Table of Contents

  • Since 1947, Basic Facts about the United Nations has served as a trusted guide to the Organization. This new edition introduces readers to the structure and history of the entire United Nations system, and provides essential details about its latest efforts to address the challenges of our times.
  • Basic Facts about the United Nations, published regularly since 1947, serves as the definitive introduction to the UN and its family of related institutions and agencies. Over the years, Basic Facts has expanded the scope and depth of its coverage as the Organization has broadened its commitment to meet the urgent needs of an ever more populous and complex world. At the same time, the book has remained true to its roots as a comprehensive yet concise guide to this leading world body. Continuing that tradition, this 2014 edition outlines the current structure of the UN system and explains how each individual part contributes to achieving key international goals.
  • The struggle for peace is an enduring one. More than a century ago, in 1899, the first International Peace Conference was held in The Hague to elaborate multilateral instruments for settling crises peacefully, preventing wars and codifying rules of warfare. It adopted the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes and established the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which began its work in 1902. Subsequently, in 1919, the League of Nations, conceived during the First World War, was established under the Treaty of Versailles “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security”. While the League of Nations ceased activities after failing to prevent the Second World War, the need for peaceful resolution of conflicts through international collaboration and dialogue continued to grow.
  • One of the primary purposes of the United Nations is the maintenance of international peace and security. Since its creation, the United Nations has often been called upon to prevent disputes from escalating into war, to persuade opposing parties to use the conference table rather than the force of arms to settle disputes, or to help restore peace when armed conflict does break out. Over the decades, the UN has helped end numerous conflicts and foster reconciliation, including successful peacekeeping missions in Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan and Timor- Leste. While the Security Council is the primary organ for dealing with issues of international peace and security, the General Assembly and the Secretary-General also play major, complementary roles in fostering peace and security. United Nations activities cover the principal areas of conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, enforcement and peacebuilding (see
  • Many people associate the United Nations with the issues of peace and security, but most of Organization’s resources are in fact devoted to advancing the Charter’s pledge to “promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development”. United Nations development efforts have profoundly affected the lives and wellbeing of millions of people throughout the world. UN endeavours are guided by the conviction that lasting international peace and security are possible only if the economic and social well-being of people everywhere is assured.
  • One of the most significant achievements of the United Nations is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law (see rights)—a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people aspire. The United Nations has defined a broad range of internationally accepted rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. It has also established mechanisms to promote and protect these rights and to assist states in carrying out their responsibilities.
  • Since it first coordinated humanitarian relief operations in Europe following the devastation and massive displacement of people in the Second World War, the United Nations has led the international community in responding to natural and man-made disasters that are beyond the capacity of national authorities alone. Today, the Organization is a major provider of emergency relief and longer-term assistance, a catalyst for action by governments and relief agencies, and an advocate for people affected by emergencies (see
  • Among the most wide-reaching results of the United Nations is the development of a body of international law (—conventions, treaties and standards—central to promoting economic and social development, as well as to advancing international peace and security. Many of the treaties brought about by the United Nations form the basis of the law that governs relations among nations. While the work of the UN in this area does not always receive attention, it has a daily impact on the lives of people everywhere.