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The United Nations portal

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The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law.

The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world.  In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars.At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.

On 25 April 1945, 50 governments met in San Francisco for a conference and started drafting the UN Charter, which was adopted on 25 June 1945 in the San Francisco Opera House, and signed on 26 June 1945 in the Herbst Theatre auditorium in the Veterans War Memorial Building. This charter took effect on 24 October 1945, when the UN began operation.

The UN's mission to preserve world peace was complicated in its early decades during the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union and their respective allies. Its missions have consisted primarily of unarmed military observers and lightly armed troops with primarily monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles. The organization's membership grew significantly following widespread decolonization which started in the 1960s. Since then, 80 former colonies had gained independence, including 11 trust territories, which were monitored by the Trusteeship Council. By the 1970s its budget for economic and social development programmes far outstripped its spending on peacekeeping. After the end of the Cold War, the UN shifted and expanded its field operations, undertaking a wide variety of complex tasks.

The UN has six principal organs: the General Assembly; the Security Council; the Economic and Social Council; the Trusteeship Council; the International Court of Justice; and the UN Secretariat. The UN System agencies include the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, UNESCO, and UNICEF. The UN's most prominent officer is the Secretary-General, an office held by Portuguese politician and diplomat António Guterres since 1 January 2017. Non-governmental organizations may be granted consultative status with ECOSOC and other agencies to participate in the UN's work.

The organization, its officers and its agencies have won many Nobel Peace Prizes.

Other evaluations of the UN's effectiveness have been mixed. Some commentators believe the organization to be an important force for peace and human development, while others have called the organization ineffective, corrupt, or biased.

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The ECOSOC chamber

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations assists the General Assembly in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development. ECOSOC has 54 members, all of whom are elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term. The president is elected for a one-year term and chosen amongst the small or middle powers represented on ECOSOC. ECOSOC meets once a year in July for a four-week session. Since 1998, it has held another meeting each April with finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Viewed separate from the specialized bodies it coordinates, ECOSOC’s functions include information gathering, advising member nations, and making recommendations. In addition, ECOSOC is well-positioned to provide policy coherence and coordinate the overlapping functions of the UN’s subsidiary bodies and it is in these roles that it is most active.

Selected biography

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie (born 4 June 1979) is an American film actor and a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency. Jolie first became personally aware of worldwide humanitarian crises while filming Tomb Raider in poverty-stricken and widely mined Cambodia, and since then she has received wide recognition for her humanitarian work.

In 2003, Jolie was the first recipient of the newly created Citizen of the World Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association, and in 2005, she was awarded the Global Humanitarian Award by the UNA-USA. Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni awarded Jolie Cambodian citizenship in 2005 for her conservation work in the country. In 2007, Jolie became a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and she received the Freedom Award by the International Rescue Committee.

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Refugee camp in Zaire
Rwandan refugees making camp in Kimbumba, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), in 1994 following the Rwandan Genocide.

Photo credit: United States Federal Government

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Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
The primary, the fundamental, the essential purpose of the United Nations is to keep peace. Everything it does which helps prevent World War III is good. Everything which does not further that goal, either directly or indirectly, is at best superfluous.

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