The United Nations at a glance

The United Nations was founded after the end of World War II, on October 24, 1945, with the signing of the United Nations Charter, initially by 51 member-states, including Greece. Today the UN has 193 member-states. 

The main bodies of the United Nations, today, are 5: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat and the International Court of Justice. In addition, specialized bodies, programs and funds are responsible for dealing with specific global issues. Among them, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). 

The main deliberative body of the UN is the General Assembly, where each member state has one, equal vote. The Secretariat is the administrative arm of the Organization, headed by the Secretary-General who is in charge of implementing decisions taken by UN bodies and providing support to Member States. 

The Security Council is the body of the Organization with decisive power. Being responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Security Council can impose sanctions, authorize military interventions and establish peacekeeping missions. The Security Council consists of 15 member-states, five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and ten non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly, on a rotating basis, for a two-year term.

 The United Nations primary objectives are to promote peace, security, cooperation and development of its member states. Of equal importance is the promotion and protection of human rights, as recorded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other conventions and treaties, under the supervision of the Human Rights Council. 

Despite the fact that the UN faces some criticism nowadays for its effectiveness and influence, for its ability to achieve consensus and respond quickly and decisively to crises, the Organization still plays an important role in international affairs. This is because it is the only platform for global cooperation and diplomacy where numerous functions are performed. Namely, resolving conflicts and trying to prevent them, deploying peacekeeping missions in conflict zones, promoting human rights, coordinating the provision of humanitarian aid, supporting sustainable development. 

Only recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the UN – through the World Health Organization (WHO) – in the global management of the crisis, proved to be critical and essential. 

Equally crucial and decisive for the future of humanity is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in 2015 and includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Through these goals, the Organization sets global agendas and frameworks to address poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation and other development challenges, thus strengthening cooperation between nations.