The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization, officially established on October 24, 1945, right after the end of Second World War. the charter of the UN was initially signed by 51 sovereign countries to end future successive generations from the scourge of war and to promote mutual cooperation and pave way for international peace to prevail in the world.
The Charter of United Nations is the UN's governing document. The UN Charter sets out the main objectives and goals of the UN. Article I of the Charter of United Nations specifies the purposes of the UN.
Therefore, the UN was necessarily established to maintain international peace and security, protect human rights and dignity and for socio-economic development of the member states.
Article 2 of the UN Charter lays down seven main principles as guidance for the functioning of the UN. These are:
Owing to its unique character and the power vested in its charter the United Nations can take up actions on various issues on an international level by acting as a platform in the form of General Assembly, Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and other bodies and committees.
The UN’s scope includes a broad range of fundamental issues such as sustainable development, environment and refugee protection, disaster relief, disarmament and non-proliferation, counter terrorism, promoting democracy, human rights, gender equality, governance, economic and social development and international health, expanding food production, and much more.
The United Nations was established in 1945 to replace the ill fated League of Nations. The first step in the direction of establishing this organization was during the Second World War when the Allies announced their clear intention against the Axis powers to destroy dictatorship and secure the world for democracy and resolved to establish a new world organization rather than revive the old League of Nation.
In January 1941, US President Roosevelt had spelled out four necessary freedoms which were of national importance. These freedoms which came to be known as the famous four freedoms are:
On June 12, 1941, London Declaration, it was formerly announced by the allies that they had a mutual intention of working together to establish the world free of the menace of aggression where everybody can enjoy economic and social security.
Later, the Four Freedoms and the London Declaration came to be regarded as the expression of the desire of mankind to be free from the evils of war.
The next step in the direction was in August 1941, when US President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Churchill issued the famous ‘Atlantic Charter’. This Charter was an expression towards the establishment of a ‘peace that will ensure all nations safety within their boundaries’. The principles are given in the Atlantic Charter and the London Declaration came to be known as the United Nations declaration. This declaration was signed in Washington on January 1, 1942. President Roosevelt first coined the term ‘united nations’ in this declaration. It was chosen as it had an influencing means to replace the League. The declaration also emphasized on cooperation in all form in the struggle against the aggressor.
Later in 1943, four allies China, US, UK and the USSR took a formal decision to establish a new international organization which came to known as the ‘Moscow Declaration of Four Nations on General Security’. They expressed their desire to establish an organization which embodied the idea of international peace and security of all sovereign states at the earliest date.
As the allies decided to replace the League by the United Nations, they convened a formal conference at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC in August - September 1944. This conference was attended by Britain, US, and USSR and later joined by China. The UN Charter was drafted but they could not reach a mutual agreement as UK USSR and US had some disagreements. These issues were resolved in the Yalta Conference in 1945.
Later the draft Charter was adopted in San Francisco conference. The UK, US, USSR, France and China were the early supporters of this Charter. The Charter was finally signed after two months of ardent deliberations by the then 51 nations (original members).
Therefore, after much efforts and deliberations, the United Nations came into existence on 24 October 1945. A Preparatory Committee was formed after the establishment to see to the initial phase.
The UN Charter initially created six main organs - the General Assembly, Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat. The Trusteeship Council lost its relevance after the decolonization process was completed.
The General Assembly is a primary organ of the United Nations. All member states are represented in the General Assembly. Each country is allowed to send two delegates and each country is entitled to only one vote, whether big or small. Every year, a President of the General assembly is elected by all the members.
The Security Council is another permanent organ of the United Nations. The primary function of the security Council is to maintain international peace and security. It has also been responsible for the efforts in disarmament and arms control. It consists of 15 members - five of which are the permanent ones (Chin, France, UK, US and Russia) and the remaining 10 non permanent members are elected by the General Assembly. One special feature is the ‘veto power’ by the 5 permanent member states often exercised in political matters in their own advancements. It means that if one of the 5 permanent members does not consort to affirmative vote then despite the 9 or more member’s consent, the decision cannot be taken. This has been under a lot of criticism and scrutiny by the international community.
The Economic and Social Council has 54 members who are elected by the General Assembly and is a permanent body. The UN recognized the importance socio economic equality and therefore aimed to promote higher standards of living, full employment and create conditions for economic and social progress and development. It is responsible for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all section of the society. It is also responsible for coordination of activities among various socioeconomic specialized agencies established under the auspice of the UN. The ECOSOC elects its own President. The ECOSOC functions through a number of commissions and agencies. Therefore, it coordinates various functions and activities of the agencies such as the Universal Postal Union, the World Bank, International Civil Aviation Organization, UNESCO, FAO etc.
The Trusteeship Council was established after the Second World War to manage the colonies of the warring countries. There were 10 mandated territories which did not gain independence and therefore were placed under the Trusteeship Council.
The International Court of Justice was established as a permanent organ by Article 92 of the UN Charter. The ICJ succeeded the PCIJ of League days. It consists of 15 judges. The judges are elected for a term of 9 years. The court enjoys three types of jurisdiction consisting of advisory jurisdiction, voluntary jurisdiction and optional clause. The decision taken by the ICJ is necessarily binding. Only those states who are parties to the Statute of the ICJ.
The Secretariat is a permanently functioning non political body. It is headed by the Secretary-General and consists of various other functioning bodies of the UN. The role of the Secretary General has evolved to be more complex and articulated. Article 99 of the UN Charter describes his political role. He is the Chief Administrative Officer of the organization. He is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendations of the Security Council.
Unlike the league of nations which collapsed after 2 decades of its existence, the United Nations have been successful in its method and ways to fulfill its goal. Its main role is to monitor maintenance of international peace and peaceful settlement of disputes. Soon after the end of World War II, it was realized there was a need to curb world hunger, poverty and other socio economic issues.
The UN realized its primary objective to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war. In this regard, the UN has identified peaceful settlement of disputes as the main agent to pacify conflict among member states. The UN has also committed to end armed conflicts and aggression of any form or incase a war breaks out. If it is unavoidable then the UN may resort to calling for collective measures against the aggressor through the act of collective use of force by all member states. In areas of socio economic development, the UN, in accordance with Article 1(3) of the Charter has been making numerous efforts. The ECOSOC is the main organ that manages and coordinates among various agents of socio economic development. There are various institutions and agencies such as the ILO, WHO, UNESCO etc which are constantly in engagement in addressing problems like health care, poverty, tackling food shortage, diseases, education, scientific and cultural environment and protection of children.
Another main aspect of UN’s role is to monitor and upkeep the idea to protect human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all. The UN constituted the Human Rights Commission which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to emphasize the importance of protection of human rights and dignity.
During 50 years of UN’s existence, it was confronted with many significant problems. The first was related to the excessive use of the veto power by the 5 permanent members of the Security Council, especially during the Cold War period. The UN was crippled virtually because it was unable to take effective decisions on various issues. The UN General Assembly then adopted the Uniting for Peace resolution in 1950 so that the General Assembly would consider the decision if the Security Council was not able to come to a consented conclusion. The second problem was concerned with the structural identity of the UN as many earlier colonies achieved independence and new nations came into existence. Therefore, its membership expanded and ultimately led to the diversification of its activities in various fields. The third problem was concerned with the role of the Secretary-general. His role and functions as a channel of communication between countries and even among different organs of the UN were enhanced and enlarged. His scope of function included various other issues and his good offices have been increasingly used to pacify disputes among conflicting states. This establishes the notion of peacekeeping function of the UN.
Peacekeeping is a necessary measure advocated by the UN to bring normalcy back to conflict. Since its inception, the UN has performed various areas peace keeping functions in a number of cases. In the event of war or conflict, the Security Council was expected to employ methods of collective security. The UN envisages various means of resolving a conflict among disputed states which include direct negotiations, mediations and other peaceful means of dispute settlements. In case peaceful means are proved irrelevant, peacemaking and peace keeping operations are employed by the UN.
Since the time of its establishment, the United Nations has been actively participating in broad areas including peacekeeping, arms control, the North-South problem, social and human rights issues. Following the progress in the situation in East-West dialogue and other recent development in the international situation, the UN has stepped up its activities while its roles and responsibilities are being enlarged. In the area of peacekeeping, the United Nations has played an important role in Namibia achieving independence and in the February 1990 general elections in Nicaragua. The peacekeeping operations of the United Nations are traditionally geared to monitor supervision activities, has spread out into more global all inclusive activities. In August 1990, the U.N. Security Council collectively decided to adopt comprehensive and mandatory sanctions, for the first time in 22 years against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
The Soviet Union, which during the Cold War period had not been active in U.N., had shifted its decision toward delivering some active role under the Gorbachev Administration. Similarly, the US under Bush dictated its cooperative attitude with the U.N.
However, the United Nations faces some crucial problems including the financial crisis and organizational reform in economic fields. Tackling these problems have proved to be very important for the U.N. in successfully winning the confidence of the international community in the future.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized non political agency of the United Nations (UN) which responsible for directing and coordinating health of the world. It was established on April 7, 1948 and has its headquarters in Geneva. WHO has emerged to play a vital role as an important factor in the field of international public health and international public health policy.
Since the establishment, WHO has been spearheading many breakthroughs including the elimination of Smallpox in 1979, a major leap in the field which has come to be described as one of the greatest humanitarian achievements of the 20th century. However, WHO’s lack of efficiency to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa has attracted a lot of criticism.
The Constitution of the World Health Organization was enforced on April 7, 1948. However, the idea of a global (or at least international) approach to dealing with issues of health had existed since the mid 19th century. Then, the efforts were focused primarily on combating infectious diseases. As the 20th century approached, a new phenomenon in the globalized context began to emerge and therefore the focus of international health policy broadened.
In the aftermath of World War II, discussions at the UN were beginning to talk about a need for an international body which would centre its focus on improving the quality of health globally and to bring about a sustained standard of life.
Initially, the WHO primarily focused on health issues including malaria, tuberculosis, venereal disease and other communicable diseases. Apart from these, the scope of its activities consisted of women and children’s health, nutrition and sanitation. From the start, it constantly engaged with member countries to identify and redress public health issues and also support health research and issue guidelines. In addition to state governments, WHO also coordinated with other UN agencies, bodies, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.
The areas of WHO’s activities have shifted and broadened over time to include various fields of study. It is thus due to the extensive scope of WHO’s mandate that the organization tends to focus its work around. The organization’s Eleventh General Programme of Work 2006-2015 elaborated the six core functions it focused on between 2006 and 2015.
Its main responsibility includes
It operates in a very complex area. There are various areas of focus in matters dealing with public health. Other agencies and works influence the activities of the WHO.
Main areas of its activities include the following:
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was established by the United Nations in 1946 to provide food, clothing, and health care maintenance to the children of post Second World War Europe. UNICEF became a permanent body of the United Nations in 1953.
The headquarters of UNICEF is in New York City; however, it operates in over 190 countries. The activities of UNICEF focus on addressing the issues of welfare of children. Since 2006, the organization has concentrated on a few specific areas including child survival and development, basic education and gender equality, reducing the effects of HIV/AIDS on children, child protection and policy advocacy, and partnerships. UNICEF has been an important body of global development work since its establishment.
After mitigating the food and medical crisis of the late 1940s, UNICEF continued its role as a chief relief organization for the children of nations in distress. During the 1970s, the agency grew into a strong vocal advocate for children’s rights. During the 1980s, UNICEF assisted and managed the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After the introduction of Convention on the Rights of the Child to the U.N. General Assembly in 1989, it became the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the history, and UNICEF played an important role in ensuring its enforcement.
Its broad activities are divided by region which includes Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, East Asia and the Pacific, Eastern and Southern Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, West and Central Africa. And a regional office is located within each region.