United Nations

What is the United Nations?

United NationsThe United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization established after the end of World War II with the aim of promoting international co-operation. As the successor of the ineffective League of Nations, the United Nations was created on 24 October 1945 to prevent another conflict and maintain international peace and security. At the time of its founding, the UN had 51 member states while the organization currently has 193.


Prior to the creation of the UN, different international treaty organizations had been formed in order to regulate conflicts between countries, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. After the end of the First World War, the League of Nations was established at the Paris Peace Conference. The aim on the League of Nations would be to maintain harmony between states and prevent another major conflict. While the organization resolved a few territorial disputes and established international structures for postal mail, aviation and opium control, the League of Nations failed to represent colonial people and lacked the participation from several major powers, including the US and USSR. Moreover, the organization also failed to prevent the German expansion under Adolf Hitler which eventually culminated in the Second World War.


The idea of creating a new world organization emerged while President Franklin Roosevelt was in office in 1939. The text of the “Declaration by United Nations” was drafted by President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Harry Hopkins in 1941. President Roosevelt first used the term ‘United Nations’ to refer to the four major Allied countries, namely the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and China. These countries, together with the governments of 26 other states, signed the United Nations Declaration on New Year’s Day 1942. However, it was only in 1945 that the UN officially came into existence. After the end of the Second World War, the UN Conference on International Organization was attended by 50 governments who involved in the drafting process of the United Nations Charter, in which the United Nations was established. Only after the permanent members of the Security Council (France, China, the Soviet Union, the US and the UK) ratified the Charter, did the UN officially come into existence.



The United Nations system is based on six principal organs which were established when the UN was founded in 1945. The main organs of the UN are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat.

General Assembly

The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. All 193 members of the UN are represented in this organ and they meet each year in September in the General Assembly Hall for the annual General Assembly session. During this session, important decisions are made relating to peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters.

Security Council

The Security Council is the organ that has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, as outlined in the UN Charter. The Security Council has a total of 15 members, of which 5 are permanent and 10 are non-permanent members. The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of threats to peace or acts of aggression. It calls upon parties of a dispute to settle conflicts by peaceful means and recommends terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security. All member states of the United Nations are obligated to comply with the decisions made by the Security Council, as stated in the UN Charter.

Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council is the main body of the UN responsible for the co-operation amongst states with regards to economic and social matters. The body conducts policy reviews and policy dialogue, and makes recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues. The Economic and Social Council serves as the central point for the UN system and its specialized agencies for reflection, debate and innovative thinking on sustainable development. Furthermore, the body has 54 members which are elected by the General Assembly for an overlapping three-year terms.

The Trusteeship Council

The Trusteeship Council was created to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories and ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the territories for independence and self-governance. Since all Trust Territories had gained independence or self-governance by 1994, the operation of the Trusteeship Council was suspended. A resolution adopted on 25 May 1994, the Trusteeship Council amended its rules of procedure and dropped its obligation to meet on an annual basis.

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice is the United Nations’ principal judicial organ located in the Peace Palace in the Hague, the Netherlands. The role of the organ is to settle legal disputes submitted by UN member states in accordance with international law. The 15 judges of the Court are elected by the General Assembly for nine-year terms.

The Secretariat

The Secretariat is the administrative body of the United Nations, which comprises the Secretary-General and tens of thousands of international UN staff members. The Secretary-General is the chief administrative officer and is appointed by the General Assembly for a five-year, renewable term. UN staff members are recruited both nationally and internationally and work in peacekeeping missions as well as duty stations worldwide to ensure the day-to-day operations of the organizations.


The main objectives of the UN are to maintain international peace and security, promote sustainable development, protect human rights, uphold international law and deliver humanitarian aid. The UN uses different tools and activities to prevent conflict, help parties in conflict make peace and assist parties to maintain peace in the aftermath of conflict. The UN does not only use diplomacy and mediation as effective tools in diminishing human suffering, but also has peacekeeping missions in place to assist countries navigate the path from conflict to peace. Peacekeeping missions get their mandate from the Security Council and are not only called upon to maintain peace and security, but they also assist in facilitating political processes, protecting civilians, restoring the rule of law and promoting human rights. Another primary objective of the UN is to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character. The creation of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 and its succeeding Sustainable Developing Goals in 2015 are only a few of the many UN initiatives to address issues such as poverty eradication, environmental protection and the protection of the vulnerable.

Human Rights

The promotion and protection of human rights is one the guiding principles of the United Nations, as outlined in the United Nations Charter. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly and has ever since served as a standard of achievement for all human beings. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has also served as the basis of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In 1979, the General Assembly adopted CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1989.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the main body in the UN system responsible for promoting and protecting human rights. The office does not only support peacekeeping missions in protecting human rights, but also comments on human rights situations in the world. Moreover, the office also has the authority to investigate human rights cases and issue reports on them.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1602x
Added: 11-02-2016 17:49
Last modified: 18-02-2016 22:36

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