Chapter 18 – The United Nations
•The central system is located in New York.
•Created in the aftermath of the Second World War.
•Only global institution with the legitimacy that derives from universal membership, and a mandate that
encompasses security, economic and social development, the protection of human rights, and the protection of
•Created by states for states and the relationship between state sovereignty and the protection of the needs and
interests of people has not been fully resolved.
A brief history of the UN and its principle organs.
•Established on October 24 1945 by 51 countries. By 2006, 192 countries were members.
•Member states agreed to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that set out basic
principles of international relations.
•The UN had 4 purposes: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations;
to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights; and to be a centre for
harmonizing the actions of nations.
•6 main organs: the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Secretariat, the Economic and Social Council, the
Trusteeship Council, and the International Court of Justice.
•The Security Council: Main responsibility is to maintain international peace and security. 5 permanent members,
the US, France, Russia, Britain and China; as well as 10 non-permanent members. The decisions of the Security
Council are binding, and must be passed by a majority of 9 out of 15 members, as well as each of the 5 permanent
members. These 5 permanent members have veto power over all Security Council decisions. They were also seen as
the 5 major powers and were granted a veto on the view that if the great powers were not given a privilege position,
the UN would not work – Realist theory. When the SC considers a threat to international peace, it first explores
ways to settle the dispute peacefully under the terms of Chapter VI of the UN Charter which deals with the ‘Pacific
Settlement of Disputes’. In the event of fighting, the SC tries to secure a ceasefire. It may send a peacekeeping
mission to help the parties maintain the truce and to keep opposing forces apart. The SC can also take measures to
enforce its decisions under Chapter VII of the Charter, which deals with ‘Action with Respect to Threats to the
Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Act of Aggression’. It can impose economic sanctions or order arm embargo. On
rare occasions, the SC has authorized member states to use all necessary means, including collective military
action, to see that its decisions are carried out.
•The General Assembly: All UN member states are represented in the General Assembly – a ‘parliament of nations’
– which meets to consider the world’s most pressing problems. Each member state has one vote. A 2/3 majority is
required for decisions on key issues and a simple majority is required for other matters.