The United Nations

Term Paper, 2001

4 Pages

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I. Introduction

The United Nations (UN) is a world-wide state organization

- for the preservation of the world peace,
- for the transport of the international cooperation and
- economic and social development as well as
- for the penetration of the general human rights on the basis of the equal rights and self-determination of the peoples.

The head office of the United Nations is in New York (further offices are in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi).

They are open to the membership of each state, which commits itself on the targets and rules of the Charter of the United Nations. They cover today 189 members and so almost all states of the earth. Switzerland and the Vatikanstadt ,the States of Taiwan (Republic of China) and the democratic Arab Republic of Sahara (DARS) do not belong to them. For the execution of its functions the UN has several organs. The most important are:

- the general assembly,
- the security council
- and the secretariat
- as well as numerous further organisations and institutions.

Their priority target is to ensure the peace in the world, but it couldn’t be achieved until now.

Their most important deserts are situated in its contribution to the Emanzipation of the peoples of the third world and with the global penetration of the human rights.

2. History

The League of Nations was the first attempt to create a world-wide organization to prevent wars and to ensure peace. But this organisation failed. Nevertheless the war opponents of Germany, Italy and Japan tried to establish a world-wide organization, which could function as an effective alliance of all peace-loving states against every aggressive enemy. It should be structured according to the principles of the democratic states. There were a lot of proclamations and declarations, especially the Atlantic Charter of 1941 and the Declaration of Washington, which was signed on 1 January 1942 by 26 states. These 26 states called themselves here for the first time as " United Nations ". On 26 June 1945 finally 50 States signed in San Francisco the " Charter of the United Nations " ,the statute of the new organization. It entered into force on 24 October 1945.

A. The UN in the Cold War

With the increasing rivalry of the the USA and Soviet Union the UN lost its basis for an effective world-wide peace-keeping work. If one of the two powers saw its interests directly touched, it complicated the work of the security council by ist veto. So in the first decade of the existence of the UN decisions were made only over Palestine (1947), Indonesia (1949) and Kashmir (1949).

Some examples for their operations were:

- military " peace-forcing " actions at the beginning of the Korea war in 1950

- neutral and peace-keeping operations in the 80‘s , for example the Suez crisis in 1956, the Congo crisis in 1960, the Cyprus crisis in 1964

- economic sanctions against South Africa (1978).

B. From the East-West to the North-South conflict

Until the 60‘s the UN was dominated by the USA, the Western European and Latin American countries only followed them. With the end of the colonisation the influence of the countries of the third world in the UN grew. The third world states profited from the disagreement of the western countries.

1964/65 new special organs and programs were created, which dedicate themselves to the economic and social development of the poor states with priority. One if the most important was theUN-Conference of the World Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It was developed for the promotion of the international trade, especially with the developing countries. Another program was the UN-Development Program (UNDP) as a controlling organ for the co-ordination of assistance.

Next to the east-west-conflict came the north-south-conflict. To solute these problems, they developed a " new international economic system ".

III. Targets and principles

In one preamble and nineteen sections the Charter registers

- the targets and principles, -
- the obligations of the members, -
- the structure and the
- functions of the organs of the United Nations.

As most distinguished targets article 1 designates,

- to protect the world peace and international security,
- to develop friendly relations between the nations ,
- to cause an international cooperation, in order to solve international problems and to promote and strengthen the attention for the human rights and basic liberties for all,
- to be a center point, in which the efforts of the nations are co-ordinated to reach the common targets.

To reach these targets the members commit themselves to renounce violence and to solve their international disputes peacefully (article2).

In order to ensure the adherence to these regulations, the UN has the security council as political and the international Court of Justice as judicial instance. Against states, which hurt the world peace, the security council can arrange sanctions, which are obligatory on all members.

In order to prevent conflicts which endanger the world peace, the member states declare to co-operate with the advancement of international law, the promotion of the economic, social and cultural progress and the implementation of the human rights and basic liberties. The member states can‘t be obligated however to the active participation in these programs.

IV. Organization

The UN has five principal organs:

A. General or plenary assembly

There all member states are represented. Every nation orders over one vote, indipendent of ist size. Their resolutions have the character of recommendations. To accepts new members, a two-of-three-majority is neccessary.

B. Security council

The Security Council is the most powerful body in the UN. It is responsible for maintaining international peace, and for restoring peace when conflicts arise. Its decisions are binding on all UN members. The Security Council has the power to define what is a threat to security, to determine how the UN should respond, and to enforce its decisions by ordering UN members to take certain actions. For example, the Council may impose economic sanctions, such as halting trade with a country it considers an aggressor.

The Council convenes any time there is a threat to peace. A representative from each member country who sits on the Council must be available at all times so that the Council can meet at a moment's notice. The Security Council also frequently meets at the request of a UN member—often a nation with a grievance about another nation's actions.

The Security Council has 15 members; five of which hold permanent seats. The Assembly elects the other ten members for two-year terms. The five permanent members—the United States, Britain, France, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), and China—have the most power. These nations were the winning powers at the end of World War II, and they still represent the bulk of the world's military might. Decisions of the Council require nine votes. But any one of the permanent members can veto an important decision. This authority is known as the veto right of the great powers. As a result, the Council is effective only when its permanent members can reach a consensus. This created problems during the Cold War, the post-1945 struggle between the United States and Soviet Union that ended when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. During that time, the council was frequently deadlocked because the United States and Soviet Union could not agree. In the 1990s, increased cooperation between the United States and Russia has enabled the council to become more effective.

The Council has a variety of ways it can try to resolve conflicts between countries. Usually the Council's first step is to encourage the countries to settle their disagreements without violence. The Council can mediate a dispute or recommend guidelines for a settlement. It can send peacekeeping troops into a distressed area. If war breaks out, the Council can call for a ceasefire. It can enforce its decisions by imposing economic sanctions on a country, or through joint military action.

C Economics and social advice (ECOSOC)

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) works under the authority of the General Assembly to coordinate the economic and social work of the UN. ECOSOC has 54 member countries elected by the General Assembly for three-year terms. ECOSOC coordinates studies and recommends actions on international topics such as medicine, education, economics, and social needs. It oversees the work of a large number of programs and agencies. It operates mainly through various standing committees, functional commissions, and regional commissions. There are five regional commissions that look at how the UN's programs in a particular region are working together. There are nine functional commissions that deal with topics such as population growth, narcotics trafficking, human rights, and the status of women. Other committees work on topics relevant to several UN programs, such as crime prevention, public finance, natural resources, science, and geographical names.

ECOSOC coordinates many specialized agencies that provide a variety of social, economic, and related services. The agencies operate independently but work with other programs in the UN. Those programs include the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

D. International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is the judicial arm of the UN. It is located in The Hague, Netherlands. The court hears cases brought by nations against each other. It has 15 judges, elected by the Security Council and the General Assembly. A country is not required to participate in the court's proceedings, but if it agrees to participate, it must abide by the court's decisions.

C. Secretariat

The Secretariat is the UN's executive branch. It oversees the administration of the UN's programs and policies and carries out day-to-day operations. This branch is headed by the secretary general, who acts as the UN's spokesperson.

1. Secretariat Staff

The UN's staff includes administrators, experts on technical issues such as environmental protection, and economic advisors working on various programs and projects in the member countries. These workers have a variety of responsibilities, such as overseeing the operations of peacekeeping missions, preparing studies on world issues, organizing international conferences, and surveying economic and social trends. The largest concentration of staff outside New York City is in Geneva, Switzerland, where several UN programs and agencies have headquarters.

2. Secretary General

The secretary general is a powerful public figure who oversees the daily operations of the UN and plays a major role in setting the organization's agenda in international security affairs. The secretary general can bring to the Security Council any matter that might threaten world peace. The secretary general has the authority to serve as a neutral mediator in international conflicts and to bring hostile parties together to negotiate. The secretary general's personal attention to a problem can often help bring about a resolution. For example, in the 1990s Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali personally mediated conflicts in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. In the 1980's, Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar mediated conflicts in Central America. The secretary general also works to build consensus among the five permanent members of the Security Council, knowing that without it the Council cannot act.

F. Trusteeship Council

The Trusteeship Council was established to oversee the transition of a handful of colonies to independence. The last of those colonies gained independence in 1994, making the Trusteeship Council obsolete.

V. Financing

The UN is funded by dues paid by each of its members. Each country's dues are based upon its wealth and ability to pay. The UN also requires countries to make financial contributions to its peacekeeping efforts. In addition, many countries make voluntary contributions to support various UN programs. The United States is the largest contributor to the UN, providing roughly 22 percent of the organization's administrative budget.

VI. Future Prospects

Since its creation in 1945, the UN has done much to promote international cooperation in economic and social goals and the world peace. The end of the Cold War and new possibilities for cooperation among the world's major powers has given the UN an opportunity to realize the original vision of its founders. The UN now has a chance to become an international organization that can effectively maintain world peace within the limits of a system where individual nations maintain their own authority and independence. Despite the challenges it faces, the UN will likely play an increasingly central role in international politics in the coming decades.

VII. Mention of sources used

MS Encarta 99

UN-Homepage-Headquater UN-Homepage-Deutschland MS Encarta-Online

Bertelsmann Lexikon

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The United Nations
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André Buchmann (Author), 2001, The United Nations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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