What Is the United Nations, Its Structure and How They Make Decisions by Sezen ÖZKALP                

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization aiming to ensure global peace, security, maintain relations between nations and solve various world problems, and provide better living standards for all by international cooperation.

The UN’s 4 Main Purposes:

  • To keep peace throughout the world
  • To develop friendly relations among nations
  • To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease, illiteracy and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms
  • To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals


The UN was found in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries. The UN Charter was written and accepted by delegates of fifty nations in San Francisco and by 24 October 1945, it was signed by 51 states which are the founding members of the UN.

The UN Charter specifies the responsibilities and rights of the member states and establishes the United Nations organs and procedure.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – December 17, 2017: Allee des Nations (Avenue of Nations) of the United Nations Palace in Geneva, with the flags of the member countries.


There are six main organs;

  1. The General Assembly

The UN Member States are represented in the General Assembly. Each Member State has one vote. Decisions on such key issues as international peace and security, admitting new members and the UN budget are decided by a two-thirds majority. Other matters are decided by a simple majority. Many decisions are reached by consensus without a formal vote. Bear in mind that even though the Assembly can make recommendations cannot force a Member State to follow those recommendations.

Assembly’s six main committees:

  • First Committee (Disarmament and International Security)
  • Second Committee (Economic and Financial)
  • Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural)
  • Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization)
  • Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary)
  • Sixth Committee (Legal)

Powers and duties of the Assembly under the UN charter;

  • To discuss questions related to international peace and security (except when a dispute or situation is being discussed by the Security Council)
  • To make recommendations for nations to maintain their friendly sand peaceful relations
  • To discuss and make recommendations on the powers and functions of any organ of the United Nations
  • To request studies and make recommendations to promote international cooperation, the development of international law, the protection of human rights, and international collaboration on economic, social, cultural, educational and health issues;
  • To receive and discuss reports from the Security Council and other UN organs;
  • To discuss and approve the UN budget;
  • To select non-permanent members of the Security Council, the members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and additional members of the Trusteeship Council (when necessary); to elect the judges of the International Court of Justice (jointly with the Security Council); and on the recommendation of the Security Council, to appoint the Secretary-General.

PGA Role in the UN

The PGA is an authority generally responsible for the GA rules of procedure. GA revitalization and GA resolutions determine the responsibilities and duties of the PGA. This person cannot vote and remains under the Assembly’s authority.

  1. The Security Council 

Council’s primary responsibility is to maintain international peace and security given by the UN Charter. They aim to prevent any kind of threat or force against any state. Member States are obliged to follow the Security Council’s decisions.

There are 15 Council members consisting of five permanent and ten temporary members. The permanent members are as follows:

    1. China
    2. Russian Federation
    3. United States of America
    4. United Kingdom
    5. France

These five members hold the veto power and if any of them vetoes any decision, it cannot pass even if the other 14 members voted in favor. The other 10 are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms.

In case of a dispute or a threat, the Council firstly tries to settle it peacefully by appointing special representatives, asking the Secretary-General to use his good offices, or start an investigation. If the dispute turns into an armed conflict, the Security Council Works on securing a ceasefire by sending peacekeeping missions.

The Council may, in some cases, authorize the utilization of military force by a coalition of member states or by a regional organization or arrangement. This action can only be taken when all other peaceful options are exhausted. To hold combatants accountable for their actions, the Council has also created international tribunals to prosecute those accused of grave human rights violations and serious breaches of international humanitarian law, including genocide.

  •  Furthermore, the council makes recommendations to the General Assembly to elect a new Secretary-General and to admit new members to the UN.


  1. The Economic and Social Council 

ECOSOC is one of the principal organs of the UN which is responsible for such issues as human rights, social development, the status of women, crime prevention, narcotic drugs, and science and technology.

ECOSOC has five regional commissions that promote economic development and cooperation in their respective regions:

  • Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
  • Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)
  • Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
  • Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
  • Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
  1. The Secretariat 

By the leadership of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat is the administration of the UN as directed by the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the other organs.

The main functions of the Secretariat are:

  • To gather and prepare background information on various issues so that government delegates can study the facts and make recommendations
  • To help carry out the decisions made by the different organs of the United Nations
  • To organize international conferences
  • To translate speeches and distribute documents into the UN’s official languages
  • To keep the public informed about the work of the United Nations

The Secretariat has a lot of international members all around the world serving and the Secretary-General reports their actions to the United Nations and takes an oath not to seek or receive instructions from any Government or outside authority.


The Charter describes the Secretary-General as “chief administrative officer” of the Organization, who shall act in that capacity and perform “such other functions as are entrusted” to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic, and Social Council and other United Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the Secretary-General to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”.

Secretary-General is responsible for giving annual reports of the Works of the UN and their future plans. The Secretary-General is also Chairman of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), which brings together the Executive Heads of all UN funds, programs, and specialized agencies twice a year in order to further coordination and cooperation in the entire range of substantive and management issues facing the United Nations System.

A very important duty of the Secretary-General is the use of good offices which are actions taken in order to prevent international conflicts.

The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly and the recommendation of the Security Council.

  1. The Trusteeship Council

The Trusteeship Council was established to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories and to make sure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self-government or independence.

Under Article 77 of the Charter, the Trusteeship System applied to:

  1. Territories held under Mandates established by the League of Nations after the First World War
  2. Territories detached from “enemy States” as a result of the Second World War

Territories voluntarily placed under the System by States responsible for their administration.

  1. The International Court of Justice 

As the only principal organ of the UN not placed in New York but the Hague, the International Cort of Justice carries on activities to settle legal disputes submitted by States and give advice on legal topics based o international law.

The  Court works on the case if the related States are voluntary and when they are it means they are obliged to follow the ICJ’s decisions.

The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council.


In addition to the six ‘principal organs’ outlined above, the UN system includes several other committees, funds, programmes and agencies such as the World Health Organization, UN Refugee Agency, World Food Programme, The Human Rights Council, The International, Telecommunication Union, The International Civil Aviation, Organization, The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, The UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.


The work of the UN is financed by member countries through three budgets:

  1. the regular budget
  2. the peacekeeping budget
  3. voluntary funding

It is compulsory to make payments to the UN budget however they vary state to state. If a Member State does not fulfill their responsibilities, they lose their vote in the GA.

The United Nations uses voluntary funding sources to finance humanitarian and development programmes.



  1. Setting the GA agenda item

At the beginning of each session, the plenary GA(all six Assembly committees together) considers the allocated agenda items which are first discussing the topic and then adopting one or multiple resolutions.

  1. Consensus

Consensus basically means adopting a draft resolution without a vote when the Member States agree upon what has been discussed. On the other hand, even if one Member State requests a vote, then the consensus has not been reached.

I think this is all for basic information about the UN. I hope it was a beneficial article for you all. You can always contact me via email( or DM(@sezenozkalp).

Thank you for your time. Wish you all healthy and happy days.

With love,

Sezen Özkalp

The Writer of

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