The United Nations (UN) is an
international organization whose stated aims are facilitating
social progress, human rights, and achievement of
world peace. The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to
League of Nations, to stop wars between countries, and to provide a
platform for dialogue. It contains multiple subsidiary organizations to
carry out its missions.
There are currently
193 member states, including every
internationally recognised sovereign state in the world but the
Vatican City. From its offices around the world, the UN and its
specialized agencies decide on substantive and administrative issues in
regular meetings held throughout the year. The organization has six
principal organs: the
General Assembly (the main
deliberative assembly); the
Security Council (for deciding certain resolutions for peace and
Economic and Social Council (for assisting in promoting
international economic and social cooperation and development); the
Secretariat (for providing studies, information, and facilities
needed by the UN); the
International Court of Justice (the primary judicial organ); and the
United Nations Trusteeship Council (which is currently inactive).
UN System agencies include the
World Health Organization (WHO), the
World Food Programme (WFP) and
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The UN's most visible
public figure is the
Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who attained the post in 2007.
United Nations Headquarters resides in international territory in
New York City, with further main offices at
Vienna. The organization is financed from assessed and voluntary
contributions from its member states, and has six official languages:
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
League of Nations failed to prevent
World War II (1939–1945). Because of the widespread recognition that
humankind could not afford a third world war, the United Nations was
established to replace the flawed League of Nations in 1945 in order to
maintain international peace and promote cooperation in solving
international economic, social and humanitarian problems. The earliest
concrete plan for a new world organization was begun under the aegis of
the U.S. State Department in 1939.
Franklin D. Roosevelt first coined the term 'United Nations' as a
term to describe the
Allied countries. The term was first officially used on 1 January
1942, when 26 governments signed the
Atlantic Charter, pledging to continue the war effort.
On 25 April 1945, the
UN Conference on International Organization began in San Francisco,
attended by 50 governments and a number of non-governmental
organizations involved in drafting the
United Nations Charter. The UN officially came into existence on 24
October 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent
members of the
Security Council—France, the
Republic of China, the
Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States—and by a
majority of the other 46 signatories. The first meetings of the
General Assembly, with 51 nations represented, and the Security
Council, took place in
Westminster Central Hall in London in January 1946.
The organization was based at the
Sperry Gyroscope Corporation's facility in
Lake Success, New York, from 1946–1952, before moving to the
United Nations Headquarters building in Manhattan upon its
Since its creation, there has been controversy and
criticism of the United Nations. In the United States, an early
opponent of the UN was the
John Birch Society, which began a "get US out of the UN" campaign in
1959, charging that the UN's aim was to establish a "One World
Government." After the Second World War, the
French Committee of National Liberation was late to be recognized by
the US as the government of France, and so the country was initially
excluded from the conferences that aimed at creating the new
Charles de Gaulle criticized the UN, famously calling it le
machin ("the thing"), and was not convinced that a global security
alliance would help maintain world peace, preferring direct defence
treaties between countries.
basis of establishment
Shortly after its establishment the UN sought recognition as an
international legal person due to the case of Reparations for
Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United Nations
with the advisory opinion delivered by the
International Court of Justice (ICJ). The question arose whether the
United Nations, as an organisation, had "the capacity to bring an
international claim against a government regarding injuries that the
organisation alleged had been caused by that state."
The Court stated: the Organization was intended to exercise and
enjoy, and is in fact exercising and enjoying functions and rights which
can only be explained on the basis of the possession of a large measure
of international personality and the capacity to operate upon an
international plane ... Accordingly, the Court has come to the
conclusion that the Organization is an international person. That is not
the same thing as saying that it is a State, which it certainly is not,
or that its legal personality and rights and duties are the same as
those of a State ... What it does mean is that it is a subject of
international law and capable of possessing international rights and
duties, and that it has capacity to maintain its rights by bringing
The United Nations' system is based on five principal organs
(formerly six – the
Trusteeship Council suspended operations in 1994, upon the
the last remaining UN trustee territory);
General Assembly, the
Security Council, the
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the
Secretariat, and the
International Court of Justice.
Four of the five principal organs are located at the main
United Nations Headquarters located on international territory in
New York City.
International Court of Justice is located in
Hague, while other major agencies are based in the UN offices at
Other UN institutions are located throughout the world.
official languages of the United Nations, used in intergovernmental
meetings and documents, are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian,
The Secretariat uses two working languages, English and French. Four of
the official languages are the national languages of the
permanent members of the Security Council (the United Kingdom and
the United States share English as a de facto official language);
Spanish and Arabic are the languages of the two largest blocs of
official languages outside of the permanent members (Spanish being
official in 20 countries, Arabic in 26). Five of the official languages
were chosen when the UN was founded; Arabic was added later in 1973. The
United Nations Editorial Manual states that the standard for English
language documents is
British usage and
Oxford spelling, the
Chinese writing standard is
Simplified Chinese. This replaced
Traditional Chinese in 1971 when the UN representation of China was
changed from the
Republic of China to the People's Republic of China (see
China and the United Nations for details).
The General Assembly is the main
deliberative assembly of the United Nations. Composed of all
United Nations member states, the assembly meets in regular yearly
sessions under a
president elected from among the member states. Over a two-week
period at the start of each session, all members have the opportunity to
address the assembly. Traditionally, the Secretary-General makes the
first statement, followed by the president of the assembly. The first
session was convened on 10 January 1946 in the
Westminster Central Hall in London and included representatives of
When the General Assembly votes on important questions, a two-thirds
majority of those present and voting is required. Examples of important
questions include: recommendations on peace and security; election of
members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; and,
budgetary matters. All other questions are decided by majority vote.
Each member country has one vote. Apart from approval of budgetary
matters, resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may
make recommendations on any matters within the scope of the UN, except
matters of peace and security that are under Security Council
one state, one vote power structure could enable states comprising
just eight percent of the world population to pass a resolution by a
two-thirds vote (see
List of countries by population). However, as no more than
recommendations, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which a
recommendation by member states constituting just eight percent of the
world's population, would be adhered to by the remaining ninety-two
percent of the population, should they object.
Security Council is charged with maintaining peace and security
among countries. While other organs of the United Nations can only make
'recommendations' to member governments, the Security Council has the
power to make binding decisions that member governments have agreed to
carry out, under the terms of
Charter Article 25.
The decisions of the Council are known as
United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The Security Council is made up of 15 member states, consisting of 5
permanent members–China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the
United States–and 10 non-permanent members, currently
Bosnia and Herzegovina,
South Africa. The five permanent members hold
veto power over substantive but not procedural resolutions allowing
a permanent member to block adoption but not to block the debate of a
resolution unacceptable to it. The ten temporary seats are held for
two-year terms with member states voted in by the
General Assembly on a
regional basis. The presidency of the Security Council is rotated
alphabetically each month.
The United Nations Secretariat is headed by the
Secretary-General, assisted by a staff of international civil
servants worldwide. It provides studies, information, and facilities
needed by United Nations bodies for their meetings. It also carries out
tasks as directed by the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly,
the UN Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies. The United
Nations Charter provides that the staff be chosen by application of the
"highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity," with due
regard for the importance of recruiting on a wide geographical basis.
The Charter provides that the staff shall not seek or receive
instructions from any authority other than the UN. Each UN member
country is enjoined to respect the international character of the
Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff. The Secretary-General
alone is responsible for staff selection.
The Secretary-General's duties include helping resolve international
disputes, administering peacekeeping operations, organizing
international conferences, gathering information on the implementation
of Security Council decisions, and consulting with member governments
regarding various initiatives. Key Secretariat offices in this area
include the Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs and the
Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The Secretary-General may bring
to the attention of the Security Council any matter that, in his or her
opinion, may threaten international peace and security.
The Secretariat is headed by the
Secretary-General, who acts as the de facto spokesperson and
leader of the UN. The current Secretary-General is
Ban Ki-moon, who took over from
Kofi Annan in 2007 and has been elected for a second term to
conclude at the end of 2016.
Franklin D. Roosevelt as a "world moderator", the position is
defined in the
UN Charter as the organization's "chief administrative officer",
but the Charter also states that the Secretary-General can bring to the
Security Council's attention "any matter which in his opinion may
threaten the maintenance of
international peace and security",
giving the position greater scope for action on the world stage. The
position has evolved into a dual role of an administrator of the UN
organization, and a diplomat and
mediator addressing disputes between
member states and finding consensus to global issues.
The Secretary-General is appointed by the
General Assembly, after being recommended by the Security Council,
where the permanent members have
The General Assembly can theoretically override the Security Council's
recommendation if a majority vote is not achieved, although this has not
happened so far.
There are no specific criteria for the post, but over the years, it has
become accepted that the post shall be held for one or two terms of five
years, that the post shall be appointed on the basis of geographical
rotation, and that the Secretary-General shall not originate from one of
the five permanent Security Council member states.
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), located in
Hague, Netherlands, is the primary judicial organ of the United
Nations. Established in 1945 by the United Nations Charter, the Court
began work in 1946 as the successor to the
Permanent Court of International Justice. The Statute of the
International Court of Justice, similar to that of its predecessor, is
the main constitutional document constituting and regulating the Court.
It is based in the
Peace Palace in
Hague, Netherlands, sharing the building with the
Hague Academy of International Law, a private centre for the study
of international law. Several of the Court's current judges are either
alumni or former faculty members of the Academy. Its purpose is to
adjudicate disputes among states. The court has heard cases related to
war crimes, illegal state interference and ethnic cleansing, among
others, and continues to hear cases.
A related court, the
International Criminal Court (ICC), began operating in 2002 through
international discussions initiated by the General Assembly. It is the
first permanent international court charged with trying those who commit
the most serious crimes under international law, including war crimes
and genocide. The ICC is functionally independent of the UN in terms of
personnel and financing, but some meetings of the ICC governing body,
the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, are held at the UN.
There is a "relationship agreement" between the ICC and the UN that
governs how the two institutions regard each other legally.
and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) assists the General Assembly
in promoting international economic and social cooperation and
development. ECOSOC has 54 members, all of which are elected by the
General Assembly for a three-year term. The president is elected for a
one-year term and chosen amongst the small or middle powers represented
on ECOSOC. ECOSOC meets once a year in July for a four-week session.
Since 1998, it has held another meeting each April with finance
ministers heading key committees of the
World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund (IMF). Viewed separate from the
specialized bodies it coordinates, ECOSOC's functions include
information gathering, advising member nations, and making
recommendations. In addition, ECOSOC is well-positioned to provide
coherence and coordinate the overlapping functions of the UN’s
subsidiary bodies and it is in these roles that it is most active.
Many UN organizations and agencies exist to work on particular
issues. Some of the most well-known agencies are the
International Atomic Energy Agency, the
Food and Agriculture Organization,
(United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the
World Bank and the
World Health Organization.
It is through these agencies that the UN performs most of its
humanitarian work. Examples include mass vaccination programmes (through
the WHO), the avoidance of famine and malnutrition (through the work of
the WFP) and the protection of vulnerable and displaced people (for
example, by the
United Nations Charter stipulates that each primary organ of the UN
can establish various specialized agencies to fulfil its duties.
WFP, IAEA and specialized
agencies of the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization
International Atomic Energy Agency
International Civil Aviation Organization
International Fund for Agricultural Development
Kanayo F. Nwanze
International Labour Organization
International Maritime Organization
London, United Kingdom
Efthimios E. Mitropoulos
International Monetary Fund
Washington, D.C., USA
International Telecommunication Union
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
Universal Postal Union
Washington, D.C., USA
Robert B. Zoellick
World Food Programme
World Health Organization
World Intellectual Property Organization
World Meteorological Organization
World Tourism Organization
An animation showing the timeline of accession of UN member
states, according to the UN. Note that Antarctica has no
government; political control of
Western Sahara is in dispute; and the territories administered
Republic of China (Taiwan) and
Kosovo are considered by the UN to be provinces of the
People's Republic of China and
Republic of Serbia, respectively.
With the addition of
South Sudan on 14 July 2011,
there are currently 193 United Nations member states, including all
fully recognized independent
Vatican City (the
Holy See, which holds sovereignty over the state of Vatican City, is
United Nations Charter outlines the rules for membership:
- Membership in the United Nations is open to all other
peace-loving states that accept the obligations contained in the
present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able
and willing to carry out these obligations.
- The admission of any such state to membership in the United
Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly
upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
Group of 77
Group of 77 at the UN is a loose coalition of
developing nations, designed to promote its members' collective
interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the
United Nations. There were 77 founding members of the organization, but
the organization has since expanded to 130 member countries. The group
was founded on 15 June 1964 by the "Joint Declaration of the
Seventy-Seven Countries" issued at the
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The
first major meeting was in
in 1967, where the Charter of Algiers was adopted and the basis
for permanent institutional structures was begun.
Peacekeeping and security
The UN, after approval by the
Security Council, sends
peacekeepers to regions where armed conflict has recently ceased or
paused to enforce the terms of peace agreements and to discourage
combatants from resuming hostilities. Since the UN does not maintain its
own military, peacekeeping forces are voluntarily provided by member
states of the UN. The forces, also called the "Blue Helmets", who
enforce UN accords, are awarded
United Nations Medals, which are considered
international decorations instead of
military decorations. The peacekeeping force as a whole received the
Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
The founders of the UN had envisaged that the organization would act
to prevent conflicts between nations and make future wars impossible,
however the outbreak of the
War made peacekeeping agreements extremely difficult because of the
division of the world into hostile camps. Following the end of the Cold
War, there were renewed calls for the UN to become the agency for
achieving world peace, as several dozen
ongoing conflicts continue to rage around the globe.
A 2005 RAND Corp study found the UN to be successful in two out of
three peacekeeping efforts. It compared UN nation-building efforts to
those of the United States, and found that seven out of eight UN cases
are at peace, as compared with four out of eight US cases at peace.
Also in 2005, the
Human Security Report documented a decline in the number of wars,
genocides and human rights abuses since the end of the
War, and presented evidence, albeit circumstantial, that
international activism—mostly spearheaded by the UN—has been the main
cause of the decline in armed conflict since the end of the Cold War.
Situations where the UN has not only acted to keep the peace but also
occasionally intervened include the
Korean War (1950–1953), and the authorization of intervention in
Iraq after the
Gulf War in 1990.
The UN has also drawn criticism for perceived failures. In many
member states have shown reluctance to achieve or enforce Security
Council resolutions, an issue that stems from the UN's intergovernmental
nature—seen by some as simply an association of 193 member states who
must reach consensus, not an independent organization. Disagreements in
the Security Council about military action and intervention are seen as
having failed to prevent the 1994
failed to provide
humanitarian aid and intervene in the
Second Congo War, failed to intervene in the 1995
Srebrenica massacre and protect a refugee haven by authorizing
peacekeepers to use force, failure to deliver food to starving people in
failure to implement provisions of Security Council resolutions related
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and continuing failure to prevent
genocide or provide assistance in
UN peacekeepers have also been accused of child rape, sexual abuse or
soliciting prostitutes during various peacekeeping missions, starting in
2003, in the
what is now
In 2004, former Israeli ambassador to the UN
Gold criticized what it called the organization's
moral relativism in the face of (and occasional support of)
genocide and terrorism that occurred between the moral clarity of
its founding period and the present day. Gold specifically mentions
Yasser Arafat's 1988 invitation to address the General Assembly as a
low point in the UN's history.
In addition to peacekeeping, the UN is also active in encouraging
disarmament. Regulation of armaments was included in the writing of
United Nations Charter in 1945 and was envisioned as a way of
limiting the use of human and economic resources for the creation of
However, the advent of
nuclear weapons came only weeks after the signing of the charter and
immediately halted concepts of arms limitation and
disarmament, resulting in the first
resolution of the first ever
General Assembly meeting calling for specific proposals for "the
elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other
major weapons adaptable to mass destruction".
The principal forums for disarmament issues are the
General Assembly First Committee, the UN Disarmament Commission, and
Conference on Disarmament, and considerations have been made of the
merits of a
ban on testing nuclear weapons,
outer space arms control, the banning of
chemical weapons and
land mines, nuclear and conventional disarmament,
nuclear-weapon-free zones, the reduction of
military budgets, and measures to strengthen
The UN is one of the official supporters of the World Security Forum,
a major international conference on the effects of global catastrophes
and disasters, which took place in the
United Arab Emirates in October 2008.
On 5 November 2010
Ivor Ichikowitz, founder and executive chairman of
Paramount Group, supported UN Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon’s call for greater support, equipment and training for
Ichikowitz stated that
African Union troops should receive the same support as UN
Human rights and humanitarian assistance
The pursuit of human rights was a central reason for creating the UN.
World War II atrocities and
genocide led to a ready consensus that the new organization must
work to prevent any similar tragedies in the future. An early objective
was creating a legal framework for considering and acting on complaints
about human rights violations. The UN Charter obliges all member nations
to promote "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights" and
to take "joint and separate action" to that end. The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not legally binding,
was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of
achievement for all. The Assembly regularly takes up human rights
The UN and its agencies are central in upholding and implementing the
principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A
case in point is support by the UN for countries in transition to
democracy. Technical assistance in providing free and fair elections,
improving judicial structures, drafting constitutions, training human
rights officials, and transforming armed movements into political
parties have contributed significantly to democratization worldwide. The
UN has helped run elections in countries with little or no democratic
history, including recently in
Afghanistan and East Timor. The UN is also a forum to support the
right of women to participate fully in the political, economic, and
social life of their countries. The UN contributes to raising
consciousness of the concept of human rights through its covenants and
its attention to specific abuses through its General Assembly, Security
Council resolutions, or
International Court of Justice rulings.
The purpose of the
United Nations Human Rights Council, established in 2006,
is to address human rights violations. The Council is the successor to
United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which was often
criticized for the high-profile positions it gave to member states that
did not guarantee the human rights of their own citizens.
The council has 47 members distributed by region, which each serve
three-year terms, and may not serve three consecutive terms.
A candidate to the body must be approved by a majority of the General
Assembly. In addition, the council has strict rules for membership,
including a universal human rights review. While some members with
questionable human rights records have been elected, it is fewer than
before with the increased focus on each member state's human rights
The rights of some 370 million
indigenous peoples around the world are also a focus for the UN,
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples being approved by
General Assembly in 2007.
The declaration outlines the individual and collective rights to
culture, language, education, identity, employment and health, thereby
addressing post-colonial issues that had confronted indigenous peoples
for centuries. The declaration aims to maintain, strengthen and
encourage the growth of indigenous institutions, cultures and
traditions. It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples
and promotes their active participation in matters that concern their
past, present and future.
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is the UN's
central coordinating body for matters relating to the concerns and
rights of the world's indigenous peoples. The forum is an advisory body
within the framework of the United Nations System that reports to the
UN's Economic and Social Council.
In conjunction with other organizations such as the
Red Cross, the UN provides food, drinking water, shelter and other
humanitarian services to populaces suffering from
displaced by war, or afflicted by other disasters. Major humanitarian
branches of the UN are the
World Food Programme (which helps feed more than 100 million people
a year in 80 countries), the office of the
High Commissioner for Refugees with projects in over 116 countries,
as well as peacekeeping projects in over 24 countries.
Social and economic development
The UN is involved in supporting
development, e.g. by the formulation of the
Millennium Development Goals. The
UN Development Programme (UNDP) is the largest multilateral source
of grant technical assistance in the world. Organizations like the
World Health Organization (WHO),
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are leading
institutions in the battle against diseases around the world, especially
in poor countries. The UN Population Fund is a major provider of
reproductive services. 32 UN agencies performing tasks on development
are coordinating their efforts through the
United Nations Development Group or UNDG.
The UN also promotes human development through some related agencies,
particularly the UNDP.
World Bank Group and
International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example, are independent,
specialized agencies and observers within the UN framework, according to
a 1947 agreement. They were initially formed as separate from the UN
Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944.
The UNDP annually publishes the
Human Development Index (HDI), a comparative measure
ranking countries by poverty,
life expectancy, and other factors.
Millennium Development Goals (declared in the
United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed in September 2000) are
eight goals that all of the then 192 United Nations member states have
agreed to try to achieve by the year 2015.
From time to time, the different bodies of the United Nations pass
resolutions that contain operating paragraphs that begin with the words
"requests", "calls upon", or "encourages", which the
Secretary-General interprets as a mandate to set up a temporary
organization or do something. These mandates can be as little as
researching and publishing a written report, or mounting a full-scale
peacekeeping operation (usually the exclusive domain of the Security
Although the specialized institutions, such as the
WHO, were originally set up by this means, they are not the same as
mandates because they are permanent organizations that exist
independently of the UN with their own membership structure. One could
say that original mandate was simply to cover the process of setting up
the institution, and has therefore long expired. Most mandates expire
after a limited period and require renewal from the body, which set them
One of the outcomes of the
2005 World Summit was a mandate (labelled
id 17171) for the Secretary-General to "review all mandates older
than five years originating from resolutions of the General Assembly and
other organs". To facilitate this review and to finally bring coherence
to the organization, the Secretariat has produced an
on-line registry of mandates to draw together the reports relating
to each one and create an overall picture.
Greening the Blue
In 2007, On 5 June
World Environment Day 2007, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made
public his ambition to make the United Nations more efficient in its
operations: “I would like to see our renovated Headquarters complex
eventually become a globally acclaimed model of efficient use of energy
and resources. Beyond New York, the initiative should include the other
United Nations headquarters and offices around the globe.” The UN's
progress towards achieving this goal is communicated through the
initiative Greening the Blue (see external links below).
Over the lifetime of the UN, over 80 colonies have attained
The General Assembly adopted the
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and
Peoples in 1960 with no votes against but abstentions from all major
colonial powers. Through the
UN Committee on Decolonization,
created in 1962, the UN has focused considerable attention on
decolonization. It has also supported the new states that have
arisen as a result of self-determination initiatives. The committee has
overseen the decolonization of every country larger than 20,000 km² and
removed them from the
United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, besides
Western Sahara, a country larger than the UK only relinquished by
Spain in 1975.
The UN declares and coordinates
international observances, periods of time to observe some issue of
international interest or concern. Using the symbolism of the UN, a
specially designed logo for the year, and the infrastructure of the
United Nations System, various days and years have become catalysts
to advancing key issues of concern on a global scale. For example,
World Tuberculosis Day,
International Year of Deserts and Desertification.
The UN is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from
member states. The General Assembly approves the regular budget and
determines the assessment for each member. This is broadly based on the
relative capacity of each country to pay, as measured by their
gross national income (GNI), with adjustments for external debt and
low per capita income.
The Assembly has established the principle that the UN should not be
overly dependent on any one member to finance its operations. Thus,
there is a 'ceiling' rate, setting the maximum amount any member is
assessed for the regular budget. In December 2000, the Assembly revised
the scale of assessments to reflect current global circumstances. As
part of that revision, the regular budget ceiling was reduced from 25%
to 22%. For the least developed countries (LDCs), a ceiling rate of
0.01% is applied.
In addition to the ceiling rates, the minimum amount assessed to any
member nation (or 'floor' rate) is set at 0.001% of the UN budget. Refer
to the table for major contributors.
A large share of UN expenditures addresses the core UN mission of
peace and security. The peacekeeping budget for the 2005–2006 fiscal
year was approximately US$5 billion, €2.5 billion (compared to
approximately US$1.5 billion, €995 million for the UN core budget over
the same period), with some 70,000 troops deployed in 17 missions around
UN peace operations are funded by assessments, using a formula derived
from the regular funding scale, but including a weighted surcharge for
the five permanent Security Council members, who must approve all
peacekeeping operations. This surcharge serves to offset discounted
peacekeeping assessment rates for less developed countries. As of 1
January 2011, the top 10 providers of assessed financial contributions
to United Nations peacekeeping operations were: the United States,
Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, China, Canada, Spain
and the Republic of Korea.
Special UN programmes not included in the regular budget (such as
UNDP) are financed by voluntary contributions from other member
governments. Most of this is financial contributions, but some is in the
form of agricultural
commodities donated for afflicted populations. Since their funding
is voluntary, many of these agencies suffer severe shortages during
economic recessions. In July 2009, the World Food Programme reported
that it has been forced to cut services because of insufficient funding.
It has received barely a quarter of the total it needed for the 09/10
The UN and its agencies are immune to the laws of the countries where
they operate, safeguarding UN's impartiality with regard to the host and
Despite their independence in matters of human resources policy, the
UN and its agencies voluntarily apply the laws of member states
same-sex marriages, allowing decisions about the status of employees
in a same-sex partnership to be based on nationality. The UN and its
agencies recognize same-sex marriages only if the employees are citizens
of countries that recognize the marriage. This practice is not specific
to the recognition of same-sex marriage but reflects a common practice
of the UN for a number of human resources matters. It has to be noted
though that some agencies provide limited benefits to
domestic partners of their staff and that some agencies do not
recognise same-sex marriage or domestic partnership of their staff.[citation
In 2005, then-Secretary General
Kofi Annan published his report In Larger Freedom, a
proposal for reform of the UN.
Since its founding, there have been many calls for reform of the
United Nations, although little consensus on how to do so. Some want the
UN to play a greater or more effective role in world affairs, while
others want its role reduced to humanitarian work.
There have also been numerous calls for the
UN Security Council's membership to be increased, for different ways
of electing the UN's
Secretary-General, and for a
United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
The UN has also been accused of bureaucratic inefficiency and waste.
During the 1990s, the United States withheld dues citing inefficiency,
and only started repayment on the condition that a major reforms
initiative was introduced. In 1994, the
Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was established by the
General Assembly to serve as an efficiency watchdog.
An official reform programme was begun by
Kofi Annan in 1997. Reforms mentioned include
changing the permanent membership of the Security Council (which
currently reflects the power relations of 1945), making the bureaucracy
more transparent, accountable and efficient, making the UN more
democratic, and imposing an international
arms manufacturers worldwide.[citation
In September 2005, the UN convened a World Summit that brought
together the heads of most member states, calling the summit "a
once-in-a-generation opportunity to take bold decisions in the areas of
development, security, human rights and reform of the United Nations."
Kofi Annan had proposed that the summit agree on a global "grand
bargain" to reform the UN, renewing the organization's focus on peace,
security, human rights and development, and to make it better equipped
at facing 21st century issues. The World Summit Outcome Document
delineated the conclusions of the meeting, including: the creation of a
Peacebuilding Commission, to help countries emerging from conflict;
Human Rights Council and a democracy fund; a clear and unambiguous
condemnation of terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations";
agreements to devote more resources to the Office of Internal Oversight
Services; agreements to spend billions more on achieving the
Millennium Development Goals; the dissolution of the
Trusteeship Council, because of the completion of its mission; and,
the agreement that individual states, with the assistance of the
international community, have the "responsibility
to protect" populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing
and crimes against humanity- with the understanding that the
international community is prepared to act "collectively" in a “timely
and decisive manner” to protect vulnerable civilians should a state
"manifestly fail" in fulfilling its responsibility.
The Office of Internal Oversight Services is being restructured to
better define its scope and mandate, and will receive more resources. In
addition, to improve the oversight and auditing capabilities of the
General Assembly, an Independent Audit Advisory Committee (IAAC) is
being created. In June 2007, the Fifth Committee created a draft
resolution for the
terms of reference of this committee.
An ethics office was established in 2006, responsible for administering
new financial disclosure and
whistleblower protection policies. Working with the OIOS, the ethics
office also plans to implement a policy to avoid fraud and corruption.
The Secretariat is in the process of reviewing all UN mandates that are
more than five years old. The review is intended to determine which
duplicative or unnecessary programmes should be eliminated. Not all
member states agree on which of the over 7000 mandates should be
reviewed. The dispute centres on whether mandates that have been renewed
should be examined.
Indeed, the obstacles identified – in particular, the lack of
information on the resource implications of each mandate – constituted
sufficient justification for the General Assembly to discontinue the
mandate review in September 2008. In the meantime, the General Assembly
launched a number of new loosely related reform initiatives in April
2007, covering international environmental governance, ‘Delivering as
One’ at the country level to enhance the consolidation of UN programme
activities and a unified gender organization. Whereas little was
achieved on the first two issues, the General Assembly approved in
September 2010 the establishment of ‘UN Women’ as the new UN
organization for gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN Women
was established by unifying the resources and mandates of four small
entities for greater impact and its first head is Ms. Michelle Bachelet,
former President of
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