The United Nations

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The United Nations

The United Nations is an organization of sovereign nations not a world government. It provides the machinery to help find solutions to disputes or problems, and to deal with virtually any matter of concern to humanity. It does not legislate like a national parliament. But in the meeting rooms and corridors of the UN, representatives of almost all countries of the world large and small, rich and poor, with varying political views and social systems have a voice and vote in shaping the policies of the international community. The year 1995 marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Organization. The UN has six main organs, listed below. All are based at UN Headquarters in New York, except the International Court of Justice, which is located at The Hague, Netherlands.

The General Assembly

The General Assembly, sometimes called the nearest thing to a world parliament, is the main deliberative body. All Member States are represented in it, and each has one vote. Decisions on ordinary matters are taken by simple majority. Important questions require a two-thirds majority. The Assembly holds its regular sessions from mid-September to mid- December; special or emergency sessions are held when necessary. Even when the Assembly is not in session, its work goes on in special committees and bodies. The Assembly has the right to discuss and make recommendations on all matters within the scope of the UN Charter. It has no power to compel action by any Government, but its recommendations carry the weight of world opinion. The Assembly also sets policies and determines programmes for the UN Secretariat. It sets goals and directs activities for development, approves the budget of peace- keeping operations and calls for world conferences on major issues. Occupying a central position in the UN, the Assembly receives reports from other organs, admits new Members, approves the budget and appoints the Secretary-General.

The Security Council

The UN Charter, an international treaty, obligates States to settle their international disputes by peaceful means. They are to refrain from the threat or use of force against other States, and may bring any dispute before the Security Council. The Security Council is the organ to which the Charter gives primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security. It can be convened at any time, whenever peace is threatened. Member States are obligated to carry out its decisions. The Council has 15 members. Five of these China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States are permanent members. The other 10 are elected by the Assembly for two-year terms. Decisions require nine votes; except in votes on procedural questions, a decision cannot be taken if there is a negative vote by a permanent member (known as the "veto").

When a threat to international peace is brought before the Council, it usually first asks the parties to reach agreement by peaceful means. The Council may undertake mediation or set forth principles for a settlement. It may request the Secretary-General to investigate and report on a situation. If fighting breaks out, the Council tries to secure a cease-fire. It may send peace-keeping missions to troubled areas, with the consent of the parties involved, to reduce tension and keep opposing forces apart. It may deploy peace-keepers to prevent the outbreak of conflict. It has the power to enforce its decisions by imposing economic sanctions and by ordering collective military action. The Council also makes recommendations to the Assembly on a candidate for Secretary-General and on the admission of new Members to the UN.

The Economic and Social Council

Working under the authority of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council coordinates the economic and social work of the UN and related specialized agencies and institutions. The Council has 54...
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