United Nations Organization

United Nations Organization (UNO) an international organization of sovereign states founded in 1945 by 51 countries. The United Nations Organization or United Nations (UN) is created by a multilateral treaty and the rights and obligation of a member-state are incorporated in the Charter. The United Nations is essentially a political inter-governmental organization and is not a supra-national or world government. The core themes of the UN Charter are: commitment to maintain international peace and security, and to that end take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes which might lead to a breach of peace, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace; to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples; and to promote social progress, better living standards, human rights and fundamental freedom for all irrespective of race, sex, language, or religion.

History of Inter-Governmental Organizations The States first established international organizations to cooperate on specific matters. In 1899, the International Peace Conference was held in The Hague to elaborate instruments for settling crises peacefully, preventing wars and codifying rules of warfare. It adopted the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes and established the Permanent Court of Arbitration which began functioning in 1902. The 1907 Hague Conference, attended by 26 European states, was the first indication of a desire to set up a world body. The idea could not further be developed because in 1914 the First World War started. When the war ended in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson of the US took the lead to establish a world organization for maintenance of global peace and security. At a Paris Conference on 25 January 1919, President Wilson dominated the negotiations with his 14-Point Proposal that contained among others right of self-determination of peoples, collective security, general disarmament and wanted a world Organization to oversee a new world order based on Peace and Social Justice.'

Prior to the United Nations, the League of Nations was the international organization responsible for ensuring peace and cooperation between world nations. The League of Nations was founded on 10 January 1920 in Geneva 'to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security'. The League of Nations had 58 members. At the beginning, the League carried out effective work and was considered successful. In the 1930s its success waned as the Axis Powers' (Germany, Italy, and Japan) gained influence, eventually leading to the start of Second World War in 1939. As the Second World War unfolded, it became clear that the League had failed in its chief aim of keeping the peace.

The United Nations Declaration Despite its failure, the League of Nations left a legacy that inspired the founders of the United Nations. The name 'United Nations' was devised by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was first used in the 'Declaration by United Nations' of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. The United Nations Charter was drawn up by the representatives of 50 countries at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, which met in San Francisco between 25 April and 26 June 1945. Those delegates deliberated on the basis of proposals that had been worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks in August-October 1944. The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries. Poland, which was not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became one of the original 51 Member States.

The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and a majority of other signatories.

United Nations as an Organization There are currently 193 Members of the United Nations and its role touches every corner of the globe. Under the UN Charter, membership is open to all peace-loving states which accept the obligations in the charter and in the judgment of the UN to carry out these obligations (Article 4 of the Charter). The purpose of the United Nations is to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well-being of all people. It affords the opportunity for countries to balance global interdependence and national interests when addressing international problems. Although best known for peacekeeping, peacebuilding, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance, there are many other ways the United Nations and its System (specialized agencies, funds and programmes) can affect the world. The Organization works on a broad range of fundamental issues, from sustainable development, environment and refugees protection, disaster relief, counter terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation, to promoting democracy, human rights, governance, economic and social development and international health, clearing land mines, expanding food production, and more, in order to achieve its goals and coordinate efforts for a safer world for this and future generations.

The United Nations Headquarters is in New York City but the land and buildings are international territory. The United Nations has its own flag, its own post office and its own postage stamps. The organization is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Six official languages are used at the United Nations, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. The UN European Headquarters is in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. The senior officer of the United Nations Secretariat is the Secretary General.

United Nations operations in Bangladesh Bangladesh established initial links with the UN during the period of War of Liberation in 1971. Besides being a war of liberation it was also a fight against violations of basic human rights. UN's involvement in Bangladesh's war of liberation was mainly in:

a. Taking stand against violation of human rights; and

b. Providing aid to the refugees.

In March 1971, during its historic non-cooperation movement the leaders of the movement sent message to U Thant, the then Secretary General of UN, urging the Organization's support for the campaign for self-determination by the people of the then East Pakistan. They also held a special meeting with an UNDP representative in Dhaka. The genocide in Bangladesh in 1971 sparked off sharp reactions all over the world. With all other world leaders, Secretary General U Thant condemned this genocide and described it as a 'darkest chapter in human history.'

After the formation of Bangladesh Government in exile on 17 April 1971, one of its most important tasks became the elicitation of support from all countries of the world and creation of favourable world public opinion in support of its war of liberation. For this purpose the Bangladesh Government from its headquarters in Mujibnagar sent special emissaries to the United Nations on 21 September 1971 on the 26th session of the UN General Assembly. In October 1971, the leader of the Bangladesh delegation let the world know through a press conference held in UN Plaza, that 'we have reached a point of no return'. On 4 December 1971, a long statement prepared by Bangladesh delegation in UN was distributed as an 'Official Document'. The letter was docketed as an 'Official Document' of the Security Council. This was the first occasion when a statement on behalf of the people of Bangladesh was presented at the UN directly by a delegation from Bangladesh.

The second area where UN was actively involved was in helping the refugees. As a result of the inhumane oppression and genocide by the Pakistan Army, thousands of people left home and took refuge in neighbouring India. The organizational management and the financial strength needed to keep these refugees alive were beyond any country's ability alone. The United Nations organized a massive international operation for relief of the refugees from Bangladesh in India. Bangladesh's war of liberation also gained technical advantage because of the involvement of UN in helping the refugees. This put an end to the dirty tricks of Pakistan and some other countries that were trying hard to portray this struggle as 'internal affair' of Pakistan and a quarrel between India and Pakistan. Top UN officials including Sadruddin Aga Khan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, visited several refugee camps. Besides the UNHCR, other UN Agencies like WHO, WFP, and UNICEF also started work for the refugees.

On the other hand, United Nations started its relief activities in the then occupied Bangladesh. On July 1971 United Nations East Pakistan Relief Operation (UNEPRO) started its activities under John R Kelly. Later, Paul Mckee Henry, Under Secretary General of UN took this responsibility at UN Headquarters. Bangladesh government at that time complained that the Pakistan army was deliberately misusing this relief operation. On 16 November the entire operation was taken directly by UN from Pakistan control. This was a moral blow to the then administration of East Pakistan.

In the Aid-Consortium meeting of the World Bank held in Paris in June 1971, the donor communities refused to give any new aid until normalcy was restored in East Pakistan. 'East Pakistan is in effect without a government', this comment by the World Bank added a new momentum to the war of liberation of Bangladesh. The refugee problem in Bangladesh was also a serious item on the agenda of United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1971.

After the emergence of Bangladesh, the United Nations started a massive relief and rehabilitation operation. Kurt Waldheim, the Secretary General of UN, gave formal announcement of United Nations Relief Operations in Dhaka (UNROD) on 21 December 1971, and appointed Sir Robert Jackson as Under Secretary General in over-all charge. The operation was later enhanced and renamed as UNROB, an acronym of United Nations Relief Operations in Bangladesh. When this operation terminated its activities of emergency relief and rehabilitation as planned on 31 December 1973, UNROB had become until then the largest of its kind ever conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.

The relationship between United Nations and Bangladesh further strengthened when the UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim visited Bangladesh on 9 February 1973 and met with the Prime Minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to discuss ways and means to rebuild the country. After this visit, United Nations supports the nation building process of Bangladesh. With the assistance of the United Nations, the Chalna Port, which was devastated during the war of Liberation, was cleared off the sunken vessels. UN also arranged a chartered plan to bring back the stranded Bangalis from Pakistan in July 1973.

Table  Bangladesh’s membership to UN System.

World Health Organization (WHO) 19 May 1972
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 20 May 1972
International Monetary Fund (IMF) 13 June 1972
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) 13 June 1972
International Development Association (IDA) 13 June 1972
International Labour Organization (ILO) 22 June 1972
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 19 October 1972
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) 21 December 1972
Universal Postal Union (UPU) 7 February 1973
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) 6 April 1973
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) 17 April 1973
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) 21 June 1973
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 1973
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) 24 August 1973
International Travel Union (ITU) 1973
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 13 November 1973
General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) 20 November 1973
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 1973
World Trade Organization (WTO) 1994

Bangladesh joins UN Bangladesh continued an uninterrupted efforts to become a member of the UN immediately after independence. For this reason, Bangladesh has always extended its unflinching support to the spirit and ideals of the United Nations as enshrined in its Charter. After Independence, the Constitution of Bangladesh was adopted and this Constitution contains many provisions of the UN charters that are fully consistent with the ideals of UN. The Bangladesh's Constitution clearly states: 'The state shall base its international relations on the principle of respect for international law and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter' (Article 25). In the Constitution of Bangladesh Human Rights have been clearly incorporated in the light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also guarantees rule of law, fundamental rights and economic and social equity as well as freedom and justice.

Later in 1972, another round of activities were undertaken at the UN headquarters in General Assembly session by a group of observers under the then Minister for Foreign Affairs. However, Bangladesh's effort to be a full member failed twice because of the veto exercised by China in the Security Council at the behest of the Pakistan government headed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Bangladesh formally joined the United Nations as its 136th Member state on 17 September 1974. After a week, on 24 September 1974, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave a speech in Bangla in the UN.

Though Bangladesh formally joined the United Nations on 17 September 1974, it acquired membership of several other UN bodies well before that. Actually the first UN body to welcome Bangladesh was the World Health Organization (WHO). It was soon followed by Bangladesh's entry into most other specialized agencies and programmes of the United Nations.

Bangladesh in United Nations: Since its entry as a member state, Bangladesh has been playing significant role in the World Body. It is involved in political, security, economic and social spheres of the UN activities. In pursuance of its national policy Bangladesh lays emphasis on five key areas, namely development, environment, democracy, human rights and peacekeeping.

Only a year after its membership to the United Nations Bangladesh was elected Vice-President in the General Assembly in 1975, and served twice as member of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from 1976 to 1978, and from 1981 to 1983. Bangladesh's representative Humayun Rasheed Chowdhury acted as the President of the 41st session of the UN General Assembly in 1986-87.

Bangladesh was twice elected as non-permanent member of the Security Council, first during 1979-1980, defeating Japan, and next during 2000-2001. Bangladesh's first term (1979-80) in the Security Council marked the continuation of cold war phase in world politics. In addition to the Arab-Israeli dispute, the Vietnamese invasion of Kamputchea, the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, Iranian hostage issue, the Iran-Iraq war and African issues such as independence of Rhodesia and arms embargo against South Africa figured out prominently in the agenda. Bangladesh's joint efforts with other non-aligned member-nations to circumvent the Soviet vetoes on Kamputchea and Afghanistan failed, but its similar efforts on dismantling of Jewish settlements in occupied Arab territories proved to be successful on quite a few occasions. On the hostage issue, in keeping with the recognised principle of international law, Bangladesh supported the resolution for the release of American diplomats held in Tehran. In the same period Bangladesh supervised on behalf of the UN the elections in Rhodesia leading to its independence as Zimbabwe and was elected as the chairman of the Security Council's Committee on Arms Embargo in South Africa. During Bangladesh's second term (2000-2001), under the changed diplomatic situation too, it played a significant role in the Council. Angola, Bosnia Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iraq, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and East Timor dominated the agenda. During the period Bangladesh also made important contributions as the chairman of the two committees, namely the Committee Concerning Sierra Leone and the Working Committee on the Role of Sanctions. Bangladesh also held the presidency of the Security Council in March 2000 and in June 2001.

Bangladesh became one of the strongest advocates for the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 1974. In late 1978 Bangladesh served as a member of the preparatory committee to the Assembly's special session devoted to disarmament and its diplomatic position on the issue improved to some extent in August 1979 when it acceded to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Bangladesh has contributed to the UN activities by coordinating major groups of countries as the chairman of Group of 77 in 1982-83 and as the coordinator of Least Developed Countries since 1980. Bangladesh was selected in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1985, and in the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) of World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1998. Former President of Bangladesh Abu Sayeed Chowdhury headed the Human Rights Commission in 1985 and Bangladesh served as member of the Commission on Human Rights with distinction during 1983-2000 and was elected to the Commission for the term 2006-2008.

Bangladesh also participated in all major UN sponsored conferences, and the conference held in 1990s under UN auspices are considered to be important as they succeeded in adopting Declarations and plans of action by consensus. These conferences include: The Education for All Conference (Jomtein, 1990), the World Summit for Children (New York, 1990), the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), the Nutrition Conference (Rome, 1992), the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993), the Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), the World Summit on Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), the fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), the Habitat II Conference (Istanbul, 1996), and the World Food Summit (Rome, 1996). In the Beijing Conference in 1995, Bangladesh not only officially participated but also encouraged NGOs to do so.

Bangladesh has ratified or acceded to most of the UN instruments such as conventions, treaties and protocols. Of these some core conventions, treaties and protocols that Bangladesh ratified or acceded include: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discriminations against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, The Agreement on the Prohibition of the Use At Anti Personnel Mines, The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), The Biodiversity Convention at Rio, Vienna Convention, Montreal Protocol, London Amendment, Copenhagen Amendment, Montreal Amendment, Beijing Amendment.

Bangladesh has made its deep commitment to international peace and cooperation in many ways. Bangladesh was inspired and synchronized the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace in 1999 at the 54th session of the UN General Assembly. Bangladesh is also a founding member of Peace Building Commission. Currently one of the major functions of the UN that Bangladesh deeply involved in is the UN peacekeeping operations in various conflict zones. Bangladesh is the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. Bangladesh's involvement in peacekeeping operations began in 1988 when it participated in UN operations in Iraq (UNIIMOG) and in Namibia (UNTAG). Later as part of the UNIKOM force deployed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia following gulf War the Bangladesh Army sent a mechanized battalion. Since then, the Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been involved in up to forty-five different UNPKOs in as many as twenty-five countries with approximately 83,000 personnel around the world. This has included activities in UN Transitional Assistance Group in Namibia (UNTAG), UN Transitional Assistance Group in Cambodia (UNTAC) and UN Military Liaison Team in Cambodia (UNMLT), UN Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM), UN Observer Mission Uganda/Rwanda, UN Operations in Mozambique (UNOMOZ), UN Mission in former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR), UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), UN Mission of Observer in Tajikistan (UNMOT), UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), UN Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), UN Mission in Kosobo (UNMIK), UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), UN Mission in Support of East Timor (UNMISET), UN Organisation Mission in Congo (MONUC), UN Operations in CF4te d'lvoire and UN Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE). As of March 2010, Bangladesh was ranked first in terms of its contribution to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, with 10,574 personnel (military and police) attached to 12 UN peacekeeping forces in 11 countries. Today, the Bangladesh Peace Keeping Force is one of the top foreign currency earners for the country in return of its contribution to the UN. The performance of Bangladesh's contingents under varying conditions has been of a high order as it is marked by unflinching commitment, dedication and competence. Indeed, the country's achievements in this field have been duly acknowledged and appreciated by the world community. While carrying out their duties as peace-keepers under high risk and hostile situation, as many as 88 peace-keepers of Bangladesh have sacrificed their lives in the interest of world peace.

United Nations System in Bangladesh Currently the United Nations system has a large presence in Bangladesh. More than 10 UN agencies/programmes are now at work alongside the government and the people of Bangladesh for their development and prosperity. Their area of work includes economy, energy, environment, contingencies, education, disaster, food, gender, good governance, health, human rights, indigenous people, migration, nutrition, participation, population, poverty, refugees, urbanization, employment and livelihood. UN agencies provide major policy support, resulting in promulgation of Acts and Ordinances in governance and human rights issues, and development of critical plan of actions and guidelines in health, education, environment and other economic and social sectors.

The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) brought the UN system together to respond jointly with the government to the national development priorities. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the global development network and one of the main branches of the UN family in Bangladesh is working with the UN Team to develop UNDAF in Bangladesh. For this purpose UNDP supports government agencies in preparing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)-based plan and implementing its Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).'

Due to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) effort, Sundarbans and some other historical sites were included in the World heritage list. UNESCO launched an international campaign in 1985 to safeguard Paharpur Vihara and several mosques in Bagerhat that are built in the 15th century. UNESCO also played the pioneering role in designating 21st February as the International Mother Language Day and now every year the day is observed by all member countries of the world. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) built shallow wells throughout the country to provide a safe source of drinking water to Bangladesh's poor. In the fields of immunization, disease control, reproductive health care and disaster assistance, UNICEF's contribution during 1980s and 1990s deserve special attention. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is involved here in the vital agricultural sector, and Bangladesh's efforts for adequate stocks of rice and wheat and agriculture production are being assisted by FAO. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been working in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh through technical advisory services and commodity support. UNFPA has completed six country programme cycle while it is currently carrying out its seventh country programme (2006-2010). UNFPA is also involved here in promoting family planning and planned growth of population. In Bangladesh International Labour Organization (ILO) is contributing towards education and training of manpower and its labor laws are being put in place in accordance with ILO. The World Food Programme (WFP) has a great contribution towards country's vital Food for Work and Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) Programes. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works in close partnership with the Government of Bangladesh to assist the improvements in living conditions for the 28,000 refugees from Myanmar. The World Bank and Bangladesh have long been in partnership in development sector since 1972. The World Bank works with Bangladesh to assist the country in attaining its development goals of reducing poverty and improving the lives of people. The World Bank also works closely with other development partners, non-government organizations, civil society, academia and most importantly the local stakeholders. As for Bangladesh, the World Bank (WB) provides loans for development projects. Bangladesh has close ties with International Monetary Fund (IMF). IMF's loans ensure Bangladesh's stable monetary policy. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has opened up Bangladesh's trade opportunity. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been providing technical assistance to Bangladesh for the development and strengthening of the country's public health systems since 1972. Bangladesh's health and drug policies are being regulated consistent with the policies of WHO.

Many of the UN agencies in Bangladesh assist in preparing socio-economic projects, conduct programmes of training and award fellowships or funds for research to Bangladeshi nationals. The development strategy of Bangladesh is closely coordinated with this UN agencies and each of these agencies has an office in Bangladesh.

The relationship between Bangladesh and the UN during the past years reflects the spirit of Bangladesh Constitution. Bangladesh's image is projected to the world community through its close association with United Nations. In a politically divided and economically antagonistic world the United Nations remains the only Organization for the world to remain undivided and peaceful. Bangladesh is principally committed to uphold UN principles. [Urmee Hossain]

Bibliography Bangladesh and the United Nations Thirty Years of Partnership, United Nations Association of Bangladesh (UNAB), Dhaka, 2004;' Bangladesh and the UN: 25 years of Cooperation, United Nations Association of Bangladesh (UNAB), Dhaka, 2000; Nurul Momen (ed.), UN and Bangladesh, Cooperation for Development, Dhaka, 1995; Bangladesh and the United Nations (1986-87), United Nations Association of Bangladesh (UNAB), Dhaka, 1987; Nurul Momen, Bangladesh-UN Partnership in The Daily Star, February 19, 2006.