, the UN could play an important role in defusing regional conflicts. Some of the peacekeeping operations of the early 1990s also saw an expansion of the traditional peacekeeping mandate to include such responsibilities as supervising elections, monitoring human rights, training police, and overseeing civil administration. From 1995 to mid-1999 there was a sharp decline in the number of UN peacekeepers in the field, from a high of around 70,000 to 12,000. The assumption by NATO of major peacekeeping responsibilities in the former Yugoslavia (and the resultant termination of UNPRO-FOR's mandate) accounted for much of the decrease. Other factors included the closeout of UN operations in Mozambique in January 1995, Somalia in March 1995, El Salvador in April 1995, and Rwanda in March 1996. With the U.S. and the UN taking a much harder look at proposed peacekeeping operations, the only major new UN mission set up in this period outside the former Yugoslavia was the UNAVEM III operation in Angola.

Beginning in June 1999, new missions in Kosovo and East Timor and expanded missions in Sierra Leone and the Congo dramatically increased both the costs and personnel levels of UN peacekeeping operations. They also added a new level of complexity to peacekeeping efforts, with a greater emphasis on civilian administration in East Timor and Kosovo. From July 1999 to June 2001, overall UN peacekeeping personnel levels increased by 31,000, with even more personnel authorized but not deployed.

As of July 31, 2002, there were 691 U.S. personnel (659 civilian police, and 32 military observers) in worldwide UN peace operations, accounting for 1.5% of total UN peacekeepers. As Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States never gives up command authority over U.S. troops. When large numbers of U.S. troops are involved and when the risk of combat is high, operational control of U.S. forces will remain in American

192 Members of the United Nations

Afghanistan (1946); Albania (1955); Algeria (1962); Andorra (1993); Angola (1976); Antigua and Barbuda (1981); Argentina; Armenia (1992); Australia; Austria (1955); Azerbaijan (1992); Bahamas, The (1973); Bahrain (1971); Bangladesh (1974); Barbados (1966); Belarus; Belgium; Belize (1981); Benin (1960); Bhutan (1971); Bolivia; Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992); Botswana (1966); Brazil; Brunei (1984); Bulgaria (1955); Burkina Faso (1960); Burma (1948); Burundi (1962); Cambodia (1955); Cameroon (1960); Canada; Cape Verde (1975); Central African Republic (1960); Chad (1960); Chile; China2; Colombia; Comoros (1975); Congo, Democratic Republic of the (1960); Congo, Republic of the (1960); Costa Rica; Côte d’Ivoire (1960); Croatia (1992); Cuba; Cyprus (1960); Czech Republic (1993); Denmark; Djibouti (1977); Dominica (1978); Dominican Republic; East Timor (2002); Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea (1968); Eritrea (1993); Estonia (1991); Ethiopia; Fiji (1970); Finland (1955); France; Gabon (1960); Gambia, The (1965); Georgia (1992); Germany (1973); Ghana (1957); Greece; Grenada (1974); Guatemala; Guinea (1958); Guinea-Bissau (1974); Guyana (1966); Haiti; Honduras; Hungary (1955); Iceland (1946); India; Indonesia (1950); Iran; Iraq; Ireland (1955); Israel (1949); Italy (1955); Jamaica (1962); Japan (1956); Jordan (1955); Kazakhstan (1992); Kenya (1963); Kiribati (1999); Korea, North (1991); Korea, South (1991); Kuwait (1963); Kyrgyzstan (1992); Laos (1955); Latvia (1991); Lebanon; Lesotho (1966); Liberia; Libya (1955); Liechtenstein (1990); Lithuania (1991); Luxembourg; Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of (1993); Madagascar (1960); Malawi (1964); Malaysia (1957); Maldives (1965); Mali (1960); Malta (1964); Marshall Islands (1991); Mauritania (1961); Mauritius (1968); Mexico; Micronesia, Federated States of (1991); Moldova (1992); Monaco (1993); Mongolia (1961); Montenegro (2006); Morocco (1956); Mozambique (1975); Namibia (1990); Nauru (1999); Nepal (1955); Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Niger (1960); Nigeria (1960); Norway; Oman (1971); Pakistan (1947); Palau (1994); Panama; Papua New Guinea (1975); Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal (1955); Qatar (1971); Romania (1955); Russia3; Rwanda (1962); Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983); Saint Lucia (1979); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1980); Samoa (1976); San Marino (1992); Sao Tome and Principe (1975); Saudi Arabia; Senegal (1960); Serbia (2000); Seychelles (1976); Sierra Leone (1961); Singapore (1965); Slovakia (1993); Slovenia (1992); Solomon Islands (1978); Somalia (1960); South Africa; Spain (1955); Sri Lanka (1955); Sudan (1956); Suriname (1975); Swaziland (1968); Sweden (1946); Switzerland (2002); Syria; Tajikistan (1992); Tanzania (1961); Thailand (1946); Togo (1960); Trinidad and Tobago (1962); Tonga (1999); Tunisia (1956); Turkey; Turkmenistan (1992); Tuvalu (2000); Uganda (1962); Ukraine (formerly Ukrainian SSR); United Arab Emirates (1971); United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay; Uzbekistan (1992); Vanuatu (1981); Venezuela; Vietnam (1977); Yemen (1947); Zambia (1964); Zimbabwe (1980)

1 Year in parentheses indicates date of admission; countries with no date were original members in 1945.

2 By Resolution 2758 (XXVI) of Oct. 25, 1971, the General Assembly decided “to restore all its rights to the People's Republic of China and to recognize the representative of its Government as the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations.”

3 In December 1991, Russia assumed the permanent Security Council seat previously held by the U.S.S.R.

hands, or in the hands of a trusted military ally such as a NATO member. But the President must retain the flexibility, which has served the U.S. well throughout its history, to allow temporary foreign operational control of U.S. troops when it serves U.S. interests, just as it has often served U.S. interests to have foreign forces under U.S. operational control.

Arms Control and Disarmament

The 1945 UN Charter envisaged a system of regulation that would ensure "the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources." The advent of nuclear weapons came only weeks after the signing of the Charter and provided immediate impetus to concepts of arms limitation and disarmament. In fact, the first resolution of the first meeting of the General Assembly (January 24, 1946) was entitled "The Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy”and called upon the commission to make specific proposals for "the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction."

The UN has established several forums to address multilateral disarmament issues. The principal ones are the First Committee of the UN General Assembly and the UN Disarmament Commission. Items on the agenda include consideration of the possible merits of a nuclear test ban, outer-space arms control, efforts to ban chemical weapons, nuclear and conventional disarmament, nuclear-weapon-free zones, reduction of military budgets, and measures to strengthen international security.

The Conference on Disarmament is the sole forum established by the international community for the negotiation of multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements. It has 66 members representing all areas of the world, including the five major nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the Russian Federation, the U.K., and the U.S.). While the conference is not formally a UN organization, it is linked to the UN through a personal representative of the Secretary-General; this representative serves as the secretary general of the conference. Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly often request the conference to consider specific disarmament matters. In turn, the conference annually reports on its activities to the General Assembly.

Human Rights

The pursuit of human rights was one of the central reasons for creating the United Nations. World War II atrocities and genocide led to a ready consensus that the new organization must work to prevent any similar tragedies in the future. An early objective was creating a legal frame-work for considering and acting on complaints about human rights violations.

The UN Charter obliges all member nations to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights” and to take “joint and separate action” to that end. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not legally binding, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all. The General Assembly regularly takes up human rights issues. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), under ECOSOC, is the primary UN body charged with promoting human rights, primarily through investigations and offers of technical assistance. As discussed, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the official principally responsible for all UN human rights activities (see, under “The UN Family,” the section on “Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights”).

The U.S. considers the United Nations to be a first line of defense of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also a means by which those principles can be applied more broadly around the world. A case in point is support by the United Nations for countries in transition to democracy. Technical assistance in providing free and fair elections, improving judicial structures, drafting constitutions, training human rights officials, and transforming armed movements into political parties have contributed significantly to democratization worldwide. The United Nations is also a forum in which to support the right of women to participate fully in the political, economic, and social life of their countries.

International Conferences

The member countries of the UN and its specialized agencies—the “share-holders” of the system—give guidance and make decisions on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. Governing bodies made up of member states include not only the General Assembly, ECOSOC, and the Security Council, but also counterpart bodies dealing with the governance of all other UN system agencies. For example, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board oversee the work of WHO. Each year, the U.S. Department of State accredits U.S. delegations to more than 600 meetings of governing bodies.

When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities. Recent examples include:

  • The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 1992, led to the creation of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to advance the conclusions reached in Agenda 21, the final text of agreements negotiated by governments at UNCED;
  • The World Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, September 1994, approved a program of action to address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustainable development over the next 20 years;
  • The World Summit on Trade Efficiency, Columbus, Ohio, October 1994, cosponsored by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the city of Columbus, and private-sector business, focused on the use of modern information technology to expand international trade;
  • The World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 1995, underscored national responsibility for sustainable development and secured high-level commitment to plans that invest in basic education, health care, and economic opportunity for all, including women and girls;
  • The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, September 1995, sought to accelerate implementation of the historic agreements reached at the Third World Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 1985;
  • The Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), Istanbul, Turkey, June 1996, considered the challenges of human settlement development and management in the 21st century; and
  • The UN Conference on Financing for Development, Monterrey, Mexico, March 2002, broke new ground in development discussions with the U.S. calling for a “new compact for development” defined by greater accountability for rich and poor nations alike.

PRINCIPAL ORGANS

Security Council - New York

The Security Council has five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. − informally known as the P-5), each with the right to veto, and 10 non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Five non-permanent members are elected from Africa and Asia combined. One non-permanent member comes from Eastern Europe, two from Latin America, and two from Western Europe and other areas. The 2004 non-permanent members are: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, and Spain. The president (or chair) of the Council rotates monthly in English alphabetical order of the members.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” and all UN members “agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter.” Other organs of the UN make recommendations to member governments. The Security Council, however, has the power under the Charter to make decisions that member states must carry out. Unlike other representative bodies, the Security Council is always in session. A representative of each Council member must always be available so that the Council can meet at any time.

Decisions in the 15-member Security Council on all substantive matters require the affirmative votes of nine members, including the support of all five permanent members. A negative vote by a permanent member (also known as a veto) prevents adoption of a proposal that has received the required number of affirmative votes. Abstention is not regarded as a veto.

Under Chapter VI of the Charter, “Pacific Settlement of Disputes,” the Security Council “may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute.” The Council may “recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment” if it determines that the situation might endanger international peace and security. These recommendations are not binding on UN members.

Under Chapter VII, the Council has broader power to decide what measures are to be taken in situations involving “threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression.” In such situations, the Council is not limited to recommendations but may take action, including the use of armed force “to maintain or restore international peace and security.”Decisions taken under Chapter VII, both with regard to military action and to economic sanctions, are binding on all UN member states.

Starting with the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in 1948, the Security Council has dispatched peacekeeping missions to the world's conflicts. These missions have helped prevent or limit many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, adopted Resolution 1373, which obliges all member states to take action against international terrorism. The resolution also established the Counter Terrorism Committee within the Council to monitor progress in the war against terrorism and implementation of the resolution. The international community has adopted 13 UN counterterrorism conventions, 12 of which have entered into force. These conventions create a legal framework that the United States believes will combat international terrorism. The United States has signed and ratified the 12 resolutions that have entered into force. The 13th will open for signature on September 14, 2005.

General Assembly - New York

All UN member states are members of the General Assembly. The Assembly has six main committees: Disarmament and International Security; Economic and Financial; Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural; Special Political and Decolonization; Administrative and Budgetary; and Legal. Other committees address UN procedures, membership, and specific issues, including peacekeeping, outer space, and UN Charter reform.

The General Assembly meets in regular session once a year under a president elected from among the representatives. The regular session usually begins in mid-September and ends in mid-December. Special sessions can be convened at the request of the Security Council, a majority of UN members, or, if the majority concurs, a single member. A special session was held in October 1995 at the head of government level to commemorate the UN's 50th anniversary.

Voting in the General Assembly on important questions is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Voting questions may include recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; and budgetary matters. Other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member state has one vote. Apart from the approval of budgetary matters, including the adoption of a scale of assessment, General Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may make recommendations on any matter within the scope of the UN, except on matters of peace and security under Security Council consideration. Since the late 1980s, virtually all budgetary decisions at the UN have been taken by consensus.

As the only UN organ in which all members are represented, the Assembly serves as a forum for members to launch initiatives on international questions of peace, economic progress, and human rights. It can initiate studies; make recommendations; develop and codify international law; promote human rights; and advance international economic, social, cultural, and educational programs.

The Assembly may take action on maintaining international peace if the Security Council is unable to exercise its primary responsibility, usually due to disagreement among the permanent members. The “Uniting for Peace” resolutions, adopted in 1950, empower the Assembly to convevene in emergency special sessions to recommend collective measures—including the use of armed force—in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression. Two-thirds of the members must approve any such recommendation. Emergency special sessions under this procedure have been held on ten occasions, most recently in 1997.

Developing countries constitute a majority among the UN's 192 members. Because of their numbers, developing countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly, the character of its debates, and the nature of its decisions. For many developing countries, the UN General Assembly is the source of much of their diplomatic influence and the principal forum for their foreign relations initiatives. When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities.

The General Assembly has also been active in the fight against terrorism. On September 12, 2001, it adopted a resolution condemning the terrorist attacks against the United States. In its 56th and 57th Sessions, the General Assembly also passed resolutions calling on all states to prevent terrorism and to strengthen international cooperation in fighting terrorism. On April 13, 2005, the General Assembly unanimously adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Economic and Social Council -New York

The General Assembly elects the 54 members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Eighteen are elected each year for three-year terms. The U.S. has always been a member.

Under the UN Charter, ECOSOC is responsible for identifying solutions to international economic, social, and health problems, as well as facilitating international cultural and education cooperation and encouraging respect for human rights. ECOSOC meets for one annual four-week session and for shorter ad hoc, procedural, or special meetings. Voting is by simple majority.

ECOSOC coordinates the work of fourteen specialized UN agencies, ten functional commissions, and five regional commissions. Through much of its history, ECOSOC had served primarily as a discussion vehicle. ECOSOC had little authority to force action, which a number of member states felt marginalized the agency's utility. However, beginning in 1992, the U.S. and other nations began an effort to make ECOSOC more relevant by strengthening its policy responsibilities in economic, social, and related fields, particularly in the area of development.

The resulting reform made ECOSOC the oversight and policy-setting body for UN operational development activities and established smaller executive boards for the UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). The creation of an oversight body and smaller executive boards provides those agencies with operating guidance and promotes more effective management. The reform also gave ECOSOC a strong hand in ensuring that UN agencies coordinated their work on issues of common interest, such as narcotics control, human rights, the alleviation of poverty, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

One positive impact of this reform was the manner in which the UN development system began to respond more coherently and efficiently to humanitarian crises around the world. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recent reform initiatives have attached considerable importance to further strengthening coordination among relief agencies.

Another positive reform outcome was the ECOSOC decision in 1994 to authorize the creation of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS). This Program acts as the main advocate for worldwide action against HIV/AIDS and has brought together into one consolidated global program the AIDS-related resources and expertise of UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, the UN International Drug Control Program, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Bank. UNAIDS has been instrumental in the expanded global response to HIV/ AIDS, eliminating duplication among agencies and enhancing the ability of member states to respond effectively to the AIDS pandemic. UNAIDS began operating in January 1996.

International Court of Justice—The Hague, Netherlands

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the UN. Established in 1946, its main functions are to decide cases submitted to it by states and to give advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by the General Assembly or Security Council, or by such specialized agencies authorized to do so by the General Assembly in accordance with the UN Charter.

The Court is composed of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council from a list of persons nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Judges serve for nine years and may be re-elected. No two may be nationals of the same country. One-third of the Court is elected every three years. A U.S. citizen has always been a member of the Court. Questions before the Court are decided by a majority of judges present. Only states may be parties in cases before the International Court of Justice. This requirement does not preclude private interests from being the subject of proceedings if one state brings a case against another. Jurisdiction of the Court is based on the consent of each UN member state to comply with an ICJ decision in a case to which it is a party. Any judgments reached are binding. If a party fails to perform its obligations under an ICJ decision, the other party may seek recourse in the Security Council.

State parties to the Court's statute may declare their recognition of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court for a wide range of international disputes. The U.S. accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction in 1946, but withdrew its acceptance following the Court's decision in a 1986 case involving activities in Nicaragua. Examples of cases include:

  • a complaint by the U.S. in 1980 that Iran was detaining American diplomats in Tehran in violation of international law;
  • a complaint filed by Iran in 1992 alleging that the United States violated a treaty obligation by attacking three Iranian oil platforms. The U.S. filed a counterclaim with respect to Iranian attacks on U.S. shipping interests in the Persian Gulf;
  • a dispute over the course of the maritime boundary dividing the U.S. and Canada in the Gulf of Maine area, filed in 1981, judgment in 1984; and
  • a complaint filed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) in 1999 against Rwanda alleging violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed on DROC territory.

Secretariat—New York

The Secretariat is composed of international civil servants who carry out the daily tasks of the United Nations. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by UN bodies for their meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies. The 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 is obligated to respect the international character of the Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff.

Under the UN Charter, the chief administrative officer of the UN and the head of the Secretariat is the Secretary-General of the United Nations, appointed to a five-year term by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. Kofi Annan, the first Secretary-General from sub-Saharan Africa, began his first term on January 1, 1997. He was reappointed to a second term beginning January 1, 2002.

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. 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. In 1997, the General Assembly established a position of Deputy Secretary-General. Since 1998, Louise Frechette of Canada has held this position. Other senior UN officials, such as the Under-Secretaries-General for Political Affairs and Peacekeeping, also advise the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General also appoints Special Representatives and Envoys to mediate conflict in the world's trouble spots.

THE UN FAMILY

In addition to the principal UN organs, the UN family includes over 60 programs or specialized agencies, often headquartered in one of the UN offices around the world. Some agencies existed prior to UN creation and are related to it by agreement. Others were established by the General Assembly. Each provides expertise in a specific area. Some of those programs and agencies (with the location of their headquarters) are described below.

A diagram of the entire UN system can be found at www.un.org/aboutun/chart. A map showing principal UN offices around the world can be found at http://www.un.org/aroundworld/map/.

Funds and Programs

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). New York City. UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. Its programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.

UN Development Program (UNDP). New York City. UNDP is the largest multilateral source of grant technical assistance in the world. Voluntarily funded, it provides expert advice, training, and limited equipment to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the poorest countries. It focuses on six areas of assistance: democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and the environment, information technology, and HIV/AIDS.

UN Environment Program (UNEP). Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP coordinates UN environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies. UNEP has developed guidelines and treaties on issues such as the international transport of potentially harmful chemicals, transboundary air pollution, and the contamination of international waterways.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Geneva, Switzerland. UNHCR protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the UN and assists in their return or resettlement. UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1982.

World Food Program (WFP). Rome, Italy. The WFP distributes food commodities to long-term refugees and displaced persons, and provides emergency food assistance during natural and man-made disasters. In 2004, the WFP fed 113 million people in 80 countries, including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

Specialized Agencies

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Rome, Italy. FAO programs seek to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living; to improve agricultural productivity, to promote rural development; and, by these means, to provide access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Montreal, Canada. ICAO develops the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.

The ICAO Council adopts standards and makes recommendations concerning air navigation, the prevention of unlawful interference, and the facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation.

International Labor Organization (ILO). Geneva, Switzerland. The ILO seeks to strengthen worker rights, improve working and living conditions, create employment, and provide information and training opportunities. ILO programs include the occupational safety and health hazard alert system and the labor standards and human rights programs.

International Maritime Organization (IMO). London, England. The IMO's main objective is to facilitate cooperation among governments on technical matters affecting international shipping to achieve the highest possible degree of maritime safety and navigational efficiency. It also attempts to improve the marine environment through the prevention of pollution caused by ships and other craft and deals with legal matters connected with international shipping.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Geneva, Switzerland. The ITU brings together governments to coordinate the establishment and operation of global communication networks and services, including telegraph, telephone, radio communications, Internet, and the information society. It fosters cooperation and partnership among its members and offers technical assistance in this area.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Paris, France. UNESCO's purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting cooperation among nations through education, science, culture, and communication to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, sex, language, or religion.

Universal Postal Union (UPU). Bern, Switzerland. The UPU attempts to secure the organization and improvement of the postal services, to promote international collaboration, and provide technical assistance in this area. The member countries constitute a single postal territory.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of WIPO is to promote international cooperation in the field of intellectual property rights. It works in the areas of both industrial and literary-artistic property.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Geneva, Switzerland. WMO coordinates global scientific activity to allow increasingly prompt and accurate weather prediction and other services for public, private, and commercial use.

World Health Organization (WHO). Geneva, Switzerland. WHO acts as a coordinating authority on pressing global public health issues. WHO's objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment of all peoples of the highest possible level of health.

Other Related Bodies

World Bank. Washington, DC. The World Bank is one of the world's main sources of development assistance. It focuses on the poorest people in the poorest countries.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Vienna, Austria. The role of IAEA is to promote the contribution of atomic energy for peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world and to enhance the safety and security of radioactive materials and nuclear facilities worldwide. It has the responsibility of creating and implementing the safeguard provisions of various nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear free zone treaties.

International Monetary Fund (IMF). Washington, DC. The purposes of the IMF are to promote international monetary cooperation through consultation and collaboration, to promote exchange stability and orderly exchange arrangements, and to assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments and the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions.

REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS

The United Nations is currently engaged in one of the most important debates in its history: how to reform itself, strengthen itself as an institution, and ensure that it addresses effectively the threats and challenges of the 21st century. The United States is leading the effort to strengthen and reform the UN.

Budget, Management, and Administrative Reform: The U.S. seeks to ensure the highest standards of integrity and promote efficiency within the UN system, so that member states receive the greatest benefit from resources invested in the institution. Meaningful institutional reform must include measures to improve internal oversight and accountability, to identify cost savings, and to allocate resources to high priority programs and offices.

Peace Building Commission: The U.S. strongly supports the Secretary-General's idea of a Peace Building Commission that would allow the UN to be more effective in galvanizing the work of the international community to help countries after the fighting has stopped. Such a Commission would play an important role in helping countries in post-conflict situations. It could provide reconstruction and humanitarian support and set the stage for long-term development.

Human Rights Council: The U.S. supports the Secretary-General's initiative to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a smaller, action-oriented Human Rights Council, whose membership should not include states with a record of abuse. The problems with the current Commission, where human-rights abusers sit in judgment of democratic countries, are well known. The Council's mandate would be to address the most egregious human rights abuses, provide technical assistance, and promote human rights as a global priority.

Democracy Initiatives and the UN Democracy Fund: President Bush in his September 2004 UN General Assembly speech put this proposal on the table, as democracy promotion is one of our core aims. The goal is to create a mechanism for supporting new and emerging democracies, providing assistance that would help develop civil society and democratic institutions.

Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism: The U.S. strongly supports the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism (CCIT), a subject of longstanding debate. This would be an important symbolic achievement in the UN's global effort to counter terrorism.

Development: The United States plays a leading, active, and positive role in development. The U.S. has a commitment to building healthy institutions and strong economies, through trade, foreign investment, and aid. As agreed in the Monterrey Consensus, the focus should be on supporting good governance and sound economic policies.

UN SECRETARIES GENERAL

Trygve Lie (Norway)—Feb. 1, 1946-April 10, 1953

Dag Hammarskjold (Sweden)—April 10, 1953-Sept. 8, 1961

U Thant (Burma)—Nov. 3, 1961-Dec. 31, 1971 (initially appointed acting Secretary General; formally appointed Nov. 30, 1962)

Kurt Waldheim (Austria)—Jan. 1, 1972-Dec. 31, 1981

Javier Perez de Cuellar (Peru)—Jan. 1, 1982-Dec. 31, 1991

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt)—Jan. 1, 1992-Dec. 31, 1996

Kofi Annan (Ghana)—Jan. 1, 1997-Dec 31, 2006

Ban Ki-moon (South Korea)—Jan. 1, 2007-present

U.S. REPRESENTATION

The U.S. Permanent Mission to the UN in New York is headed by the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Ambassador John R. Bolton has served in that position since August 1, 2005.

The mission acts as the channel of communication for the U.S. Government with the UN organs, agencies, and commissions at the UN headquarters and with the other permanent missions accredited to the UN and the non-member observer missions. The U.S. mission has a professional staff made up largely of career Foreign Service officers, including specialists in political, economic, social, financial, legal, and military issues.

The United States also maintains missions to international organizations in Geneva, Rome, Vienna, Nairobi, Montreal, and Paris. These missions report to the Department of State and receive guidance on questions of policy from the President, through the Secretary of State.

The Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs coordinates relations with the UN and its family of agencies. The U.S. Mission to the United Nations is located at 140 East 45th Street, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-415-4000). More information about the U.S. Mission to the UN is available on the mission's web site at www.usunnewy-ork.usmission.gov.

U.S. Representatives to the United Nations

Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.—March 1946-June 1946

Herschel V. Johnson (acting)—June 1946-January 1947

Warren R. Austin—Jan. 1947-Jan. 1953

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.—Jan. 1953-Sept. 1960

James J. Wadsworth—Sept. 1960-Jan. 1961

Adlai E. Stevenson—Jan. 1961-July 1965

Arthur J. Goldberg—July 1965-June 1968

George W. Ball—June 1968-Sept. 1968

James Russell Wiggins—Oct. 1968-Jan. 1969

Charles W. Yost—Jan. 1969-Feb. 1971

George W. Bush—Feb. 1971-Jan. 1973

John P. Scali—Feb. 1973-June 1975

Daniel P. Moynihan—June 1975-Feb. 1976

William W. Scranton—March 1976-Jan. 1977

Andrew Young—Jan. 1977-April 1979

Donald McHenry—April 1979-Jan. 1981

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick—Feb. 1981-April 1985

Vernon Walters—May 1985-Jan. 1989

Thomas R. Pickering—March 1989-May 1992

Edward J. Perkins—May 1992-Jan. 1993

Madeleine K. Albright—Feb. 1993-Jan. 1997

Bill Richardson—Feb. 1997-Sept 1998

A. Peter Burleigh (acting)—Sept 1998-Aug 1999

Richard Holbrooke—Aug. 1999-Jan. 2001.

James B. Cunningham (acting)—Feb. 2001-Sept. 2001

John Negroponte—Sept. 2001-June 2004.

John C. Danforth—June 2004–Jan. 2005

Anne W. Patterson (acting) Jan.—Aug. 2005

John R. Bolton—August 2005–Dec. 2006

Zalmay Khalilzad—March 2007-present

U.S. POLICY IN THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

September 21, 2006

The United States looks to work with the United Nations, particularly with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to address the varied challenges facing the international community.

Ending the Genocide in Sudan

As a result of the conflict in Darfur, which the United States has called a genocide, thousands of people have been killed, nearly 2 million internally displaced, and over 200,000 made refugees in Chad. With the African Union and other international partners, the United States led the way in achieving the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), signed on May 5, 2006, between the largest rebel group and the Sudanese government.

The UN Security Council issued a Presidential Statement on May 9, supporting the implementation of the DPA, and two UN Security Council Resolutions, 1679 and 1706. The latter resolution called for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Darfur. The United States is working intensively with other Security Council members to ensure that the transition of the African Union forces to a UN-led operation will take place as soon as possible.

Nonproliferation and Iran

Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons represents a threat to the entire international community. In defiance of repeated calls from the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranian regime is continuing its nuclear program. The United States, with its international partners, will continue to make every effort to achieve a successful diplomatic outcome, but there must be consequences, such as Security Council sanctions, for Iran's continued defiance.

A Lasting Peace in Lebanon

The United States worked with the other members of the Security Council to establish conditions for a lasting peace in Lebanon. The enhancement of the UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon will help the democratic Lebanese government to regain control over its territory. It also will help to provide the conditions for the full implementation of Resolution 1559, which calls for the end of foreign interference in Lebanese internal affairs and for the disbanding and disarming of militias in Lebanon.

Nonproliferation and North Korea

In response to North Korea's launch of several ballistic missiles on July 5, 2006, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1695. The United States participated in and fully supported the Japanese-led efforts in making this resolution possible.

In concert with its regional partners, the United States has urged the North Koreans to return without delay to the six-party talks for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. This would allow North Korea to gain economic assistance and security, and to integrate itself into the region.

U.S. Financial Contributions to the UN System

September 20, 2007

In 2006, the United States contributed:

  • 41.5%, or $1.12 billion, of the budget of the World Food Program (WFP), which provides over 4 million tons of food to 87.8 million people in 78 countries each year;
  • 24%, or $346 million, of the budget of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to protect and safeguard the rights and well-being of 20.8 million refugees, returnees, stateless persons, and internally displaced persons in 116 countries; and
  • 9.4%, or $260 million, of the budget of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to feed, educate, and protect children in 157 countries, including providing over 3 billion doses of vaccines to children.

U.S. Leadership and Engagement in the United Nations

The United States co-founded and continues to be the leading financial supporter of the United Nations. The U.S. believes that the UN has an essential role to play in fostering international peace and security, fighting poverty through development, providing humanitarian assistance, eradicating disease, advancing freedom, and promoting human rights and democracy. The United States is committed to ensuring good stewardship of United Nations resources so that these universal goals are met effectively and efficiently.

The United States has been the largest contributor to the United Nations every year since its creation in 1945. In fiscal year 2006, the U.S. contributed over $5.3 billion to the United Nations system to support UN agencies and peacekeeping operations. The U.S. contribution to UN peacekeeping alone totaled nearly $870 million in fiscal year 2006.

As the UN's largest contributor, the U.S. will continue to call for the accountable use of these funds. In particular, the U.S. has proposed using the General Assembly's biennial budget process to reward programs that achieve desired results, while terminating low priority, poorly performing, or unnecessary programs.

In addition, the U.S. has called for a maximum of accountability and transparency in the management of all UN programs and funds. Stronger internal oversight and improved reporting require adequate resources and greater independence for the key Office of Internal Oversight Services. A fair and open procurement system is also necessary to ensure accountability and transparency.

U.S. Commitment to the UN's Founding Ideals

September 20, 2007

UN Reforms Secured Through U.S. Diplomatic Engagement Since 2005

  • Creation of an independent Ethics Office;
  • Additional resources for the Office of Internal Oversight Services;
  • Expanded financial disclosure program;
  • Strengthened "whistleblower" protections;
  • Use of International Public Sector Accounting Standards;
  • Support for establishment of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee;
  • Support for mechanism to adjudicate staff grievances.

The United Nations was created 60 years ago to advance freedom, democracy, peace, security, human rights, and prosperity for all people.

The United States is not alone in its commitment both to these ideals and to ongoing reform of UN operations. In 2005, more than 170 heads of state and governments expressed a global consensus that wide-ranging UN reform is imperative.

U.S. Priorities for UN Reform Include:

  • Strengthening the UN's internal oversight body to better identify, obtain, and deploy the resources to accomplish its mandate;
  • Institutionalizing a system-wide approach to enforcing ethical conduct;
  • Enhancing transparency and accountability through procurement reform;
  • Increasing the UN's effectiveness and efficiency through results-based management.

Ethics

UN employees around the world must abide by the highest standards of ethical conduct. With the number of peacekeeping operations at an all-time high and growing, it is all the more essential for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to consistently and comprehensively enforce its zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers of the vulnerable citizens they are entrusted with protecting. The establishment of an independent Ethics Office and enhanced "whistleblower" protections for UN staff who report wrongdoing were positive steps.

Now, the Secretary-General should ensure the office's jurisdiction over all UN funds and programs, and guarantee full protection for whistle-blowers. The Secretary-General has led the way in publicly disclosing his finances, and all senior UN officials should follow his example. UN staff should not only benefit the people they serve by their work, but also should set a standard for ethical public service.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

Member States and United Nations officials should ensure careful stewardship of the UN's limited resources. Effective, results-based management will maximize resources available to improve the lives of the world's neediest people, who have the most to gain from reform. The General Assembly's biennial budget process is a powerful reform tool and should be used to reward programs that achieve desired results, while terminating low priority, poorly performing, or unnecessary programs. This approach requires measurable standards for success and regular performance assessments.

The UN Secretariat must ensure that the restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the creation of the new Department of Field Support strengthen UN capacity to backstop a growing number of peacekeepers.

Accountability and Transparency

Accountability and transparency are at the heart of any well-run, effective organization. The UN must enhance accountability and transparency through a stronger, more independent Office of Internal Oversight Services with adequate and flexible funding; improved reporting practices; and a fair, open, and cost-effective procurement system.

Standards for Leadership

To accomplish its mission, the United Nations requires leaders, staff, and Member States whose conduct reflects the ideals of the UN Charter. Nations that violate these ideals or are under UN sanctions should not be elected to limited membership bodies, such as the UN Security Council or the Human Rights Council, or to leadership positions in any UN body.

A Mission of Liberation Around the World

September 25, 2007

President Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly and called on every UN member to join a mission of liberation from tyranny, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and poverty. Achieving the promise of the UN's commitment to “freedom, justice, and peace”laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights requires both confronting long-term threats and answering the immediate needs of today. The UN must work to free people from tyranny and violence, hunger and disease, illiteracy and ignorance, and poverty and despair.

Liberation From Tyranny And Violence

Terrorists and extremists who kill the innocent are a threat to civilized people everywhere. All civilized nations must work together to stop them by sharing intelligence about their networks, choking off their finances, and capturing or killing their operatives. In the long run, the best way to defeat the extremists is to defeat their dark ideology with a more hopeful vision of liberty. Citizens in Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq have made the choice for democracy, and every civilized nation has a responsibility to stand with them. The extremists are doing everything in their power to bring down these young democracies, and the people of Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq have asked for our help.

The United States salutes the many nations that have recently taken strides toward liberty—including Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Morocco. Every civilized nation has a responsibility to stand up for people suffering under dictatorship. In Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Syria, and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration. Americans are also outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear. President Bush announced a series of steps to help bring peaceful change to Burma. The President urges the United Nations and all nations to use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom. The United States will:

  • Tighten economic sanctions on the leaders of the regime and their financial backers.
  • Impose an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members.
  • Facilitate the efforts of humanitarian groups working to alleviate suffering in Burma.

The United Nations must insist on free speech, free assembly, and, ultimately, free and competitive elections in Cuba as the nation transitions from the long dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

The United Nations must insist on freedom for the people of Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe's government has cracked down violently on peaceful calls for reform, and forced millions to flee their homeland.

The United Nations must live up to its promise to promptly deploy peacekeeping forces to Darfur. The U.S. has provided more than $2 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping aid to Darfur since 2005, and has responded to the repression in Sudan and genocide in the Darfur region with tough sanctions against those responsible for the violence. The President looks forward to attending a Security Council meeting on Peace and Security in Africa, chaired by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Liberation From Hunger And Disease

Today, more than half of the world's food assistance comes from America. The President has also proposed using a portion of U.S. emergency food assistance to purchase the crops of local and regional farmers. This would help build up local agriculture and break the cycle of famine in the developing world, and the President urges the United States Congress to support this approach. The President calls on UN member states to work together to turn the tide against HIV/ AIDS and to eliminate malaria.

In 2003, the United States launched a $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief —the largest national commitment to combat a single disease in history. This effort has helped bring life-saving treatments to more than a million people in sub-Saharan Africa. The President has announced a plan to double this initial commitment with an additional $30 billion over five years.

The President's Malaria Initiative is spending $1.2 billion over five years to combat malaria in 15 African countries. This funding is providing bed nets, indoor spraying, and anti-malaria medicine with the goal of reducing mortality by 50 percent in the most vulnerable groups.

The Global Fund is working with governments and the private sector to fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria around the world. The United States is the fund's largest donor at about 30 percent.

Liberation From Illiteracy And Ignorance

The United States is joining with nations around the world to help them provide a better education for their people. In partnership with other nations, America has: helped train more than 600,000 teachers and administrators; distributed tens of millions of textbooks; and helped nations raise standards in their schools. Last May, the President committed to provide an additional $525 million over the next five years to make our international education programs even more robust.

On September 24, First Lady Laura Bush announced that the basic education initiative will focus on: Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, Liberia, Mali, and Yemen.

Liberation From Poverty And Despair

In the long run, the best way to lift people out of poverty is through trade and investment. Open markets ignite growth, encourage investment, increase transparency, strengthen the rule of law, and help countries help themselves.

The United States has both the will and the flexibility to help conclude a successful Doha Round, and the President urges other leaders to direct their negotiators to demonstrate the same spirit. The Doha round of trade talks is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to open up markets, create new trade flows, and help millions escape poverty, and the President is optimistic that we can reach a good agreement.

The United States will continue to pursue market-opening agreements that increase trade and investment. We recently signed free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. These agreements embody the values of open markets, transparent and fair regulation, respect for private property, and resolving disputes under international law rules. They are now moving towards a Congressional vote, and the President urges Congress to approve them as soon as possible.

Through the Millennium Challenge Account, the United States is delivering economic assistance to developing nations in innovative ways. The Millennium Challenge Account increases aid to nations that govern justly, fight corruption, invest in the education and health of their people, and promote economic freedom.

We have signed Millennium Challenge Compacts with 14 nations, most recently with Morocco. Together, these are worth nearly $4.6 billion, and we have just approved two more compacts with Mongolia and Tanzania.

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS

March 2006

Official Name:
United Nations


Editor's note: The information for this article was reprinted from UN Fact Sheets and reports available through the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.



PROFILE

Beginnings, Purpose, and Structure

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt, flanked by the leaders of 26 Allied countries, first coined the term "United Nations" to describe the continued fight against the Axis Powers. Following World War II, the allies adopted the term to define a worldwide body of nations. On June 26, 1945, fifty nations signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California. The United States Senate ratified the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. The United Nations came into effect on October 24, 1945. October 24 is now celebrated around the globe as UN Day.

The United Nations' aims are set out in the preamble to the UN Charter: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to achieve international cooperation in solving 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 common ends.

The principal organs of the United Nations include the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. (The Trusteeship Council, an original principal organ, suspended operations in 1994 when it fulfilled its function by overseeing the independence of the UN's last remaining trust territory.)

In addition to its principal organs, the United Nations system is made up of a complex mix of commissions and funds created by the General Assembly, such as UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) and the World Food Program; specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the International Monetary Fund; and other UN entities, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the peacekeeping missions established by the Security Council.

The headquarters of the United Nations is located in New York City. The General Assembly building and the Secretariat were built in 1949 and 1950 on land donated by the Rockefeller family. The property is now considered international territory. Under special agreement with the United States, certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the United States apply.

The regular biennial budget of the UN in 2004-05, as revised, was $3.608 billion. For the calendar year 2003, the United States' assessed contribution to the UN regular budget was $362 million. In addition, the United States' assessed contribution to UN specialized agencies amounted to well over $400 million.

The United States also contributed $1.1 billion in assessments to the peacekeeping budget in calendar year 2004; $72 million for the support of the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia; and, nearly $5 million for preparatory work relating to the UN Capital Master Plan. Moreover, each year the United States provides a significant amount in voluntary contributions to the UN and UN-affiliated organizations and activities (largely for humanitarian and development programs). In sum, U.S. contributions (both cash and in kind) to the UN system in 2003 were well over $3 billion.

The United Nations currently has 191 member states. The official languages of the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. More information about the UN is available on its web site at www.un.org.


HISTORY

The idea for the United Nations was elaborated in declarations signed at the wartime Allied conferences in Moscow and Tehran in 1943. President Franklin Roosevelt suggested the name "United Nations." From August to October 1944, representatives of the U.S. U.K., France, U.S.S.R., and China met to elaborate the plans at the Dumbarton Oaks Estate in Washington, D.C. Those and later talks produced proposals outlining the purposes of the organization, its membership and organs, as well as arrangements to maintain international peace and security and international economic and social cooperation. These proposals were discussed and debated by governments and private citizens worldwide.

On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organizations began in San Francisco. The 50 nations represented at the conference signed the Charter of the United Nations two months later on June 26. Poland, which was not represented at the conference, but for which a place among the original signatories had been reserved, added its name later, bringing the total of original signatories to 51.

The UN came into existence on October 24, 1945, after the Charter had been ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council-China, France, U.S.S.R., U.K., and U.S.-and by a majority of the other 46 signatories.

The U.S. Senate, by a vote of 89 to 2, gave its consent to the ratification of the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. In December 1945, the Senate and the House of Representatives, by unanimous votes, requested that the UN make its headquarters in the U.S. The offer was accepted and the UN headquarters building was constructed in New York City in 1949 and 1950 beside the East River on donated land, which is considered international territory. Under special agreement with the U.S., certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the U.S. apply.

UN membership is open to all "peace-loving states" that accept the obligations of the UN Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to fulfill these obligations. The General Assembly determines admission upon recommendation of the Security Council.

Preamble to Charter of the United Nations

We the Peoples of the United Nations Determined

  • To Save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • To Reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women of nations large and small, and
  • To Establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends

  • To Practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and
  • To Unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • To Ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • To Employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.


AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY

Maintaining the Peace

The UN's role in international collective security is defined by the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the power to:

  • Investigate any situation threatening international peace;
  • Recommend procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;
  • Call upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal, and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and
  • Enforce its decisions militarily, if necessary.

The United Nations has helped prevent many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts. It has opened the way to negotiated settlements through its service as a center of debate and negotiation, as well as through UN-sponsored fact-finding missions, mediators, and truce observers. UN peacekeeping forces, comprised of troops and equipment supplied by member nations, have usually been able to limit or prevent conflict. Some conflicts, however, have proven to be beyond the capacity of the UN to influence. Key to the success of UN peacekeeping efforts is the willingness of the parties to a conflict to come to terms peacefully through a viable political process.

UN peacekeeping initiatives have ranged from small, diplomatic or political delegations to large mobilizations, the most extensive of which was the 500,000-strong 1950-53 defense of South Korea against an attack by North Korea. In the first few years following the end of the Cold War the number of peacekeeping operations increased dramatically. The proliferation of operations reflected the view that, in the post-Cold War era, the UN could play an important role in defusing regional conflicts. Some of the peacekeeping operations of the early 1990s also saw an expansion of the traditional peace-keeping mandate to include such responsibilities as supervising elections, monitoring human rights, training police, and overseeing civil administration.

From 1995 to mid-1999 there was a sharp decline in the number of UN peacekeepers in the field, from a high of around 70,000 to 12,000. The assumption by NATO of major peace-keeping responsibilities in the former Yugoslavia (and the resultant termination of UNPROFOR's mandate) accounted for much of the decrease. Other factors included the closeout of UN operations in Mozambique in January 1995, Somalia in March 1995, El Salvador in April 1995, and Rwanda in March 1996. With the U.S. and the UN taking a much harder look at proposed peace-keeping operations, the only major new UN mission set up in this period outside the former Yugoslavia was the UNAVEM III operation in Angola.

191 Members of the United Nations1

Afghanistan (1946); Albania (1955); Algeria (1962); Andorra (1993); Angola (1976); Antigua and Barbuda (1981); Argentina; Armenia (1992); Australia; Austria (1955); Azerbaijan (1992); Bahamas, The (1973); Bahrain (1971); Bangladesh (1974); Barbados (1966); Belarus (formerly Byelorussian SSR); Belgium; Belize (1981); Benin (1960); Bhutan (1971); Bolivia; Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992); Botswana (1966); Brazil; Brunei (1984); Bulgaria (1955); Burkina Faso (1960); Burma (1948); Burundi (1962); Cambodia (1955); Cameroon (1960); Canada; Cape Verde (1975); Central African Republic (1960); Chad (1960); Chile; China2; Colombia; Comoros (1975); Congo, Democratic Republic of the (1960); Congo, Republic of the (1960); Costa Rica; Côte d'Ivoire (1960); Croatia (1992); Cuba; Cyprus (1960); Czech Republic (1993); Denmark; Djibouti (1977); Dominica (1978); Dominican Republic; East Timor (2002); Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea (1968); Eritrea (1993); Estonia (1991); Ethiopia; Fiji (1970); Finland (1955); France; Gabon (1960); Gambia, The (1965); Georgia (1992); Germany (1973); Ghana (1957); Greece; Grenada (1974); Guatemala; Guinea (1958); Guinea-Bissau (1974); Guyana (1966); Haiti; Honduras; Hungary (1955); Iceland (1946); India; Indonesia (1950); Iran; Iraq; Ireland (1955); Israel (1949); Italy (1955); Jamaica (1962); Japan (1956); Jordan (1955); Kazakhstan (1992); Kenya (1963); Korea, North (1991); Korea, South (1991); Kuwait (1963); Kyrgyzstan (1992); Laos (1955); Latvia (1991); Lebanon; Lesotho (1966); Liberia; Libya (1955); Liechtenstein (1990); Lithuania (1991); Luxembourg; Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of (1993); Madagascar (1960); Malawi (1964); Malaysia (1957); Maldives (1965); Mali (1960); Malta (1964); Marshall Islands (1991); Mauritania (1961); Mauritius (1968); Mexico; Micronesia, Federated States of (1991); Moldova (1992); Monaco (1993); Mongolia (1961); Morocco (1956); Mozambique (1975); Namibia (1990); Nauru (1999); Nepal (1955); Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Niger (1960); Nigeria (1960); Norway; Oman (1971); Pakistan (1947); Palau (1994); Panama; Papua New Guinea (1975); Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal (1955); Qatar (1971); Romania (1955); Russia3; Rwanda (1962); Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983); Saint Lucia (1979); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1980); Samoa (1976); San Marino (1992); Sao Tome and Principe (1975); Saudi Arabia; Senegal (1960); Seychelles (1976); Sierra Leone (1961); Singapore (1965); Slovakia (1993); Slovenia (1992); Solomon Islands (1978); Somalia (1960); South Africa; Spain (1955); Sri Lanka (1955); Sudan (1956); Suriname (1975); Swaziland (1968); Sweden (1946); Switzerland (2002); Syria; Tajikistan (1992); Tanzania (1961); Thailand (1946); Togo (1960); Trinidad and Tobago (1962); Tonga (1999); Tunisia (1956); Turkey; Turkmenistan (1992); Tuvalu (2000); Uganda (1962); Ukraine (formerly Ukrainian SSR); United Arab Emirates (1971); United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay; Uzbekistan (1992); Vanuatu (1981); Vene zuela; Vietnam (1977); Yemen (1947); Yugoslavia; Zambia (1964); Zimbabwe (1980)

1Year in parentheses indicates date of admission; countries with no date were original members in 1945.

2By Resolution 2758 (XXVI) of Oct. 25, 1971, the General Assembly decided "to restore all its rights to the People's Republic of China and to recognize the representative of its Government as the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations."

3In December 1991, Russia assumed the permanent Security Council seat previously held by the U.S.S.R.

Beginning in June 1999, new missions in Kosovo and East Timor and expanded missions in Sierra Leone and the Congo dramatically increased both the costs and personnel levels of UN peacekeeping operations. They also added a new level of complexity to peacekeeping efforts, with a greater emphasis on civilian administration in East Timor and Kosovo. From July 1999 to June 2001, overall UN peacekeeping personnel levels increased by 31,000, with even more personnel authorized but not deployed.

As of July 31, 2002, there were 691 U.S. personnel (659 civilian police, and 32 military observers) in worldwide UN peace operations, accounting for 1.5% of total UN peacekeepers. As Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States never gives up command authority over U.S. troops. When large numbers of U.S. troops are involved and when the risk of combat is high, operational control of U.S. forces will remain in American hands, or in the hands of a trusted military ally such as a NATO member. But the President must retain the flexibility, which has served the U.S. well throughout its history, to allow temporary foreign operational control of U.S. troops when it serves U.S. interests, just as it has often served U.S. interests to have foreign forces under U.S. operational control.

Arms Control and Disarmament

The 1945 UN Charter envisaged a system of regulation that would ensure "the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources." The advent of nuclear weapons came only weeks after the signing of the Charter and provided immediate impetus to concepts of arms limitation and disarmament. In fact, the first resolution of the first meeting of the General Assembly (January 24, 1946) was entitled "The Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy" and called upon the commission to make specific proposals for "the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction."

The UN has established several forums to address multilateral disarmament issues. The principal ones are the First Committee of the UN General Assembly and the UN Disarmament Commission. Items on the agenda include consideration of the possible merits of a nuclear test ban, outer-space arms control, efforts to ban chemical weapons, nuclear and conventional disarmament, nuclear-weapon-free zones, reduction of military budgets, and measures to strengthen international security.

The Conference on Disarmament is the sole forum established by the international community for the negotiation of multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements. It has 66 members representing all areas of the world, including the five major nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the Russian Federation, the U.K., and the U.S.). While the conference is not formally a UN organization, it is linked to the UN through a personal representative of the Secretary-General; this representative serves as the secretary general of the conference. Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly often request the conference to consider specific disarmament matters. In turn, the conference annually reports on its activities to the General Assembly.

Human Rights

The pursuit of human rights was one of the central reasons for creating the United Nations. World War II atrocities and genocide led to a ready consensus that the new organization must work to prevent any similar tragedies in the future. An early objective was creating a legal framework for considering and acting on complaints about human rights violations.

The UN Charter obliges all member nations to promote "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights" and to take "joint and separate action" to that end. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not legally binding, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all. The General Assembly regularly takes up human rights issues. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), under ECOSOC, is the primary UN body charged with promoting human rights, primarily through investigations and offers of technical assistance. As discussed, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the official principally responsible for all UN human rights activities (see, under "The UN Family," the section on "Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights").

The U.S. considers the United Nations to be a first line of defense of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also a means by which those principles can be applied more broadly around the world. A case in point is support by the United Nations for countries in transition to democracy. Technical assistance in providing free and fair elections, improving judicial structures, drafting constitutions, training human rights officials, and transforming armed movements into political parties have contributed significantly to democratization worldwide. The United Nations is also a forum in which to support the right of women to participate fully in the political, economic, and social life of their countries.

International Conferences

The member countries of the UN and its specialized agencies—the "shareholders" of the system—give guidance and make decisions on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. Governing bodies made up of member states include not only the General Assembly, ECOSOC, and the Security Council, but also counterpart bodies dealing with the governance of all other UN system agencies. For example, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board oversee the work of WHO. Each year, the U.S. Department of State accredits U.S. delegations to more than 600 meetings of governing bodies.

When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities. Recent examples include:

  • The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 1992, led to the creation of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to advance the conclusions reached in Agenda 21, the final text of agreements negotiated by governments at UNCED;
  • The World Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, September 1994, approved a program of action to address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustainable development over the next 20 years;
  • The World Summit on Trade Efficiency, Columbus, Ohio, October 1994, cosponsored by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the city of Columbus, and private-sector business, focused on the use of modern information technology to expand international trade;
  • The World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 1995, underscored national responsibility for sustainable development and secured high-level commitment to plans that invest in basic education, health care, and economic opportunity for all, including women and girls;
  • The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, September 1995, sought to accelerate implementation of the historic agreements reached at the Third World Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 1985;
  • The Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), Istanbul, Turkey, June 1996, considered the challenges of human settlement development and management in the 21st century; and
  • The UN Conference on Financing for Development, Monterrey, Mexico, March 2002, broke new ground in development discussions with the U.S. calling for a "new compact for development" defined by greater accountability for rich and poor nations alike.

PRINCIPAL ORGANS

Security Council – New York

The Security Council has five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. – informally known as the P-5), each with the right to veto, and 10 non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Five non-permanent members are elected from Africa and Asia combined. One non-permanent member comes from Eastern Europe, two from Latin America, and two from Western Europe and other areas. The 2004 non-permanent members are: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, and Spain. The president (or chair) of the Council rotates monthly in English alphabetical order of the members.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," and all UN members "agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter." Other organs of the UN make recommendations to member governments. The Security Council, however, has the power under the Charter to make decisions that member states must carry out. Unlike other representative bodies, the Security Council is always in session. A representative of each Council member must always be available so that the Council can meet at any time.

Decisions in the 15-member Security Council on all substantive matters require the affirmative votes of nine members, including the support of all five permanent members. A negative vote by a permanent member (also known as a veto) prevents adoption of a proposal that has received the required number of affirmative votes. Abstention is not regarded as a veto.

Under Chapter VI of the Charter, "Pacific Settlement of Disputes," the Security Council "may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute." The Council may "recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment" if it determines that the situation might endanger international peace and security. These recommendations are not binding on UN members.

Under Chapter VII, the Council has broader power to decide what measures are to be taken in situations involving "threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression." In such situations, the Council is not limited to recommendations but may take action, including the use of armed force "to maintain or restore international peace and security." Decisions taken under Chapter VII, both with regard to military action and to economic sanctions, are binding on all UN member states.

Starting with the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in 1948, the Security Council has dispatched peacekeeping missions to the world's conflicts. These missions have helped prevent or limit many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, adopted Resolution 1373, which obliges all member states to take action against international terrorism. The resolution also established the Counter Terrorism Committee within the Council to monitor progress in the war against terrorism and implementation of the resolution. The international community has adopted 13 UN counterterrorism conventions, 12 of which have entered into force. These conventions create a legal framework that the United States believes will combat international terrorism. The United States has signed and ratified the 12 resolutions that have entered into force. The 13th will open for signature on September 14, 2005.

General Assembly – New York

All UN member states are members of the General Assembly. The Assembly has six main committees: Disarmament and International Security; Economic and Financial; Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural; Special Political and Decolonization; Administrative and Budgetary; and Legal. Other committees address UN procedures, membership, and specific issues, including peacekeeping, outer space, and UN Charter reform.

The General Assembly meets in regular session once a year under a president elected from among the representatives. The regular session usually begins in mid-September and ends in mid-December. Special sessions can be convened at the request of the Security Council, a majority of UN members, or, if the majority concurs, a single member. A special session was held in October 1995 at the head of government level to commemorate the UN's 50th anniversary.

Voting in the General Assembly on important questions is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Voting questions may include recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; and budgetary matters. Other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member state has one vote. Apart from the approval of budgetary matters, including the adoption of a scale of assessment, General Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may make recommendations on any matter within the scope of the UN, except on matters of peace and security under Security Council consideration. Since the late 1980s, virtually all budgetary decisions at the UN have been taken by consensus.

As the only UN organ in which all members are represented, the Assembly serves as a forum for members to launch initiatives on international questions of peace, economic progress, and human rights. It can initiate studies; make recommendations; develop and codify international law; promote human rights; and advance international economic, social, cultural, and educational programs.

The Assembly may take action on maintaining international peace if the Security Council is unable to exercise its primary responsibility, usually due to disagreement among the permanent members. The "Uniting for Peace" resolutions, adopted in 1950, empower the Assembly to convene in emergency special sessions to recommend collective measures—including the use of armed force—in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression. Two-thirds of the members must approve any such recommendation. Emergency special sessions under this procedure have been held on ten occasions, most recently in 1997.

Developing countries constitute a majority among the UN's 191 members. Because of their numbers, developing countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly, the character of its debates, and the nature of its decisions. For many developing countries, the UN General Assembly is the source of much of their diplomatic influence and the principal forum for their foreign relations initiatives.

When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities.

The General Assembly has also been active in the fight against terrorism. On September 12, 2001, it adopted a resolution condemning the terrorist attacks against the United States. In its 56th and 57th Sessions, the General Assembly also passed resolutions calling on all states to prevent terrorism and to strengthen international cooperation in fighting terrorism. On April 13, 2005, the General Assembly unanimously adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Economic and Social Council – New York

The General Assembly elects the 54 members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Eighteen are elected each year for three-year terms. The U.S. has always been a member.

Under the UN Charter, ECOSOC is responsible for identifying solutions to international economic, social, and health problems, as well as facilitating international cultural and education cooperation and encouraging respect for human rights. ECOSOC meets for one annual four-week session and for shorter ad hoc, procedural, or special meetings. Voting is by simple majority.

ECOSOC coordinates the work of fourteen specialized UN agencies, ten functional commissions, and five regional commissions. Through much of its history, ECOSOC had served primarily as a discussion vehicle. ECOSOC had little authority to force action, which a number of member states felt marginalized the agency's utility. However, beginning in 1992, the U.S. and other nations began an effort to make ECOSOC more relevant by strengthening its policy responsibilities in economic, social, and related fields, particularly in the area of development.

The resulting reform made ECOSOC the oversight and policy-setting body for UN operational development activities and established smaller executive boards for the UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). The creation of an oversight body and smaller executive boards provides those agencies with operating guidance and promotes more effective management. The reform also gave ECOSOC a strong hand in ensuring that UN agencies coordinated their work on issues of common interest, such as narcotics control, human rights, the alleviation of poverty, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

One positive impact of this reform was the manner in which the UN development system began to respond more coherently and efficiently to humanitarian crises around the world. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recent reform initiatives have attached considerable importance to further strengthening coordination among relief agencies.

Another positive reform outcome was the ECOSOC decision in 1994 to authorize the creation of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). This Program acts as the main advocate for worldwide action against HIV/AIDS and has brought together into one consolidated global program the AIDS-related resources and expertise of UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, the UN International Drug Control Program, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Bank. UNAIDS has been instrumental in the expanded global response to HIV/AIDS, eliminating duplication among agencies and enhancing the ability of member states to respond effectively to the AIDS pandemic. UNAIDS began operating in January 1996.

International Court of Justice - The Hague, Netherlands

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the UN. Established in 1946, its main functions are to decide cases submitted to it by states and to give advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by the General Assembly or Security Council, or by such specialized agencies authorized to do so by the General Assembly in accordance with the UN Charter.

The Court is composed of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council from a list of persons nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Judges serve for nine years and may be re-elected. No two may be nationals of the same country. One-third of the Court is elected every three years. A U.S. citizen has always been a member of the Court. Questions before the Court are decided by a majority of judges present.

Only states may be parties in cases before the International Court of Justice. This requirement does not preclude private interests from being the subject of proceedings if one state brings a case against another. Jurisdiction of the Court is based on the consent of each UN member state to comply with an ICJ decision in a case to which it is a party. Any judgments reached are binding. If a party fails to perform its obligations under an ICJ decision, the other party may seek recourse in the Security Council.

State parties to the Court's statute may declare their recognition of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court for a wide range of international disputes. The U.S. accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction in 1946, but withdrew its acceptance following the Court's decision in a 1986 case involving activities in Nicaragua. Examples of cases include:

  • a complaint by the U.S. in 1980 that Iran was detaining American diplomats in Tehran in violation of international law;
  • a complaint filed by Iran in 1992 alleging that the United States violated a treaty obligation by attacking three Iranian oil platforms. The U.S. filed a counter-claim with respect to Iranian attacks on U.S. shipping interests in the Persian Gulf;
  • a dispute over the course of the maritime boundary dividing the U.S. and Canada in the Gulf of Maine area, filed in 1981, judgment in 1984; and
  • a complaint filed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) in 1999 against Rwanda alleging violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed on DROC territory.

Secretariat – New York

The Secretariat is composed of international civil servants who carry out the daily tasks of the United Nations. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by UN bodies for their meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies. The 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 is obligated to respect the international character of the Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff.

Under the UN Charter, the chief administrative officer of the UN and the head of the Secretariat is the Secretary-General of the United Nations, appointed to a five-year term by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. Kofi Annan, the first Secretary-General from sub-Saharan Africa, began his first term on January 1, 1997. He was reappointed to a second term beginning January 1, 2002.

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. 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. In 1997, the General Assembly established a position of Deputy Secretary-General. Since 1998, Louise Frechette of Canada has held this position. Other senior UN officials, such as the Under-Secretaries-General for Political Affairs and Peacekeeping, also advise the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General also appoints Special Representatives and Envoys to mediate conflict in the world's trouble spots.


THE UN FAMILY

In addition to the principal UN organs, the UN family includes over 60 programs or specialized agencies, often headquartered in one of the UN offices around the world. Some agencies existed prior to UN creation and are related to it by agreement. Others were established by the General Assembly. Each provides expertise in a specific area. Some of those programs and agencies (with the location of their headquarters) are described below. A diagram of the entire UN system can be found at www.un.org/aboutun/chart. A map showing principal UN offices around the world can be found at http://www.un.org/aroundworld/map/.

Funds and Programs

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)

New York City. UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. Its programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.

UN Development Program (UNDP)

New York City. UNDP is the largest multilateral source of grant technical assistance in the world. Voluntarily funded, it provides expert advice, training, and limited equipment to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the poorest countries. It focuses on six areas of assistance: democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and the environment, information technology, and HIV/AIDS.

UN Environment Program (UNEP)

Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP coordinates UN environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies. UNEP has developed guidelines and treaties on issues such as the international transport of potentially harmful chemicals, transboundary air pollution, and the contamination of international waterways.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Geneva, Switzerland. UNHCR protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the UN and assists in their return or resettlement. UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1982.

World Food Program (WFP)

Rome, Italy. The WFP distributes food commodities to long-term refugees and displaced persons, and provides emergency food assistance during natural and man-made disasters. In 2004, the WFP fed 113 million people in 80 countries, including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

Specialized Agencies

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Rome, Italy. FAO programs seek to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living; to improve agricultural productivity, to promote rural development; and, by these means, to provide access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Montreal, Canada. ICAO develops the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth. The ICAO Council adopts standards and makes recommendations concerning air navigation, the prevention of unlawful interference, and the facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation.

International Labor Organization (ILO)

Geneva, Switzerland. The ILO seeks to strengthen worker rights, improve working and living conditions, create employment, and provide information and training opportunities. ILO programs include the occupational safety and health hazard alert system and the labor standards and human rights programs.

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

London, England. The IMO's main objective is to facilitate cooperation among governments on technical matters affecting international shipping to achieve the highest possible degree of maritime safety and navigational efficiency. It also attempts to improve the marine environment through the prevention of pollution caused by ships and other craft and deals with legal matters connected with international shipping.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Geneva, Switzerland. The ITU brings together governments to coordinate the establishment and operation of global communication networks and services, including telegraph, telephone, radio communications, Internet, and the information society. It fosters cooperation and partnership among its members and offers technical assistance in this area.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Paris, France. UNESCO's purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting cooperation among nations through education, science, culture, and communication to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, sex, language, or religion.

Universal Postal Union (UPU)

Bern, Switzerland. The UPU attempts to secure the organization and improvement of the postal services, to promote international collaboration, and provide technical assistance in this area. The member countries constitute a single postal territory.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of WIPO is to promote international cooperation in the field of intellectual property rights. It works in the areas of both industrial and literary-artistic property.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Geneva, Switzerland. WMO coordinates global scientific activity to allow increasingly prompt and accurate weather prediction and other services for public, private, and commercial use.

World Health Organization (WHO)

Geneva, Switzerland. WHO acts as a coordinating authority on pressing global public health issues. WHO's objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment of all peoples of the highest possible level of health.

Other Related Bodies

World Bank

Washington, DC. The World Bank is one of the world's main sources of development assistance. It focuses on the poorest people in the poorest countries.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Vienna, Austria. The role of IAEA is to promote the contribution of atomic energy for peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world and to enhance the safety and security of radioactive materials and nuclear facilities worldwide. It has the responsibility of creating and implementing the safeguard provisions of various nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear free zone treaties.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Washington, DC. The purposes of the IMF are to promote international monetary cooperation through consultation and collaboration, to promote exchange stability and orderly exchange arrangements, and to assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments and the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions.


REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS

The United Nations is currently engaged in one of the most important debates in its history: how to reform itself, strengthen itself as an institution, and ensure that it addresses effectively the threats and challenges of the 21st century. The United States is leading the effort to strengthen and reform the UN. Priorities for the U.S. are:

Budget, Management, and Administrative Reform:

The U.S. seeks to ensure the highest standards of integrity and promote efficiency within the UN system, so that member states receive the greatest benefit from resources invested in the institution. Meaningful institutional reform must include measures to improve internal oversight and accountability, to identify cost savings, and to allocate resources to high priority programs and offices.

Peace Building Commission:

The U.S. strongly supports the Secretary-General's idea of a Peace Building Commission that would allow the UN to be more effective in galvanizing the work of the international community to help countries after the fighting has stopped. Such a Commission would play an important role in helping countries in post-conflict situations. It could provide reconstruction and humanitarian support and set the stage for long-term development.

Human Rights Council:

The U.S. supports the Secretary-General's initiative to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a smaller, action-oriented Human Rights Council, whose membership should not include states with a record of abuse. The problems with the current Commission, where human-rights abusers sit in judgment of democratic countries, are well known. The Council's mandate would be to address the most egregious human rights abuses, provide technical assistance, and promote human rights as a global priority.

Democracy Initiatives and the UN Democracy Fund:

President Bush in his September 2004 UN General Assembly speech put this proposal on the table, as democracy promotion is one of our core aims. The goal is to create a mechanism for supporting new and emerging democracies, providing assistance that would help develop civil society and democratic institutions.

Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism:

The U.S. strongly supports the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism (CCIT), a subject of longstanding debate. This would be an important symbolic achievement in the UN's global effort to counter terrorism.

Development:

The United States plays a leading, active, and positive role in development. The U.S. has a commitment to building healthy institutions and strong economies, through trade, foreign investment, and aid. As agreed in the Monterrey Consensus, the focus should be on supporting good governance and sound economic policies.


UN SECRETARIES GENERAL

Trygve Lie (Norway)—Feb. 1, 1946-April 10, 1953

Dag Hammarskjold (Sweden)—April 10, 1953-Sept. 8, 1961

U Thant (Burma)—Nov. 3, 1961-Dec. 31, 1971 (initially appointed acting Secretary General; formally appointed Nov. 30, 1962)

Kurt Waldheim (Austria)—Jan. 1, 1972-Dec. 31, 1981

Javier Perez de Cuellar (Peru)—Jan. 1, 1982-Dec. 31, 1991

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt)—Jan. 1, 1992-Dec. 31, 1996

Kofi Annan (Ghana)—Jan. 1, 1997-present


U.S. REPRESENTATION

The U.S. Permanent Mission to the UN in New York is headed by the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Ambassador John R. Bolton has served in that position since August 1, 2005. The mission acts as the channel of communication for the U.S. Government with the UN organs, agencies, and commissions at the UN headquarters and with the other permanent missions accredited to the UN and the non-member observer missions. The U.S. mission has a professional staff made up largely of career Foreign Service officers, including specialists in political, economic, social, financial, legal, and military issues.

The United States also maintains missions to international organizations in Geneva, Rome, Vienna, Nairobi, Montreal, and Paris. These missions report to the Department of State and receive guidance on questions of policy from the President, through the Secretary of State. The Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs coordinates relations with the UN and its family of agencies.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations is located at 140 East 45th Street, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-415-4000). More information about the U.S. Mission to the UN is available on the mission's web site at www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov.

U.S. Representatives to the United Nations

Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.—March 1946-June 1946

Herschel V. Johnson (acting)—June 1946-January 1947

Warren R. Austin—Jan. 1947-Jan. 1953

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.—Jan. 1953-Sept. 1960

James J. Wadsworth—Sept. 1960-Jan. 1961

Adlai E. Stevenson—Jan. 1961-July 1965

Arthur J. Goldberg—July 1965-June 1968

George W. Ball—June 1968-Sept. 1968

James Russell Wiggins—Oct. 1968-Jan. 1969

Charles W. Yost—Jan. 1969-Feb. 1971

George Bush—Feb. 1971-Jan. 1973

John P. Scali—Feb. 1973-June 1975

Daniel P. Moynihan—June 1975-Feb. 1976

William W. Scranton—March 1976-Jan. 1977

Andrew Young—Jan. 1977-April 1979

Donald McHenry—April 1979-Jan. 1981

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick—Feb. 1981-April 1985

Vernon Walters—May 1985-Jan. 1989

Thomas R. Pickering—March 1989-May 1992

Edward J. Perkins—May 1992-Jan. 1993

Madeleine K. Albright—Feb. 1993-Jan. 1997

Bill Richardson—Feb. 1997-Sept 1998

A. Peter Burleigh (acting)—Sept 1998-Aug 1999

Richard Holbrooke—Aug. 1999-Jan. 2001.

James B. Cunningham (acting)—Feb. 2001-Sept. 2001

John Negroponte—Sept. 2001-June 2004.

John C. Danforth—June 2004–Jan. 2005

Anne W. Patterson (acting) Jan.–Aug. 2005

John R. Bolton—August 2005–present


U.S. AND THE UNITED NATIONS

September 8, 2005

U.S. Priorities: 2005

The United States is open to UN Security Council reform and expansion as one element of an overall agenda for UN reform. The U.S. advocates a criteria-based approach under which potential members must be supremely well qualified, based on factors such as: commitment to democracy and human rights, economic size, population, military capacity, financial contributions to the UN, contributions to UN peace-keeping, and record on counterterrorism and nonproliferation. While the overall geographic balance of the Council is a consideration, effectiveness remains the benchmark for any reform.

The United Nations is engaged in one of the most important debates in its history: how to reform itself, strengthen itself as an institution, and ensure that it addresses effectively the threats and challenges of the 21st Century. The United States is prepared to help lead the effort to strengthen and reform the UN. What follows are key issues the U.S. has identified as priorities, as they work with the UN and other member states towards the goal of a strong, effective, and accountable organization.

Management, Budget, and Administrative Reform:

Management reform is necessary to ensure that Member States receive the greatest benefit from resources and that UN personnel are held to the highest standard of ethical conduct and accountability. U.S. proposals relate to three themes: accountability and integrity, improved effectiveness, and boosting the UN's relevance in the modern world. Building on these themes, the U.S. believes the following specific measures need to be implemented:

  • A strong ethics code must be instilled in UN Staff and strictly enforced.
  • Internal Oversight needs to be more independent; an oversight board with separate authority to recommend budget levels would help to accomplish this.
  • The Secretary General's authority and duty to waive immunity must be affirmed so UN officials suspected of committing criminal activities can be fully investigated, and guilty individuals held accountable.
  • UN activities must be reviewed for continuing relevance as the Secretary General has urged, and General Assembly mandates need to be reviewed periodically for relevance and effectiveness [note: it's not just to eliminate mandates after their objectives have been achieved, but also where the mandates have been proven fruitless, inefficient, etc].

Peace Building Commission:

The U.S. strongly supports the Secretary General's concept of a Peace Building Commission that would allow the UN to more effectively galvanize international efforts to help countries recover after conflict. Such a Commission is urgently needed to ensure greater coordination within the UN system during a country's transition from conflict to post-conflict recovery, to better provide reconstruction and humanitarian support, and to set the stage for long-term development.

Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism:

Member states should unequivocally outlaw acts of international terrorism, and it is time to reach agreement on the Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). Adopting the CCIT would be an important achievement in the UN's global effort to counter terrorism.

Development:

The United States supports the development goals in the Millennium Declaration, and President Bush has made it clear that expanding the circle of freedom and prosperity are fundamental interests of the United States. The High-Level Event in September is an opportunity to renew our collective commitment to eradicate poverty and promote sustained economic development.

The UN Democracy Fund:

The United States is a strong supporter of the newly-created UN Democracy Fund, which will provide grants to nongovernmental organizations, governments, and international organizations to carry out democratization projects, particularly those that help develop civil society and democratic institutions. The Fund will coordinate with other UN offices that promote democracy and will generate greater interest and commitment toward funding and implementation.

Human Rights Council:

Unfortunately, the current Commission on Human Rights, where countries with records of serious human rights abuses like Zimbabwe and Cuba sit in judgment of democratic countries, has lost credibility. The U.S. supports the Secretary-General's initiative to replace the Commission on Human Rights with an action-oriented Human Rights Council, whose membership should not include states with a record of abuse. The Council's mandate should be to address human rights emergencies and the most egregious human rights abuses, to provide technical assistance, and to promote human rights as a global priority.

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United Nations

United Nations

Last Updated: March 2007

Official Name:
United Nations

Editor’s note: The information for this article was compiled and edited from UN Fact Sheets and other releases available through the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

PROFILE

HISTORY

AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY

PRINCIPAL ORGANS

THE UN FAMILY

REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN SECRETARIES GENERAL

U.S. REPRESENTATION

U.S. POLICY IN THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

PROFILE

Beginnings, Purpose, and Structure

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt, flanked by the leaders of 26 Allied countries, first coined the term “United Nations” to describe the continued fight against the Axis Powers. Following World War II, the allies adopted the term to define a worldwide body of nations. On June 26, 1945, fifty nations signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California. The United States Senate ratified the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. The United Nations came into effect on October 24, 1945. October 24 is now celebrated around the globe as UN Day.

The United Nations’ aims are set out in the preamble to the UN Charter: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to achieve international cooperation in solving 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 common ends.

The principal organs of the United Nations include the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. (The Trusteeship Council, an original principal organ, suspended operations in 1994 when it fulfilled its function by overseeing the independence of the UN’s last remaining trust territory.)

In addition to its principal organs, the United Nations system is made up of a complex mix of commissions and funds created by the General Assembly, such as UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) and the World Food Program; specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the International Monetary Fund; and other UN entities, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the peacekeeping missions established by the Security Council.

The headquarters of the United Nations is located in New York City. The General Assembly building and the Secretariat were built in 1949 and 1950 on land donated by the Rockefeller family. The property is now considered international territory. Under special agreement with the United States, certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the United States apply.

The regular biennial budget of the UN in 2004-05, as revised, was $3.608 billion. For the calendar year 2003, the United States’ assessed contribution to the UN regular budget was $362 million. In addition, the United States’ assessed contribution to UN specialized agencies amounted to well over $400 million.

The United States also contributed $1.1 billion in assessments to the peacekeeping budget in calendar year 2004; $72 million for the support of the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia; and, nearly $5 million for preparatory work relating to the UN Capital Master Plan. Moreover, each year the United States provides a significant amount in voluntary contributions to the UN and UN-affiliated organizations and activities (largely for humanitarian and development programs). In sum, U.S. contributions (both cash and in kind) to the UN system in 2003 were well over $3 billion.

The United Nations currently has 192 member states. The official languages of the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. More information about the UN is available on its website at www.un.org.

HISTORY

The idea for the United Nations was elaborated in declarations signed at the wartime Allied conferences in Moscow and Tehran in 1943. President Franklin Roosevelt suggested the name “United Nations.” From August to October 1944, representatives of the U.S. U.K., France, U.S.S.R., and China met to elaborate the plans at the Dumbarton Oaks Estate in Washington, D.C. Those and later talks produced proposals outlining the purposes of the organization, its membership and organs, as well as arrangements to maintain international peace and security and international economic and social cooperation. These proposals were discussed and debated by governments and private citizens worldwide.

On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organizations began in San Francisco. The 50 nations represented at the conference signed the Charter of the United Nations two months later on June 26. Poland, which was not represented at the conference, but for which a place among the original signatories had been reserved, added its name later, bringing the total of original signatories to 51.

The UN came into existence on October 24, 1945, after the Charter had been ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council-China, France, U.S.S.R., U.K., and U.S.-and by a majority of the other 46 signatories. The U.S. Senate, by a vote of 89 to 2, gave its consent to the ratification of the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. In December 1945, the Senate and the House of Representatives, by unanimous votes, requested that the UN make its headquarters in the U.S. The offer was accepted and the UN headquarters building was constructed in New York City in 1949 and 1950 beside the East River on donated land, which is considered international territory. Under special agreement with the U.S., certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the U.S. apply.

UN membership is open to all “peace-loving states” that accept the obligations of the UN Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to fulfill these obligations. The General Assembly determines admission upon recommendation of the Security Council.

Preamble to Charter of the United Nations

We the Peoples of the United Nations Determined

  • To Save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • To Reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women of nations large and small, and
  • To Establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends

  • To Practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and
  • To Unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • To Ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • To Employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
  • Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY

Maintaining the Peace

The UN’s role in international collective security is defined by the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the power to:

  • Investigate any situation threatening international peace;
  • Recommend procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;
  • Call upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal, and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and
  • Enforce its decisions militarily, if necessary.

The United Nations has helped prevent many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts. It has opened the way to negotiated settlements through its service as a center of debate and negotiation, as well as through UN-sponsored fact-finding missions, mediators, and truce observers. UN peacekeeping forces, comprised of troops and equipment supplied by member nations, have usually been able to limit or prevent conflict. Some conflicts, however, have proven to be beyond the capacity of the UN to influence. Key to the success of UN peacekeeping efforts is the willingness of the parties to a conflict to come to terms peacefully through a viable political process.

UN peacekeeping initiatives have ranged from small, diplomatic or political delegations to large mobilizations, the most extensive of which was the 500,000-strong 1950-53 defense of South Korea against an attack by North Korea. In the first few years following the end of the Cold War the number of peacekeeping operations increased dramatically. The proliferation of operations reflected the view that, in the post-Cold War era, the UN could play an important role in defusing regional conflicts. Some of the peacekeeping operations of the early 1990s also saw an expansion of the traditional peace-keeping mandate to include such responsibilities as supervising elections, monitoring human rights, training police, and overseeing civil administration. From 1995 to mid-1999 there was a sharp decline in the number of UN peacekeepers in the field, from a high of around 70,000 to 12,000. The assumption by NATO of major peacekeeping responsibilities in the former Yugoslavia (and the resultant termination of UNPROFOR’s mandate) accounted for much of the decrease. Other factors included the closeout of UN operations in Mozambique in January 1995, Somalia in March 1995, El Salvador in April 1995, and Rwanda in March 1996. With the U.S. and the UN taking a much harder look at proposed peacekeeping operations, the only major new UN mission set up in this period outside the former Yugoslavia was the UNAVEM III operation in Angola.

Beginning in June 1999, new missions in Kosovo and East Timor and expanded missions in Sierra Leone and the Congo dramatically increased both the costs and personnel levels of UN peacekeeping operations. They also added a new level of complexity to peacekeeping efforts, with a greater emphasis on civilian administration in East Timor and Kosovo. From July 1999 to June 2001, overall UN peacekeeping personnel levels increased by 31,000, with even more personnel authorized but not deployed.

As of July 31, 2002, there were 691 U.S. personnel (659 civilian police, and 32 military observers) in worldwide UN peace operations, accounting for 1.5% of total UN peacekeepers. As Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States never gives up command authority over U.S. troops. When large numbers of U.S. troops are involved and when the risk of combat is high, operational control of U.S. forces will remain in American

192 Members of the United Nations1

Afghanistan (1946); Albania (1955); Algeria (1962); Andorra (1993); Angola (1976); Antigua and Barbuda (1981); Argentina; Armenia (1992); Australia; Austria (1955); Azerbaijan (1992); Bahamas, The (1973); Bahrain (1971); Bangladesh (1974); Barbados (1966); Belarus; Belgium; Belize (1981); Benin (1960); Bhutan (1971); Bolivia; Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992); Botswana (1966); Brazil; Brunei (1984); Bulgaria (1955); Burkina Faso (1960); Burma (1948); Burundi (1962); Cambodia (1955); Cameroon (1960); Canada; Cape Verde (1975); Central African Republic (1960); Chad (1960); Chile; China2; Colombia; Comoros (1975); Congo, Democratic Republic of the (1960); Congo, Republic of the (1960); Costa Rica; Côte d’Ivoire (1960); Croatia (1992); Cuba; Cyprus (1960); Czech Republic (1993); Denmark; Djibouti (1977); Dominica (1978); Dominican Republic; East Timor (2002); Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea (1968); Eritrea (1993); Estonia (1991); Ethiopia; Fiji (1970); Finland (1955); France; Gabon (1960); Gambia, The (1965); Georgia (1992); Germany (1973); Ghana (1957); Greece; Grenada (1974); Guatemala; Guinea (1958); Guinea-Bissau (1974); Guyana (1966); Haiti; Honduras; Hungary (1955); Iceland (1946); India; Indonesia (1950); Iran; Iraq; Ireland (1955); Israel (1949); Italy (1955); Jamaica (1962); Japan (1956); Jordan (1955); Kazakhstan (1992); Kenya (1963); Kiribati (1999); Korea, North (1991); Korea, South (1991); Kuwait (1963); Kyrgyzstan (1992); Laos (1955); Latvia (1991); Lebanon; Lesotho (1966); Liberia; Libya (1955); Liechtenstein (1990); Lithuania (1991); Luxembourg; Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of (1993); Madagascar (1960); Malawi (1964); Malaysia (1957); Maldives (1965); Mali (1960); Malta (1964); Marshall Islands (1991); Mauritania (1961); Mauritius (1968); Mexico; Micronesia, Federated States of (1991); Moldova (1992); Monaco (1993); Mongolia (1961); Montenegro (2006); Morocco (1956); Mozambique (1975); Namibia (1990); Nauru (1999); Nepal (1955); Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Niger (1960); Nigeria (1960); Norway; Oman (1971);

Pakistan (1947); Palau (1994); Panama; Papua New Guinea (1975); Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Por tugal (1955); Qatar (1971); Romania (1955); Russia3; Rwanda (1962); Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983); Saint Lucia (1979); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1980); Samoa (1976); San Marino (1992); Sao Tome and Principe (1975); Saudi Arabia; Senegal (1960); Serbia (2000); Seychelles (1976); Sierra Leone (1961); Singapore (1965); Slovakia (1993); Slovenia (1992); Solomon Islands (1978); Somalia (1960); South Africa; Spain (1955); Sri Lanka (1955); Sudan (1956); Suriname (1975); Swaziland (1968); Sweden (1946); Switzerland (2002); Syria; Tajiki-stan (1992); Tanzania (1961); Thailand (1946); Togo (1960); Trinidad and Tobago (1962); Tonga (1999); Tunisia (1956); Turkey; Turkmenistan (1992); Tuvalu (2000); Uganda (1962); Ukraine (formerly Ukrainian SSR); United Arab Emirates (1971); United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay; Uzbekistan (1992); Vanuatu (1981); Venezuela; Vietnam (1977); Yemen (1947); Zambia (1964); Zimbabwe (1980)

1Year in parentheses indicates date of admission; countries with no date were original members in 1945.

2By Resolution 2758 (XXVI) of Oct. 25, 1971, the General Assembly decided “to restore all its rights to the People’s Republic of China and to recognize the representative of its Government as the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations.”

3In December 1991, Russia assumed the permanent Security Council seat previously held by the U.S.S.R.

hands, or in the hands of a trusted military ally such as a NATO member. But the President must retain the flexibility, which has served the U.S. well throughout its history, to allow temporary foreign operational control of U.S. troops when it serves U.S. interests, just as it has often served U.S. interests to have foreign forces under U.S. operational control.

Arms Control and Disarmament

The 1945 UN Charter envisaged a system of regulation that would ensure “the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.” The advent of nuclear weapons came only weeks after the signing of the Charter and provided immediate impetus to concepts of arms limitation and disarmament. In fact, the first resolution of the first meeting of the General Assembly (January 24, 1946) was entitled “The Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy” and called upon the commission to make specific proposals for “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.”

The UN has established several forums to address multilateral disarmament issues. The principal ones are the First Committee of the UN General Assembly and the UN Disarmament Commission. Items on the agenda include consideration of the possible merits of a nuclear test ban, outer-space arms control, efforts to ban chemical weapons, nuclear and conventional disarmament, nuclear-weapon-free zones, reduction of military budgets, and measures to strengthen international security.

The Conference on Disarmament is the sole forum established by the international community for the negotiation of multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements. It has 66 members representing all areas of the world, including the five major nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the Russian Federation, the U.K., and the U.S.). While the conference is not formally a UN organization, it is linked to the UN through a personal representative of the Secretary-General; this representative serves as the secretary general of the conference. Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly often request the conference to consider specific disarmament matters. In turn, the conference annually reports on its activities to the General Assembly.

Human Rights

The pursuit of human rights was one of the central reasons for creating the United Nations. World War II atrocities and genocide led to a ready consensus that the new organization must work to prevent any similar tragedies in the future. An early objective was creating a legal framework for considering and acting on complaints about human rights violations.

The UN Charter obliges all member nations to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights” and to take “joint and separate action” to that end. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not legally binding, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all. The General Assembly regularly takes up human rights issues. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), under ECOSOC, is the primary UN body charged with promoting human rights, primarily through investigations and offers of technical assistance. As discussed, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the official principally responsible for all UN human rights activities (see, under “The UN Family,” the section on “Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights”).

The U.S. considers the United Nations to be a first line of defense of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also a means by which those principles can be applied more broadly around the world. A case in point is support by the United Nations for countries in transition to democracy. Technical assistance in providing free and fair elections, improving judicial structures, drafting constitutions, training human rights officials, and transforming armed movements into political parties have contributed significantly to democratization worldwide. The United Nations is also a forum in which to support the right of women to participate fully in the political, economic, and social life of their countries.

International Conferences

The member countries of the UN and its specialized agencies—the “shareholders” of the system—give guidance and make decisions on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. Governing bodies made up of member states include not only the General Assembly, ECOSOC, and the Security Council, but also counterpart bodies dealing with the governance of all other UN system agencies. For example, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board oversee the work of WHO. Each year, the U.S. Department of State accredits U.S. delegations to more than 600 meetings of governing bodies.

When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities. Recent examples include:

  • The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 1992, led to the creation of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to advance the conclusions reached in Agenda 21, the final text of agreements negotiated by governments at UNCED;
  • The World Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, September 1994, approved a program of action to address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustainable development over the next 20 years;
  • The World Summit on Trade Efficiency, Columbus, Ohio, October 1994, cosponsored by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the city of Columbus, and private-sector business, focused on the use of modern information technology to expand international trade;
  • The World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 1995, underscored national responsibility for sustainable development and secured high-level commitment to plans that invest in basic education, health care, and economic opportunity for all, including women and girls;
  • The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, September 1995, sought to accelerate implementation of the historic agreements reached at the Third World Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 1985;
  • The Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), Istanbul, Turkey, June 1996, considered the challenges of human settlement development and management in the 21st century; and
  • The UN Conference on Financing for Development, Monterrey, Mexico, March 2002, broke new ground in development discussions with the U.S. calling for a “new compact for development” defined by greater accountability for rich and poor nations alike.

PRINCIPAL ORGANS

Security Council – New York

The Security Council has five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. – informally known as the P-5), each with the right to veto, and 10 non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Five non-permanent members are elected from Africa and Asia combined. One non-permanent member comes from Eastern Europe, two from Latin America, and two from Western Europe and other areas. The 2004 non-permanent members are: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, and Spain. The president (or chair) of the Council rotates monthly in English alphabetical order of the members.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” and all UN members “agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter.” Other organs of the UN make recommendations to member governments. The Security Council, however, has the power under the Charter to make decisions that member states must carry out. Unlike other representative bodies, the Security Council is always in session. A representative of each Council member must always be available so that the Council can meet at any time.

Decisions in the 15-member Security Council on all substantive matters require the affirmative votes of nine members, including the support of all five permanent members. A negative vote by a permanent member (also known as a veto) prevents adoption of a proposal that has received the required number of affirmative votes. Abstention is not regarded as a veto.

Under Chapter VI of the Charter, “Pacific Settlement of Disputes,” the Security Council “may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute.” The Council may “recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment” if it determines that the situation might endanger international peace and security. These recommendations are not binding on UN members.

Under Chapter VII, the Council has broader power to decide what measures are to be taken in situations involving “threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression.” In such situations, the Council is not limited to recommendations but may take action, including the use of armed force “to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Decisions taken under Chapter VII, both with regard to military action and to economic sanctions, are binding on all UN member states.

Starting with the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in 1948, the Security Council has dispatched peacekeeping missions to the world’s conflicts. These missions have helped prevent or limit many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, adopted Resolution 1373, which obliges all member states to take action against international terrorism. The resolution also established the Coun ter Terrorism Committee within the Council to monitor progress in the war against terrorism and implementation of the resolution. The international community has adopted 13 UN counterterrorism conventions, 12 of which have entered into force. These conventions create a legal framework that the United States believes will combat international terrorism. The United States has signed and ratified the 12 resolutions that have entered into force. The 13th will open for signature on September 14, 2005.

General Assembly – New York

All UN member states are members of the General Assembly. The Assembly has six main committees: Disarmament and International Security; Economic and Financial; Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural; Special Political and Decolonization; Administrative and Budgetary; and Legal. Other committees address UN procedures, membership, and specific issues, including peacekeeping, outer space, and UN Charter reform.

The General Assembly meets in regular session once a year under a president elected from among the representatives. The regular session usually begins in mid-September and ends in mid-December. Special sessions can be convened at the request of the Security Council, a majority of UN members, or, if the majority concurs, a single member. A special session was held in October 1995 at the head of government level to commemorate the UN’s 50th anniversary.

Voting in the General Assembly on important questions is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Voting questions may include recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; and budgetary matters. Other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member state has one vote. Apart from the approval of budgetary matters, including the adoption of a scale of assessment, General Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may make recommendations on any matter within the scope of the UN, except on matters of peace and security under Security Council consideration. Since the late 1980s, virtually all budgetary decisions at the UN have been taken by consensus.

As the only UN organ in which all members are represented, the Assembly serves as a forum for members to launch initiatives on international questions of peace, economic progress, and human rights. It can initiate studies; make recommendations; develop and codify international law; promote human rights; and advance international economic, social, cultural, and educational programs.

The Assembly may take action on maintaining international peace if the Security Council is unable to exercise its primary responsibility, usually due to disagreement among the permanent members. The “Uniting for Peace” resolutions, adopted in 1950, empower the Assembly to convene in emergency special sessions to recommend collective measures—including the use of armed force—in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression. Two-thirds of the members must approve any such recommendation. Emergency special sessions under this procedure have been held on ten occasions, most recently in 1997.

Developing countries constitute a majority among the UN’s 192 members. Because of their numbers, developing countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly, the character of its debates, and the nature of its decisions. For many developing countries, the UN General Assembly is the source of much of their diplomatic influence and the principal forum for their foreign relations initiatives. When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities.

The General Assembly has also been active in the fight against terrorism. On September 12, 2001, it adopted a resolution condemning the terrorist attacks against the United States. In its 56th and 57th Sessions, the General Assembly also passed resolutions calling on all states to prevent terrorism and to strengthen international cooperation in fighting terrorism. On April 13, 2005, the General Assembly unanimously adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Economic and Social Council – New York

The General Assembly elects the 54 members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Eighteen are elected each year for three-year terms. The U.S. has always been a member.

Under the UN Charter, ECOSOC is responsible for identifying solutions to international economic, social, and health problems, as well as facilitating international cultural and education cooperation and encouraging respect for human rights. ECOSOC meets for one annual four-week session and for shorter ad hoc, procedural, or special meetings. Voting is by simple majority.

ECOSOC coordinates the work of fourteen specialized UN agencies, ten functional commissions, and five regional commissions. Through much of its history, ECOSOC had served primarily as a discussion vehicle. ECOSOC had little authority to force action, which a number of member states felt marginalized the agency’s utility. However, beginning in 1992, the U.S. and other nations began an effort to make ECOSOC more relevant by strengthening its policy responsibilities in economic, social, and related fields, particularly in the area of development.

The resulting reform made ECOSOC the oversight and policy-setting body for UN operational development activities and established smaller executive boards for the UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The creation of an oversight body and smaller executive boards provides those agencies with operating guidance and promotes more effective management. The reform also gave ECOSOC a strong hand in ensuring that UN agencies coordinated their work on issues of common interest, such as narcotics control, human rights, the alleviation of poverty, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

One positive impact of this reform was the manner in which the UN development system began to respond more coherently and efficiently to humanitarian crises around the world. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recent reform initiatives have attached considerable importance to further strengthening coordination among relief agencies.

Another positive reform outcome was the ECOSOC decision in 1994 to authorize the creation of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). This Program acts as the main advocate for worldwide action against HIV/AIDS and has brought together into one consolidated global program the AIDS-related resources and expertise of UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, the UN International Drug Control Program, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Bank. UNAIDS has been instrumental in the expanded global response to HIV/AIDS, eliminating duplication among agencies and enhancing the ability of member states to respond effectively to the AIDS pandemic. UNAIDS began operating in January 1996.

International Court of Justice - The Hague, Netherlands

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the UN. Established in 1946, its main functions are to decide cases submitted to it by states and to give advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by the General Assembly or Security Council, or by such specialized agencies authorized to do so by the General Assembly in accordance with the UN Charter.

The Court is composed of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council from a list of persons nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Judges serve for nine years and may be re-elected. No two may be nationals of the same country. One-third of the Court is elected every three years. A U.S. citizen has always been a member of the Court. Questions before the Court are decided by a majority of judges present. Only states may be parties in cases before the International Court of Justice. This requirement does not preclude private interests from being the subject of proceedings if one state brings a case against another. Jurisdiction of the Court is based on the consent of each UN member state to comply with an ICJ decision in a case to which it is a party. Any judgments reached are binding. If a party fails to perform its obligations under an ICJ decision, the other party may seek recourse in the Security Council.

State parties to the Court’s statute may declare their recognition of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court for a wide range of international disputes. The U.S. accepted the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction in 1946, but withdrew its acceptance following the Court’s decision in a 1986 case involving activities in Nicaragua. Examples of cases include:

  • a complaint by the U.S. in 1980 that Iran was detaining American diplomats in Tehran in violation of international law;
  • a complaint filed by Iran in 1992 alleging that the United States violated a treaty obligation by attacking three Iranian oil platforms. The U.S. filed a counter-claim with respect to Iranian attacks on U.S. shipping interests in the Persian Gulf;
  • a dispute over the course of the maritime boundary dividing the U.S. and Canada in the Gulf of Maine area, filed in 1981, judgment in 1984; and
  • a complaint filed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) in 1999 against Rwanda alleging violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed on DROC territory.

Secretariat – New York

The Secretariat is composed of international civil servants who carry out the daily tasks of the United Nations. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by UN bodies for their meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies. The 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 is obligated to respect the international character of the Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff.

Under the UN Charter, the chief administrative officer of the UN and the head of the Secretariat is the Secretary-General of the United Nations, appointed to a five-year term by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. Kofi Annan, the first Secretary-General from sub-Saharan Africa, began his first term on January 1, 1997. He was reappointed to a second term beginning January 1, 2002.

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. 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. In 1997, the General Assembly established a position of Deputy Secretary-General. Since 1998, Louise Frechette of Canada has held this position. Other senior UN officials, such as the Under-Secretaries-General for Political Affairs and Peacekeeping, also advise the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General also appoints Special Representatives and Envoys to mediate conflict in the world’s trouble spots.

THE UN FAMILY

In addition to the principal UN organs, the UN family includes over 60 programs or specialized agencies, often headquartered in one of the UN offices around the world. Some agencies existed prior to UN creation and are related to it by agreement. Others were established by the General Assembly. Each provides expertise in a specific area. Some of those programs and agencies (with the location of their headquarters) are described below.

A diagram of the entire UN system can be found at http://www.un.org/aboutun/chart. A map showing principal UN offices around the world can be found at http://www.un.org/aroundworld/map/.

Funds and Programs

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). New York City. UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. Its programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.

UN Development Program (UNDP). New York City. UNDP is the largest multilateral source of grant technical assistance in the world. Voluntarily funded, it provides expert advice, training, and limited equipment to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the poorest countries. It focuses on six areas of assistance: democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and the environment, information technology, and HIV/AIDS.

UN Environment Program (UNEP). Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP coordinates UN environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies. UNEP has developed guidelines and treaties on issues such as the international transport of potentially harmful chemicals, transboundary air pollution, and the contamination of international waterways.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Geneva, Switzerland. UNHCR protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the UN and assists in their return or resettlement. UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1982.

World Food Program (WFP).

Rome, Italy. The WFP distributes food commodities to long-term refugees and displaced persons, and provides emergency food assistance during natural and man-made disasters. In 2004, the WFP fed 113 million people in 80 countries, including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people.

Specialized Agencies

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Rome, Italy. FAO programs seek to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living; to improve agricultural productivity, to promote rural development; and, by these means, to provide access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Montreal, Canada. ICAO develops the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.

The ICAO Council adopts standards and makes recommendations concerning air navigation, the prevention of unlawful interference, and the facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation.

International Labor Organization (ILO). Geneva, Switzerland. The ILO seeks to strengthen worker rights, improve working and living conditions, create employment, and provide information and training opportunities. ILO programs include the occupational safety and health hazard alert system and the labor standards and human rights programs.

International Maritime Organization (IMO). London, England. The IMO’s main objective is to facilitate cooperation among governments on technical matters affecting international shipping to achieve the highest possible degree of maritime safety and navigational efficiency. It also attempts to improve the marine environment through the prevention of pollution caused by ships and other craft and deals with legal matters connected with international shipping.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Geneva, Switzerland. The ITU brings together governments to coordinate the establishment and operation of global communication networks and services, including telegraph, telephone, radio communications, Internet, and the information society. It fosters cooperation and partnership among its members and offers technical assistance in this area.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Paris, France. UNESCO’s purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting cooperation among nations through education, science, culture, and communication to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, sex, language, or religion.

Universal Postal Union (UPU). Bern, Switzerland. The UPU attempts to secure the organization and improvement of the postal services, to promote international collaboration, and provide technical assistance in this area. The member countries constitute a single postal territory.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of WIPO is to promote international cooperation in the field of intellectual property rights. It works in the areas of both industrial and literary-artistic property.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Geneva, Switzerland. WMO coordinates global scientific activity to allow increasingly prompt and accurate weather prediction and other services for public, private, and commercial use.

World Health Organization (WHO). Geneva, Switzerland. WHO acts as a coordinating authority on pressing global public health issues. WHO’s objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment of all peoples of the highest possible level of health.

Other Related Bodies

World Bank. Washington, DC. The World Bank is one of the world’s main sources of development assistance. It focuses on the poorest people in the poorest countries.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Vienna, Austria. The role of IAEA is to promote the contribution of atomic energy for peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world and to enhance the safety and security of radioactive materials and nuclear facilities worldwide. It has the responsibility of creating and implementing the safeguard provisions of various nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear free zone treaties.

International Monetary Fund (IMF). Washington, DC. The purposes of the IMF are to promote international monetary cooperation through consultation and collaboration, to promote exchange stability and orderly exchange arrangements, and to assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments and the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions.

REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS

The United Nations is currently engaged in one of the most important debates in its history: how to reform itself, strengthen itself as an institution, and ensure that it addresses effectively the threats and challenges of the 21st century. The United States is leading the effort to strengthen and reform the UN. Priorities for the U.S. are:

Budget, Management, and Administrative Reform: The U.S. seeks to ensure the highest standards of integrity and promote efficiency within the UN system, so that member states receive the greatest benefit from resources invested in the institution. Meaningful institutional reform must include measures to improve internal oversight and accountability, to identify cost savings, and to allocate resources to high priority programs and offices.

Peace Building Commission: The U.S. strongly supports the Secretary-General’s idea of a Peace Building Commission that would allow the UN to be more effective in galvanizing the work of the international community to help countries after the fighting has stopped. Such a Commission would play an important role in helping countries in post-conflict situations. It could provide reconstruction and humanitarian support and set the stage for long-term development.

Human Rights Council: The U.S. supports the Secretary-General’s initiative to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a smaller, action-oriented Human Rights Council, whose membership should not include states with a record of abuse. The problems with the current Commission, where human-rights abusers sit in judgment of democratic countries, are well known. The Council’s mandate would be to address the most egregious human rights abuses, provide technical assistance, and promote human rights as a global priority.

Democracy Initiatives and the UN Democracy Fund: President Bush in his September 2004 UN General Assembly speech put this proposal on the table, as democracy promotion is one of our core aims. The goal is to create a mechanism for supporting new and emerging democracies, providing assistance that would help develop civil society and democratic institutions.

Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism: The U.S. strongly supports the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism (CCIT), a subject of longstanding debate. This would be an important symbolic achievement in the UN’s global effort to counter terrorism.

Development: The United States plays a leading, active, and positive role in development. The U.S. has a commitment to building healthy institutions and strong economies, through trade, foreign investment, and aid. As agreed in the Monterrey Consensus, the focus should be on supporting good governance and sound economic policies.

UN SECRETARIES GENERAL

Trygve Lie (Norway)—Feb. 1, 1946-April 10, 1953

Dag Hammarskjold (Sweden)—April 10, 1953-Sept. 8, 1961

U Thant (Burma)—Nov. 3, 1961-Dec. 31, 1971 (initially appointed acting Secretary General; formally appointed Nov. 30, 1962)

Kurt Waldheim (Austria)—Jan. 1, 1972-Dec. 31, 1981

Javier Perez de Cuellar (Peru)—Jan. 1, 1982-Dec. 31, 1991

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt)—Jan. 1, 1992-Dec. 31, 1996

Kofi Annan (Ghana)—Jan. 1, 1997-present

U.S. REPRESENTATION

The U.S. Permanent Mission to the UN in New York is headed by the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Ambassador John R. Bolton has served in that position since August 1, 2005. The mission acts as the channel of communication for the U.S. Government with the UN organs, agencies, and commissions at the UN headquarters and with the other permanent missions accredited to the UN and the non-member observer missions. The U.S. mission has a professional staff made up largely of career Foreign Service officers, including specialists in political, economic, social, financial, legal, and military issues.

The United States also maintains missions to international organizations in Geneva, Rome, Vienna, Nairobi, Montreal, and Paris. These missions report to the Department of State and receive guidance on questions of policy from the President, through the Secretary of State. The Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs coordinates relations with the UN and its family of agencies.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations is located at 140 East 45th Street, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-415-4000). More information about the U.S. Mission to the UN is available on the mission’s website at www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov.

U.S. Representatives to the United Nations

Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.—March 1946-June 1946

Herschel V. Johnson (acting)—June 1946-January 1947

Warren R. Austin—Jan. 1947-Jan.

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.—Jan. 1953-Sept. 1960

James J. Wadsworth—Sept. 1960-Jan. 1961

Adlai E. Stevenson—Jan. 1961-July 1965

Arthur J. Goldberg—July 1965-June 1968

George W. Ball—June 1968-Sept. 1968

James Russell Wiggins—Oct. 1968-Jan. 1969

Charles W. Yost—Jan. 1969-Feb. 1971

George Bush—Feb. 1971-Jan. 1973

John P. Scali—Feb. 1973-June 1975

Daniel P. Moynihan—June 1975-Feb. 1976

William W. Scranton—March 1976-Jan. 1977

Andrew Young—Jan. 1977-April 1979

Donald McHenry—April 1979-Jan. 1981

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick—Feb. 1981-April 1985

Vernon Walters—May 1985-Jan. 1989

Thomas R. Pickering—March 1989-May 1992

Edward J. Perkins—May 1992-Jan. 1993

Madeleine K. Albright—Feb. 1993-Jan. 1997

Bill Richardson—Feb. 1997-Sept 1998

A. Peter Burleigh (acting)—Sept 1998-Aug 1999

Richard Holbrooke—Aug. 1999-Jan. 2001.

James B. Cunningham (acting)—Feb. 2001-Sept. 2001

John Negroponte—Sept. 2001-June 2004.

John C. Danforth—June 2004–Jan. 2005

Anne W. Patterson (acting) Jan.–Aug. 2005

John R. Bolton—August 2005– present

U.S. POLICY IN THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

September 21, 2006

The United States looks to work with the United Nations, particularly with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to address the varied challenges facing the international community.

Ending the Genocide in Sudan

As a result of the conflict in Darfur, which the United States has called a genocide, thousands of people have been killed, nearly 2 million internally displaced, and over 200,000 made refugees in Chad. With the African Union and other international partners, the United States led the way in achieving the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), signed on May 5, 2006, between the largest rebel group and the Sudanese government. The UN Security Council issued a Presidential Statement on May 9, supporting the implementation of the DPA, and two UN Security Council Resolutions, 1679 and 1706. The latter resolution called for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Darfur. The United States is working intensively with other Security Council members to ensure that the transition of the African Union forces to a UN-led operation will take place as soon as possible.

Nonproliferation and Iran

Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons represents a threat to the entire international community. In defiance of repeated calls from the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranian regime is continuing its nuclear program. The United States, with its international partners, will continue to make every effort to achieve a successful diplomatic outcome, but there must be consequences, such as Security Council sanctions, for Iran’s continued defiance.

A Lasting Peace in Lebanon

The United States worked with the other members of the Security Council to establish conditions for a lasting peace in Lebanon. The enhancement of the UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon will help the democratic Lebanese government to regain control over its territory. It also will help to provide the conditions for the full implementation of Resolution 1559, which calls for the end of foreign interference in Lebanese internal affairs and for the disbanding and disarming of militias in Lebanon.

Nonproliferation and North Korea

In response to North Korea’s launch of several ballistic missiles on July 5, 2006, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1695. The United States participated in and fully supported the Japanese-led efforts in making this resolution possible. In concert with its regional partners, the United States has urged the North Koreans to return without delay to the six-party talks for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. This would allow North Korea to gain economic assistance and security, and to integrate itself into the region.

Burma

In adding the issue of Burma to the UN Security Council’s permanent agenda on September 15, 2006, UNSC members recognized the grave threat to regional stability posed by the Burmese military junta. The unconscionable human rights abuses visited by the junta upon its own people, nearly a million of whom have been internally displaced or turned into international refugees, are already destabilizing the region. In addition, the government has failed to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Burma and has turned a blind eye to the flourishing trafficking in human beings and narcotics. The international community must act now to stop Burma’s abuse of its own people and its endangerment of peace in the region.

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United Nations

United Nations

Type of Government

The United Nations (UN) is the world’s primary agency for the promotion of peace, global development, and international cooperation. A voluntary association of 191 nations, the UN is not itself a government; it does not make laws but coordinates the joint efforts of its members, providing assistance as needed in the development or implementation of policy.

Background

The increasing ease of travel and communication in the nineteenth century encouraged the development of organizations to promote international cooperation. Most of these were formed for specific, ad hoc purposes; the goal of the Universal Postal Union (established in 1874 and now part of the UN), for example, was the facilitation of international mail delivery. Wars around the world further necessitated cooperation among nations, as the enormous casualties of the American Civil War (1861–1865), the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), and other conflicts soon prompted the growth of international movements with more ambitious goals: the establishment of conventions defining acceptable wartime behavior and the development of effective means for the peaceful resolution of conflict. In 1864, for example, a conference of European powers drafted the first of the so-called Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of civilians and enemy soldiers in time of war. Several decades later a conference in the Dutch city of The Hague led to the founding in 1899 of a Permanent Court of Arbitration for the settlement of international disputes. Despite the success of these and subsequent conferences, there was as yet little interest in the establishment of a permanent association of nations.

The devastation of the World War I (1914–1918), however, sparked a dramatic shift in public opinion. In a series of speeches, widely esteemed U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) urged the creation of a permanent body for the nonviolent resolution of international conflict. The result was the League of Nations, established by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. A covenant attached to the treaty laid out the means by which the League aimed to reduce the frequency and impact of armed conflict; these included the arbitration of disputes, multilateral arms reduction agreements, and joint action by League members against aggressor nations. Its structure foreshadowed many of the most familiar features of the UN, including a general assembly of all members and an executive council with both permanent and rotating members. Despite the hopeful, enthusiastic atmosphere of its founding, the League faced serious obstacles from the outset. Its legitimacy and credibility were severely damaged by the refusal of several powerful nations, notably the United States, to participate. The greatest obstacle, however, may have been its association with Versailles, a treaty widely viewed in Germany and elsewhere as a vindictive and unfair demonstration of power by the victors of World War I. Versailles thus deprived the League of the neutrality required for the successful mediation of disputes. The final blow to its credibility was its failure to stop or even delay the growing aggression of German dictator Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) in the 1930s. Nearing the end of World War II in the 1940s, the League had ceased to function altogether.

The need for a permanent assembly of nations remained, however, and in August 1944 representatives from four of the major Allied powers—the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and the Soviet Union—met at Dumbarton Oaks, in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., to draft possible charters for a stronger, more credible organization, one that focused on the basic needs of the world’s growing population as well as on the increasingly complex geopolitical situation. At a subsequent meeting in June 1945 in San Francisco, the representatives of fifty nations finalized and signed the charter of an organization to be known as the United Nations. Poland, whose post–World War II government was not established in time for the San Francisco meeting, signed the charter later that summer, thus bringing the number of founding members to fifty-one. The UN officially began work on October 24, 1945, following the charter’s ratification by a majority of members.

Government Structure

The UN’s membership has grown enormously since its founding, in part because of the number of former colonies that became sovereign, independent nations in the decades following World War II. As of 2007, there were 191 members, a total that represents nearly every nation in the world. The organization’s basic structure, however, has not changed dramatically. At its heart remains the all-member General Assembly (GA), which meets at UN headquarters in New York City. GA sessions usually begin in September and end in December, though special sessions can be called if circumstances warrant. Each member has a single vote, a policy designed to neutralize the often enormous disparities in power that color most intergovernmental relations. Theoretically, at least, the tiny Pacific nation of Palau wields as much influence in the GA as the United States or China. Whether this remains true in practice is the subject of some debate. Topics under discussion vary widely from session to session; in recent years the GA has discussed the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan, the consequences of global climate change, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The last of these has been a staple of meetings since 1945. Though votes on most matters are decided by simple majority, certain topics, notably budget questions, require a two-thirds majority. Votes on international matters (as opposed to internal UN business) are nonbinding, but they provide policy makers with a clear sense of international opinion.

More prominent than the General Assembly is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the UN’s principal mechanism for the preservation of peace. Five of the UNSC’s fifteen members hold permanent seats: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the Russian Federation (formerly the Soviet Union). The other ten members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. This mixture of permanent and rotating members, a legacy of the League of Nations’ executive council, is intended to balance the interests of the world’s most powerful nations against the right of smaller members to have a voice in Security Council deliberations. The Security Council meets in New York whenever events demand it, or at a member’s request. Measures need nine of fifteen votes to pass, though each of the five permanent members holds veto power. The UN’s founding charter requires all members to adhere to Security Council decisions, often known as resolutions. In practice, however, enforcing resolutions can be difficult, and several from decades past remain unfulfilled. One of the most famous of these is UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 242, passed in November 1967 at the end of the so-called Six Day War between Israel and an alliance of Arab armies. The resolution mandated Israel’s withdrawal from territories it had seized during the war and the recognition by all parties that both Israelis and Palestinians had the right to live within safe, secure, and internationally recognized boundaries. “Two Four Two,” as it is often known, was intended to be the foundation for negotiations aimed at a lasting peace. Despite occasional progress, however, the regional situation remains much the same forty years later.

Unlike the League of Nations, however, the UNSC does have some ability to enforce its decisions. The question of when and where to exercise this ability is probably the Security Council’s single greatest preoccupation. The most common enforcement method involves a range of economic sanctions, some relatively minor and some quite severe. By restricting trade with a noncompliant state, the Security Council tries to persuade, or force, the state’s leaders to obey. In 2001, for example, UNSCR 1,343 barred all member nations from receiving exports of diamonds from the African nation of Liberia, then engulfed in a civil war largely funded by diamond sales. This resolution is widely credited with speeding the end of the war and restoring a stable, democratically elected government, and the sanctions it imposed were removed in 2007.

If sanctions fail, the UNSC is authorized under the terms of the charter to consider the use of joint military force. In practice, however, nearly all of the military forces dispatched by the UN have been peacekeepers, whose use of arms is strictly limited. Peacekeepers monitor ceasefires, patrol disputed borders, establish demilitarized zones and safe havens for civilians, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. Since its founding, the UN has dispatched peacekeeping forces more than sixty times. One of the earliest operations, on the disputed border between India and Pakistan, began in 1949 and is still in place.

Though the Security Council and, to a lesser extent, the General Assembly are the most visible units of the UN, they are only two of the organization’s six divisions. The other four are the Secretariat, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, and the International Court of Justice. The last of these is located in The Hague; the other five are based in New York. The Secretariat handles most administrative and logistical matters. At its head is the secretary general, who is elected by the General Assembly after a recommendation from the Security Council. By exercising its veto, any of the five permanent members of the Security Council can exclude a candidate from further consideration. The term of office is five years, with no limit to the number of terms. Typically, UN secretaries have spent much of their time on personal diplomatic missions, meeting with heads of state and making media appearances to raise awareness of current issues. Ban Ki-moon (1944–) of South Korea succeeded Ghana’s Kofi Annan (1938–) as secretary general on January 1, 2007.

The Economic and Social Council (ESC) is essentially a subcommittee of the General Assembly, which elects fifty-four of its own members to the smaller body for three-year terms. The ESC acts as a clearinghouse for the research and policy recommendations of various UN offices (including the UN Environment Programme, the UN Development Programme, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime), summarizing and disseminating this information to the General Assembly and the public. The ESC meets year-round, in addition to holding a special month-long series of high-profile discussions every summer.

The Trusteeship Council, the fifth of the UN’s six divisions, is effectively defunct. Its mission—to protect the interests of eleven so-called Trust Territories as they prepared for autonomy or independence—came to an end when the last remaining territory became the independent nation of Palau in 1994. Established in 1945 in accordance with the UN charter, the Trusteeship Council provided oversight only for territories that met one of the three following conditions: ruled by a foreign power under a mandate from the League of Nations; detached from Germany, Japan, or their allies as a result of the war; or placed under UN trusteeship voluntarily by the ruling power. Technically, the Council is still in existence, with the five permanent members of the Security Council as its members, but it is unlikely to be called back to work.

The last division of the UN is the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Also known as the World Court, it is not to be confused with the International Criminal Court (ICC), also located in The Hague. The ICJ handles disputes between governments, while the ICC is concerned with the prosecution of individuals charged with grievous offenses, chiefly war crimes, and is independent of the UN. The fifteen judges of the ICJ are elected by majority votes in the General Assembly and Security Council. No two judges may be citizens of the same country. Each serves a repeatable term of nine years, and elections are staggered, with five seats open every three years. The court can hear cases only with the consent of both parties, and that consent can be withdrawn at any time before the verdict. Once the verdict has been read, however, both parties must obey it. Unanimous decisions are uncommon; as in the U.S. Supreme Court, judges who disagree with the majority of their colleagues may file dissenting opinions. The majority’s decision stands, however, and there is no appeal.

The six divisions, large as they are, represent only part of the UN’s global reach—a vast array of affiliated organizations exists outside the central framework. The closeness of their affiliations varies widely. Some, like the Universal Postal Union, are formerly independent organizations that have been incorporated into the UN, though they may retain some autonomy in policy or administration. Many others, notably humanitarian groups and other nongovernmental organizations, simply have a close working relationship with UN staff. Finally, there are more than thirty specialized agencies, founded by the UN but independent of it. These include the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Food Programme (WFP); the latter agency feeds roughly ninety million people per year.

Political Parties and Factions

For the first forty-five years of the UN’s existence, the principal division between members was the split between the Communist bloc, led by the Soviet Union, and the non-Communist, or Western, bloc, led by the United States. The enmity between these rivals tended to overshadow other rivalries based on religion, geography, or economic development. These latter, long latent divisions, however, have grown more prominent with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. One of these divisions is the split between highly conservative Islamic states like Iran and more secular ones like Jordan. Another split, which is very real but often oversimplified, divides the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds, while a third divides the generally underdeveloped Southern Hemisphere from the wealthier Northern Hemisphere.

Amid this growing fragmentation, several nations have formed influential alliances. The most significant of these ties are probably those linking the United States with Israel. The relationship between these two nations is a complex one; within the context of the Security Council, the United States tends to act as Israel’s protector, often exercising its veto to prevent the passage of resolutions that criticize Israeli policy. Another influential bond links the United States to the United Kingdom. Though strong for decades, this relationship grew even closer with the support from U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair (1953–) of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The fact that both the United States and the United Kingdom have permanent seats on the Security Council is seen as unfair by several members opposed to the war in Iraq. Internal frustrations and disagreements are inevitable in an organization as enormous and diverse as the UN. These disagreements must be addressed, and the UN is constantly reevaluating its policies, organizational structure, and procedures in light of that necessity.

Major Events

On August 19, 2003, a truck bomb exploded outside Baghdad’s Canal Hotel, headquarters of the UN mission to Iraq. Twenty-two people, most of whom were UN staff, died, and more than 150 people were injured; among the dead was then Secretary General Annan’s special representative in the war-torn nation. Annan withdrew all staff pending the findings of an independent panel he commissioned to study security procedures. The panel’s report, released in October 2003, found a general disregard of security protocols and poor management of security forces. After reforms, a smaller mission returned to Iraq the following year. Meanwhile, a terrorist organization associated with Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (1966–2006) claimed responsibility for the attack, denouncing the UN as “the friends of the oppressors and aggressors.” The incident illustrated both the UN’s vulnerability and its willingness to acknowledge its own mistakes.

Twenty-First Century

The changing nature of conflict poses a major challenge to the UN in the twenty-first century. The UN exemplifies the diplomatic tradition of peaceful negotiation between established, sovereign states. Many of the world’s conflicts, however, are no longer amenable to that tradition. The East African nation of Somalia, for example, has lacked an effective central government since 1993. The nominal government has very little power, and many regions of the country are essentially lawless, dominated only by a constantly shifting group of warlords, terrorists, and common criminals. Traditional diplomacy does not work in Somalia, for the simple reason that there is no government with which to negotiate. New methods of handling violent, anarchic situations are desperately needed. If the past is any indication, the burden of developing and using those methods will fall on the United Nations.

Kennedy, Paul M. The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations . New York: Random House, 2006.

Smith, Courtney B. Politics and Process at the United Nations: The Global Dance . Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2006.

United Nations. “About the United Nations: Introduction to the Structure & Work of the UN.” (accessed June 10, 2007).

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United Nations

United Nations

At the founding conference of the United Nations, which was held in San Francisco in 1945, the Latin American states had two primary concerns: protecting their sovereignty as small powers and protecting the autonomy of their regional system, the Inter-American System. Since 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy had facilitated the peaceful settlement of disputes in Latin America through its principle of nonintervention. After World War II, the Latin American states sought to ensure their continued autonomy in regional affairs by taking an active role from the outset in the formation and operation of the new world body that became the United Nations.

Proposals for the creation of the United Nations were first discussed at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington, D.C., in 1944. The Latin American states had resented their exclusion from this conference and distrusted the five major powers meeting there, who were known to favor the primacy of the international organization over regional bodies. Seeking to work out a united front for protecting their interests at the upcoming San Francisco Conference, representatives of the Latin American states met at the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace in Mexico City in February-March 1945. The resultant Act of Chapultepec put forward a Latin American pro-regional consensus in its provision calling for collective action against aggressors.

At the San Francisco Conference, from April through June 1945, the twenty Latin American states, which constituted two-fifths of the fifty-one attending states, did indeed attain their objective of preserving the autonomy of their regional system. A prime mover in their success was Colombian foreign minister Alberto Lleras Camargo, who chaired the relevant subcommittee. Another important subcommittee member was Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the author of the Vandenberg Amendment, an important provision for Latin America. It became UN Charter article 51, which provided for the "inherent right of individual or collective self-defense" of states. Of special importance to Latin America was chapter 8 of the UN Charter, particularly article 52.1, which states that "nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action," and article 53.1, providing that a regional "enforcement action" required "the authorization" of the Security Council.

The unity and influence of the Latin American bloc at the San Francisco Conference worked in Latin America's favor with regard to representation in the UN. Two seats were assigned to Latin America among the six nonpermanent seats in the Security Council (the Big Five—England, France, China, the Soviet Union, and the United States—had permanent seats and the veto) and among the fifteen judges of the main judicial body of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), originally an eighteen-member body, had four seats designated for Latin America. Subsequent enlargements of the council resulted in increases for Latin America: in 1973, when membership reached fifty-four, the region garnered ten seats. The first Latin American UN secretary-general, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru, was selected over three decades after the founding of the organization and served from 1982 to 1991.

During the cold war, the primacy of the Organization of American States (OAS) over the United Nations (via article 52 of the UN Charter) in regional disputes well served the security interests of the United States, which converted the OAS into an anti-Communist alliance against Cuba and the Dominican Republic. When the United States intervened militarily in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and won ex post facto OAS approval of an inter-American peace force to be sent there, some Latin American states turned to the United Nations, seeking its involvement to counter the United States. This event was significant in establishing the legitimacy of the United Nations, in the view of Latin America, as a neutral arbiter in regional disputes.

One of the more important manifestations of the UN's role in Latin America has been the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). First established in 1948 as the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA, or CEPAL in Spanish), the commission changed its name to include the Caribbean in 1984. It is headquartered in Santiago, Chile. Since the 1950s the ECLAC, a subsidiary of the ECOSOC and one of five UN regional economic commissions, has addressed key issues in the socioeconomic development of the region. The organization's first director, the Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch, mapped Latin America's economic problems in his book The Economic Development of Latin America and Its Principle Problems, which was published in 1950 by the UN's Department of Economic Affairs. Along with the German economist Hans Singer, Prebisch theorized that the region's place in the world economy as an exporter of raw materials, or primary products, was the determining factor of underdevelopment. Thus, the ECLA promoted industrialization and protectionism (import-substitution industrialization, or ISI) during the 1950s. The commission encouraged industrial growth during the 1960s; addressed issues of export diversification in the 1970s; grappled with the debt crises of the 1980s; and addressed issues of socioeconomic equity during the 1990s, when neoliberalism was paradigmatic. With the rise of numerous populist, center-left governments in Latin America since the turn of the twenty-first century, there is talk of a new wave of developmentalist economics, or cepalismo, in the region.

In the mid-1960s, the Latin American states joined other UN developing states in forming a caucusing group to bargain more effectively with the developed states on economic issues. The Group of 77 (G-77), referring to the number of developing states in the UN at the time, presented a united front before the first meeting of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD I), in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1964. UNCTAD became a permanent organ of the UN General Assembly. In 1974 the G-77 states were successful in passing a General Assembly resolution calling for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) to replace the existing system, which these states believed was dominated by the Western capitalist and former colonial powers. In late 1974 another resolution provided for the Economic Charter on the Rights and Duties of States (CERDS), first proposed by Mexican President Luis Echeverría in 1972.

In April 1982 Argentina attempted to reclaim the Falkland Islands, which the British had controlled since 1833. At the outset of the conflict, most Latin American states were critical of Argentina for violating the nonintervention principle and supported the efforts of the United States, which announced its neutrality, to settle the dispute by serving as a mediator. However, when the United States sided with England, its NATO ally, and maintained that the United Nations, not the OAS, was the proper forum for resolution of the dispute, the Latin American states turned against the United States and supported Argentina in the OAS.

In the 1980s, a major struggle developed between the United States and the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, which came to power after a Sandinista-led popular insurrection overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in July 1979. The United States resorted to intervention, first covert and then overt, by aiding the Contras, Nicaraguan exiles operating out of neighboring Honduras. Fearing United States military intervention, four Latin American states—Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela—formed the Contadora Group, which became the Contadora Process, an effort to negotiate a settlement. (The states involved in the process expanded to include Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay in 1985; the Rio Group in 1987 included the eight states' foreign ministers in addition to the secretaries-general of the OAS and the UN.) In 1984 Nicaragua brought a case against the United States before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing it of intervention. In 1986 the ICJ handed down a decision against the United States.

After negotiating a Central American accord, the Central American presidents requested that the UN oversee the accord's implementation. In 1989 the UN Security Council approved the creation of the UN Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA), which, jointly with an OAS body, disarmed the contras and escorted them from Honduras into Nicaragua. At the request of the Nicaraguan government, the UN created the UN Observer Group for the Verification of Elections in Nicaragua (ONUVEN) to oversee the March 1990 elections. In 1990 the UN Security Council approved the creation of the UN Observer Group for El Salvador (ONUSAL), which negotiated a settlement in the civil war in December 1991. The UN also negotiated a settlement in Guatemala between the government and a guerrilla movement in June 1994.

The role of the UN in Latin America with regard to peacemaking and peacekeeping is significant in that it marks a willingness on the part of the Latin American community to risk its autonomy in regional affairs in favor of international monitoring. Although ONUCA acted jointly with the OAS, ONUSAL acted alone, as did the group that achieved settlement in Guatemala in 1994. Since the 1980s, the UN has also institutionalized its election-observer role in Latin America, one that the region has welcomed. Moreover, Latin American states have been active in UN peacekeeping missions around the world since 1948. Since the late 1990s Latin Americans have been involved in peacekeeping in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, East Timor, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and Sudan, not to mention UN and OAS peacekeeping missions within Latin America, including ongoing peacekeeping operations in Haiti.

In 2003, as the United States and Britain sought a UN Security Council resolution in favor of military action against Iraq, Chile and Mexico drew international attention for their efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution. Chile, on the verge of finalizing a free-trade pact with the United States at the time, was subjected to rather intense diplomatic pressure by the U.S. State Department. The United States ultimately withdrew the resolution before a final vote, abandoning its efforts in light of opposition from permanent members Russia and China.

Since the UN's founding in the wake of world war, its Latin American member states have maintained a strong presence in all areas of the international institution's operation. As economic globalization and regional and global crises unfold over the next decades, Latin American governments will undoubtedly continue to do so.

See alsoEconomic Development; Falklands/Malvinas War; Nicaragua, Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN); United States-Latin American Relations.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

John A. Houston, Latin America in the United Nations (1956), chaps. 1 and 2.

J. Lloyd Mecham, The United States and Inter-American Security, 1889–1960 (1961), chaps. 9, 10, and 14.

Charles G. Fenwick, The Organization of American States: The Inter-American Regional System (1963), chap. 12.

Samuel G. Inman, Inter-American Conferences, 1826–1954: History and Problems (1965), chap. 15.

Harold E. Davis and Larman C. Wilson, Latin American Foreign Policies: An Analysis (1975), chap. 3.

G. Pope Atkins, Latin America in the International Political System, 2d rev. ed. (1989), chaps. 8 and 9.

Jack Child, The Central American Peace Process, 1983–1991: Sheathing Swords, Building Confidence (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Santa Cruz, Hernán. "The Creation of the United Nations and ECLAC." CEPAL Review 57 (December 1995): 17-33.

United Nations, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Cincuenta años de pensamiento en la CEPAL: Textos seleccionados. Santiago, Chile: CEPAL, 1998.

United Nations, Secretary General. Cooperación entre las Naciones Unidas y la Organización de los Estados Americanos. New York: United Nations General Assembly, 1996.

                                     Larman C. Wilson

                                    Patrick Barr-Melej

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS

The United Nations, headquartered in New York City, is an international organization established to preserve world peace and security and to develop friendly relations among all peoples. It was created in the aftermath of the Second World War and officially came into existence on October 24, 1945.

At the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson was instrumental in convincing the victorious Allied powers to establish a League of Nations. Despite Wilson's pivotal role, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify American membership in the League. Both within the Senate and among the general public there were significant fears concerning the League's charter limiting national sovereignty and congressional authority to make war, although a few U.S. leaders continued to embrace the idea of an international organization aimed at keeping peace. The failure of the United States to join played an important role in the League's inability to meet the growing threats posed by Nazi Germany's and Japan's aggression in the 1930s. Although the League of Nations continued to exist during the Second World War, it was a doomed body and it formally dissolved itself in 1946.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized American support for entering the Second World War and dealt a crippling blow to isolationism. In contrast to the view that had prevailed after the First World War, a consensus developed within the United States regarding the need to establish and join an international organization to maintain collective security. The term "United Nations" was proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the formal name for the anti-Nazi alliance. On January 1, 1942, the United States was one of twenty-six states to sign the Declaration of the United Nations. Unlike Wilson, FDR supported an organization structured to stress the primacy of the major powers in maintaining international stability.

Within the State Department, planning for the United Nations began in earnest in 1942 and Roosevelt, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, and British prime minister Winston Churchill agreed at the Tehran Conference (November 1943) on the general outlines for this new world body. At the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington, D.C. (August–October, 1944), diplomats from China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States established the basic outlines of the organization, designating the Security Council as the principal body to preserve peace and security. This council would

be dominated by the Big Four: the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China. A general assembly would include representatives from all member states. Ultimately, at the USSR's insistence, the major powers would have absolute veto power over Security Council resolutions.

The formal drafting of the UN Charter took place in San Francisco in 1945. In its final form, the United Nations Security Council consisted of five permanent members with veto power (France joined the Big Four) and six (later raised to ten) other nations elected for two-year terms. The General Assembly represented the interests of all nations and a smaller Economic and Social Council promoted international cooperation in these areas. The Charter also established a Secretariat and since the organization's founding, several Secretary Generals have been significant figures on the world stage. An International Court of Justice was established and headquartered in the Hague.

Ratification of the United Nations charter, in contrast to that of the League of Nations, sailed through the U.S. Senate. In the early years of the UN, the United States often dominated the body, especially in the General Assembly. The Cold War seriously hampered the ability of the UN to preserve international peace and the Soviet veto on resolutions of the Security Council often paralyzed this body. Nonetheless, the UN did endorse collective action in 1950 to repel the North Korean invasion of South Korea. Beginning in 1956 the United Nations created international "peacekeeping" forces contributed by member states to patrol the cease-fire line between Egypt and Israel. Despite Soviet-U.S. competition, the UN was successful in mediating several regional conflicts, often deploying UN peacekeepers, especially to the Middle East.

The end of the Cold War in 1991 appeared to invigorate the UN and strengthen its ability to preserve international peace and stability. In 1990–1991, the United States and a broad alliance took military action under a Security Council mandate to intervene in Kuwait and expelled the invading Iraqi forces. But in 2003, the UN failed to sanction the Anglo-American war against Iraq. Although its record has been uneven in the area of peace and war, the UN has played an important role in encouraging economic and social development through the Economic and Social Council as well as through specialized agencies, most notably the World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children's Fund. For instance, the World Health Organization coordinated a major campaign in the 1970s to totally eliminate polio.

Born of a wartime alliance between the Great Powers in World War II, but also reflecting a genuine desire by the American people to build a better world free of war, American support for the UN has waxed and waned. In more than one instance, especially in the early 1980s and in 2002, the UN was written off as ineffective. Despite these periods of disillusionment, the United States has often seen the United Nations as a valuable institution for advancing American national interests.

bibliography

Hoopes, Townsend and Brinkley, Douglas. FDR and the Creation of the U.N. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Meisler, Stanley. United Nations: The First Fifty Years. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995.

Scott, George. The Rise and Fall of the League of Nations. New York: Macmillan, 1974.

Internet Resources

"Milestones in United Nations History." United Nations Department of Public Information. Available from <www.un.org/aboutun/milestones.htm>

"United Nations." Wikipedia. Available from <www.worldhistory/wiki/U/United-Nations.htm>

Corinne J. Naden and

Rose Blue

See also:Allies, Images of; Isolationism; Public Opinion; Roosevelt, Eleanor; Roosevelt, Franklin Delano; Wilson, Woodrow.

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United Nations

United Nations

The United Nations was created during and in the wake of World War II, which was a global cataclysm that brought death to millions of civilians. Most of those civilians were primary targets, and often not even enemy targets. The genocide of the Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and others by Nazi Germany, and the brutal repression and discrimination that preceded it, lent weight to the argument that peace and justice were inseparable, the other side of the coin from war and oppression. As stated in September 1944 by the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, an influential United States nongovernmental organization: "it has become clear that a regime of violence and repression within any nation of the civilized world is a matter of concern for all the rest."

Human Rights in the Charter of the United Nations

On August 14, 1941, the Atlantic Charter was agreed to by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt and U.K. prime minister Winston S. Churchill, along with forty-seven other nations. These charter signatories envisaged a world that would enjoy "freedom from want and fear." Some five months later, the Declaration of the United Nations of January 1, 1942, advocated complete victory over the enemies of the Allied powers, declaring that this was "essential to defend life, liberty, independence, and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice in their own lands as well as in other lands." This declaration was signed by twenty-six nations, which were later joined by twenty-one others.

The eloquent language of the documents to which these nations had pledged themselves doubtless played an important role in mobilizing the Allies' total commitment to victory over the Axis powers, but it was not a guarantee that the values espoused in the document would be seriously embraced in the postwar world. By the time of the second phase of the Dumbarton Oaks Conversations between the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and China (September 29 through October 7, 1944), divisions among these nations were already apparent. The Chinese delegation fought to insert a condemnation of racism into the draft UN Charter and to prevent human rights being given only the most minimal acknowledgment in the text. The United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union were opposed. The Dumbarton Oaks Conversations ultimately yielded proposals that included only one somewhat marginal provision on human rights. In the words of the proposals, the new organization would "facilitate solutions of international economic, social, and other humanitarian problems and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The politics of the Dumbarton Oaks negotiations made it unlikely that any more forceful statement could ever achieve acceptance. The Soviet Union under Stalin was no defender of human rights, Churchill wanted nothing that would threaten Great Britain's colonial empire, and the United States had to cater to its substantial constituencies favoring isolationism and its strict notion of state sovereignty. The United States was also concerned about the human rights implications of legal racial segregation that still held sway in its southern states. The shock and disappointment of less powerful allies, especially Latin American and British Commonwealth states (Canada, Australia and New Zealand), and of American nongovernmental organizations, led to a confrontation on these issues at the San Francisco Conference which ultimately adopted the United Nations Charter. The accumulating evidence of the scope and depravity of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Nazi Germany lent weight to the cause of those states who wished greater attention be paid to human rights issues. In the words of Paul Gordon Lauren,

as more and more details about the shocking extent of the Holocaust began to seep their way out from under the earth of unmarked mass graves in occupied territories, and from under the barbed wire enclosures of the extermination camps into the world, it became nearly impossible to ignore the connection between racial and religious discrimination, especially as revealed by the recent extremes of Nazi philosophy, on the one hand, and genocidal war on the other (Lauren, 1998, p. 183).

As a result of these currents, several references to human rights were inserted into the UN Charter's preamble, and six articles (Articles 1, 13, 55, 62, 68, and 76) were added. Of special note is Article 1, paragraph 3, which includes among the purposes of the United Nations: "To achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion." The establishment of a Commission on human rights was also explicitly envisaged, in Article 68. On the other hand, traditional notions of sovereignty were acknowledged in Article 2, paragraph 7: "Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the UN to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State." Much of the subsequent history of the UN's involvement in the field of human rights has been devoted to resolving the tension between protecting the sovereignty and jurisdictional discretion of individual states and creating an international body that could play a credible role in preventing or punishing human-rights violations.

Studies of Human Rights Topics

The UN's member states put up no real resistance to allowing the UN to sponsor studies of human rights problems in general, as long as they did not involve passing judgment on the behavior of individual states. The UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (now the Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights), a group of individual experts elected by the Commission on Human Rights, has over decades produced many such studies on a variety of topics. These reports are frequently published under the imprimature of the United Nations. Two of the Sub-Commission's studies dealt with the subject of genocide, one by Nicodème Ruhashyankiko (1978), and one by Benjamin Whitaker (1983). Even in the case of these studies, political issues could cause problems. For example, the Ruhashyankiko study was published by the UN, but the Whitaker report was not, because it included as an example of genocide the Turkish massacre of Armenians in the second decade of the twentieth century. This massacre was denied by the Turkish government, which lobbied successfully to block the publication of Whitaker's work.

Human Rights Standard-Setting and Treaties

Another area of UN human-rights activity involved the setting of legal standards and definitions. This endeavor was generally not controversial. The first major text adopted outside of the bodies specifically concerned with human rights issues was the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the UN General Assembly December 9, 1948. This was an instrument that criminalized the type of human rights violation that the Nazi government had committed against millions of its citizens and conquered subjects. On the following day, December 10, 1948, the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although the declaration had only the force of a recommendation, it quickly became the standard of the international human rights movement. It had been drafted by the UN's intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, which had its foundation in UN Charter Article 68.

The Declaration became the first element of an International Bill of Human Rights that would eventually be completed by a series of binding treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which were adopted on December 16, 1966, and came into force in 1976. Specialized treaties have also been adopted on racial discrimination, torture, discrimination against women, children's rights, and migrant workers' rights. In addition, numerous soft-law instruments (that is, documents containing normative standards that may reflect but do not of themselves constitute legally binding texts) have been adopted by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC: an intergovernmental body, described in the Charter as a principal organ of the UN but reporting and effectively subordinate to the General Assembly), and other UN bodies that codify best practice in such fields as the treatment of prisoners. Many of these instruments have been invoked by UN treaty bodies and regional human rights courts, as guidance to the interpretation of rules of international human-rights law.

Monitoring Human Rights Norms by Treaty Bodies

The principal mode of resolving the tension between the UN Charter's human rights clauses and the domestic jurisdiction clause during the first two decades of the organization's existence was to favor domestic jurisdiction, or at least to give preference to a narrow view of what amounted to improper intervention. The UN's human rights bodies adopted a hands-off approach to allegations of human rights violations. These simply could not be discussed, much less become the subject of resolutions that involved making judgments about a state's human rights behavior.

Instead, the UN relied upon so-called treaty bodies, that is, special committees tasked with the responsibility of supervising the extent of states' compliance with the human rights treaties. By definition, states can waive their sovereign rights of immunity from scrutiny if they accepted a treaty obligation explicitly permitting scrutiny. Even then, however, the main form of supervision consists of a review of periodic reports submitted by the states themselves—a system of supervision whose intrusiveness was perceived to be minimal. Five of the treaties now have provisions whereby states may officially accept that the committee in question may consider complaints from individuals within their jurisdiction: the ICCPR, Race Convention, Torture Convention, Women's Convention, and Migrant Workers' Convention. Four of these also provide for the consideration of possible interstate disputes (ICCPR, Race Convention, Torture Convention, and Migrant Workers' Convention), although this faculty has yet to be employed. Two envisage the possibility of the committee studying a practice of violation (Torture Convention, automatically, under Article 20; and Women's Convention, on the basis of its Optional Protocol). The Torture, Women's, and Migrant Workers' Conventions envisage the compulsory adjudication of disputes between states that are party to the treaties. This procedure has not yet been used.

The review of periodic reports proved to be a more effective process than might have been expected. While the states' reports (often self-serving) were the only official basis for such reviews, committee members found that nongovernmental organizations would brief them informally, so that they were in a position to ask probing questions of the delegations. During the cold war, the opposition of the Soviet Union and its allies to any kind of outside judgment of their domestic practices meant that the committees would refrain from formulating conclusions resulting from the review. However, the early 1990s saw a relaxation of this inhibition, with the committees' adopting findings on the extent of state compliance and making recommendations on measures that could address the problems they found. These amounted to judgments, even though they were not formally binding.

The early inability of the committees to make country-specific observations led them to develop statements by way of what was called General Comments. General Comments serve as an authoritative aid to interpretating of the nature and scope of the obligations contained in the treaties, as the normative language is often couched in very general terms. The practice continued even after the country-specific comments began to be produced.

Another basis of guidance to the appropriate interpretation of treaties lies in the consideration of individual cases by the committees entrusted with that function. The most evolved jurisprudence is that of the Human Rights Committee under the ICCPR. Nevertheless, the committees' conclusions on individual cases are not legally binding on the state concerned. Unlike the European and inter-American regions, the broader, global community has not yet been willing to accept an international human rights court.

Monitoring Human Rights Norms by Special Procedures

The last three decades of the twentieth century saw a radical evolution in the attitude of the UN, especially of the Commission on Human Rights. The Commission, building on two resolutions of ECOSOC (Resolutions 1235 [XLII], 1967; and 1503 [XLVII], 1970), developed what came to be called its special procedures. These were designed to address member-states' unwillingness to deal with individual violations, but were primarily concerned with violations of extreme gravity, or on a massive scale, such as would be associated with crimes against humanity. In the words of ECOSOC Resolution 1503, what was to be studied or investigated were "situations appearing to reveal a consistent patterns of gross . . . violations of human rights."

The effect of ECOSOC Resolution 1235 was to pave the way for the Sub-Commission or the Commission to decide that a specific country situation could be discussed, made the subject of a resolution and even, if agreed by the Commission, put under investigation by an ad hoc group or a special rapporteur. To achieve this, the situation had to be introduced by a member of the Sub-Commission or the Commission, and a vote had to be taken to authorize the drafting of a resolution.

By Resolution 1503, information submitted by nongovernmental organizations or individuals was to be treated confidentially in a protracted procedure involving both the Sub-Commission and the Commission. The (expert) Sub-Commission tended to unearth situations for consideration by the Commission, whereas the (intergovernmental) Commission tended either to drop consideration of the situations or, at best, keep them under review. Only rarely did they become the object of sustained study. For historical reasons, the names of countries whose situations are kept under consideration are announced by the chair of the Commission, although such announcements were not originally contemplated by Resolution 1503. It is generally thought that some situations have been dealt with under Resolution 1503 when there would not have been the political will to deal with them in public session, and that the procedure, including the public announcement of reviewed situations, provided at least some pressure on the states whose practices were impugned.

Yet some situations are so appalling that even being taken up under Resolution 1503 would be an inadequate response. This was the case with Argentina in the latter half of the 1970s, where the alleged violations consisted, notoriously, of thousands of enforced disappearances of perceived political opponents of the military regime. There was insufficient political will in the UN to adopt a resolution that would permit a formal, public investigation of the situation. Frustrated with this inability to act, some member states began to a search for an alternative approach to the existing country-specific special procedures.

What emerged was the first of the thematic special procedures. In 1980, the Commission established the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The notion was that the group would consider the problem not just in one country, but in all countries. The basic mandate seemed anodyne enough—it was to study the general phenomenon of enforced disappearance. But the working group was also intended to take effective action. On this basis, the group, composed of five individual delegation members (one from each of the UN's five regions), began transmitting allegations of enforced disappearances to the member state in which the disappearances occurred. The allegations came overwhelmingly from nongovernmental sources. The working group would then report to the Commission, country by county, on the allegations received during the previous year, and on any responses received from the governments in question. Thus, although the group dealt with the general phenomenon of enforced disappearance, the procedure was also country-specific. Furthermore, individual cases were taken up with a view to seeking clarification of the fate of alleged victims. Indeed, when individuals were detained in circumstances suggesting that they might "disappear," the group developed the technique of making urgent appeals to the governments responsible for such detentions. These appeals were telexed (later faxed) messages addressed directly to the foreign minister of the state in question. Meanwhile, in countries where there appeared to be a problem of enforced disappearance involving more than just isolated cases, the group sought permission from the state to visit and explore the matter on the spot.

Slowly other themes or categories of human rights violation were accepted as deserving similar attention. In 1982, the Commission created the position of special rapporteur on summary or arbitrary executions, and in 1985 it established a special rapporteur on torture, a development long sought by nongovernmental organizations campaigning against torture, such as Amnesty International. By 2004 there were more than twenty special rapporteurs on a broad range of human rights issues, including such civil and political rights as religious intolerance, the independence of judges and lawyers, and human rights defenders. The creation in 1991 of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is of special interest. Given a mandate not just to study the phenomenon, but to investigate cases of alleged arbitrary detention, the group not only comments on country-specific alleged violations, it also has a specific function of assessing whether or not, in its view, a particular detention should be characterized as arbitrary. On the other hand, more recently the Commission has created special rapporteurs to deal with issues in the area of economic and social rights, such as the right to education, to adequate housing and to health, which do not so readily lend themselves to taking action on individual cases.

Human Rights and International Criminal Law

The evolution of machinery to scrutinize states' performance in the field of human rights has far exceeded what might have been expected of international law and organizations by earlier generations, or even at the founding of the UN. Nevertheless, it has still failed to stop repressions that amount to crimes against humanity or even genocide. Nor is it likely that the establishment of an international human rights court could have provided a bulwark against outbreaks of mass atrocity.

In the 1990s, increasing awareness of the problem of impunity for the individual perpetrators of criminal human rights violations gave impetus to almost dormant early UN concern with international criminal law. After the General Assembly's early endorsement of the International Law Commission's draft of the Principles of Nuremberg, it took that Commission till the mid-1990s to complete decades of work on the Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1996) and to draft a statute for an international criminal court (1994). Meanwhile, having failed to act effectively to prevent atrocities—including acts of genocide in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, and the wholesale genocide in Rwanda in 1994—the Security Council established the first ad hoc courts (the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) to bring the perpetrators and organizers of those atrocities to justice, regardless of rank or political status. This development can be seen as a political expedient as much as a means for the imposition of justice. Nonetheless, it gave new impetus to the movement toward establishing a standing international criminal court. The time was ripe to embark on the project, and the UN's 1998 diplomatic conference in Rome adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

SEE ALSO United Nations Commission on Human Rights; United Nations General Assembly; United Nations Security Council; United Nations Sub-Commission on Human Rights

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alston, Philip, ed. (1992). The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Alston, Philip, and James Crawford, eds. (2000). The Future of UN Human Rights Treaty Monitoring. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bassiouni, M. Cherif (1998). The Statute of the International Criminal Court: A Documentary History. Ardsley, N.Y.: Transnational Publishers.

Cassese, Antonio, Paola Gaeta, and John R.W.D. Jones (2002). The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: A Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dormenval, Agnes (1991). Procedures onusiennes de mise en oeuvre des droits de l'homme: Limites ou defauts? Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Kuper, Leo (1985). The Prevention of Genocide. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Lauren, Paul Gordon (1998). The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lee, Roy S., ed. (1999). The International Criminal Court: The Making of the Rome Statute: Issues, Negotiations, Results. The Hague: Kluwer.

Lempinen, Miko (2001). Challenges Facing the System of Special Procedures of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Turku/Abo: Institute for Human Rights, Abo Akademi University.

Russell, Ruth B., and Jeannette E. Muther (1958). A History of the United Nations Charter: The Role of the United States 1940–1945. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.

Schabas, William A. (2000). Genocide in International Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schabas, William A. (2003). An Introduction to the International Criminal Court. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tolley, Howard (1987). The U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Nigel S. Rodley

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United Nations

United Nations

Irish diplomacy at the United Nations (UN) constitutes a compelling chapter in the history of Irish foreign policy. Ireland entered the organization as part of a sixteen-nation package deal in 1955 after being denied membership for nearly a decade by the Soviet Union's veto in the Security Council. Led by an array of distinguished diplomats, including Frank Aiken, Ireland's minister for external affairs from 1957 to 1969, Frederick H. Boland, permanent representative to the UN from 1956 to 1963, Liam Cosgrave, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Tadhg O'Sullivan, Máire Mhac an tSaoi, and Sean Ronan, the Irish delegation assumed a prominent role in the General Assembly throughout the late 1950s and 1960s. It mitigated Cold War tensions, promoted decolonization throughout Africa and Asia, mediated disputes in South Tyrol and Kashmir, and participated in numerous peacekeeping operations.

Promoting National Interests

Two themes have consistently underpinned Irish policy at the United Nations: national interests and the international order. With regard to the former, Irish governments have usually assigned priority to one of the many interests they have pursued at the UN. For instance, in 1956 John Costello's interparty government determined that Western victory in the Cold War was the primary interest to be furthered at the United Nations, and so the Irish delegation consistently supported the United States and its allies in the General Assembly. The cardinal aim of Eamon de Valera, who was taoiseach during the Twelfth General Assembly in 1957 and the Thirteenth Assembly in 1958, was the reduction of international tension generated by the Cold War, support for movements for self-determination across the Southern Hemisphere, and the interaction of these two world-historical forces. For de Valera's successor, Seán Lemass, as well as for Irish leaders over the past several decades, the paramount interest pursued at the UN has been the promotion of a stable international system within the framework of Ireland's equally pressing national objective, namely, economic development. At the same time, all Irish governments, regardless of their particular priorities, have uniformly acted upon a genuine community of Irish national interests at the United Nations. Irish diplomats have advocated the primacy of the rule of law in international affairs, ardently defended small nations invaded by their larger neighbors, championed human rights across the globe, particularly in Tibet and South Africa, and supported the political aspirations of national minorities.

Promoting International Order

The accumulated effect of these diplomatic endeavors signals the second theme of Ireland's policy at the United Nations: It has consistently upheld the integrity of the international order. The Irish delegation's efforts in this regard began in earnest at the Twelfth General Assembly, when it established an overtly independent identity with its infamous "China vote." In a sharp departure from the majority of other Western European nations, and its own position in the previous year, Ireland voted in favor of a discussion of which government should represent China in the UN, the communists in Beijing or the nationalists on Taiwan. This vote is often misunderstood: it was a procedural one in favor of a debate on that question only, not a ballot in favor of Beijing representing China (Ireland actually voted against just such a motion in 1961). Still, the vote certainly roused the ire of the United States, and in so doing earned Ireland the respect of many other members of the General Assembly, especially within the growing Afro-Asian bloc, but also among Western European delegations who privately concurred with its position.

With the Irish delegation's independent reputation now established, it assumed a prominent role among the middle powers, or mediators, in the General Assembly (Sweden, Denmark, Malaysia, Yugoslavia, and others), which thus enabled it to propose initiatives designed to reduce international friction. In 1957 Frank Aiken outlined a complex troop-withdrawal plan for Central Europe, whereby NATO and Warsaw Pact forces would simultaneously retreat equal distances from various flash points along the Iron Curtain. Aiken asserted that his blueprint sought "to diminish political tension in Europe and to avert the danger of war, which is all the greater as long as soldiers of opposing armies stand face-to-face." It was not taken up by either side in the Cold War, but the following year Aiken did develop his nascent conception of neutralized spaces between warring parties into a formal "areas of law" proposal and applied it to the Middle East and other hotspots across the globe.

Ireland's most striking effort to ameliorate international tension was its nuclear nonproliferation initiative. Starting at the Thirteenth General Assembly in 1958, Frank Aiken, with the tireless assistance of the Irish diplomatic service, pushed nuclear nonproliferation to the top of the UN's agenda. In 1961 the General Assembly adopted an Irish-sponsored resolution whose operative clause laid the foundation for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968. Aiken told the General Assembly that the fundamental purpose of a nuclear nonproliferation convention was "to prevent the danger of nuclear war becoming greater during the period of time it must take to evolve and strengthen a generally accepted system of world security based on international law and law enforcement." A treaty, in other words, would buy time "for the gradual evolution of a stable world order."

Ireland as a Member of the European Union

During the 1970s the General Assembly underwent a gradual radicalization due to the emergence of a confident Afro-Asian bloc. This process, combined with an American-led retreat to the Security Council, meant Ireland's high profile in the National Assembly dimmed. At the same time Ireland had to reconcile its own policy at the United Nations with those of the other members of European Economic Community (EEC), a process that accelerated after Ireland joined the EEC in 1973 and gathered momentum in the 1980s and 1990s as the EEC evolved first into the European Community and then into the European Union, while eventually embracing a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Still, the Irish delegation quietly continued with its constructive work at the United Nations, especially in the field of peacekeeping. This noteworthy Irish tradition began with missions in 1958 (the Observer Group in Lebanon, or UNOGIL) and in 1959 (the Truce Supervision Organization along the Israeli-Egyptian border, or UNTSO) and was consolidated by Ireland's substantial contribution to the UN's peacekeeping operation in the Congo, Force de l'Organisation des Nations Unis en Congo (ONUC), which lasted from 1960 to 1964. Just as ONUC was ending in June 1964, Irish troops shipped out to the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), where they still remain. Irish soldiers have served in Kashmir, Lebanon, the Golan Heights, Afghanistan, Iraq, Namibia, Central America, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. Ireland has participated in more than twenty-five UN missions, plus several European Union operations. Through these efforts Ireland has backed up its rhetoric at the UN. Indeed, along with nuclear nonproliferation, peacekeeping has been one of Ireland's most significant contributions to the international order.

Ireland's peers in the General Assembly have recognized its important contribution by electing it to important UN bodies: the Committee on South West Africa, the Congo Advisory Committee, the Security Council on three occasions (1962, 1981–1982, and 2001–2002). Likewise, Irish representatives have assumed prominent leadership roles: Frederick Boland was named chairman of the Fourth, or Trusteeship, Committee in 1958 and president of the General Assembly in 1960; Eamon Kennedy was appointed as rapporteur of the Committee on South West Africa in 1959; Conor Cruise O'Brien was selected as Dag Hammarskjold's personal representative in Katanga in 1961; General Sean McKeown commanded the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo (ONUC); and Sean MacBride served as UN commissioner for Namibia. Continuing this tradition, in 1997 Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the UN, appointed Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

SEE ALSO European Union; Lemass, Seán; Neutrality; Politics: Independent Ireland since 1922

Bibliography

Kennedy, Michael. Ireland and the League of Nations. 1996.

Keogh, Dermot. Twentieth-Century Ireland. 1994.

O'Brien, Conor Cruise. To Katanga and Back: A UN Case Study. 1962.

O'Brien, Conor Cruise. Memoir: My Life and Themes. 1998.

Skelly, Joseph Morrison. Irish Diplomacy at the United Nations, 1945–1965: National Interests and the International Order. 1997.

Joseph M. Skelly

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS

August 31, 2004

Official Name:
United Nations


Editor's note: The information for this article was reprinted from the 2004 UN Fact Sheets available through the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.



PROFILE

Beginnings, Purpose, and Structure

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt, flanked by the leaders of 26 Allied countries, first coined the term "United Nations" to describe the continued fight against the Axis Powers. Following World War II, the allies adopted the term to define a worldwide body of nations. On June 26, 1945, fifty nations signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California. The United States Senate ratified the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. The United Nations came into effect on October 24, 1945. October 24 is now celebrated around the globe as UN Day.

The United Nations' aims are set out in the preamble to the UN Charter: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to achieve international cooperation in solving 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 common ends.

The principal organs of the United Nations include the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. (The Trusteeship Council, an original principal organ, suspended operations in 1994 when it fulfilled its function by overseeing the independence of the UN's last remaining trust territory.)

In addition to its principal organs, the United Nations system is made up of a complex mix of commissions and funds created by the General Assembly, such as UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) and the World Food Program; specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the International Monetary Fund; and other UN entities, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the peacekeeping missions established by the Security Council.

The headquarters of the United Nations is located in New York City. The General Assembly building and the Secretariat were built in 1949 and 1950 on land donated by the Rockefeller family. The property is now considered international territory. Under special agreement with the United States, certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the United States apply.

The regular biennial budget of the UN in 2002-03 was $1.968 billion. For the calendar year 2003, the United States' assessed contribution to the UN regular budget was $341 million. In addition, the United States' assessed contribution to UN specialized agencies amounted to over $400 million. The United States also contributed $686 million in assessments to the peacekeeping budget; $57 million for the support of the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia; and, $6 million for preparatory work relating to the UN Capital Master Plan. Moreover, each year the United States provides a significant amount in voluntary contributions to the UN and UN-affiliated organizations and activities (largely for humanitarian and development programs). In sum, U.S. contributions (both cash and in kind) to the UN system in 2003 were well over $3 billion.

The United States and other major UN contributors continue to press for budgetary and administrative reform to make the UN as efficient as possible. In 1999, the United States Government legislated the "Helms-Biden" provision, which authorized the payment of U.S. arrears to the UN and other international organizations upon certification of the Secretary of State that a number of reform goals had been achieved in the UN and major specialized agencies. Between 1999 and 2002, the UN met all required certifications. As a result, the United States cleared over $900 million in arrears to the UN and other organizations. The Secretary-General submitted a further round of reform initiatives in late 2002, and the United States is advocating and closely monitoring their implementation.

The United Nations currently has 191 member states. The official languages of the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. More information about the UN is available on its web site at www.un.org.


HISTORY

The idea for the United Nations was elaborated in declarations signed at the wartime Allied conferences in Moscow and Tehran in 1943. President Franklin Roosevelt suggested the name "United Nations." From August to October 1944, representatives of the U.S. U.K., France, U.S.S.R., and China met to elaborate the plans at the Dumbarton Oaks Estate in Washington, D.C. Those and later talks produced proposals outlining the purposes of the organization, its membership and organs, as well as arrangements to maintain international peace and security and international economic and social cooperation. These proposals were discussed and debated by governments and private citizens worldwide.

On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organizations began in San Francisco. The 50 nations represented at the conference signed the Charter of the United Nations two months later on June 26. Poland, which was not represented at the conference, but for which a place among the original signatories had been reserved, added its name later, bringing the total of original signatories to 51.

The UN came into existence on October 24, 1945, after the Charter had been ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council-China, France, U.S.S.R., U.K., and U.S.-and by a majority of the other 46 signatories.

The U.S. Senate, by a vote of 89 to 2, gave its consent to the ratification of the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. In December 1945, the Senate and the House of Representatives, by unanimous votes, requested that the UN make its headquarters in the U.S. The offer was accepted and the UN headquarters building was constructed in New York City in 1949 and 1950 beside the East River on donated land, which is considered international territory. Under special agreement with the U.S., certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the U.S. apply.

UN membership is open to all "peaceloving states" that accept the obligations of the UN Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to fulfill these obligations. The General Assembly determines admission upon recommendation of the Security Council.

Preamble to Charter of the United Nations

We the Peoples of the United Nations Determined

  • To Save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • To Reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women of nations large and small, and
  • To Establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends

  • To Practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and
  • To Unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • To Ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • To Employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.


AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY

Maintaining the Peace

The UN's role in international collective security is defined by the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the power to:

  • Investigate any situation threatening international peace;
  • Recommend procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;
  • Call upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal, and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and
  • Enforce its decisions militarily, if necessary.

The United Nations has helped prevent many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts. It has opened the way to negotiated settlements through its service as a center of debate and negotiation, as well as through UN-sponsored fact-finding missions, mediators, and truce observers. UN peacekeeping forces, comprised of troops and equipment supplied by member nations, have usually been able to limit or prevent conflict. Some conflicts, however, have proven to be beyond the capacity of the UN to influence. Key to the success of UN peacekeeping efforts is the willingness of the parties to a conflict to come to terms peacefully through a viable political process.

UN peacekeeping initiatives have ranged from small, diplomatic or political delegations to large mobilizations, the most extensive of which was the 500,000-strong 1950-53 defense of South Korea against an attack by North Korea. In the first few years following the end of the Cold War the number of peacekeeping operations increased dramatically. The proliferation of operations reflected the view that, in the post-Cold War era, the UN could play an important role in defusing regional conflicts. Some of the peacekeeping operations of the early 1990s also saw an expansion of the traditional peacekeeping mandate to include such responsibilities as supervising elections, monitoring human rights, training police, and overseeing civil administration.

From 1995 to mid-1999 there was a sharp decline in the number of UN peacekeepers in the field, from a high of around 70,000 to 12,000. The assumption by NATO of major peacekeeping responsibilities in the former Yugoslavia (and the resultant termination of UNPROFOR's mandate) accounted for much of the decrease. Other factors included the closeout of UN operations in Mozambique in January 1995, Somalia in March 1995, El Salvador in April 1995, and Rwanda in March 1996. With the U.S. and the UN taking a much harder look at proposed peacekeeping operations, the only major new UN mission set up in this period outside the former Yugoslavia was the UNAVEM III operation in Angola.

191 Members of the United Nations1

Afghanistan (1946); Albania (1955); Algeria (1962); Andorra (1993); Angola (1976); Antigua and Barbuda (1981); Argentina; Armenia (1992); Australia; Austria (1955); Azerbaijan (1992); Bahamas, The (1973); Bahrain (1971); Bangladesh (1974); Barbados (1966); Belarus (formerly Byelorussian SSR); Belgium; Belize (1981); Benin (1960); Bhutan (1971); Bolivia; Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992); Botswana (1966); Brazil; Brunei (1984); Bulgaria (1955); Burkina Faso (1960); Burma (1948); Burundi (1962); Cambodia (1955); Cameroon (1960); Canada; Cape Verde (1975); Central African Republic (1960); Chad (1960); Chile; China2; Colombia; Comoros (1975); Congo, Democratic Republic of the (1960); Congo, Republic of the (1960); Costa Rica; Cote d'Ivoire (1960); Croatia (1992); Cuba; Cyprus (1960); Czech Republic (1993); Denmark; Djibouti (1977); Dominica (1978); Dominican Republic; East Timor (2002); Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea (1968); Eritrea (1993); Estonia (1991); Ethiopia; Fiji (1970); Finland (1955); France; Gabon (1960); Gambia, The (1965); Georgia (1992); Germany (1973); Ghana (1957); Greece; Grenada (1974); Guatemala; Guinea (1958); Guinea-Bissau (1974); Guyana (1966); Haiti; Honduras; Hungary (1955); Iceland (1946); India; Indonesia (1950); Iran; Iraq; Ireland (1955); Israel (1949); Italy (1955); Jamaica (1962); Japan (1956); Jordan (1955); Kazakhstan (1992); Kenya (1963); Korea, North (1991); Korea, South (1991); Kuwait (1963); Kyrgyzstan (1992); Laos (1955); Latvia (1991); Lebanon; Lesotho (1966); Liberia; Libya (1955); Liechtenstein (1990); Lithuania (1991); Luxembourg; Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of (1993); Madagascar (1960); Malawi (1964); Malaysia (1957); Maldives (1965); Mali (1960); Malta (1964); Marshall Islands (1991); Mauritania (1961); Mauritius (1968); Mexico; Micronesia, Federated States of (1991); Moldova (1992); Monaco (1993); Mongolia (1961); Morocco (1956); Mozambique (1975); Namibia (1990); Nauru (1999); Nepal (1955); Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Niger (1960); Nigeria (1960); Norway; Oman (1971); Pakistan (1947); Palau (1994); Panama; Papua New Guinea (1975); Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal (1955); Qatar (1971); Romania (1955); Russia3; Rwanda (1962); Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983); Saint Lucia (1979); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1980); Samoa (1976); San Marino (1992); Sao Tome and Principe (1975); Saudi Arabia; Senegal (1960); Seychelles (1976); Sierra Leone (1961); Singapore (1965); Slovakia (1993); Slovenia (1992); Solomon Islands (1978); Somalia (1960); South Africa; Spain (1955); Sri Lanka (1955); Sudan (1956); Suriname (1975); Swaziland (1968); Sweden (1946); Switzerland (2002); Syria; Tajikistan (1992); Tanzania (1961); Thailand (1946); Togo (1960); Trinidad and Tobago (1962); Tonga (1999); Tunisia (1956); Turkey; Turkmenistan (1992); Tuvalu (2000); Uganda (1962); Ukraine (formerly Ukrainian SSR); United Arab Emirates (1971); United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay; Uzbekistan (1992); Vanuatu (1981); Venezuela; Vietnam (1977); Yemen (1947); Yugoslavia; Zambia (1964); Zimbabwe (1980)

1Year in parentheses indicates date of admission; countries with no date were original members in 1945.

2By Resolution 2758 (XXVI) of Oct. 25, 1971, the General Assembly decided "to restore all its rights to the People's Republic of China and to recognize the representative of its Government as the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations."

3In December 1991, Russia assumed the permanent Security Council seat previously held by the U.S.S.R.

Beginning in June 1999, new missions in Kosovo and East Timor and expanded missions in Sierra Leone and the Congo dramatically increased both the costs and personnel levels of UN peacekeeping operations. They also added a new level of complexity to peacekeeping efforts, with a greater emphasis on civilian administration in East Timor and Kosovo. From July 1999 to June 2001, overall UN peacekeeping personnel levels increased by 31,000, with even more personnel authorized but not deployed.

As of July 31, 2002, there were 691 U.S. personnel (659 civilian police, and 32 military observers) in worldwide UN peace operations, accounting for 1.5% of total UN peacekeepers. As Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States never gives up command authority over U.S. troops. When large numbers of U.S. troops are involved and when the risk of combat is high, operational control of U.S. forces will remain in American hands, or in the hands of a trusted military ally such as a NATO member. But the President must retain the flexibility, which has served the U.S. well throughout its history, to allow temporary foreign operational control of U.S. troops when it serves U.S. interests, just as it has often served U.S. interests to have foreign forces under U.S. operational control.

Arms Control and Disarmament

The 1945 UN Charter envisaged a system of regulation that would ensure "the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources." The advent of nuclear weapons came only weeks after the signing of the Charter and provided immediate impetus to concepts of arms limitation and disarmament. In fact, the first resolution of the first meeting of the General Assembly (January 24, 1946) was entitled "The Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy" and called upon the commission to make specific proposals for "the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction."

The UN has established several forums to address multilateral disarmament issues. The principal ones are the First Committee of the UN General Assembly and the UN Disarmament Commission. Items on the agenda include consideration of the possible merits of a nuclear test ban, outer-space arms control, efforts to ban chemical weapons, nuclear and conventional disarmament, nuclear-weapon-free zones, reduction of military budgets, and measures to strengthen international security.

The Conference on Disarmament is the sole forum established by the international community for the negotiation of multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements. It has 66 members representing all areas of the world, including the five major nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the Russian Federation, the U.K., and the U.S.). While the conference is not formally a UN organization, it is linked to the UN through a personal representative of the Secretary-General; this representative serves as the secretary general of the conference. Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly often request the conference to consider specific disarmament matters. In turn, the conference annually reports on its activities to the General Assembly.

Human Rights

The pursuit of human rights was one of the central reasons for creating the United Nations. World War II atrocities and genocide led to a ready consensus that the new organization must work to prevent any similar tragedies in the future. An early objective was creating a legal framework for considering and acting on complaints about human rights violations.

The UN Charter obliges all member nations to promote "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights" and to take "joint and separate action" to that end. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not legally binding, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all. The General Assembly regularly takes up human rights issues. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), under ECOSOC, is the primary UN body charged with promoting human rights, primarily through investigations and offers of technical assistance. As discussed, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the official principally responsible for all UN human rights activities (see, under "The UN Family," the section on "Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights").

The U.S. considers the United Nations to be a first line of defense of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also a means by which those principles can be applied more broadly around the world. A case in point is support by the United Nations for countries in transition to democracy. Technical assistance in providing free and fair elections, improving judicial structures, drafting constitutions, training human rights officials, and transforming armed movements into political parties have contributed significantly to democratization worldwide. The United Nations is also a forum in which to support the right of women to participate fully in the political, economic, and social life of their countries.

International Conferences

The member countries of the UN and its specialized agencies—the "shareholders" of the system—give guidance and make decisions on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. Governing bodies made up of member states include not only the General Assembly, ECOSOC, and the Security Council, but also counterpart bodies dealing with the governance of all other UN system agencies. For example, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board oversee the work of WHO. Each year, the U.S. Department of State accredits U.S. delegations to more than 600 meetings of governing bodies.

When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities. Recent examples include:

  • The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 1992, led to the creation of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to advance the conclusions reached in Agenda 21, the final text of agreements negotiated by governments at UNCED;
  • The World Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, September 1994, approved a program of action to address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustainable development over the next 20 years;
  • The World Summit on Trade Efficiency, Columbus, Ohio, October 1994, cosponsored by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the city of Columbus, and private-sector business, focused on the use of modern information technology to expand international trade;
  • The World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 1995, underscored national responsibility for sustainable development and secured high-level commitment to plans that invest in basic education, health care, and economic opportunity for all, including women and girls;
  • The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, September 1995, sought to accelerate implementation of the historic agreements reached at the Third World Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 1985;
  • The Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), Istanbul, Turkey, June 1996, considered the challenges of human settlement development and management in the 21st century; and
  • The UN Conference on Financing for Development, Monterrey, Mexico, March 2002, broke new ground in development discussions with the U.S. calling for a "new compact for development" defined by greater accountability for rich and poor nations alike.

UN SECRETARIES GENERAL

Trygve Lie (Norway)—Feb. 1, 1946-April 10, 1953

Dag Hammarskjold (Sweden)—April 10, 1953-Sept. 8, 1961

U Thant (Burma)—Nov. 3, 1961-Dec. 31, 1971 (initially appointed acting Secretary General; formally appointed Nov. 30, 1962)

Kurt Waldheim (Austria)—Jan. 1, 1972-Dec. 31, 1981

Javier Perez de Cuellar (Peru)—Jan. 1, 1982-Dec. 31, 1991

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt)—Jan. 1, 1992-Dec. 31, 1996

Kofi Annan (Ghana)—Jan. 1, 1997-present


PRINCIPAL ORGANS

Security Council—New York

The Security Council has five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. – informally known as the P-5), each with the right to veto, and 10 non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Five non-permanent members are elected from Africa and Asia combined. One non-permanent member comes from Eastern Europe, two from Latin America, and two from Western Europe and other areas. The 2004 non-permanent members are: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, and Spain. The president (or chair) of the Council rotates monthly in English alphabetical order of the members.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," and all UN members "agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter." Other organs of the UN make recommendations to member governments. The Security Council, however, has the power under the Charter to make decisions that member states must carry out. Unlike other representative bodies, the Security Council is always in session. A representative of each Council member must always be available so that the Council can meet at any time.

Decisions in the 15-member Security Council on all substantive matters require the affirmative votes of nine members, including the support of all five permanent members. A negative vote by a permanent member (also known as a veto) prevents adoption of a proposal that has received the required number of affirmative votes. Abstention is not regarded as a veto.

Under Chapter VI of the Charter, "Pacific Settlement of Disputes," the Security Council "may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute." The Council may "recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment" if it determines that the situation might endanger international peace and security. These recommendations are not binding on UN members.

Under Chapter VII, the Council has broader power to decide what measures are to be taken in situations involving "threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression." In such situations, the Council is not limited to recommendations but may take action, including the use of armed force "to maintain or restore international peace and security."

Decisions taken under Chapter VII, both with regard to military action and to economic sanctions, are binding on all UN member states.

Starting with the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in 1948, the Security Council has dispatched peacekeeping missions to the world's conflicts. These missions have helped prevent or limit many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, adopted Resolution 1373, which obliges all member states to take action against international terrorism. The resolution also established the Counter Terrorism Committee within the Council to monitor progress in the war against terrorism and implementation of the resolution.

General Assembly—New York

All UN member states are members of the General Assembly. The Assembly has six main committees: Disarmament and International Security; Economic and Financial; Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural; Special Political and Decolonization; Administrative and Budgetary; and Legal. Other committees address UN procedures, membership, and specific issues, including peacekeeping, outer space, and UN Charter reform.

The General Assembly meets in regular session once a year under a president elected from among the representatives. The regular session usually begins in mid-September and ends in mid-December. Special sessions can be convened at the request of the Security Council, a majority of UN members, or, if the majority concurs, a single member. A special session was held in October 1995 at the head of government level to commemorate the UN's 50th anniversary.

Voting in the General Assembly on important questions is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Voting questions may include recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; and budgetary matters. Other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member state has one vote. Apart from the approval of budgetary matters, including the adoption of a scale of assessment, General Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members.

The Assembly may make recommendations on any matter within the scope of the UN, except on matters of peace and security under Security Council consideration. Since the late 1980s, virtually all budgetary decisions at the UN have been taken by consensus.

As the only UN organ in which all members are represented, the Assembly serves as a forum for members to launch initiatives on international questions of peace, economic progress, and human rights. It can initiate studies; make recommendations; develop and codify international law; promote human rights; and advance international economic, social, cultural, and educational programs.

The Assembly may take action on maintaining international peace if the Security Council is unable to exercise its primary responsibility, usually due to disagreement among the permanent members. The "Uniting for Peace" resolutions, adopted in 1950, empower the Assembly to convene in emergency special sessions to recommend collective measures — including the use of armed force — in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression. Two-thirds of the members must approve any such recommendation. Emergency special sessions under this procedure have been held on ten occasions, most recently in 1997.

Developing countries constitute a majority among the UN's 191 members. Because of their numbers, developing countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly, the character of its debates, and the nature of its decisions. For many developing countries, the UN General Assembly is the source of much of their diplomatic influence and the principal forum for their foreign relations initiatives.

When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities. Recent examples include:

Under the auspices of ECOSOC, the United States participated in the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002.

The UN Conference on Financing for Development, Monterrey, Mexico, March 2002, broke new ground in development discussions with the United States calling for a "new compact for development" defined by greater accountability for rich and poor nations alike.

The General Assembly has also been active in the fight against terrorism. On September 12, 2001, it adopted a resolution condemning the terrorist attacks against the United States. In its 56th and 57th Sessions, the General Assembly also passed resolutions calling on all states to prevent terrorism and to strengthen international cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Economic and Social Council—New York

The General Assembly elects the 54 members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Eighteen are elected each year for three-year terms. The U.S. has always been a member.

Under the UN Charter, ECOSOC is responsible for identifying solutions to international economic, social, and health problems, as well as facilitating international cultural and education cooperation and encouraging respect for human rights. ECOSOC meets for one annual four-week session and for shorter ad hoc, procedural, or special meetings. Voting is by simple majority.

ECOSOC coordinates the work of fourteen specialized UN agencies, ten functional commissions, and five regional commissions. Through much of its history, ECOSOC had served primarily as a discussion vehicle. ECOSOC had little authority to force action, which a number of member states felt marginalized the agency's utility. However, beginning in 1992, the U.S. and other nations began an effort to make ECOSOC more relevant by strengthening its policy responsibilities in economic, social, and related fields, particularly in the area of development.

The resulting reform made ECOSOC the oversight and policy-setting body for UN operational development activities and established smaller executive boards for the UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). The creation of an oversight body and smaller executive boards provides those agencies with operating guidance and promotes more effective management. The reform also gave ECOSOC a strong hand in ensuring that UN agencies coordinated their work on issues of common interest, such as narcotics control, human rights, the alleviation of poverty, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

One positive impact of this reform was the manner in which the UN development system began to respond more coherently and efficiently to humanitarian crises around the world. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recent reform initiatives have attached considerable importance to further strengthening coordination among relief agencies.

Another positive reform outcome was the ECOSOC decision in 1994 to authorize the creation of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). This Program acts as the main advocate for worldwide action against HIV/AIDS and has brought together into one consolidated global program the AIDS-related resources and expertise of UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, the UN International Drug Control Program, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Bank. UNAIDS has been instrumental in the expanded global response to HIV/AIDS, eliminating duplication among agencies and enhancing the ability of member states to respond effectively to the AIDS pandemic. UNAIDS began operating in January 1996.

International Court of Justice—The Hague, Netherlands

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the UN. Established in 1946, its main functions are to decide cases submitted to it by states and to give advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by the General Assembly or Security Council, or by such specialized agencies authorized to do so by the General Assembly in accordance with the UN Charter.

The Court is composed of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council from a list of persons nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Judges serve for nine years and may be re-elected. No two may be nationals of the same country. One-third of the Court is elected every three years. A U.S. citizen has always been a member of the Court. Questions before the Court are decided by a majority of judges present.

Only states may be parties in cases before the International Court of Justice. This requirement does not preclude private interests from being the subject of proceedings if one state brings a case against another. Jurisdiction of the Court is based on the consent of each UN member state to comply with an ICJ decision in a case to which it is a party. Any judgments reached are binding. If a party fails to perform its obligations under an ICJ decision, the other party may seek recourse in the Security Council.

State parties to the Court's statute may declare their recognition of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court for a wide range of international disputes. The U.S. accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction in 1946, but withdrew its acceptance following the Court's decision in a 1986 case involving activities in Nicaragua. Examples of cases include:

  • a complaint by the U.S. in 1980 that Iran was detaining American diplomats in Tehran in violation of international law;
  • a complaint filed by Iran in 1992 alleging that the United States violated a treaty obligation by attacking three Iranian oil platforms. The U.S. filed a counter-claim with respect to Iranian attacks on U.S. shipping interests in the Persian Gulf;
  • a dispute over the course of the maritime boundary dividing the U.S. and Canada in the Gulf of Maine area, filed in 1981, judgment in 1984; and a complaint filed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) in 1999 against Rwanda alleging violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed on DROC territory.

Secretariat – New York

The Secretariat is composed of international civil servants who carry out the daily tasks of the United Nations. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by UN bodies for their meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies. The 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 is obligated to respect the international character of the Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff.

Under the UN Charter, the chief administrative officer of the UN and the head of the Secretariat is the Secretary-General of the United Nations, appointed to a five-year term by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. Kofi Annan, the first Secretary-General from sub-Saharan Africa, began his first term on January 1, 1997. He was reappointed to a second term beginning January 1, 2002.

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. 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. In 1997, the General Assembly established a position of Deputy Secretary-General. Since 1998, Louise Frechette of Canada has held this position. Other senior UN officials, such as the Under-Secretaries-General for Political Affairs and Peacekeeping, also advise the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General also appoints Special Representatives and Envoys to mediate conflict in the world's trouble spots.

Trusteeship Council

The UN Charter established the Trusteeship Council and assigned it the task of supervising the administration of Trust Territories placed under the System. All the territories attained self-government or independence by October 1994. The Trusteeship Council therefore suspended operation on 1 November 1994.


THE UN FAMILY

In addition to the principal UN organs, the UN family includes over 60 programs or specialized agencies, often headquartered in one of the UN offices around the world. Some agencies existed prior to UN creation and are related to it by agreement. Others were established by the General Assembly. Each provides expertise in a specific area. Some of those programs and agencies (with the location of their headquarters) are described below. A diagram of the entire UN system can be found at www.un.org/aboutun/chart.

Funds and Programs

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). New York City. UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. Its programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.

UN Development Program (UNDP). New York City. UNDP is the largest multilateral source of grant technical assistance in the world. Voluntarily funded, it provides expert advice, training, and limited equipment to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the poorest countries. It focuses on six areas of assistance: democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and the environment, information technology, and HIV/AIDS.

UN Environment Program (UNEP) . Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP coordinates UN environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies. UNEP has developed guidelines and treaties on issues such as the international transport of potentially harmful chemicals, trans-boundary air pollution, and the contamination of international waterways.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Geneva, Switzerland. UNHCR protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the UN and assists in their return or resettlement. UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1982.

World Food Program (WFP). Rome, Italy. The WFP distributes food commodities to long-term refugees and displaced persons, and provides emergency food assistance during natural and man-made disasters. In 2001, the WFP fed 77 million people in 82 countries, including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

Specialized Agencies

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Rome, Italy. FAO programs seek to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living; to improve agricultural productivity, to promote rural development; and, by these means, to provide access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Montreal, Canada. ICAO develops the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth. The ICAO Council adopts standards and makes recommendations concerning air navigation, the prevention of unlawful interference, and the facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation.

International Labor Organization (ILO). Geneva, Switzerland. The ILO seeks to strengthen worker rights, improve working and living conditions, create employment, and provide information and training opportunities. ILO programs include the occupational safety and health hazard alert system and the labor standards and human rights programs.

International Maritime Organization (IMO). London, England. The IMO's main objective is to facilitate cooperation among governments on technical matters affecting international shipping to achieve the highest possible degree of maritime safety and navigational efficiency. It also attempts to improve the marine environment through the prevention of pollution caused by ships and other craft and deals with legal matters connected with international shipping.

International Monetary Fund (IMF). Washington, DC. The purposes of the IMF are to promote international monetary cooperation through consultation and collaboration, to promote exchange stability and orderly exchange arrangements, and to assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments and the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Geneva, Switzerland. The ITU brings together governments to coordinate the establishment and operation of global communication networks and services, including telegraph, telephone, radio communications, Internet, and the information society. It fosters cooperation and partnership among its members and offers technical assistance in this area.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Paris, France. UNESCO's purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting cooperation among nations through education, science, culture, and communication to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, sex, language, or religion.

Universal Postal Union (UPU). Bern, Switzerland. The UPU attempts to secure the organization and improvement of the postal services, to promote international collaboration, and provide technical assistance in this area. The member countries constitute a single postal territory.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of WIPO is to promote international cooperation in the field of intellectual property rights. It works in the areas of both industrial and literary-artistic property.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Geneva, Switzerland. WMO coordinates global scientific activity to allow increasingly prompt and accurate weather prediction and other services for public, private, and commercial use.

World Health Organization (WHO). Geneva, Switzerland. WHO acts as a coordinating authority on pressing global public health issues. WHO's objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment of all peoples of the highest possible level of health.

Other Related Bodies

World Bank. Washington, DC. The World Bank is one of the world's main sources of development assistance. It focuses on the poorest people in the poorest countries.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Vienna, Austria. The role of IAEA is to promote the contribution of atomic energy for peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world and to enhance the safety and security of radioactive materials and nuclear facilities worldwide. It has the responsibility of creating and implementing the safeguard provisions of various nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear free zone treaties.


U.S. AND THE UNITED NATIONS

September 9, 2004

The United States adheres to three guiding principles for engagement with the United Nations:

  • The UN should live up to the vision of its founders to make the world more secure, democratic, and prosperous.
  • Effective multilateralism is guided by principled and consistent leadership with the engagement of all UN partners.
  • The UN's vast resources must be managed carefully and effectively.

U.S. Priorities

  • Preserve peace and strengthen security, through peacekeeping, counterterrorism, and
  • counter-proliferation efforts.
  • Help those in need, by rallying the world to increased action on famine, refugee relief, and
  • pressing health issues.
  • Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • Foster democratic governance and economic opportunity.
  • Advance good stewardship of the UN's resources through better management and budget discipline.

U.S. Initiatives for the 2004 UN General Assembly

Advancing Economic Freedom: The U.S. will promote open markets and democratic governance in developing countries as a route to freedom and prosperity. The UN and its members should promote an environment of good governance and economic freedom, including policies that support private entrepreneurship.

Ending Child Sex Tourism: The U.S. seeks to strengthen collaboration to combat trafficking in persons, particularly to end child sex tourism. This modern-day slave trade must be stopped.

Promoting Democracy: The U.S. remains committed to increasing cooperation among democratic countries in the UN, and supports the efforts of a Democracy Caucus to advance such cooperation on resolutions that advance international human rights standards and democratic principles.

Banning Human Cloning: The U.S. will co-sponsor a resolution calling for an international convention against human cloning. Human cloning, for any purpose, is unethical, morally reproachable, and an affront to human dignity.

Furthering the Roadmap to Middle East Peace: The U.S. continues to encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take concrete steps toward the implementation of the Roadmap to Peace. The U.S. seeks to bring balance to Middle East resolutions to better support the peace process and implementation of the Roadmap.


U.S. REPRESENTATION

The U.S. Permanent Mission to the UN in New York is headed by the U.S. Representative to the UN, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Ambassador John C. Danforth has served in that position since July 2004. The mission acts as the channel of communication for the U.S. Government with the UN organs, agencies, and commissions at the UN headquarters and with the other permanent missions accredited to the UN and the non-member observer missions. The U.S. mission has a professional staff made up largely of career Foreign Service officers, including specialists in political, economic, social, financial, legal, and military issues.

The United States also maintains missions to international organizations in Geneva, Rome, Vienna, Nairobi, Montreal, and Paris. These missions report to the Department of State and receive guidance on questions of policy from the President, through the Secretary of State. The Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs coordinates relations with the UN and its family of agencies.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations is located at 140 East 45th Street, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-415-4000). More information about the U.S. Mission to the UN is available on the mission's web site at www.un.int/usa.

U.S. Representatives to the United Nations

Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.—March 1946-June 1946

Herschel V. Johnson (acting)—June 1946-January 1947

Warren R. Austin—Jan. 1947-Jan. 1953

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.—Jan. 1953-Sept. 1960

James J. Wadsworth—Sept. 1960-Jan. 1961

Adlai E. Stevenson—Jan. 1961-July 1965

Arthur J. Goldberg—July 1965-June 1968

George W. Ball—June 1968-Sept. 1968

James Russell Wiggins—Oct. 1968-Jan. 1969

Charles W. Yost—Jan. 1969-Feb. 1971

George Bush—Feb. 1971-Jan. 1973

John P. Scali—Feb. 1973-June 1975

Daniel P. Moynihan—June 1975-Feb. 1976

William W. Scranton—March 1976-Jan. 1977

Andrew Young—Jan. 1977-April 1979

Donald McHenry—April 1979-Jan. 1981

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick—Feb. 1981-April 1985

Vernon Walters—May 1985-Jan. 1989

Thomas R. Pickering—March 1989-May 1992

Edward J. Perkins—May 1992-Jan. 1993

Madeleine K. Albright—Feb. 1993-Jan. 1997

Bill Richardson—Feb. 1997-Sept 1998

A. Peter Burleigh (acting)—Sept 1998-Aug 1999

Richard Holbrooke—Aug. 1999-Jan. 2001.

James B. Cunningham (acting)—Feb. 2001-Sept. 2001

John Negroponte—Sept. 2001-June 2004.

John C. Danforth—June 2004–Jan. 2005

Anne W. Patterson (acting) Jan. 2005–present

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United Nations

UNITED NATIONS.

BACKGROUND
OBSTACLES
CONTAINING LOCALIZED CONFLICTS, ADVANCING WESTERN VALUES
PEACEKEEPING
BIBLIOGRAPHY

The United Nations (UN) was designed chiefly by the United States during the Second World War and was accepted by its two wartime allies, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. Soon after the failure of the League of Nations, the UN was not at first greeted by the Europeans as an effective way of maintaining peace. In 1945 Germany was defeated, but Continental Europe was in ruins. A profound sense of despair pervaded Europe, which was soon confronted with a twin fear of a resurgence of Germany and the rise of communism led by the Soviet Union.

BACKGROUND

The idea that major powers should take the responsibility for regulating national interests through international cooperation was not new in itself. Since the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Europeans had set out the terms of the settlement of international disputes in order to conduct international affairs peacefully. However, the United Nations owed its similarities to the League of Nations. The League was an American attempt to replace the European concepts of spheres of influence and a balance of power by the notion of collective security. The League had not been sufficiently powerful (in the absence of the United States) to prevent the rising threat of the Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan) from developing into the Second World War. Learning from the lessons of the discredited League, the promoters of the United Nations ensured that the new international organization should have power to enforce economic and military sanctions against aggressors under the direction of the Security Council, which would be made up of the wartime great powers (originally, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the USSR), acting as "world policemen."

The Security Council was thus the most powerful organ in the UN, entrusted with the central role of maintaining peace and security. The United Kingdom and the USSR both insisted that the cherished idea of the U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) for national self-determination would not apply to their spheres of influence. Neither power was initially enthusiastic about Roosevelt's request to include China in the Security Council. It was not until the Yalta conference in February 1945 that the United States, United Kingdom, and USSR agreed that China and France be given permanent seats on the Security Council, but the issue of the voting procedure on the Council remained unresolved. Smaller powers were unhappy with the idea of investing so much power in the five great powers. France, angered by its exclusion from the Yalta conference, was not initially interested in taking up the offer of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The British prime minister, Winston Churchill, increasingly concerned about the rise of communism in postwar Europe, looked on the forthcoming organization as a feeble attempt to contain the Soviet Union. Moscow, however, insisted on securing an absolute "veto" power on the Security Council. All the great powers resented the prospect of the UN meddling in their foreign policies.

In order to meet the anxieties of the smaller powers, the Security Council included six nonpermanent members (with the number increased to ten in 1965), who were elected by the General Assembly for a term of two years, plus its five permanent member states. The Security Council was empowered to make decisions, which would bind all UN member states, to impose sanctions, demand cease-fires, and authorize the use of military force on behalf of the UN. The permanent members were given power of vetoing draft resolutions on substantive (and not procedural) matters. In all, the heavy responsibility given to the five permanent members meant that if they were able to work together in a constructive manner, the UN could perform its key role accordingly.

OBSTACLES

As soon as the organization was created, however, the UN was hamstrung by two obstacles. The first was the division of the great powers caused by the onset of the Cold War (1945–1989). Moreover, despite financial exhaustion and the greater demand for decolonization in the international community after 1945, the Western Europeans had not given up their spheres of influence outside Europe. Even after the loss of India by 1947, the United Kingdom's domination in South Asia, the Indian Ocean, the South Arabian states, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and Africa remained formidable. France was intent on reinventing its greatpower status in Indochina and North Africa, while the Netherlands was pressing for the reintroduction of its rule in postwar Indonesia.

Frequent disagreements within the Security Council were something of a shock to the first UN secretary-general, the Norwegian Trygve Halvdan Lie (1896–1968). The Council could not decide either on the appropriate scope of a UN military force to be assigned under the Security Council or the admission of new members if they were pro-West or pro-communist. In March 1946 Iran took to the UN the continuing presence of Soviet troops on Iranian territory, but the Security Council, faced with the unwillingness of the Soviet Union to discuss the issue, was compelled to defer the matter. Moreover, the right to exercise the veto limited the ability of the Security Council to resolve armed conflicts when one of the permanent members was actually involved in them, such as during the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the Vietnam War (1946–1975), and the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War. The Soviet Union became the frequent user of the veto—seventy-five times between 1946 and 1955—as opposed to France (twice) and China (once). At the time of the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the Soviet Union was absent from the Security Council in protest at the continuing representation of China by the nationalist Chinese (the Taiwan government, as the Republic of China, represented the UN until 1971). This allowed the Council to discuss the issue and to recommend resolutions that sanctioned the U.S.-led intervention in Korea under the auspices of the UN. But with the return of the Soviet Union to the Council with its veto, the United States had to encourage the General Assembly to act on major issues quickly under the "Uniting for Peace" resolution.

CONTAINING LOCALIZED CONFLICTS, ADVANCING WESTERN VALUES

Despite these limitations, the UN was able to work better to contain localized conflicts in areas less affected by the Cold War. UN forces had been sent to Israel and its neighbors since 1948; to India and Pakistan after 1949; and to the Congo (1960–1964), Yemen (1963–1964), and Cyprus (since 1964). Outside security and peacekeeping issues, the UN contributed to the advancement of Western values on human rights. Determined to prevent a repetition of the appalling treatment of civilians during the Second World War, and especially of the millions of Jews who had suffered at the hands of Nazis, Europeans wanted to establish a more equitable society after 1945. These aspirations were matched by those of Americans, led by Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), in promoting humanitarian causes. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), founded in 1943, provided much-needed help (food, medicine, and the restoration of public services) to the populations of countries liberated from the Axis. This resettlement work was then transferred, in 1946, from UNRRA to the UN International Refugee Organization (IRO). Through the work of the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) or the Economic Commission for Europe (a local branch of the UN's Economic and Social Council), Western Europeans were able to discuss European affairs with their Eastern counterparts. The UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 was followed up by the Council of Europe, two years later, in the form of the European Convention of the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom.

PEACEKEEPING

In the aftermath of the death of Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) in March 1953, Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (1905–1961), a former Swedish deputy foreign minister, became the second UN secretary-general. He sought a more active peacekeeping role in the UN but was frustrated by its limited ability to intervene effectively in conflict in areas where the superpowers' interests were at stake. It was the Suez Crisis that opened up the opportunity for Hammarskjöld to expand the UN's role. He became deeply involved in the negotiations with the powers concerned and persuaded the United Kingdom and France to accept the UN's call for a cease-fire. In return, the secretary-general sent the UN emergency force (the prototype of the peacekeeping force) to replace the Anglo-French troops after the latter left Suez. This device helped the United Kingdom and France to save face, but Hammarskjöld fully supported the position of the United States, which was infuriated by the Anglo-French unilateral action. The Suez fiasco further reduced European credibility, and the British were helpless during the crisis in the face of the economic and financial pressure imposed by an angry United States. The early history of "the UN and Europe" shows that the Europeans began to embrace the UN Charter seriously for its moral guidance, but their influence through the Security Council was useful but limited as the UN became another sphere of superpower confrontation, a fact that Hammarskjöld himself had to live with during his years as UN secretary-general. It is, however, important to note that, since the end of the Second World War, Europeans have learned to advance their national interests and their individual human rights by joining numerous international institutions as sources of influence in the postimperial world.

The end of the Cold War liberated Europe from superpower domination. It also heightened the need to seek legitimacy through international organizations if Europe were to become involved in armed interventions elsewhere. In the 1990s numerous humanitarian interventions took place in which European powers were actively involved in restoring law and order. In the Bosnian conflict, the Security Council played a role in backing the military actions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), whereas during the Kosovo campaign in 1999, NATO, instead of the UN, sanctioned the use of force. In the case of the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda in 1994, the Security Council authorized France to lead the operation. The idea of liberal internationalism finally prevailed over the old imperialism in Europe. With the acceleration of globalization, Europe has taken the idea of international governance by the rule of law seriously and the creation of the International Criminal Court is seen in Europe as a logical step toward achieving global justice against organized crime, international conflict, or international terrorism, which could not be dealt with adequately by the jurisdictions of each sovereign state.

See alsoBretton Woods Agreement; International Criminal Court; International Law; League of Nations; World Trade Organization; World War II.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barros, James. Trygve Lie and the Cold War: The UN Secretary-General Pursues Peace, 1946–1953. DeKalb, Ill., 1989. Standard work on the first UN secretary-general.

Mayall, James, ed. The New Interventionism, 1991–1994: United Nations Experience in Cambodia, Former Yugoslavia and Somalia. Cambridge, U.K., 1996. Useful study of the role of the UN in early post–Cold War years.

Roberts, Adam, and Benedict Kingsbury. United Nations, Divided World: The UN's Roles in International Relations. 2nd ed. Oxford, U.K., 1994. Useful collection of essays by prominent scholars on the subject.

Ryan, Stephen. The United Nations and International Politics. New York, 2000. Concise survey of the history of the UN.

Schlesinger, Stephen C. Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations. Cambridge, Mass., 2003. Illuminating account of the origins of the UN and the role of the United States.

Urquhart, Brian. Hammarskjold. New York, 1972. Important study of the second UN secretary-general written by an individual who worked for the UN secre tariat between 1945 and 1986.

Zacher, Mark W. Dag Hammarskjold's United Nations. New York, 1970. Sympathetic analysis of Hammarskjöld's role in the UN.

Saki Ruth Dockrill

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United Nations

United Nations

The United Nations (UN) was established toward the end of World War II in 1945 as the successor intergovernmental organization to the League of Nations. The UN's primary purpose is to maintain or restore international peace and security, and to this end the founding members established a potentially powerful executive organ, the Security Council, that consists of fifteen members, five of which are permanent (China, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France). The idea was that the Security Council would take collective security measures to deal with threats to or breaches of international peace, for example, through the imposition of economic sanctions against member states violating or threatening peace or through the use of armed forces put at the Council's disposal by member states.

One of the effects of the Cold War (1945–1989) between the United States and the former Soviet Union was that the Security Council achieved little because those two permanent member states exercised their right to veto proposed action. The principal exception to this stalemate was the Korean conflict (1950–1953), in which the Security Council mandated a U.S.-led army to repel the invasion of South Korea by North Korea. This was made possible by the absence of the Soviet Union from the Security Council when the initial attack occurred. The return of the Soviet Union to the Council chamber led to the UN General Assembly developing its subsidiary collective security powers by supporting the forceful reunification of Korea and by claiming to be able to recommend enforcement actions in the future. The General Assembly also went on in 1956 to mandate the first full peacekeeping or "blue-helmeted force" as a mechanism for ending the Suez crisis.

Such forces were not mandated or equipped to fight wars but to help the parties to a conflict implement agreed-on measures to stop the fighting and restore peace. However, as a plenary organ consisting of the vast majority of countries in the world—191 by the end of 2003—meeting regularly in annual sessions, the General Assembly is suited to recommend action in emergencies only when the Security Council is deadlocked. It has the advantage, though, of not being subject to the veto decisions made by a majority, normally two-thirds of those states present and voting. Both political organs also are mandated by the founding treaty—the UN Charter—to facilitate the peaceful settlement of disputes between states, much of which power is delegated to the UN secretary-general.

The Charter also established an International Court of Justice (ICJ) based in The Hague as the principal judicial organ of the UN, with the function of deciding disputes between states and rendering legal advice upon request by recognized UN organs and organizations. The weakness of the Court is that in hearing disputes between states it must establish that both parties have consented to its jurisdiction .

the un system

The UN system does not consist only of a single organization based in New York City made up of the sometimes headline-grabbing organs discussed above. The UN system also includes a number of specialized agencies that are intergovernmental organizations in their own right, having separate councils and assemblies as well as secretariats and budgets and headquarters around the globe. Many of these agencies predate the UN Charter or came about in the immediate post-World War II era. These agencies deal with matters of common concern—for example, diseases, financial crises, the safety of civil aviation and merchant shipping, international postal services, and international telecommunications. Many are well known—for example, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Maritime Organization, the International Telecommunications Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank (formally known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development); others are less so—for example, the World Meteorological Organization, the UN Industrial Development Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the Universal Postal Union. In addition, there are other organizations that, although not specialized agencies of the UN, have a relationship with the UN that is either formal, for example, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Criminal Court (ICC), or practical, for example, the World Trade Organization.

trade and finance

The World Bank, IMF, and World Trade Organization (which was constituted in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) together form the three pillars of the global system for trade and finance, and there are significant levels of cooperation among the three organizations. The World Trade Organization promotes free trade , the IMF helps countries with balance of payment difficulties, and the World Bank concentrates on loans for less developed states. These three organizations promote a global economic system based on exchange rate stability and the free flow of trade and capital. Although all three groups generally make decisions on the basis of consensus, the executive boards of the IMF and the World Bank are dominated by the United States, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. These countries have a higher percentage of votes because of their greater financial contributions. In contrast to this system of weighted voting, the World Trade Organization is based on the UN voting principle of "one state, one vote."

subsidiary organs

The organizations in the UN system have created numerous subsidiary bodies. The UN General Assembly, for instance, has created bodies that deal with matters such as children's welfare, trade and development, the environment, refugees, and human rights. Examples of well-known subsidiary bodies include the UN Children's Fund and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). The UN Economic and Social Council, another political organ of the UN office based in New York City, also has established significant subsidiary bodies, for instance, the Human Rights Commission created in 1946. In addition, the Security Council has formed subsidiary bodies. Examples include fact-finding bodies, peacekeeping forces, and in the 1990s international criminal tribunals to try those suspected of war crimes or other international crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It has created bodies that have responsibility for the interim government of territories or countries pending the out-come of a peace process. The UN interim administrations in Kosovo and East Timor established in 1999 are some contemporary examples.

coordination

Coordination of this unwieldy global network of organizations, organs, and individuals is problematic, although some evidence exists of systems developing that cut across bodies and institutions governing areas such as human rights, collective security, environmental matters, and labor conditions. Several of these issues may be addressed within one of the UN entities identified above, such as the International Labor Organization in regard to labor conditions. Others are more likely to be dealt with across bodies—for instance, human rights issues are addressed by the Security Council, General Assembly, and ICJ, several of the specialized agencies (e.g., UNESCO), many of the subsidiary organs (e.g., the UN Children's Fund), and related bodies (e.g., the ICC). Sufficient evidence of the coordination of these bodies exists that it can be said there are at least weak systems within the UN. Perhaps more important, the UN bodies with some authority on human rights matters view themselves as being part of a UN human rights system and are viewed by outside agencies as such.

Mechanisms for coordination and direction of the system are present, although they have proved largely ineffective for much of the UN's tenure. Some evidence suggests that under the direction of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, appointed in 1997, mechanisms such as the Chief Executives Board have started to provide a focal point for drawing on the resources of the entire system to address jointly, in various combinations of agencies and programs, global problems such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Chief Executives Board consists of the heads of the specialized agencies under the chair of the UN secretary-general and the leaders of other UN funds and programs, plus the directors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Trade Organization. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that the system has received more policy direction from the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly, the UN organs that have ultimate responsibility for managing the UN specialized agencies, funds, and programs.

values

The values of the UN system may be found in the preambles and opening articles of the organization's principal treaties. However, these core values have been elaborated on by the practice of the various bodies in the UN system. Many of these values—the promotion and protection of peace, human rights, and self-determination —were significant developments for the international community in 1945. These values provide both the goals to which the system aspires and the benchmarks against which the success or failure of the system can be measured. Other values have been added to the core established in the immediate post-World War II period. One new value reflects the emergence of an extremely serious and common problem facing the international community. The protection of the environment made its way onto the list of UN values at the organization's 1972 Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. In addition, the promotion of democracy has emerged as a core value since the end of the Cold War, deriving from the principle of self-determination.

Other established UN values are peace and security, justice and law, and economic and social well-being. Whereas peace and security are largely the concern of the principal organs established by the UN Charter, many of the other values are pursued by the specialized agencies and subsidiary bodies and programs under the general direction of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council. This has, in part, led to a perceived hierarchy of values, with peace and security seen as the primary value, whereas the others are of a secondary nature.

This debate on the hierarchy of UN values perhaps is misunderstood. Peace is no longer simply the absence of war but the establishment of an all-encompassing peace promoting justice, human rights, democracy, and economic and social wellbeing. In other words, peace in this wider sense may be viewed as an overarching value, including all others. This is reflected in the constitutions of most of the specialized UN agencies, which make an explicit link between their purposes—for example, to develop a system of civil aviation, to prevent epidemics, to improve the conditions of workers—and the promotion of peace.

Although peace has this overarching character, the UN system is underwritten by another value: the law. All UN values and mechanisms are based on the legal foundation of the UN Charter and the constitutions of its specialized agencies. However, it does appear that the Security Council, the most powerful UN organ, is not always limited by international law in the area of protecting peace. Clearly, the Security Council has a great deal of latitude to take coercive action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, but this does not mean that it can ignore basic principles of international or Charter law.

Law is at the heart of the UN system, not only the law that frames the system and embeds its values but also the law produced by the system, the purpose of which is to uphold, implement, and enforce those basic values. Despite the inherent weaknesses of organs, bodies, and agencies whose main form of decision making is a recommendation, the UN system does generate vast amounts of law. The legislative capacity of the UN has increased since its inception. The seminal resolutions of the General Assembly, for example, those on decolonization, are not the only examples. Many of the resolutions of the WHO, International Telecommunications Union, International Civil Aviation Authority, and International Atomic Energy Agency, for example, although not always technically binding in the sense of a treaty, are accepted and acted on as pieces of legislation for the world community. Rules governing safety in civil aviation and nuclear plants, rules aimed at the prevention of diseases, and rules governing the use of orbital slots for the placement of telecommunications satellites are just some examples of the regulatory frameworks being created at the global level but applied at varying levels, from a surgical procedure to the realms of outer space. This reflects the UN's multilateralist approach to issues and problems, an approach that promotes the establishment of general principles which then are applied to specific problems and disputes, in contrast to a unilateralist approach that favors the application of power by individual states.

compliance

Historically, the UN has been content to produce large amount of law with little regard to the issues of compliance and enforcement. As with general international law, the UN has relied for the most part on voluntary compliance by member states. Although relying on the goodwill of member states does in fact work for much of the legislation produced by the technical agencies, for more political matters the UN has found the need to develop enforcement mechanisms.

Common procedures are reporting and supervision, which are used widely in the human rights field and in many of the technical areas governed by the specialized agencies. States are obligated to report on their compliance efforts, and very often these reports are subject to critical scrutiny by a UN body. This sometimes is supplemented in the human rights field with individual complaint procedures, by which under an optional protocol states may consent to allow individuals from within their jurisdictions to take alleged cases of abuse at the hands of the state before a UN body. However, these methods can prove to be too limited to deal with persistent offenders. To this end more intrusive procedures are being developed within the UN—for example, in attempts to reduce the number of cases of torture or of the involuntary disappearances that have plagued many countries. These methods include having an inspection regime for places of detention in addition to the inspection regimes utilized by some of the agencies, for instance, the International Civil Aviation Organization and IMF as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Armed peacekeeping forces help ensure compliance with UN law. They may be used in the case of a cease-fire or in the pursuit of a more ambitious peace. UN peacekeeping has become multifunctional and includes human rights and development components in addition to the traditional blue-helmeted force. Clearly, the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the failure of so-called safe areas in Bosnia in 1995 show that UN peacekeeping is in need of reform. The Brahimi report of August 2000 confirmed this, but this should not detract from the successes of UN peacekeeping operations in Namibia, Nicaragua, and Mozambique, for instance.

Other coercive techniques employed by the UN include making development aid and loans conditional and the penalization of a lawbreaking state by expulsion or suspension from the UN or, more commonly, through the denial of credentials to a government. Nonmilitary enforcement actions by the Security Council, normally in the form of economic sanctions imposed on the delinquent state, have increased in their use in the post-Cold War era. Since the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks on the United States this authority has expanded with general legislation requiring all states to take measures to prevent support for terrorists. The Security Council's ultimate power is that of authorizing military enforcement action by willing member states to reverse an aggression or address a threat to peace. It has authorized the use of armed force on numerous occasions since 1989—for example, in the Persian Gulf (1990), Somalia (1992), Albania (1997), Bosnia (1994), Haiti (1994 and 2003), East Timor (1999), and the Congo (2003).

Again, as with many aspects of UN law, the major weakness of enforcement mechanisms lies in the judicial sphere. Judicial enforcement by the ICJ remains weak, although once states have consented to its jurisdiction, its decisions are binding on the parties to the case. The formation of the ICC in 2002 represented a major step forward in establishing the legal responsibility of individuals for breaches of fundamental norms prohibiting genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity and for punishing those individuals.

reform

Despite these positive developments, improvements and reform are required in virtually all UN organs and organizations. Membership in the Security Council must be expanded; also needed are substantive legal limitations on the


use of the veto, the most significant flaw in the UN Charter. Other needed reforms include greater access of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other segments of civil society to UN organs; a proper judicial system armed with the power to review the decisions of the political organs of the UN; greater separation of powers; and the realignment and better coordination of bodies with overlapping responsibilities. As well as institutional reform (a process that has remained stalled since the early 1990s), there must be further efforts to close the gap between the dictates of UN law and the practice of member states.

See also: European Court of Justice; Human Rights; International Court of Justice; International Criminal Court; International Human Rights Law; International Humanitarian Law; Peacekeeping Forces; United Nations Commission on Human Rights; Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

bibliography

Bertrand, Maurice. The United Nations: Past, Present and Future. The Hague, Netherlands: Kluwer, 1997.

Bourantonis, Dimitris, and Marios Evriviades, eds. A United Nations for the Twenty-First Century: Peace, Security and Development. The Hague, Netherlands: Kluwer, 1996.

Conforti, Benedetto, ed. The Law and Practice of the United Nations. The Hague, Netherlands: Kluwer, 2000.

Fasulo, Linda. An Insider's Guide to the UN. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

Luard, Evan, ed. The Evolution of International Organizations. London: Thames and Hudson, 1966.

Muller, Joachim, ed. Reforming the United Nations: The Quiet Revolution. The Hague, Netherlands: Kluwer, 2001.

Righter, Rosemary. Utopia Lost: The United Nations and World Order. New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1995.

Schachter, Oscar, and Christopher C. Joyner, eds. United Nations Legal Order. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Taylor, Paul, and A. J. R. Groom, eds. The United Nations at the Millennium: The Principal Organs. London: Continuum, 2000.

White, Nigel D. The UN System: Toward International Justice. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

Nigel D. White

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