International Politics: Divisions Of The United Nations

The major parts of the UN and the membership and responsibilities of each. A guide to this history and evolution of the institution.

Founded in 1945 shortly after the end of World War II, the United Nations has worked to keep the peace and facilitate relations between the nations of the world. UN intervention has prevented a number of major conflicts and cooled tensions around the world. The responsibilities of the United Nations are many and varied, ranging from providing peacekeeping troops in areas plagued with violence, to distributing food in areas stricken by famine or drought. The United Nations is organized into six major bodies in order to carry out its many functions.

The first body is the General Assembly. Member states send delegations to attend in the GA to discuss and decide on world issues. Each nation has exactly one vote, ensuring equality between all nations. Most of the United Nations' business is decided upon in the Assembly. Members review reports from the other bodies, such as the Security Council, discuss financial matters, and suggest projects that could be undertaken for the betterment of the world. Nations do not have to agree to with the outcome of a GA vote, but to do so would go against the opinion of the international majority.

The second body is the Security Council. The Council has 15 members, five permanent (the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom) and 10 elected from the General Assembly for 2 year terms. The Council investigates matters that would threaten international peace and security and makes recommendations for action to the General Assembly. The Council can call for measures such as economic sanctions against hostile nations and send peacekeepers to the troubled areas until a peaceful solution can be found. The Council also investigates potential members to the United Nations and can recommend that any member not acting in accordance to the UN charter be expelled from the United Nations.



The third body is the Economic and Social Council. The ESC has 54 members who are elected in the General Assembly for three-year terms. The ESC promotes human rights and urges respect for the fundamental freedoms of all people by performing studies, holding conferences, and working with specialized agencies on matters of economic, educational, health, social, and related importance. The ESC also makes policy recommendations to the General Assembly on the basis of knowledge gathered by the Council.

The fourth body is the Trusteeship Council. The Council is made up of the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Council was created to supervise Trust Territories and promote their development towards becoming self-governing nations. The Council has been successful in that all Trust Territories have achieved their goals of independence, either alone or by choosing to join with other nearby countries. The Council suspended operation in 1994 with the independence of its last territory.

The fifth body is the International Court of Justice. The court is made up of 15 judges elected for nine-year terms, with only one judge per nation sitting on the court at one time. Each judge must be qualified for his or her position and must represent only the laws of the United Nations and not their own countries. The Court can only review cases involving any of the 189 UN members or Switzerland. The parties involved must agree to allow the Court to mediate their dispute, or have a clause or declaration allowing one party to request the intervention of the Court.

The sixth and final body is the Secretariat. The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, who is appointed to a five-year term by the General Assembly with the recommendation of the Security Council. The Secretariat staff is made up of around 9,000 men and women who, along with the Secretary General, answer only to the United Nations and must take an oath not to be influenced by outside governments or agencies. The Secretariat supervises the activities of the UN and organizes, oversees, and provides information on actions taken by the organization.

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