ORGANS OF UNITED NATIONS

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AUTHORED BY: SANAH SETHI

AMITY LAW SCHOOL (L.L.B 3 YEARS)


ORGANS OF UNITED NATIONS

Chapter III of the UN Charter comprising of Articles 7 and 8 lays down the provisions relating to the organs of the United Nations.

Article 7 provides that the organs of the United Nations may be of two kinds, namely-

  1. Principal Organs; and
  2. Subsidiary Organs.

Principal Organs– Principal Organs are those, whose names are mentioned in the UN Charter under Article 7. They are

  • General Assembly
  • Security Council
  • The Economic and Social Council
  • The Trusteeship Council
  • International Court of Justice
  • Secretariat

Subsidiary Organs

Subsidiary Organs are those which may be established in future in accordance with the provisions of the charter. Articles 22 to 29 of the UN Charter authorize the General Assembly and Security Council respectively to establish the subsidiary organs for the performance of their functions.

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GENERAL ASSEMBLY

General Assembly is one of the most important organs of the United Nations. It is often called as the nearest thing to a ‘parliament of man’. Chapter IV containing Articles 9 to 12 of the UN Charter lays down the provisions relating to General Assembly.

Composition

According to Art 9 of the UN Charter, it shall consist of all the members of the United Nations. The total number of members as on 14th September, 1999 was 189. All members enjoy equal status irrespective of their size and financial/economic soundness. Each member/state may be represented by not more than five members/delegates.

The General Assembly elects a President, 21 Vice Presidents and the Chairman of the Assembly’s seven main Committees, since reduced to six by a UN General Assembly’s resolution dated August 17, 1993, who hold office till the close of the session at which they are elected. The General Assembly meets in regular annual sessions beginning each year on Tuesday in September and continues until mid-December. In addition to its regular sessions, the Assembly may meet in such special sessions as occasion may require. Special sessions can be convoked by the Secretary General at the request of the Security Council or of a majority of the members of the United Nations. At the beginning of each regular session, The Assembly elects a new President and the Chairman of the Assembly’s seven Min Committees. To ensure equitable geographical representation, the Presidency of the Assembly dates each year among the five groups of States- African, Asian, Eastern European, Latin American and Western European and other states.

Voting procedure- Each member of the General Assembly has one vote. Decisions of the General Assembly on important questions. Example- recommendations with respect to maintenance of international peace and security, the election of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, the election of the members of the Economic and Social Council, the admission of new members to the United Nations and budgetary questions require a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting.

POWERS AND FUNCTIONS

Articles 10 to 17 of the UN Charter provide for the powers and functions of the General Assembly. Prof. Leonard classified the powers and functions under five heads as stated hereunder:

Deliberative Functions- It means the functions of the General Assembly regarding discussion, studies and recommendations and passing of resolutions on different matters.

The General Assembly is a deliberative body as it has powers of discussion, investigation, review, supervision and will criticize in relation to the work of the United Nations as a whole and various other organs including the specialized agencies as well as any other matter. Article 10 confers upon the Assembly a very wide power. It says that the assembly may discuss any questions or any matters within the scope of the Charter of relating to the powers and functions of any organs provided in the Charter. After discussion, the Assembly may make recommendations on these questions and matters to the member States or to the Security Council or to both. There is one restriction that is, it shall not make recommendations on any dispute or situation which the Security Council requests. The purpose of the restriction is to avoid conflicts between the General Assembly and Security Council.

It shall discuss the matters relating to maintenance of international peace and security.

Article 13 provides that the General Assembly shall make recommendations for the purpose of:

Promoting international cooperation in the political field and encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification;

Promoting international cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, educational and health fields and assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

Supervisory Functions- The General Assembly is the head of the UNO. It supervises Economic and Social Council and Trusteeship Council and other important organizations and organs of the UN. The UNO has 18 independent, specialized agencies and 14 major programmes. The General Assembly exercises control over these organs. These organs shall have to submit their annual reports to the General Assembly.

Financial Functions- The General Assembly performs important functions relating to the finance of the UN. It considers and approves the budget of the organization (Article 17 Para 1). It decides the share of expenses to be borne by each member (Article 17, Para 2).

Elective Functions- The Assembly is commonly known as the central body of the UN because it elects some or all of the members of all the other organs of the UN. In this regard, the Assembly performs the following functions:

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The Assembly elects some members of the Trusteeship Council (Art. 86).

The Secretary-General of the UN is also appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendations of the Security Council (Art. 97).

The Assembly elects members for subsidiary organs which may be created by it under Article 22.

Constitutive Functions- The amendment to the Charter shall come into force for all members of the UN, when the General Assembly adopts by a vote of two-thirds of the members and is ratified according to their respective constitutional processes by two-thirds of the members of the UN which includes all the permanent members of the Security Council.

SECURITY COUNCIL

Chapter V of the UN Charter consisting of Articles 23 to 27 lays down the provisions relating to the Security Council. Article 23 contains the composition, Articles 24 to 26 provides for the voting procedure. Articles 33 to 54 deal with pacific settlement of disputes. Of all the organs of the UN, none has shown a greater discrepancy between promise and performance than the Security Council.

Under Article 24 of the UN Charter, the main object of the Security Council is to assist peace and security.

Composition– The Council originally consisted of 11 members. Its membership was enlarged to fifteen in 1965 by amendment to Article 23 of the UN Charter. Of this fifteen, five are permanent members namely China, France, Russia, U.K. and U.S.A. The remaining 10 members are non-permanent members. They are elected by the General Assembly for a period of 2 years. Election of 5 members take place every year so that 5 members would retire as a consequence of the same. The retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election (Art 23, Para 2). While electing the non-permanent members, contribution made by such member to the UN of maintenance of international peace and security, equitable geographical distribution were taken into consideration. Each member shall have one representative in the Security Council in all its meetings (Art 23, Para 3).

Voting Procedure– The voting procedure in the Security Council requires some special consideration. Article 27 provides that, each member of the Security Council has one vote. The decisions in respect of procedural matters are made by affirmative votes of 9 members. While the decisions on substantial and other matters requires affirmative votes of nine members including the five permanent members.

Veto- Veto is a right vested by law in a person or constitutional body to declare inoperative a decision made by others. The UN Charter confers veto power on the permanent members. A negative vote cast by a permanent member on a substantial matter is called veto. Thus, any permanent member by exercising its power of veto can render any decision unimplemented. For casting a veto it is necessary that the representative of the permanent member desiring to exercise this right must be present and cast his vote in the meeting of the Security Council. Absence of the representative of a permanent member from the meeting of the Council is not considered as ‘Veto’.

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Criticism of Veto Power

It has created a difference between the permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council and in the entire membership of the UN.

It is an antithesis of the principle of sovereign equality and the democratization of the UN system as a whole.

FUNCTIONS AND POWERS OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

Elective functions- The UN Charter confers on the Security Council, certain elective powers. The Security Council and General Assembly elect the judges of the international court of justice. In this way, the Security Council participates in the election of judges of the World Court. Besides this the Security Council also recommends the appointment of the Secretary General of the UN. Article 97 provides that the Secretary General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

Supervisory Functions- The General Assembly as well as the Security Council have the supervisory functions. For example- The Security Council imposed certain economic sanctions against Iraq. It has the supervisory power to supervise whether these sanctions are strictly implemented or not. A member may be expelled from the United Nations Organisation. He may be readmitted by the General Assembly on the recommendations of the Security Council.

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL

Chapter X containing Articles 61 to 71 of the UN Charter lays down the provisions relating to the ECOSOC. It plays a crucial role in building a world of greater prosperity, stability and justice. It coordinates the economic and social work of the ‘United Nations Family’ of organizations.

Composition– The Economic and Social Council consists of 54 members which are elected by the General Assembly, one-third of its members are elected each year by the General Assembly for a period of three years. Earlier, before 1965, it consisted of 18 members. The membership was increased to 27 in 1963 and 27 to 54 in 1973. Each member of the Economic and Social Council is entitled to have only one representative in the Council. At present India is one of the members of the Council.

Voting– Each member of the Economic and Social Council is entitled to have one vote. The decisions of the Economic and Social Council are made by a majority of the members present and voting (Article 67).

 

POWERS AND FUNCTIONS

The Economic and Social Council may make recommendation for the purposes of promoting respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all (Art 62).

It may furnish information to the Security Council and shall assist the Security Council upon its request (Art 65).

It may prepare draft conventions for submission to the General Assembly with respect to matter falling within its competence.

It may, with the approval of the General Assembly, perform services at the request of the members of the UN and the specialized agencies (Art 66).

FUNCTIONS RELATING TO SPECIALISED AGENCIES

The ECOSOC is empowered to perform the following functions in respect of Specialised agencies:

The Council may enter into agreements with these agencies to bring them into relationship with United Nations. However such agreements are required to be approved by the General Assembly (Art 63, Para 1).

The Council is even responsible for coordinating the activities of the specialized agencies through consultation with and recommendations to such agencies and through recommendations to the General Assembly and to the members of the UN (Art 63, Para 2).

 

THE TRUSTEESHIP COUNCIL

Chapter XIII containing Articles 86 to 91 of the UN Charter lays down the provisions relating to the Trusteeship Council. The Trusteeship Council is a special Committee operating under the authority of the General Assembly and responsible directly to it (Art 85, Charter of the United Nations). In international relations, mandate system was introduced for the first time under the League of Nations. However, the mandate system came to an end with the dissolution of the League of Nations in 1946. Again, the mandate was introduced/restored in the name of trusteeship system with the establishment of United Nations. Therefore, the trusteeship system may be termed as the successor of mandate system.

Article 76 of the UN Charter lays down the objectives of the Trusteeship Council as follows:-

The furtherance of international peace and security;

The ensuring of equal treatment in social, economic and commercial matters for all members of the United Nations and their nationals.

Composition– According to Article 86 of the UN Charter, the Trusteeship Council shall comprise of the following members of the UN-

Those members who are administering Trust Territories;

The permanent members of the Security Council are not administering Trust Territories;

At present, trusteeship council members are the United States as the administering Authority and China, France, The Russian Federation and the United Kingdom serving as permanent members of the Security Council.

Voting System- Each member of the Trusteeship Council possesses one vote. The decisions of the Trusteeship Council are made by a majority of the members present and voting (Art 89). That is to say, no member possesses veto power in the Trusteeship Council.

FUNCTIONS AND POWERS

It may consider reports submitted by the Administering Authority (Art 87(a).

It may accept petitions and examine them in consultation with the Administering Authority (Art 87(c).

It shall formulate a questionnaire for each Trust Territory within the competence of the General Assembly and shall make annual report to the General Assembly upon the basis of such questionnaire (Art 88).

 

THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

Articles 92 to 96 of the United Nations Charter lay down the provisions relating to International Court of Justice. There is a statute annexed to the UN Charter called ‘Statute of the International Court of Justice’. It contains 70 articles (Articles 1 to 70).

Article 92 of the UN Charter expressly provides that the International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and is based on the Permanent Court of International Justice. The Permanent Court of International Justice was established in 1921 under Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and its function was interrupted with the outbreak of the Second World War. It was ultimately dissolved in 1946 as a consequence of the dissolution of the League of Nations. Thus, the International Court of Justice may be looked as the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice. It was established on 18 April, 1946, on which the Permanent Court of International Justice ceased to function on paper through a resolution adopted by the Assembly of the League of Nations.

COMPOSITION

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is situated in Hague. It consists of 15 Judges/Members headed by the President and Vice President. The President and Vice-President are elected for the period of 3 years by the members of the Court from among themselves (Art 25, Para 3). The Judges of the Court are elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council for a period of 9 years. The President, Vice-President and other members/judges are eligible for re-election. The judges are elected in such a manner that 5 of them would retire on the expiry of 3 years and 5 more judges on the expiry of 6 years and new judges are elected in their place.

JURISDICTION OF THE COURT

The Jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice may be categorized under the following heads:

Contentious Jurisdiction

  1. Voluntary Jurisdiction
  2. Adhoc Jurisdiction
  3. Optional or Obligatory or Compulsory Jurisdiction; and

 

Advisory Jurisdiction.

Contentious Jurisdiction– It means given to contention. It may mean that the jurisdiction of the Court is open to the members of the Statute of International Court of Justice. Contentious Jurisdiction may be sub-divided into three heads, namely-

Voluntary Jurisdiction– According to Article 36(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, the jurisdiction of the court comprises of all cases which the parties refer to it.

Ad-hoc Jurisdiction– When the disputant parties themselves refer the dispute to the court, there is no question about the Court’s right to take up the case.

Optional or Compulsory Jurisdiction- Article 36(2) of the Statute confers optional jurisdiction upon the Court which provides that the State parties to the Statute may confer compulsory jurisdiction upon the Court by making such declaration in respect of any other State which also accepts similar obligations. Under this provision, the State party to the Statute may confer compulsory jurisdiction upon the Court in respect of the following matters:

Interpretation of a Treaty;

Any question of international law.

Forty seven states have so far recognized the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court.

 

ADVISORY JURISDICTION

Art 65 to 68 of the State of International Court of Justice deal with advisory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. According to Art 65, the ICJ may give an advisory opinion on any legal question to anybody, which has been authorized under the UN Charter or the Statute of ICJ.

Article 96 of the UN Charter provides for an advisory opinion on any legal opinion of the Court:

The General Assembly or Security Council may request the International Court of Justice to give an advisory opinion on any legal question;

Other organs of the UN and specialized agencies may also request advisory opinions of the Court on legal questions arising within the scope of their activities. Such advisory opinion is not binding upon the parties, but States may by treaty or agreement bind themselves in advance with regard to such advice as may be tendered by the Court.

NATURE OF ADVISORY OPINION

The opinion of the Court is regarded as an authoritative statement of International law as it comes from the highest judicial authority. The opinion of the Court is cited by the Court itself in the subsequent cases and also by the publicists and writers of International Law.

 

THE SECRETARIAT

Chapter XV containing Articles 97 to 101 of the UN Charter lays down the provisions relating to the Secretariat.

Constitution- The Secretariat comprises of a Secretary General and such staff as the organization may require. The General Assembly elects the Secretary General upon the recommendation of the Security Council. He is designated as the chief Administrative Officer of the Organisation (Art 97). He is not only the Chief Administrative Officer of the Secretariat but of the whole organization. The practice of the UN shows that the Secretary-General is appointed from a smaller and neutral State. Only that eminent person of a neutral state may be appointed who can be acceptable to all the five permanent members of the UN. The Staff of the Secretariat is appointed by the Secretary General as per regulations of the General Assembly. The staff assigned to the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council and as required to the other organs of the UN shall form a part of the Secretariat.

POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

The Secretary General plays a vital as well as a positive role at all meetings of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic, and Social Council and Trusteeship Council and shall perform such other functions as are assigned to him by these organs (Art 98).

The Secretary General is required to make an annual report to the General Assembly on the work of the organization.

He with the consent of the Security Council notifies the General Assembly of matters relating to the maintenance of peace and security which are being dealt with the Security Council (Art 12, Para 2).

He notifies the Assembly or the members of the UN if the General Assembly is not in session (Art 12, Para 2).

He may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter, which in his opinion threaten the maintenance of international peace and security (Art 99).

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AUTHORED BY: SANAH SETHI

AMITY LAW SCHOOL (L.L.B 3 YEARS)

 

 

 

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