Structure and Functions of The United Nations

the functions of united nations

1.1 History of the UN

Wilson stated that world peace could be achieved and maintained by the international institution established by states. (Sandikli & Kaya, 2014: 137) For this purpose, the League of Nations was established after the First World War but the outbreak of the Second World War indicated that the League of Nations had failed in for protecting international peace and security. (Baehr, 2001:887) Therefore, The United Nations was established in 1945 by the states that won the Second World War instead of the League of Nations. The UN today consisting of 193 member countries. (United Nations, 2018)

The main goal of the United Nations preserves world peace. (Agir & Aksu, 2017:45) The UN aims to ensure peace and international security as well as fundamental human rights, gender equality, and economic and social welfare of all peoples, according to its charter. Unlike the League of Nations, The UN has sanction power such as socio-economic and military measures. (Mgboji,2006:860 cited by Birdisli, 2010:173).

1.2 The Organs of the UN

According to Article 7 of the Charter of the United Nations, the UN has six principal organs: the General Assembly; the Security Council; the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); the Trusteeship Council; the International Court of Justice; and the Secretariat.

1.2.1 General Assembly

The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the UN. All Member States of the UN (193) are represented in the General Assembly. The full UN membership meets in the General Assembly, every year, in September. Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members, and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. Decisions on other questions are by the simple majority. The General Assembly, each year, elects a General Assembly President to serve a one-year term of office. (United Nations, 2018)

According to the Charter of the United Nations, the duties of the General Assembly:

  • The General Assembly considers and approves the budget of the Organization. It considers and approves any financial and budgetary arrangements with specialized agencies referred to in Article 57 and examines the administrative budgets of such specialized agencies to make recommendations to the agencies concerned.
  • It may consider the general principles of co-operation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments, and may make recommendations with regard to such principles to the Members or the Security Council or both.
  • It promotes international co-operation in the political field and encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification.
  • It promotes international co-operation in the economic, social, cultural, educational, and health fields, and assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.
  • The General Assembly approves the international trusteeship for areas not designated as strategic.
  • The General Assembly may call the attention of the Security Council to situations which are likely to endanger international peace and security.
  • The Secretary-General, with the consent of the Security Council, shall notify the General Assembly at each session of any matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security which are being dealt with by the Security Council and shall similarly notify the General Assembly, or the Members of the United Nations if the General Assembly is not in session, immediately the Security Council ceases to deal with such matters.
  • It may recommend measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation, regardless of origin, which it deems likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations.
  • The General Assembly receives and considers annual and special reports from the Security Council and other organs.
  • It elects the non-permanent members of the Security Council, the members of the Economic and Social Council, and the members of the Trusteeship Council.
  • It approves new Members to the United Nations, suspends the rights and privileges of membership, expulses members.

1.2.2 Security Council

Although the Security Council is the most authoritative organ of the UN in the protection of international peace and security, It significantly works on the protection of human rights, today. (Ozer, 2016:211) The Security Council is the executive organ of the United Nations. (Agir; Aksu, 2017:45) The Security Council consists of fifteen Members of the United Nations. The Republic of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great, and the United States of America are permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly elects ten other Members of the United Nations to be non-permanent members of the Security Council. (Karluk, 2014:153)

The non-permanent members of the Security Council are elected for a term of two years. A retiring member isn’t eligible for immediate re-election. Decisions of the Security Council are made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members, but the state which causes the dispute cant vote in the related decision. (Article 27)

According to Article 24, to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations, its Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf.

If the Security Council determines the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, it makes the recommendations, or decide the measures, to protect peace and security. (Aral, 2013:9)

However, the veto right given to 5 permanent members caused to lose the function of the Security Council. The main reason for this situation has been that the 5 permanent member states have been divided into 2 blocks and have had different opinions about world policy since the Cold War era.

1.2.3 Secretariat

The Secretariat comprises the Secretary-General and the international UN staff members who carry out the day-to-day work of the UN as mandated by the General Assembly and the Organization’s other principal organs. The Secretary-General is the chief administrative officer of the UN, appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year. A person may be elected a maximum of 2 times as The Secretary-General. (The United Nations, 2018)

1.2.4 Economic and Social Council

According to Articles 61 and 62 of the Charter of the United Nations, The Economic and Social Council consists of fifty-four Members of the United Nations elected by the General Assembly. The Economic and Social Council may make studies and reports regarding international economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related matters and may make recommendations regarding any such matters to the General Assembly to the Members of the United Nations, or may call international conferences on matters falling within its competence. It may make recommendations for the purpose of promoting respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

1.2.5 International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice is the judicial organ of the United Nations. Each Member of the United Nations is obligated to comply with the decision of the International Court of Justice in any case to which it is a party. The Court consists of 15 judges. Judges are elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council, for nine years. Only one judge can be present for one state in court. The International Court of Justice is in Lahey, a city of the Netherlands. (Birdisli, 2010:175)

1.2.6 Trusteeship Council

The purpose of the establishment of the Trusteeship Council improves the economic, social, and political conditions of the colonies and makes them self-governing in the process. Because almost all colonial nations have become independent, the Trusteeship Council has lost its function. (Aral, 2013:10)


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The Charter of the United Nations:

Online Links: 14.10.2018 14.10.2018