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United Nations System

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The United Nations (UN) was founded in 1945 under the impact of World War II to preserve world peace and international security and promote social progress, better living conditions and human rights.

The flag of the United Nations, with its white emblem on a light blue field.
The flag of the United Nations, with its white emblem on a light blue field.© StäV Rom

What unites the 193 sovereign member states are the principles of the UN Charter - an international treaty that sets out their rights and obligations as members of the international community.

The main organs of the United Nations are

  • the General Assembly,
  • the Security Council,
  • the Economic and Social Council,
  • the International Court of Justice and
  • the General Secretariat.

With the exception of the Court, which is based in The Hague (Netherlands), all the main organs are in New York.

The United Nations, together with the specialized agencies and programs and funds, form the so-called "United Nations system".

Specialized agencies

The Specialized Agencies are independent international organizations funded by both voluntary and assessed contributions.

They have primarily the task of developing and, where appropriate, monitoring international standards.

In addition, they carry out development projects to a lesser extent and receive voluntary contributions.

The more than 15 specialized agencies are legally and organizationally independent but belong to the "UN family" based on relationship agreements with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). They are required to report regularly to the Economic and Social Council.

They are affiliated to the United Nations through treaties, but not subordinate to the UN General Assembly.

Programmes and Funds

The programmes and funds are financed through voluntary rather than assessed contributions.

According to the demands of developing countries in the 1960s, programs should not be subordinate to the Economic and Social Council, but directly to the General Assembly.

Nevertheless, they have a certain independence because they can largely autonomously realize their assigned tasks.

The funds and programs are the real development organizations of the UN.