The United Nations (U.N.) represents almost every nation in the world, with close to 200 member nations. Formed by world leaders a few months after the end of World War II, in 1945, the United Nations set world peace as its primary objective. While international tensions continued to run high throughout the Cold War, the U.N. helped world leaders negotiate differences and avoid another war on the scale of World War II. Over time, the U.N. has evolved - - today, it initiates and sponsors many peace-keeping operations around the world and functions as an international watchdog, regarding things such as the production of nuclear materials. The U.N.'s International Court of Justice, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, World Health Organization and environmental protocols have united the nations of the world on issues of vital importance.
The U.N. has six official "organs" listed in its Charter: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice and the Trusteeship Council. The General Assembly is what most people think of when they hear about the U.N. - - the place where representatives from all member countries come together to vote on resolutions. The U.N. Security Council is a smaller delegation, made up of five permanent members and several other temporary member nations at a time. The Security Council tends to focus on matters of peacekeeping and security. The Secretariat is the bureaucratic arm of the United Nations, which manages daily business. The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, who has tremendous power and is elected by the General Assembly for a term of five years. Among other duties, the Secretary-General is able to mediate disputes between nations and introduce issues to the Security Council. The Economic and Social Council offers recommendations on economic and social issues around the world, while the International Court of Justice offers a setting in which countries can bring one another to trial and redress international grievances. The Trusteeship Council, while listed in the U.N. Charter, was disbanded in the 1990s.
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