General Studies IIImportant International InstitutionsInternational OrganizationsINTERNATIONAL RELATION

United Nations

About United Nations:

The UN was formed following the devastating World War II, with the aim of preventing future global-scale conflicts. It was a successor to the ineffective League of Nations.  It is an international organization founded in 1945.The membership has grown from the original 51 Member States in 1945 to the current 193 Member States.

Its activities include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law.

The UN is headquartered on international territory in New York City

History of UN Foundation

  • In 1899, the International Peace Conference was held in The Hague to elaborate instruments for settling crises peacefully, preventing wars and codifying rules of warfare.
  • It adopted the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes and established the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which began work in 1902. This court was the forerunner of UN International Court of Justice.
  • The forerunner of the United Nations was the League of Nations, an organization conceived in circumstances of the First World War, and established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security.”
  • The name “United Nations”, coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A document called The Declaration by United Nations was signed in 1942 by 26 nations, pledging their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers (Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis) and bound them against making a separate peace.
  • United Nations Conference on International Organization (1945)
    • Conference held in San Francisco (USA), was attended by representatives of 50 countries and signed the United Nations Charter.
  • The UN Charter of 1945 is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, as an inter-governmental organization.

United Nation Main Organs

  1. the General Assembly,
  2. the Security Council,
  3. the Economic and Social Council,
  4. the Trusteeship Council,
  5. the International Court of Justice,
  6. and the UN Secretariat.

All the 6 were established in 1945 when the UN was founded.

UN Challenges & Reforms

UN Administrative & Financial-Resources Challenges

  • Development Reform: Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) will require bold changes to the UN Development System (UNDS) for the emergence of a new generation of country teams, centred on a strategic UN Development Assistance Framework and led by an impartial, independent and empowered resident coordinator.
  • Management Reform: To confront global challenges and to remain relevant in a fast-changing world, United Nations must empower managers and staff, simplifies processes, increases accountability and transparency and improves on the delivery of our mandates.
    • There are concerns for improving efficiency, avoidance of duplication, and the minimization of waste in the functioning of the entire UN system.
  • Financial Resources: Contributions of the Member States should have, as their fundamental underpinning, the capacity to pay principle.
    • The Member States should pay their contributions unconditionally, in full and on time, as delays in payments have caused an unprecedented financial crisis in the UN system.
    • Financial reforms hold the key to the future of the world body. Without sufficient resources, the UN’s activities and role would suffer.


Peace and Security issues

  • Threats to Peace and Security: The range of potential threats to peace and security that UN has to face, are following-
    • poverty, disease, and environmental breakdown (the threats to human security identified in the Millennium Development Goals),
    • conflict between states,
    • violence and massive human rights violations within states,
    • terrorism threats from organized crime,
    • and the proliferation of weapons – particularly WMD, but also conventional.
  • Terrorism: Nations that support groups that are widely linked to terrorism, such as Pakistan, are not held accountable specifically for these actions. To this date, the UN still does not have a clear definition of terrorism, and they have no plans to pursue one.
  • Nuclear Proliferation: In 1970, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed by 190 nations. Despite this treaty, nuclear stockpiles remain high, and numerous nations continue to develop these devastating weapons. The failure of the non-proliferation treaty details the ineffectiveness of the United Nations and their inability to enforce crucial rules and regulations on offending nations.


Security Council reforms

  • Composition of Security Council: It has remained largely static, while the UN General Assembly membership has expanded considerably.
    • In 1965, the membership of the Security Council was expanded from 11 to 15. There was no change in the number of permanent members. Since then, the size of the Council has remained frozen.
    • This has undermined the representative character of the Council. An expanded Council, which is more representative, will also enjoy greater political authority and legitimacy.
    • India has been calling for the reform of the UN Security Council along with Brazil, Germany and Japan (G-4). The four countries support each others’ bids for the permanent seats in the top UN body.
    • Any expansion of permanent members’ category must be based on an agreed criteria, rather than be a pre-determined selection.
  • UNSC Veto power: It is often observed that UN’s effectiveness and responsiveness to international security threats depends on judiciously use of the UNSC veto.
    • Veto Power: The five permanent members enjoy the luxury of veto power; when a permanent member vetoes a vote, the Council resolution cannot be adopted, regardless of international support. Even if the other fourteen nations vote yes, a single veto will beat this overwhelming show of support.
    • There are proposals on future of Veto power:
      • limiting the use of the veto to vital national security issues;
      • requiring agreement from multiple states before exercising the veto;
      • abolishing the veto entirely;
    • Any reform of the veto will be very difficult:
      • Articles 108 and 109 of the United Nations Charter grant the P5 (5 permanent members) veto over any amendments to the Charter, requiring them to approve of any modifications to the UNSC veto power that they themselves hold.

Non-Conventional Challenges

  • Since its creation, UN is working with goal of safeguarding peace, protecting human rights, establishing the framework for international justice and promoting economic and social progress. New challenges, such as climate change, refugees and population ageing are new fields it has to work.
  • Climate Change: From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.
  • Growing population: The world population is projected to increase by more than one billion people within the next 15 years, reaching 8.5 billion in 2030, and to increase further to 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100.
    • The world population growth rate must slow down significantly to avoid reaching unsustainable levels.
  • Population Ageing: It is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties.
  • Refugees: The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.
    • An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2016.
    • Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
    • There are also 10 million stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.


  • Despite having many short-comings, UN has played a crucial role making this human society more civil, more peaceful & secure in comparison to time of its origin at 2nd World War.
  • United Nations, being the world’s largest democratic body of all nations, its responsibility towards humanity is very high in terms of building democratic society, economic development of people living in acute poverty, & preserving the Earth’s Ecosystem in concern with Climate Change.

Specialized Agencies of the UN

AgencyHeadquartersFounding Year
Food and Agriculture OrganizationRome, Italy1945
International Telecommunication UnionGeneva, Switzerland1865 (Joined UN in 1947)
International Fund for Agricultural DevelopmentRome, Italy1977
International Labour OrganizationGeneva, Switzerland1946
International Maritime OrganizationLondon, United Kingdom1948
International Monetary FundWashington, United States1945
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural OrganizationParis, France1946
World Health OrganizationGeneva, Switzerland1948
United Nations Industrial Development OrganizationVienna, Austria1966
International Civil Aviation OrganizationMontreal, Canada1944
World Intellectual Property OrganisationGeneva, Switzerland1967
International Fund for Agricultural DevelopmentRome, Italy1977
Universal Postal UnionBern, Switzerland1874
International Telecommunication UnionGeneva, Switzerland1865
United Nations World Tourism OrganizationMadrid, Spain1974
World Meteorological OrganisationGeneva, Switzerland1950
World Bank GroupWashington, D.C, USA 

AgencyHQFounding Year
United Nations Environment ProgrammeNairobi, Kenya1972
United Nations Children’s FundNew York, USA1946
United Nations Population FundNew York, USA1967
United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesGeneva, Switzerland1950
United Nations Office on Drugs and CrimeVienna, Austria1997
United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research InstituteTurin, Italy1968
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk ReductionGeneva, Switzerland1999
United Nations Development ProgrammeNew York, USA1965
United Nations UniversityTokyo, Japan1972
United Nations Conference on Trade and DevelopmentGeneva, Switzerland1964
International Atomic Energy AgencyVienna, Austria1957
United Nations Human Settlement ProgrammeNairobi, Kenya1978
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDSGeneva, Switzerland1994
World Food ProgrammeRome, Italy1961
Office of the High Commissioner for Human RightsGeneva, Switzerland199

UN Conventions

UNCRPDMinamata Convention
Montreal ProtocolKigali Amendment
UNCCDKyoto Protocol
GEFRio Summit (UNCED)

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