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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 (24 October 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 Security Council 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 states. 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 António Guterres of Portugal, who took office on 1 January 2017. The newest Member State is South Sudan, admitted in July 2011.

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The ECOSOC chamber

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations assists the General Assembly in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development. ECOSOC has 54 members, all of whom are elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term. The president is elected for a one-year term and chosen amongst the small or middle powers represented on ECOSOC. ECOSOC meets once a year in July for a four-week session. Since 1998, it has held another meeting each April with finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Viewed separate from the specialized bodies it coordinates, ECOSOC’s functions include information gathering, advising member nations, and making recommendations. In addition, ECOSOC is well-positioned to provide policy coherence and coordinate the overlapping functions of the UN’s subsidiary bodies and it is in these roles that it is most active.

Selected biography

George McGovern

George McGovern (19 July 1922– 21 October 2012) was a former United States Representative, Senator, and Democratic presidential nominee. McGovern lost the 1972 presidential election in a landslide to incumbent Richard Nixon. As a decorated World War II combat veteran, McGovern was noted for his opposition to the Vietnam War.

During his time as Director of the US Food for Peace Programmes, McGovern proposed establishing a multilateral food aid programme, which resulted in the creation of the United Nations World Food Programme in 1960. A longtime leader in ensuring nutrition and food security and fighting hunger and poverty, McGovern was appointed United Nations Ambassador on World Hunger in 2001. In 2008, he and Senator Bob Dole were named the 2008 World Food Prize Laureates for their work to promote school-feeding programs globally.

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UN peacekeeper in Sarajevo
A UN peacekeeper from Norway holds his helmet as a Hercules C-130 transport plane lands at Sarajevo airport in the summer of 1992 during the Bosnian War.

Photo credit: Mikhail Evstafiev

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Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.
Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General from 1953 to 1961

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