United Nations



Headquartered in New York, the United Nations (UN) is a multinational organization founded in 1945 at the end of World War II with a goal of preventing future wars.  The UN’s initial membership of 51 has now grown to 193 member nations.

The UN’s current duties include maintaining international peace and security, promoting sustainable development, protecting human rights, upholding international law, and delivering humanitarian aid.

The structure of the UN includes its General Assembly, Security Council, Secretariat, International Court of Justice, and Economic and Social Council.

As per un.org, what follows is a brief discussion of the UN’s setup.

General Assembly
The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the UN.  All 193 member states of the UN are represented in the General Assembly, making it the only UN body with universal representation.  Each year, the full UN membership meets for the annual General Assembly session and general debate, which many heads of state attend and address.  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 simple majority.

Security Council

The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the UN Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security.  It has 15 Members (5 permanent and 10 non-permanent).  Each member has one vote.  The five permanent members—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—have veto power, such that each can block adoption of a resolution (but not its debate).  Under the UN Charter, all member states are obligated to comply with Council decisions.  The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression.  It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.  In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The Secretariat comprises the Secretary-General and tens of thousands of 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 chief administrative officer of the organization, appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year, renewable term.  UN staff members are recruited internationally and locally, and work in duty stations and on peacekeeping missions around the world.  Serving the cause of peace in a violent world is a dangerous occupation.  Since the founding of the UN, hundreds of brave men and women have given their lives in its service.

International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice, located in the Hague (Netherlands), is the principal judicial organ of the UN.  The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by nations and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.

Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue, and recommendations on economic, social, and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals.  It is the UN’s central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.

Special Programs and Agencies

Among the special programs and agencies with which the UN has direct or indirect relationships are:
• IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)
• IMF (International Monetary Fund)
• OPCW (Organization for Prevention of Chemical Weapons)
• UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization)
• UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)
• WHO (World Health Organization)
• WTO (World Trade Organization)
• World Bank

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
– 1948

1  Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

2  Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

3  Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

4  Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

5  Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

6  Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

7  Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

8  Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.  Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.  All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offense on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offense, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed.  Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offense was committed.

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation.  Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.  They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.  All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education.  Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.  Elementary education shall be compulsory.  Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary, or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group, or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Practice – Questions
1.  The presence of a preamble in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is reminiscent of:
A.  Monopoly
B.  Boston Tea Party
C.  United States Constitution
D.  Declaration of Independence

2.  Paragraph 1 of the preamble in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is reminiscent of:
A.  Lotto
B.  Money-Back Guarantee
C.  Missouri Compromise
D.  Declaration of Independence

3.  Articles 18, 19, and 20 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are reminiscent of:
A.  Bill of Rights’ First Amendment to the United States Constitution
B.  Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
C.  Bill of Rights’ Third Amendment to the United States Constitution
D.  Bill of Rights’ Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

4.  Article 4 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is reminiscent of:
A.  Missouri Compromise

B.  Emancipation Proclamation
C.  California Gold Rush
D.  Birth of a Nation

5.  Articles 6 through 12 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are reminiscent of:
A.  Anarchy
B.  Separate But Equal
C.  Murphy’s Law
D.  Rule of Law

Practice – Answers
1.  C.  United States Constitution
United States Constitution

2.  D.  Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence

3.  A.  Bill of Rights’ First Amendment to the United States Constitution
Bill of Rights

4.  B.  Emancipation Proclamation
African American History

5.  D.  Rule of Law

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