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Your guide to UN and UN documents and reports

UN system

The United Nations was created in 1945 with the purpose "to save the coming generations from the scourge of war". Since then it has faced new challenges and areas of concern. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN; membership totals 193 countries.The United Nations is not a world government and it can only act according to the decisions of its member states. Therefore, it becomes a forum for negotiations providing peaceful means of resolving international conflicts and formulating policies on matters affecting all of us.

The four purposes of the UN

According to the charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security.
  • to develop friendly relations among nations.
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights.
  • to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

UN structure

The United Nations, its programmes and funds, and the specialized agencies comprise the 'UN system'. The UN as such, is made up of six main organs with specific tasks and functions.

Main organs

The six main organs established by the UN charter are:

The charter is the constituting instrument of the United Nations, setting out the rights and obligations of Member States, and establishing the main organs and procedures of the organization.

With the exception of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands, all principal organs are based in New York.

Agencies, programmes and bodies

The United Nations family, however, is much larger. In the system of the United Nations, a number of functional institutions concerned with the accomplishment of specific tasks are integrated, encompassing agencies and several programmes and bodies, each with its own structure, membership, governing bodies and budgets. Together, they provide technical assistance and other forms of practical help in virtually all areas of economic and social endeavour.

Learn more about the UN organization


  • Basic Facts about the United Nations, 42nd Edition. A comprehensive account of the activities of the United Nations. It chronicles the work of the Organization in such areas as peace, development, human rights, humanitarian assistance, disarmament and international law. Includes a detailed subject index with references to relevant chapters, details of UN websites, UN member states, past and present peacekeeping operations and UN special observances, and contact details for UN information centres, services and offices. Published by the United Nations and updated regularly.
  • The Essential UN covers the history of the UN, what it does and how it does it.
  • FN - globalt uppdrag published by UNA Sweden 1995. A supplement covering 1995-2000. In 2005 a second edition was published.
  • United Nations Handbook is published annually since 1961 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand. A clearly ordered guide to the organisations that make up the United Nations, the basis of their structure, their aims and their membership.

The United Nations and the Secretary-General Kofi Annan was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2001 "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world."


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