The United Nations: Aims, Organs of the United Nations and Other Details!
The world witnessed two devastating wars in the 20th century. The First World War broke out in 1914 and continued till 1918. Millions of people were killed, wounded, maimed, crippled and rendered homeless.
The horror and tragedy of the First World War led to a universal desire for peace.
It was felt that some international organization should be created to prevent future wars. Out of this desire was born the League of Nations. The primary aim of the League of Nations was to preserve peace and promote international cooperation.
The League of Nations failed to maintain peace and the Second World War broke out in 1939. The outbreak of the Second World War revealed to the world the weaknesses of the League of Nations. It was felt that a much stronger international organisation should be created, if the world was to have peace. The Second World War which broke out in 1939 came to an end in 1945.
The Atlantic charter:
Even before the end of the war, in August 1941, the U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt, and the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, met on a battleship, ‘the Cruiser’, in the mid-Altantic and drew up the Atlantic Charter which was released on 14 August, 1941.
The Charter had the following objectives:
(1) To maintain international peace and security;
(2) To encourage international cooperation in the spheres of social, economic and cultural developments;
(3) To develop friendly relations among nations on principles of equal rights and self- determination;
(4) To recognise the fundamental rights of all people.
United Nations declaration or the Washington declaration:
On 1 January, 1942, representatives of 26 Allied countries met in Washington and signed a Declaration of United Nations. The signatories endorsed the principles of the Atlantic Charter. This was the first time that the term ‘United Nations’ was used.
The UN Charter finally emerged after three major conferences—the Dumbarton Oaks Conference (1944), the Yalta Conference (1945) and the San Francisco Conference (1945). At the Dumbarton Oaks Conference the representatives of four major powers (Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union and China) agreed on proposals for the aims, structure and functioning of the United Nations. They voted for an Assembly, a Security Council, a Secretariat and an International Court. The Yalta Conference decided on the voting procedure to be followed by the Security Council.
Membership of the United Nations was to be opened to all peace- loving states. Representatives of fifty nations met at San Francisco to sign the Atlantic Charter. Poland signed it later and became one of the original 51 member states.
The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October, 1945. The Charter had been ratified by the five big powers Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States and by a majority of the other signatories.
The 24th of October is celebrated as United Nations Day. Today, the organization has 192 members.
The headquarters of the United Nations is located in New York, USA. The organization has six official languages- English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic. Its flag bears its emblem, a map of the world encircled by two bent olive branches.
Aims of the United Nations:
The objectives of the United Nations, according to its Charter, are:
(1) To maintain international peace and security.
(2) To develop friendly relations among nations on the basis of equality and the principle of self-determination.
(3) To foster worldwide cooperation in solving economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems.
(4) To promote human rights and fundamental freedom for the people of the world.
(5) To serve as a centre where various nations can coordinate their activities towards the attainment of the objectives of the United Nations.
(6) To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
The organs of the United Nations:
The UN has six principal organs to carry out its functions:
1. The General Assembly,
2. The Security Council,
3. The Economic and Social Council,
4. The Trusteeship Council,
5. The International Court of Justice and
6. The Secretariat.
The General Assembly:
The General Assembly is the largest organ of the UN. All members of the UN are members of the General Assembly. Each state can send up to five representatives but is entitled to one vote in the Assembly. This ensures that all the member states have equal status.
The General Assembly meets once a year for three months. But special sessions may be held during times of crisis. At the beginning of every session, the Assembly elects a new President.
The functions of the General Assembly are as follows:
1. It can discuss any matter affecting international peace and security.
2. It makes recommendations for peaceful settlements of disputes.
3. It passes the budget of the UN.
4. It elects the non-permanent members of the Security Council.
5. It also elects the members of the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council.
6. It admits new members to the UN on the recommendation of the Security Council.
7. The Security Council and the General Assembly elect the members of the International Court of Justice.
8. In recent years the General Assembly has increased its power through a resolution called Uniting for Peace Resolution. The General Assembly can make recommendations for “collective measures, including the use of armed forces”, in case the Security Council is unable to take a decision during a crisis.
Decisions are taken in the General Assembly by a simple majority vote. In some important cases a two-thirds majority vote is required for taking a decision.
The Security Council:
The Security Council is the most important and effective organ of the UN. It is the executive wing of the UN. The Security Council consists of 15 members. Five of them are permanent members, namely Britain, China, France, Russia and the USA. The ten non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly for a term of two years.
Each member has one vote. Decisions are taken by a majority vote of at least nine members including the five permanent members. Each permanent member has the power to reject or veto a decision. This means a negative vote by any one of the permanent members would lead to a cancellation of the resolution. The Council is powerless to act if there is such a veto by any permanent member although it may be supported by all other permanent members.
The Security Council has the basic responsibility of maintaining peace and security in the world. The Security Council meets once a month but in the event of an emergency, a meeting may be held whenever required.
Functions of the Security Council:
1. To maintain international peace and security in the world.
2. To investigate international disputes and recommend appropriate methods of settling them.
3. To call on member states to apply economic sanctions against the aggressor and thus to put pressure on the guilty state to stop aggression.
4. The Security Council may take military action against the aggressor, if required.
The International Court of Justice:
The International Court of Justice, located in The Hague, Netherlands, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
The Court consists of 15 Judges from different countries elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council. They are elected for a nine-year term. No two judges can be citizens of the same country.
Functions of the International Court of Justice:
(1) To settle disputes brought to it by member nations.
(2) To provide legal advice to any organ of the UN on request.
The Trusteeship Council:
The Trusteeship Council was set up immediately after the Second World War. It was set up to ensure the proper administration and development of those areas of the world that were under foreign rule. The Council was also to take steps to help them attain self- government. By 1994, all Trust Territories had attained self-government. The Council will now meet only if required to do so.
The Economic and Social Council:
The Economic and Social Council consists of 54 members elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term.
The ECOSOC discusses major economic and social issues. It is mainly concerned with the management of the UN’s social, economic, cultural and humanitarian activities.
Its main functions are as follows:
1. To promote economic and social progress.
2. To solve problems relating to health, illiteracy, unemployment, etc.
3. To coordinate the functions of the agencies of the UN like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), etc.
The Secretariat is the principal administrative department of the UN. It is headed by the Secretary-General appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a term of five years. He can be re-elected.
The staff of the Secretariat is appointed by the Secretary-General. They are chosen from among the 192 member countries. The Secretary- General holds a key position in the administration of the affairs of the UN. He organises conferences, oversees peacekeeping operations, drafts reports on economic and social trends, prepares studies on human rights, mediates in international disputes and prepares budget estimates.
It is to be noted that the United Nations can achieve success only if the member states cooperate with it. All member countries must abide by the policies and programmes of the United Nations, if the latter is to succeed as a peace-keeping organisation.