THE UNITED NATIONS OUR ONLY HOPE FOR PEACE? WHAT IS THE UNITED NATIONS? The United Nations officially came into existence on October 24, 1945 with 51 original Member States. The League of Nations is its predecessor. The purpose of the United Nations is to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well-being of all people. There are currently 192 Members of the United Nations. They meet in the General Assembly, which is the closest thing to a world parliament. Each country, large or small, rich or poor, has a single vote, however, none of the decisions taken by the Assembly are binding. Nevertheless, the Assembly’s decisions become resolutions that carry the weight of the world governmental opinion. Structure of the United Nations The creation of the United Nations was an exercise in compromise and negotiations. The lessons learned from the failure of the League of Nations were applied to the new organization. The key issue was how to accommodate the realities of national self-interest of both large and small powers. What was required was a formula that would give the major powers a greater role in the direction of the UN while still recognizing the need for all countries to have their voices heard. The solution was to divide the UN into two parts: a GENERAL ASSEMBLY in which each country had one vote, and a SECURITY COUNCIL controlled by the major powers. In addition, the Secretariat, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, and the International Court of Justice were created to address other areas of concern to the international body. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY The General Assembly is the forum for all member states. It holds an annual session in September, but meets throughout the year for emergency debates. The Assembly is the meeting place where world leaders or their representatives, from nations large and small, present their positions on various issues. The General Assembly divides its responsibilities among six standing committees: 1. Disarmament and International Security Committee 2. Economic and Financial Committee 3. Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee 4. Special Political and Decolonization Committee 5. Administrative and Budgetary Committee. 6. Legal Committee THE SECURITY COUNCIL This is where the real power of the United Nations lies. The Council is made of two groups: 1. 5 Permanent Members-China, France, Britain, U.S. and Russia, each of which has veto power over any UN decisions. 2. 10 Non-permanent members elected for 2 year terms who aid the permanent members come to decisions. Matters of Peace and Security were originally placed exclusively in the hands of the Security Council. Since the Korean War, the General Assembly has also been empowered to address these issues. Permanent members of the Security Council have direct control over UN intervention in any conflict. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL ECOSOC, with a membership of fifty-four nations elected by the General Assembly, is the branch of the UN entrusted with the fulfillment of the UN’s international economic, social, cultural, educational, and health responsibilities. The work of the Economic and Social Council is in many ways the most important and enduring of all the UN’s achievements. The Council co-ordinates the programs of many humanitarian and technological organizations. Some committees set under ECOSOC are: - Science and Technology Committee -United Nations Commission on Human Rights -United Nations International Drug Control Program -World Health Organization TRUSTEESHIP COUNCIL This Council provides for an international Trusteeship to protect the interests of those territories that are not fully self-governing. The council consists of , the U.S., China, France, Russia and Britain INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE The International Court of Justice forms an integral part of the United Nations Charter and all UN members are automatically parties to the Statute of the Court. The Court upholds the UN Charter and enforces International law as agreed upon by the UN Member States. The Court is composed of independent judges who possess the necessary qualifications to preside over the high courts of their home countries or who are recognized for their expertise in international law. These fifteen judges (no duplicate countries) are elected by the Security Council and the General Assembly. THE SECRETARIAT The chief executive officer of the United Nations is the Secretary General. Described as the most important public service job in the world, the Secretary-General is the top-ranking administrator and diplomat in the UN. The Secretary General reports on international problems and progress to the General Assembly, asks the Security Council to deal with matters that threaten international peace and security, and acts as a mediator in international disputes. The Secretary-General must maintain complete independence free of any influence by any member of the UN. The Candidate for Secretary-General must be acceptable to the different blocs in the UN and cannot be too closely identified with either superpower. PURPOSES OF THE UNITED NATIONS The United Nations was formed and exists for the following purposes: 1. To maintain international peace and settle disputes. 2. To develop the principle of equal rights and selfdetermination of peoples. 3. To solve international social, economic, and humanitarian problems and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. 4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these common goals. PRINCIPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS The United Nations was built upon and adheres to the following principles: 1. The Organization is based on the “sovereign equality” of all members. 2. All members are expected to fulfill “in good faith” all UN obligations. 3. All members should settle their international disputes by peaceful means so that “international peace, security and justice are not endangered”. 4. All members are to refrain from the threat or use of force against any state. UN PRINCIPLES Cont’d 5. All members are to assist the UN in any actions taken and are not to assist any state against which the UN is acting. 6. The Organization seeks to ensure that non-member states act in accordance with these principles to promote peace and security. 7. Nothing in the Charter authorizes the UN “to intervene in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state”. HAS THE UNITED NATIONS DONE WHAT IT SET OUT TO DO?