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handle is hein.crs/govekid0001 and id is 1 raw text is: Congressional Research Servic~
Informing the legisl itive debate since 1914

Updated January 20, 2023
United Nations Issues: Overview of the United Nations System

The United Nations (U.N.) system comprises
interconnected entities including the United Nations,
specialized agencies, U.N. peacekeeping operations, funds
and programs, and other related bodies. Congress has
generally supported the U.N. system and mission, and often
uses U.N. mechanisms to further U.S. foreign policy
objectives. At the same time, some policymakers have been
critical of the U.N. system, arguing that U.N. actions or
decisions do not align with U.S. policy priorities, or that it
is not operating as effectively as possible.
U.N. entities have different mandates, structures,
leadership, and funding mechanisms. Each body is funded
through assessed or voluntary contributions from U.N.
members (or a combination of both). Assessed contributions
are required dues, the payment of which is a legal
obligation accepted by a country when it becomes a
member. Voluntary contributions finance special funds,
programs, and offices. Some U.N. bodies receive both types
of funding.
The United Nations
Established in the aftermath of World War II, the United
Nations is an intergovernmental organization composed of
193 member states. The U.N. Charter, an international
treaty to which the United States is a state party, is the
founding document of the United Nations. Article 1 of the
Charter states that the purposes of the organization are to
maintain international peace and security; develop friendly
relations among nations; solve economic, social, cultural, or
humanitarian problems; and promote human rights. The
United Nations includes six main parts (referred to as
* The 193-member General Assembly (GA) is the
organization's primary decisionmaking body. It
approves the U.N. regular and peacekeeping budgets
and supports the work of its committees and subsidiary
organs, such as the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC).
* The 15-member Security Council (SC) is mandated
with maintaining international peace and security. It
includes 5 permanent members with veto power (United
States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom)
and 10 nonpermanent members, who are elected by the
GA for two-year terms.
* The Secretariat is the U.N. administrative body. It is
led by the Secretary-General (SG), who serves as chief
administrative officer. The SG is appointed by the GA
on the recommendation of the SC. The SG serves a five-
year term, with the possibility for a second term. The
Secretariat is located at U.N. Headquarters in New York

The three other principal organs are (1) the U.N. Economic
and Social Council, a 54-member body that addresses
economic, social, and environmental issues; (2) the
International Court of Justice, the principal U.N. judicial
body; and (3) the Trusteeship Council, which supervised
the administration of trust territories from colonies to
sovereign nations and completed its mandate in 1994.
The United Nations is funded through the U.N. regular
budget ($3.4 billion for 2023). The United States' assessed
contribution is 22% of the regular budget (an estimated
$692.5 million in U.S. FY2023). Other top contributors
include China (15.25%) and Japan (8.03%). U.N. members
approve assessment levels every three years based on a
formula taking into account gross national income and other
economic data. The United States often accumulates arrears
to the regular budget due to differences between the U.S.
and U.N. fiscal years (which affects the timing of U.S.
payments) and U.S. withholdings from U.N. activities,
among other reasons. (For more information, see CRS In
Focus IF10354, United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding to the
U.N. System.)
U.N Specialized Agencies
The U.N. system has 15 specialized agencies, each of which
is a legally independent intergovernmental organization
with its own constitution, rules, membership, organs, and
assessed budget (Figure 1). Many specialized agencies
follow the assessments for the U.N. regular budget, while
others use their own formulas. The United States is a
member of all specialized agencies except for UNESCO,
UNIDO, and UNWTO. (President Trump initiated WHO
withdrawal in 2020; President Biden halted the process and
resumed U.S. participation in 2021.)
Figure I. U.N. Specialized Agencies
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
International Cvil Aviat in Org anization (ICAO)
nternational Fund for Agricultural Development (lFAD)
Interational Labor     razation IL)
International Maritime Organization (1MG)
Interational Monetary Fund (IMF
International Telecommunication Union iTU)
* U.N. Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
* U.N. Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
I U.N. World Tourism Organization (UNWTIG
Universal Postal Union (UPU)
World Bank Group (WBG)
World Health Organization (WHO
Wor Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
e indicates the United States is not a member
Source: United Nations, adapted by CRS.

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