The Structure of the United Nations

The structure of the United Nations is based around its charter. The charter of the UN defines six main organs of the new world body, each with specific tasks and functions. The six main organs are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council, the Economic and Social Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat. The General Assembly has the right to discuss, debate, and make recommendations on a range of subjects pertaining to international peace and security, including human rights, international law, and peaceful arbitration between disputing nations.

General Assembly is the only part of the United Nations that represents all 193 member states, each of which has one vote. Votes taken on important issues require a two-thirds majority of Member States. The General Assembly may elect the nonpermanent members of the Security Council and other bodies such as the Human Rights Council. Also it considers reports from the other four organs of the United Nations, assesses the financial situations of member states, and approves the UN budget. The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

It can recommend the use of a blockade or other financial impositions for any nation that is deemed as breaking international law. If these do not work, then the Security Council can call on the United Nations to use military force to enforce its will. The Security Council is made up of 15 member states, consisting of five permanent members and ten non-permanent members. The permanent five are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The remaining Security Council members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms.

Each member of the Security Council is given one vote and the votes of nine members are needed for action to be taken. All five permanent members have to agree with the course of action, which is called the veto power. The main task of the Economic and Social Council is to promote and improve the economic and social well-being of those living in the member states. This council deals with human rights and seeks to develop a greater understanding of cultures throughout the world. It basically covers the health, education, economic, social and cultural issues and the promotion of the position of women in the world.

Economic and Social Council also consults with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), thereby maintaining a vital link between the United Nations and civil society. Economic and Social Council consists of 54 members elected by the General Assembly, one-third retiring after every three years. Retiring members are eligible for immediate re-election. All decisions of the Council are taken by a majority of those present and voting. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the main judicial organ of the United Nations.

The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted by States and give advisory opinions on legal questions referred by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies. The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the General Assembly and the Security Council. It may not include more than one judge of any nationality. The Members of the Court do not represent their governments but are independent magistrates. All members of the United Nations have to agree to abide by the decisions of the ICJ.