The General Assembly
The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the UN. The work of the United Nations is determined by the will of the majority of the members as expressed in resolutions adopted by the Assembly.
While the decisions of the Assembly have no legally binding force of the Governments, they carry the weight of world opinion on major international issues, as well as the model authority of the world community.
All members of the United Nations are members of the general assembly. Each state has five representatives in the general assembly but each state has one vote.
The regular session of the General Assembly begins each year on the third Tuesday of September and continues until the third week of December. At the start of each regular session, the Assembly elects a new President, 21 Vice-Presidents, and the Chairman of the assembly’s six main committees. To ensure equitable geographical representation, the presidency of the Assembly rotates each year among five groups of States: Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and Western Europe and other states. Special sessions are convened by the Secretary-general at the request of the Security Council or by a special request by the majority of members.
Decisions on important matters are made by a two-thirds majority. These matters include the election of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, admission of new members, the suspension or expulsion of members, budgetary issues, decisions on other questions are made by a majority of members present and voting.
Powers and Functions
Under the charter — the powers and functions of the General Assembly include the following:
- To consider and make recommendations on the principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security.
- To discuss any question relating to international peace and security and (except where a dispute or situation is currently being discussed by the Security Council) to make recommendations on it.
- To discuss and make recommendations on any question within the scope of the Charter or affecting the powers and functions of any organ of the United Nations.
- To initiate studies and make recommendations to promote international political, social, and economic cooperation.
- To make recommendations for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
- To receives and consider a report from the Security Council and other organs of the United Nations.
- To consider and approve the budget of the United Nations and to apportion the contributions among members.
- To elect the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the Trusteeship Council, and to elect the judges of the International Court of Justice.
- To appoint the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the Security Council.
Under the “Uniting for Peace” resolution adopted by the General Assembly in November 1950, the Assembly may take action if the Security Council, because of a lack of unanimity of its permanent members, failed to act in a case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression.
The Assembly is empowered to consider the matter immediately to make recommendations to members for corrective measures, including the use of armed force.
While the Security Council is exercising the functions assigned to it, in the Charter in respect of any dispute or situation, the general assembly shall not make any recommendation concerning the dispute or situation.
The Security Council
The Security Council is the executive body of the United Nations. It has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. A representative of each of its members must be present at all times at the United Nations Headquarters.
The Council consists of 15 members. It has five permanent members- China, France, Russia, Britain, and the United States of America. The regional representation of the 10 non-permanent members is
(I) Afro Asian countries – 5
(II) Latin American countries – 2
(III) West European and other countries – 2
(IV) East European countries – 1
The 10 non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority for a term of two years. A retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election. The Presidency of the Council rotates monthly, according to the English alphabetical listing of its member States.
Veto Power: Each member of the Security Council has one vote. Decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of nine members, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members. The negative vote of a permanent member is called a Veto. The Council is powerless to act if any of the five permanent members use the veto power. However, abstinence from voting does not amount to a negative vote or Veto.
Functions and Powers
The functions and powers of the Security Council are:
- to maintain International peace and security by the principles and purposes of the United Nations.
- to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to International friction and to take military action against an aggressor.
- today comment methods of existing disputes are the terms of the settlement.
- to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments.
- to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken.
- to call on members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression.
- to take military action against an aggressor
- to recommend the admission of new members.
- to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”.
- to recommend to the general assembly the appointment of the secretary-general and, together with the Assembly, to elect the judges of the International Court of Justice.
3. International Court of Justice
The National Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its seat is at The Hague, Netherlands. It can work in 1946 when it replaced the Permanent Court of international justice which had functioned in the Peace Palace since 1922.
The court has a dual role – to settle, by international law, the legal disputes submitted to it by the states, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies.
The Court is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council sitting independently. It may not include more than one judge from any nationality. Elections are held every 3 years for one-third of the seats; any retiring judges may be re-elected. The Members of the Court do not represent their governments but are independent magistrates.
The judges must possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or be jurists of recognized competence in international law. The composition of the court has also to reflect the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the world.
The court elects the President and Vice President for a three-year term. They may be re-elected when their term expires. The court has the power to appoint its Registrar.
Powers and Functions
The Parties: Only member states may apply to and appear before the court. The member states of the United Nations are entitled to a pear and apply before the International Court of Justice.
Sources of Applicable Law: The court decides cases by the International treaties, and conventions in force, International customs, the general principle of law, and, as a subsidiary means, judicially decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists.
Voluntary Jurisdiction: The court is competent to entertain a dispute if the state concerned agreed to take the issue to it.
Compulsory jurisdiction: The court has compulsory jurisdiction in the following areas:
- against the background that a large number of treaties provide that disputes are submitted to the court.
- its jurisdiction extends to: a) Disputes about the interpretation of international law, and
b) Reparation, that is, compensation to be made for the breach of an international obligation.
The advisory procedure of the court is open solely to International organizations. The only bodies at present authorized to request an advisory opinion of the court are five organs of the United Nations and 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations family. Since 1946, the court has given 24 advisory opinions, concerning reparation for injuries suffered in the service of the United Nations, the territorial status of South West Africa (Namibia) and Western Sahara, etc.
Codification of International Law
The court has played a significant role in the qualification of international law. It examines international conventions, International customs, judicial decisions, and general principles of law in the process of codification.
Evolving procedures for peaceful settlement of disputes
The court may recommend appropriate procedures or methods of settlement at the end of the case. Furthermore, it may also the comment terms of the settlement. The decision of the court is made by the majority of the judges present.
A member of the United Nations is obliged to comply with the decision of the court in any case to which it is a party. if any party fails to comply and fulfill its obligation, the other party may take up the matter in the Security Council.
Given below are the other organs of the UN, briefly just for information.
- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
It is responsible for promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress.
- The Trusteeship Council
It is in charge of all territories which were administered before the Second World War under the Mandate system of the League of Nations.
- The Secretariat
It is the chief administrative officer of the UN. It is composed of the secretary-general, who is the chief administrative officer of the organization, and an international staff appointed by him. Its main function is to coordinate and supervise the activities of the UN.
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