The United Nations

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The United Nations

The United Nations

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,
admits 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
the 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
projects, 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

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.


Throughout its 50 years of existence, a central purpose of the UN has
been to preserve world peace. The UN has helped resolve disputes between nations,
reduce tensions, prevent conflicts and put an end to fighting. It has carried
out complex operations involving peacemaking, peace-keeping and humanitarian
assistance. It has thus played a major role in resolving some of the most
protracted conflicts of recent years. The means at its disposal to bring about
peace are varied: a Security Council decision ordering a cease-fire and laying
down guidelines for settling a dispute . . . good offices of the Secretary-
General . . . a compromise worked out by a mediator . . . unpublicized
diplomatic approaches during informal encounters . . . dispatch of a fact-
finding team . . . observer missions or peace-keeping forces made up of
contingents from Member States under the command of the UN.
The demand for UN peace-keeping has increased dramatically, with 21 new
operations in 1988-1994, compared with 13 over the previous 40 years.
In early 1995, about 69,000 UN troops, military observers and civilian
police, provided by 77 countries, were deployed in various areas of the world.
More than 720,000 military personnel have served with the UN forces since 1948,
and more than 1,100 peace-keepers have lost their lives. Many thousands of
civilians have also served.

. . . in Somalia

The civil war that broke out in 1991 resulted in more than 300,000
people dead and five million threatened by hunger. The UN helped eliminate mass
starvation, stop the large-scale killings and bring a bitter conflict to an end.
It established in April 1992 the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM), followed in
December by the Unified Task Force, led by the United States. As a result, the
level of killings, starvation and malnutrition fell dramatically. In 1993, a new
UN Operation (UNOSOM II) replaced the Unified Task Force. UNOSOM II sought to
restore order, promote reconciliation and help rebuild Somalia's civil society
and economy; its mandate ended in March 1995. Various UN agencies are at work,
under difficult conditions, to provide humanitarian assistance.

. . . in Mozambique

The UN has helped secure peace in Mozambique. In 1992, to facilitate
implementation of the peace agreement between the Government and the Mozambican
National Resistance (RENAMO), the Security Council set up the UN Operation in
Mozambique (ONUMOZ). ONUMOZ monitored the cease-fire, verified the
demobilization of combatants, coordinated humanitarian aid and monitored in 1994
the country's first multi-party elections, which led to the peaceful
installation of a new Government. ONUMOZ successfully completed its mission in
January 1995.

. . . in Cambodia

The UN helped end the 12-year conflict in Cambodia. The Secretary-
General over the years exercised his good offices in the search for peace, and
in 1988 presented proposals for a political settlement. High-level meetings of
the five permanent members of the Security Council led to the signing in 1991 of
the Agreements on Cambodia a peace treaty to end the conflict and prepare the
country for elections. The Agreements assigned the UN an unprecedented role. A
large operation, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), was set up
to supervise the cease-fire, disarm combatants, repatriate refugees, and
organize and conduct free and fair elections. The May 1993 elections led to the
peaceful installation of a new Government in September 1993, thus successfully
fulfilling UNTAC's task.

. . . in Iran and Iraq

The UN was instrumental in ending the eight-year war between Iran and
Iraq. Intensive mediation efforts by the Security Council and the Secretary-
General led in August 1988 to a cease-fire and to the acceptance by both
countries of a 1987 UN peace plan. After the cease-fire, the UN military
observers of the UN Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG) were deployed
between the two opposing armies to supervise the end of the hostilities and
troop withdrawal. UNIIMOG completed its task in 1991.

. . . in Afghanistan

The UN played a similar peacemaking role in Afghanistan. As a result of
six years of negotiations conducted by a personal envoy of the Secretary-General,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Soviet Union and the United States signed in April
1988 agreements aiming at a settlement of the conflict. To verify compliance
with the agreements, the UN deployed the observers of the UN Good Offices
Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Soviet troop withdrawal was completed on
schedule in 1989, thus fulfilling the Mission's task. The Secretary-General and
his personal envoy have continued to work for a peaceful settlement in

. . . in Central America

The UN has helped resolve the conflicts in Central America. The UN
Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA), in place between 1989 and 1992,
monitored security commitments undertaken by five Central American countries. It
also helped demobilize some 22,000 members of the Nicaraguan resistance (also
known as "contras"), who in March-June 1990 turned in their weapons to ONUCA.
Another UN mission monitored the February 1990 elections in Nicaragua the
first UN-monitored elections in an independent country.
In El Salvador, the Secretary-General assisted in talks between the
Government and the Farabundo Mart¡ National Liberation Front (FMLN) aimed at
ending the 12-year conflict. The Secretary-General's mediation led to the 1992
peace agreement between the Government and FMLN, which ended the conflict and
opened the way to national reconciliation. The UN Observer Mission in El
Salvador monitored all agreements concluded between the Government and FMLN, and
observed the 1994 elections. In Guatemala, the UN supervised talks between the
Government and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), which led in
1994 to two agreements opening the way to a settlement of the 30-year conflict.
In November 1994, the UN set up a Mission for the Verification of Human Rights
in Guatemala.

. . . in Haiti

In 1990, the UN monitored the first democratic elections in Haiti, which
led to the installation of a Government headed by President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. After a military coup in 1991 forced Mr. Aristide into exile, the UN
mediated an agreement for the return to democracy. In the absence of further
progress, the Security Council authorized in 1994 the formation of a
multinational force and the use of all necessary means to facilitate the
departure of the military leaders. After the landing of the United States led
multinational force, President Aristide returned to Haiti in October 1994. A UN
peace-keeping force, the UN Mission in Haiti, is in place to sustain the secure
and stable environment established by the multinational force.

. . . in the former Yugoslavia

The UN has strenuously sought to resolve the conflict in the former
Yugoslavia. To help restore peace, the UN imposed in 1991 an arms embargo, while
the Secretary-General and his envoy assisted in seeking a solution to the crisis.
A peace-keeping force, the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR), deployed in 1992,
sought to create conditions of peace and security in Croatia, facilitated the
delivery of humanitarian relief in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and helped ensure
that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was not drawn into the conflict.
In 1995, UNPROFOR was split into three operations covering the three countries.
As UN-sponsored negotiations continued, the UN peace-keeping forces and UN
agencies sought to maintain cease-fires, protect the population and provide
humanitarian assistance.

. . . in the Middle East

The Middle East has long been a major concern to the UN. In 1948 a
military observer group, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), was set
up to monitor the truce called for by the Security Council during the first
Arab-Israeli war. UNTSO's functions have evolved, but its military observers
have remained in the area, helping to defuse tension. A peace-keeping force, the
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