Portal:United Nations

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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 (October 24,1945) 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 UN 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 state. 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 Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who attained the post on 1 January 2007. The newest Member State is South Sudan, added on July 2011.

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The General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly (GA, UNGA) is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation. Its powers are to oversee the budget of the United Nations, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council, receive reports from other parts of the United Nations and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions. The General Assembly meets under its president in regular yearly sessions which last from September to December, although it can reconvene for special and emergency special sessions. Its composition, functions, powers, voting, and procedures are set out in Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter. Voting in the General Assembly on important questions – recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; budgetary matters – is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member country has one vote. The first session was convened on 10 January 1946 in the Methodist Central Hall Westminster in London and included representatives of 51 nations.

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Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN

Susan Rice (born 17 November 1964) is an American foreign policy advisor and the permanent United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Rice was as a foreign policy aide to Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential election. She served at various posts in the Clinton administration before being appointed Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997, a post she held until the end of Clinton's presidency in 2001. Rice joined the Brookings Institution in 2002, and focused on U.S. foreign policy, weak and failing states, the implications of global poverty, and transnational threats to security. During the 2008 presidential campaign, she served as a foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama, and was nominated by him to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations after his election win.

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Refugee camp in Zaire
Rwandan refugees making camp in Kimbumba, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), in 1994 following the Rwandan Genocide.

Photo credit: United States Federal Government

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U Thant
Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves.
U Thant, Secretary-General from 1961 to 1972

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