How to Understand the Basic Principles of the United Nations

This article will help you to better understand the foundation principles of the United Nations to assist your work in the field of international law, international relations, NGO (non-governmental organisation) work or for school studies. The United Nations Charter contains the basic foundational principles of the UN and the basic principles explained here form the key elements of what drives the UN.

Steps

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    Read Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. This Article contains the basic principles that guide the United Nations.
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    Note that Article 2 (1) makes it clear that the UN is based on the sovereign equality of all its members. This means that every country is sovereign and independent, which ensures that every country has an equal say in the UN. There are some notable exceptions to this, namely the formation of the Security Council and the International Court of Justice, but every country who is a member of the UN has equal voting power in the General Assembly.
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    Read Articles 2 (3) and 2 (4) together. These two Articles concern the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and the fundamental obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country. These two rules are very important foundational rules that have directed international relations since 1945.
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    Note that under Article 2 (5), every country is required to support the United Nations when it takes action under the UN Charter and must refrain from assisting countries against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
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    Understand that the UN has an obligation to ensure that countries not belonging to the United Nations follow the foundational principles laid out in the UN Charter, in order to maintain international peace and security.
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    Recognise that the UN is unable to interfere with domestic or country internal matters. This is noted by Article 2 (7). The role of the United Nations is to facilitate and promote relations between countries that are members of the UN rather than to tell them what to do on their own territory. Exceptions to this, however, include human rights law and international environmental law but even then, it is often very hard for the United Nations to intervene where the issue is solely internal, such as civil war. In recent years, the UN has become more reliant on insisting that the violation of human rights within a country can give rise to a threat to international peace and security and thereby trigger UN intervention.

Tips

  • There are currently 192 member states of the United Nations. The Holy See (Vatican City) is not a member of the United Nations but has international recognition as a country.[1]

Warnings

  • Do not confuse equality in the United Nations with the position of a country in the political sphere outside the United Nations. Some countries obviously have more powers of persuasion, political clout and resources than other countries on the political sphere; within the UN, countries are formally equal.

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Law and Legislation