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Organs of United Nations

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Organs of United Nations

The United Nations System consists of the United Nations, its subsidiary organs (including the separately-administered funds and programmes), the specialized agencies, and affiliated organizations. The executive heads of some of the United Nations System organizations and the World Trade Organization, which is not formally part of the United Nations System,[1][2][3] have seats on the United Nations System Chief Executives' Board for Coordination (CEB).[4] This body, chaired by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, meets twice a year to coordinate the work of the organizations of the United Nations System.

The United Nations System includes the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies (such as the separately-administered funds and programmes, research and training institutes, and other subsidiary entities), specialized agencies, and affiliated organizations.[5][6] Some of the organizations of the United Nations System predate the founding of the United Nations in 1945 and were inherited after the dissolution of the League of Nations.

United Nations

Main article: United Nations

The principal organ of the UN System was the United Nations itself, and consists of six principal organs established by the Charter of the United Nations.

General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA/GA) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation. Its powers are to oversee the budget of the United Nations, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council, receive reports from other parts of the United Nations and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions.[7] It has also established a wide number of subsidiary organs.[8]

Security Council

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The Security Council held its first session on 17 January 1946 at Church House, Westminster, London. Since its first meeting, the Council, which exists in continuous session, has travelled widely, holding meetings in many cities, such as Paris and Addis Ababa, as well as at its current permanent home at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

There are 15 members of the Security Council, consisting of five veto-wielding permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and 10 elected non-permanent members with two-year terms. This basic structure is set out in Chapter V of the UN Charter. Security Council members must always be present at UN headquarters in New York so that the Security Council can meet at any time. This requirement of the United Nations Charter was adopted to address a weakness of the League of Nations since that organization was often unable to respond quickly to a crisis.

Economic and Social Council

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) constitutes one of the six principal organs (one is not active, as of 2011) of the United Nations. It is responsible for coordinating the economic, social and related work of 14 UN specialized agencies, their functional commissions and five regional commissions. ECOSOC has 54 members; it holds a four-week session each year in July. Since 1998, it has also held a meeting each April with finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The ECOSOC serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to member states and the United Nations System.[9]


The United Nations Secretariat is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and it is headed by the United Nations Secretary-General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by United Nations bodies for their meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the UN Economic and Social Council, and other U.N. bodies. The United Nations Charter provides that the staff be chosen by application of the "highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity," with due regard for the importance of recruiting on a wide geographical basis.

The Charter provides that the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any authority other than the UN. Each UN member country is enjoined to respect the international character of the Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff. The Secretary-General alone is responsible for staff selection.

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. Its main functions are to settle legal disputes submitted to it by states and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international organs, agencies, and the UN General Assembly.

Trusteeship Council

The United Nations Trusteeship Council, one of the principal organs of the United Nations, was established to help ensure that trust territories were administered in the best interests of their inhabitants and of international peace and security. The trust territories—most of them former mandates of the League of Nations or territories taken from nations defeated at the end of World War II—have all now attained self-government or independence, either as separate nations or by joining neighbouring independent countries. The last was Palau, formerly part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which became a member state of the United Nations in December 1994.

Funds and programmes, research and training institutes, and other bodies

The separately-administered funds and programmes, research and training institutes, and other subsidiary bodies are autonomous subsidiary organs of the United Nations.[6]

Funds and programmes

Throughout its history the United Nations General Assembly has established a number of programmes and funds to address particular humanitarian and development concerns. These bodies usually report to the General Assembly through an executive board. Only one UN programme has ever closed in the history of the organisation, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), which ceased to exist in 1959 and was subsequently replaced by the UNHCR.

Each of the funds and programmes is headed by an Executive Director at the Under-Secretary-General level and is governed by an Executive Board. One former fund, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), was merged with other elements of the United Nations System into a new organization, UN Women, in January 2011.

Programmes and funds of the United Nations
No. Acronyms Agency Headquarters Head Established Comment
1 UNDP United Nations Development Programme United States New York, USA New Zealand Helen Clark 1965
2 UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund United States New York, USA United States Anthony Lake 1946
3 UNCDF United Nations Capital Development Fund United States New York, USA Luxembourg Marc Bichler 1966 Affiliated with the UNDP
4 WFP World Food Programme Italy Rome, Italy United States Ertharin Cousin 1963
5 UNEP United Nations Environment Programme Kenya Nairobi, Kenya Germany Achim Steiner 1972
6 UNIFEM United Nations Development Fund for Women United States New York, USA Spain Inés Alberdi 1976 Merged with UN Women in 2011
7 UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Switzerland Geneva, Switzerland Portugal António Guterres 1951
8 UNAIDS Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS Switzerland Geneva, Switzerland Mali Michel Sidibé 1951 Joint programme
9 UNFPA United Nations Population Fund United States New York, USA Nigeria Babatunde Osotimehin 1969
10 UN-HABITAT United Nations Human Settlements Programme Kenya Nairobi, Kenya Spain Joan Clos 1978
11 UNV United Nations Volunteers Germany Bonn, Germany Netherlands Richard Dictus 1978 Administered by UNDP
12 UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Palestinian territories Gaza, Palestine and Jordan Amman, Jordan Italy Filippo Grandi 1949
13 UN WOMEN United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women United States New York, USA Chile Michelle Bachelet 2010 Created by the merger of the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

Research and training institutes

The various research and training institutes were established by the General Assembly to perform independent research and training. One former institute, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), was merged with other elements of the United Nations System into a new organization, UN Women, in January 2011.

Secretariats of Conventions

Other entities

Specialized agencies

The specialized agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations and each other through the coordinating machinery of the Economic and Social Council. Each was integrated into the UN System by way of an agreement with the UN under UN Charter article 57.[4]

Related organizations

Some organizations have a relationship with the UN defined by an arrangement different from the agreements between the specialized agencies and the UN, which are establish under Articles 57 and 63 of the United Nations Charter.[10][11][12][13][14][15]

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission (CTBTO PrepCom)

The CTBTO PrepCom reports directly to the UN General Assembly.[11]

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The relationship between the IAEA and the UN was established by a resolution of the UN General Assembly. Unlike the specialized agencies which report to ECOSOC, the IAEA reports directly to the General Assembly as well as the Security Council and ECOSOC.[4] Like the other specialized agency's heads, their executives are part of the United Nations System Chief Executives' Board for Coordination (CEB).[4]

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

The OPCW is not an agency of the United Nations, but cooperates both on policy and practical issues. On 7 September 2000 the OPCW and the United Nations signed a cooperation agreement outlining how they were to coordinate their activities.[16] Under this agreement, the OPCW reports to the UN General Assembly.[11]

World Trade Organization (WTO)

The WTO does not have a formal agreement with the UN. Instead, their relationship is governed by an exchanges of letters. Unlike the specialized agencies and the IAEA, the WTO has no reporting obligations towards any of the principal organs of the UN, but provides ad-hoc contribution to the work of the General Assembly and ECOSOC.[12] The WTO has a seat on the CEB.[4]

Chief Executives Board and Senior Management Group

The United Nations Chief Executives' Board for Coordination (CEB) brings together on a regular basis the executive heads of the organizations of the United Nations System, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General of the UN. The CEB aims to further co-ordination and co-operation on a whole range of substantive and management issues facing UN System organizations. In addition to its regular reviews of contemporary political issues and major concerns facing the UN System, the CEB approves policy statements on behalf of the UN System as a whole. Three committees report to the CEB, namely the High-level Committee on Programme (HCLP), the High-level Committee on Management (HCLM) and the UN Development Group (UNDG). Each of those bodies has, in turn, developed a subsidiary machinery of regular and ad hoc bodies on the substantive and managerial aspects of inter-agency co-ordination. The committee structure is supported by a CEB secretariat located in New York and Geneva.[17]

There is also a Senior Management Group, composed of some of the senior officials in the Secretariat and the funds and programmes at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General rank, which serves as the cabinet of the Secretary-General.[18]

United Nations common system

The United Nations, its subsidiary bodies, thirteen of the specialized agencies (ILO, FAO, UNESCO, WHO, ICAO, UPU, ITU, WMO, IMO, WIPO, IFAD, UNDIO, and UNWTO), and one related body (IAEA) are part of the United Nations common system of salaries, allowances, and benefits administered by the International Civil Service Commission. Most, but not all, of the members of the United Nations System are part of the common system; the Bretton Woods institutions (i.e. the World Bank Group and the IMF) are notable exceptions. The WTO utilizes the OECD common system. The UN common system was established to prevent competition amongst organizations of the United Nations System for staff and to facilitate cooperation and exchange between organizations.[19]

Some international organizations that are not part of the United Nations System (and therefore not members of the common system) but who voluntarily follow the policies of the common system in whole or in part include:

See also


External links

  • Official directory of the UN System
  • List of main UN System bodies
  • UN System Organizational Chart
  • UN System Sites
  • Global Issues on the UN Agenda
  • UN System – CEB (Chief Executives Board)
  • UN – Senior Management Group
  • United Nations – Official site
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