The United Nations is an organization of sovereign nations not a world government. It provides the machinery to help find solutions to disputes or problems, and to deal with virtually any matter of concern to humanity. It does not legislate like a national parliament. But in the meeting rooms and corridors of the UN, representatives of almost all countries of the world large and small, rich and poor, with varying political views and social systems have a voice and vote in shaping the policies of the international community.
The year 1995 marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Organization. The UN has six main organs, listed below. All are based at UN Headquarters in New York, except the International Court of Justice, which is located at The Hague, Netherlands. The General Assembly The General Assembly, sometimes called the nearest thing to a world parliament, is the main deliberative body. All Member States are represented in it, and each has one vote. Decisions on ordinary matters are taken by simple majority. Important questions require a two-thirds majority.
The Assembly holds its regular sessions from mid-September to mid- December; special or emergency sessions are held when necessary. Even when the Assembly is not in session, its work goes on in special committees and bodies. The Assembly has the right to discuss and make recommendations on all matters within the scope of the UN Charter. It has no power to compel action by any Government, but its recommendations carry the weight of world opinion. The Assembly also sets policies and determines programmes for the UN Secretariat.
It sets goals and directs activities for development, approves the budget of peace- keeping operations and calls for world conferences on major issues. Occupying a central position in the UN, the Assembly receives reports from other organs, dmits new Members, approves the budget and appoints the Secretary-General. The Security Council The UN Charter, an international treaty, obligates States to settle their international disputes by peaceful means. They are to refrain from the threat or use of force against other States, and may bring any dispute before the Security Council.
The Security Council is the organ to which the Charter gives primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security. It can be convened at any time, whenever peace is threatened. Member States are obligated to carry out its decisions. The Council has 15 members. Five of these China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States are permanent members. The other 10 are elected by the Assembly for two-year terms. Decisions require nine votes; except in votes on procedural questions, a decision cannot be taken if there is a negative vote by a permanent member (known as the “veto”).
When a threat to international peace is brought before the Council, it usually first asks the parties to reach agreement by peaceful means. The Council may undertake mediation or set forth principles for a settlement. It may request he Secretary-General to investigate and report on a situation. If fighting breaks out, the Council tries to secure a cease-fire. It may send peace-keeping missions to troubled areas, with the consent of the parties involved, to reduce tension and keep opposing forces apart.
It may deploy peace-keepers to prevent the outbreak of conflict. It has the power to enforce its decisions by imposing economic sanctions and by ordering collective military action. The Council also makes recommendations to the Assembly on a candidate for Secretary-General and on the admission of new Members to the UN. The Economic and Social Council Working under the authority of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council coordinates the economic and social work of the UN and related specialized agencies and institutions. The Council has 54 members.
It usually holds two organizational and one substantive session each year; the substantive session includes a high-level special meeting, attended by Ministers and other high officials, to discuss major economic and social issues. The Council recommends and directs activities aimed, for instance, at promoting economic growth of developing countries, administering development rojects, promoting the observance of human rights, ending discrimination against minorities, spreading the benefits of science and technology, and fostering world cooperation in areas such as better housing, family planning and crime prevention.
The Trusteeship Council The Trusteeship Council was established to ensure that Governments responsible for administering Trust Territories take adequate steps to prepare them for self-government or independence. In 1994, the Security Council terminated the UN Trusteeship Agreement for the last of the original 11 Trusteeships the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Palau), administered by the United States.
The task of the Trusteeship System was thus completed, with all Trust Territories attaining self-government or independence, either as separate States or by joining neighbouring independent countries. The Trusteeship Council, by amending its rules of procedure, will now meet as and where occasion may require. The International Court of Justice The International Court of Justice (also known as the World Court) is the main judicial organ of the UN. It consists of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council.
Only countries may be parties in cases brought before the Court. If a country does not wish to take part in a proceeding it does not have to do so (unless required by special treaty provisions), but if it accepts, it is obligated to comply with the Court’s decision. The Secretariat The Secretariat works for all the other organs of the UN and administers their programmes. Made up of a staff working at Headquarters and all over the world, it carries out the day-to-day work of the UN. At its head is the Secretary-General. Staff members are drawn from some 170 countries.