UN - United Nations

The United Nations is central to global efforts to solve problems which challenge humanity. Cooperating in this
effort are more than 30 affiliated organizations, known together as the UN system. Day in and day out, the UN and
its family of organizations work to promote respect for human rights, protect the environment, fight disease,
foster development and reduce poverty.

 

The name "United Nations" was devised by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was first used in the "Declaration by United Nations" of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. The United Nations Charter was drawn up by the representatives of 50 countries at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, which met at San Francisco from 25 April to 26 June 1945. Those delegates deliberated on the basis of proposals worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks in August-October 1944. The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries. Poland, which was not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became one of the original 51 Member States. The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and by a majority of other signatories. United Nations Day is celebrated on 24 October each year. FACTS ABOUT THE UNITED NATIONS The United Nations is today, more than ever, engaged in service to all the world's nations and peoples, but its ability to function is hampered by financial problems. Unless Member States pay their debts to the Organization -- over $2.6 billion is owed as of 31 May 1999 -- the UN will remain in a precarious financial situation. It is clear that this situation stems in part from widespread public misunderstandings about what the UN really is -- and does. Consider These Facts: The budget for the UN's core functions - - the Secretariat operations in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and five Regional Commissions -- is $1.25 billion a year. This is about 4 per cent of New York City's annual budget -- and nearly a billion dollars less than the yearly cost of Tokyo's Fire Department. It is $3.7 billion less than the annual budget of New York's State University system. The USA's share of the UN's regular budget for 1999 is $298 million -- the equivalent of $1.11 per American. Tiny San Marino, by comparison, pays $4.26 per citizen to the UN. The UN has no army. Governments voluntarily supply troops and other personnel to halt conflicts that threaten peace and security. The United States and other Member States on the Security Council -- not the Secretary- General -- decide when and where to deploy peacekeeping troops. The New York Headquarters of the UN requires the services of 4,500 people. The Swedish capital of Stockholm, by contrast, has 60,000 municipal employees. Some 52,100 people work in the UN system, which includes the Secretariat and 29 other organizations such as UNICEF. Three times as many people work for McDonald's, while Disney World and Disneyland employ 50,000. Eighty per cent of the work of the UN system is devoted to helping developing countries build the capacity to help themselves. This includes promoting and protecting democracy and human rights; saving children from starvation and disease; providing relief assistance to refugees and disaster victims; countering global crime, drugs and disease; and assisting countries devastated by war and the long-term threat of land-mines. The United Nations and its agencies, funds and programmes -- mainly UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, WFP and WHO -- have $4.8 billion a year to spend on economic and social development, to assist countries in such areas as health care, sanitation, agriculture and food distribution. This is the equivalent of 81 cents per human being. In 1997, the world's governments spent about $804 billion in military expenditures -- the equivalent of $135 per human being. The total cost of all UN peacekeeping operations in 1998 was some $907 million -- the equivalent of less than .5 per cent of the US military budget, and less than 0.2 per cent of global military spending. The United States' assessed share of UN peacekeeping expenses -- nearly 31 per cent of the yearly total -- has dropped by over two thirds, from about $1 billion in 1995 to $284 million in 1997. This equals less than one-quarter of 1 per cent of the annual US military budget. Member States share the risks of maintaining peace and security. Since 1948, over 1,580 UN peace-keepers from some 85 countries have died in the line of duty. Less than 3 per cent were Americans. Under the supervision of an American, Joseph E. Connor, the Under-Secretary- General for Management, the UN Secretariat has a zero-growth budget of $2.5 billion for 1998-99 -- $1.25 billion a year. This is down $100 million from 1994-95, the result of efficiency gains and the elimination of nearly 1,000 jobs. UN Secretariat staff has been cut by 25 per cent to about 8,700 from a high of more than 12,000 in 1984-85, and streamlining continues. Tough new standards have been set for staff performance. UN staff members have about one-third of their salaries deducted in lieu of taxes. A "quiet revolution" to make the UN leaner and more effective was launched by the Secretary-General in July 1997, as the second phase of his reform efforts. Initiatives include consolidating several Secretariat bodies, streamlining management and shifting resources from administration to development work. An Office of Internal Oversight, established in 1994, is pursuing its mandate of promoting more effective and efficient management, and eliminating waste, fraud and mismanagement. It includes a special UN investigative unit and a hotline. The total expenditure of the entire UN system -- including all the UNfunds, programmes, and specialized agencies -- came to some $10.6 billion in 1997. This is roughly half of the annual revenue of a major corporation like Dow Chemical, which took in more than $20 billion that year. The top seven contributors to the UN are the USA (25%); Japan (17.98%); Germany (9.63%); France (6.49%); Italy (5.39%); the United Kingdom (5.07%); and Russia (2.87%). Collectively, they account for more than 72% of the regular UN budget. The United States -- whose citizens hold more UN Secretariat jobs than any other Member State, as well as the top posts at UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Food Programme, the International Court of Justice and the Universal Postal Union -- owes more in unpaid assessments, both past and current, than any other Member State: $1.6 billion. Of the $318 million in procurements approved by the UN Secretariat in New York in 1998, American companies got 31 per cent of the business, or $98.8 million. Of the $2.9 billion in goods and services purchased by the entire UN system in 1997, US companies received $404 million, or 14 per cent, of the business, nearly three times as much as any other country. The UN, its agencies and the diplomatic and consular corps contribute $3.2 billion a year to the economy of the New York City area alone, according to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. That has generated 30,600 jobs, yielding $1.2 billion in annual earnings.

For information, contact the UN Public Inquiries Unit: tel. (212) 963-4475; media inquiries: (212) 963-7160

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Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information-- DPI/1753/Rev.17--June 1999

Countries

Key information

Operation level:
International
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Organisation type:
NGO - non governmental organisation

Mandate

Organisation mandate

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CRIN does not accredit or validate any of the organisations listed in our directory. The views and activities of the listed organisations do not necessarily reflect the views or activities of CRIN's coordination team.