In many instances, the Secretary - General has been instrumental in securing a peace agreement or in averting a threat to peace. The current secretary general is Kofi Annan, who succeeded Boutros Boutros Ghali in 1997 (see appendix C).
Staff members are drawn from some 170 countries.
3.2 Security Council Activity
The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. It is so organized as to be able to function continuously, and a representative of each of its members must be present at all times at United Nations Headquarters.
When a complaint concerning a threat to peace is brought before it, the Council's first action is usually to recommend to the parties to try to reach agreement by peaceful means. In some cases, the Council itself undertakes investigation and mediation. It may appoint special representatives or request the Secretary - General to do so or to use his good offices. It may set forth principles for a peaceful settlement.
When a dispute leads to fighting, the Council's first concern is to bring it to an end as soon as possible. It also sends United Nations peace-keeping forces to help reduce tensions in troubled areas, keep opposing forces apart and create conditions of calm in which peaceful settlements may be sought. The Council may decide on enforcement measures, economic sanctions (such as trade embargoes) or collective military action.
A member state against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken by the Security Council may be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. A member state which has persistently violated the principles of the Charter may be expelled from the United Nations by the Assembly on the Council's recommendation.
The presidency of the Council rotates monthly, according to the English alphabetical listing of its member states (see appendix D).
The Council has 15 members - five permanent members and 10 elected by the General Assembly for a two-year term.
The following countries ended their two-year membership term on December 31, 1997:
- Republic of Korea
Each Council member has one vote. Decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members. Decisions on substantive matters require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members. This is the rule of "great power unanimity", often referred to as the "veto" power.
Under the Charter, all Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to Governments, the Council alone has the power to take decisions which member states are obligated under the Charter to carry out.
Under the Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:
- to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
- to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
- to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
- to formulate plans for the establishment of a threat to peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
- to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
- to take military action against an aggressor;
- to recommend the admission of new members and the terms on which states may become parties to the Statute of the International Court of Justice;
- to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in "strategic areas":
- to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary - General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court.
IV. UN ACTIVITY
4.1 UN Peace-Keeping Missions
United Nations peacekeepers, wearing distinctive UN blue helmets or berets, are dispatched by the Security Council to help implement peace agreements, monitor cease-fires, patrol demilitarized zones, create buffer zones between opposing forces, and put fighting on hold while negotiators seek peaceful solutions to disputes. But ultimately, the success of peacekeeping depends on the consent and cooperation of the opposing parties.
The UN does not have an army. For each peacekeeping mission, member states voluntarily provide troops and equipment, for which they are compensated from a special peacekeeping budget. Police officers, election observers, human rights monitors and other civilians sometimes work alongside military personnel in peacekeeping operations. Lightly armed for self-defense and often unarmed peacekeepers strongest “weapon” is their impartiality. They rely on persuasion and minimal use of force to defuse tensions and prevent fighting. It is dangerous business; approximately 1,500 UN peacekeepers have died in the performance of their duties since 1945.
Rank-and-file soldiers on peacekeeping missions do not swear allegiance to the United Nations. Governments that volunteer personnel carefully negotiate the terms of their participation including command and control arrangements. They retain ultimate authority over their own military forces serving under the UN flag, including disciplinary and personnel matters, and may withdraw their troops if they wish. Peacekeeping soldiers wear their own national uniforms. To identify themselves as peace-keepers, they also wear blue berets or helmets and the UN insignia.
The cost of UN peacekeeping personnel and equipment peaked at about $3 billion in 1995, reflecting the expense of operations in the former Yugoslavia. Peacekeeping costs fell in 1996 and 1997, to $1.4 billion and some $1.3 billion, respectively and estimated budgetary requirements for 1998 are expected to drop to under $1 billion.
All Member States are obligated to pay their share of peacekeeping costs under a formula that they themselves have agreed upon. But as of 15 March 1998, member states owed the UN $1.7 billion in current and back peacekeeping dues. The United States is by far the largest debtor, owing $958 million.
Since 1945, there have been 48 United Nations peacekeeping operations. There are currently 16 under way. Thirty-five peacekeeping operations were created by the Security Council in the years between 1988 when UN peacekeeping operations were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and June 1998:
In Angola, UN mediation led to the 1994 peace accord and to the installation of a government of national unity in 1997, formally uniting a country devastated by 20 years of civil war. A UN operation is in place to help put the peace accord into effect. The UN also continues to provide humanitarian assistance to the Angolan people.
In Somalia, after the outbreak of civil war in 1991, the UN brought relief to millions facing starvation and helped to stop the large-scale killings. From 1992 to 1995, two UN operations sought to restore order, protect delivery of humanitarian relief, promote reconciliation and help reconstruction. Under difficult conditions, various UN agencies continue to provide humanitarian assistance.
The UN helped secure peace in Mozambique. The UN Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) was deployed in the country in 1992 to help put into effect the peace agreement between the Government and the Mozambican National Resistance. ONUMOZ monitored the cease-fire, verified the demobilization of combatants, coordinated humanitarian aid and observed in 1994 the country's first multi-party elections, which led to the peaceful installation of a new Government. Today, the World Bank, the UN Development Program and other parts of the UN family are working with the Government to help forge the economic and social progress needed to underpin the democratic process.
The UN helped end the 12-year conflict in Cambodia and organized the 1993 elections that led to the installation of a new Government. Earlier, the Secretary - General had used his "good offices" in the search for peace, helping to mediate the 1991 peace accord. The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia was then deployed to supervise the cease-fire between the parties, disarm combatants, repatriate refugees, and organize and conduct the elections.
In Afghanistan, mediation by a UN envoy led to the 1988 agreements between Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Soviet Union and the United States aimed at ending the conflict. To help put the agreements into effect, the UN deployed an observer mission, which also verified Soviet troop withdrawal. The Secretary - General and his envoys have continued to work for a peaceful settlement of the continuing civil war. UN agencies provide assistance to the some 2.3 million Afghan refugees.
...in the Americas
The UN has helped resolve protracted conflicts in Central America. In Guatemala, UN-assisted negotiations resulted in the 1996 peace accord, ending a 35-year conflict during which over 100,000 people were killed. The UN began supervising ta