United Nations

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Posted by bender 02/26/2009 @ 22:00

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United Nations

Flag of the United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights and achieving world peace. The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between countries and to provide a platform for dialogue.

Additional bodies deal with the governance of all other UN System agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The UN's most visible public figure is the Secretary-General, currently Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who attained the post in 2007. The organization is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states, and has six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The UN was founded as a successor to the League of Nations, which was widely considered to have been ineffective in its role as an international governing body, as it had been unable to prevent World War II. The term "United Nations" was first used by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the 1942 Declaration by United Nations, which united the Allied countries of WWII under the Atlantic Charter, and soon became a term widely used to refer to them. Declarations signed at wartime Allied conferences in 1943 espoused the idea of the UN, and in 1944, representatives of the major Allied powers met to elaborate on the plans at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. Those and later talks outlined the organization's proposed purposes, membership, organs, and ideals in regards to peace, security, and cooperation.

On 25 April 1945, the UN Conference on International Organization began in San Francisco, attended by 50 governments and a number of non-governmental organizations involved in drafting the Charter of the United Nations. The UN officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council — France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States — and by a majority of the other 46 signatories. The first meetings of the General Assembly, with 51 nations represented, and the Security Council, took place in Westminster Central Hall in London in January 1946.

The United Nations system is based on five principal organs (formerly six - the Trusteeship Council suspended operations in 1994); the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice.

Four of the five principal organs are located at the main United Nations headquarters located on international territory in New York City. The International Court of Justice is located in The Hague, while other major agencies are based in the UN offices at Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi. Other UN institutions are located throughout the world.

The six official languages of the United Nations, used in intergovernmental meetings and documents, are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, while the Secretariat uses two working languages, English and French. Five of the official languages were chosen when the UN was founded; Arabic was added later in 1973. The United Nations Editorial Manual states that the standard for English language documents is British usage and Oxford spelling (en-gb-oed), and the Chinese writing standard is Simplified Chinese. This replaced Traditional Chinese in 1971 when the UN representation of China was changed from the Republic of China to People's Republic of China. The Republic of China is now commonly known as "Taiwan".

The General Assembly is the main deliberative assembly of the United Nations. Composed of all United Nations member states, the assembly meets in regular yearly sessions under a president elected from among the member states. Over a two-week period at the start of each session, all members have the opportunity to address the assembly. Traditionally, the Secretary-General makes the first statement, followed by the president of the assembly. The first session was convened on 10 January 1946 in the Westminster Central Hall in London and included representatives of 51 nations.

When the General Assembly votes on important questions, a two-thirds majority of those present and voting is required. Examples of important questions include: recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; and, budgetary matters. All other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member country has one vote. Apart from approval of budgetary matters, resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may make recommendations on any matters within the scope of the UN, except matters of peace and security that are under Security Council consideration.

Conceivably, the one state, one vote power structure could enable states comprising just eight percent of the world population to pass a resolution by a two-thirds vote. However, as no more than recommendations, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which a recommendation by member states constituting just eight percent of the world's population, would be adhered to by the remaining ninety-two percent of the population, should they object.

The Security Council is charged with maintaining peace and security among countries. While other organs of the United Nations can only make 'recommendations' to member governments, the Security Council has the power to make binding decisions that member governments have agreed to carry out, under the terms of Charter Article 25. The decisions of the Council are known as United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The Security Council is made up of 15 member states, consisting of 5 permanent members - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - and 10 non-permanent members, currently Austria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Japan, Libya, Mexico, Turkey, Uganda, and Vietnam. The five permanent members hold veto power over substantive but not procedural resolutions allowing a permanent member to block adoption but not to block the debate of a resolution unacceptable to it. The ten temporary seats are held for two-year terms with member states voted in by the General Assembly on a regional basis. The presidency of the Security Council is rotated alphabetically each month, and is currently held by Japan.

The United Nations Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by United Nations bodies for their meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the UN Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies. The United Nations Charter provides that the staff be chosen by application of the "highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity," with due regard for the importance of recruiting on a wide geographical basis.

The Charter provides that the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any authority other than the UN. Each UN member country is enjoined to respect the international character of the Secretariat and not seek to influence its staff. The Secretary-General alone is responsible for staff selection.

The Secretary-General's duties include helping resolve international disputes, administering peacekeeping operations, organizing international conferences, gathering information on the implementation of Security Council decisions, and consulting with member governments regarding various initiatives. Key Secretariat offices in this area include the Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that, in his or her opinion, may threaten international peace and security.

The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, who acts as the de facto spokesman and leader of the UN. The current Secretary-General is Ban Ki-moon, who took over from Kofi Annan in 2007 and will be eligible for reappointment when his first term expires in 2011.

Envisioned by Franklin D. Roosevelt as a "world moderator", the position is defined in the UN Charter as the organization's "chief administrative officer", but the Charter also states that the Secretary-General can bring to the Security Council's attention "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security", giving the position greater scope for action on the world stage. The position has evolved into a dual role of an administrator of the UN organization, and a diplomat and mediator addressing disputes between member states and finding consensus to global issues.

The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly, after being recommended by the Security Council. The selection can be vetoed by any member of the Security Council, and the General Assembly can theoretically override the Security Council's recommendation if a majority vote is not achieved, although this has not happened so far. There are no specific criteria for the post, but over the years it has become accepted that the post shall be held for one or two terms of five years, that the post shall be appointed based on geographical rotation, and that the Secretary-General shall not originate from one of the five permanent Security Council member states.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), located in The Hague, Netherlands, is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. Established in 1945 by the United Nations Charter, the Court began work in 1946 as the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice. The Statute of the International Court of Justice, similar to that of its predecessor, is the main constitutional document constituting and regulating the Court.

It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, sharing the building with the Hague Academy of International Law, a private centre for the study of international law. Several of the Court's current judges are either alumni or former faculty members of the Academy. Its purpose is to adjudicate disputes among states. The court has heard cases related to war crimes, illegal state interference and ethnic cleansing, among others, and continues to hear cases.

A related court, the International Criminal Court (ICC), began operating in 2002 through international discussions initiated by the General Assembly. It is the first permanent international court charged with trying those who commit the most serious crimes under international law, including war crimes and genocide. The ICC is functionally independent of the UN in terms of personnel and financing, but some meetings of the ICC governing body, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, are held at the UN. There is a "relationship agreement" between the ICC and the UN that governs how the two institutions regard each other legally.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) assists the General Assembly in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development. ECOSOC has 54 members, all of whom are elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term. The president is elected for a one-year term and chosen amongst the small or middle powers represented on ECOSOC. ECOSOC meets once a year in July for a four-week session. Since 1998, it has held another meeting each April with finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Viewed separate from the specialized bodies it coordinates, ECOSOC's functions include information gathering, advising member nations, and making recommendations. In addition, ECOSOC is well-positioned to provide policy coherence and coordinate the overlapping functions of the UN’s subsidiary bodies and it is in these roles that it is most active.

There are many UN organizations and agencies that function to work on particular issues. Some of the most well-known agencies are the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

The United Nations Charter stipulates that each primary organ of the UN can establish various specialized agencies to fulfill its duties.

With the addition of Montenegro on 28 June 2006, there are currently 192 United Nations member states, including all fully recognized independent states apart from Vatican City, which has observer status.

The Group of 77 at the UN is a loose coalition of developing nations, designed to promote its members' collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations. There were 77 founding members of the organization, but the organization has since expanded to 130 member countries. The group was founded on 15 June 1964 by the "Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries" issued at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The first major meeting was in Algiers in 1967, where the Charter of Algiers was adopted and the basis for permanent institutional structures was begun.

The UN, after approval by the Security Council, sends peacekeepers to regions where armed conflict has recently ceased or paused to enforce the terms of peace agreements and to discourage combatants from resuming hostilities. Since the UN does not maintain its own military, peacekeeping forces are voluntarily provided by member states of the UN. The forces, also called the "Blue Helmets", who enforce UN accords are awarded United Nations Medals, which are considered international decorations instead of military decorations. The peacekeeping force as a whole received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.

The founders of the UN had envisaged that the organization would act to prevent conflicts between nations and make future wars impossible, however the outbreak of the Cold War made peacekeeping agreements extremely difficult due to the division of the world into hostile camps. Following the end of the Cold War, there were renewed calls for the UN to become the agency for achieving world peace, as there are several dozen ongoing conflicts that continue to rage around the globe.

A 2005 RAND Corp study found the UN to be successful in two out of three peacekeeping efforts. It compared UN nation-building efforts to those of the United States, and found that seven out of eight UN cases are at peace, as opposed to four out of eight US cases at peace. Also in 2005, the Human Security Report documented a decline in the number of wars, genocides and human rights abuses since the end of the Cold War, and presented evidence, albeit circumstantial, that international activism — mostly spearheaded by the UN — has been the main cause of the decline in armed conflict since the end of the Cold War. Situations where the UN has not only acted to keep the peace but also occasionally intervened include the Korean War (1950-1953), and the authorization of intervention in Iraq after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The UN has also drawn criticism for perceived failures. In many cases member states have shown reluctance to achieve or enforce Security Council resolutions, an issue that stems from the UN's intergovernmental nature — seen by some as simply an association of 192 member states who must reach consensus, not an independent organization. Disagreements in the Security Council about military action and intervention are seen as having failed to prevent the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, failed to provide humanitarian aid and intervene in the Second Congo War, failed to intervene in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and protect a refugee haven by the authorising the peacekeepers to use force, failure to deliver food to starving people in Somalia, failure to implement provisions of Security Council resolutions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and continuing failure to prevent genocide or provide assistance in Darfur.

In addition to peacekeeping, the UN is also active in encouraging disarmament. Regulation of armaments was included in the writing of the UN Charter in 1945 and was envisioned as a way of limiting the use of human and economic resources for the creation of them. However, the advent of nuclear weapons came only weeks after the signing of the charter and immediately halted concepts of arms limitation and disarmament, resulting in the first resolution of the first ever General Assembly meeting calling for specific proposals for "the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction". The principal forums for disarmament issues are the General Assembly First Committee, the UN Disarmament Commission, and the Conference on Disarmament, and considerations have been made of the merits of a ban on testing nuclear weapons, outer space arms control, the banning of chemical weapons and land mines, nuclear and conventional disarmament, nuclear-weapon-free zones, the reduction of military budgets, and measures to strengthen international security.

The UN is one of the official supporters of the World Security Forum, a major international conference on the effects of global catastrophes and disasters, taking place in the United Arab Emirates, in October 2008.

The pursuit of human rights was a central reason for creating the UN. World War II atrocities and genocide led to a ready consensus that the new organization must work to prevent any similar tragedies in the future. An early objective was creating a legal framework for considering and acting on complaints about human rights violations. The UN Charter obliges all member nations to promote "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights" and to take "joint and separate action" to that end. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though not legally binding, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all. The Assembly regularly takes up human rights issues.

The UN and its agencies are central in upholding and implementing the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A case in point is support by the UN for countries in transition to democracy. Technical assistance in providing free and fair elections, improving judicial structures, drafting constitutions, training human rights officials, and transforming armed movements into political parties have contributed significantly to democratization worldwide. The UN has helped run elections in countries with little democratic history, including recently in Afghanistan and East Timor. The UN is also a forum to support the right of women to participate fully in the political, economic, and social life of their countries. The UN contributes to raising consciousness of the concept of human rights through its covenants and its attention to specific abuses through its General Assembly, Security Council resolutions, or International Court of Justice rulings.

The purpose of the United Nations Human Rights Council, established in 2006, is to address human rights violations. The Council is the successor to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which was often criticised for the high-profile positions it gave to member states that did not guarantee the human rights of their own citizens The council has 47 members distributed by region, which each serve three year terms, and may not serve three consecutive terms. A candidate to the body must be approved by a majority of the General Assembly. In addition, the council has strict rules for membership, including a universal human rights review. While some members with questionable human rights records have been elected, it is fewer than before with the increased focus on each member state's human rights record.

The rights of some 370 million indigenous peoples around the world is also a focus for the UN, with a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples being approved by the General Assembly in 2007. The declaration outlines the individual and collective rights to culture, language, education, identity, employment and health, thereby addressing post-colonial issues which had confronted indigenous peoples for centuries. The declaration aims to maintain, strengthen and encourage the growth of indigenous institutions, cultures and traditions. It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their active participation in matters which concern their past, present and future.

In conjunction with other organizations such as the Red Cross, the UN provides food, drinking water, shelter and other humanitarian services to populaces suffering from famine, displaced by war, or afflicted by other disasters. Major humanitarian branches of the UN are the World Food Programme (which helps feed more than 100 million people a year in 80 countries), the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees with projects in over 116 countries, as well as peacekeeping projects in over 24 countries.

The UN is involved in supporting development, e.g. by the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is the largest multilateral source of grant technical assistance in the world. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are leading institutions in the battle against diseases around the world, especially in poor countries. The UN Population Fund is a major provider of reproductive services. It has helped reduce infant and maternal mortality in 100 countries.

The UN also promotes human development through various related agencies. The World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example, are independent, specialized agencies and observers within the UN framework, according to a 1947 agreement. They were initially formed as separate from the UN through the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944.

The UN annually publishes the Human Development Index (HDI), a comparative measure ranking countries by poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy, and other factors.

The Millennium Development Goals are eight goals that all 192 United Nations member states have agreed to try to achieve by the year 2015. This was declared in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed in September 2000.

From time to time the different bodies of the United Nations pass resolutions which contain operating paragraphs that begin with the words "requests", "calls upon", or "encourages", which the Secretary-General interprets as a mandate to set up a temporary organization or do something. These mandates can be as little as researching and publishing a written report, or mounting a full scale peace-keeping operation (usually the exclusive domain of the Security Council).

Although the specialized institutions, such as the WHO, were originally set up by this means, they are not the same as mandates because they are permanent organizations that exist independently of the UN with their own membership structure. One could say that original mandate was simply to cover the process of setting up the institution, and has therefore long expired. Most mandates expire after a limited time period and require renewal from the body which set them up.

One of the outcomes of the 2005 World Summit was a mandate (labeled id 17171) for the Secretary-General to "review all mandates older than five years originating from resolutions of the General Assembly and other organs". To facilitate this review and to finally bring coherence to the organization, the Secretariat has produced an on-line registry of mandates to draw together the reports relating to each one and create an overall picture.

Over the lifetime of the UN, over 80 colonies have attained independence. The General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960 with no votes against but abstentions from all major colonial powers. Through the UN Committee on Decolonization, created in 1962, the UN has focused considerable attention on decolonization. It has also supported the new states that have arisen as a result self-determination initiatives. The committee has overseen the decolonization of every country larger than 20,000 km² and removed them from the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, besides Western Sahara, a country larger than the UK only relinquished by Spain in 1975.

The UN declares and coordinates international observances, periods of time to observe some issue of international interest or concern. Using the symbolism of the UN, a specially designed logo for the year, and the infrastructure of the United Nations System, various days and years have become catalysts to advancing key issues of concern on a global scale. For example, World Tuberculosis Day, Earth Day and International Year of Deserts and Desertification.

The UN is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from member states. The regular two-year budgets of the UN and its specialized agencies are funded by assessments. The General Assembly approves the regular budget and determines the assessment for each member. This is broadly based on the relative capacity of each country to pay, as measured by their Gross National Income (GNI), with adjustments for external debt and low per capita income.

The Assembly has established the principle that the UN should not be overly dependent on any one member to finance its operations. Thus, there is a 'ceiling' rate, setting the maximum amount any member is assessed for the regular budget. In December 2000, the Assembly revised the scale of assessments to reflect current global circumstances. As part of that revision, the regular budget ceiling was reduced from 25% to 22%. The U.S. is the only member that has met the ceiling. In addition to a ceiling rate, the minimum amount assessed to any member nation (or 'floor' rate) is set at 0.001% of the UN budget. Also, for the least developed countries (LDC), a ceiling rate of 0.01% is applied.

The current operating budget is estimated at $4.19 billion (refer to table for major contributors).

A large share of UN expenditures addresses the core UN mission of peace and security. The peacekeeping budget for the 2005-2006 fiscal year is approximately $5 billion (compared to approximately $1.5 billion for the UN core budget over the same period), with some 70,000 troops deployed in 17 missions around the world. UN peace operations are funded by assessments, using a formula derived from the regular funding scale, but including a weighted surcharge for the five permanent Security Council members, who must approve all peacekeeping operations. This surcharge serves to offset discounted peacekeeping assessment rates for less developed countries. As of 1 January 2008, the top 10 providers of assessed financial contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations were: the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, China, Canada, Spain and the Republic of Korea.

Special UN programmes not included in the regular budget (such as UNICEF and UNDP) are financed by voluntary contributions from member governments. Most of this is financial contributions, but some is in the form of agricultural commodities donated for afflicted populations.

The UN and its agencies are immune to the laws of the countries where they operate, safeguarding UN's impartiality with regard to the host and member countries. This independence allows agencies to implement human resources policies that may even be contrary to the laws of a host - or a member country.

Despite their independence in matters of human resources policy, the UN and its agencies voluntarily apply the laws of member states regarding same-sex marriages, allowing decisions about the status of employees in a same-sex partnership to be based on nationality. The UN and its agencies recognize same-sex marriages only if the employees are citizens of countries that recognize the marriage. This practice is not specific to the recognition of same-sex marriage but reflects a common practice of the UN for a number of human resources matters. It has to be noted though that some agencies provide limited benefits to domestic partners of their staff and that some agencies do not recognise same-sex marriage or domestic partnership of their staff.

Since its founding, there have been many calls for reform of the United Nations, although little consensus on how to do so. Some want the UN to play a greater or more effective role in world affairs, while others want its role reduced to humanitarian work. There have also been numerous calls for the UN Security Council's membership to be increased, for different ways of electing the UN's Secretary-General, and for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.

The UN has also been accused of bureaucratic inefficiency and waste. During the 1990s the United States withheld dues citing inefficiency, and only started repayment on the condition that a major reforms initiative was introduced. In 1994, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was established by the General Assembly to serve as an efficiency watchdog.

An official reform programme was begun by Kofi Annan in 1997. Reforms mentioned include changing the permanent membership of the Security Council (which currently reflects the power relations of 1945), making the bureaucracy more transparent, accountable and efficient, making the UN more democratic, and imposing an international tariff on arms manufacturers worldwide.

In September 2005, the UN convened a World Summit that brought together the heads of most member states, calling the summit "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take bold decisions in the areas of development, security, human rights and reform of the United Nations." Kofi Annan had proposed that the summit agree on a global "grand bargain" to reform the UN, renewing the organisation's focus on peace, security, human rights and development, and to make it better equipped at facing 21st century issues. The result of the summit was a compromise text agreed on by world leaders, which included the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict, a Human Rights Council, and a democracy fund, a clear and unambiguous condemnation of terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations", and agreements to devote more resources to the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to spend billions more on achieving the Millennium Development Goals, to wind up the Trusteeship Council due to the completion of its mission, and that the international community has a "responsibility to protect" - the duty to intervene in when national governments fail to fulfill their responsibility to protect their citizens from atrocious crimes.

The Office of Internal Oversight Services is being restructured to more clearly define its scope and mandate, and will receive more resources. In addition, to improve the oversight and auditing capabilities of the General Assembly, an Independent Audit Advisory Committee (IAAC) is being created. In June 2007, the Fifth Committee created a draft resolution for the terms of reference of this committee. An ethics office was established in 2006, responsible for administering new financial disclosure and whistleblower protection policies. Working with the OIOS, the ethics office also plans to implement a policy to avoid fraud and corruption. The Secretariat is in the process of reviewing all UN mandates that are more than five years old. The review is intended to determine which duplicative or unnecessary programmes should be eliminated. Not all member states are in agreement as to which of the over 7000 mandates should be reviewed. The dispute centres on whether mandates that have been renewed should be examined. As of September 2007, the process is ongoing.

Issues relating to the state of Israel, the Palestinian people and other aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict occupy a large amount of debate time, resolutions and resources at the United Nations.

The adoption of UNSCOP's recommendation to partition Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947 was one of the earliest decisions of the UN. Since then, it maintained a central role in this region, especially by providing support for Palestinian refugees via the UNRWA and by providing a platform for Palestinian political claims via the CEIRPP, the UNDPR, the SCIIP, the UNISPAL and the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The UN has sponsored several peace negotiations between the parties, the latest being the 2002 Road map for peace.

In recent years, the Middle East was the subject of 76% of country-specific UNGA resolutions, 100% of the Human Rights Council resolutions, 100% of the Commission on the Status of Women resolutions, 50% of reports from the World Food Program, 6% of Security Council resolutions and 6 of the 10 Emergency sessions. Of note is Resolution 3379 (1975) stating that "zionism is racism"; it was rescinded in 1991. These decisions, passed with the support of the OIC countries, invariably criticize Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. Many have qualified this degree of criticism as excessive. In particular, the UNHRC was widely criticized in 2007 for failing to condemn other countries--besides Israel-- who allegedly abused human rights.

The United States has been criticized as well as supported for vetoing most UNSC decisions critical of Israel on the basis of their biased language, the so-called Negroponte doctrine.

Since 1961, Israel has been barred from the Asia regional group. In 2000, it was accepted within the WEOG group. The UNRWA has been accused of perpetuating the plight of Palestinian refugees. Although the UN condemns antisemitism, it has been accused of tolerating antisemitic remarks within its walls. Some argue that disproportional criticism of Israel constitutes a new form of antisemitism. UN personnel have been accused of participating directly in the armed conflict on several occasions.

The Oil-for-Food Programme was established by the UN in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian needs of ordinary Iraqi citizens who were affected by international economic sanctions, without allowing the Iraqi government to rebuild its military in the wake of the first Gulf War. Over $65 billion worth of Iraqi oil was sold on the world market. Officially, about $46 billion was used for humanitarian needs. Additional revenue paid for Gulf War reparations through a Compensation Fund, UN administrative and operational costs for the Programme (2.2%), and the weapons inspection programme (0.8%).

The programme was discontinued in late 2003 amidst allegations of widespread abuse and corruption. Benon Sevan, the former director, was suspended and then resigned from the UN, as an interim progress report of a UN-sponsored investigation concluded that Sevan had accepted bribes from the Iraqi regime, and recommended that his UN immunity be lifted to allow for a criminal investigation. Beyond Sevan, Kojo Annan was alleged to have illegally procured Oil-for-Food contracts on behalf of the Swiss company Cotecna. India's foreign minister, K. Natwar Singh, was removed from office because of his role in the scandal. And the Cole Inquiry investigated whether the Australian Wheat Board breached any laws with its contracts with Iraq.

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United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East


United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency, providing education, health care, social services and emergency aid to over four hundred thousand Palestine refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is the only agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict. It is separate from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which is the only other UN agency aiding refugees, dedicated to aiding all refugees in the world.

It was established following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War by the United Nations General Assembly under resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949. This resolution also reaffirmed paragraph 11, concerning refugees, of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and was passed unopposed, supported by Israel and the Arab states, with only the Soviet bloc and South Africa abstaining.

UNRWA has had to develop a working definition of "refugee" to allow it to provide humanitarian assistance. This maintained that beneficiaries had to have lived in the British Mandate of Palestine for at least two years before fleeing and must have lost both their home and livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, or be the descendant of someone who had. This definition is critically different from UNHCR which does not define descendants as refugees. While UNRWA definition is meant solely to determine eligibility for assistance, some argue it serves to perpetuate the conflict.

Under General Assembly Resolution 194 (III), of 11 December 1948, other persons may be eligible for repatriation and/or compensation but are not necessarily eligible for relief under the UNRWA's working definition. Thus a person who is not or who has ceased to be regarded by UNRWA as a refugee for the purpose of receiving relief, may still qualify as a refugee by the common definition.

All Palestine refugees who are registered with UNRWA and are in need of assistance are eligible for help from UNRWA. Based on UNRWA's definition, the number of Palestinian refugees has grown from 711,000 in 1950 to 4 million in 2004.

UNRWA provides facilities in 59 recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It also provided relief to displaced persons inside the state of Israel following the 1948 conflict until the Israeli government took over responsibility for them in 1952.

For a camp to be recognized by UNRWA, there must be an agreement between the host government and UNRWA governing use of the camp. UNRWA does not itself run any camps, has no police powers or administrative role, but simply provides services to the camp. Refugee camps, which developed from tent cities to rows of concrete blockhouses to urban ghettos indistinguishable from their surroundings, house around one third of all registered Palestine refugees. UNRWA also provides facilities in other areas where large numbers of registered Palestine refugees live outside of recognized camps.

UNRWA has been criticized by Israeli officials, who say that it supports terrorism and militancy. Other governments, such as those of Bangladesh, Canada, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam, and the Palestinian Authority have praised its work.

UNRWA is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly and its mandate is renewed every three years. It is the largest agency of the United Nations, employing over 25,000 staff, 99% of which are locally-recruited Palestinians. The Agency's headquarters are divided between the Gaza Strip and Amman, Jordan. Its operations are organised into five fields - Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA's Commissioner-General is Karen Koning AbuZayd, a US citizen, who succeeded Peter Hansen, a Danish citizen in 2005. AbuZaid is responsible for managing UNRWA's overall activities. Her subordinate in charge of distributing humanitarian aid and overseeing general UNRWA operations in Gaza is John Ging. Annual funding for UNRWA is on the order of several hundred million US dollars, the majority of which comes from donor countries. A smaller amount comes directly from the United Nations. In 2006, the United States' contribution to UNRWA amounted to $135 million, while the European Commission donated €66 million to UNRWA's General Fund in 2007..

Services provided by UNRWA include health care, education, relief and social services and micro-credit loan programmes.

UNRWA operates one of the largest school systems in the Middle East, with 663 schools employing more than 17,000 teaching and support staff. It has been the main provider of basic education to Palestinian refugee children since 1950. The education programme is UNRWA's largest area of activity, accounting for half of its regular budget and 70 per cent of its staff. Basic education is available to all registered refugee children free of charge up to around the age of 15. By 2004 there were close to 500,000 students enrolled in 663 schools. UNRWA schools follow the curriculum of their host countries. This allows UNRWA pupils to progress to further education or employment holding locally-recognised qualifications and fits with the sovereignty requirements of countries hosting refugees.

In the 1960s UNRWA schools became the first in the region to achieve full gender equality. Overcrowded classrooms containing 40 or even 50 pupils are common. Almost all of UNRWA's schools operate on a double shift - where two separate groups of pupils and teachers share the same buildings. Not all refugee children attend UNRWA schools. In Jordan and Syria children have full access to government schools and many attend those because they are close to where they live. UNRWA also operates eight vocational and technical training centres and three teacher training colleges that have places for around 6,200 students.

In Palestinian refugee society, families without a male bread winner are often very vulnerable. Those headed by a widow, a divorcee or a disabled father often live in dire poverty. UNRWA provides food aid, cash assistance and help with shelter repairs to these families. Fewer than six percent of refugees qualify as hardship cases, with the largest number being in Lebanon where restrictions on Palestinians entering the Lebanese job market cause severe hardship. Children from special hardship case families are given preferential access to the Agency's vocational training centres, while women in such families are encouraged to join UNRWA's women's programme centres. In these centres, training, advice and childcare are available to encourage female refugees’ social development.

Rations are distributed to families in UNRWA's special hardship category every quarter. The yearly value of the food is just over US$ 100 per person and most of it is received by the agency in the form of in-kind donations of basic foodstuff, such as flour, rice and dried milk. Finances permitting, the Agency also provides small cash grants to very poor refugee families to help with the purchase of items such as school uniforms and school books or as crisis grants, for example if they lose all their possessions in a house fire.

Most of the concrete-block shelters in the refugee camps were built by UNRWA in the 1950s to replace the tents in which refugees had lived since the 1948 war. Others were built after the 1967 conflict. Although most refugees have been able to make improvements and additions to their shelters over the years, the very poorest refugees often live in shelters that are now in extremely bad condition. Wet, crumbling walls, leaking zinc roofs and rodent infestation cause additional social and health problems. UNRWA has been able to repair hundreds of shelters in recent years, often simply by supplying materials while the families provide their own labour. UNRWA is unable to keep up with the growing numbers of special hardship case families who each year join its waiting list for shelter rehabilitation.

UNRWA created community-based organizations (CBOs) to target women, refugees with disabilities and to look after the needs of children. The CBOs now have their own management committees staffed by volunteers from the community. UNRWA provides them with technical and small amounts of targeted financial assistance, but many have made links of their own with local and international NGOs.

Since 1950, UNRWA has been the main healthcare provider for the Palestinian refugee population. Basic health needs are met through a network of primary care clinics, providing access to secondary treatment in hospitals, food aid to vulnerable groups and environmental health in refugee camps.

The health of Palestine refugees resembles that of many populations in transition from developing world to developed world status. Immunisation programmes have vaccine-preventable diseases under control, but there remains a high prevalence of diseases caused by cramped housing and open sewers in the camps and high poverty levels. At the same time, non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are on the increase. Birth rates are among the highest in the world, with short intervals between pregnancies. Diarrhea and intestinal parasites are particularly common among children because of poor environmental health for the one third of refugees who live in camps. However, infant mortality rates are lower among refugees than the World Health Organisation's benchmark for the developing world. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Al-Aqsa Intifada has led to curfews and closures which have caused a growth in malnutrition, especially among children and nursing mothers. The economic hardships in the territory have driven many refugees away from private health care, increasing the number of patient visits to UNRWA doctors in the Gaza Strip by 61 per cent during the first two years of the conflict.

UNRWA's network of 122 clinics provides free primary healthcare to all registered refugees who ask for it. The clinics are based inside refugee camps or near concentrations of refugees. In 2003 the clinics handled 10 million patient visits - averaging more than 110 visits per doctor per day. Medical services include outpatient care, dental treatment and rehabilitation for the physically disabled. Maternal and child healthcare (MCH) is a priority for UNRWA's health programme. School health teams and camp medical officers visit UNRWA schools to examine new pupils to aid early detection of childhood diseases. All UNRWA clinics offer family planning services with counselling that emphasises the importance of birth spacing as a factor in maternal and child health. Agency clinics also supervise the provision of food aid to nursing and pregnant mothers who need it and six clinics in the Gaza Strip have their own maternity units.

UNRWA provides refugees with assistance in meeting the costs of hospitalisation either by partially reimbursing them, or by negotiating contracts with government, NGO and private hospitals.

The 1.3 million refugees who still live in refugee camps - one third of the total – receive environmental health services from UNRWA. These include such essentials as sewage disposal, the provision of safe drinking water and disposal of refuse. Large scale projects have been carried out in camps since 1989, but many still have inadequate infrastructure, including open sewers. A great many refugee shelters suffer flooding by waste water in winter.

UNRWA's microfinance and microenterprise programme (MMP) aims to alleviate poverty and support economic development in the refugee community by providing capital investment and working capital loans at commercial rates. The programme seeks to be as close to self-supporting as possible. It has a strong record of creating employment, generating income and empowering refugees.

The MMP was launched in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June 1991 in response to the high unemployment and spreading poverty that followed the outbreak of the First Intifada in 1987 and the Gulf War. In 2003 the MMP expanded into Jordan and Syria to allow UNRWA to help entrepreneurs and the poorest refugees in those fields. Since its inception it has disbursed over 67,000 loans valued at over US$77 million.

Since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, UNRWA has been working to alleviate the impact of resulting curfews and closures on the refugee population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The effect of closures on the Palestinian economy has caused thousands to lose their livelihoods. It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of the population is out of work -putting over 60 per cent of the population under the poverty line with an income of below US$2 a day. The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that close to two million Palestinians, 62 per cent of the population, are considered "vulnerable" because they have inadequate access to food, shelter or health services. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reported a sharp growth in malnutrition and anemia among Palestinian children - marked by stunted growth or low body weights.

As part of its emergency relief activities, UNRWA provides temporary jobs for unemployed breadwinners - a programme that has allowed the Agency to indirectly support 160,000 women and children in Gaza alone. UNRWA has also increased its provision of food aid. Before the conflict UNRWA distributed food to around 20,000 refugee families, it now targets 230,000 families across the West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA food parcels typically contain 50 kilograms of flour, five kilograms of rice, five kilograms of sugar, two liters of cooking oil, one kilogram of powdered milk and five kilograms of lentils.

The Agency assists the almost 30,000 refugees whose homes have been destroyed during military operations. UNRWA has provided tents, blankets, kitchen kits, medicines and drinking water, as well as cash assistance to help with renting a new home to those families made homeless. The Agency is also rebuilding and repairing shelters. The focus of the Agency's rebuilding work has been Rafah and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip and in Jenin camp in the West Bank. In Jenin a donation of US$27 million from the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent Society allowed UNRWA to rebuild the homes, infrastructure and communal facilities of the camp that were destroyed by the fighting in April 2002.

UNRWA's health programme faces increased demands in the territories because of the injuries, stress and psychological trauma caused by the conflict. The economic impact of closures is also increasing the demands made on the Agency as refugees seek care from the Agency rather than from private providers. UNRWA ambulances and mobile medical teams bring healthcare to communities isolated by closures for long periods.

The crisis has had a particularly marked effect on the refugee children served by UNRWA's schools. Teachers and pupils are often unable to reach their schools and thousands of teaching days have been lost. Schools have come under fire on many occasions and have been used as military outposts and detention centres. The violent events witnessed by the children have caused emotional and psychological trauma and many have suffered the loss of classmates or family members. Examination pass rates have collapsed because of the conflict and UNRWA is running remedial classes in each school to try to compensate for the time lost to education. The Agency has also hired teams of trauma counsellors to work with those children who have been emotionally scarred by their experiences.

To fund its emergency activities in the West Bank and Gaza UNRWA has launched a series of appeals for funds. The first of these was a flash appeal in October 2000 for US$4.83 million. In November 2004 UNRWA launched an appeal for US$186 million to cover emergency operations during 2005.

There has been extensive criticism of the statistics, data collection techniques, and definitions concerning Palestinian refugees by the UNRWA. It has been accused of hiring known militants, perpetuating Palestinian dependency, and demonizing Israel.

In 2006, the UNRWA drew criticism from the US Congressmen Mark Kirk and Steven Rothman. Their letter, sent to the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, stated in part: "After an exhaustive review of the UN's own audit, it is clear UNRWA is wrought by mismanagement, ineffective policies, and failure to secure its finances. We must upgrade UNRWA's financial controls, management and enforcement of US law that bars any taxpayer dollars from supporting terrorists." UNRWA responded by showing the results of its school students in Syria and Jordan, who outperform their peers in host-government schools. UNRWA also mentioned the difficult conditions in which it operates: its refugee load increased much faster than its budget, while the tightening of the closure regime since the Second Intifada deeply affected the humanitarian situation in the former Israeli-occupied territories.

UNRWA has also been criticized by some for being the only United Nations special project dedicated to a specific group of refugees. It has been claimed that this is an example of a United Nations anti-Israel bias, and that the Palestine refugees should be treated equally to all others with refugee status around the world. . Defenders of the UNRWA put forward the specific legal status of the Palestinians in 1948 who, because they were living under the British Mandate of Palestine, were stateless and therefore not eligible as refugees under the common definition.

Critics of UNRWA say that the present definition give Palestine refugees a favored status when compared with other refugee groups, which the UNHCR defines in terms of nationality as opposed to a relatively short number of years of residency. Defenders of UNRWA respond that it is precisely the stateless status of the Palestinians under British mandate in 1948 that made it necessary to create a definition of refugee based on other criteria than nationality. Historians, such as Martha Gellhorn and Dr. Walter Pinner, have also blamed UNRWA for distortion of statistics and even of sheer fraud. Pinner wrote in 1959 that the actual number of refugees then was only 367,000.

Professor Rashid Khalidi praises the UNRWA for employing personnel "regardless of sectarian or political affiliation" and for running an agency in which "members of different political groups such as Fatah, the PFLP.. Hamas, and Islamic Jihad work side by side.

After Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the June 1967 Six-Day War, Israel requested that the UNRWA continue its operations there, and agreed to facilitate them. In the years since, relations between Israel and UNRWA have found themselves subject to the varying intensities of conflict that have continued to rock the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, which started in late 2000, UNRWA often complained that Israeli road closures, curfews and checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza have interfered with its ability to carry out its humanitarian mandate. The Agency has also complained that large scale house demolitions in the Gaza Strip have left over 30,000 people homeless. Israel justifies the demolitions as anti-terrorism measures.

Relations between UNRWA and Israel have often been strained. UNRWA has been under routine attack from the Israeli government and politicians for alleged involvement with Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas. For example, the Israel Defence Force released a video from May 2004, in which armed Palestinian militants carry an injured colleague into an UNRWA ambulance, before boarding with him. The ambulance driver requested that the armed men leave, but was threatened and told to drive to a hospital. UNRWA issued a plea to all parties to respect the neutrality of its ambulances.

On other occasions, UNRWA buildings have been caught in battles between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants resulting the deaths of several employees.

On January 7, 2009 reports issued by UNRWA officials accused the Israeli army of killing up to forty people on January 6, 2009, by shelling an UNWRA school in Jabalya, Gaza. This accusation caused harsh criticism of Israel from all over the world. However, it later came to light that the Israeli army did not attack the school, and that no one inside the school was killed. The UN retracted its accusation on February 2, 2009.

On October 1, 2004, Israel again lodged accusations against UNRWA. The Israeli Defence Forces released UAV footage and video documenting what they initially claimed was a group of Palestinian militants load a rocket into UN-marked vehicle. , video (wait to the end). Israel announced its intention to file a strong complaint against UNRWA and demand that Danish diplomat Peter Hansen, UNRWA's head, be removed from office.

The Israeli authorities initially dismissed UNRWA's reaction, blaming Hansen for being "anti-Israeli". . Later on, however, Israeli General Yisrael Ziv recognized having doubts over whether the object was a rocket launcher or a stretcher. , . Eventually, the Israeli military changed some of its earlier statements and conceded the possibility that the object could have indeed been a stretcher, but did not offer the apology Hansen had demanded.

The United States government financed a programme of "Operations Support Officers", part of whose job is to make random and unannounced inspections of UNRWA facilities to ensure their sanctity from militant operations. In 2004 the US Congress asked the General Accounting Office to investigate media claims that taxpayer's dollars given to UNRWA had been used to support individuals involved in militant activities. During its investigation, the GAO discovered several irregularities in its processing and employment history.

Israel has stated that Peter Hansen, UNRWA's former Commissioner-General (1996-2005) "consistently adopted a trenchant anti-Israel line" which resulted in biased and exaggerated reports against Israel.

Hansen later specified that he had been referring not to active Hamas members, but to Hamas sympathizers within UNRWA. In a letter to the Agency's major donors, he said he was attempting to be honest because UNRWA has over 8,200 employees in the Gaza Strip. Given the 30 to 40 percent support to Hamas in Gaza at the time, and UNRWA's workforce of 11,000 Palestinians, at least some Hamas sympathizers were likely to be among UNRWA's employees. The important thing, he wrote, was that UNRWA's strict rules and regulations ensured that its staff remained impartial UN servants.

In 1998, two years before the Al-Aqsa intifada, US Congressman Peter Deutsch (D-FL) and other Congressmembers pressured the State Department to ask UNRWA to investigate evidence that Palestinian Authority school books used in UNRWA-run schools contained anti-Semitic statements. The allegations surfaced in reports compiled by the Centre for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, an Israeli-American NGO.

For historical reasons UNRWA schools followed the Jordanian curriculum in the West Bank and the Egyptian curriculum in the Gaza Strip and this practice continued under the Israeli control of those areas between 1967 and 1994. Since 1994 the Palestinian Authority has progressively been replacing the old Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks as new PA-produced textbooks become available. The last of the older books was phased out of UNRWA schools in the autumn of 2004.

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China and the United Nations

Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek as a representative for China signing the United Nations Charter on 24 August 1945.

China's seat in the United Nations and membership of the United Nations Security Council has been occupied by the People's Republic of China (PRC) since October 25, 1971. The representatives of the PRC first attended the UN, including the United Nations Security Council, as China's representatives on November 23, 1971. China's seat in all UN organs had been previously held by the Republic of China (ROC) since the UN's founding (1945-1971), until replaced by the PRC.

The Republic of China (ROC) was one of the founding members of the United Nations and a permanent member of the Security Council from its creation in 1945. In 1949, the Communist Party of China seized power on the mainland and declared the People's Republic of China (PRC), claiming to have replaced the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China and the ROC government withdrew to Taiwan.

Until 1991, the ROC also actively claimed to be the sole legitimate government of China, and during the 1950s and 1960s this claim was accepted by the United States and most of its allies. While the PRC was an ally of the Soviet Union, the U.S. sought to prevent the Communist bloc from gaining another permanent seat in the Security Council. To protest the exclusion of the PRC, Soviet representatives boycotted the UN from January to August 1950 and their absence allowed for the intervention of UN military forces in Korea.

In 1952, the ROC complained to the UN against the Soviet Union for violating the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance of 14 August 1945 and the Charter of the United Nations. The UN General Assembly has found that the Soviet Union prevented the National Government of the ROC from re-establishing Chinese authority in Manchuria after Japan surrendered and gave military and economic aid to the Chinese Communists, who founded the PRC in 1949, against the National Government of the ROC. Resolution 505 was passed to condemn the Soviet Union with 25 countries supporting, 9 countries opposing and 24 countries abstaining.

The ROC used its veto once — in 1955, the ROC representative cast the only Security Council veto blocking the admission of the Mongolian People's Republic to the United Nations on the grounds that all of Mongolia was part of China. This postponed the admission of Mongolia until 1960, when the Soviet Union announced that unless Mongolia was admitted, it would block the admission of all of the newly independent African states. Faced with this pressure, the ROC relented under protest.

From the 1960s onwards, nations friendly to the PRC, led by the People's Republic of Albania under Enver Hoxha, moved an annual resolution in the General Assembly to transfer China's seat at the UN from the ROC to the PRC. Every year the United States was able to assemble a majority of votes to block this resolution. But the admission of newly independent developing nations in the 1960s gradually turned the General Assembly from being Western-dominated to being dominated by countries sympathetic to Beijing. In addition, the desire of the Nixon administration to improve relations with the de facto government of mainland China to counterbalance the Soviet Union reduced American willingness to support the ROC.

As a result of these trends, on October 25, 1971, Resolution 2758 was passed by the General Assembly, withdrawing recognition of the ROC as the legitimate government of China, and recognizing the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China. PRC received support from two-thirds of all United Nations' members including approval by the Security Council members excluding the ROC.

The General Assembly Resolution declared "that the representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations." Because this resolution was on an issue of credentials rather than one of membership, it was possible to bypass the Security Council where the United States and the ROC could have used their vetoes.

Since 1991 the ROC (now commonly known as Taiwan) has re-applied for UN membership to represent the people of Taiwan and its outlying islands only, under such names as "The Republic of China (Taiwan)," "The Republic of China on Taiwan," and most recently (in July 2007, under DPP President Chen Shui-bian) as simply "Taiwan." The island has also requested that the UN consider the issue of its representation in other ways, such as granting it status as a "non-member entity," a position currently held by Palestine. Due to the opposition of the PRC, however, which holds veto power in the Security Council, all such applications have been denied. The ROC continues to call on the international body to recognize the rights of the 23 million people of Taiwan, who since 1971 have received no representation in the UN, or in its related international affiliates such as the World Health Organization.

Ban Ki-moon came under fire for this statement from the ROC, which states that Resolution 2758 merely transferred the UN seat from the ROC to the PRC, but did not address the issue of Taiwan's representation in the UN. They emphasize that the PRC government has never held jurisdiction over Taiwan and that the United Nations has never taken a formal stance regarding the sovereignty of Taiwan. Additionally, both the ROC and international newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal have criticized Ban Ki-moon for rejecting the ROC's July 2007 application without passing it on to the Security Council, a violation of the UN's standard procedure, and for saying that Resolution 2758 stated that Taiwan was part of China.

Although the entry of the PRC into the UN was supported by much of the third world with the expectation that it would become an active proponent of the Non-Aligned Movement, critics say that the PRC has had mostly a passive role within the UN since 1971. It has only rarely been an active mover of events within the UN and this occurs mainly when it perceives its national interests to be at stake. The most notable example of this was in the 1990s when the PRC vetoed peacekeeping missions to the Republic of Macedonia and Guatemala over these nations' recognition of the ROC.

There was wide speculation throughout the 1960s and early 1970s that the United States' close ally, Pakistan, especially under the presidency of Ayub Khan, was carrying out undercover diplomacy to instigate Western support to the PRC's entry into the UN. This involved secret visits by American officials to the PRC. In 1971, Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to the PRC through Pakistan.

The PRC has been sparing in its use of the Security Council veto, only using it six times: in 1972 to veto the admission of Bangladesh (which it considered a rebellious province of its ally Pakistan), in 1973 (in conjunction with the Soviet Union) to veto a resolution on the ceasefire in the Yom Kippur War, in 1997 to veto ceasefire observers to Guatemala (which accepted the ROC as legitimate), in 1999 to veto an extension of observers to the Republic of Macedonia (same), in 2007 (in conjunction with Russia) to veto criticizing Myanmar on its human rights record. and in 2008 (with Russia) to veto sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Since its first dispatch of military observers to the United Nations peacekeeping operations in 1990, the PRC has sent 3,362 military personnel to 13 UN peacekeeping operations. In 1999 it sent a team of civilian police to East Timor as part of the UN force there. Also, China sent another team of non-combat military force to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since the end of the Cold War, the PRC has notably not attempted to use the UN as a counterbalance against the United States as Russia and France have done. In the 1991 Gulf War resolution, the PRC abstained, and it voted for the ultimatum to Iraq in the period leading up to the Second Gulf War. Most observers believe that the PRC would have abstained had a resolution authorising force against Iraq in 2003 reached the Security Council.

Since 1993, the ROC has made attempts to rejoin (or, as worded in its proposals, "to participate in") the UN, but because of the implacable opposition of the PRC, which holds veto power in the Security Council, and the lack of support from member nations who upheld the One China Policy recognizing Taiwan as an inalienable part of China, the ROC has consistently been denied. In fact all 5 permanent members of the Security Council are opposed to ROC's membership. Every year since 1991 the question of the ROC's representation has been raised on the UN agenda committee by its diplomatic allies, but has always failed to get sufficient votes to get on the formal agenda.

Proponents of Taiwan independence claim that if the government in Taiwan were formally to renounce its claim to be also the government of mainland China and outer Mongolia, and rename itself the Republic of Taiwan, this new state could then be admitted to the UN. However, if Taiwan were to take this step, the international community would be placed in a difficult position, caught between the PRC's claim that Taiwan is a province of China and the right of the people of Taiwan to self-determination. The resolutions proposing ROC representation since 1991 make it clear that it no longer seeks to represent all of China, but only the people of Taiwan. In the bids to join the UN under President Lee Teng-hui, the ROC called itself the "Republic of China on Taiwan." Under Chen Shui-bian, the designation has been "Republic of China (Taiwan)," and the most recent application by President Chen (July 19, 2007) used only the designation "Taiwan." Chen was quoted saying that "Taiwan is a sovereign state, and should join the United Nations by the name Taiwan".

Skeptics point out that the PRC still has a Security Council veto and would likely be firmly opposed to any kind of international recognition of a Taiwanese state. They also point out that the UN has been reluctant to admit any state whose sovereignty is disputed, although Palestine has been granted observer status. The PRC has condemned any move to enter as "Taiwan" as a political trick to promote Taiwan independence, though it firmly opposes Taiwan's entry under any moniker whatsoever.

Although the ROC no longer actively asserts its claim to be the government of the whole of China, it has not renounced that claim. Taiwan independence supporters argue the ROC not renouncing its claim is mainly because the PRC has publicly stated that any movement to change the ROC constitution would be seen as a move towards declaring independence, and thus a reason for military action. Given the PRC's attitude, even having the General Assembly admit the ROC or "Taiwan" as an observer (as has been done with Palestine) would be problematic. The General Assembly is dominated by developing nations, many with historic ties to the PRC, and many also with their own areas of disputed sovereignty. The case of Palestine is distinguishable from that of the ROC, due to the UN's commitment to a two state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, and no such commitment to the Taiwan issue.

Nonetheless, in the 1990s, the ROC sought to gain representation at the UN by subsidizing developing nations such as the Pacific state of Tuvalu. This strategy has become increasingly difficult as not many states are willing to risk bad relations with the PRC in exchange for monetary benefits from the ROC, especially since the PRC now has the economic power to counter such ROC moves. Taiwan's ties with Central America, however, still remain fairly strong.

In July 2007, the Republic of China applied for membership for the fifteenth time since its expulsion. This was the first occasion the state applied for full membership under the name "Taiwan". Its application was rejected by the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, citing UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The ROC government criticized UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for returning the application without passing the document on to the Security Council, contrary to the Council’s standard procedure, and for stating that "the government of China is the sole and legitimate government and the position of the United Nations is that Taiwan is part of China," a position that has never been formally stated by the UN before. The PRC government praised the rejection as reflection of the UN's adherence to the "one-China policy" However, Ban has come under fire for disregarding UN protocol about passing down the question of the ROC membership to the General Assembly. Instead, Ban Ki Moon took it upon himself to reject the membership on the basis of his interpretation of Resolution 2758.

The ROC reapplied for full UN membership on Sept. 18, 2007. On September 15, 2007, over 3000 Taiwanese Americans and their supporters rallied in front of UN in New York City to demonstrate their support for the ROC's entering the UN. At the same time, over 300,000 Taiwanese people rallied in Taiwan to make the same plea. The ROC has also won the backing of many Members of the European Parliament on this issue. Spurred on by President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, this recent application has been reputedly more intense and widely-received than in past years.

In 2008, two referenda in Taiwan to join the UN failed due to low voter participation (see Republic of China United Nations membership referendum, 2008). The United Nations subcommittee on September 17, 2008, has again ruled it would not let the General Assembly consider the ROC's request for permission to join U.N. activities, demonstrating U.N. members' upholding the One China Policy. However, shortly after the denial at the UN, the United States and the European Union have both expressed their support for the ROC to have "meaningful participation" in UN agencies that would not require statehood, such as the World Health Organization.

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United Nations Art Collection

A bust of Nicolaus Copernicus at the United Nations Headquarters, New York City, a gift from the People's Republic of Poland to the United Nations (1970)

The United Nations Art Collection is a collective group of artworks and historic objects donated as gifts to the United Nations by its member states, associations or individuals. These artistic treasures and possessions, mostly in the form of “sculptures, paintings, tapestries and mosaics”, are representative “arts of nations” that are contained and exhibited within the confines of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City and other duty stations, making the UN and its international territories a "fine small museum".

Member states follow a protocol for presenting official gifts to the United Nations. Procedures, speeches and ceremonies, such as the unveiling of these gifts, are conducted and coordinated by the Protocol and Liaison Service. Ideally, every member nation can only present one offering, and member nations are responsible for the installation of the offered artifacts.

The official gifts to the United Nations by its member states epitomize the ideals, significance and values of the UN as an international organization.

In 1964, a 15 foot by 12 foot stained glass window by Marc Chagall was donated to the United Nations by its own staff members and by Chagall himself to commemorate Dag Hammarskjöld, who served as United Nations Secretary-General from 1953 until his death in 1961. The stained glass memorial contains many symbols representing love and peace themes.

In 1985, as a representative of the United States, then first lady Nancy Reagan presented a mosaic to the United Nations to celebrate the organization's 40th anniversary. The Golden Rule mosaic was a creation of Venetian artists and was based on a painting by Norman Rockwell. Depicting people of all races, religion, creed and hue, the mosaic imparts the message to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

A symbol of peace, the Japanese Peace Bell was a gift of the people of Japan to the United Nations (1954), and is rung at two different times a year: on the first day of Spring and on every opening day in September of the annual sessions of the General Assembly. The bell is also sounded on special occasions such as when the United Nation celebrated the International Day of Peace on September 21, 2006. The bell was also rung on October 4, 1966 to mark the one-year anniversary of Pope Paul VI's visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

In 1959, a bronze statue promoting the slogan "Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares" was donated by the Soviet Union to the United Nations. It was sculpted by Evgeniy Vuchetich to represent the human wish to end all wars by converting the weapons of death and destruction into peaceful and productive tools that are more beneficial to mankind.

The main entity responsible for the conservation of the collection is the UN Arts Committee. The United Nations is assisted, through a special mandate and regulations, by fundraising groups such as the Maecenas World Patrimony Foundation in this endeavor of preserving these artistic and international heritages.

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Source : Wikipedia