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United Nations Structure

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Renee Basham

on 10 August 2014

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Transcript of United Nations Structure

by Allison Tomazin & Renée Basham
United Nations
Questions we will be covering
Why did the United Nations come into existence?
What is its organisational structure?
Where is power situated?
What is the impact of the UN on states' sovereignty?
Failure of the League
With the escalation of war in the late 1930s, the League Assembly transferred enough power to the Secretary General so that the League would continue to exist, although on severely reduced operations - the Palais des Nations went unoccupied for 6 years until WWII ended
Rise of the United Nations
International governance throughout history
Structure of the UN
Structure of the UN
General Assembly
Security Council
Structure of the UN
Structure of the UN
International Court of Justice
Trusteeship Council
Established in 1945
occupies a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking &
representative organ comprising all 193 Members
provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues
plays a significant role in the process of standard-setting and the
codification of international law.

primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
has 15 members
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
recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.
can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force
to maintain or restore international peace and security.
together with the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.
Examples of Funds & Programs
Administrative work
Head by the Secretary-General
consists of departments & offices
total staff of about 44,000
drawn from some 180 countries
UN Headquarters in New York,
UN offices in Geneva, Vienna,
Nairobi and many other locations.
also known as the World Court
the main judicial organ of the UN
15 judges elected by the General Assembly & Security Council
decides disputes between countries,
also gives advisory opinions to the UN and its specialized agencies.
established to provide international supervision to 11 "Trust Territories"
to prepare for autonomy or independence.

1994 all Trust Territories had achieved autonomy or independence
either as autonomous States or by joining neighbouring independent countries.
Togoland (British) to Ghana 1957
Somaliland (Italian) to Somalia 1960
Togoland (French) to Togo 1960
Cameroons (French) to Cameroon 1960
Cameroons NT (British) to Nigeria,
ST to Cameroon 1961
Tanganyika (British) to Tanzania 1963
Ruanda-Urundi (Belgian) divided to
Rwanda & Burundi 1962

Asia Pacific
Western Samoa (NZ) to Samoa 1962
Nauru (Aus, NZ, UK) Independent 1968
New Guinea (Aus) to PNG 1975
Pacific Islands: Mirconesia, Marshall Islands, Northern Marinara Islands,
Palau to (1990, 1994)
Asia Pacific
Structure of the UN
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
- The UN's central platform for reflection, debate & innovative thinking for sustainable development
- Engages a variety of stakeholders including:
major groups
business sector and
3,200 + NGOs

"productive dialogue on sustainable development"
System breakdown
Thirty Years War
Napoleonic Wars
First World War
Second World War

Westphalia (1648)
Vienna (1815)
Versailles (1919)
San Francisco (1945)
State Sovereignty
Concert of Europe
League of Nations
United Nations

The concept of "organised, long-term cooperation between political communities" dates back as far as 5th century Greece
The Treaty of Westphalia established concepts of "terrioriality, sovereignty & autonomy" in Europe
Significant evolutionary stages - Westphalia
This Westphalian system replaced the previous transcendence of religious authority with political
Systemic breakdown with the beginning of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars
International governance throughout history
International governance throughout history
Significant evolutionary stages - Concert System
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of European states which sought to settle issues arising from war (e.g. territoriality)
First in an ongoing series which became known as the Concert of Europe
Eventually unraveled amid successive wars between participants e.g. Crimean War
International governance throughout history
Going into the 20th century
Europe organised into two opposing coalitions: the Triple Alliance & Entente Powers
Rapid technological advancements (e.g. rail, telegraphy, weaponry)
International governance throughout history
The conception of League of Nations
WWI concluded with the Paris Peace Conference & signing of the Treaty of Versailles (1919)
Establishment of the League of Nations a key result of the Paris Peace Conference
The first Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO):
Failure of the Hague Disarmament Conferences (1899 & 1907) leading to eventual outbreak of WWI
The League of Nations
The Covenant required members to accept "obligations not to resort to war" & required "the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety" which many states perceived as infringing on their sovereignty
Global membership
Members required to sign a constitution of principles & objectives (the Covenant)
Met together regularly at permanent location (Palais des Nations, Geneva)
Primary purpose to prevent war via promotion of collective security
Permanent, dedicated bureaucracy (secretariat) overseen by a secretary-general (Chancellor)
Semi-executive Council of major powers
Semi-parliamentary Assembly
Members primarily loyal to the League
48 individual state members as of inception (1920)
The US, while instrumental in founding the League, was unable to convince Congress to accept the Covenant
Germany, Soviet Union, Japan excluded
Required unanimous votes for action
Limited colonial/small state representation
Insistence of state sovereignty & autonomy restricted collective interest
Loss of credibility & international confidence
The Atlantic Charter
Roosevelt & Churchill (1941)
Policy statement which defined the Allied goals for the post-war world e.g. no territorial changes, restoration of self-government, reduction of trade restrictions, disarmament of aggressive nations
Called for "the establishment of a permanent system of general security"
The term "United Nations" was originally used to describe the Allied states during WWII ie. the Axis powers vs. the United Nations
Principles of the Atlantic Charter used in the development of the "Declaration by the United Nations" (January 1, 1942), a document used to pledge support by the Allied forces in the defeat of the Axis powers
At the end of WWII, the "Declaration by the United Nations" was used to draft the United Nations Charter (UN Conference on International Organisation, San Francisco 1945)
United Nations officially came into being on October 24, 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by 5 members of the new, permanent Security Council (France, China, Soviet Union, UK, US) & 46 other signatories
Only “peace loving” states eligible for membership, ie. exclusion of Germany, Italy, Japan & Spain
Subsuming of the League of Nations
Final meeting of the League of Nations on April 12, 1946 in Geneva
Liquidation & transfer of assets (approx. $22mil) to the new United Nations
The new General Assembly selected New York City as its official HQ, with 3 other office sites in Geneva (the acquired Palais de Nations), Vienna and Nairobi
• To keep peace throughout the world
• To develop friendly relations among nations
• To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms
• To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals
Four Main Purposes:
Cerny, PG 2010, 'Globalisation & Statehood' in Beeson M, & Bisley, N (eds.) Issues in 21st Century World Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, New York
Forsythe, D 2012, ‘The UN Security Council and Human Rights; State Sovereignty and Human Dignity’, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, viewed 2 Aug 2014, http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/iez/09069.pdf
Karns, MP & Mingst, KA 2010, 'The United Nations: Centrepiece of Global Governance', & 'The Challenges of Global Governance' in International Organizations: The Politics and Processes of Global Governance, Lynne Rienner Publishers, UK
MacQueen, N 2010, The United Nations, Oneworld Publications, UK
'UN At A Glance', 2014, retrieved 4 August 2014 from http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/index.shtml
The rabbit hole that is Wikipedia
Where is power?
Security Council Members
China, Russia, France, UK, US
(aka P5)
Argentina, Australia, Chad, Chile,
Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg,
Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Rwanda
Whereas other organs of the UN can make recommendations, Security Council holds authority to make binding decisions which member states must agree to carry out - these decisions known as resolutions
The 5 permanent Security Council members (P5) possess Veto power over resolutions, meaning they can block the adoption of resolutions
Temporary seats held for 2 year terms, after which new member states are voted in by the General Assembly
Presidency of the Security Council rotates alphabetically each month
The Security Council
15 members: 5 permanent, 10 temporary by election
"Sovereign equality" ie. one vote per member state
Limitations of power
Permanence of the P5 - no change in line up since original inception, changes in power shifts
Under-representation of particular regions/states
Routine procedural decisions require a minimum majority of 9 votes, however a majority of 9 may be blocked by a single vote from one of the P5
Any action requires the full support of the P5, but only a majority of temporary members
Advent of the ‘pocket Veto’ - important resolutions diluted or abandoned when a Veto is anticipated

Why the veto?
Any attempts to impose a majority on the P-5 would likely result in them opting out of the United Nations altogether & the UN disbanding
Promotes negotiation and compromise towards the resolution of key issues in the face of polarisation (e.g. the Soviet Union cast 80 Vetoes out of a total 83 cast in the UN’s first decade)

Does it work?
Final questions:
To whom is the UN foremost accountable? (e.g. member states, global citizens)
Honor system ie. “pacta sunt servanda” = "all treaties must be carried out/observed"
Collective responsibility vs. state sovereignty
Pressures towards consensus: does not require unanimity + outcomes generalised = fewer tough demands on states to act
Concept of Veto adapted from the unanimous voting system utilised by predecessor (the League of Nations) in order to prevent systemic collapse
Resolutions reflect the interests of Security Council’s most powerful state components ie. P5
UN Charter, Article 51: “right of individual or collective self-defence” against armed attack, meaning member states are not required to wait for Security Council to reach a decision before taking their own self-defence measures
Only Security Council possesses ultimate responsibility to determine what counts as an act of aggression
What is
state sovereignty?

UN Impact on State Sovereignty?
NO Impact
Security Council unable
to act on matters of
"internal disputes"

e.g VETO's from Russia and
China against the US
regarding human rights
issues in Myanmar (Burma)
and Zimbabwe

YES Impact
Landmines convention
ratified by 150 countries
Drastically reduced the
number of landmines
40 millions stockpiles destroyed with 10 million left
Not imposed, yet
agreed upon and
actioned on, limited to state cooperation
Systems of global governance both support & challenge state sovereignty
Influence of these governance measures based on member state recognition of agreed institutions & norms
States comply based on legitimacy of the rules & underlying norms & validity of the decision making process
Sometimes non-compliance due to inadequate expertise/capacity to comply
Westphalian concepts of “territoriality, sovereignty & autonomy”
Principle of legal equality between states
Contested nature of sovereignty in the context of globalisation, non-state actors (e.g. MNCs), transnational issues (e.g. climate change, Ebola) & the emergence of a global civil society
a mutually recognised geographical region/borders
freedom from external interference in internal affairs
right to political self-determination & self-governance
State sovereignty
& global governance
Does its structure enhance or impede upon its legitimacy/effectiveness as a form of global governance?
Is the UN just a tool of & for the propagation of largely Western values concerning global peace & security?
Full transcript