The United Nations

The United Nations is an organization of sovereign nations not a world
government. It provides the machinery to help find solutions to disputes or
problems, and to deal with virtually any matter of concern to humanity.
It does not legislate like a national parliament. But in the meeting
rooms and corridors of the UN, representatives of almost all countries of the
world large and small, rich and poor, with varying political views and social
systems have a voice and vote in shaping the policies of the international
community. The year 1995 marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Organization.
The UN has six main organs, listed below. All are based at UN
Headquarters in New York, except the International Court of Justice, which is
located at The Hague, Netherlands.

The General Assembly

The General Assembly, sometimes called the nearest thing to a world
parliament, is the main deliberative body. All Member States are represented in
it, and each has one vote. Decisions on ordinary matters are taken by simple
majority. Important questions require a two-thirds majority.
The Assembly holds its regular sessions from mid-September to mid-
December; special or emergency sessions are held when necessary. Even when the
Assembly is not in session, its work goes on in special committees and bodies.
The Assembly has the right to discuss and make recommendations on all
matters within the scope of the UN Charter. It has no power to compel action by
any Government, but its recommendations carry the weight of world opinion. The
Assembly also sets policies and determines programmes for the UN Secretariat. It
sets goals and directs activities for development, approves the budget of peace-
keeping operations and calls for world conferences on major issues. Occupying a
central position in the UN, the Assembly receives reports from other organs,
admits new Members, approves the budget and appoints the Secretary-General.

The Security Council

The UN Charter, an international treaty, obligates States to settle
their international disputes by peaceful means. They are to refrain from the
threat or use of force against other States, and may bring any dispute before
the Security Council. The Security Council is the organ to which the Charter
gives primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security. It can be
convened at any time, whenever peace is threatened. Member States are obligated
to carry out its decisions. The Council has 15 members. Five of these China,
France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States are
permanent members. The other 10 are elected by the Assembly for two-year terms.
Decisions require nine votes; except in votes on procedural questions, a
decision cannot be taken if there is a negative vote by a permanent member
(known as the "veto").
When a threat to international peace is brought before the Council, it
usually first asks the parties to reach agreement by peaceful means. The Council
may undertake mediation or set forth principles for a settlement. It may request
the Secretary-General to investigate and report on a situation. If fighting
breaks out, the Council tries to secure a cease-fire. It may send peace-keeping
missions to troubled areas, with the consent of the parties involved, to reduce
tension and keep opposing forces apart. It may deploy peace-keepers to prevent
the outbreak of conflict. It has the power to enforce its decisions by imposing
economic sanctions and by ordering collective military action. The Council also
makes recommendations to the Assembly on a candidate for Secretary-General and
on the admission of new Members to the UN.

The Economic and Social Council

Working under the authority of the General Assembly, the Economic and
Social Council coordinates the economic and social work of the UN and related
specialized agencies and institutions. The Council has 54 members. It usually
holds two organizational and one substantive session each year; the substantive
session includes a high-level special meeting, attended by Ministers and other
high officials, to discuss major economic and social issues.
The Council recommends and directs activities aimed, for instance, at
promoting economic growth of developing countries, administering development
projects, promoting the observance of human rights, ending discrimination
against minorities, spreading the benefits of science and technology, and
fostering world cooperation in areas such as better housing, family planning and
crime prevention.

The Trusteeship Council

The Trusteeship Council was established to ensure that Governments
responsible for administering Trust Territories take adequate steps to prepare
them for self-government or independence. In 1994, the Security Council
terminated the UN Trusteeship Agreement for the last of the original 11
Trusteeships the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Palau), administered by
the United States.