UNITED NATIONS & ITS ORGANS

Introduction

  • It is an international organization founded in 1945 after the World War II. Its charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945 and came into existence on October 24, 1945 after 51 countries have signed the charter.Its predecessor, the League of Nations, created by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 was disbanded in 1946.
  • Its mission is to maintain international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.
  • It has its headquarters in New York,USA with a total current strength of 193 members (Latest Member South Sudan) The current Secretary General Antonio Guterres comes from Portugal

UN Logo and Flag

  • The logo and flag of the UN have become its symbols as it carries out its work on the world stage. They have the practical effect of identifying the United Nations in areas of trouble and conflict to any and all parties concerned.  They are also aspirational symbols, for they speak to the hopes and dreams of people the world over, for peace and unity.
  • The flag of the United Nations, with its white emblem on a light blue field, flies from a pole in front of UN Headquarters in New York.
  • The design is “a map of the world representing an azimuthal equidistant projection centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree, in gold on a field of smoke-blue with all water areas in white. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles” (original description of the emblem).
  • The official emblem of the United Nations in white, centered on a light blue background.

Main Organs

A) UN-General Assembly

It is the main deliberative organ and composed of all member states, each of which has one vote.The mandate of UNGA is to discuss, debate, and make recommendations on subjects pertaining to international peace and security, including development, disarmament, human rights, international law, and the peaceful arbitration of disputes between nations.

  • It considers reports from the other four organs of the United Nations, assesses the financial situations of member states, and approves the UN budget, its most concrete role.
  • Sessions – The assembly meets in Regular session (annually from Sep to Dec), Special session and Emergency Special Session (within 24 hours) at the request of UN Security Council or majority of members or one-member state if the majority of states concur.
  • Appointments by UNGA – It appoints Secretary General of UN based on the recommendations given by Security Council.
  • General Assembly elects Non-Permanent members in Security Council and elects Members for Social and Economic Council.
  • Along with Security Council, General Assembly elects Judges to International Court of Justice.
  • Membership – There are 193 UN member states, each with a vote in the General Assembly.
  • The membership can be contentious. Taiwan has been denied UN membership for more than two decades due to objections from China. Palestine’s status has also been controversial.
  • Palestine and Vatican City are the United Nations’ two non-member observer states, which have the right to speak at assembly meetings but cannot vote on resolutions.
  • Assembly Actions – Decision on important questions such as those on peace and security, UN budget, admission, suspension and expulsion of members to various organs of UN requires special majority.
  • In 1948, it promulgated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which contained 30 articles outlining global standards for human rights.
  • In 1950, it initiated “Uniting for Peace” resolution which states that if UNSC fails to exercise its primary responsibility” for maintaining international peace and security, UNGA should take up the matter itself and urge collective action.
  • In 2000, it set forth the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), a time bound and measurable targets for reducing poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, and improving access to primary education followed by Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
  • It has the power to censure states for violating UN Charter principles.
  • In 2012, UNGA voted to denounce the Syrian government for atrocities since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011.
  • In 2014, Crimea’s referendum to leave Ukraine and join Russia was held invalid by the UNGA by adopting a nonbinding resolution. It also held that Russia’s annexation of Crimea is illegal.
  • UN budget – United Nation is funded by its member states through compulsory and voluntary contributions.
  • The size of each state’s compulsory contribution depends mainly on its economic strength, though its state of development and debt situation are also considered.

Adoption of Resolution

  • Resolution in GA can be adopted in two ways i.e reaching consensus among member states and by voting on the resolution.

Consensus – All member states have agreed to adopt the text of a draft resolution without taking a vote.

  • Consensus is not reached, even if just one Member State requests a vote.
  • It is important to note that consensus does not mean that all Member States agree on every word in the draft resolution and they still have reservation about certain parts.
  • Thus, the viewpoint of every member countries is taken into consideration. This process is inclusive in nature.

Voting – It need to get a simple majority to agree on the text of a resolution.

  • There is no need to care about the perspectives of the minority who disagree.

Recent developments

  • UNGA held a first ever high-level meeting on the fight against Tuberculosis, under the theme “United to end Tuberculosis: an urgent global response to a global epidemic”.
  • The special session aims at accelerating efforts in ending TB and reaching all affected people with prevention and care.
  • The declaration marks the endorsement of the Resolution by all Member States of the UN.
  • India has pledged to eliminate the disease five years before the UN Development Goal of 2030.
  • Venezuela and Libya have been suspended from voting in the UN General Assembly for the third time in 3 years because of millions of dollars in unpaid dues to the world body.

B) United Nations Security Council

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states
  • There are 15 members on the UN Security Council, including the five permanent ones — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States and 10 non-permanent members, half of which are elected each year for a 2 year term.
  • The main criterion for eligibility is contribution “to the maintenance of international peace and security”, often defined by financial or troop contributions to peacekeeping operations or leadership on matters of regional security.
  • Equitable geographical distribution is also taken in to account for membership – African Group (3), Asia-Pacific Group (2), Latin American and Caribbean Group (2), Western European and Others Groups (WEOG)(2)and Eastern European Group (1).
  • Current non-permanent members (with end of term) are Côte d’Ivoire (2019), Equatorial Guinea (2019), Kuwait (2019), Peru (2019), Poland (2019), Belgium (2020), Dominican Republic (2020), Germany (2020), Indonesia (2020) and South Africa (2020).
  • While other organs of the UN can only make recommendations to member states, the Security Council has the power to make binding decisions on member states.
  • All the members have one vote and permanent members have veto power.
  • Decisions on procedural matters should have vote of at least 9 of the 15 members and decision on substantive matters require nine votes and the absence of negative vote by any of the 5 permanent members.
  • G4 Nations – 4 countries bids for permanent seats in UNSC. They are Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan.
  • Uniting for Consensus (Coffee Club) – These are group of countries who are opposing the expansion of permanent seats in the UNSC under the leadership of Italy.

Proposed Reforms in UNSC

The demands for reform of the UNSC are based on five key issues:

  1. Categories of membership (permanent, non-permanent).
  2. The question of the veto held by the five permanent members.
  3. Regional representation.
  4. The size of an enlarged Council and its working methods.
  5. The relationship between Security Council and General Assembly.

Notably, any reform of the Security Council would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of UN member states as well as the agreement of all the permanent members of the UNSC enjoying the veto right

Recent Developments

  • UNSC has recently adopted a Resolution 2427 aimed at a framework for mainstreaming protection, rights, well-being and empowerment of children throughout the conflict cycle.
  • It condemns the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict as well as their re-recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and abductions
  • It also condemns attacks against schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict.

C) UN Economic & Social Council(ECOSOC)

  • It is the principal organ that guides sustainable development policies and coordinates the activities of several UN units and organisations working on development and social and economic issues.
  • It is the principle body for the implementation of internationally agreed development goals.
  • It has 54 members, which are elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term.
  • For the nations to be the elected as members of ECOSOC for a three-year term, it needs 2/3rd majority of UN General Assembly votes.
  • Each member of the council has one vote and generally voting in the council is by simple majority.
  • The president is elected for a one-year term.

Crucial subsidiary bodies working under ECOSOC such as

    1. Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations
    2. Commission on Population and Development
  • Commission for social development
    1. Commission on crime prevention and criminal justice
    2. Council to the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
    3. Executive Board of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women)

In 2017, UNGA re-elected India to another 3-year term starting from Jan,2018 (as its previous term was set to expire in 2017).

Former Indian diplomat, Preeti Saran has been elected unopposed to an Asia Pacific seat on the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and CulturalRights (CESCR).

The CESCR was set up in 1985

  • It was constituted with an aim to monitor on its behalf the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), which has been ratified by 169 countries.
  • The countries that are parties to the covenant are required to submit reports to the CESCR every five years on how they protect the economic, social and cultural rights.
  • The committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations.

Secretariat

  • It undertakes the day-to-day work of the UN, administering the programmes and policies of the organization.
  • It is headed by the Secretary-General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide.

D) International Court of Justice

  • It is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations also called the “World Court”.
  • It is seated at the Peace Palace, Hague (Netherlands), and the only principal organ of UN to be not located in New York.
  • Established in 1946 to replace the Permanent Court of International Justice, the ICJ mainly operates under the statute of its predecessor, which is included in the UN Charter.
  • Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).
  • It has two primary functions: to settle legal disputes submitted by States in accordance with established international laws, and to act as an advisory board on issues submitted to it by authorized international organizations.
  • The ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is legally binding
  • It hears cases related to war crimes, illegal state interference, ethnic cleansing, and other issues.
  • It is presided over by 15 judges elected to 9 year terms by the UNGA and the UNSC from a list of people nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
  • 5 judges are elected every 3 years to ensure continuity within the court and are eligible for re-election.
  • No two judges can be the nationals of the same country.
  • The P5 members of the UNSC always have a judge on the Court.
  • The Court settles legal disputes between nations only and not between individuals, organizations and private enterprises in accordance with international law.
  • The Court can only hear a dispute when requested to do so by one or more States. It cannot deal with a dispute of its own motion.
  • If a country does not wish to take part in a proceeding it does not have to do so, unless required by special treaty provisions. Once a country accepts the Court’s jurisdiction, it must comply with its decision.
  • Decisions and Advisory Opinions are by majority, and, in the event of an equal division, the President’s vote becomes decisive always have a judge on the Court.
  • India recently won the plea against Pakistan to grant counsellor access to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav and ICJ has directed to Pakistan to stop carrying out the execution of Jadhav.
  • In its recent advisory opinion on Chagos Islands issue, it stated that the UK Government is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago “as rapidly as possible”
  • The Chagos Islands were retained by the UK during negotiations over independence for the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, which came to fruition in 1968.
  • The islands have since been used for defence purposes by the UK and the United States, which established a military base on the island of Diego Garcia.
  • In another case, ICJ ordered the United States to lift some of the economic sanctions it has imposed on Iran, which effect the importation of humanitarian goods and products, as well as the safety of civilian aircraft.

E) Trusteeship Council

  • It was formed to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories that had been placed under the administration of Member States, and to prepare the territories for self-government and independence.
  • By 1994, all Trust Territories had attained self-government or independence, with the last nation being Palau.
  • So, UN suspended its operation on 1994, and it continues to exist only on paper with Its future role and existence remain uncertain.

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