Portal:United Nations

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The flag of the United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, and human rights issues. It was founded in 1945 with the signing of the United Nations Charter by 51 countries.

The UN was founded after the end of World War II (October 24,1945) by the victorious Allied Powers in the hope that it would act to intervene in conflicts between nations and thereby avoid war. The organization's structure still reflects in some ways the political power-structure of when it was founded. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, each of which has veto power on any UN resolution, are the main victors of World War II or their successor states: the People's Republic of China (formerly the Republic of China), France, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, and the United States.

There are currently 193 United Nations member states, including the majority of internationally recognized independent state. From its headquarters in New York City, the UN and its specialized agencies decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. The United Nations is divided into five major administrative organs - the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat, the International Court of Justice, and the Economic and Social Council. Additional bodies deal with the governance of all other United Nations system organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The UN's most visible public figure is the Secretary-General, currently Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who attained the post on 1 January 2007. The newest Member State is South Sudan, added on July 2011.

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The ICC headquarters in the Hague

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, sharing the building with the Hague Academy of International Law, a private centre for the study of international law. Established in 1945 by the UN Charter, the Court began work in 1946 as the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice. The Statute of the International Court of Justice, similar to that of its predecessor, is the main constitutional document constituting and regulating the Court. English and French are its two official languages.

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Boutros Boutros-Ghali (born 14 November 1922) is an Egyptian diplomat who was the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1 January 1992 to 1 January 1997. Before being elected in 1991, he was Egypt's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and played a part in the peace agreements between Egypt and Israel.

Serving only one five-year term at the UN, Boutros-Ghali's time in office was controversial, and he became entangled in controversies relating to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the Angolan civil war, and the Yugoslav wars. A 1996 resolution granting him a second term was vetoed by the United States, and he was subsequently succeed by Kofi Annan the following year.

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Colin Powell
At the UN Security Council in February 2003, Colin Powell, then United States Secretary of State, holds up a model vial of anthrax, while arguing that Iraq is likely to possess Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Photo credit: United States Government

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Kofi Annan
More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, my friends, is why we have the United Nations.
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General from 1997 to 2007

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Flag of the United Nations (1945-1947)

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