United Nations

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United Nations

United Nations flag

Member States
English name United Nations Organization
French name Organization des Nations unies
Organization type International law subject
status active
Seat of the organs New York City ( headquarters )
Geneva , Nairobi , Vienna (offices)
More offices
Secretary General PortugalPortugal António Guterres
( General Secretary )
Member States 193 :

UN member states

Official and working languages

English , French

Other official languages

Arabic , Chinese , Russian , Spanish

surface 135,700,000 km²
population > 7,500,000,000
Population density 53.8 inhabitants per km²
founding June 26, 1945

Entry into force of the UN Charter
on October 24, 1945

holiday October 24th
( United Nations Day )
Look at the United Nations Plaza and the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City

The Organization of the United Nations ( OVN , often just United Nations , short VN ; English United Nations , short UN ), also UNO (from United Nations Organization , French Organization des Nations unies - ONU ), are an intergovernmental union of 193 states and as global international organization a fully recognized subject of international law .

According to its charter, the most important tasks of the organization are securing world peace , observing international law , protecting human rights and promoting international cooperation. The focus is also on support in the economic, social, humanitarian and ecological areas (see also the UN Millennium Development Goals ).

The United Nations itself and many of its sub-organizations have received the Nobel Peace Prize for their services , and taken together they are the most frequently honored . In 2020 it celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Founding history

The United Nations has its roots in the Hague Peace Conferences and in the League of Nations , which was founded after the First World War with the aim of permanently securing peace in the world. However, due to a lack of interest in joining the League (for example, the USA was not a member of the League of Nations for domestic political reasons), the League of Nations did not have the influence it needed to achieve its goals, and it had practically failed with the outbreak of World War II .

After the failure of the League of Nations , US President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a second attempt to create an organization to ensure peace during the Second World War, and worked with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to draft the Atlantic Charter . On January 1, 1942, 26 states invoked the principles of the Atlantic Charter in the declaration of the United Nations .

The cooperation of the Soviet Union and the Republic of China in the new peace order resulted in the Moscow Declaration of the Four Powers on October 30, 1943 , which called for the creation of a general organization for the maintenance of peace based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states as quickly as possible and international security. At the Dumbarton Oaks conference , the establishment of the UN was discussed further.

After France was included in the circle of the main powers, the Charter of the United Nations was finalized at the Yalta Conference in 1945 . It was signed by 50 states on June 26, 1945 at the San Francisco Conference . The United States was the first state to ratify the Charter and offer the United Nations New York as its seat . Poland signed the charter later, but is one of the 51 founding members. The charter entered into force on October 24, 1945 after the Republic of China , France, the Soviet Union , the United Kingdom , the United States of America, and the majority of the founding states ratified the charter.

tasks and goals

According to Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations , the main tasks of the UN are:

  1. the maintenance of world peace and security
  2. developing better, amicable relationships among nations
  3. the international cooperation, solve global problems and promoting human rights
  4. to be the hub at which nations negotiate these goals together.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Covenants and Conventions

On December 10, 1948, the Charter was supplemented by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In it, for the first time, all states jointly proclaimed fundamental human rights that apply equally to everyone. Even if this declaration is not binding on the member states, it is a milestone in the history of human rights and an important legal document for international politics.

In 1966 the General Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - now as legally binding documents. This was followed by various other human rights treaties that were binding on the respective signatory states .

Millennium Development Goals

In 2001 the so-called Millennium Development Goals were postulated by the UN, the World Bank , the IMF and the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD . These are the following eight development goals that should be achieved by 2015 and whose primary goal is to secure the global future:

  1. Combating extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Primary education for everyone
  3. Gender equality / empowerment of women
  4. Lowering child mortality
  5. Improving maternal health care
  6. Fight against HIV / AIDS , malaria and other serious diseases
  7. Ecological sustainability
  8. Build a global partnership for development.

Peacekeeping / peace enforcement

United Nations peacekeeping soldiers in the border area of Eritrea and Ethiopia
Bolivian " blue helmet" soldier during an exercise in Chile
2001 Nobel Peace Prize for the United Nations - Certificate in the lobby of the UN headquarters in New York City

The peacekeeping is one of the main tasks of the United Nations. They are centrally committed to avoiding and ending international conflicts . The high priority is made clear by the fact that the goal is already formulated in the first article of the UN Charter ,

"... to maintain world peace and international security and to this end to take effective collective measures to prevent and eliminate threats to peace, to suppress acts of aggression and other peace breaks and international disputes or situations that could lead to a peace break through peaceful To clear up or settle funds in accordance with the principles of justice and international law. "

- UN Charter , Art. 1 No. 1

The United Nations has created a system of collective security through the voluntary involvement of its member states. The core of this collective security system is the general prohibition of violence:

"In their international relations, all states refrain from any threat or use of force directed against the territorial integrity or the political independence of a state or otherwise incompatible with the goals of the United Nations."

- UN Charter , Art. 2 No. 4

Despite the general prohibition of force, the Charter does not completely exclude the use of force. In addition to the individual right of self-defense of each country, it is concentrated on the Security Council: collective measures against peacemakers taking into account Chapter VII, such as economic, communicative and other non-military sanctions up to and including the use of force, if necessary. The Security Council thus becomes the bearer of the "monopoly of force". Before the Security Council can decide on appropriate measures, it must first identify a threat or breach of the peace or an act of aggression. If this is the case, he basically has two options: He can make recommendations to the UN members as well as coercive measures against the peacemaker himself as well as against all other member states.

In the case of coercive measures, both non-military sanctions and direct military intervention by the UN itself or by appropriately mandated members are possible. The formation of troops under the direct command of the UN is provided for in the charter, but never came about. The non-military sanctions include the "complete or partial interruption of economic relations, rail, sea and air traffic, post, telegraph and radio communications as well as other means of transport and the breaking off of diplomatic relations" ( UN Charter , Art. 41 ) .

A sculpture on the Visitor's Plaza in front of the UN building in New York symbolizes the goal of securing peace by depicting a revolver with a tied barrel. The sculpture was by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd created and named "Non-Violence" ( non-violence ). It is a gift from the government of Luxembourg to the organization.

"Blue helmets" / "Green helmets"

The blue helmets are the UN peacekeepers. They were not included in the Charter as a means of passive peacekeeping . But Dag Hammarskjöld and Lester Pearson came up with the idea of ​​peacekeepers in crisis situations. For easier recognition, blue helmet soldiers wear either a blue helmet or a blue beret with a UN badge in addition to the uniform of their country . The weapons carried should only be used for self-defense. Only the UN Security Council can issue a mandate to send blue helmets, but the government of each country can decide for itself whether to send soldiers on such a mission. By 1990 the UN had already deployed 500,000 soldiers and civilians to measures to maintain peace - but not to create peace.

In the case of peace enforcement operations in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the soldiers are not labeled differently from their national uniforms. There have been two peace enforcement missions in the history of the United Nations:

During the Kosovo war of 1999, the UN Security Council authorized individual military actions by NATO countries. During the war in Afghanistan since 2001 , the Security Council authorized the establishment of the ISAF protection force.


According to Article 7 of the UN Charter, the United Nations is composed of six main bodies that are relevant for the decision-making process. In addition to the main organs, the United Nations system includes a number of subsidiary organs and specialized agencies that are involved in the performance of specific tasks.

Main organs

UN General Assembly UN Secretariat International Court of Justice
Assembly of all UN member states
(one vote per state)
Administrative body of the UN
(Chairman is the UN Secretary General )
Universal court under international law (based in The Hague )
UN General Assembly
United Nations Headquarters in New York City
International Court of Justice
  • Forum for international diplomacy , central place for debates on world political issues
  • can make non-binding recommendations to states or suggestions to the UNSC (no parliament !)
  • decides on the admission of new members
  • approves the budget
  • elects the non-permanent members of the UNSC , all members of the ECOSOC , on the proposal of the UNSC the UN Secretary General and the 15 judges of the ICJ
Security Council Economic and Social Council Trustee Council
for global security issues for global economic and social affairs for the administration of trust areas
(currently not active)
UN Security Council
UN Economic and Social Council
UN Trusteeship Council

Subsidiary organs

A Lockheed C-130 of the World Food Program delivers aid packages with food in Sudan
UNICEF Ambassador for Children Bilaal Rajan in Malawi
A UNHCR employee consults with a US Marine in Jordan

Subsidiary organs of the UN can be set up by the General Assembly in accordance with Article 22 of the Charter and by the Security Council in accordance with Article 29 of the Charter. They mostly report to their main bodies, some of them to the Economic and Social Council. Although they often act autonomously vis-à-vis partners outside the UN, they do not have their own status under international law.

Your tasks can be broken down into the following areas:

  • Development aid programs
    • Human Rights Council ( HRC ) in Geneva (Switzerland)
    • Development Program ( UNDP ) in New York (USA)
    • Environment Program ( UNEP ) in Nairobi (Kenya)
    • Children's Fund ( UNICEF ) in New York (USA)
    • Conference on Trade and Development ( UNCTAD ) in Geneva (Switzerland)
    • World Food Program ( WFP ) in Rome (Italy)
    • World Food Council ( WFC ) in Rome (Italy)
    • Population Program ( UNFPA ) in New York (USA)
    • Disarmament Conference ( UNCD ) in Geneva (Switzerland)
  • Humanitarian affairs
    • High Commissioner for Human Rights ( UNHCHR ) in Geneva (Switzerland)
    • High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR ) in Geneva (Switzerland)
    • Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ( OCHA )
    • Aid Program for the Palestine Refugees ( UNRWA ) in Gaza (Palestinian Territories)
    • Disaster Relief ( UNDRO ) in Geneva (Switzerland)
    • Drug Control Program ( UNODC ) in Vienna (Austria)
    • World Settlement Conference ( HABITAT ) in Nairobi (Kenya)
  • Security policy subsidiary organs
    • Peacekeeping missions such as B. UNAMA and UNTAC
    • Territorial administrative missions such as B. UNMIK and UNTAET
    • Ad hoc criminal courts such as B. ICTY in The Hague (Netherlands) and ICTR in Arusha (Tanzania)
  • Training and research activities
    • United Nations University ( UNU ) with its headquarters in Tokyo (Japan)
    • Institute for Education and Research ( UNITAR ) in Geneva (Switzerland)

Specialized agencies

The specialized organizations are legally, organizationally and financially independent organizations that are linked to the UN by international agreements concluded in accordance with Article 63 of the Charter . There are currently (2017) 17 organizations. Their cooperation with the UN and with each other is coordinated by the Economic and Social Council.

Specialized agencies of the UN
shortcut Logo / flag Surname Seat Chair Founded Budget in US $ (2016)
Food and Agriculture Organization
Food and Agriculture Organization ItalyItaly Rome China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China Qu Dongyu 1945 1.201.818.140
International Civil Aviation Organization
International Civil Aviation Organization CanadaCanada Montreal China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China Liu Fang 1947 0.192.346.640
International Fund for Agricultural Development
International Fund for Agricultural Development ItalyItaly Rome TogoTogo Gilbert Houngbo 1977 0.169,727,000
4th ILO
International Labor Organization
International labor organization SwitzerlandSwitzerland Geneva United KingdomUnited Kingdom Guy Ryder 1946 (1919) 0.674,937,000        
International Maritime Organization
International Maritime Organization United KingdomUnited Kingdom London Korea SouthSouth Korea Kitack Lim 1948 0.057,821,457
6th IMF
International Monetary Fund
IMF United StatesUnited States Washington, DC BulgariaBulgaria Kristalina Georgieva 1945 (1944) ?
7th ITU
International Telecommunication Union
International Telecommunication Union SwitzerlandSwitzerland Geneva China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China Houlin Zhao 1947 (1865) 0.183,604,878        
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Organization for education, science and culture FranceFrance Paris FranceFrance Audrey Azoulay 1946 0.663.683.714
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
Industrial Development Organization AustriaAustria Vienna China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China Li Yong 1967 0.235.511.425
10 UPU
Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union SwitzerlandSwitzerland Bern KenyaKenya Bishar Abdirahman Hussein 1947 (1874) 0.077,403,536
11th IBRD
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development United StatesUnited States Washington, DC United StatesUnited States David Malpass 1945 (1944) ?
12th IDA
International Development Association
International development organization United StatesUnited States Washington, DC United StatesUnited States David Malpass 1960 ?
13th IFC
International Finance Corporation
International Finance Corporation United StatesUnited States Washington, DC United StatesUnited States David Malpass 1956 ?
14th WHO
World Health Organization
World health organization SwitzerlandSwitzerland Geneva EthiopiaEthiopia Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus 1948 2,471,062,278
15th WIPO
World Intellectual Property Organization
World Intellectual Property Organization SwitzerlandSwitzerland Geneva SingaporeSingapore Daren Tang 1974 0.347.037.073
16 WMO
World Meteorological Organization
World Meteorological Organization SwitzerlandSwitzerland Geneva FinlandFinland Petteri Taalas 1950 (1873)
17th UNWTO
World Tourism Organization
World Tourism Organization SpainSpain Madrid GeorgiaGeorgia Zurab Pololikashvili 1974

General Secretaries

The Secretary General of the United Nations is the chairman of the UN Secretariat and thus the highest administrative officer of the UN. He also represents the UN to the outside world and is therefore usually the best-known face of the organization.

Term of office Secretary General
1946-1952 NorwayNorway Trygve Lie (1896–1968)
1953-1961 SwedenSweden Dag Hammarskjöld (1905–1961)
1961-1971 Burma 1948Burma U Thant (1909–1974)
1972-1981 AustriaAustria Kurt Waldheim (1918-2007)
1982-1991 PeruPeru Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1920-2020)
1992-1996 EgyptEgypt Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1922-2016)
1997-2006 GhanaGhana Kofi Annan (1938-2018)
2007-2016 Korea SouthSouth Korea Ban Ki-moon (* 1944)
since 2017 PortugalPortugal António Guterres (* 1949)



With the admission of South Sudan in 2011, the number of member states of the United Nations grew to 193. This means that it can claim almost universal validity.

The 51 founding members of the UN in 1945 were:

Egypt , Ethiopia , Argentina , Australia , Belgium , Bolivia , Brazil , Chile , Republic of China (now the People's Republic of China ), Costa Rica , Denmark , Dominican Republic , Ecuador , El Salvador , France , Greece , Guatemala , Haiti , Honduras , India , Iraq , Iran , Yugoslavia , Canada , Columbia , Cuba , Lebanon , Liberia , Luxembourg , Mexico , New Zealand , Nicaragua , Netherlands , Norway , Panama , Paraguay , Peru , Philippines , Poland , Saudi Arabia , Soviet Union , South Africa , Syria , Czechoslovakia , Turkey , Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic , United States , United Kingdom , Uruguay , Venezuela and Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic .

In 1955 Italy and Austria joined the United Nations , among others . In 1973, after the Basic Treaty, the German Democratic Republic followed as the 133rd and the Federal Republic of Germany as the 134th member. Liechtenstein finally in 1990, Switzerland after a popular initiative in 2002.

The considerable increase in the number of members since the foundation is mainly due to the decolonization , in the course of which a considerable number of new states emerged and joined the United Nations.

Belarus and Ukraine were founding members with equal rights alongside the Soviet Union, with membership of the Soviet Union extending to the entire USSR, including Belarus and Ukraine. The Soviet Union was thus effectively represented with three votes in the United Nations. Since the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991, Soviet membership has been exercised by the Russian Federation ; the other former Soviet republics successfully applied for independent membership shortly before and some after the dissolution.

No members include the Vatican City (while the international representation of the pope, the Holy See , however, a non-governmental observer status has) and not recognized by all countries States Palestine (since 29 November 2012 also with observer status), (Western) Sahara (Democratic Arab Republic of the Sahara) and Kosovo as well as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the Caucasian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia , the Cook Islands and the Republic of China (Taiwan) . The Republic of China occupies a special position here, as it represented the founding member China within the United Nations from 1945 to 1971 and thus held the Chinese seat on the UN Security Council. In 1971, following a resolution by the General Assembly, the representation of China was changed in such a way that since then China has only been represented by delegates from the People's Republic of China . In effect, this led Taiwan to leave the United Nations. A separate (or renewed) membership of Taiwan is not to be expected due to the one-China policy of the People's Republic of China, which as a veto power can block the admission of new members.


The Charter is the "constitution" and legal basis for the United Nations and was signed on June 26, 1945 in the theater of the Veterans War Memorial Building in San Francisco . The charter came into force on October 24, 1945. Poland , the 51st founding member, was unable to attend the conference and later signed it. The Charter is an indefinite international treaty and has only been amended in four places since its inception, namely Articles 23, 27, 61 and 109. It consists of a preamble and 19 chapters with 111 articles. (In contrast, the statute of the League of Nations only had 26 articles.) The chapters deal with the various main organs of the UN, the peaceful settlement of disputes, the measures to be taken in the event of a threat or breach of the peace and acts of aggression, as well as their goals and principles.


The United Nations has its headquarters in New York and three other seats in Geneva ( United Nations Office in Geneva ), Nairobi ( United Nations Office in Nairobi ) and Vienna ( United Nations Office in Vienna ). Because of its numerous UN organizations, Geneva is the largest UN location with the most personnel. The International Court of Justice is located in The Hague . According to official usage, the UN seats are not located in the respective state, but are only surrounded by these states. In the UN, rules of a special kind apply, and the state power of the respective host country may not exert any coercive measures, which does not jeopardize their sovereignty in this respect. International law does not recognize that UN institutions represent a kind of “international territory”. However, their institutions enjoy immunity under international law , similar to embassies.

Official languages

Although the United Nations is a world organization, for practical reasons not all languages ​​in the world are officially used. In fact, it is limited to six official languages : Arabic , Chinese , English , French , Russian and Spanish . Of these six, two - English and French - are working languages. This is set out in Resolution 2, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1946.

Official language means that every official meeting has to be translated to and from these languages ​​and that all preparatory documents, all draft resolutions and all minutes and reports have to be available in these languages ​​within a reasonable time frame. For the working languages, all internal work processes (oral and written) can be carried out in these two languages. In dealing with the United Nations Secretariat, each delegate has the right to express himself orally and in writing in the working language of his choice. All official statements by the secretariat must also be in the two working languages ​​(advertisements, signs, such as the well-known "Security Council / Conseil de sécurité" in New York, brochures, guided tours, etc.). This set of rules principally excludes monolingual appearances. The German translation service of the United Nations, financed jointly by Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, offers the most important documents promptly in German.

Some interesting details were seen in the popular film The Interpreter - a 2005 thriller by Sydney Pollack - which was first allowed to film at UN headquarters.

Budget and funding

Top 10 financiers of
the United Nations 2017
Member State contribution
United StatesUnited States United States 22.0%
JapanJapan Japan 9.7%
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 7.9%
GermanyGermany Germany 6.4%
FranceFrance France 4.9%
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 4.5%
BrazilBrazil Brazil 3.8%
ItalyItaly Italy 3.7%
RussiaRussia Russia 3.1%
CanadaCanada Canada 2.9%
remaining UN members 31.1%
total of $ 2,776,529,900

The UN is mainly financed by contributions from its member states. A distinction is made between compulsory contributions, compulsory contribution levies and voluntary contributions.

The compulsory contributions of the individual member states serve to finance the regular budget of the organization and, in some cases, the administrative tasks of its subsidiary bodies. The compulsory percentage of all member states is calculated using a contribution key. This is redefined every three years by the General Assembly on the recommendation of a Contribution Committee. The last and currently valid change to the calculation key was decided in December 2000 and came into force on January 1, 2001. Since then, the amount of the contributions has been calculated on the basis of a country's gross domestic product on average over the last four and a half years (previously six years) and depending on the debt burden, per capita income and currency fluctuations. It is stipulated that each country must contribute at least 0.001% to the regular budget and a maximum of 22% of the budget. Countries like South Korea, Singapore and Brazil had to take over a higher percentage of the UN budget after a transition phase from 2004. Japan could expect a slight decrease in premiums due to its declining economic development. The US contributions were reduced, while Germany’s share remained roughly the same. Revenue losses incurred as a result of the three-year transition period, were by a private donation by media entrepreneur Ted Turner (CNN) in the amount of 34 million US dollars compensated. The largest financiers in the contribution years 2004–2006 are the USA with 22%, Japan with 19.5%, Germany with 8.7%, the United Kingdom with 6.1% and France with 6%. All other countries contribute less than 5%, around half only pay the minimum contribution of 0.001%. The deadline for paying the contributions of the individual member states is January 31 of the respective year. The UN's two-year budget (compulsory contributions only) for 1998/1999 was $ 2.8 billion. The UN's regular budget revenues, however, fell from 405 million US dollars in 1997 to just 279 million US dollars in 1998. As of the 1998 reference date, only 27 of 185 member states had paid their contributions in full. Around 75% of the arrears in the regular budget and around 50% of the peacekeeping contributions were due to the US withholding contributions at this point in time.

The compulsory contribution levies are also compulsory contributions to be paid by the Member States. However, these are used exclusively to finance peace operations. The currently valid contribution rates for the compulsory contribution levies were set by the General Assembly in 1973. The economically least developed UN states pay only 10% of their compulsory contribution to the regular UN budget, i.e. 0.0001%. The other developing countries have to pay 20% of their compulsory contribution. The industrialized countries pay an amount equal to their full compulsory contribution. The five permanent members of the Security Council pay amounts in the amount of their compulsory contributions plus the shortfall in income resulting from the relief of the developing countries. The latter are weighted according to the ratio of the amount of the individual compulsory contributions. Accounts that are separate from the regular budget are used for the compulsory contribution levies.

Voluntary contributions are made to finance subsidiary bodies of the UN such as the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), UNICEF (Children's Fund), UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund ), UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and WFP ( World Food Program) used. By freely deciding the amount of their voluntary contributions, states can exercise considerable influence on the priorities of the UN's activities.

The special role of the USA

With the beginning of the Reagan administration (1981-1989), the USA began to withhold an increasing part of its compulsory contributions to the UN budget and to the UN peacekeeping budget. The USA initially justified this violation of the agreements with political criticism of some UN programs, but since the late 1980s under President George Bush they have accused the UN of inefficiency and wasting money. By 1992, the US debt to the United Nations had grown to $ 1.5 billion. The US Congress put the amount of debt in 1997 with reference to alleged non-monetary payments to UN peacekeeping operations at 926 million US dollars and used the payment as a means of pressure to reduce the mandatory percentage of the United States. In addition, they used the reluctance to contribute to the budget, as in the case of the former Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, José Maurício Bustani , the Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali or in the case of the appointment of UN commissions in 2001 as a means of pressure to avoid personnel changes within the Enforce United Nations. On June 10, 1997, the US government under Bill Clinton negotiated a reduction in the US contribution to the regular UN budget from 25% to 20% and a reduction in the US contribution for peacekeeping operations by 31% in the so-called Helms-Biden Agreement 25% off.

Media work

United Nations Radio has broadcast radio programs internationally since 1946 . The programs can be received daily via WRN Broadcast . An internet audio live stream is also broadcast daily.

In the summer of 2019, the UN planted an Anne Frank tree for the 90th birthday and in memory of Anne Frank .


The UN has been awarded several notable achievements , including:

She directly secured the peace in, among other things

The United Nations has already achieved many goals :

The fields of activity are mainly peacekeeping , human rights policy and development cooperation.


Security Council

Critics criticize the composition and organization of the Security Council . The five permanent members of the Security Council made extensive use of their veto power in the past to avert convictions and sanctions against themselves or friendly states. From 1946 to 1964, the Soviet Union vetoed an otherwise unanimous majority 103 times . The US vetoed 20 of the 69 resolutions on Israel . Among other things, the war of aggression on Iraq by the USA in 2003 (see Iraq War ) had no legal consequences due to their veto. African and Latin American countries do not have a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Democratic legitimation

The UN is an international government organization and therefore shares the democratic weaknesses of this form of organization. As an association of states, each represented by their governments, the UN is only indirectly democratically legitimized . As a rule, there was no referendum on joining the UN, Switzerland being an exception. The members of the organs of the UN are also appointed by the governments of the respective states. Although the delegates from the democratic states can be viewed as indirectly elected by the people, the representatives of the dictatorial and authoritarian states in the UN are just as little democratically legitimized as the governments of these states. For this reason it is incorrect to call the UN General Assembly a parliament , since it is neither democratically elected, nor can it actually make binding, albeit far-reaching decisions. Rather, it is a negotiating forum for diplomats from all over the world as well as pointing the way in the negotiation of international treaties and the thematization of world political events. Since only representatives of the respective governments take part in the General Assembly, the views of the opposition parties are currently not taken into account in the UN system. However, organizations such as the Committee for a Democratic UN, the European Parliament or the Pan-African Parliament have long been campaigning for a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations , which should consist of democratically elected members. A comparable, already existing institution - but without any political authority - is the Interparliamentary Union .

The distribution of votes in the organs of the UN, in particular in the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council , is also criticized . The votes in the UN General Assembly follow the principle of “one country - one vote” under international law. However, this principle conflicts with the democratic principle “one person - one vote”. Thus, Nauru , with a population of 10,000 as much votes as China with 1,358,100,000 citizens (namely). In the most powerful body of the UN, the Security Council, five states have the right to permanent membership, while the other member states can only indirectly elect representatives to this body for a period of two years. This is reinforced by the fact that these states can block any majority decision through a veto right.


A central problem for the United Nations is and will remain the scarcity of competencies. The United Nations succeeded in uniting almost all countries in the world under one roof because the charter can be interpreted so flexibly at key points that it is based on practically all cultural convictions and political ideologies - even if these differ e.g. T. mutually exclusive - in their sense and in their favor can be interpreted according to the situation. In order for the concept of a world organization capable of action to work completely, a massive transfer of nation-state competences to this organization in all three areas of state power ( executive , legislative and judicial ) would be necessary. At the moment, however, hardly any state is ready to do this.

Ultimately, going it alone at national level thwart most attempts to achieve more binding force within the UN. This applies in particular to the five permanent Security Council members (most recently the USA), who often lack the will to submit to the Security Council's monopoly on the use of force under international law and instead try to enforce their military interests alone or with coalitions under their leadership. At the same time, it has been shown so far that the United Nations is hardly - or not at all - in a position to pursue its own policies that run contrary to the interests of the USA, as it is closely interwoven with it financially, personally and historically.

Although the UN only managed to define uniform cultural and political ideas about humanity on a very rudimentary level, some UN missions were quite successful, and it is also doubtful whether interstate conflict management would be better without UN mediation.

Sexual exploitation and abuse by UN staff

Human rights organizations see the stationing of United Nations peacekeeping forces as the cause of the sharp increase in trafficking in women and forced prostitution in the respective regions. For example, during the UN mission in Cambodia in 1992/93, the number of prostitutes rose from 6,000 to 25,000. The Kosovo was after the posting of international peacekeeping forces ( KFOR ) and establishment of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to the main destination for women and girls.

In 2002, an investigation report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that UNHCR workers had sexually abused young women and children in refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. For example, sex was demanded in return for food and money. Blue helmet soldiers have repeatedly raped, abused and sexually exploited women and children during their deployment in Haiti. According to a study published in 2008 by the children's rights organization Save the Children , members of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) were involved in rape, human trafficking , forced and child prostitution, verbal sexual violence and child pornography in Haiti, Ivory Coast and South Sudan . There are also reports of rape and sexual exploitation by UN personnel in the MINUSCA peace mission , which began in the Central African Republic in 2014 . Many of the victims are minors. The allegations concerned units from Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Georgia, Morocco, France, Chad and the Congo. In 2016, MONUSCO launched an investigation into the Democratic Republic of the Congo against blue helmet soldiers from Tanzania on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors.

Very few of the alleged perpetrators have to fear legal proceedings, because they are protected worldwide by immunity under the UN flag. Civilian employees can only be charged on site if the immunity is lifted by the United Nations, which only happens in exceptional cases. In the case of blue helmets, the respective home countries are responsible for criminal prosecution, but they are rarely interested in investigating and prosecuting the accused.

The World Association of Societies for the United Nations (WFUNA) reports 850 documented accusations against UN personnel and one unreported number that is significantly higher. The political scientist Gisela Hirschmann points out that the official statistics of the UN, which show a steady decline in abuse cases during peacekeeping operations, are embellished, and speaks of a “culture of looking the other way and suppressing”. Human rights activists complain that impunity and silence are the norm.

More criticism

  • Many commentators criticize the development aid concept drawn up in 1960 . Third world countries received money to develop, but the establishment of a successful trading system largely failed to materialize. In many cases, their increasing dependence on transfer payments is seen as a consequence of unequal trade relationships.
  • UN accused that they have switched over time only in those conflicts that found the most attention in the media, and insufficiently in conflicts in Sudan , Armenia , Bangladesh , Myanmar , Colombia , Rwanda and Peru were involved .
  • Abuse of donations by rebels or military regimes. A UN monitoring group, for example, found that half of the food aid from the World Food Program in the Somali Civil War went to the warlords, their business partners and local employees.
  • The industrialized countries are often accused of a relative lack of interest in general economic and social activities of the UN; if problems actually arise that are taken seriously, they would often be dealt with by tacit agreement outside or casually within the United Nations.
  • In 1946 the United States ' plan to bring nuclear weapons under the control of the UN failed . On the one hand, the US did not want to do without atomic bombs as long as it could not be sure that no other country could build them, on the other hand, the Soviet Union did not want to stop its research as long as Washington had the nuclear weapons monopoly . During the Cold War , every world power tried to attract other states to their side, and they were lured with generous economic aid and equipment. As a result, many wars broke out which these states fought on behalf of the superpowers ( proxy wars ).
  • Another controversial point of criticism is that the UN would deal disproportionately with the condemnation of Israel . With the votes of the Arab states, so many resolutions against Israel were passed in general assemblies and so many special sessions on the subject of the Middle East conflict were called as on no other topic. These draft resolutions are usually not adopted in the Security Council, as the US usually vetoed Israel. They are therefore not binding under international law. In contrast, human rights violations in the Arab world are rarely discussed. Item 7 of the agenda of the Council meetings provides for a compulsory study of the “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories”, whereby it never deals with human rights violations by Hamas in the Gaza Strip or Fatah in the West Bank , but exclusively with Israel and its alleged crimes in the "occupied territories". Israel is thus the only country that the UN Human Rights Council regularly treats separately. A draft resolution, which for the first time in the history of the UN was supposed to explicitly condemn anti-Semitism , was also rejected with the votes of the Arab states. This reached a high point at a UN-organized congress in Durban in 1975, where Zionism was defined as a form of racism . However, this resolution was repealed on December 16, 1991 - against the opposition of the Arab states.
  • UN member states such as B. the Federal Republic of Germany or Japan are still registered in the UN enemy states clause . Articles 53 and 107 of the UN Charter allow any signatory state to take measures against an enemy state, provided that these measures are a consequence of the Second World War. However, it is undisputed that these provisions no longer have any substantive legal effect.
  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2013 that people who are on a “black list” due to UN sanctions or counter-terrorism measures have no way of defending themselves against the sanctions from an independent international body. In order to alleviate this constitutionally problematic situation, the Court ruled that the person concerned has the right to have the legality of the sanctions reviewed by a national court. A state that implements UN sanctions without any review disregards the right to a fair trial and thus violates the European Convention on Human Rights .


From the section "criticism" mentioned reasons, many organizations and states are seeking (including especially the disadvantaged Third World -countries, but also industrialized countries such as Germany) a reform of the United Nations to which the partial restructuring of the Security Council, but also partly Provides for the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations .

See also

Portal: United Nations  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of the United Nations


Web links

Commons : United Nations  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: United Nations  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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