Stettinius signing the UN Charter

Document signed by Allied powers in 1942 agreeing to the principles set forth in the Atlantic Charter

Voting in the Security Council, November, 1967

What it is.....

The United Nations was formed in 1945 as an outgrowth of the Conference on International Organizations held in San Francisco at the conclusion of World War II. It is an association of governments. From 51 original members, the U.N. has expanded to 185 - virtually every nation in the world.

As stated in its Charter, the goals of the United Nations are: to maintain international peace and security; to achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these common ends.

General Assembly:
The U.N's principal deliberative body, where each nation has one vote.

Security Council: Charged with maintaining international peace and security, the Council has 15 members of which five (the U.S., China, France, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom) are permanent members.

Economic and Social Council: A 54-member body responsible for coordinating the U.N's economic and social work.

Trusteeship Council:
Originally given jurisdiction over 11 former colonies (all now independent nations), its future is uncertain.

International Court of Justice:
Based in the Hague in the Netherlands, the Court decides legal disputes between countries that accept its jurisdiction.

Secretariat: The international civil service that carries out the decisions of the other bodies.*

Click here to view a Chart showing the structure and organization of the United Nations system including the International Atomic Energy Agency.

... And What It Is Not
The United Nations is not a world government. The U.N's member nations, voting in the General Assembly and other bodies, determine policies and programs to achieve the purposes stated in the U.N. Charter. They provide the resources to implement these policies and programs. Article II, Section 7 of the United Nations Charter state that nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any member state or shall require the members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter. (The one exception to this provision is that the Security Council may take measures to deal with aggression or other threats to peace, as described in Article VII of the Charter.)

The United Nations has no independent military force. Nor does it have the power to impose taxes. Indeed, it even lacks the power to borrow money. The United Nations has only the authority and resources provided to it by its members.*

* United Nations Association of the United States of America.

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