ICSE Class 10 Notes : United Nations Organisation and its Major Agencies

United Nations Organisation (UNO)

Destructive and horrifying experiences of the two World Wars made the world realise the necessity of a peace maintaining organisation more powerful than the previous ones e.g., the League of Nations. The efforts finally took shape at San Francisco on 24th October, 1945 with the emergence of the United Nations Organisation (UNO).

Establishment of the UNO

  • The two World Wars left a legacy of misery and depression in nearly every country. Millions of people lost their lives and many others became disabled, homeless and unemployed, apart from the millions of dollars that were spent during the war.
  • The League of Nations was established with a promise of peace, but it had failed to prevent another war. All the countries feared, that another World War might lead to the end of the world as destructive weapons, like atom bombs, were now invented and already used.
  • The world was divided in two Power Blocs, both having opposite ideologies. All the above mentioned events gave the world leaders a purpose to form a more powerful, transparent and impartial organisation, which would be able to resolve the differences between the countries/blocs amicably and save the mankind from any further destruction.

Origin of the UNO

  • The leaders of the Allied powers comprising Great Britain, France, Soviet Union, United States and China realised the potential danger of wars on humanity, during the war period. Thus, there were talks about setting up a World Organisation.
  • The formation of the UN had a huge history behind it, with many such efforts being already taken in the past. American President Roosevelt pointed out four freedoms – those of Worship, Speech, Freedom from Wars and Freedom from Fears as the basis of Peace.
  • The London Declaration , 1941, proposed by the representatives of New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Britain, aimed at forming a World Organisation more powerful than the League of Nations.
  • The Atlantic Charter of August, 1941 required all signatories to accept peaceful settling of disputes, recognising equality and sovereignty of nations and also, the right of each nation to choose its own form of Government and trying to preserve peace and security. This was signed by the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and the American President, Roosevelt.
  • Washington Declaration of 1942 also aimed for peace, declaring to accept the principles of the Atlantic charter. It were finally, after all these preceding conferences and declarations, the Moscow declaration (which laid the foundation of the UN), the Dumbarton Oaks Conference (1944) (where the Draft of the Charter was prepared) and the Yalta Conference in 1945 (where it was conceded that the membership would be open to all peace loving states) and also the San Francisco Conference, that finally lend the shape to the UN as it is today.
  • The Organisation formally came into existence on 24th October, 1945, when the Charter was ratified by 29 nations, including 5 permanent members of the Security Council.

Purposes/Objectives of the United Nations

Objectives of the United Nations are as follows:

  1. To maintain International Peace and Security.
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations, based on the respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of people.
  3. To achieve International Co-operation in solving various International, Economic, Social, Cultural or Humanitarian problems.
  4. To be centre for harmonising the actions of nations in the attainment of goals.

Principles of the United Nations

Principles of the United Nations are as follows:

  1. To respect the sovereign equality of all its members.
  2. All members should fulfill, in good faith, the obligations assumed by them.
  3. They should settle their International disputes by peaceful means.
  4. They would refrain from threat or use of force against any state.
  5. They should give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes.
  6. The Organisation should ensure, that States, which are not members of the United Nations, act in accordance with these principles.

Headquarters and the Flag of the Untied Nations

  • All the organs of the United Nations are based in New York, USA, except the International Court of Justice, which is located at the Hague in Netherlands.
  • The UN Flag is light blue in color and is portrayed in white. At its centre is the UN Emblem, a polar map of the world, embraced by twin olive branches. The flag was adopted on 20th October, 1947.

Official Languages and Membership

Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish are the official languages of the UNO. However, any documents are written only in the working languages – English and French.

50 members who took part in the San Francisco Conference, signed and approved the Charter and became the original members of the United Nations.

All Peace-loving Nations can be admitted to the UN. These countries are admitted by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council by a 2/3rd majority of votes. It should be noted that India was one of those 50 members who took part in the Conference and has been an active participant in all the peace-keeping endeavours of the UN.

Organs of the United Nations

The General Assembly

The work of the UN is determined by the will of the majority of the members as expressed in Resolutions adopted by the Assembly. The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the UN.

All the members of the UN are members of the General Assembly. Each state has 5 representatives in the General Assembly, but each State has only one vote.

The regular session of the General Assembly begins each year on the 3rd Tuesday in September and continues usually until the 3rd week of December.

At the beginning of each regular session, the Assembly elects a new President, 21 Vice-Presidents and the Chairmen of the Assembly’s six main committees.

The Presidency of the Assembly rotates each year among the five groups of the States: Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean and Western Europe and other States. This rotation of Presidency is done so as to ensure equitable geographical representation.

Powers and Functions of the General Assembly

The powers and functions of the General Assembly are as follows:

  1. To consider and make recommendations on the principles of co-operation, in the maintenance of international peace and security.
  2. To discuss any question relating to international peace and security and to make recommendations on it.
  3. To make recommendations for the peaceful settlements of disputes.
  4. To receive and consider reports from the Security Council and other organs of the UN.
  5. To consider and approve the budget of the UN and to apportion the contributions among members.
  6. To elect the non-permanent members of the Security Council , the Economic and Social Council and Trusteeship Council and to elect the judges of the International Court of Justice.
  7. To appoint the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the Security Council.
  8. To discuss and make recommendations on any issue affecting the powers and functions of any organ of the UN.
  9. To make recommendations to promote International, Political, Social and Economic co-operation.

The Security Council

It is the executive body of the United Nations. It has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of International peace and security.

Composition of Security Council

The Council consists of 15 members out of which 5 members China, France, Russia, Britain and the USA are permanent. The non-permanent members are elected from Afro-Asian countries (5 members), Latin America (2 members), West European and other countries (2 members) and East European countries (1 member).

Each member of the Security Council has one vote. The permanent members have the Veto power i.e., a negative vote. However, abstinence for voting does not amount to a negative vote or a veto.

Powers and Functions of the Security Council

The powers and functions of the Security Council are as follows:

  1. To maintain International peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the UN.
  2. To investigate any dispute or situation and to take military action against an aggressor, and to recommend terms of settling disputes and any methods of adjusting against them.
  3. Formulating plans to regulate armaments.
  4. To call on members to apply economic sanctions and other measures other than force, to prevent or stop aggression.
  5. To recommend to the General Assembly for the appointment of the Secretary-General and to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice together with the General Assembly.
  6. To determine existence of any threats and to recommend actions for the same.
  7. To recommend the admission of new members.
  8. To exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in strategic areas. One of the peace keeping forces of the UN is working in Afghanistan as UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which is deeply concerned about the rising number of civilian deaths and injuries.

The International Court of Justice

It is the principal judicial organ of the UN. Its headquarter is at the Hague (Netherlands). The Court has a dual role to settle in accordance with International law, to settle the legal disputes submitted to it by the States, to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it, to modify International laws etc.

Composition and Qualification

  • The Court composes of 15 judges for a term of 9 years by the UN General Assembly and Security Council sitting independently. Elections are held every 3 years for 1/3rd of the seats.
  • A retiring Judge may be re-elected.
  • The Judges must possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices.


Should be a Jurist of recognised competence in International Law.

Powers and Functions of the International Court of Justice

  • Only the Member States may apply to appear before the Court. The Court decides cases in accordance with International treaties and conventions in force, and is competent to entertain a dispute if the parties so involved agree for it.
  • The advisory procedure of the Court is open only to its 5 organs and 16 other authorised agencies of the UN family . The Court plays a significant role in the codification of International laws. The Court may recommend appropriate procedures/methods of settlement during or at the end of the case.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

It is responsible for promoting higher standards of living, full employment and economic and social progress. It has 54 members elected for 3 years by the General Assembly. The Council deals with initiating research and reports on economic, health, social, educational and even cultural matters.

The Trusteeship Council

It is in charge of all the territories administered by the League of Nations under the mandate system before the Second World War.

The Secretariat

It is the chief Administrative Office of the UN. It consists of the Secretary General and other staff appointed by him. Its main function is to co-ordinate and supervise the activities of the UN organs. It organises seminars and co-ordinates the work of the organs and agencies.

Major Agencies of the UN

There are 18 specialised agencies and 14 major programmes to achieve economic and social progress.

1. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

  • UNICEF stands for United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. Late on, its name was changed to Untied Nations Children’s Fund, but its acronym continued.
  • It was created by the General Assembly, during its first session, to provide long range benefits to the children of all developing countries. It is governed by a 36-member executive board. Its headquarters is in New York.
  • The agency depends on voluntary contributions made by different governments, by private agencies, through sale of greeting cards and via other fund raising campaigns, to finance its projects.
  • UNICEF was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace (1965) and the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace (1989).

Functions of UNICEF

The functions of UNICEF are as follows:

  1. It works for the protection of children in respect of their survival, health and well being. It also supports child-immunisation programmes.
  2. It provides funds for training the personnel, including health and sanitation workers, teachers and nutritionists etc.
  3. It provides technical supplies, equipments and other aids to villages.
  4. It assists governments to plan, develop and extend community services.’
  5. It provides help to children and mothers in case of emergencies.
  6. It makes efforts to prevent diseases like TB, Malaria, eye diseases, skin diseases etc.

2. World Health Organisation (WHO)

It is the specialised agency for health establishment on 7th April, 1948 with the objective of achieving the highest possible level of health for all. Its headquarters is at Geneva in Switzerland. Its main aim is to help the Government raise the standards of public health and medical research.

Functions of WHO

The functions of WHO are as follows:

  1. It helps countries to improve their health system by building up infrastructure.
  2. It gives important drugs needed for medical care. It launches programmes to immunise children against 6 major diseases – Malaria, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Tuberculosis, Polio and Whooping cough.
  3. It promotes research to cure and prevent diseases.
  4. It works towards providing safe drinking water and adequate waste disposal.
  5. It organises conferences, seminars and training activities for health care personnel.
  6. It aims at fighting diseases and preventing them from spreading.
  7. It publishes health journals to create health consciousness among people.

Achievements of WHO

Some of the achievements of WHO in the field of health are as follows:

  1. 80% of immunisation coverage has been achieved.
  2. Significant reduction in Diarrhoeal deaths.
  3. Rare occurrences of Cholera and Plague.
  4. Eradication of Smallpox.
  5. Management of Leprosy etc.

3. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

It was established on 4th November 1946, with the main objective to contribute to peace and security in the world, by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication. Its headquarters is at Paris.

Functions of UNESCO

The main functions of UNESCO are as follows:

  1. Removal of illiteracy by encouraging adult education, distance education and open school education.
  2. Financial assistance for the education of disabled children. It also lays special emphasis on the education of women and girls.
  3. Encouragement of scientific education by providing regional training centres.
  4. Advices about the production of text books, syllabus and teacher-training.
  5. Helps to set-up library systems and also gives fellowships.

Scientific Activities

Scientific activities undertaken by UNESCO are as follows:

  1. It promotes research in fields like Geology, Mathematics, Physics and Oceanography.
  2. It helps in correcting the imbalance in scientific and technological manpower so existing.
  3. It encourages the study of Social Sciences in order to focus attention on combating all forms of discrimination, improving the status of women and helping the truth in solving their problems.
  4. It also organises conferences to bring scientists together.
  5. It circulates information through journals. ‘Courier’ is the official monthly magazine of UNESCO.


It assists developing countries to develop communication and has set-up regional networks for the same. It upholds the freedom of the press and independence of the Media. It disseminates information about Human Rights and also sets up projects on mass communication.

Preservation of Cultural Heritage

Following are the measures taken by UNESCO to preserve the Cultural Heritage:

  1. It provides technical advice and assistance, equipments and funds for the preservation of monuments and other works of art.
  2. It aims to protect the world inheritance of books, works of arts and rare manuscripts.
  3. It gives encouragement to artistic creations in Literature and Fine Arts. UNESCO is also lending its hands to India so as to restore the Taj Mahal.