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Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations”.
Those are words from Preamble of Charter of the United Nations. The Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, and came into existence on 24 October 1945.
The Statute of the International Court of Justice is an integral part of the Charter. The day is now celebrated each year around the world as United Nations Day. 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. It affords the opportunity for countries to balance global interdependence and national interests when addressing international problems.
There are currently 191 Members of the United Nations.
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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 world government opinion. The United Nations Headquarters is in New York City but the land and buildings are international territory.
The United Nations has its own flag, its own post office and its own postage stamps. Six official languages are used at the United Nations – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. The UN European Headquarters is in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. It has offices in Vienna, Austria and Economic Commissions in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Amman in Jordan, Bangkok in Thailand and Santiago in Chile. The senior officer of the United Nations Secretariat is the Secretary-General.
The Aims of the United Nations:
*To keep peace throughout the world.
*To develop friendly relations between nations.
*To work together to help people live better lives.
* to eliminate poverty, disease and illiteracy in the world.
* to stop environmental destruction.
* to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms.
*To be a centre for helping nations achieve these aims.
The Principles of the United Nations:
*All Member States have sovereign equality.
*All Member States must obey the Charter.
*Countries must try to settle their differences by peaceful means.
*Countries must avoid using force or threatening to use force.
*The UN may not interfere in the domestic affairs of any country.
All countries should try to assist the United Nations.
Now some information about the UN system:
The basic structure of the United Nations is outlined in an organizational chart. What the structure does not show is that decision-making within the UN system is not as easy as in many other organizations. The UN is not an independent, homogeneous organization; it is made up of states, so actions by the UN depend on the will of Member States, to accept, fund or carry them out. Especially in matters of peace-keeping and international politics, it
requires a complex, often slow, process of consensus-building that must take into account national sovereignty as well as global needs.
The Specialized Agencies, while part of the UN system, are separate, autonomous intergovernmental organizations which work with the UN and with each other. The agencies carry out work relating to specific fields such as trade, communications, air and maritime transport, agriculture and development. Although they have more autonomy, their work within a country or between countries is always carried out in partnership with those countries. They also depend on funds from Member States to achieve their goals.
Recently, international conferences organized by the UN have gained significance. UN conferences have been held since the 1960s, but with the Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, they turned into real fora for deciding on national and international policy regarding issues that affect everyone such as the environment, human rights and economic development. Since the Earth Summit, UN conferences have turned into forums in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can voice their concerns alongside those of governments.
Such conferences focus world attention on these issues and place them squarely on the global agenda. Yet, once the international agreements produced by these conferences are signed, it is still up to each individual country to carry them out. With the moral weight of international conferences and the pressures of media and NGOs, Member States are more likely to endorse the agreements and put them into effect.
I also would like to ad some basic information about structure and budget, to make brief of UN more visible. The six principal organs of the United Nations are the: General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and Secretariat. The United Nations family, however, is much larger, encompassing 15 agencies and several programmes and bodies. When it comes to a budget, the budget for the two years 2000-2001 was $2,535 million.
The main source of funds is the contributions of Member States, which are assessed on a scale approved by the General Assembly. The fundamental criterion on which the scale of assessments is based is the capacity of countries to pay. This is determined by considering their relative shares of total gross national product, adjusted to take into account a number of factors, including their per capita incomes. In addition, countries are assessed for the costs of peacekeeping operations.
What is the role of the UN nations in the changing World? I already gave some simply answers at the beginning of this assignment. I will try to answer this question in depth in the following part of my work.
The UN has been effective, even indispensable, in post-conflict development in Mozambique, Guatemala, Afghanistan, the Balkans and elsewhere. It also has guided and monitored political change (democracy and governance) in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and Georgia. The UN has been involved in the conflict in Abkhazia since Georgian forces stormed the Abkhaz parliament in Sukhumi in August 1992, triggering a war that remains unresolved today. In 1993, the UN and the CSCE (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe) agreed that the international lead on the conflict in Abkhazia should be taken by the UN.
In the same year the UN, faced with urgent requests from the government of Georgia to deploy a peacekeeping force to Abkhazia, decided to establish an observer mission for Georgia (UNOMIG) to monitor implementation of the July ceasefire agreement between the two sides which had been mediated and guaranteed by the Russian Federation. The decision to send an observer force rather than a fully fledged peacekeeping force reflected the desire of the Russian Federation to take the lead in the management of conflict in the ‘former Soviet space’, and the unwillingness of the other permanent members of the Security Council to challenge Russian prerogatives. There was also a general concern that the peacekeeping apparatus of the UN was overloaded, and disagreement among the parties as to what the mandate of a more substantial force would be.
The UN Secretary-General also designated Swiss diplomat Eduard Brunner as Special Envoy for the conflict. He served until 1997 when Liviu Bota, a Romanian diplomat, was appointed Special Representative (SRSG) for the Abkhaz conflict. Both were responsible for the mediation of a process of negotiation leading to a political settlement of the conflict. Bota has had a more or less permanent presence in the conflict zone, whereas Brunner was only delegated to visit intermittently. Russia’s special status in this process was recognized in its designation as ‘facilitator’ of the talks. In the early years of negotiation matters were not helped by the passive attitude taken by the Special Envoy to mediation of the conflict. The UN’s failure to take a more engaged approach was one factor among several contributing to the obvious lack of movement towards a political settlement in 1994-96.
The fact that the more proactive approach adopted by Liviu Bota has also not produced a settlement would suggest, however, that the extent of UN activism is not the determining factor in conflict resolution. While the first personnel of UNOMIG were being deployed, the ceasefire collapsed and hostilities resumed. The UN Security Council condemned the renewal of conflict and associated displacement of population and demanded that the parties cease fighting. They also decided to extend the mandate of UNOMIG pending clarification of the situation.
Traditionally, the UN has had a similar approach to its work since its conception in 1947. Gradually it became more and more involved; adding different organelles, agencies, and addressing more issues that weren’t necessarily new as it grew in size and scope. The International Court of Justice, the Economic and Social Council, and agencies like the International Maritime Organization were created to solve problems in these areas. It grew out of the General Assembly and the Security Council; to an organization with thousands of employees worldwide doing hundreds of completely different things. To put it simply, and to generalize, it has gotten bigger, and more involved.
The Secretary General NOW has the ability to change the way a leader runs his country, make two warring countries sign a peace treaty, and even route money through areas in the world that would have never gotten any before. The Secretary has assumed power or the power of influence, he or she does not have any written or given power, Still however, this clearly shows how much more the UN has gotten involved and grown, even more like the feared “world government” that it vows to never become.
It is a little misleading to speak of the role of the UN. The UN is nearly powerless as an abstract entity or even as a representative of the world’s nations. It can act, instead, only insofar as it is given authorization by the great powers, which means primarily the United States. The UN has no standing peacekeeping force and thus is dependent on finding countries willing to contribute troops for any particular mission. The organization suffers as well from an extreme shortage of funds because of the continual U.S. refusal to pay its dues. Any peacekeepers sent to East Timor will probably not be a UN force because the U.S. Congress has required that there be a 15-day delay before the U.S. government can approve any UN peacekeeping operation and has forbidden Washington from paying its authorized share of the costs of any such operation.
U.S. influence is greatest in the Security Council, but some organs of the UN, such as the General Assembly or bodies dealing with economic and social issues have had a Third World majority ever since the era of decolonization. Accordingly, U.S. policy has been to undermine and marginalize the UN. The United Nations should have an important role in world affairs, but U.S. policy and the policies of other leading states, severely limit the international organization.
From the point of view of U.S. policymakers, however, there is one crucial role played by the UN: it serves as a convenient scapegoat when something goes wrong. For example, the current catastrophe in East Timor is directly attributable to the refusal of the United States and other Western powers to deter the atrocities there over a period of a quarter century, yet the UN will probably take the blame. So as we can see, we can look for the subject of my assignment from the different point of view.
Another UN’s role:
The Asian crisis, has become a global crisis, was by no means a purely financial matter. It had disastrous consequences for millions of people in their everyday lives. Moreover, it was the poor who are hardest hit. In Indonesia, almost 15,000 workers lost their jobs in 1998. And poverty came with its usual sorry retinue: hunger, social unrest, violence, abuse of human rights. The least developed countries, the ones least able to influence world priorities and policies, were penalized. So the human dimension was at the heart of the response (including debt relief)to this first major crisis of globalization.
Of course, the role of the seven major industrial powers, and of the world’s finance ministers and central bankers, remained crucial. But they could not undertake this task alone. All parts of the international system came together. President Clinton has suggested wide-ranging discussions on the new world “financial architecture.” Some would say that this was none of the U.N.’s business. There are other international bodies, more specialized and perhaps more competent to deal with economic problems: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the Bank for International Settlements. But the U.N. is the one truly global institution we all belong to. It must have a seat at the table. Economic and financial strategies will succeed only if they are applied within a clear political framework. That framework will command much wider support if, through the U.N., all affected countries have played a part in working it out.
Over the long term, globalization will be positive. It draws us closer together and enables us to produce more efficiently, to control our environment, to improve our quality of life. But such benefits are not felt equally by all. For many people, “long term” is too far off to be meaningful. Millions on this planet still live in isolation, on the margins of the world economy. Millions more are experiencing globalization not as a great new opportunity but as a profoundly disruptive force that attacks both their material living standards and their culture. Some of those who had benefited most from open markets and capital flows were feeling the greatest pain. The temptation to retreat into nationalism or populism is strong. But, fortunately, in most developing countries, those false solutions are being rejected. Each country’s crisis has its own local features and causes. Each country has to address its own specific problems and shortcomings. But many countries need help, for these are not just financial or macro-economic problems.
They have grave social and political consequences, and some of their causes are to be found in political and social systems. The U.N. has a responsibility, as the universal institution, to insist on the need for worldwide solutions based on rules that are fair to all. It is the UN job to ensure that nations do not react to crisis by turning their backs on universal values. In such crises, the UN must come together to find solutions based on the founding principles which all their member states have in common: those of the U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, the UN has a special responsibility to speak up for the victims or potential victims. The UN cannot forget the countries in Africa and elsewhere whose debt burdens the crisis has made even more unsustainable. Debt relief is often resisted on grounds of “moral hazard,” that it rewards the reckless and penalizes the prudent.
But were not the lenders often just as reckless and irresponsible as the borrowers? Can it really be moral for them to insist on full interest and full repayment if the result is that children not yet born when the debts were contracted are denied even a subsistence diet or an elementary education? Many nations feel their interests are ignored or neglected in specialized economic bodies, where the strongest voices, for quite understandable reasons, tend to be those of countries which have already achieved economic success. But the U.N. provides a forum for informed debate among all those affected by the crisis. It has to represent all stakeholders in the global economy. The U.N. must play its part in the search for solutions that preserve the benefits of globalization while protecting those who have suffered or who have been left out.
UN has kept women’s issues and interests on the agenda of change when they risked being set aside for a “later” that would never come in Afghanistan, Kosovo and East Timor. It has protected children in conflict and in post-conflict stress. The UN is bringing justice post-conflict to the repressed through ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia), ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), and the nascent Sierra Leone court. In each case, the role and the centrality of the UN have been different. The United Nations is an organization that has always been based on respect for nation’s sovereignties, peace, and judicial cooperation regarding topics which are salient to the current time period. As the entire world moves further into the “technological age”, and with the turn of the century coming (which is really only symbolic of a new era), new issues are bound to develop. The world will gradually change, and the UN needs to address these needs by evaluating its current state along with what it can do to change for the better.
The increasingly global economy, the European Community, and the development of the sagging Asian market (with the rest of the world in a recession also) show action needs to be taken economically. Hostility remains in the Middle East, human rights are being violated every day around the globe, and people everywhere are disgruntled with their current governmental situation. How will the UN curb nuclear terrorism, help the homeless and uneducated, and still maintain and outside role in political matters? Or should they maintain an outside role? These are merely a few of the hundreds of issues addressing the world today, and the UN must prepare for the coming decade with open minded foresight. As Secretary General Kofi A. Annan said, every conflict is different, every post-conflict is different, and each model of intervention by the international community is different. In Iraq, we have an immediate post-conflict humanitarian and reconstruction challenge in front of us. It is in everyone’s interests, especially in the Iraqi people’s interest, to ensure that Iraq becomes an economically functional, politically stable and self-governing state that is respectful of the rule of law, of democratic principles and of international norms.
The coalition nations currently controlling Iraqi territory have distinct responsibilities as occupying powers to maintain public order and safety, to protect civilians and to provide essential services. The wider international community, especially the United Nations, also have indispensable roles to play. While systems are in place for humanitarian assistance, a framework is needed to facilitate greater engagement and support in the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq. The United Nations has extensive expertise that can and should be brought to bear. The UN and its agencies have been heavily involved in Iraq since the first Gulf War, and have an in-depth understanding of the circumstances, and the challenges.
The UN is fully engaged through its agencies and has resources on the ground in Iraq, providing much-needed assistance to the Iraqi people. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the WFP (World Food Programme)- they all know Iraq. Countries need to build on the strength of the engagement of these and other UN agencies in Iraq, and determine how best they can make further use of this experience and expertise. In Iraq, as in all post-conflict situations, common over-arching goals must be to meet the needs of the people, and to support them in their course towards stability, recovery and reconstruction.
After Kosovo, many thought NATO would become let say “Globocop” that the G-8 would supplant the Security Council, that the UN would be sidelined. But, in fact, the UN picked up the pieces in Kosovo, mandated the intervention in East Timor and has helped Afghanistan put itself back together. What about issues that should to be addressed in a Resolution? As for what should be addressed, there almost are more topics than one is able to think about. Should there be more staff running relief efforts in Zaire? Is the International Court of Justice really necessary, or is it wasting money and time that could be spent on other things. Analyzing this, you could say that since nations only sue each other, and no real action is taken, and the courts have no real power to enforce anything, what is the use? Possibly the funding used for this could go towards building schools in Africa. This may seem fairly ludicrous, but one needs to have the foresight to see these things, and there is only a certain amount of money around for things like this.
Possibly the UN relief troops should be allowed to use loaded weapons and fire at hostile parties, for their own safety and to help curb violence more. Maybe the Secretary General should be stripped of all his power, and put all diplomacy matters in the hands of the General Assembly or Security Council. The Secretary could have increased power that would force nations to comply with his decisions. A UN that is much like a world government could possibly work as long as there was representatives from every nation. Because the world is more complex, if the UN was simplified it might make things smoother. Instead of having an agency for every little issue, such as the ACC Sub-Committee on Nutrition, or the UN office for Outer Space affairs. Are these REALLY necessary? They may be, but it is the decision of the delegates. The UN’s image with “Security Council” and a Court System might look bad to some conservative minded citizens of a nation.
Economically, are the proper funds being allocated to areas and agencies in need? Should a worldwide mandatory educational requirement be put into effect? What exactly is the most pressing area right now that needs the fiscal help the UN can offer? Again, in the past 50 years help has been going to the same places, while the Secretariat grew larger and larger, and the entire UN gradually began becoming a complex political bureaucracy, and began to focus less on its original mission as stated in the charter, to promote peaceful relations between the nations of the world. This doesn’t seem to be working anymore, possibly because the current UN is obsolete.
In summation, United Nations reform is a daunting task. As a member of UN, Poland should remember to use foresight, think of what kind of world we will live in next century, what new things will happen, and how the UN should evolve to meet these needs with vigor. The UN is still only an organization, not a government, and it is based itself on precedent. That is, actions of the past determine future decisions. If precedent is broken, we should remember what has been built for all of us for the past 51 years.
United Nations: 50 Years of Peace and War, University of California Press, John Taylor, Phd. 1998
United Nations Published Charter
The History of The United Nations, Paladin Press, Jonathon Kingsley. 1994
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