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All members of the United Nations (currently 192) are represented in the General Assembly. Each nation, rich or poor, large or small, has one vote. Decisions on such issues as international peace and security, admitting new members and the UN budget are decided by a two third’s majority. Other matters are decided by simple majority. In recent years, a special effort has been made to reach decisions through consensus, rather than by taking a formal vote. The General Assembly’s regular session begins each year in September and continues throughout the year. At the beginning of each regular session, the Assembly holds a general debate at which Heads of State or Government and others present views on a wide-ranging agenda of issues of concern to the international community, from war and terrorism to disease and poverty. In 2005, world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York for the General Assembly High Level Summit and to commemorate the Organization’s 60th birthday. Each year, the Assembly elects a president who presides over–that is, runs–the meetings.

To discuss and make recommendations on any subject (except those being dealt with at the same time by the Security Council);
To discuss questions related to military conflicts and the arms race;
To discuss ways and means to improve the state of children, youth, women and others;
To discuss the issues of sustainable development and human rights;
To decide how much each Member country should pay to run the United Nations and how this money is spent.
Main Committees
Most discussions in the General Assembly take place in its six main committees
First Committee (Disarmament and International Security)
Second Committee (Economic and Financial)
Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural)
Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization)
Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary)
Sixth Committee (Legal)
While the General Assembly can discuss any world concern, the Security Council has primary responsibility for questions of peace and security.

The Security Council has fifteen members. Five are permanent members: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States. The other ten non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms and are chosen on the basis of geographical representation.

To investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international conflict;
To recommend methods and terms of settlement;
To recommend actions against any threat or act of aggression;
To recommend to the General Assembly who should be appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The Security Council, unlike the General Assembly, does not hold regular meetings. It can be called to meet at any time on short notice. The members take turns at being President of the Council for a month at a time. They serve in the English alphabetical order of the names of their countries. To pass a resolution in the Security Council, nine members of the Council must vote “yes”, but if any of the five permanent members votes “no”, it is called a veto, and the resolution does not pass.
The Economic and Social Council is the forum to discuss economic problems, such as trade, transport, economic development, and social issues. It also helps countries reach agreement on how to improve education and health conditions and to promote respect for and observance of universal human rights and freedoms of people everywhere.
Serves as the main forum for international economic and social issues;
Promotes higher standards of living, full employment and economic and social progress;
Advances solutions to international economic, social and health-related problems, as well as international cultural and educational cooperation.
The Council has 54 members, who serve for three-year terms. Voting in the Council is by simple majority; each member has one vote. Each year, the Council holds several short sessions with regard to the organization of its work, often including representatives of civil society. The Economic and Social Council also holds an annual four-week substantive session in July, alternating the venue between Geneva and New York.
Subsidiary bodies
ECOSOC has many commissions to administer the wide range of issues that fall within its purview. Among them, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Commission for Social Development, the Commission on Population and Development, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Statistical Commission, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and the United Nations Forum on Forests. The Council also directs 5 regional commissions: the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
Some UN Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programmes
The Economic and Social Council considers reports from several specialized agencies, funds and programmes, each of which is a separate organization with its own membership, budget and headquarters. A partial list follows:
UNDP The United Nations Development Programme is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP is on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges.
  UNICEF The United Nations Children’s Fund is the main UN organization defending, promoting and protecting children’s rights. It also works towards protecting the world’s most disadvantaged children.
UNEP The United Nations Environment Programme provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment. It supports environmental monitoring, assessment and early warning.
UNFPA The World Bank provides low-interest loans and interest-free credits and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and other purposes.
UNHCR The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides legal protection for refugees and seeks durable solutions to their problems, either by helping them to return voluntarily to their homes or to settle in other countries.
ILO The International Labour Organization formulates policies and programmes to promote basic human rights of workers, improve working and living conditions and enhance employment opportunities.
IMF The International Monetary Fund ensures that the global monetary and financial system is stable. It advises on key economic policies, provides temporary financial assistance and training, promotes growth and alleviates poverty.
FAO The Food and Agriculture Organization works to eradicate hunger and malnutrition and to raise levels of nutrition. It also assists its Member States in the sustainable development of their agricultural sector.
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization promotes international cooperation and facilitates the exchange of information in the fields of education, science, culture and communications.
WHO The World Health Organization directs and coordinates international health work. It also promotes and coordinates research on preventing disease.
World Bank The World Bank provides low-interest loans and interest-free credits and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and other purposes.
ICAO The International Civil Aviation Organization assures the safe, secure, orderly and sustainable development of international air transport while minimizing the adverse effect of global civil aviation on the environment.
IMO The International Maritime Organization is responsible for safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans and the prevention of marine pollution from ships.
ITU The International Telecommunications Union works with governments and the private sector to coordinate the operation of global telecommunications networks and services. From broadband internet to latest-generation wireless technologies, from aeronautical and maritime navigation to radio astronomy and satellite-based meteorology, from phone and fax services to television broadcasting, ITU helps the world communicate.
UPU The Universal Postal Union fosters the sustainable development of quality universal, efficient, accessible postal services in order to facilitate communication among the people of the world.
WMO The World Meteorological Organization coordinates global scientific activity on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.
WIPO The World Intellectual Property Organization ensures that the rights of creators and owners of intellectual property are protected worldwide and that inventors and authors are, thus, recognized and rewarded for their ingenuity.
IFAD The International Fund for Agricultural Development provides direct funding and mobilizes additional resources for programmes designed to promote the economic advancement of the rural poor. 800 million women, children and men live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods.
UNIDO The United Nations Industrial Development Organization helps countries improve their national development policies and regulatory frameworks. Its tailor-made programmes support market access and access to finance for micro, small and medium scale agro-industrial development.
UNWTO The World Tourism Organization promotes the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, with the aim of contributing to economic development, international understanding, peace, prosperity and universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It pays particular attention to the interests of developing countries in the field of tourism.
UNODC The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime assists countries in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism. It seeks to increase understanding of drug and crime issues and to assist countries in developing domestic legislature and implementing international treaties.
UNIFEM The United Nations Development Fund for Women provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies to foster women’s empowerment and gender equality, and acts as a catalyst to ensure the appropriate involvement of women in mainstream development activities.
WFP The World Food Programme supplies food to sustain victims of manmade and natural disasters, improves the nutrition and quality of life of the most vulnerable people at critical times in their lives, and promotes self-reliance of people and communities.
UNHABITAT The United Nations Human Settlements Programme promotes socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of ensuring adequate shelter for all.
In 1945, when the United Nations was established, there were eleven territories (mostly in Africa and in the Pacific Ocean) that were placed under international supervision. The major goals of the Trusteeship System were to promote the advancement of the inhabitants of Trust Territories and their progressive development towards self-government or independence.
The Trusteeship Council is composed of the permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). Each member has one vote, and decisions are made by a simple majority.
Since the last Trust Territory — Palau, formerly administered by the United States — achieved self-government in 1994, the Council has formally suspended operations after nearly half a century. It will meet only as the need arises.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established in 1946 as the main UN organ for handing down legal judgments. Only countries, not individuals, can take cases before the Court. Once a country agrees to let the Court act on a case, it must agree to comply with the Court’s decision. In addition, other organs of the UN may seek an advisory opinion from the Court. As of June 2006, the ICJ had delivered 92 judgments on disputes between states, including cases on territorial boundaries, diplomatic relations, not interfering in countries’ domestic affairs, and hostage-taking.
The Court sits at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. It has fifteen judges who are elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council. No two judges can come from the same country. Nine judges have to agree before a decision can be made. All the judgments passed by the Court are final and without appeal. If one of the states involved fails to comply with the decision, the other party may take the issue to the Security Council. On 6 February 2006, Judge Rosalyn Higgins (United Kingdom), the sole woman Member of the Court, was elected the first female President of the International Court for a term of three years.
The Secretariat, headed by the Secretary-General, consists of an international staff working at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and all over the world. It carries out the day-to-day work of the Organization. Its duties are as varied as the problems dealt with by the United Nations. These range from administering peacekeeping operations to mediating international disputes or surveying social and economic trends and problems. The Secretariat is responsible for servicing the other organs of the United Nations and administering the programmes and policies laid down by them.
Who it serves
The United Nations Headquarters was designed to serve four major groups: delegations, who represent the 192 current Member States and who send more than 5,000 persons to New York each year for the annual sessions of the General Assembly; the international staff or Secretariat, numbering about 5,478 persons in New York; visitors, estimated at about 1 million in 2007; and journalists, close to 2,000 of whom are permanently accredited while nearly 5,000 are present during major meetings. There are also more than 3,000 non-governmental organizations accredited to the United Nations, many of whom attend meetings at Headquarters. The aggregate annual income to New York resulting from the UN presence is estimated at $3.3 billion.
To gather and prepare background information on various problems so that the government delegates can study the facts and make their recommendations;
To help carry out the decisions of the United Nations;
To organize international conferences;
To interpret speeches and translate documents into the UN’s official languages.
The Secretary-General is the chief officer of the United Nations. He or she is assisted by a staff of international civil servants. Unlike diplomats, who represent a particular country, the civil servants work for all 192 Member countries and take their orders not from governments, but from the Secretary-General.
How is the UN Secretary-General appointed?
The Secretary-General is appointed for a period of five years by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. There have been eight Secretaries-General since the UN was created. The appointment of the Secretary-General follows a regional rotation.
Trygve Lie (Norway) 1946-1952
Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden) 1953-1961
U Thant (Myanmar) 1961-1971
Kurt Waldheim (Austria) 1972-1981
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (Peru) 1982-1991
Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt) 1992-1996
Kofi Annan (Ghana) 1997-2006
Ban Ki-moon (South Korea) 2007 – Till Now
Some functions of the Secretary-General
The UN Charter describes the Secretary-General as the “chief administrative officer” of the Organization, who shall act in the capacity and perform “functions as are entrusted” to him or her by the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the Secretary-General to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that threatens international peace and security.
To propose issues to be discussed by the General Assembly or any other organ of the United Nations;
To bring to the attention of the Security Council any problem which the Secretary-General feels may threaten world peace;
To act as a “referee” in disputes between Member States;
To offer his or her “good offices”.
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