Chapter : 5

What Are United Nations And Its Organizations ?

Why International Organisations?

  • International organisations are not the answer to everything, but they are important.
  • International organisations help with matters of war and peace. They also help countries cooperate to make better living conditions for us all.
  • An international organisation can help produce information and ideas about how to cooperate. It can provide mechanisms, rules and a bureaucracy, to help members have more confidence that costs will be shared properly, that the benefits will be fairly divided, and that once a member joins an agreement it will honour the terms and conditions of the agreement.

Evolution Of The Un

  • The First World War encouraged the world to invest in an international organisation to deal with conflict.
  • As a result, the League of Nations was born. However, despite its initial success, it could not prevent the Second World War (1939-45). Many more people died and were wounded in this war than ever before.
  • The UN was founded as a successor to the League of Nations.
  • It was established in 1945 immediately after the Second World War.
  • The organisation was set up through the signing of the United Nations Charter by 51 states.
  • The UN’s objective is to prevent international conflict and to facilitate cooperation among states.
  • It was founded with the hope that it would act to stop the conflicts between states escalating into war and, if war broke out, to limit the extent of hostilities.
  • By 2011, the UN had 193 member states. These included almost all independent states.
  • In the UN General Assembly, all members have one vote each. In the UN Security Council, there are five permanent members - the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China.
  • The UN’s most visible public figure, and the representative head, is the Secretary-General. The present Secretary-General is Antonio Guterres from Portugal. He is the ninth Secretary-General of the UN. He took over as the Secretary-General on 1 January 2017. He was the Prime Minister of Portugal (1995-2002) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (2005-2015).
  • The UN consists of many different structures and agencies. War and peace and differences between member states are discussed in the General Assembly as well as the Security Council. Social and economic issues are dealt with by many agencies including the WHO, UNDP, UNHRC, UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNESCO among others.

Reform Of The Un After The Cold War

  • Two basic kinds of reforms face the UN: reform of the organisation’s structures and processes; and a review of the issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the organisation.
  • On the reform of structures and processes, the biggest discussion has been on the functioning of the Security Council. Related to this has been the demand for an increase in the UN Security Council’s permament and non-permanent membership so that the realities of contemporary world politics are better reflected in the structure of the organisation.
  • On the issues to be given greater priority or to be brought within the jurisdiciton of the UN, some countries and experts want the organisation to play a greater or more effective role in peace and security missions, while others want its role to be confined to development and humanitarian work (health, education, environment, population control, human rights, gender and social justice).
  • A whole new set of challenges confronts the world (genocide, civil war, ethnic conflict, terrorism, nuclear  proliferation, climate change, environmental degradation, epidemics, etc).

India And The Un Reforms

  • India has supported the restructuring of the UN on several grounds.
  • It believes that a strengthened and revitalised UN is desirable in a changing world.
  • One of India’s major concerns has been the composition of the Security Council, which has remained largely static while the UN General Assembly membership has expanded considerably.
  • It also argues that an expanded Council, with more representation, will enjoy greater support in the world
  • India supports an increase in the number of both permanent and non-permanent members.
  • The country’s economic emergence on the world stage is another factor that justifies India’s claim to a permanent seat in the Security Council.
  • Despite India’s wish to be a permanent veto-wielding member of the UN, some countries question its inclusion.

The Un In A Unipolar World

Among the concerns about the reform and restructuring of the UN has been the hope of some countries that changes could help the UN cope better with a unipolar word in which the US was the most powerful country without any serious rivals.

Other International Organisations


  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organisation that oversees those financial institutions and regulations that act at the international level.
  • The IMF has 189 member countries, (as on 12 April 2016) but they do not enjoy an equal say.
  • The top ten countries have more than 52 per cent of the votes.
  • They are the G-7 members (the US, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Canada), China, India, Russia.

    The US alone has 16.52 percent voting rights.

World Bank

  • The World Bank was created during the Second World War in 1944.
  • Its activities are focused on the developing countries.
  • It works for human development (education, health), agriculture and rural development (irrigation, rural services), environmental protection (pollution reduction, establishing and enforcing regulations), infrastructure (roads, urban regeneration, electricity) and governance (anti-corruption, development of legal institutions).
  • It provides loans and grants to the member countries.
  • It exercises enormous influence on the economic policies of developing countries.
  • It is often criticised for setting the economic agenda of the poorer nations, attaching stringent conditions to its loans and forcing free market reforms.


  • The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is an international organisation which sets the rules for global trade.
  • This organisation was set up in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GAT T) created after the Second World War.
  • It has 164 members (as on 29 July 2016).
  • All decisions are taken unanimously but the major economic powers such as the US, EU and Japan have managed to use the WTO to frame rules of trade to advance their own interests.
  • The developing countries often complain of non-transparent procedures and being pushed around by big powers.


  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established in 1957.
  • It came into being to implement the US President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” proposal.
  • It seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to prevent its use for military purposes.
  • IAEA teams regularly inspect nuclear facilities all over the world to ensure that civilian reactors are not being used for military purposes.

Amnesty International

  • Amnesty International is an NGO that campaigns for the protection of human rights all over the world.
  • It promotes respect for all the human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • It believes that human rights are interdependent and indivisible.
  • It prepares and publishes reports on human rights. Governments are not always happy with these reports since a major focus of Amnesty is the misconduct of government authorities.

Human Rights Watch

  • Human Rights Watch is another international NGO involved in research and advocacy on human rights.
  • It is the largest international human rights organisation in the US.
  • It draws the global media’s attention to human rights abuses.
  • It helped in building international coalitions like the campaigns to ban landmines, to stop the use of child soldiers and to establish the International Criminal Court.