The United Nations is an international organisation of countries. It was created for many reasons:
- There should be peace and security in the world after the Second World War
- Countries should be friendly to each other
- Countries should help each other solve problems
- Human rights should be respected everywhere in the world.
After the Second World War the allied countries got together to discuss in which ways such an organization could be created. In 1945 50 countries got together in San Francisco and signed an agreement that created the United Nations. The United States invited the new UN to set up its headquarters in New York. The building was finished in 1952 and has been the permanent seat of the UN until today.
Membership is open to all peace - loving nations. Today there are about 200 countries in the UN - only very few have not become members.
Switzerland joined the UN in 2002 because the Swiss always wanted to be neutral.
The main parts of the UN
There are 5 main parts in this organisation
- The General Assembly
- The Security Council
- The Economic and Social Council
- The International Court of Justice
- The Secretariat
All countries get together in the General Assembly. It normally meets once a year, but it doesn't have any real power. It discusses problems and recommends ways to solve them. In the General Assembly each country has one vote.
The Security Council is the main body of the UN. It gets together almost every day and it has the most power. Member countries must do what the Security Council decides. There are 15 members in this council – five of them are permanent : The United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain. These countries have a right to veto anything. The other 10 members change all the time. They stay in the Security Council for 2 years.
The Security Council makes very important decisions and all the countries have to obey them. It tries to keep peace in the world and also tries to solve conflicts that endanger world peace. It also sends peacekeepers to countries where there is trouble.
The World Court makes decisions when two countries argue about something. It has independent judges that are elected by the UN.
The Secretary General has a lot of power in the UN. He is the highest official and is elected for five years by the General Assembly. He often travels around the world to settle conflicts between countries.
At present, Ban Ki-moon is Secretary General of the UN. He was elected in 2006 and comes from South Korea . Austria also had a man in charge of the UN. Kurt Waldheim was Secretary General from 1972 to 1981.
The United Nations also has many other organisations The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tries to find out if countries have atomic weapons. Its seat is in Vienna. The World Health Organisation is a UN programme to help control diseases all over the world. UNICEF is an organisation to help children in need in poor countries.
The United Nations needs a lot of money to keep up all of these organisations and programmes. It gets most of its money from the world’s rich countries like the United States (about 25 %), Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy. A lot of the money is used for peacekeeping missions.
In the past few years—after the end of the Cold War—the United Nations have played a more important role in the world. In 1991, the UN voted to take action against Iraq, which invaded Kuwait. But if important countries do not agree in the Security Council, like in the Iraq War of 2003, the United Nations cannot do very much to prevent conflicts.
United Nations Peacekeeping Missions
The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces are groups of soldiers who help keep peace in places of conflict. Most of the time they are observers or soldiers who don’t have so many weapons. Normally, they try to keep the enemies away from each other.
The first UN peacekeepers were sent to the Middle East in 1948 after the first war between Israel and its neighbours. After many weeks of war the UN peacekeepers were able to help make peace. Since then UN soldiers have helped patrol borders between Israel and Syria.
UN soldiers have also helped in Cyprus—a small island in the Mediterranean Seathat has mostly Greek people, but the northern part is settled by Turks. UN peacekeepers control a border that divides the north and the south of the island.
In the 1980s and 90s UN peacekeepers have helped keep peace in many countries. In the middle of the 1990s they were sent to former Yugoslavia to keep peace between the Serbs, Croats and Muslims.
UN peacekeepers are sent to a region only if the Security Council tells them to. They can only help keep peace if all the other countries agree and they may use their weapons only if they are attacked. Most of them wear a blue hat or a helmet so that you can tell if they are UN soldiers.
Since 1948 there have been 54 UN peacekeeping operations all over the world. Over 120 countries have sent soldiers.
- The UN has helped many countries become democratic and peaceful states.
- The UN plays an important role in protecting our environment. The “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was a big conference about climate control other problems of our environment.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency is a UN organisation that controls the nuclear weapons of countries and sees to it that they don’t build an atomic bomb.
- Since 1950, the UN has given help to over 50 million refugees. These people had to leave their countries because of war, hunger or diseases.
- Africa is the poorest continent in our world. The UN has given African countries money and other kinds of help so that they can feed people and give them work to do.
- It helps give developing countriessafe and clean water .
- It fights drug abuse and improves the lives of children who live in poverty.
- It helps people learn how to read and write.
- It helps farmers in poor countries where it is too hot or too dry.
Downloadable PDF Text- and Worksheets
- achievement = the things that the UN has already done
- agree = to say yes or to have the same opinion as someone else
- agreement =two or more people or countries promise to do something
- allied countries = the countries that won the Second World War
- argue =quarrel, disagree about something
- attack =to start using violence to hurt a person or damage something
- body =group, organization
- border = the line that separates two countries
- council =committee , assembly
- create = make
- decide =to make a choice about something
- decision =choice
- developing countries = the poorest countries in our world
- disease =illness
- divide =split, break up
- drug abuse =to take illegal drugs
- elect =vote
- endanger =put in danger
- enemy = someone who is not your friend . He fights against you.
- environment = everything that is around us
- former = what was once
- headquarters = the home of an organisation
- human rights =one of the main rights that everyone in the world should have , like the right to say what you want etc..
- improve = to make better
- in charge of =in control of
- in need = if you need a lot of things like food, clothes , a place to live etc..
- independent judges =a freely elected person who is in control of a court and decides how criminals should be punished
- invade = if you march into another country with your own army
- join = to become a part of
- keep up =here: finance, give money to
- Mediterranean Sea = the sea between Africa and Europe
- membership =to become a member
- neutral =not to be on anybody’s side
- obey =to do what someone orders you to
- observer = a person who only watches something . He doesn’t fight
- official =bureaucrat, representative
- patrol = to check or control
- peace =opposite of war
- peacekeeping mission =a job in which soldiers travel to a dangerous area and try to keep peace there
- permanent =something lasting
- poverty =the situation of being very poor
- prevent =stop from doing something
- protect =defend, guard
- reach = to get to this position
- recommend =advise, suggest
- refugee = a person who has to leave his country, because there is war or something very dangerous has happened
- right = are allowed to
- seat = the place or town where an organisation always meets
- security =protection from danger
- sees to it =to make sure that...
- settle =solve a problem
- settle =to start living in a place where not many people have lived before
- sign =to put your name on a document
- soldier =a person who goes to war for their country
- solve =to find a way of dealing with a problem
- summit = leaders of many countries get together and talk about many things
- take action = to do something
- trouble = conflict
- very few = not very many
- veto = to say no to something or somebody, even if all the others say yes
- vote =here: one point
- weapons =guns, bombs, knives and other things you need to fight