The Structure & Functions of the UNO

The Structure, Functions and Powers of the UNO and Its Main Organs. The main organs of the United Nations are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat. All were established in 1945 when the UN was founded.

The Structure & Functions of the UNO:-

The UNO is not a world state or a super-state; its members are sovereign states, which are all on the footing of equality. While becoming a member, a state does not surrender its sovereignty

Six Principal Organs:

  1. The UNO has six principal organs:
  2. The General Assembly.
  3. The Security Council.
  4. The Economies and Social Council.
  5. The Trusteeship Council.
  6. The International Court of Justice ; and
  7. The Secretariat.

Besides, there are Specialized Agencies of the UNO. The headquarters of the UNO are at New York. All the peace-loving states subscribing to the principles of the UN Charter can become the members of the UNO. In normal times, around 85% of the funds are utilized for social and economic activities.

The General Assembly:-

Biggest Organ Consisting of All Members: –

The General Assembly is the largest of all the organs of the UNO. It consists of all the member states. It is the only organ in which all members sit for deliberation and discussion. Originally 51 countries that met at San Francisco signed the UN Declaration in 1945. From 51 in 1945 the membership went up to 131 in 1971.

In January 1965, Indonesia under President Sukarno’s leadership withdrew from the UNO, but in 1966 with the fall of Sukarno, it re-entered the world organization.

People’s Republic of China, North Korea, South Korea, West Germany, East Germany, North Vietnam, South Vietnam and Switzerland did not become members of the UNO. Communist China became a member in October 1971, and Kuomintang China was ousted.

Each member state can send not more than five representatives; but each state has only one vote.

Annual Session and Special Sessions:

Normally, the Assembly has to meet in regular session once a year in September; but special sessions can be held at the request of the majority of the Members of the Security Council.

President, Seven Vice-Presidents and Committees:-

The President of the General Assembly is elected for each session. The Assembly elects seven Vice-Presidents and sets up seven basic working committees:

  1. A General or Steering Committee.
  2. Political and Security Committee.
  3. Economic and Financial Committee.
  4. Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee.
  5. Trusteeship Committee.
  6. Legal Committee; and
  7. Administration and Budgetary Committee.

Unanimity not Needed:

It must be noted that the General Assembly does not have the powers of a national parliament, It can not make laws for the various states of the world. It is only a deliberative body, which can discuss any matter within the scope of the Charter. Unlike in the League Assembly, all important decisions in the UN General Assembly do not require unanimity. They are decided by two-thirds majority of the members present and voting. All other questions are decided by a simple majority.

Functions of general Assembly in UNO:

The functions of the General Assembly are the following:

  1. Maintaining Peace and security.
  2. Electing members of other Organs.
  3. Admitting, expelling or suspending member states .
  4. Taking up questions of trusteeship.
  5. Discussing budgetary questions.

It elects the six non-permanent members of the Security Council for two years, choose all the eighteen members of the Economic and Social Council, selects members of the Trusteeship Council and appoints the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the Security Council. The General Assembly and the Security Council independently of each other elect the fifteen judges of the International Court of Justice.

Studies on Various Matters:

The General Assembly enjoys wide powers to commence studies in order to promote international co-operation in political, economic, social; cultural, educational and health matters. In these matters, it chiefly works through the Economic and Social Council.

To Discuss any matter within Scope of UN Charter:

The Assembly is competent to take up for discussion any question which is within the scope of the Charter and within the sphere of the activities of the UNO. It can discuss and make recommendations on any question pertaining to international peace and security, when it is brought before it by any member state or at times even by non-member state.

The Security Council:-

Permanent and Non-Permanent Members:

The Security Council is a small body, but it is the most powerful organ of the UNO, and on it depends the success or failure of the UN. It had eleven members five permanent and six non-permanent. None permanent members (i.e., six) are elected by the Assembly, three each year, to serve for two years. The major powers that is, Britain, France, the USA, the USSR and China (not Communist China, but Kuomintang China or actually Formosa) were the permanent members of the Security Council.

The small powers are given temporary seats in the Security Council. By an amendment passed on is September. 1965, the Security Council was enlarged from 11 to 15, and the number of votes needed for decisions was raised from 7 to 9.

Veto or Unanimity of Big Five:

The permanent members in the Security Council have a dominant voice in important matters. They enjoy the power of veto or, in other words, the unanimity of the Big Five is necessary in substantive matters. For all procedural matters; any nine votes of the Security Council are necessary, but when substantive questions pertaining to military or economic sanctions are involved, the nine votes must include the five concurrent votes of the permanent members. Thus a big power can exercise the right of throwing out a proposition by virtue of its veto power.

A redeeming feature of this procedure, however, is that member state, which is a party to the dispute, abstains from voting When the Security Council is discussing a peaceful settlement of the dispute.

Security Council in Continuous Session: The Security Council has to shoulder very heavy responsibilities, and hence the Char,

Provides for its continuous session.

The Council has to shoulder very heavy responsibilities and hence the cheater provide for its continuous session.   The council has to meet least once in every two weeks or more frequently, if situations demand.

Steps to End Aggression:

It can take one of the following steps, if aggression has been actually committed:

  • It can call upon the parties concerned to settle their disputes peacefully.
  • It can provide a solution to the dispute by proposing certain terms of settlement.
  • It can suggest a proper procedure for ending the disputes It can call upon member states to cut off diplomatic relations, economic relations or communications with the state or states, which flout the decisions of the UNO.

Military Staff Committees:

The Security Council unlike the Council of the League of Nations has the assistance of a Military Staff Committee for advice and action on all military requirements. Article 43 of the Charter requires every member state to Supply military forces needed by the Security Council to deal with situation.

The Economic and social Council:-

Eighteen Members Elected by General Assembly:

The Economic and Social Council is composed of 18 members elected by the General Assembly ; 6 are elected each year, and the normal term of each member state is three years, one-third retiring every year, Ac- cording to an amendment passed on September 1, 1965, the strength of this Council was raised from 18 to 27.

Social, Economic, Health and Other Problem:

Its functions are:

  • Promoting higher standards of living by bringing about economic and-social progress.
  • Finding solutions of international social, health, economic and such other related problems; and
  • Observing the maintenance of human rights and fundamental freedom.

Commissions and Committees:

The Council carries on its work with the help of several commissions, standing committees, ad hoe committees and special bodies.

The Trusteeship Council:-

Deals with Trust Territories:-

The Trusteeship Council is composed of permanent members of the Security Council except -those administering trust territories, member states which administer trust territories, and other states elected by the General Assembly. It meets at least twice a year. It elects at each regular session a President. Its functions are the following:

  1. To deal with the administration and supervision of territories placed under it by trusteeship agreements.
  2. To receive reports from the administration of trust territories and also receive complaints and petitions from the peoples of trust territories.

The International Court of Justice:-

Fifteen Elected Judges: –

The International Court of Justice sits at the Hague in the Netherlands. It is composed of fifteen judges, who are elected independently by the Assembly and the Security Council for a period of three years.

Cannot Impose Verdict:-

The International Court does not have the power to impose its verdict on disputing parties in the same way in which‘the judiciary in a state does.

The Secretariat:-

Routine Work:-

The routine work of the UNO is done by the Secretariat, which works according to the instructions of the Secretary General. The Secretariat has nine departments, each under an Assistant Secretary.

Secretary-General:-

The Secretary-General, whose term is five years, is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendations of the Security Council. In the Security Council, at least seven members including all the permanent members must agree to the nomination of the Secretary-General, and in the General Assembly, a simple majority is necessary.

The Secretaries-General, who served so far, are Trygve Lie of Norway, Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden, and U Thant of Burma. In 1966, U Thant was appointed SG for a second time. He was succeeded by the present incumbent Dr. Kurt Waldheim of Austria in December 1971.

Functions:

The functions of the Secretariat are the following

  1. To carry out the administrative responsibilities of the UNO
  2. To maintain records and
  3. To register and publish all treaties.

The functions of the Secretary-General are the following:

  1. To control and direct the Secretariat.
  2. To carry out the work entrusted to it by the different organs
  3. To summon special sessions of the General Assembly
  4. To submit a report to the General  Assembly of the UNO  work; and
  5. To see in general that the wheels of the UNO keep revolving.

Specialized Agencies of The UNO:-

(a) Specialized Agencies: The following are the specialized agencies of the UNO.

  1. International Labour Organization (ILO): This started functioning in 1919, that is, 26 years before the birth of the UNO.
  2. Food -and Agricultural Organization (FAO): This was established in 1945.  It deals with farming, forestry, fisheries and conditions of rural people.
  3. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO): This brings about collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law, and for  the human rights and fundamental freedoms, which are affirmed for the peoples of the world without distinction of race, sex, language, or religion by the Charter of the United Nations.
  4. International Bank for Reconstruction -and Development (IBRD).
  5. International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  6. World Health Organization (WHO).
  7. International Development Association (IDA).
  8. International Finance Corporation (IFO).
  9. International Civil Aviation Organization (IOAO).
  10. Universal Postal Union (UPD): The headquarters of the UPU are in Bern.
  11. International Telecommunication Union (ITU): The central office of the ITU is in Geneva, Switzerland.
  12. World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
  13. Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO): Its headquarters are in London.
  14. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  15. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): Its work in controlling TB, trachoma and other diseases in the backward regions of Africa and Asia and its contribution towards improving the lot of nearly 1,000 million children in over 100 countries are a saga of selfless service. Thus by December 1966, the UNICEF could proudly boast of its great humanitarian service.
  16. Special UN Fund for Economic Development (SUNFED). There are also Non-governmental Organizations, On June 30, 1960 there were 333 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – having consultative status.

(b) Regional Arrangements:

According to the UN Charter, Member nations may form regional alliances to maintain peace and security. But these should not go against the UN Charter.

The SEATO, CENTO and NATO are examples of regional arrangements.

Achievements and Failures of the UNO:-

The UNO has been working for the last 73 years. It has many achievements to its credit, though it failed in several cases.

Better Structure and More Powers than the League: The Structure and procedure of the UNO are far better than those of the League of Nations, and the Security Council is more compare tent than the League Council in handling problems endangering World peace.

The UNO is better than the League of Nations in the following respects;

  1. It is more broad based than the League,
  2. The UN Charter is more realistic than the League Covenant.
  3. From the very outset, the USA and the USSR (which were not in the League, as the USA did not join and Soviet Russia was not a member till 1934) have been members of the UNO.
  4. The Security Council is charged with the responsibility of maintaining world peace and security. It has a Military Staff Committee to assist and advise it on all military requirements. Thus it is net toothless like the League Council. Article 43 of the Charter requires every member to supply military fores needed by the Security Council to take action.
  5. The UN Charter condemns war more emphatically than the League Covenant, and calls for swift action.
  6. The Covenant of the League of Nations was tied to the vindictive Treaty of Versailles; on the other hand, the UN Charter has nothing to-do with peace treaties. This puts the UN Charter on a higher moral plane than the League Covenant.

Drawbacks of the UNO:-

Disappointment: The objectives fixed at the San Francisco Conference in 1945 have not been realized, and those who took the word of big men at their face value have been Greatly disappointed.

The UNO has been criticized on the following grounds:

1. Dominated by Big Powers: It is dominated by big powers, and among these the will of the Super Powers, the USA and the USSR, counts more than that of others. It-is not possible to take any action against the major powers, particularly the Super Powers, if they themselves commit aggression.

2. Veto Power: The veto puts too much emphasis on the powers and responsibilities of the permanent members of the , Security Council.

Significance of Uniting for Peace Resolution:

The veto, no doubt, made it difficult for the UNO to act, but the General Assembly could act effectively and meaningfully several times. The hope is the passing of the celebrated Uniting for Peace Resolution in 1950 by the General Assembly by a vote of 52 to 5. The resolution says:

If the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of peace or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to the members for collective measures including in the case of a breach or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security

Emergency Session of General Assembly:

The General Assembly may meet in an emergency session in 24 hours, if any request for this is made by any seven members of the Security Council or by a majority of members of the UNO. The Uniting for Peace Resolution’s repairs to some extent the damage done by the veto.

3. Two Power Blocs: The UNO presents a divided front. The USA, the UK and their followers are antagonistic to the USSR and hey followers. The cold war between the power blocs vitiated the atmosphere of the world, and made the world speak in terms of another World War. Fortunately the cold war receded into the background since Khrushchev time.

4. No Seat for Communist China till 1971: Ignoring the reality till 1971 the USA and other Western powers barred the entry of Communist China into the UNO, and China was represented by Formosa. Communist China secured a seat: In 1971,

5. War Preparations: – The UNO has not been able io prevent nations from arming themselves.

6. No Action in Certain Cases: The UNO could not go to the rescue of weak countries, when big powers attacked them. When 30,000 Hungarians were butchered by the Russian soldiery in 1956 for suppressing the Hungarian Revolution, no action was taken by the UNO on the ground that it was a domestic question.

7.Questions pot Judged on Merits: Mostly questions are not Judged on merits. Every question is viewed through the angle of a particular power bloc. For instance, in the Kashmir dispute, India did not get justice. What-could have been settled in a short time has not been settled even after 25 long years.

8. Imperialism Unchecked: The UNO has failed to heck imperialism.

9. No Permanent Army: Though Article 43 calls upon the members to provide military forces to the UN Military Staff Committee, there is no permanent army at its disposal.

10. Signing of Pacts: The signing of pacts like the NATO, the SEATO, the ANZUS and the Baghdad Pact are injurious to the interests of the UNO, because the members of these organizations are likely to take up arms much against the Charter, if their allies are attacked by a third party.

11. Complaints of Weak Nations Not Heard Properly: The complaints of small nations are not heard property.

The good work of the U.N.O:-

UNO The Only Hope:

The instances in which the UNO failed can be multiplied and held out before the world to run it down completely. In spite of its real drawbacks and its mistakes of omission and commission, efforts must be made to improve the  structure and working of the UNO instead of condemning it altogether. Abolition of the UNO will be a suicidal step, as there is no alternative to the UNO.

Successful Cases of Intervention:

The efforts Made by the UNO in localizing war or tackling some of the dangerous questions have been laudable.

The following are some of the cases successfully handled by the UNO: –

  1. Dispute between Syria and Lebanon in 1946.
  2. The Corfu Channel Dispute in 1946.
  3. Aggression in Indonesia in 1947.
  4. Greece and her neighbors.
  5. The Berlin Blockade in 1948.
  6. Dispute between Arabs and Jews in 1948.
  7. Korean War in 1950.
  8. The Suez Canal Problem in 1960.
  9. The Congo Crisis in 1960.

In several other cases too, the UNO intervened with great success.

Proud Non-political Record: The UNO has proud nonpolitical record of achievements in the social, economic and other spheres, as shown by the following instances :

1. Human Rights: The UNO has done much for the good of the individual, who is not to be treated as a negligible quantity. In December 1948 the General Assembly unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. Social Progress and Better Standard of Life: The agencies of the UNO have done much to bring about social and economic progress in the various parts of the world.

8. Work in Underdeveloped Countries: The UNO has done much constructive work in improving the lot of the people in under-developed countries.

4. Humanitarian and Social Work: The UNO has done much to give protection to people, who suffer from diseases like malaria, and rendered useful social and humanitarian services. It has provided relief to refugees.

5. Technical and Financial Assistance: Underdeveloped countries have been given technical and financial assistance.

6. Trusteeship: According to the UN Charter, the UNO has provided effective trusteeship with a view to the final realization of statehood and independence.

7. Legal Work: Very useful and high standard legal work – has been done by the International Court of Justice. In November 1947, the International Law Commission was established.

8. Convention on Genocide: On December 11, 1946 the General Assembly unanimously declared genocide as crime under international law, and a couple of years later the Convention on Genocide was unanimously adopted.

9. Research Work and Dissemination of Knowledge: Experts have done invaluable research work in many fields for the benefit of the world. A bumper crop of highly useful literature dealing with various branches of knowledge has been produced.

10. Test Ban and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaties: On August 7, 1963 a Partial Test Ban Treaty was signed among Soviet-Russia, the USA and Britain. Representatives of 60 nations including the USA, the USSR and the UK signed a treaty on January 27, 1967 at Washington limiting outer space activities to peaceful purposes. This was a great triumph for peace and spirit of international co-operation.

Read More: Aims of United Nations Organization

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