Overview of the basic courses in this
Main Subject Group
Basic Course 1: What are the Tasks and Aims of the United
Basic Course 2:
How did the United Nations Develop?
Basic Course 3: How
is the United Nations Structured?
Basic Course 4:
What does the United Nations System
Basic Course 5:
Which Problems is the United Nations
Basic Course 1: What are the Tasks and Aims of the United Nations?
apart from the practical tasks which
the United Nations has been asked to avail itself of, the organisation has ...
the declared aim of altering the relations between the states and the manner and
form in which international affairs are steered."
report by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the General Assembly]
two devastating world wars, the assurance
of peace and international security form the central tasks of the world
organisation, whereby the endeavour is to learn lessons from the failed attempt
to set up a collective security system under the League of Nations in the period
between the wars [see
Basic Course 2 for
more information of the League of Nations and the early history of the United
intergovernmental wars formed the main challenge at the time when the
organisation was founded, the situation has gone through a fundamental
transformation over the last few decades. A reduction in the number of
intergovernmental wars stands in contrast to an immense increase in innerstate
conflicts, and new phenomena such as transnational terrorism [suggestions
for study on war, peace, violence and conflict can be found within the
Subject Group of Peace Education on D@dalos].
made in securing peace - from the blockade of the Security Council during
the Cold War to the current discussion on humanitarian intervention - are dealt
with in Basic Course 2.
The genocide and the crime against humanity of the
Hitler regime in particular, form the background for the second major field of
tasks for the United Nations: the protection
of human rights and the continued development of public international law.
The General Assembly had already passed the General
Declaration of Human Rights, the most major document in the history of human
rights, by 1948. The actual legislative implementation of this declaration was
empowered through two international pacts following long and difficult
discussions: 1. the Pact on Civil and Political Rights and 2. the Pact on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of which were signed in 1966 and came
into power in 1976 [these documents and other detailed information on the topics
of human rights, children's rights and women's rights can be found within the
framework of the
Main Subject Group of Human Rights on D@dalos].
and social development makes up the third major field of tasks for the
United Nations. Peace, in the sense of the negative peace, is not just
understood as an absence of war, but, in the sense of positive peace, also
encompasses questions of worldwide development and justice [refer to the
on "Peace" within the framework of the Main Subject Group of Peace
Education for more information on this issue].
In the face of global problems such as the
greenhouse effect and the ozone hole, environmental protection has been
added to this as an additional field of tasks in recent times.
The irrevocable link between peace and development
was recognised as early as in 1945. The words of the then United States
Secretary of State Edward Stettinius prove exemplary for this: "The fight
for peace must take place on two fronts. one front is concerned with security,
and the other with the economy and social rights. Only a victory of both fronts
will bestow lasting peace on the world."
The numerous programmes, commissions, special organs
and specialist institutions which form the widely branching system of the United
Nations are dedicated in essence to the topics of development and the
environment, and are dealt with in
Basic Course 4.
of the United Nations Charter
summarises these aims:
To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take
effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to
the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches
of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with
the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement
of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of
To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the
principle of equal rights and the self-determination of peoples, and to
take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems
of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in
promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental
freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or
To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment
of these common ends."
[The complete UN Charter
can be found on a separate page]
The difficulty and effort required in fulfilling
these tasks was expressed by former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in his annual report of 1978: "The problems
placed in front of the United Nations usually address questions of immense
complexity. Many of them, in addition, form a threat to international peace and
security. The United Nations provides a political framework within which these
problems can be checked, rendered safe and dealt with. It also provides a place
where all can come to a consensus on how to work for a solution or agreement.
However, it occurs very frequently that agreements
of this nature can only be brought about slowly during periods of gradual
development, during which problems have to be dealt with and positive forces
guided in the right direction continually. This is a vital, practical function
of the United Nations, which should not be overshadowed by the disappointments
that occur by failing to reach quick and wholesale solutions."
[Author: Ragnar Müller]
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