The United Nations
There have been many organizations throughout recent history that have tried to attain international unity but have failed. Organizations such as: the European River Commissions of the early 1800?s, the International Telegraph Union (1865) and the Universal Postal Union (1874), the Court of Arbritrations (1899), and the League of Nations (1914). The United Nations, however, has emerged as a great power in the struggle for international peace.
The Charter of the United Nations was ratified on October 24, 1945. This was the official beginning of what was to become one of the greatest organizations in the world today, however, the true beginning of the U.N. took place six months earlier. The United Nations Conference On International Organization was the true beginning of the U.N. This conference took place in San Francisco in late April of 1945. Fifty nations sent delegates to take part in the negotiations. During this conference the representatives of the respective countries debated over many topics dealing with international peace, and in doing so wrote a document that laid the ground work for what was later to become the U.N. This document is known as the Charter of the United Nations. It set the guide lines for six principal organs which are: The General Assembly, The Security Council, The Economic and Social Council, The International Court of Justice, The Trusteeship Council, The Secretariat. These six main branches of the U.N. work together “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” (Patterson 202) On January 10,1946 the United Nations officially began it?s work when the General Assembly met for the
The General Assembly is the first of the six main organs that is discussed in the Charter. The General Assembly is composed of representatives from every nation belonging to the United Nations each of which has one vote. Most of the decisions of the General Assembly are reached
by a simple majority, however, decisions on items deemed important such as peace and security, admission of new members, and budgetary matters require a two-thirds majority. Although the decisions of the General Assembly are not legally binding they do however carry strong world opinion. The General Assembly meets once a year. This session usually begins on the third Tuesday of September and ends sometime in mid-December. Every time the General Assembly begins a new year of deliberations their first task is to elect one president, twenty-one vice presidents, and chairpersons for each of the six standing committee?s. These six committee?s deal with major international issues such as: “disarmament and international security; world economy and finance; social, humanitarian, and cultural issues; special political issues and decolonization; administration and budget; and legal matters.”(Patterson 26)
Even though the regular session of the General Assembly lasts around three months, the work of these six committee?s is continued throughout the year.
The Security Council is the second major organ in the United Nations. The Security Council?s main responsibility, as stated by Article 24 of the U.N. Charter, is to maintain peace and security throughout the world. A representative of each nation that is currently sitting on the Security Council has to be present at the U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York at all times. When a complaint concerning a threat of peace is brought before it:
“The council?s first action is usually to recommend to the parties to try to reach an agreement by peaceful means. In some cases, the council itself may undertake the investigation and the mediation. It may appoint special representatives or request the Secretary-General to do so or to use his good offices.”(Security Council 1 of 4)
On the recommendation of the Security Council the General Assembly can and sometimes does
suspend a member nation of its rights and privileges. This usually occurs when either preventative measures or enforcement actions have been taken against that member nation. Any member nation may participate in the Security Council?s proceedings, however, a nation must be an elected member of the council to be allowed to vote. The Security Council is composed of fifteen nations. All nations of the United Nations are eligible to be elected to the Security Council every year. Five of these nations, specifically, China, France, The Russian Federation, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and The United States, are permanent members of the Council and don?t need to be elected. These five nations are also called the V-5 because they are the only nations in the Security Council to have the power of vetoing a resolution with a “no” vote. Of the remaining ten positions the General Assembly elects five nations every year for a two year term thus staggering the new membership. Any nation who has just previously served a term on the Security Council, excluding the five permanent members, can not serve two consecutive terms. Non-members of the United Nations can also sit in on the deliberations of the Security Council. This can happen if and only if they are a part of what is being disputed and negotiated. The presidency of the Council rotates monthly thus eventually all members will at some point during their term have a chance to be president.
The third major organ of the United Nations is the Economic and Social Council also known as ECOSOC. The Economic and Social Council is used by the U.N. to coordinate the economic and social work that the U.N. carries out throughout the world. Its three major functions as stated by Article 55 of the U.N. Charter are to promote:
“(A) higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social
progress, (B) solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems
and international cultural and educational cooperation, and (C) universal respect for, and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”(Economic… 1 of 4)
Throughout the world the U.N. is most well known for their peacekeeping efforts. This is because peacekeeping efforts gain the most media coverage. In spite of this around 80% of what the United Nations does is dealing with economic and social projects. To carry out these projects ECOSOC fifty-four members meet twice a year, each time for roughly a month. Members of ECOSOC are elected by the General Assembly to three year terms. These terms are staggered so that every year the Council will receive eighteen nations to replace the eighteen whose terms have ended. Unlike the Security Council members of the Economic and Social Council who have just completed their three year term are eligible to be re-elected. Each year the Economic and Social Council elects one president. This president is chosen by the members of ECOSOC with a two-thirds majority and will serve as president for the entire year.
The Trusteeship Council is the fourth main organ of the United Nations. This Council is made up of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The main task of Trusteeship Council is “the supervising the administration of Trust Territories under the Trusteeship System.”(Trusteeship 1of 1) For all intensive purposes the Trusteeship Council does not exist at this moment, however, it can be reinstated at any time. As of November 1, 1994 the Trusteeship Council suspended its operations. This decision came because on October1, 1994 the last remaining Trust territory of the U.N., Palau, gained its independence. Being as there were no territories to oversee the Council saw no apparent reason for continuing to meet until such time as there was another Trust Territory entered under the care of the U.N. Under the U.N. Charter, the primary goal of the Trusteeship Council was:
“to examine and discuss reports from the Administration Authority on the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the peoples of the Trust Territories and, in consolation with the Administration Authority, to examine petitions from and undertake periodic and other special missions to Trust Territories.”(Trusteeship 1of 1)
The fifth major organ of the United Nations is the International Court of Justice also known as the I.C.J. This is also the major judicial organ of the U.N. The Court began its work in 1946. It is housed in the Peace Palace which is in The Hague, Netherlands. The court has a dual role in the United Nations which is: “to settle in accordance with international law the disputes submitted to it by the states, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies.”(The International Court… 1 of 4) The International Court of Justice is made up of fifteen judges from fifteen different nations. These judges are elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council. Five of the fifteen judges are elected every three years to replace those judges who just finished their term. These judges serve nine year terms and can be re-elected to more than one consecutive term. The rules of the I.C.J., simply called the Rules of the Court, were adopted on April 11, 1978. All judgments handed down by the I.C.J. are final and are not subject to appeal. Since its inception in 1946 the International Court of Justice has delivered sixty judgments and forty-six advisory opinions.
The Secretariat is the sixth and final major organ of the United nations. The Secretariat is basically the secretary of the U.N. in that it performs all the day-to-day tasks needing done. The head of The Secretariat is the Secretary-General. Since the beginning of the U.N. back in 1945 it has had eight different Secretary-Generals, of which the current one is Coffey Anon. The duties of The Secretariat are extremely varied. These duties include:
“surveying economic and social trends and problems; prepare studies for subjects such as
human rights and sustainable development; organize international conferences on issues of international concern; monitor the extent to which the decisions of United Nation?s bodies are being carried out; interpret speeches and translate documents into organizations official languages; and conduct information programs to acquaint the world?s communications media with the work of the United Nations.”(Secretariat 1of 1)
The Secretariat is the largest organ of the United Nations with a total employment of over 25,000 men and women from160 nations throughout the world.
Through the years the organs of the United Nations have dealt with issues that “seem always to remain the same. The Challenges of achieving peace, prosperity, and health for all the worlds people have not diminished with time. If anything, they have grown larger, with dramatic new developments occurring daily.”(Woog 9) Former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali once wrote “that no other organization can match the United Nation?s global network of information-gathering and constructive activity, which reaches from modern world centers of power down to the villages and families where people carry out the irreducible responsibilities of their lives,”(Woog 8) “In a small way this reflects the challenge that remains ahead for the men and women who work for the U.N.”(Woog 9)
“Economic and Social Council” n.pag.on-line.internet.December 23, 1997
“ABOUT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY/Background Information”
n.pag.on-line.internet.December 23, 1997
“Secretariat” n.pag.on-line.internet.Decenber 23,1997
“Security Council” n.pag.on-line.internet.December 23, 1997
“The International Court of Justice” n.pag.on-line.internet.December 23, 1997
“Trusteeship Council” n.pag.on-line.internet.December 23, 1997