Basic Facts about the United Nations

Basic Facts about the United Nations

Basic Facts about the United Nations

Basic Facts about the United Nations


This is a new edition of this publication which describes the structure and activities of the United Nations and its organisations, and looks at its work under the headings of: international peace and security; economic and social development; human rights; humanitarian action; international law; and decolonisation. It also includes details of UN websites, UN member states, past and present peacekeeping operations and UN special observances, as well as giving contact details for UN information centres, services and offices. The data are current as of December 2003, unless otherwise stated.


The United Nations is the only truly universal body in which the States of the world, and the peoples they represent, can come together to meet the challenges of our time. The principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter are furthered every day, all around the globe, by the United Nations family of organizations and the men and women who serve them. It is the purpose of Basic Facts About the United Nations to promote understanding of this work and its impact on people's lives.

Most people today can expect to live longer than their parents, and a number of countries have made great strides in lifting themselves out of poverty. But many have not. Extreme poverty and deprivation is still widespread. Indeed, dozens of nations, many of them in Africa, grew poorer in the last decade. Some have been devastated by HIV/AIDS or ravaged by war. In many of the poorest countries, health care and education are in decline. Nearly everywhere the environment is deteriorating. The record in advancing women's opportunities, so crucial to human rights and development, is not what it should be. The benefits of globalization have so far passed many by.

In the year 2000, the Member States of the United Nations, in the Millennium Declaration, articulated a vision of development, peace and human rights. They also committed themselves to the Millennium Development Goals, with specific targets to be achieved by 2015. This compact among nations was an unprecedented declaration of aims and a statement of intent to meet them. Bold and urgent steps are now required to match those commitments with action. Poor countries need to make significant reforms. But developed countries must also deliver — especially through increased aid, more systematic debt relief, and levelling the playing field on trade.

Reducing poverty and advancing the cause of peace and human rights is rendered more, not less, urgent by the threat of international terrorism and by other global security concerns. The United Nations has for many years played an important role in international efforts to combat terrorism. These efforts were greatly intensified after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Terrorism is a global concern. It requires global solutions, which must not only defeat terrorists, but must also address the suffering and hopelessness that they exploit, and advance the human rights that they seek to destroy. Multilateral solutions are also required to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to reduce the flow of small arms and light weapons, and to achieve concrete progress on disarmament. The United Nations is active in efforts to strengthen international cooperation and the rule of law in all these fields.

This work is complemented by the efforts of the United Nations throughout the world to prevent violent conflict, resolve conflicts that have erupted, protect civilians and deliver humanitarian assistance, keep the peace when combatants have reached a truce, and build lasting peace in the aftermath of war. Many reforms have . . .

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