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United Nations

The United Nations Organization (UNO) is an international organization.  This organization is also known as United Nations (UN).  UN aims to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace.

The UN was founded in 1945 after the Second World War to replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue.  UN has multiple subsidiary organizations to carry out its missions.  UN has 192 member states that include nearly every sovereign state in the world.

The UN system is based on five principal organs such as the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice.  The General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the Secretariat are located at the UN headquarters in New York City.  The International Court of Justice is located in Hague.

Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish are the official languages of UN.  Official languages are used in intergovernmental meetings and documents.  English and French is used as working languages for the Secretariat.

General Assembly is the main deliberative assembly of UN.  It is composed of all UN member states.  The General Assembly meets in regular yearly sessions under a president elected from among the member states.  Each session may last over two weeks.  All members have the opportunity to address the assembly at the start of each session.  It is a general practice that the Secretary-General makes the first statement, followed by the president of the assembly.  The General Assembly requires a two-third majority vote on important questions such as recommendations on peace and security, election of members to organs, admission, suspension, and expulsion of members, and also budgetary matters.  All other questions are decided by majority vote with each member country having one vote.  All resolutions except the budgetary matters are not binding on the members.  The General Assembly makes recommendations on any matters within the scope of UN, except matters of peace and security that falls under the Security Council.

The aim of Security Council is to maintain peace and security among countries. The Security Council has power to make binding decisions on member governments. Decisions of the Security Council are known as UN Security Council resolutions.  The Security Council comprised of 15 member states in which China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States are permanent members.  Austria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Japan, Libya, Mexico, Turkey, Uganda, and Vietnam are non-permanent members.  The five permanent members hold veto power over substantive but not procedural resolutions.  A permanent member may block adoption of resolution, but cannot block the debate of a resolution unacceptable to it.  The term of ten non-permanent seats are two years where the member states are voted in by the General Assembly on a regional basis.  The presidency of the Security Council is rotated alphabetically each month.

The UN Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General.  It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by UN bodies for their meetings.  UN Secretariat 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 UN Charter provides that the staff of the Secretary-General should be selected on a world wide geographical basis.  The Secretary-General alone is responsible for staff selection.  The duties of Secretary-General include helping resolve international disputes, administering peacekeeping operations, gathering information on the implementation of Security Council decisions, consulting with member governments regarding various initiatives, and organizing international conferences.  The Secretary-General has the right to bring attention of the Security Council on any matter that may threaten international peace and security.

The Secretary-General acts as the de facto spokesman and leader of the UN.  The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly, by recommendation of the Security Council.  The selection can be vetoed by any member of the Security Council.  The General Assembly has the right to override the Security Council’s recommendation if a majority vote is not achieved.  Generally the post of Secretary-General is held for one or two terms of five years.  The appointment to post is on the basis of geographical rotation, and it is mandatory that the Secretary-General is not originated from one of the five permanent Security Council member states.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the primary judicial organ of the UN.  ICJ was established in 1945 by the UN Charter.  In 1946, it started as the successor of the Permanent Court of International Justice.  ICJ was formed to adjudicate disputes among states.  ICJ deals with cases related to war crimes, illegal state interference and ethnic cleansing.  In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is part of ICJ originated from international discussions initiated by the General Assembly.  ICC is the first permanent international court charged with trying 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.  However, some meetings of the ICC governing body, and 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.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) supports 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.  ECOSOC held annual meeting of finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in April.  The functions of ECOSOC include information gathering, advising member nations, and making recommendations.

There are many UN organizations and agencies that function to work on particular issues.  Some of the most well-known agencies are:

  • International Atomic Energy Agency
  • Food and Agriculture Organization
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • International Civil Aviation Organization
  • International Fund for Agricultural Development
  • International Labour Organization
  • International Maritime Organization
  • International Monetary Fund
  • International Telecommunication Union
  • United nations Industrial Development Organization
  • Universal Postal Union
  • World Bank
  • World Food Programme
  • World Health Organization
  • World Intellectual Property Organization
  • World Meteorological Organization
  • World Tourism Organization

UN performs humanitarian work such as mass vaccination programs (WHO), avoidance of famine and malnutrition (WFP) and the protection of vulnerable and displaced people (HCR) through its agencies.  The UN Charter authorizes that each primary organ of the UN can establish various specialized agencies to fulfill its duties.

Inside United Nations