The United Nations was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War as an international organization with four main purposes:
- To maintain global peace and security;
- To develop friendly relations among nations;
- To facilitate the cooperation of nations in solving international problems and encouraging respect for human rights and freedoms;
- To be a focal point for harmonizing the actions of nations.
Structurally, the UN is composed of main bodies, programmes and funds, and specialized agencies to carry out these goals. The six main bodies are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. Examples of operating programmes and funds are the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Specialized agencies cover an immense range of fields from meteorology to health, and coordinate with the UN as separate organizations.
As nations face emerging challenges, the United Nations functions as the only organization to which all governments and members of civil society may come together to discuss global issues. And the United Nations isn’t just talk. With the largest network of country offices in the world, the institution is able to deliver on-the-ground assistance and coordination. The UN’s comprehensive mandate also gives it the flexibility to accept emerging challenges, and the universal capacity and trust to do so as an impartial agency.
While this is a time of great challenges for the world, it is also a time of great opportunity. As Earth Summit 2012 approaches with the topic of governance on the table, we have opportunity not only to recognize the United Nations as a powerful tool for addressing global issues and resolving conflict, but also to re-examine and strengthen processes for sustainable solutions.