United Nations (UN)

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Established 26 June 1945, San Francisco CA (USA), on signature of the Charter of the United Nations -- Charte des Nations Unies. The Charter had been drawn up by representatives of 50 countries, Aug-Oct 1944, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC (USA), at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, on the basis of proposals worked out by representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. Poland, not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became one of the original 51 member states. The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 Oct 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, USSR, UK, USA and a majority of the other signatories. United Nations Day is now universally celebrated on 24th October.

The name United Nations was devised by US President Franklin D Roosevelt. It was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 Jan 1942, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers and subscribed themselves to a common programme of purposes and principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter. This was followed by the Moscow Declaration, 30 Oct 1943, in which the signatories recognized the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, and open to membership by all such states ... for the maintenance of international peace and security. The United Nations was sometimes referred to in early official documents as United Nations Organisation (UNO).

The resolution for dissolution of the League of Nations (SDN), the forerunner of the United Nations, was adopted by the 21st and final session of the Assembly of the League on 18 Apr 1946. The Common Plan for the Transfer of League of Nations Assets was drawn up jointly by a United Nations Committee and the Supervisory Commission, acting on behalf of the United Nations and the League of Nations respectively, and was approved by the first General Assembly of the United Nations on 12 Feb 1946, Pursuant to provisions of the Plan, certain material assets of the League were transferred to the United Nations. Since then the Archives of the League of Nations have been maintained at the United Nations Library at Geneva.

The United Nations Charter may be amended by a vote of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratification by two thirds of the members of the United Nations, including the five permanent members of the Security Council. The Charter has been amended five times: in 1965, increasing membership of the Security Council from 11 to 15 (Article 23) and the number of affirmative votes of the Council on procedural matters from seven to nine and on all other matters from seven to nine including the concurring votes of the five permanent members (Article 27); in 1965, increasing membership of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from 18 to 27 and, in 1973, to 54 (Article 61); in 1968, increasing the number of votes required in the Security Council to convene a General Conference to review the Charter from seven to nine (Article 109).

'Human Rights' On 16 Feb 1946, by resolution 5 (I), ECOSOC established a permanent Commission on Human Rights, consisting of government representatives whose task was to elaborate a Declaration defining the Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms to which the Charter makes reference seven times. The resultant document, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), was adopted by the General Assembly in Dec 1948 and serves as a statement of principle, morally binding on member states of the United Nations. In Dec 1966, the General Assembly adopted two International Covenants: on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and on Civil and Political Rights, Resolution 2200 (XXI). The Covenants entered into force 3 Jan 1976 and 23 Mar 1976 respectively.

'Legal Status' The United Nations is an organization composed of states which have accepted the obligations contained in the UN Charter. Article 104 of the Charter states that The Organization shall enjoy in the territory of each of its members such legal capacity as may be necessary for the exercise of its functions and the fulfillment of its purposes. Article 105 declares that The Organization shall enjoy in the territory of each of its members such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the fulfillment of its purposes. It further declares that Representatives of the members of the United Nations and officials of the Organization shall similarly enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the independent exercise of their functions in connection with the Organization. In Feb 1946, the General Assembly approved a Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The Convention provides, among other things, that UN property and assets shall enjoy immunity from legal process and be free from all direct taxes and customs duties and that UN officials and experts shall enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the independent exercise of their functions. The UN may also issue to its officials laissez-passer (passports), recognized as valid documents by member states.

In June 1947, the United Nations concluded an agreement with United States of America on all matters of privileges and immunities in regard to the UN Headquarters. The agreement entered into force in Nov 1947. Section 8 of Article III of the agreement states, inter alia, that the United Nations shall have the power to make regulations, operative within the headquarters district, for the purpose of establishing therein conditions in all respects necessary for full execution of its functions. No federal, state or local law or regulation of the United States which is inconsistent with a regulation of the United Nations authorized by this section, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be applicable within the headquarters district.

Following the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte and of others serving the United Nations in Palestine, the General Assembly, in Dec 1948, requested an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the question of reparation for injury suffered in the service of the UN. The Court, in April 1949, rendered the unanimous opinion that the UN is an international person - though not a state or a super-state - and has the capacity to maintain its rights by bringing international claims against member as well as non-member states to obtain reparation for damages caused to itself or to any of its agents. When the UN was bringing such a claim, it could do so only by basing it upon a breach of obligations due to itself. The Court declared that respect for this rule would usually prevent a conflict between the action of the UN and such rights as the agent's national state might possess. It further held that to ensure the efficient and independent performance of its missions and to afford effective support to its agents, the Organization itself must be able to provide them with adequate protection.


The aims are contained in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, which reads as follows:

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 and 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 neighbours, 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.

The four principal 'Purposes' of the United Nations are:

To maintain international peace and security;

To develop friendly relations among nations;

To cooperate internationally in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;

To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these common ends.

The United Nations acts in accordance with the following 'Principles':

It is based on the sovereign equality of all its members.

All members are to fulfil in good faith their Charter obligations.

They are to settle their international disputes by peaceful means without endangering peace, security and justice.

They are to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against any other state.

They are to give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the Charter, and shall not assist states against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.

The United Nations shall ensure that states which are not members act in accordance with these principles in so far as it is necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Nothing in the Charter authorizes the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.

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'Millennium Development Goals' - following adoption of the 'United Nations Millennium Declaration' at the 8th General Assembly 8 Sep 2000, all 191 UN Member States have pledged to meet the following 8 goals by 2015:

 • 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger - reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger;

 • 2. Achieve universal primary education - ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling;

 • 3. Promote gender equality and empower women - eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015;

 • 4. Reduce child mortality - reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under 5 years of age;

 • 5. Improve maternal health - reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio;

 • 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases - halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS; halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases;

 • 7. Ensure environmental sustainability - integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources; reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water; achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020;

 • 8. Develop a global partnership for development - develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory, includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction, nationally and internationally; address the least developed countries' special needs, including - tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction; address special needs of landlocked and small island developing states; deal comprehensively with developing countries' debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term; in cooperation with developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth; in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries; in cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies.

In general, major efforts include:

Maintaining peace and security; making peace; promoting democracy; promoting development; promoting human rights; protecting the environment; preventing nuclear proliferation; promoting self determination and independence; strengthening international law; handing down judicial settlements of major international disputes; providing humanitarian aid to victims of conflict; aiding Palestinian refugees; alleviating chronic hunger and rural poverty in developing countries; focusing on African development; promoting women's rights; providing safe drinking water; eradicating smallpox; pressing for universal immunization; reducing child mortality rates; fighting parasitic diseases; promoting investment in developing countries; orienting economic policy towards social need; reducing the effects of natural disasters; providing food to victims of emergencies; clearing land mines; protecting the ozone layer; curbing global warming; preventing over-fishing; limiting deforestation and promoting sustainable forestry development; cleaning up pollution; protecting consumers' health; reducing fertility rates; fighting drug abuse; improving global trade relations; promoting economic reform; promoting workers' rights; introducing improved agricultural techniques and reducing costs; promoting stability and order in the world's oceans; improving air and sea travel; protecting intellectual property; promoting the free flow of information; improving global communications; empowering the voiceless; establishing children as a zone of peace; generating worldwide commitment in support of the needs of children; improving education in developing countries; improving literacy for women; safeguarding and preserving historic cultural and architectural sites; facilitating academic and cultural exchanges.

'Observances' - The UN observes designated days, weeks, years, and decades, each with a theme, or topic, the majority of which have been established by resolutions of the UN General Assembly.

Conferences and special observances for the year 2000 onwards cover specific topics in the general areas of: Peace; Disarmament and international security; Outer space; Palestine; Decolonization; Social development; Environment and development; Economic development; Human settlements; Natural disasters; Racial discrimination; Human rights; Women; Children; Indigenous people; Disabled persons; Older persons; Drug abuse control; Crime prevention; International law. Major world conferences and conference series are listed below.


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Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish.


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Relations with Inter-Governmental Organizations

Relations with 50 inter-governmental organizations.
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Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations

Relations with 6 non-governmental organizations.
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Information Services

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Members in 193 countries
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Type I Classification

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Type II Classification

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Subjects *

  • Government
    • Intergovernmental Communities
  • International Relations
    • United Nations
  • Development
    • Progress
  • Peace
    • Justice
    • Rights
  • Equanimity
    • Equanimity

UN Sustainable Development Goals **

GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal



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* Subject classification is derived from the organization names and aims.
** UN SDGs are linked to the subject classification.

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