This article is about some of the workings of the United Nations activities. Go to their own website to get more info and there are links to many UN afilliates at the bottom of this article.

Expenditures of the UN system on operational activities for development - mostly for economic and social programmes to help the world's poorest countries - amount to some $4 billion a year (excluding the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund). This is equal to 0.2 per cent of world military expenditures ...........................These figures are for 2001*

This page is all about how the United Nations does work, despite the above appalling statistic.............. bear in mind this is what they say about themselves, find out more, talk to your local administrators, empower the UDHR by asking that it be observed in your area.

The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership now totals 189 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty which sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes: to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights, and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

UN Members are sovereign countries. The United Nations is not a world government, and it does not make laws. It does, however, provide the means to help resolve international conflict and formulate policies on matters affecting all of us. At the UN, all the Member States - large and small, rich and poor, with differing political views and social systems - have a voice and vote in this process. As a citizen of a member country you have a right, and some would say a duty to engage with the UN, to protect it's integrity.

The United Nations has six main organs. Five of them - the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council and the Secretariat - are based at UN Headquarters in New York. The sixth, the International Court of Justice, is located at The Hague, the Netherlands.

The General Assembly

All UN Member States are represented in the General Assembly - a kind of parliament of nations which meets to consider the world's most pressing problems. Each Member State has one vote. Decisions on "important matters," such as international peace and security, admitting new members, the UN budget and the budget for peacekeeping, are decided by two-thirds majority. Other matters are decided by simple majority. In recent years, a special effort has been made to reach decisions through consensus, rather than by taking a formal vote.

At its 2000/2001 session, the Assembly is considering more than 170 different topics, including globalization, nuclear disarmament, development, protection of the environment and consolidation of new democracies. The Assembly cannot force action by any State, but its recommendations are an important indication of world opinion and represent the moral authority of the community of nations.

The Assembly holds its annual regular session from September to December. When necessary, it may resume its session, or hold a special or emergency session on subjects of particular concern. When the Assembly is not meeting, its work is carried out by its six main committees, other subsidiary bodies and the UN Secretariat.

The Security Council

The UN Charter gives the Security Council primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The Council may convene at any time, day or night, whenever peace is threatened. Under the Charter, all Member States are obligated to carry out the Council's decisions.

There are 15 Council members. Five of these - China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States - are permanent members. The other 10 are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Member States have discussed making changes in Council membership to reflect today's political and economic realities.

Decisions of the Council require nine yes votes. Except in votes on procedural questions, a decision cannot be taken if there is a no vote, or veto, by a permanent member.

When the Council considers a threat to international peace, it first explores ways to settle the dispute peacefully. It may suggest principles for a settlement or undertake mediation. In the event of fighting, the Council tries to secure a ceasefire. It may send a peacekeeping mission to help the parties maintain the truce and to keep opposing forces apart.

The Council can take measures to enforce its decisions. It can impose economic sanctions or order an arms embargo. On rare occasions, the Council has authorized Member States to use "all necessary means," including collective military action, to see that its decisions are carried out.

The Council also makes recommendations to the General Assembly on the appointment of a new Secretary-General and on the admission of new Members to the UN.

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The Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council, under the overall authority of the General Assembly, coordinates the economic and social work of the United Nations and the UN family. As the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and for formulating policy recommendations, the Council plays a key role in fostering international cooperation for development. It also consults with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), thereby maintaining a vital link between the United Nations and civil society.

The Council has 54 members, elected by the General Assembly for three-year terms. It meets throughout the year and holds a major session in July, during which a special meeting of Ministers discusses major economic and social issues. Beginning in 1998, the Council expanded its discussions to include humanitarian themes.

The Council's subsidiary bodies meet regularly and report back to it. The Commission on Human Rights, for example, monitors the observance of human rights throughout the world. Other bodies focus on such issues as social development, the status of women, crime prevention, narcotic drugs and environmental protection. Five regional commissions promote economic development and strengthened economic relations in their respective regions.

The Trusteeship Council

The Trusteeship Council was established to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories administered by 7 Member States and ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self-government or independence. By 1994, all Trust Territories had attained self-government or independence, either as separate States or by joining neighbouring independent countries. The last to do so was the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Palau), administered by the United States, which became the 185th Member State.

Its work completed, the Trusteeship Council now consists only of the five permanent members of the Security Council. It has amended its rules of procedure to allow it to meet as and when occasion requires.

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is the main judicial organ of the UN. Consisting of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council, the Court decides disputes between countries. Participation by States in a proceeding is voluntary, but if a State agrees to participate, it is obligated to comply with the Court's decision. The Court also provides advisory opinions to the General Assembly and the Security Council upon request.

The Secretariat

The Secretariat carries out the substantive and administrative work of the United Nations as directed by the General Assembly, the Security Council and the other organs. At its head is the Secretary-General, who provides overall administrative guidance.

The Secretariat consists of departments and offices with a total staff of about 8,900 under the regular budget, drawn from some 160 countries. Duty stations include UN Headquarters in New York as well as UN offices in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi

The UN system

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank group and twelve other independent organizations known as "specialized agencies" are linked to the UN through cooperative agreements. These agencies, among them the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization, are autonomous bodies created by intergovernmental agreement. They have wide-ranging international responsibilities in the economic, social, cultural, educational, health and related fields. Some of them, like the International Labour Organization and the Universal Postal Union, are older than the UN itself.

In addition, a number of UN offices, programmes and funds -- such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) - work to improve the economic and social condition of people around the world. These bodies report to the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council.

All these organizations have their own governing bodies, budgets and secretariats. Together with the United Nations, they are known as the UN family, or the UN system. They provide an increasingly coordinated yet diverse programme of action

Preserving world peace is a central purpose of the United Nations. Under the Charter, Member States agree to settle disputes by peaceful means and refrain from threatening or using force against other States.

Over the years, the UN has played a major role in helping defuse international crises and in resolving protracted conflicts. It has undertaken complex operations involving peacemaking, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. It has worked to prevent conflicts from breaking out. And in post-conflict situations, it has increasingly undertaken coordinated action to address the root causes of war and lay the foundation for durable peace.

UN efforts have produced dramatic results. The UN helped defuse the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and the Middle East crisis in 1973. In 1988, a UN-sponsored peace settlement ended the Iran-Iraq war, and in the following year UN-sponsored negotiations led to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. In the 1990s, the UN was instrumental in restoring sovereignty to Kuwait, and played a major role in ending civil wars in Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mozambique, restoring the democratically elected government in Haiti, and resolving or containing conflict in various other countries.


Halting the spread of arms and reducing and eventually eliminating all weapons of mass destruction are major goals of the United Nations. The UN has been an ongoing forum for disarmament negotiations, making recommendations and initiating studies. It supports multilateral negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament and in other international bodies. These negotiations have produced such agreements as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968), the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (1996) and the treaties establishing nuclear-free zones.

Other treaties prohibit the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons (1992) and bacteriological weapons (1972), ban nuclear weapons from the seabed and ocean floor (1971) and outer space (1967); and ban or restrict other types of weapons. In 1997, more than 100 nations signed the Ottawa Convention outlawing landmines. The UN encourages all nations to adhere to this and other treaties banning destructive weapons of war. The UN is also supporting efforts to control small arms and light weapons. As decided by the General Assembly, an international conference in 2001 will focus on the illicit trade in small arms.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, through a system of safeguards agreements, ensures that nuclear materials and equipment intended for peaceful uses are not diverted to military purposes. And in The Hague, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons collects information on chemical facilities worldwide and conducts routine inspections to ensure adherence to the chemical weapons convention.


UN peacemaking brings hostile parties to agreement through diplomatic means. The Security Council, in efforts to maintain international peace and security, may recommend ways to avoid conflict or restore or secure peace - through negotiation, for example, or recourse to the International Court of Justice.

The Secretary-General plays an important role in peacemaking. The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which appears to threaten international peace and security; may use "good offices" to carry out mediation; or exercise "quiet diplomacy" behind the scenes, either personally or through special envoys. The Secretary-General also undertakes "preventive diplomacy" aimed at resolving disputes before they escalate. The Secretary-General may also send a fact-finding mission, support regional peacemaking efforts or set up a local UN political office to help build trust between the parties in conflict.

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The UN is increasingly undertaking activities which focus on the underlying causes of violence. Development assistance is a key element of peace-building. In cooperation with UN agencies, and with the participation of donor countries, host governments and NGOs, the United Nations works to support good governance, civil law and order, elections and human rights in countries struggling to deal with the aftermath of conflict. At the same time, it helps these countries rebuild administrative, health, educational and other services disrupted by conflict.

Some of these activities, such as the UN's supervision of the 1989 elections in Namibia, mine-clearance programmes in Mozambique and police training in Haiti, take place within the framework of a UN peacekeeping operation and may continue when the operation withdraws. Others are requested by governments, as in Liberia where the UN has opened a peace-building support office, in Cambodia where the UN maintains a human rights office, or in Guatemala where the UN is helping to implement peace agreements which affect virtually all aspects of national life.


The Security Council sets up UN peacekeeping operations and defines their scope and mandate in efforts to maintain peace and international security. Most operations involve military duties, such as observing a ceasefire or establishing a buffer zone while negotiators seek a long-term solution. Others may require civilian police or incorporate civilian personnel who help organize elections or monitor human rights. Some operations, like the one in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, have been deployed as a means to help prevent the outbreak of hostilities. Operations have also been deployed to monitor peace agreements in cooperation with peacekeeping forces of regional organizations.

Peacekeeping operations may last for a few months or continue for many years. The UN's operation at the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, for example, was established in 1949, and UN peacekeepers have been in Cyprus since 1964. In contrast, the UN was able to complete its 1994 mission in the Aouzou Strip between Libya and Chad in a little over a month.

Since the UN deployed its first peacekeepers in 1948, some 118 countries have voluntarily provided more than 750,000 military and civilian police personnel. They have served, along with thousands of civilians, in 54 peacekeeping operations. Currently, some 35,400 military and civilian police personnel are deployed in 15 operations.

UN action for peace

... in Africa

UN peace efforts have taken many forms over the years, including the long campaign against apartheid in South Africa, active support for Namibian independence, some 20 peacekeeping operations and a number of electoral support missions. The UN has helped repatriate refugees to Mozambique, provided humanitarian assistance in Somalia and Sudan and undertaken diplomatic efforts to restore peace in the Great Lakes region. It has helped prevent new unrest in the Central African Republic, and it is helping to prepare for a referendum on the future of Western Sahara. At the request of the Security Council, the Secretary-General recently provided a comprehensive analysis of conflicts in Africa along with recommendations on how to promote durable peace. Most recently, the Security Council established new peacekeeping operations, in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia and Eritrea.

... in Asia

The UN family continues working to strengthen Cambodian civil society, human rights and democracy following the massive 1992-1993 UN peacekeeping mission in that country.

In Afghanistan, the UN Special Mission has worked since 1993 to facilitate national reconciliation and reconstruction needed as a result of the country's protracted civil war. In spite of intense diplomatic efforts by the Secretary-General and his special envoys, fighting has continued at great humanitarian cost, severely hindering attempts by the UN system to provide assistance to the Afghan people.

In East Timor, UN-brokered talks between Indonesia and Portugal culminated in the May 1999 agreement which paved the way for a popular consultation on the status of the territory. Under the agreement, a UN mission supervised voter registration and the August ballot, at which 78 per cent of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia over autonomy within that country. When the results were announced, militias opposing independence unleashed a campaign of violence, forcing some 200,000 East Timorese to flee their homes. The Security Council in September 1999 authorized the dispatch of an international security force, which helped to restore order. The UN Transitional Administration has replaced the international force and is overseeing East Timor's transition towards independence.

... in Europe

The UN worked strenuously towards resolving the conflict in the former Yugoslavia while providing relief assistance to some 4 million people. In 1991, the UN imposed an arms embargo, while the Secretary-General and his envoy conducted diplomatic efforts to end the fighting. From 1992 to 1995, UN peacekeepers sought to bring peace and security to Croatia, helped protect civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina and helped ensure that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was not drawn into the war.

Following the 1995 Dayton-Paris peace agreements, four UN missions helped secure the peace. The largest of them, the UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia, oversaw the reintegration of this territory into Croatia.

In Kosovo (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), the UN established in 1999 an interim international administration following the end of NATO air bombings and the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces. The Security Council vested in the UN administration unprecedented authority over the territory and people of Kosovo, including all legislative, executive and judiciary powers. Under the umbrella of the UN, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations are working with the people of Kosovo to create a functioning, democratic society with substantial autonomy.

... in the Americas

UN peacemaking and peacekeeping have been instrumental in resolving protracted conflicts in Central America. In 1989, in Nicaragua, the peace effort led to the voluntary demobilization of the resistance movement, whose members turned in their weapons to the UN. In 1990, a UN mission observed Nicaragua's elections - the first UN-observed elections in an independent country.

In El Salvador, peace talks mediated by the Secretary-General ended 12 years of fighting, and a UN peacekeeping mission verified implementation of all agreements. In Guatemala, UN-assisted negotiations ended a 35-year civil war. Today, the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala works to see that the comprehensive peace agreements are fully implemented.

In Haiti, following international action to restore the democratically elected government, the UN has continued its work to consolidate democratic institutions.

... in the Middle East

UN concern over the Arab-Israeli conflict spans five decades and five full-fledged wars. The UN has defined principles for a just and lasting peace, including in two benchmark Security Council resolutions - 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) - which remain the basis for an overall settlement.

The UN has supported other initiatives aimed at solving underlying political problems and has despatched various peacekeeping operations to the region. The UN's first military observer group was set up in 1948 and maintains its presence in the area to this day. The UN's first peacekeeping force was also set up there, during the Suez crisis of 1956. Two peacekeeping forces are currently in the region. One, established in 1974, maintains an area of separation on the Golan Heights between Israeli and Syrian troops. The other, established in 1978, contributes to stability in southern Lebanon; in 2000, it verified the withdrawl of Israeli forces from the area

Elsewhere in the region, a UN observer mission monitors the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait following restoration of Kuwait's sovereignty in 1991.

Through UN efforts, governments have concluded hundreds of multilateral agreements that make the world a safer, healthier place with greater opportunity and justice for all of us. This comprehensive body of international law and human rights legislation is one of the UN's great achievements.

Human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1948, sets out basic rights and freedoms to which all women and men are entitled - among them the right to life, liberty and nationality, to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to work, to be educated, to take part in government.

These rights are legally binding by virtue of two International Covenants, to which most States are parties. One Covenant deals with economic, social and cultural rights and the other with civil and political rights. Together with the Declaration, they constitute the International Bill of Human Rights.

The Declaration laid the groundwork for more than 80 conventions and declarations on human rights, including conventions to eliminate racial discrimination and discrimination against women; conventions on the rights of the child, the status of refugees and the prevention of genocide; and declarations on self-determination, enforced disappearances and the right to development.

With the standards-setting work nearly complete, the UN is shifting the emphasis of its human rights work to the implementation of human rights laws. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, who coordinates all UN human rights activities, works with governments to improve their observance of human rights, seeks to prevent violations and investigates abuses. The UN Commission on Human Rights, an intergovernmental body, holds public meetings to review the human rights performance of States. It also appoints independent experts - "special rapporteurs" - to report on specific human rights abuses or to examine human rights in specific countries. At the UN Office in Geneva, a 24-hour fax hotline to report violations of human rights is available to the public (at 41 22 917 0092).

UN human rights bodies are involved in early-warning and conflict prevention as well as in efforts to address root causes of conflict. A number of UN peacekeeping operations have a human rights component. In all, UN human rights field activities are currently being carried out in 27 countries or territories.

Promoting respect for human rights is increasingly central to UN development assistance. In particular, the right to development is seen as part of a dynamic process which integrates all civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights and by which the well-being of all individuals in a society is improved. Key to the enjoyment of the right to development is the eradication of poverty, a major UN goal.

International law

The UN Charter specifically calls on the United Nations to undertake the progressive codification and development of international law. The conventions, treaties and standards resulting from this work have provided a framework for promoting international peace and security and economic and social development. States which ratify these conventions are legally bound by them.

The International Law Commission prepares drafts on topics of international law which can then be incorporated into conventions and opened for ratification by States. Some of these conventions form the basis for law governing relations among States, such as the convention on diplomatic relations or the convention regulating the use of international watercourses. The Convention on the Law of the Sea seeks to ensure equitable access by all countries to the riches of the oceans, protect them from pollution and facilitate freedom of navigation and research. The Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs is the key international treaty against drug trafficking.

The UN Commission on International Trade Law develops rules and guidelines designed to harmonize and facilitate laws regulating international trade. The UN has also pioneered the development of international environmental law. Agreements such as the convention to combat desertification, the convention on the ozone layer and the convention on the transborder movement of hazardous wastes are administered by the UN Environment Programme.

To combat terrorism, the UN and its specialized agencies have developed international agreements that constitute the basic legal instruments against terrorism.

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Ending impunity

Massive violations of humanitarian law during the fighting in the former Yugoslavia led the Security Council in 1993 to establish an international tribunal to try persons accused of war crimes in that conflict. In 1994, the Council set up a second tribunal to hear cases involving accusations of genocide in Rwanda. The tribunals have brought several defendants to trial. The Rwanda Tribunal in 1998 handed down the first-ever verdict by an international court on the crime of genocide, as well as the first-ever sentence for that crime. The Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is also investigating crimes committed during the conflict in Kosovo.

A key United Nations goal - an international mechanism to impose accountability in the face of mass violations of human rights - was realized in 1998 when governments agreed to establish an International Criminal Court. The Court will provide a comprehensive means for punishing perpetrators of genocide and other crimes against humanity. In voting to set up the Court, the international community made it clear that impunity - the assumption that crimes will go unpunished - was no longer possible for those who commit atrocities.

The UN has also contributed to the elaboration of conventions relating to international humanitarian law.

Other action for justice and equal rights

In 1945, 750 million people lived in non-self-governing territories. Today, that number has been reduced to 1.3 million, in large measure due to the crucial role played by the UN in encouraging the aspirations of dependent peoples and helping speed their independence. Since 1960, when the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, some 60 former colonial Territories have attained independence and joined the UN as sovereign Members.

A UN-led campaign lasting more than 30 years helped end the system of racial segregation in South Africa known as apartheid. In 1994, a UN observer mission observed that country's first all-race elections.

Since its foundation, the UN has been working to affirm the fundamental equality of all people, and to counter racism in all its forms. As decided by the General Assembly, a World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance will be held in South Africa in 2001.

Humanitarian disasters can occur anywhere and at any time. No matter what the cause - a flood, a drought, an earthquake or a conflict - a humanitarian disaster means lost lives, displaced populations, communities incapable of sustaining themselves and great suffering.

Emergency assistance

In the face of disaster, the UN family of organizations supplies food, shelter, medicines and logistical support to the victims, most of them children, women and the elderly.

To pay for this assistance and deliver it to those in need, the United Nations has raised billions of dollars from international donors. During 1999, combined UN appeals raised more than $1.4 billion for emergency humanitarian assistance to some 26 million people. In 1997-1998, the UN assisted more than 51 Member States in their efforts to cope with more than 77 natural disasters and environmental emergencies.

Providing humanitarian assistance requires that the United Nations overcome major logistical and security constraints in the field. Reaching affected areas can itself be a major obstacle. In recent years, many crises have been aggravated by an erosion of respect for human rights. Humanitarian workers have been denied access to people in need, and warring parties have deliberately targeted civilians and aid workers. Since 1992, more than 180 UN civilian staff members have been killed and 178 taken hostage while serving in humanitarian operations worldwide. In efforts to prevent human rights violations in the midst of crisis, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has played an increasingly active role in the UN response to emergencies.

The UN coordinates its response to humanitarian crises through a committee of all the key humanitarian bodies, chaired by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator. Members include the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Other UN agencies are also represented, as are the major non-governmental and intergovernmental humanitarian organizations, such as the Red Cross.

Humanitarian response

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator is responsible for developing policy for humanitarian action and for promoting humanitarian issues, helping raise awareness, for example, of the consequences of the proliferation of small arms or the humanitarian effects of sanctions.

People who have fled war, persecution or human rights abuse - refugees and displaced persons - are assisted by UNHCR. In 1999, there were some 22 million people of concern to UNHCR. The agency's largest operations were in western Asia (some 2.6 million Afghan refugees), the former Yugoslavia (some 1 million people in need) and the Great Lakes region of Africa, with some half million refugees.

Emergency food assistance is provided by WFP, which regularly supplies up to two thirds of world requirements. In 1999, WFP helped feed more than 86 million people in 82 countries around the world.

War and civil strife have separated an estimated 1 million children from their parents over the past 10 years, made 12 million more homeless and left 10 million severely traumatized. UNICEF seeks to meet the needs of these children by supplying food, safe water, medicine and shelter. UNICEF has also pioneered the concept of "children as zones of peace" and created "days of tranquillity" and "corridors of peace" to help protect children in war and provide them with essential services.

Disaster prevention and preparedness are also part of UN humanitarian action. In 1998, for example, UNDP established national capacity-building programmes for disaster management in 11 countries. When disasters occur, UNDP coordinates relief work at the local level.

UNDP also helps ensure that emergency relief contributes to recovery and longer-term development. In countries undergoing extended emergencies or recovering from conflict, humanitarian assistance is increasingly seen as part of an overall peace-building effort along with developmental, political and financial assistance.

Palestine refugees

Relief work for Palestine refugees has been carried out since 1949 by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Today, the Agency provides essential health, education, relief and social services to more than 3.6 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East. A UN Coordinator oversees all development assistance provided by the UN system to the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Office of the Iraq Programme

In 1996, pending fulfilment by Iraq of a number of Security Council resolutions, Iraq and the United Nations agreed on an "oil-for-food programme" to alleviate the humanitarian impact of comprehensive sanctions imposed against the country in 1990. The Office of the Iraq Programme was established in 1997 to consolidate management of the programme which includes the sale of Iraq oil, processing of contracts between Iraq and its suppliers for the purchase of humanitarian supplies and observation of Iraq's distribution of those supplies.

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One of the UN's central mandates is the promotion of higher standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic and social progress and development. As much as 70 per cent of the work of the UN system is devoted to accomplishing this mandate. Guiding the work is the belief that eradicating poverty and improving the well-being of people everywhere are necessary steps in creating conditions for lasting world peace.

The UN has unique strengths in promoting development. Its presence is global, and its comprehensive mandate spans social, economic and emergency needs. The UN does not represent any particular national or commercial interest. When major policy decisions are taken, all countries, rich and poor, have a voice.

Setting the agenda

The UN has played a crucial role in building an international consensus on action for development. Beginning in 1960, the General Assembly has helped set priorities and goals through a series of 10-year International Development Strategies. While focusing on issues of particular concern, the Decades have consistently stressed the need for progress on all aspects of social and economic development. The Fourth Development Decade (1991-2000) prioritizes four areas: poverty and hunger, human resources and institutional development, population, and the environment.

A round of world conferences has identified practical ways of solving global problems in a range of areas such as education (1990), environment and development (1992), human rights (1993), population and development (1994) natural disaster reduction (1994), social development (1995), the advancement of women (1995), human settlements (1996) and food security (1996). The UN works closely with Member States to implement decisions taken at these conferences.

The UN has been responsible for formulating a number of new key developmental objectives, such as sustainable development, the advancement of women, human rights, environmental protection and good governance, and for developing programmes to make them a reality.

Assistance for development

The UN system works in a variety of ways to promote economic and social goals.

The mandates of the specialized agencies cover virtually all areas of economic and social endeavour. The agencies provide technical assistance and other forms of practical help to countries around the world. Working in cooperation with the UN, they help formulate policies, set standards and guidelines, foster support and mobilize funds.

The World Bank, for example, provides more than $25 billion in development assistance each year. Developing countries use these loans to strengthen their economies and expand their markets. Although loans are available only to governments, the Bank also works with local communities, NGOs and, through the International Finance Corporation, private enterprise to encourage sustained growth.

Close coordination between the UN and the specialized agencies is assured through the Administrative Committee on Coordination, comprising the Secretary-General and the heads of the specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The UN programmes and funds work under the authority of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to carry out the UN's economic and social mandate. To enhance overall cooperation, the Secretary-General in 1997 set up the UN Development Group, comprising the UN operational programmes and funds.

In the forefront of efforts to bring about social and economic progress is the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The UN's largest provider of grants for sustainable human development, it works in 174 countries and territories to facilitate technical cooperation and eradicate poverty.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is the lead UN organization working for the long-term survival, protection and development of children. In some 150 countries, UNICEF's programmes focus on immunization, primary health care, nutrition and basic education.

Many other UN programmes work for development, in partnership with governments and NGOs. The World Food Programme (WFP) is the world's largest international food aid organization for both emergency relief and development. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is the largest international provider of population assistance. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) works to encourage sound environmental practices everywhere, and the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) assists people living in health-threatening housing conditions.

To increase the participation of developing countries in the global economy, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) promotes international trade. UNCTAD also works with the World Trade Organization (WTO), a separate entity, in assisting developing countries' exports through the International Trade Centre.

Pooling resources

The UN system is increasingly pooling its efforts to tackle complex problems that cut across organizational areas of expertise and defy the efforts of any country acting on its own.

The Joint Programme on AIDS, for example, pools together the expertise of six UN agencies and programmes to combat an epidemic that has struck more than 50 million people worldwide. The UN System-Wide Special Initiative on Africa, a 10-year $25 billion endeavour, brings virtually all points of the UN into a common programme that seeks to ensure basic education, health services and food security in that continent. The Global Environment Facility, a $2 billion fund administered by UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank, helps developing countries carry out environmental programmes.

UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank and WHO joined forces in 1998 to launch a new campaign to fight malaria, which kills more than 1 million people a year. Similar initiatives to expand immunization and develop new vaccines against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis have enlisted the support of business leaders, philanthropic foundations and governments, as well as UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank. Such partnerships involve international organizations, governments, academic institutions, foundations, NGOs and, increasingly, the private sector.

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The UN is working to make the world a better place as best it can at present

The UN formulated the historic Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), as well as more than 80 human rights treaties which help protect and promote specific rights. So there's an agreed standard to achieve. Lets do it.

UN peacekeeping is a vital instrument for peace. Currently some 37,400 UN military and civilian personnel, provided by 89 countries, are engaged in 15 operations around the world.

UN environmental conventions have helped reduce acid rain in Europe and North America, cut marine pollution worldwide, and phase out production of gases destroying the Earth's ozone layer.

The UN and its agencies, including the World Bank and the UN Development Programme, are the premier vehicle for furthering development in poorer countries, providing assistance worth more than $30 billion a year.

More international law has been developed through the UN in the past five decades than in all previous history.

A joint UNICEF-World Health Organization (WHO) programme has immunized 80 per cent of the world's children against six killer diseases, saving the lives of more than 2 million children a year!

The World Food Programme provides each year about one third of the world's food aid.Which is still bugger all to what is actuallt needed.

Air traffic the world over is safer, thanks to rules and regulations agreed on through the International Civil Aviation Organization.

UN appeals raise more than $1 billion a year for emergency assistance to victims of war and natural disaster. What about $40 billion more, say, instead of more guns, tanks and aeroplanes and broken bodies?

Smallpox was eradicated from the world through a global campaign coordinated by WHO. Another WHO campaign has eliminated polio from the Americas, and aims at eradicating it globally by 2005. What about a genuine program to deal with Aids in Africa?

UN agencies help to aid and protect more than 25 million refugees and displaced persons throughout the world. Isn't it time to work to stop it happening at all?

*Expenditures of the UN system on operational activities for development - mostly for economic and social programmes to help the world's poorest countries - amount to some $4 billion a year (excluding the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund). This is equal to 0.2 per cent of world military expenditures.

Bugger all, really.............. think of what it could do with $40 Billion.............or the ......$350 Billion the Iraqi 'intervention' is costing, and rising. The mind boggles............ and the only way to change it is if YOU get out and do something ........ understanding the dynamics of what is happening helps, of course.

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These organizations are joined to the UN through special agreements : assess for yourself their effectiveness, their potential.

ILO (International Labour Organization)
Formulates policies and programmes to improve working conditions and employment opportunities, and sets labour standards used by countries around the world?.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN)
Works to improve agricultural productivity and food security, and to better the living standards of rural population?.

UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)
Promotes education for all, cultural development, protection of the world's natural and cultural heritage, international cooperation in science, press freedom and communication?

WHO (World Health Organization)
Coordinates programmes aimed at solving health problems and the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health. It works in areas such as immunization, health education and the provision of essential drugs?

World Bank group
Provides loans and technical assistance to developing countries to reduce poverty and advance sustainable economic growth?

IMF (International Monetary Fund)
Facilitates international monetary cooperation and financial stability and provides a permanent forum for consultation, advice and assistance on financial issues?

ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization)
Sets international standards for the safety, security and efficiency of air transport and serves as the coordinator for international cooperation in all areas of civil aviation?

UPU (Universal Postal Union)
Establishes international regulations for postal services, provides technical assistance and promotes cooperation in postal matters?

ITU (International Telecommunication Union)
Fosters international cooperation to improve telecommunications of all kinds, coordinates usage of radio and TV frequencies, promotes safety measures and conducts research?

WMO (World Meteorological Organization)
Promotes scientific research on the Earth's atmosphere and on climate change and facilitates the global exchange of meteorological data?

IMO (International Maritime Organization)
Works to improve international shipping procedures, raise standards in marine safety and reduce marine pollution by ships?.

WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
Promotes international protection of intellectual property and fosters cooperation on copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs and patent?.

IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development)
Mobilizes financial resources to raise food production and nutrition levels among the poor in developing countries?

UNIDO (UN Industrial Development Organization)
Promotes the industrial advancement of developing countries through technical assistance, advisory services and training?

IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)
An autonomous intergovernmental organization under the aegis of the UN, works for the safe and peaceful uses of atomic energ?.