Check Email | My Account | Contact Us

Search for on the web shopping
Tue, 16 Jul, 2024
contact us
education frontpage
a-z of references
general knowledge
plants & animals

Top links
- Sudoku
- Collectibles
United Nations
Flag of the United Nations
Flag of the United Nations
Official languages English, Chinese, Arabic, French, Russian, Spanish
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General since 1997.
Established as a wartime alliance:
January 1, 1942
as an international organization:
October 24, 1945
Member states 191
Headquarters New York City, NY, USA
Official website
Other official names
  • Organisation des Nations Unies
  • Organización de las Naciones Unidas
  • Организация Объединённых Наций
  • 联合国
  • امم متحدة
The United Nations (UN) is an international organization that describes itself as a "global association of governments facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, and social equity." It was founded in 1945 by 51 states, replacing The League of Nations. As of 2005 it consists of 191 member states, including virtually all internationally-recognized independent nations, except Vatican City (the Holy See), which has declined membership, and the Republic of China, whose membership was superseded by the People's Republic of China in 1971. From its headquarters in New York City, the UN's member countries and specialized agencies give guidance and decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year.The organization is divided into administrative bodies, including the UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, UN Economic and Social Council, UN Trusteeship Council, UN Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice, as well as counterpart bodies dealing with the governance of all other UN system agencies, such as the WHO and UNICEF. The UN's most visible public figure is the Secretary-General.The UN was founded after the end of World War II by the victorious world powers with the hope that it would act to prevent conflicts between nations and make future wars impossible, by fostering an ideal of collective security. The organization's structure still reflects in some ways the circumstances of its founding; specifically, in addition to the rotating national members of the Security Council, five permanent members have veto power — the United States of America, Russia (which replaced the Soviet Union), United Kingdom, France, and the People's Republic of China (which replaced the Republic of China).

Jump to Page Contents

Pay as you go
No monthly charges. Access for the price of a phone call Go>


Flat rate dialup access from only 4.99 a month Go>

Surf faster from just 13.99 a month Go>

Save Even More
Combine your phone and internet, and save on your phone calls
More Info>

This weeks hot offer
24: Series 5 24: Series 5

In association with 26.97


Membership and structure
Aims and activities
Criticism and controversies
Personnel policy
The UN in popular culture

History - Contents

UN headquarters in New York City
UN headquarters in New York City

Main articles: League of Nations and History of the United NationsThe term "United Nations" was coined by Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, to refer to the Allies. Its first formal use was in the January 1, 1942 Declaration by the United Nations, which committed the Allies to the principles of the Atlantic Charter and pledged them not to seek a separate peace with the Axis powers. Thereafter, the Allies used the term " United Nations Fighting Forces" to refer to their alliance.The idea for the UN was elaborated in declarations signed at the wartime Allied conferences in Moscow, Cairo and Tehran in 1943. From August to October 1944, representatives of France, the Republic of China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union met to elaborate the plans at the Dumbarton Oaks Estate in Washington, DC. Those and later talks produced proposals outlining the purposes of the organization, its membership and organs, and arrangements to maintain international peace and security and international economic and social cooperation. These proposals were discussed and debated by governments and citizens worldwide.On April 25, 1945, the UN Conference on International Organizations began in San Francisco. In addition to the Governments, a number of non-governmental organizations, including Lions Clubs International, were invited to assist in drafting the charter. The 50 nations represented at the conference signed the Charter of the United Nations two months later on June 26. Poland had not been represented at the conference, but a place had been reserved for it among the original signatories, and it added its name later. The UN came into existence on October 24, 1945, after the Charter had been ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council — Republic of China, France, the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and the United States — and by a majority of the other 46 signatories.Initially, the body was known as the United Nations Organization, or UNO. But by the 1950s, English speakers were referring to it as the United Nations, or UN.

Headquarters - Contents

The United Nations headquarters building was constructed in New York City (the building does not however belong to the United States) in 1949 and 1950 beside the East River on land purchased by an 8.5 million dollar donation from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. UN headquarters officially opened on January 9, 1951. While the principal headquarters of the UN are in New York, there are major agencies located in Geneva, The Hague, Vienna, Montreal, Bonn and elsewhere. The street address is 760 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA.As the UN main building is aging, the UN is in the process of building a temporary headquarters designed by Fumihiko Maki on First Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets for use while the current building is being expanded.

Membership and structure - Contents

Main articles: United Nations member states, United Nations General Assembly observers, United Nations System, and Reform of the United Nations

CommunicationsThe six official languages of the UN include those of the founding nations: Chinese, English, French, Russian as well as Spanish (UN Charter, article 111) and Arabic [S/RES/528 (1982)]. All formal meetings and all official documents, in print or online, are interpreted in all six languages.
UN membership is open to all peace-loving states that accept the obligations of the UN Charter and, in the judgement of the organization, are able and willing to fulfill these obligations. The General Assembly determines admission upon recommendation of the Security Council.The UN is based on six principal organs, part of what is collectively called the United Nations System:

Security Council
The Security Council is in practice UN's most powerful decision-making body, as its resolutions are backed by the will of the most powerful members of the international community. However, this does not mean that its resolutions (such as international sanctions) are necessarily enforced, as the UN does not have its own means to do so. Even when economic sanctions are applied, their effectiveness is unclear (such as with Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the 1990s, or with abolishing apartheid in South Africa).

Financing - Contents

UN offices occupy the majority of this complex, the Vienna International Centre
UN offices occupy the majority of this complex, the Vienna International Centre
The UN system is financed in two ways: assessed and voluntary contributions from member states. The regular two-year budgets of the UN and its specialized agencies are funded by assessments. The General Assembly approves the regular budget and determines the assessment for each member. This is broadly based on the relative capacity of each country to pay, as measured by national income statistics, along with other factors.The Assembly has established the principle that the UN should not be overly dependent on any one member to finance its operations. Thus, there is a 'ceiling' rate, setting the maximum amount any member is assessed for the regular budget. In December 2000, the Assembly revised the scale of assessments to reflect current global circumstances. As part of that revision, the regular budget ceiling was reduced from 25% to 22%. The US is the only member that meets that ceiling, but it is in arrears with hundreds of millions of dollars (see United States and the United Nations). Under the scale of assessments adopted in 2000, other major contributors to the regular UN budget for 2001 are Japan (19.63%), Germany (9.82%), France (6.50%), the UK (5.57%), Italy (5.09%), Canada (2.57%), Spain (2.53%), and Brazil (2.39%).Special UN programmes not included in the regular budget (such as UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, and WFP) are financed by voluntary contributions from member governments. In 2001, it is estimated that such contributions from the United States will total approximately .5 billion. Some of this is in the form of agricultural commodities donated for afflicted populations, but the majority is financial contributions.

Aims and activities - Contents

International conferences
The countries of the UN and its specialized agencies — the "stakeholders" of the system — give guidance and decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. Governing bodies made up of member states include not only the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, and the Security Council, but also counterpart bodies dealing with the governance of all other UN system agencies. For example, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board oversee the work of WHO. Each year, the US Department of State accredits US delegations to more than 600 meetings of governing bodies.When an issue is considered particularly important, the General Assembly may convene an international conference to focus global attention and build a consensus for consolidated action. High-level US delegations use these opportunities to promote US policy viewpoints and develop international agreements on future activities. Recent examples include:
  • The UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992, led to the creation of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to advance the conclusions reached in Agenda 21, the final text of agreements negotiated by governments at UNCED;
  • The International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo, Egypt, in September 1994, approved a programme of action to address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustainable development over the next 20 years;
  • The World Summit on Trade Efficiency, held in October 1994 in Columbus, Ohio, cosponsored by UN Conference on Trade and Development ( UNCTAD), the city of Columbus, and private-sector business, focused on the use of modern information technology to expand international trade;
  • The World Summit for Social Development, held in March 1995 in Copenhagen, Denmark, underscored national responsibility for sustainable development and secured high-level commitment to plans that invest in basic education, health care, and economic opportunity for all, including women and girls;
  • The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in September 1995, sought to accelerate implementation of the historic agreements reached at the Third World Conference on Women held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985;
  • The Second UN Conference on Human Settlements ( Habitat II), convened in June 1996 in Istanbul, Turkey, considered the challenges of human settlement development and management in the 21st century.

International Years and related
The UN declares and coordinates "International Year of the..." in order to focus world attention on important issues. Using the symbolism of the UN, a specially designed logo for the year, and the infrastructure of the UN system to coordinate events worldwide, the various years have become catalysts to advancing key issues on a global scale.
  • UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

Arms control and disarmament
The 1945 UN Charter envisaged a system of regulation that would ensure "the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources". The advent of nuclear weapons came only weeks after the signing of the Charter and provided immediate impetus to concepts of arms limitation and disarmament. In fact, the first resolution of the first meeting of the General Assembly ( January 24, 1946) was entitled "The Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy" and called upon the commission to make specific proposals for "the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction".The UN has established several forums to address multilateral disarmament issues. The principal ones are the First Committee of the General Assembly and the UN Disarmament Commission. Items on the agenda include consideration of the possible merits of a nuclear test ban, outer-space arms control, efforts to ban chemical weapons, nuclear and conventional disarmament, nuclear-weapon-free zones, reduction of military budgets, and measures to strengthen international security.The Conference on Disarmament is the sole forum established by the international community for the negotiation of multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements. It has 66 members representing all areas of the world, including the five major nuclear-weapon states (the People's Republic of China, France, Russia, UK and USA). While the conference is not formally a UN organization, it is linked to the UN through a personal representative of the Secretary-General; this representative serves as the secretary general of the conference. Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly often request the conference to consider specific disarmament matters. In turn, the conference annually reports its activities to the Assembly.

External References to UN Security Council Resolutions
  • All UN Security Council Resolutions — listed by year: [2]
  • Security Council Resolutions by country:
    • Cyprus: [3]
    • Iraq: [4]
    • Kosovo: [5] and [6]
    • Sudan (Darfur): [7]
    • Palestine: [8]
UN peacekeepers are sent to various regions where armed conflict has recently ceased, in order to enforce the terms of peace agreements and to discourage the combatants from resuming hostilities, for example in East Timor until its independence in 2001. These forces are provided by member states of the UN; the UN does not maintain any independent military. All UN peacekeeping operations must be approved by the Security Council.The founders of the UN had high hopes that it would act to prevent conflicts between nations and make future wars impossible, by fostering an ideal of collective security. Those hopes have not been fully realized. During the Cold War (from about 1947 until 1991), the division of the world into hostile camps made peacekeeping agreement extremely difficult. Following the end of the Cold War, there were renewed calls for the UN to become the agency for achieving world peace and co-operation, as several dozen military conflicts continue to rage around the globe. But the breakup of the Soviet Union also left the US in a unique position of global dominance, creating a variety of new challenges for the UN.
UN peace operations are funded by assessments, using a formula derived from the regular scale, but including a surcharge for the five permanent Security Council members, who must approve all peacekeeping operations. This surcharge serves to offset discounted peacekeeping assessment rates for less developed countries. In December 2000, the UN revised the assessment rate scale for the regular budget and for peacekeeping. The peacekeeping scale is designed to be revised every six months and was projected to be near 27% in 2003. The US intends to pay peacekeeping assessments at these lower rates and has sought legislation from the US Congress to allow payment at these rates and to make payments towards arrears.Total UN peacekeeping expenses peaked between 1994 and 1995; at the end of 1995 the total cost was just over .5 billion. Total UN peacekeeping costs for 2000, including operations funded from the UN regular budget as well as the peacekeeping budget, were on the order of .2 billion.The UN Peace-Keeping Forces received the 1988 Nobel Prize for Peace. In 2001, the UN and Secretary General Kofi Annan won the Nobel Peace Prize "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world."The UN maintains a series of United Nations Medals awarded to military service members who enforce UN accords. The first such decoration issued was the United Nations Service Medal, awarded to UN forces who participated in the Korean War. The NATO Medal is designed on a similar concept and both are considered international decorations instead of military decorations.

Human rights
The pursuit of human rights was a central reason for creating the UN. World War II atrocities and genocide led to a ready consensus that the new organization must work to prevent any similar tragedies in the future. An early objective was creating a legal framework for considering and acting on complaints about human rights violations.The UN Charter obliges all member nations to promote "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights" and to take "joint and separate action" to that end. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not legally binding, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all. The Assembly regularly takes up human rights issues. The UN Commission on Human Rights ( UNCHR), under ECOSOC, is the primary UN body charged with promoting human rights, primarily through investigations and offers of technical assistance. As discussed, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the official principally responsible for all UN human rights activities (see, under "The UN Family", the section on "Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights").The United Nations and its various agencies are central in upholding and implementing the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A case in point is support by the UN for countries in transition to democracy. Technical assistance in providing free and fair elections, improving judicial structures, drafting constitutions, training human rights officials, and transforming armed movements into political parties have contributed significantly to democratization worldwide.The UN is also a forum to support the right of women to participate fully in the political, economic, and social life of their countries. The UN contributes to raising consciousness of the concept of human rights through its covenants and its attention to specific abuses through its General Assembly or Security Council resolutions or ICJ rulings.

Humanitarian assistance and international development
In conjunction with other organizations, such as the Red Cross, the UN provides food, drinking water, shelter and other humanitarian services to populaces suffering from famine, displaced by war, or afflicted by other disaster. Major humanitarian arms of the UN are the World Food Programme (which helps feed more than 100 million people a year in 80 countries), the High Commissioner for Refugees with projects in over 116 countries, as well as peacekeeping projects in over 24 countries. At times, UN relief workers have been subject to attacks.The UN is also involved in supporting development, e.g. by the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the largest multilateral source of grant technical assistance in the world. Organizations like the WHO, UNAIDS and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are leading institutions in the battle AIDS around the world, especially in poor countries. The UN Population Fund is a major provider of reproductive services. It has helped reduce infant and maternal mortality in 100 countries.The UN annually publishes the Human Development Index (HDI), a comparative measure ranking countries by poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy, and other factors.The UN promotes human development through various agencies and departments:
  • World Health Organization eliminated smallpox in 1977 and is close to eliminating polio.
  • World Bank / IMF
  • UNEP
  • UNDP
The UN has helped run elections in countries with little democratic history, including recently in Afghanistan and East Timor.The UN also runs international criminal tribunals, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda ( ICTR), for the former Yugoslavia ( ICTY), the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the Ad-Hoc Court for East Timor.

Treaties and international law
The UN negotiates treaties such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to avoid potential international disputes. Disputes over use of the oceans may be adjudicated by a special court.The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the main court of the UN. Its purpose is to adjudicate disputes among states. The ICJ began in 1946 and continues to hear cases. Important cases include: Congo v. France, where the Democratic Republic of Congo accused France of illegally detaining former heads of state accused of war crimes; and Nicaragua v. United States, where Nicaragua accused the United States of illegally arming the Contras (this case led to the Iran-Contra affair).

Notable United Nations Figures
Many famous humanitarians and celebrities have been involved with the United Nations including; Bono, Jeffrey Sachs, Clint Borgen, Angelina Jolie and Mother Teresa.

Criticism and controversies - Contents

Reforming the UN
In recent years there have been many calls for reform of the United Nations. But there is little clarity, let alone consensus, about how to reform it. Some want the UN to play a greater or more effective role in world affairs, others want its role reduced to humanitarian work. In 2004 and 2005, allegations of mismanagement and corruption regarding the Oil-for-Food Programme for Iraq under Saddam Hussein led to renewed calls for reform.An official reform programme was initiated by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan shortly after starting his first term on January 1, 1997. Reforms mentioned include changing the permanent membership of the Security Council (which currently reflects the power relations of 1945); making the bureaucracy more transparent, accountable and efficient; making the UN more democratic; and imposing an international tariff on arms manufacturers worldwide.The US Congress has shown particular concern with reforms related to UN effectiveness and efficiency. In November 2004, the bill H.R. 4818 mandated the creation of a bipartisan Task Force to report to Congress on how to make the UN more effective in realizing the goals of its Charter. The Task Force came into being in January 2005, co-chaired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell. In June 2005, the task force released "American Interests and UN Reform: Report of the Task Force on the United Nations," [9] with numerous recommendations on how to improve the UN.On June 17, 2005, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill ( H.R. 2745) to slash funds to the UN in half by 2008 if it does not meet certain criteria. This reflects years of complaints about anti-American and anti-Israeli bias in the UN, particularly the exclusion of Israel from many decision making organizations. The US is estimated to contribute about 22% of the UN's yearly budget, making this bill potentially devastating to the UN. The Bush administration and several former US ambassadors to the UN have warned that this may only strengthen anti-America sentiment around the world and serve to hurt current UN reform movements. The bill passed the House in June, and a parallel bill was introduced in the Senate by Gordon Smith on July 13 However, a number of leading Senate Republicans objected to the requirement that the US contributions be halved if the UN failed to meet all of the criteria. The UN Management, Personnel, and Policy Reform Act of 2005 (S. 1383), introduced July 12, 2005 into the Senate by Sen. Coleman, Norm [R-MN] and Sen. Lugar, Richard [R-IN], called for similar reforms but left the withholding of dues to the discretion of the President [10]. As of December 2005, neither bill has come to a vote.In September 2005, the UN convened a World Summit that brought together the heads of most member states, in a plenary session of the General Assembly's 60th session. The UN called the summit "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take bold decisions in the areas of development, security, human rights and reform of the United Nations" [11]. Secretary General Kofi Annan had proposed that the summit agree upon a global "grand bargain" to reform the UN, revamping international systems for peace and security, human rights and development, to make them capable of addressing the extraordinary challenges facing the UN in the 21st century. But no such grand bargain emerged. Instead, world leaders agreed upon piecemeal reforms: the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission to provide a central mechanism to help countries emerging from conflict; the agreement that the international community has the right to step in when national governments fail to fulfil their responsibility to protect their own citizens from atrocity crimes; a vague promise to create a better UN institution on human rights; and agreement to devote more resources to UN's internal oversight agency.Although the UN member states achieved little in the way of reform of UN bureaucracy, Annan continued to carry out reforms under his own authority. He established an ethics office, responsible for administering new financial disclosure and whistleblower protection policies. As of late December 2005, the Secretariat was completing a review of all General Assembly mandates more than five years old. That review is intended to provide the basis for decision-making by the member states about which duplicative or unnecessary programs should be eliminated.

Successes and failures in security issues
A large share of UN expenditures address the core UN mission of peace and security. The peacekeeping budget for the 2005-2006 fiscal year is approximately billion (compared to approximately .5 billion for the UN core budget over the same period), with some 70,000 troops deployed in 17 missions around the world. The Human Security Report 2005 [12], produced by the Human Security Centre at the University of British Columbia with support from several governments and foundations, documented a dramatic, but largely unknown, decline in the number of wars, genocides and human rights abuses over the past decade. The Report, published by Oxford University Press, argued that the single most compelling explanation for these changes is found in the unprecedented upsurge of international activism, spearheaded by the UN, which took place in the wake of the Cold War.The Report singles out several specific investments that have paid off , p. 9:
  • A six-fold increase in the number of UN missions mounted to prevent wars, from 1990 to 2002
  • A four-fold increase in efforts to stop existing conflicts, from 1990 to 2002
  • A seven-fold increase in the number of ‘Friends of the Secretary-General’, ‘Contact Groups’ and other government-initiated mechanisms to support peacemaking and peacebuilding missions, from 1990 to 2003
  • An eleven-fold increase in the number of economic sanctions against regimes around the world, from 1989 to 2001
  • A four-fold increase in the number of UN peacekeeping operations, from 1987, to 1999
These efforts were both more numerous and, on average, substantially larger and more complex that those of the Cold War era.However, in many cases UN members have shown reluctance to achieve or enforce Security Council resolutions. In 2003, the US led the invasion of Iraq, in the face of strong disapproval by a majority of members. For nearly a decade, Israel defied resolutions calling for the dismantling of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Such failures stem from UN's intergovernmental nature — in many respects it is an association of 191 member states who must reach consensus, not an independent organization. Even when actions are mandated by the 15-member Security Council, the Secretariat is rarely given the full resources needed to carry out the mandates.Other serious security failures include:
  • Failure to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which resulted in the killings of nearly a million people, due to the refusal of the security council members, the US, the British and the French governments in particular, to approve any necessary military action [13].
  • Failure by MONUC (UNSC Resolution 1291) to effectively intervene during the Second Congo War, which claimed nearly five million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 1998-2002 (with fighting reportedly continuing), and in carrying out and distributing humanitarian aid.
  • Failure to intervene in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, despite the fact that the UN designated Srebrenica a "safe haven" for refugees and assigned 600 Dutch peacekeepers to protect it.
  • Failure to successfully deliver food to starving people in Somalia; the food was instead usually seized by local warlords. A US/UN attempt to apprehend the warlords seizing these shipments resulted in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu.
  • Sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers. It is reported that peacekeepers from several nations sexually abuse and gang-rape girls as young as 12 in DRC. This abuse is reportedly widespread and ongoing despite many revelations and probes by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services. [14] [15] A 2005 internal UN investigation found that similar sexual abuse had been reported in five other countries where UN peacekeepers were deployed, including Burundi, Ivory Coast, and Liberia; UN peacekeepers were at that time deployed in 16 countries. [16]

Committee membership
Inclusion on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights of nations, such as Sudan, Cuba and Libya, which demonstrably have abysmal records on human rights, and also Libya's chairmanship of this Commission, has been an issue. These countries, however, argue that Western countries, with their history of colonialist aggression and brutality, have no right to argue about membership of the Commission.

Oil-for-Food scandal
The Oil-for-Food Programme established by the UN in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian needs of ordinary Iraqi citizens who were affected by international economic sanctions, without allowing the Iraqi government to rebuild its military in the wake of the first Gulf War. It was discontinued in late 2003 amidst allegations of widespread abuse and corruption; the former director, Benon Sevan of Cyprus, first was suspended, then resigned from the UN, as an interim progress report of a UN-sponsored investigation led by Paul Volcker concluded that Sevan had accepted bribes from the Iraqi regime, and recommended that his UN immunity be lifted to allow for a criminal investigation. [17]Under UN auspices, over billion USD worth of Iraqi oil was sold on the world market. Officially, about billion was used for humanitarian needs, and additional revenue payed for Gulf War reparations through a Compensation Fund, UN administrative and operational costs for the Programme (2.2%), and the weapons inspection programme (0.8%).Also implicated in the scandal is Kofi Annan's son Kojo Annan, alleged to have illegally procured UN Oil-for-Food contracts on behalf of the Swiss company Coctecna.

Personnel policy - Contents

The UN and its agencies are immune to the laws of the countries where they operate, safeguarding UN's impartiality with regard to the host and member countries. Hiring and firing practices, working hours and environment, holiday time, pension plans, health insurance, life insurance, salaries, expatriation benefits and general conditions of employment are governed by UN rules and regulations. This independence allows agencies to implement human resources policies which are even contrary to the laws of a host- or a member country. For instance, a person who is otherwise eligible for employment in Switzerland may not be employed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) unless he or she is a citizen of an ILO member state.

The World Health Organization, an agency of the UN, has banned the recruitment of cigarette smokers as of December 1, 2005, in order to promote the principle of a tobacco-free work environment.

Same-sex marriages
Despite their independence in matters of personnel policy, UN agencies voluntarily respect the laws and cultures of independent nations about same-sex marriages, allowing decisions about employees on the basis of nationality. They recognize same-sex marriages only if the employees are citizens of countries that recognize the marriage. This accords with their tradition of respecting the independence of different cultures and customs. Some agencies provide limited benefits to domestic partners of their staff.

The UN supports abortion on demand, thus drawing criticism from pro-life supporters.

The UN in popular culture - Contents

The perception of the UN as a large, world-encompassing government organization has prompted many ideas about world government and world democracy. The UN is also often the subject of conspiracy theories.An education activity called Model United Nations has grown popular in schools worldwide. Model UN has students simulate (usually) a body in the UN system, like the Economic and Social Council, the Economic and Finance Committee of the General Assembly, or the Executive Committee of UNICEF, to help them develop skills in debate and diplomacy.The UN has been shown in several films. In the 1958 film North by Northwest, director Alfred Hitchcock wanted to film in the UN but did not have permission. Shots were secretly done and recreated on a sound stage. The 2005 film The Interpreter is the first feature to be filmed on location in the UN. It features Nicole Kidman as a UN interpreter who inadvertantly overhears a plot to assassinate a fictional African dictator. This character appears to be based on Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Secretary General Kofi Annan commented on The Interpreter that "the intention was really to do something dignified, something that is honest and reflects the work that this Organization does. And it is with that spirit that the producers and the directors approached their work, and I hope you will all agree they have done that."Fictional UN branches appear in many books, movies, and video games, including:
  • United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition in Deus Ex
  • United Nations Anti-Crime Organisation in novels drafted by Alistair Maclean and written by various authors including Alastair MacNeill, John Denis, Simon Gandolfi and Hugh Miller
  • United Nations Intelligence Taskforce in Doctor Who
  • United Nations Naval Service in some novels by David Feintuch
  • United Nations Space Command in the Halo video game series
  • United Nations Special Agency NERV in Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • United Nations Space Force in the Zone of the Enders video game series
  • United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Force in the Godzilla film series
  • United Nations Global Defense Initiative from the Command and Conquer game series
  • United Nations Interstellar Colonization Agency in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
  • United Nations International Critical Response and Tactical Team in the novel Sahara by Clive Cussler
  • UNCLE, the fictional organisation featured in the televison series The Man from UNCLE was based in New York with an international staff, and has often been presumed to be at least UN-related, in spite of objections made by the series' production company on legal grounds.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D., a planetary defense/intelligence service often depicted as UN-affiliated in the Marvel Universe line of comic books.
Similar-themed World or Galactic Bodies that model the UN in some way include:
  • League of Non-Aligned Worlds and Interstellar Alliance from Babylon 5.
  • Earth Sphere Unified Nation (ESUN) and ZAFT (Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty) from the Gundam Universe
  • Allied Nations, from the movie Street Fighter
  • DOOP (Democratic Order of Planets) from Futurama
  • United Federation of Planets from Star Trek
  • United Earth Oceans from seaQuest DSV
  • United Powers League (UPL) and United Earth Directorate (UED) in StarCraft
  • Allied Nations, from the Xbox/PS2 game Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction is depicted as UN in many ways. Their soldiers even sport similar flags on their helmets.
  • The United Nations of Larry Niven's Known Space. While retaining the name, the UN has become a very different organization.
Change Text Size:
[A] [default] [A]

go back print page email to a friend make us your home page

about | terms of use | contact us
© 2024