10 Things You Didn’t Know About the United Nations

Established in 1945 after the end of World War II, the United Nations (UN) has become one of the most influential intergovernmental organizations in the world. Comprised of 193 member states, the UN plays a pivotal role in addressing global issues, promoting peace, and fostering international cooperation. While most people have a general understanding of the UN’s purpose, there are several captivating facts that may surprise you. In this article, we will delve into 10 things you didn’t know about the United Nations.

1. The United Nations Is Not a World Government

Contrary to popular belief, the United Nations is not a world government. Rather than imposing its authority over member states, the UN serves as a forum for nations to come together and discuss international issues diplomatically. It acts as a platform for dialogue, negotiation, and decision-making, enabling member states to collectively address global challenges while respecting their sovereignty.

The UN Charter, which serves as its founding document, clearly states that the organization does not interfere in matters that are primarily within the domestic jurisdiction of any country. Instead, the UN provides a framework for cooperation and ensures that nations adhere to agreed-upon principles and norms.

2. The United Nations Has Official Languages

While you may have guessed that English and French are the two official languages of the United Nations, you might not be aware that there are, in fact, six official languages. Alongside English and French, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic hold official status within the organization. These languages are used in official UN documents, meetings, and conferences to ensure that discussions and information are accessible to all member states.

The inclusion of multiple official languages highlights the commitment to linguistic diversity and enables effective communication between member states. It promotes equal participation and ensures that every nation can actively engage in discussions and decision-making processes as part of the UN’s commitment to inclusivity.

3. The United Nations Has Nobel Peace Prize Recipients

While the Nobel Peace Prize is generally associated with individuals or organizations, you might be surprised to learn that the United Nations itself has received this prestigious accolade. The organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize not once, but twice. The first time was in 1954, in recognition of its efforts in resolving conflicts during the early years of the Cold War. The second time was in 2001, in acknowledgment of the UN’s dedication to human rights, democracy, and its role in promoting peace worldwide.

These awards serve as a testament to the significance of the UN’s work and its impact on fostering global peace and cooperation. They highlight the organization’s continuous efforts to address pressing challenges faced by humanity and strive for a more harmonious and just world.

4. The United Nations Created the International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), often referred to as the World Court, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Established in 1945, the ICJ is responsible for settling disputes between member states in accordance with international law. Located in The Hague, Netherlands, the court consists of 15 judges elected by the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

By providing a platform for peaceful settlement of disputes, the ICJ plays a crucial role in maintaining international peace and security. Its decisions and judgments help establish legal precedents and contribute to the development and clarification of international law.

5. The United Nations Supports Sustainable Development Goals

A vital aspect of the UN’s work involves supporting global efforts to achieve sustainable development. In 2015, the organization introduced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which sets forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals encompass a range of interconnected issues, such as poverty eradication, gender equality, climate action, and access to quality education.

While many people may be aware of the SDGs, they may not realize the UN’s central role in coordinating and mobilizing international efforts to achieve these goals. Through its various specialized agencies, programs, and partnerships, the UN actively works towards implementing and monitoring the SDGs, aiming to create a more equitable and sustainable world for all.

6. The United Nations Hosts the General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly serves as the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the organization. It is composed of all 193 member states, with each having an equal vote on important issues. The General Assembly meets once a year for a session, providing a platform for member states to discuss international matters and formulate recommendations.

What many people may not know is that the General Assembly is held at the UN Headquarters in New York City. During the General Assembly’s annual session, world leaders gather to deliver speeches, engage in diplomatic negotiations, and address critical global challenges. This unique forum allows for meaningful dialogue, fostering mutual understanding, and promoting collective action.

7. The United Nations Has a Peacekeeping Force

Peacekeeping operations are one of the most recognizable aspects of the UN’s work. The organization has a specialized Peacekeeping Department that coordinates and deploys peacekeeping missions worldwide. These missions involve military and civilian personnel who work to facilitate the resolution of conflicts, protect civilians, provide humanitarian assistance, and support the establishment of stable and peaceful environments in countries affected by conflict.

There are currently 12 active peacekeeping operations, involving more than 89,000 personnel from over 120 countries. These missions play a crucial role in preventing the escalation of conflicts, promoting reconciliation, and assisting countries in rebuilding and transitioning to lasting peace.

8. The United Nations Has a Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A milestone achievement of the United Nations is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in 1948. The UDHR outlines fundamental human rights and freedoms that are inherent to all individuals, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or background. It serves as a guiding document for promoting and protecting human rights globally.

The declaration consists of 30 articles that cover a wide range of rights, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. It has become a cornerstone of international human rights law and is integrated into the legal frameworks of many countries. The UDHR reflects the UN’s commitment to upholding human dignity, equality, and justice.

9. The United Nations Has an Environmental Program

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority within the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP’s mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnerships in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life.

UNEP works towards achieving sustainable development by addressing pressing environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and resource depletion. It supports countries in implementing environmentally sound policies, promoting sustainable consumption and production, and fostering the conservation and efficient use of natural resources.

10. The United Nations Is Committed to Gender Equality

Promoting gender equality and empowering women is a core principle of the United Nations. The organization aims to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, ensuring their full and equal participation in all spheres of life. Numerous UN agencies, such as UN Women, work tirelessly to advance women’s rights, challenge gender norms, and promote gender-responsive policies worldwide.

The UN has played a pivotal role in shaping global norms and agreements centered on gender equality, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. By advocating for gender equality, the UN strives to create inclusive societies that benefit everyone, regardless of their gender.

By exploring these lesser-known aspects of the United Nations, we gain a deeper understanding of its multifaceted work and the impact it has on global issues. From maintaining peace and promoting sustainable development to protecting human rights and advocating for gender equality, the UN continues to be at the forefront of shaping a better world.

Useful Links:
United Nations Official Website
UN Sustainable Development Goals
International Court of Justice
UN Peacekeeping Operations
United Nations Environment Program