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United Nation Organisation

United Nations:

  • The UN was formed following the devastation caused by World War II, aiming to prevent future global-scale conflicts.

  • It was a substitute to the ineffective League of Nations.

  • The representatives of 50 governments met in San Francisco on 25 April 1945, to draft the UN Charter.

  • The Charter was adopted on 25 June 1945 and came into force on 24 October 1945.

 

United Nations Functions:

  • In accordance with the Charter, the United Nations Organization’s objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law.

  • At its inception, the UN had 51 member states; this number grew to 193 in 2011, representing the vast majority of the world’s sovereign states.

 

United Nations Structure:

The UN is structured across five principal organs:

1. General Assembly

2. United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

3. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

4. International Court of Justice

5. UN Secretariat.

A sixth principal organ, the Trusteeship Council, suspended operations on 1st November 1994, upon the independence of Palau, the last remaining UN trustee territory.

 

A brief table about their primary function is given in the table below:

Principal Organs of the United Nations

Organisation Primary Roles Primary Functions of the Organisation

UN General Assembly

Deliberative assembly of all the UN member states

  • May resolve non-compulsory recommendations to states or suggestions to the Security Council (UNSC);

  • Decides on the admission of new members, following a proposal by the UNSC;

  • Adopts the budget;

  • Elects the non-permanent members of the UNSC; all members of ECOSOC; the UN Secretary-General (following his/her proposal by the UNSC); and the fifteen judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Each country has one vote.

UN Secretariat

Administrative organ of the UN

  • Supports the other UN bodies administratively (for example, in the organization of conferences, the writing of reports and studies and the preparation of the budget);

  • Its chairperson – the UN Secretary-General – is elected by the General Assembly for a five-year mandate and is the UN’s foremost representative.

International Court of Justice

Universal court of international law

  • Decides disputes between states that recognize its jurisdiction;

  • Issues legal opinions;

  • Renders judgment by relative majority. Its fifteen judges are elected by the UN General Assembly for nine-year terms.

UN Security Council

Arbiterates international security issues

  • Responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security;

  • May adopt compulsory resolutions;

  • Has fifteen members: five permanent members with veto power and ten elected non-permanent members.

UN Economic and Social Council

For global economic and social affairs

  • Responsible for cooperation between states as regards economic and social matters;

  • Coordinates cooperation between the UN’s numerous specialized agencies;

  • Has 54 members, elected by the General Assembly to serve staggered three-year mandates.

UN Trusteeship Council

For administering trust territory (now disbanded)

Was originally designed to manage former colonial possessions.
Has been inactive since 1994, when Palau, the last trust territory, attained independence.

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India and UN

India was one of the founding member of the United Nations. Even before achieving independence, India had signed the Declaration by the United Nations at Washington, D.C. in 1944, and also participated in the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco from 25 April to 26 June 1945. As one of the original members of the United Nations, India supports the objectives and principles of the UN and has made significant contributions in implementing the goals of the United Nations Organisation.

Today, there are 26 UN agencies in India. Some of its agencies are elaborated upon below:

1. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

  • When FAO started its India operations in 1948, its priority was to transform India’s food and farm sectors through technical inputs and support for policy development.

  • Over the years, FAO has made major inroads in resolving issues such as access to food, nutrition, livelihoods, rural development and sustainable agriculture. With the Millennium Development Goals and now through Sustainable Development Goals, the FAO’s primary focus is on improving India’s sustainable agricultural practices.

2. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD):

  • IFAD and the Government of India have achieved significant results in investing in the commercialization of smallholding-agriculture and building small farmers’ capacity to increase incomes from market opportunities.

  • IFAD-supported projects have also helped women with access to financial services, such as by linking women’s self-help groups with commercial banks, etc.

3. United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS :

  • India has worked with the UN on the Joint (UNAIDS). The main aim of the programme is to help prevent new HIV infections, care for people living with HIV and mitigate the impact of the epidemic.

  •  So far, India has managed to continue the trend.

4. Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT):

  • This is a UNESCAP regional institute established in 1977. It works in the fields of technology transfer, information and innovation management.

5. International Monetary Fund: India has been working closely with the IMF.

6. UNESCO: 

  • India has been closely associated with the UNESCO. India has been continuously re-elected to the Executive Board of UNESCO since 1946.

  • A UNESCO Category I Institute dedicated to education for peace and sustainable development was established in 2012 and is called the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP). It is located in New Delhi.

  • There are also several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

7. World Health Organisation (WHO): 

  • WHO has been working closely with the Indian government to improve health outcomes. It has played a important role in eradicating several diseases such as cholera, controlling others like malaria, TB, etc.

  • Similarly, other organisations have also played a great role in India and helped in its progress towards development, health and economic improvement.

 

India’s Contribution towards the UN

  • India has been an active member of the UN since inception. In 1946, India became the first country to raise the issues of racism and apartheid in South Africa at the UN forum.

  • India played an important part in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

  • The first woman president of the UNGA was an Indian, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, in 1953.

  • India has contributed immensely to UN Peacekeeping Missions in various parts of the world.

    • India has sent her peacekeeping troops to Korea, Egypt, Congo, Haiti, Angola, Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Lebanon, South Sudan, etc.

    • India has been regularly one among the largest contributor of troops to the missions.

  • Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals of non-violence resonate deeply with the UN’s principles. In 2007, the UN declared Gandhi’s birth anniversary of October 2 as the ‘International Day of Non-violence’.

  • In 2014, the UNGA declared that 21st June would be observed as International Yoga Day.

What are the challenges to UN Reforms?
The UN has had its fair share of multifaceted challenges in the years of its existence. All the multifaceted factors that make the UN’s task of fostering world peace a difficult one. Some of the challenges that UN faces for global peace are as follows:

Geopolitical aggression: Conflicts are becoming common and gradually being magnified by rival global powers as they lend support to proxy groups for waging war overseas. Also, the UNSC, being dominated by a few powerful nations, is unable to take a neutral stand on issues, thus endangering world peace and security. Apart from issuing declarations, the UN has been unable to stop certain conflicts from taking place.

Legacies of military intervention and regime change: Structured as interventions to counter terror, save civilians or remove rogue regimes, in case after case, military intervention and regime change have failed to bring lasting stability. This has brought a view of distrust regarding any intervention done by the UN.

Forced Displacement: Geopolitical conflicts led desperate people flee war zones, the impact of forced displacement is hitting neighbouring countries hardest and they are trying to manage as best as they can. Meanwhile, Western governments are making superficial deals to support border and security forces in transit countries to close their borders and shut the problem. But such limited measures will only further antagonize the nations who are overburdened by the inflow of refugees.

Struggling Humanitarianism: Undoubtedly humanitarians have a tough job. The UN and others are making plenty efforts, with inadequate resources, to assist the victims of conflict. But they are not yet good enough at defending humanitarian values, working for prevention during a crisis or empowering those affected by it.

Western arbitration in countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. have not brought about lasting peace or stability in those regions. The UN has largely been like a mute spectator to the appalling events (humanitarian crises, woes of migrants who flee these war zones) that unfolded in these conflict-ridden zones of the world. Although, it should be acknowledged that many humanitarian efforts by the WHO, UNICEF, WFP, etc. have helped these zones, at least in their respective sphere.

UNSC Reforms: There have been great demands for reforms from within the Security Council. The G-4 Nations comprising India, Germany, Japan and Brazil are supporting each other’s bid for permanent seats in the Security Council. Not only in the UNSC, world leaders are also demanding a change in the structure in which the UN system functions, calling for more localisation, lesser bureaucracy and more decisive powers to those nations where most of the UN’s humanitarian help is concentrated, like the African countries.

Like all challenges, there are solutions to tackle them. Here are a few measures on how the United Nation works for conflict resolution and peaceful change in an era of mistrust.

In an era when a consensus, political or otherwise, is hard to arrive at, it is crucial to use the vision and mandate of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This consensus was developed through a unique consultative process.

‘Sustaining peace’ should also be a moment to reclaim the policy stand. A panic regarding policy is setting in – framing conflicts as ‘terror’ threats and as a ‘migration’ crisis is only instigating the problem. Prevention and peacemaking process are the answer to these shortcomings.

The UN must take an effort more than an inert and technocratic approach focused only on building capacity of state institutions, no matter how strong or weak the political pressure is. At the centre of the SDGs is a drive for transformative change with more peaceful and balanced, just and inclusive societies helping to shape stronger and more inclusive institutions.

Remaining true to the agenda that will transform people’s lives requires support of those who work for peaceful change – in and out of government, including women and youth.

These reforms are of utmost importance as the world faces more contemporary challenges in the form of climate change, environmental degradation, population growth, refugee and stateless peoples, etc.

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