Last Updated: January 2009
Official Name: United Nations
Editor's note: The information for this article was compiled and edited from UN Fact Sheets and other releases available through the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.
Beginnings, Purpose, and Structure
In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt, flanked by the leaders of 26 Allied countries, first coined the term "United Nations" to describe the continued fight against the Axis Powers. Following World War II, the allies adopted the term to define a worldwide body of nations. On June 26, 1945, fifty nations signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California. The United States Senate ratified the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. The United Nations came into effect on October 24, 1945. October 24 is now celebrated around the globe as UN Day.
The United Nations' aims are set out in the preamble to the UN Charter: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these common ends.
The principal organs of the United Nations include the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. (The Trusteeship Council, an original principal organ, suspended operations in 1994 when it fulfilled its function by overseeing the independence of the UN's last remaining trust territory.)
In addition to its principal organs, the United Nations system is made up of a complex mix of commissions and funds created by the General Assembly, such as UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) and the World Food Program; specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the International Monetary Fund; and other UN entities, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the peacekeeping missions established by the Security Council.
The headquarters of the United Nations is located in New York City. The General Assembly building and the Secretariat were built in 1949 and 1950 on land donated by the Rockefeller family. The property is now considered international territory. Under special agreement with the United States, certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the United States apply.
The regular biennial budget of the UN in 2004-05, as revised, was $3.608 billion. For the calendar year 2003, the United States' assessed contribution to the UN regular budget was $362 million. In addition, the United States' assessed contribution to UN specialized agencies amounted to well over $400 million.
The United States also contributed $1.1 billion in assessments to the peacekeeping budget in calendar year 2004; $72 million for the support of the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia; and, nearly $5 million for preparatory work relating to the UN Capital Master Plan. Moreover, each year the United States provides a significant amount in voluntary contributions to the UN and UN-affiliated organizations and activities (largely for humanitarian and development programs). In sum, U.S. contributions (both cash and in kind) to the UN system in 2003 were well over $3 billion.
The United Nations currently has 192 member states. The official languages of the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. More information about the UN is available on its web site at www.un.org.
The idea for the United Nations was elaborated in declarations signed at the wartime Allied conferences in Moscow and Tehran in 1943. President Franklin Roosevelt suggested the name "United Nations." From August to October 1944, representatives of the U.S. U.K., France, U.S.S.R., and China met to elaborate the plans at the Dumbarton Oaks Estate in Washington, D.C. Those and later talks produced proposals outlining the purposes of the organization, its membership and organs, as well as arrangements to maintain international peace and security and international economic and social cooperation. These proposals were discussed and debated by governments and private citizens worldwide.
On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organizations began in San Francisco. The 50 nations represented at the conference signed the Charter of the United Nations two months later on June 26. Poland, which was not represented at the conference, but for which a place among the original signatories had been reserved, added its name later, bringing the total of original signatories to 51.
The UN came into existence on October 24, 1945, after the Charter had been ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council-China, France, U.S.S.R., U.K., and U.S.-and by a majority of the other 46 signatories. The U.S. Senate, by a vote of 89 to 2, gave its consent to the ratification of the UN Charter on July 28, 1945. In December 1945, the Senate and the House of Representatives, by unanimous votes, requested that the UN make its headquarters in the U.S. The offer was accepted and the UN headquarters building was constructed in New York City in 1949 and 1950 beside the East River on donated land, which is considered international territory. Under special agreement with the U.S., certain diplomatic privileges and immunities have been granted, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the U.S. apply. UN membership is open to all "peace-loving states" that accept the obligations of the UN Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to fulfill these obligations. The General Assembly determines admission upon recommendation of the Security Council.
Preamble to Charter of the United Nations
We the Peoples of the United Nations Determined
- To Save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- To Reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women of nations large and small, and
- To Establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
And for these ends
- To Practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and
- To Unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- To Ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
- To Employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims. Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.
AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY
Maintaining the Peace
The UN's role in international collective security is defined by the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the power to:
- Investigate any situation threatening international peace;
- Recommend procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;
- Call upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal, and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and
- Enforce its decisions militarily, if necessary.
The United Nations has helped prevent many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts. It has opened the way to negotiated settlements through its service as a center of debate and negotiation, as well as through UN-sponsored fact-finding missions, mediators, and truce observers. UN peacekeeping forces, comprised of troops and equipment supplied by member nations, have usually been able to limit or prevent conflict. Some conflicts, however, have proven to be beyond the capacity of the UN to influence. Key to the success of UN peacekeeping efforts is the willingness of the parties to a conflict to come to terms peacefully through a viable political process.
UN peacekeeping initiatives have ranged from small, diplomatic or political delegations to large mobiliPage 2401 | Top of Articlezations, the most extensive of which was the 500,000-strong 1950-53 defense of South Korea against an attack by North Korea. In the first few years following the end of the Cold War the number of peacekeeping operations increased dramatically. The proliferation of operations reflected the view that, in the post-Cold War era, the UN could play an important role in defusing regional conflicts. Some of the peacekeeping operations of the early 1990s also saw an expansion of the traditional peace-keeping mandate to include such responsibilities as supervising elections, monitoring human rights, training police, and overseeing civil administration. From 1995 to mid-1999 there was a sharp decline in the number of UN peacekeepers in the field, from a high of around 70,000 to 12,000. The assumption by NATO of major peacekeeping responsibilities in the former Yugoslavia (and the resultant termination of UNPROFOR's mandate) accounted for much of the decrease. Other factors included the closeout of UN operations in Mozambique in January 1995, Somalia in March 1995, El Salvador in April 1995, and Rwanda in March 1996. With the U.S. and the UN taking a much harder look at proposed peacekeeping operations, the only major new UN mission set up in this period outside the former Yugoslavia was the UNAVEM III operation in Angola.
Beginning in June 1999, new missions in Kosovo and East Timor and expanded missions in Sierra Leone and the Congo dramatically increased both the costs and personnel levels of UN peacekeeping operations. They also added a new level of complexity to peacekeeping efforts, with a greater emphasis on civilian administration in East Timor and Kosovo. From July 1999 to June 2001, overall UN peacekeeping personnel levels increased by 31,000, with even more personnel authorized but not deployed.
As of July 31, 2002, there were 691 U.S. personnel (659 civilian police, and 32 military observers) in worldwide UN peace operations, accounting for 1.5% of total UN peacekeepers. As Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States never gives up command authority over U.S. troops. When large numbers of U.S. troops are involved and when the risk of combat is high, operational control of U.S. forces will remain in American hands, or in the hands of a trusted military ally such as a NATO member. But the President must Page 2402 | Top of Articleretain the flexibility, which has served the U.S. well throughout its history, to allow temporary foreign operational control of U.S. troops when it serves U.S. interests, just as it has often served U.S. interests to have foreign forces under U.S. operational control.
Arms Control and Disarmament
The 1945 UN Charter envisaged a system of regulation that would ensure "the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources." The advent of nuclear weapons came only weeks after the signing of the Charter and provided immediate impetus to concepts of arms limitation and disarmament. In fact, the first resolution of the first meeting of the General Assembly (January 24, 1946) was entitled "The Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy" and called upon the commission to make specific proposals for "the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction."
The UN has established several forums to address multilateral disarmament issues. The principal ones are the First Committee of the UN General Assembly and the UN Disarmament Commission. Items on the agenda include consideration of the possible merits of a nuclear test ban, outer-space arms control, efforts to ban chemical weapons, nuclear and conventional disarmament, nuclear-weapon-free zones, reduction of military budgets, and measures to strengthen international security.
The Conference on Disarmament is the sole forum established by the international community for the negotiation of multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements. It has 66 members representing all areas of the world, including the five major nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the Russian Federation, the U.K., and the U.S.). While the conference is not formally a UN organization, it is linked to the UN through a personal representative of the Secretary-General; this representative serves as the secretary general of the conference. Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly often request the conference to consider specific disarmament matters. In turn, the conference annually reports on its activities to the General Assembly.
The pursuit of human rights was one of the central reasons for creating the United Nations. 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 General Assembly regularly takes up human rights issues. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), under ECOSOC, is the primary UN body charged with promoting human rights, primarily through investigations and offers of technical assistance. As discussed, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the official principally responsible for all UN human rights activities (see, under "The UN Family," the section on "Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights").
The U.S. considers the United Nations to be a first line of defense of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also a means by which those principles can be applied more broadly around the world. A case in point is support by the United Nations 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 United Nations is also a forum in which to support the right of women to participate fully in the political, economic, and social life of their countries.
The member countries of the UN and its specialized agencies—the "shareholders" of the system—give guidance and make decisions on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. Governing bodies made up of member states include not only the General Assembly, ECOSOC, and the Security Council, but also counterpart bodies dealing with the governance of all other UN system agencies.
For example, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board oversee the work of WHO. Each year, the U.S. Department of State accredits U.S. delegations to more than 600 meetings of governing bodies.
When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities. Recent examples include:
- The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 1992, led to the creation of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to advance the conclusions reached in Agenda 21, the final text of agreements negotiated by governments at UNCED;
- The World Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, September 1994, approved a program of action to address the critical challenges and interrelaPage 2403 | Top of Articletionships between population and sustainable development over the next 20 years;
- The World Summit on Trade Efficiency, Columbus, Ohio, October 1994, cosponsored by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the city of Columbus, and private-sector business, focused on the use of modern information technology to expand international trade;
- The World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 1995, underscored national responsibility for sustainable
- development and secured high-level commitment to plans that invest in basic education, health care, and economic opportunity for all, including women and girls;
- The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, September 1995, sought to accelerate implementation of the historic agreements reached at the Third World Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 1985;
- The Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), Istanbul, Turkey, June 1996, considered the challenges of human settlement development and management in the 21st century; and
- The UN Conference on Financing for Development, Monterrey, Mexico, March 2002, broke new ground in development discussions with the U.S. calling for a "new compact for development" defined by greater accountability for rich and poor nations alike.
Security Council—New York
The Security Council has five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.—informally known as the P-5), each with the right to veto, and 10 non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Five non-permanent members are elected from Africa and Asia combined. One non-permanent member comes from Eastern Europe, two from Latin America, and two from Western Europe and other areas. The 2004 non-permanent members are: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, and Spain. The president (or chair) of the Council rotates monthly in English alphabetical order of the members.
Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," and all UN members "agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter." Other organs of the UN make recommendations to member governments. The Security Council, however, has the power under the Charter to make decisions that member states must carry out. Unlike other representative bodies, the Security Council is always in session. A representative of each Council member must always be available so that the Council can meet at any time.
Decisions in the 15-member Security Council on all substantive matters require the affirmative votes of nine members, including the support of all five permanent members. A negative vote by a permanent member (also known as a veto) prevents adoption of a proposal that has received the required number of affirmative votes. Abstention is not regarded as a veto.
Under Chapter VI of the Charter, "Pacific Settlement of Disputes," the Security Council "may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute." The Council may "recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment" if it determines that the situation might endanger international peace and security. These recommendations are not binding on UN members.
Under Chapter VII, the Council has broader power to decide what measures are to be taken in situations involving "threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression." In such situations, the Council is not limited to recommendations but may take action, including the use of armed force "to maintain or restore international peace and security." Decisions taken under Chapter VII, both with regard to military action and to economic sanctions, are binding on all UN member states.
Starting with the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in 1948, the Security Council has dispatched peacekeeping missions to the world's conflicts. These missions have helped prevent or limit many outbreaks of international violence from growing into wider conflicts.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, adopted Resolution 1373, which obliges all member states to take action against international terrorism. The resolution also established the Counter Terrorism Committee within the Council to monitor progress in the war against terrorism and implementation of the resolution. The international community has adopted 13 UN counterterrorism conventions, 12 of which have entered into force. These conventions create a legal framework that the United States believes will combat international terrorism. The United States has signed and ratified the 12 resolutions that have entered into force. The 13th will open for signature on September 14, 2005.
General Assembly—New York
All UN member states are members of the General Assembly. The Assembly has six main committees: Disarmament and International Security; Economic and Financial; Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural; Special Political and Decolonization; Administrative and Budgetary; and Legal. Other committees address UN procedures, membership, and specific Page 2404 | Top of Articleissues, including peacekeeping, outer space, and UN Charter reform. The General Assembly meets in regular session once a year under a president elected from among the representatives. The regular session usually begins in mid-September and ends in mid-December. Special sessions can be convened at the request of the Security Council, a majority of UN members, or, if the majority concurs, a single member. A special session was held in October 1995 at the head of government level to commemorate the UN's 50th anniversary.
Voting in the General Assembly on important questions is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Voting questions may include recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; and budgetary matters. Other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member state has one vote. Apart from the approval of budgetary matters, including the adoption of a scale of assessment, General Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may make recommendations on any matter within the scope of the UN, except on matters of peace and security under Security Council consideration. Since the late 1980s, virtually all budgetary decisions at the UN have been taken by consensus.
As the only UN organ in which all members are represented, the Assembly serves as a forum for members to launch initiatives on international questions of peace, economic progress, and human rights. It can initiate studies; make recommendations; develop and codify international law; promote human rights; and advance international economic, social, cultural, and educational programs.
The Assembly may take action on maintaining international peace if the Security Council is unable to exercise its primary responsibility, usually due to disagreement among the permanent members. The "Uniting for Peace" resolutions, adopted in 1950, empower the Assembly to convene in emergency special sessions to recommend collective measures— including the use of armed force—in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression. Two-thirds of the members must approve any such recommendation. Emergency special sessions under this procedure have been held on ten occasions, most recently in 1997.
Developing countries constitute a majority among the UN's 192 members. Because of their numbers, developing countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly, the character of its debates, and the nature of its decisions. For many developing countries, the UN General Assembly is the source of much of their diplomatic influence and the principal forum for their foreign relations initiatives. When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level U.S. delegations use these opportunities to promote U.S. policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities.
The General Assembly has also been active in the fight against terrorism. On September 12, 2001, it adopted a resolution condemning the terrorist attacks against the United States. In its 56th and 57th Sessions, the General Assembly also passed resolutions calling on all states to prevent terrorism and to strengthen international cooperation in fighting terrorism. On April 13, 2005, the General Assembly unanimously adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
Economic and Social Council—New York
The General Assembly elects the 54 members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Eighteen are elected each year for three-year terms. The U.S. has always been a member.
Under the UN Charter, ECOSOC is responsible for identifying solutions to international economic, social, and health problems, as well as facilitating international cultural and education cooperation and encouraging respect for human rights. ECOSOC meets for one annual four-week session and for shorter ad hoc, procedural, or special meetings. Voting is by simple majority.
ECOSOC coordinates the work of fourteen specialized UN agencies, ten functional commissions, and five regional commissions. Through much of its history, ECOSOC had served primarily as a discussion vehicle. ECOSOC had little authority to force action, which a number of member states felt marginalized the agency's utility. However, beginning in 1992, the U.S. and other nations began an effort to make ECOSOC more relevant by strengthening its policy responsibilities in economic, social, and related fields, particularly in the area of development.
The resulting reform made ECOSOC the oversight and policy-setting body for UN operational development activities and established smaller executive boards for the UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). The creation of an oversight body and smaller executive boards provides those agencies with operating guidance and promotes more effective management. The reform also gave ECOSOC a strong hand in ensuring that UN agencies coordinated their work on issues of common interest, such as narcotics control, human rights, the alleviation of poverty, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
One positive impact of this reform was the manner in which the UN development system began to respond more coherently and efficiently to humanitarian crises around the world. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recent reform initiatives have attached considerable importance to further strengthening coordination among relief agencies.
Another positive reform outcome was the ECOSOC decision in 1994 to authorize the creation of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/ AIDS (UNAIDS). This Program acts Page 2405 | Top of Articleas the main advocate for worldwide action against HIV/AIDS and has brought together into one consolidated global program the AIDS-related resources and expertise of UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, the UN International Drug Control Program, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Bank. UNAIDS has been instrumental in the expanded global response to HIV/ AIDS, eliminating duplication among agencies and enhancing the ability of member states to respond effectively to the AIDS pandemic. UNAIDS began operating in January 1996.
International Court of Justice—The Hague, Netherlands
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the UN. Established in 1946, its main functions are to decide cases submitted to it by states and to give advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by the General Assembly or Security Council, or by such specialized agencies authorized to do so by the General Assembly in accordance with the UN Charter.
The Court is composed of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council from a list of persons nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Judges serve for nine years and may be re-elected. No two may be nationals of the same country. One-third of the Court is elected every three years. A U.S. citizen has always been a member of the Court. Questions before the Court are decided by a majority of judges present. Only states may be parties in cases before the International Court of Justice. This requirement does not preclude private interests from being the subject of proceedings if one state brings a case against another. Jurisdiction of the Court is based on the consent of each UN member state to comply with an ICJ decision in a case to which it is a party. Any judgments reached are binding. If a party fails to perform its obligations under an ICJ decision, the other party may seek recourse in the Security Council. State parties to the Court's statute may declare their recognition of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court for a wide range of international disputes. The U.S. accepted the Court's compulsory jurisdiction in 1946, but withdrew its acceptance following the Court's decision in a 1986 case involving activities in Nicaragua. Examples of cases include:
- a complaint by the U.S. in 1980 that Iran was detaining American diplomats in Tehran in violation of international law;
- a complaint filed by Iran in 1992 alleging that the United States violated a treaty obligation by attacking three Iranian oil platforms. The U.S. filed a counter-claim with respect to Iranian attacks on U.S. shipping interests in the Persian Gulf;
- a dispute over the course of the maritime boundary dividing the U.S. and Canada in the Gulf of Maine area, filed in 1981, judgment in 1984; and
- a complaint filed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) in 1999 against Rwanda alleging violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed on DROC territory.
The Secretariat is composed of international civil servants who carry out the daily tasks of the United Nations. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by UN bodies for their meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies. The 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 is obligated to respect the international character of the Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff.
Under the UN Charter, the chief administrative officer of the UN and the head of the Secretariat is the Secretary-General of the United Nations, appointed to a five-year term by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. Kofi Annan, the first Secretary-General from sub-Saharan Africa, began his first term on January 1, 1997. He was reappointed to a second term beginning January 1, 2002.
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. 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. In 1997, the General Assembly established a position of Deputy Secretary-General. Since 1998, Louise Frechette of Canada has held this position. Other senior UN officials, such as the Under-Secretaries-General for Political Affairs and Peacekeeping, also advise the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General also appoints Special Representatives and Envoys to mediate conflict in the world's trouble spots.
THE UN FAMILY
In addition to the principal UN organs, the UN family includes over 60 programs or specialized agencies, often headquartered in one of the UN offices around the world. Some agencies existed prior to UN creation and are related to it by agreement. Others were established by the General Assembly. Each provides expertise in a specific area. Some of those programs and agencies (with the location of their headquarters) are described Page 2406 | Top of Articlebelow. A diagram of the entire UN system can be found at www.un.org/aboutun/chart. A map showing principal UN offices around the world can be found at http://www.un.org/aroundworld/map.
Funds and Programs
UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). New York City. UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. Its programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.
UN Development Program (UNDP). New York City. UNDP is the largest multilateral source of grant technical assistance in the world. Voluntarily funded, it provides expert advice, training, and limited equipment to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the poorest countries. It focuses on six areas of assistance: democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and the environment, information technology, and HIV/AIDS.
UN Environment Program (UNEP). Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP coordinates UN environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies. UNEP has developed guidelines and treaties on issues such as the international transport of potentially harmful chemicals, transboundary air pollution, and the contamination of international waterways.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Geneva, Switzerland. UNHCR protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the UN and assists in their return or resettlement. UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1982.
World Food Program (WFP). Rome, Italy. The WFP distributes food commodities to long-term refugees and displaced persons, and provides emergency food assistance during natural and man-made disasters. In 2004, the WFP fed 113 million people in 80 countries, including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Rome, Italy. FAO programs seek to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living; to improve agricultural productivity, to promote rural development; and, by these means, to provide access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life.
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Montreal, Canada. ICAO develops the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
The ICAO Council adopts standards and makes recommendations concerning air navigation, the prevention of unlawful interference, and the facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation.
International Labor Organization (ILO). Geneva, Switzerland. The ILO seeks to strengthen worker rights, improve working and living conditions, create employment, and provide information and training opportunities. ILO programs include the occupational safety and health hazard alert system and the labor standards and human rights programs.
International Maritime Organization (IMO). London, England. The IMO's main objective is to facilitate cooperation among governments on technical matters affecting international shipping to achieve the highest possible degree of maritime safety and navigational efficiency. It also attempts to improve the marine environment through the prevention of pollution caused by ships and other craft and deals with legal matters connected with international shipping.
International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Geneva, Switzerland. The ITU brings together governments to coordinate the establishment and operation of global communication networks and services, including telegraph, telephone, radio communications, Internet, and the information society. It fosters cooperation and partnership among its members and offers technical assistance in this area.
UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Paris, France. UNESCO's purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting cooperation among nations through education, science, culture, and communication to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, sex, language, or religion.
Universal Postal Union (UPU). Bern, Switzerland. The UPU attempts to secure the organization and improvement of the postal services, to promote international collaboration, and provide technical assistance in this area. The member countries constitute a single postal territory.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of WIPO is to promote international cooperation in the field of intellectual property rights. It works in the areas of both industrial and literary-artistic property.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Geneva, Switzerland. WMO coordinates global scientific activity to allow increasingly prompt and accurate weather prediction and other services for public, private, and commercial use.
World Health Organization (WHO). Geneva, Switzerland. WHO acts as a coordinating authority on pressing global public health issues.
WHO's objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment of all peoples of the highest possible level of health.
Other Related Bodies
World Bank. Washington, DC. The World Bank is one of the world's main sources of development assistance. It focuses on the poorest people in the poorest countries.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Vienna, Austria. The role of IAEA is to promote the contribution of atomic energy for peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world and to enhance the safety and security of radioactive materials and nuclear facilities worldwide. It has the responsibility of creating and implementing the safeguard provisions of various nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear free zone treaties.
International Monetary Fund (IMF). Washington, DC. The purposes of the IMF are to promote international monetary cooperation through consultation and collaboration, to promote exchange stability and orderly exchange arrangements, and to assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments and the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions.
REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS
The United Nations is currently engaged in one of the most important debates in its history: how to reform itself, strengthen itself as an institution, and ensure that it addresses effectively the threats and challenges of the 21st century. The United States is leading the effort to strengthen and reform the UN.
Budget, Management, and Administrative Reform: The U.S. seeks to ensure the highest standards of integrity and promote efficiency within the UN system, so that member states receive the greatest benefit from resources invested in the institution. Meaningful institutional reform must include measures to improve internal oversight and accountability, to identify cost savings, and to allocate resources to high priority programs and offices.
Peace Building Commission: The U.S. strongly supports the Secretary-General's idea of a Peace Building Commission that would allow the UN to be more effective in galvanizing the work of the international community to help countries after the fighting has stopped. Such a Commission would play an important role in helping countries in post-conflict situations. It could provide reconstruction and humanitarian support and set the stage for long-term development.
Human Rights Council: The U.S. supports the Secretary-General's initiative to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a smaller, action-oriented Human Rights Council, whose membership should not include states with a record of abuse. The problems with the current Commission, where human-rights abusers sit in judgment of democratic countries, are well known. The Council's mandate would be to address the most egregious human rights abuses, provide technical assistance, and promote human rights as a global priority.
Democracy Initiatives and the UN Democracy Fund: President Bush in his September 2004 UN General Assembly speech put this proposal on the table, as democracy promotion is one of our core aims. The goal is to create a mechanism for supporting new and emerging democracies, providing assistance that would help develop civil society and democratic institutions.
Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism: The U.S. strongly supports the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism (CCIT), a subject of longstanding debate. This would be an important symbolic achievement in the UN's global effort to counter terrorism.
Development: The United States plays a leading, active, and positive role in development. The U.S. has a commitment to building healthy institutions and strong economies, through trade, foreign investment, and aid. As agreed in the Monterrey Consensus, the focus should be on supporting good governance and sound economic policies.
UN SECRETARIES GENERAL
Trygve Lie (Norway)—Feb. 1, 1946-April 10, 1953
Dag Hammarskjold (Sweden)—April 10, 1953-Sept. 8, 1961
U Thant (Burma)—Nov. 3, 1961-Dec. 31, 1971 (initially appointed acting Secretary General; formally appointed Nov. 30, 1962)
Kurt Waldheim (Austria)—Jan. 1, 1972-Dec. 31, 1981
Javier Perez de Cuellar (Peru)—Jan. 1, 1982-Dec. 31, 1991
Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt)—Jan. 1, 1992-Dec. 31, 1996
Kofi Annan (Ghana)—Jan. 1, 1997-Dec 31, 2006
Ban Ki-moon (South Korea)—Jan. 1, 2007-present
The U.S. Permanent Mission to the UN in New York is headed by the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Ambassador John R. Bolton has served in that position since August 1, 2005.
The mission acts as the channel of communication for the U.S. Government with the UN organs, agencies, and commissions at the UN headquarters and with the other permanent missions accredited to the UN and the non-member observer missions. The U.S. mission has a professional staff made up largely of career Foreign Service officers, including Page 2408 | Top of Articlespecialists in political, economic, social, financial, legal, and military issues. The United States also maintains missions to international organizations in Geneva, Rome, Vienna, Nairobi, Montreal, and Paris. These missions report to the Department of State and receive guidance on questions of policy from the President, through the Secretary of State.
The Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs coordinates relations with the UN and its family of agencies. The U.S. Mission to the United Nations is located at 140 East 45th Street, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-415-4000). More information about the U.S. Mission to the UN is available on the mission's web site at www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov.
U.S. Representatives to the United Nations
Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.—March 1946-June 1946
Herschel V. Johnson (acting)—June 1946-January 1947
Warren R. Austin—Jan. 1947-Jan. 1953
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.—Jan. 1953-Sept. 1960
James J. Wadsworth—Sept. 1960-Jan. 1961
Adlai E. Stevenson—Jan. 1961-July 1965
Arthur J. Goldberg—July 1965-June 1968
George W. Ball—June 1968-Sept. 1968
James Russell Wiggins—Oct. 1968-Jan. 1969
Charles W. Yost—Jan. 1969-Feb. 1971
George W. Bush—Feb. 1971-Jan. 1973
John P. Scali—Feb. 1973-June 1975
Daniel P. Moynihan—June 1975-Feb. 1976
William W. Scranton—March 1976-Jan. 1977
Andrew Young—Jan. 1977-April 1979
Donald McHenry—April 1979-Jan. 1981
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick—Feb. 1981-April 1985
Vernon Walters—May 1985-Jan. 1989
Thomas R. Pickering—March 1989-May 1992
Edward J. Perkins—May 1992-Jan. 1993
Madeleine K. Albright—Feb. 1993-Jan. 1997
Bill Richardson—Feb. 1997-Sept 1998
A. Peter Burleigh (acting)—Sept 1998-Aug 1999
Richard Holbrooke—Aug. 1999-Jan. 2001.
James B. Cunningham (acting)—Feb. 2001-Sept. 2001
John Negroponte—Sept. 2001-June 2004.
John C. Danforth—June 2004–Jan. 2005
Anne W. Patterson (acting) Jan.–Aug. 2005
John R. Bolton—August 2005–Dec. 2006
Zalmay Khalilzad—March 2007–Jan. 2009
Susan Rice—Jan. 2009–present
U.S. POLICY IN THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
September 21, 2006
The United States looks to work with the United Nations, particularly with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to address the varied challenges facing the international community.
Ending the Genocide in Sudan
As a result of the conflict in Darfur, which the United States has called a genocide, thousands of people have been killed, nearly 2 million internally displaced, and over 200,000 made refugees in Chad. With the African Union and other international partners, the United States led the way in achieving the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), signed on May 5, 2006, between the largest rebel group and the Sudanese government. The UN Security Council issued a Presidential Statement on May 9, supporting the implementation of the DPA, and two UN Security Council Resolutions, 1679 and 1706. The latter resolution called for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Darfur. The United States is working intensively with other Security Council members to ensure that the transition of the African Union forces to a UN-led operation will take place as soon as possible.
Nonproliferation and Iran
Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons represents a threat to the entire international community. In defiance of repeated calls from the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranian regime is continuing its nuclear program. The United States, with its international partners, will continue to make every effort to achieve a successful diplomatic outcome, but there must be consequences, such as Security Council sanctions, for Iran's continued defiance.
A Lasting Peace in Lebanon
The United States worked with the other members of the Security Council to establish conditions for a lasting peace in Lebanon. The enhancement of the UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon will help the democratic Lebanese government to regain control over its territory. It also will help to provide the conditions for the full implementation of Resolution 1559, which calls for the end of foreign interference in Lebanese internal affairs and for the disbanding and disarming of militias in Lebanon.
Nonproliferation and North Korea
In response to North Korea's launch of several ballistic missiles on July 5, 2006, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1695. The United States participated in and fully supported the Japanese-led efforts in making this Page 2409 | Top of Articleresolution possible. In concert with its regional partners, the United States has urged the North Koreans to return without delay to the six-party talks for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. This would allow North Korea to gain economic assistance and security, and to integrate itself into the region.
U.S. Financial Contributions to the UN System
September 20, 2007
In 2006, the United States contributed:
- 41.5%, or $1.12 billion, of the budget of the World Food Program (WFP), which provides over 4 million tons of food to 87.8 million people in 78 countries each year;
- 24%, or $346 million, of the budget of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to protect and safeguard the rights and well-being of 20.8 million refugees, returnees, stateless persons, and internally displaced persons in 116 countries; and
- 9.4%, or $260 million, of the budget of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to feed, educate, and protect children in 157 countries, including providing over 3 billion doses of vaccines to children.
U.S. Leadership and Engagement in the United Nations
The United States co-founded and continues to be the leading financial supporter of the United Nations. The U.S. believes that the UN has an essential role to play in fostering international peace and security, fighting poverty through development, providing humanitarian assistance, eradicating disease, advancing freedom, and promoting human rights and democracy. The United States is committed to ensuring good stewardship of United Nations resources so that these universal goals are met effectively and efficiently. The United States has been the largest contributor to the United Nations every year since its creation in 1945. In fiscal year 2006, the U.S. contributed over $5.3 billion to the United Nations system to support UN agencies and peacekeeping operations. The U.S. contribution to UN peacekeeping alone totaled nearly $870 million in fiscal year 2006.
As the UN's largest contributor, the U.S. will continue to call for the accountable use of these funds. In particular, the U.S. has proposed using the General Assembly's biennial budget process to reward programs that achieve desired results, while terminating low priority, poorly performing, or unnecessary programs.
In addition, the U.S. has called for a maximum of accountability and transparency in the management of all UN programs and funds. Stronger internal oversight and improved reporting require adequate resources and greater independence for the key Office of Internal Oversight Services. A fair and open procurement system is also necessary to ensure accountability and transparency.
U.S. Commitment to the UN's Founding Ideals
September 20, 2007
UN Reforms Secured Through U.S. Diplomatic Engagement Since 2005
- Creation of an independent Ethics Office;
- Additional resources for the Office of Internal Oversight Services;
- Expanded financial disclosure program;
- whistleblower" protections;
- Use of International Public Sector Accounting Standards;
- Support for establishment of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee;
- Support for mechanism to adjudicate staff grievances.
The United Nations was created 60 years ago to advance freedom, democracy, peace, security, human rights, and prosperity for all people.
The United States is not alone in its commitment both to these ideals and to ongoing reform of UN operations. In 2005, more than 170 heads of state and governments expressed a global consensus that wide-ranging UN reform is imperative.
U.S. Priorities for UN Reform Include:
- Strengthening the UN's internal oversight body to better identify, obtain, and deploy the resources to accomplish its mandate;
- Institutionalizing a system-wide approach to enforcing ethical conduct;
- Enhancing transparency and accountability through procurement reform;
- Increasing the UN's effectiveness and efficiency through results-based management.
UN employees around the world must abide by the highest standards of ethical conduct. With the number of peacekeeping operations at an all-time high and growing, it is all the more essential for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to consistently and comprehensively enforce its zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers of the vulnerable citizens they are entrusted with protecting. The establishment of an independent Ethics Office and enhanced "whistleblower" protections for UN staff who report wrongdoing were positive steps.
Now, the Secretary-General should ensure the office's jurisdiction over all UN funds and programs, and guarantee full protection for whistle-blowers. The Secretary-General has led the way in publicly disclosing his finances, and all senior UN officials should follow his example. UN staff should not only benefit the people they serve by their work, but also should set a standard for ethical public service.
Effectiveness and Efficiency
Member States and United Nations officials should ensure careful stew-ardship of the UN's limited resources. Effective, results-based management will maximize resources available to improve the lives of the world's need-iest people, who have the most to gain from reform. The General Assembly's biennial budget process is a powerful reform tool and should be used to reward programs that achieve desired results, while terminating low priority, poorly performing, or unnecessary programs. This approach requires measurable standards for success and regular performance assessments.
The UN Secretariat must ensure that the restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the creation of the new Department of Field Support strengthen UN capacity to backstop a growing number of peacekeepers.
Accountability and Transparency
Accountability and transparency are at the heart of any well-run, effective organization. The UN must enhance accountability and transparency through a stronger, more independent Office of Internal Oversight Services with adequate and flexible funding; improved reporting practices; and a fair, open, and cost-effective procurement system.
Standards for Leadership
To accomplish its mission, the United Nations requires leaders, staff, and Member States whose conduct reflects the ideals of the UN Charter. Nations that violate these ideals or are under UN sanctions should not be elected to limited membership bodies, such as the UN Security Council or the Human Rights Council, or to leadership positions in any UN body.
A Mission of Liberation Around the World
September 25, 2007
President Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly and called on every UN member to join a mission of liberation from tyranny, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and poverty. Achieving the promise of the UN's commitment to "freedom, justice, and peace" laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights requires both confronting long-term threats and answering the immediate needs of today. The UN must work to free people from tyranny and violence, hunger and disease, illiteracy and ignorance, and poverty and despair.
Liberation From Tyranny And Violence
Terrorists and extremists who kill the innocent are a threat to civilized people everywhere. All civilized nations must work together to stop them by sharing intelligence about their networks, choking off their finances, and capturing or killing their operatives. In the long run, the best way to defeat the extremists is to defeat their dark ideology with a more hopeful vision of liberty. Citizens in Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq have made the choice for democracy, and every civilized nation has a responsibility to stand with them. The extremists are doing everything in their power to bring down these young democracies, and the people of Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq have asked for our help.
The United States salutes the many nations that have recently taken strides toward liberty—including Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Morocco. Every civilized nation has a responsibility to stand up for people suffering under dictatorship. In Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Syria, and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration. Americans are also outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear. President Bush announced a series of steps to help bring peaceful change to Burma. The President urges the United Nations and all nations to use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom. The United States will:
- Tighten economic sanctions on the leaders of the regime and their financial backers.
- Impose an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members.
- Facilitate the efforts of humanitarian groups working to alleviate suffering in Burma.
The United Nations must insist on free speech, free assembly, and, ultimately, free and competitive elections in Cuba as the nation transitions from the long dictatorship of Fidel Castro.
The United Nations must insist on freedom for the people of Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe's government has cracked down violently on peaceful calls for reform, and forced millions to flee their homeland. The United Nations must live up to its promise to promptly deploy peace-keeping forces to Darfur. The U.S. has provided more than $2 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping aid to Darfur since 2005, and has responded to the repression in Sudan and genocide in the Darfur region with tough sanctions against those responsible for the violence. The President looks forward to attending a Security Council meeting on Peace and Security in Africa, chaired by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Liberation From Hunger And Disease
Today, more than half of the world's food assistance comes from America.
The President has also proposed using a portion of U.S. emergency food assistance to purchase the crops of local and regional farmers. This would help build up local agriculture and break the cycle of famine in the developing world, and the President urges the United States Congress to support this approach. The President calls on UN member states to work together to turn the tide against HIV/ AIDS and to eliminate malaria.
In 2003, the United States launched a $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—the largest national commitment to combat a single disease in history. This effort has helped bring life-saving treatments to more than a million people in sub-Saharan Africa. The President has announced a plan to double this initial commitment with an additional $30 billion over five years.
The President's Malaria Initiative is spending $1.2 billion over five years to combat malaria in 15 African countries. This funding is providing bed nets, indoor spraying, and anti-malaria medicine with the goal of reducing mortality by 50 percent in the most vulnerable groups.
The Global Fund is working with governments and the private sector to fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria around the world. The United States is the fund's largest donor at about 30 percent.
Liberation From Illiteracy And Ignorance The United States is joining with nations around the world to help them provide a better education for their people. In partnership with other nations, America has: helped train more than 600,000 teachers and administrators; distributed tens of millions of textbooks; and helped nations raise standards in their schools. Last May, the President committed to provide an additional $525 million over the next five years to make our international education programs even more robust.
On September 24, First Lady Laura Bush announced that the basic education initiative will focus on: Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, Liberia, Mali, and Yemen.
Liberation From Poverty And Despair
In the long run, the best way to lift people out of poverty is through trade and investment. Open markets ignite growth, encourage investment, increase transparency, strengthen the rule of law, and help countries help themselves.
The United States has both the will and the flexibility to help conclude a successful Doha Round, and the President urges other leaders to direct their negotiators to demonstrate the same spirit. The Doha round of trade talks is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to open up markets, create new trade flows, and help millions escape poverty, and the President is optimistic that we can reach a good agreement.
The United States will continue to pursue market-opening agreements that increase trade and investment. We recently signed free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. These agreements embody the values of open markets, transparent and fair regulation, respect for private property, and resolving disputes under international law rules. They are now moving towards a Congressional vote, and the President urges Congress to approve them as soon as possible.
Through the Millennium Challenge Account, the United States is delivering economic assistance to developing nations in innovative ways. The Millennium Challenge Account increases aid to nations that govern justly, fight corruption, invest in the education and health of their people, and promote economic freedom.
We have signed Millennium Challenge Compacts with 14 nations, most recently with Morocco. Together, these are worth nearly $4.6 billion, and we have just approved two more compacts with Mongolia and Tanzania.