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What is the United Nations?

What is the United Nations?

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What is the United Nations?

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  1. What is the United Nations? 13 July 2009

  2. The United Nations at a glance • Established: 24 October 1945 (51 countries) • (Korea?) • Membership: 192 Member States • Becoming a member state LEGITIMIZES the state’s existence! Members: • Observers: • Taiwan? Kosovo? Palestine? South Ossetia? • General Secretariat staffing (as of 30 June 2008): about 40,000 • Current UN peacekeeping operations: 16 • Budget for 2008-2009: USD 4.171 billion (peacekeeping operations not included) • Official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish

  3. What is the General Secretariat? • Carries out the day-to-day work of the UN • It services the other principal organs and carries out varied tasks • administering peacekeeping operations • surveying economic and social trends • preparing studies on human rights • Current Secretary-General – Ban Ki-moon – de facto spokesman and leader of the UN (5 year renewable terms) • Can bring to the Security Council's attention "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security“ • The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council (thus 5 permanent members have veto power) • Staff works around the world • Complex organizational structure:

  4. What is the General Assembly? • The main deliberative assembly • One state = one vote (192 members) • Functions & powers • Consider and make recommendations… • Discuss any question… (unless the Sec. Council’s discussing it) • Discuss (with the same exception)… • • • Initiate studies and make recommendations… • Make recommendations… • Receive and consider reports … • Consider and approve the budget • Elect the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the members of other United Nations councils and organs and, on the recommendation of the Security Council, appoint the Secretary-General

  5. UN Development Program • The UNDP is an executive board within the UNGA • Provides foreign aid through member contributions for: • Democratic governance • Poverty reduction • Crisis prevention and recovery • Environment and Energy • HIV/AIDS • Political manipulation? (Tomorrow!!)

  6. Sixty-third General Assembly Plenary 55th Meeting (AM) - 19 November 2008 • TO REMAIN RELEVANT, SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP MUST REFLECT FULL DIVERSITY OF UNITED NATIONS, SPEAKERS SAY DURING GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE • On Second Day Tackling Security Council Reform, Delegations Call for More Transparency, Better Representation for Small States, Curbs on Veto Power

  7. Sixty-third General Assembly Plenary 55th Meeting (AM) - 19 November 2008 • SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said more than 60 years had passed since the Security Council had been established, yet the world had never been at peace.  In most cases, the Council was being used to serve the interests of specific countries disregarding all fundamental principles, such as respect of sovereignty and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. • Emphasizing that the Council was not a court handling the cases of developing countries only, he said Non-Aligned Movement Member States and other developing countries should be fully represented.  In that, the Council’s non-permanent membership should be enlarged first, while the enlargement of its permanent membership was deferred.  Whenever the permanent membership was expanded, Japan, which was guilty of war crimes and distorted its past history of aggression, should never be allowed to occupy a permanent seat.  Even today, Japan resorted to despicable acts to grab Tok Islet and suppressed the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (  If such an “irresponsible and brazen-faced” State as Japan were given a permanent seat, it would be paramount to instigating Japan’s ambition for its old dream of “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”.  It was also important that Security Council reform ensured transparency by allowing interested parties to attend informal meetings, he added.

  8. Sixty-third General Assembly Plenary 55th Meeting (AM) - 19 November 2008 • PARK IN-KOOK (Republic of Korea) said meaningful Security Council reform should uphold the United Nations Charter principles to render it more representative, accountable, transparent and efficient.  He favoured enhancing the Council’s “democratic legitimacy” through increasing elected seats with terms of varying duration, as only through elections could democracy and accountability be sustained.  Indeed, periodic elections would allow States an opportunity to review the Council’s performance, and open the door to qualified States to present candidatures in hopes of serving the international community.

  9. What is the Security Council? • 5 permanent members with veto power • 10 elected members (2 year term - limited) • Nominated by regional caucus, elected by GA • Africa (3), Asia (2), Latin America (2), Eastern Europe (1), Western Europe+ (2) • Current members: • Decisions (open ballot) require 9 votes (5+4) • UNSC votes on • UN military action against aggressors • Economic sanctions & arms embargoes

  10. UN Security Council Example Resolution • • 82 (1950) 25 June 1950 • 9 in favor, 1 abstention (Yugoslavia); USSR was absent (EXCEL FILE) • • 84 (1950) 7 July 1950 • 7 in favor, 3 abstentions (Egypt, India, Yugoslavia); USSR was absent • USSR was boycotting the United Nations for recognizing Chiang Kai-shek’s government in Taiwan as the official government for China • “Belligerents”:

  11. What are “peacekeeping missions”? • "a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace." • Peacekeeping Operations since 1948: 63 • Current Peacekeeping Operations: 16 • Approved by the UN Security Council • Actions: monitoring the withdrawal of combatants from a post-conflict area, supervising elections, providing aid in reconstruction • Who pays? Costs are distributed across members – many are behind in their dues • Are they successful? • Selection problem (addressing this, the answer appears to be “yes”)



  14. Among the Duties of the Security Council • To recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General • Together with the Assembly – elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice

  15. What is the International Court of Justice? • The judicial organ of the UN • 15 judges, 9 year terms (allowed 3 terms) – elected every 3 years by absolute majority in both UNSC & UNGA • Must be of different nationalities – Norm: Represent the major legal traditions in the world (common, civil, socialist/post-communist) • P5 all have a judge each • “Settles” legal disputes between states • Chapter XIV of the UN Charter authorizes the UNSC to enforce rulings, but this is subject to the veto power of the five permanent members of the Council! • Gives “advisory opinions” to the UN and its specialized agencies • Typically deals with just a few cases per year:

  16. What is the Economic and Social Council? • ECOSOC is the principal organ to coordinate the economic, social and related work of the US & the specialized agencies and institutions • 54 members • Elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms • Geographical representation: 14 African States, 11 Asian States, 6 Eastern European States, 10 Latin American and Caribbean States, and 13 Western European and other States (NBA playoffs??) • Current members: • P5 are all elected members • Guess which ONE country is currently an elected member of both UNSC and ECOSOC!! • Japan (how does this work with secret ballots??) • Voting in the Council is by simple majority; each member has one vote • “Responsibilities” • promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress • identifying solutions to international economic, social and health problems • facilitating international cultural and educational cooperation • encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms

  17. Breadth vs. depth • Selection bias question • All countries are members – shallow agreements • De facto “compliance” – but does not change behavior • Strong agreements have fewer members • Still perhaps de facto “compliance” (only some join) – but “noncompliance” is obvious – some countries don’t join • How do we build international norms/arrangements? • Start with broad membership and then deepen arrangements? • Start with deep arrangements and then broaden membership? • United Nations vs. European Union

  18. Today’s take-homes • United Nations - broad membership - the whole world! • Membership legitimizes a state's existence • General Secretariat carries out the day-to-day UN operations • Headed by the Secretary General - the de facto leader • General Assembly - deliberative body (the show room) • Security Council - real military power • International Court of Justice - few cases, judges represent regions around the world • Economic and Social Council - large membership (54) elected by GA - promotes economic, social and health problems