The UN Charter
About the UN Charter
The Charter of the United Nations was signed and ratified by the 51 original member nations and came into force in
1945 as the foundational treaty of the United Nations. Today 192 countries are members the of the United Nations. The Preamble to
the Charter, established at the end of the second of two World Wars in which the already massively expanded capacity of human
beings to kill other human beings had been amply demonstrated, makes very clear the reason for the charter and the organisation.
Preamble to the UN Charter
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women
and of nations large and small, and
- to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of
international law can be maintained, and
- to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
- to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
- to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the
common interest, and
- to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS
The Purposes of the United Nations
These purposes, which are of particular relevance to the purposes of this website, are succinctly stated in the
first article of the treaty:
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
- To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to 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 or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
- To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples,
and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
- To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian
character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to
race, sex, language, or religion; and
- To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
Guiding Principles of the UN Charter
The Charter sets out principles guiding the actions of the UN and its organs:
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the
- The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
- All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith
the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
- All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security,
and justice, are not endangered.
- All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or
political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
- All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and
shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
- The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles
so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within
the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter;
but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.
Overview of the Charter
| Chapter|| Content|
| I|| Purposes and Principles |
| II|| Membership |
| III|| Organs |
| IV|| The General Assembly |
| V|| The Security Council |
| VI|| Pacific Settlement of Disputes |
| VII|| Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, |
Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Agression
| VIII|| Regional Arrangements |
| IX|| International Economic and Social Co-operation |
| X|| The Economic and Social Council |
| XI|| Declaration regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories |
| XII|| International Trusteeship System |
| XIII|| The Trusteeship System |
| XIV|| The International Court of Justice |
| XV|| The Secretariat |
| XVI|| Miscellaneous Provisions |
| XVII|| Transitional Security Arrangements |
| XVIII|| Amendments |
| XIX|| Ratification and Signature |
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the UN in 1948, is founded on the notion of
equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
The concluding paragraph of the preamble states the following:
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common
standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this
Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by
progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the
peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
The following articles of the declaration are of particular relevance to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to
these pages, given the large numbers of civilian deaths, the use of terms such as "collateral damage" and statements made by
prominent parties to the events such as "we don't do body counts" or, in relation to large numbers of infant deaths relative to the
objectives "we think it is worth it".
| Article|| Text|
| I|| All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and
should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. |
| III|| Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. |
| V|| No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. |
| VI|| Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. |
| IX|| No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. |
Significance The UN Charter
The UN Charter goes beyond static treaty agreements to establish a dynamic set of institutions and processes for
the expressed purpose of preventing war and to enforce commitments to the use of these established institutions and processes as the
means for peaceful resoulution of international disagreements and settlement of disputes. The UN Charter is the foundational treaty,
ratified in the national legislatures and/or constitutions of each of the 192 signatory countries and binding under international law.
The UN Charter is a bold, international undertaking for the attainment of world peace. Given the almost insane
capacity and willingness of individuals, groups and nations to create, disseminate and deploy weapons of immense capacity for death,
destruction and severe, long term, environmental degradation this charter is essential to the survival of the human species and
the biosphere of this planet.
The actions of individual or coalitions of rogue states in violation of the UN Charter undermines the effectiveness of
the institutions and processes established by the charter and threatens the credibility and stability of the charter itself. In so
doing these states pose a threat to the survival of the human species and the biosphere of this planet. This is a matter of the
highest importance to every human being and should be among the highest priorities of our collective and individual concern.
Abuse of the UN Charter
The choice of New York as the permanent seat of the UN is probably as damaging in its symbolism as it is
in terms of its ongoing practical implications. Superpower dominance of the institutions of the UN can only serve to reduce it
to the level of an instrument of domination. The European Union migrates its parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg
and the International Olympic Games is hosted by a different country every four years. Similar measures could and should be taken
to ameliorate both the symbolic and practical independence of the UN.
The UN and Opposition to the Iraq Invasion
Prior to the commencement of of the Iraq invasion of 2003 Kofi Annan, as Secretary General of the UN, made a public
statement that was widely understood to mean that the intended attack would be illegal. It seems that what he actually said was that
"for the US and its allies to go to war without Security Council approval would not be in conformity with the Charter, which,
quite obviously, was widely understood to mean the same thing.
It was an extremely important statement to make, especially at that particular time, because in conjunction with
the UN Security Council being not forthcoming with the required resolution, it was a ringing endorsement of the global
and intense public opposition to the intended war. UN chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix had repeatedly asserted that Iraq had been
cooperating with weapons inspections and in his opinion had complied with demands to disarm. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction
and the UN weapons inspections team, as it had been charged with the responsibility to do, had (correctly) ascertained this and stated
it publicly to be the case.
The motivation for war was understood by almost all who opposed it, and has been proven correct, to be
for purposes other than "liberation", "freedom and democracy", "preventing terrorism" or "eliminating weapons of mass destruction".
The attack on Iraq was internationally understood to be about the domination of Middle Eastern states by western powers; about strategic
military advantage, political influence and control of oil resources.
- No weapons of mass destruction were found; confirming what the UN inspectors had said - there were none to find
- The Iraqi people did not "welcome their liberators" - who have consistently shown a racist contempt for them
- The "liberators" have not left; contrary to the wishes of more than 80% of Iraqis
- More than 1 Million Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the invasion, four times that number have been displaced from
their homes as internal and external refugees, their nation has been looted and vandalised; crimes against the Iraqi people arguably
far worse than any of those of Saddam Hussein (who was installed by the US)
- The nation's infrastructure has been devastated, its environment degraded and in many places contaminated with rarioactivity
arising from the use of Depleted Uranium weapons with the result that living conditions for the vast majority of Iraqis are
materially and mortally degraded to a condition far worse than under Saddam Hussein.
- Almost daily acts of terrorism - assassinations of academics and other prominent figures, mass murder of iraqis and evictions
from their homes, suicide bombings, car bombings and planting of roadside bombs - have degraded security for ordinary Iraqis to
the point that they send their children to school in fear that they may never see them again and shop in their markets in mortal
fear. Not only has terrorism been promoted in Iraq but the country is clearly a training ground for those whould take these
activities further afield
- With the country now inflamed with sectarian conflict that is a stark contrast to the pattern of thousands of years of that
country's history and its government dominated by a corrupt cabal that is unrepresentative of the wishes of most Iraqis, these
people clearly have not been "liberated"
- Important civilian infrastructure - water and sewage, electricity, hospitals and health care, education -
(much of it deliberately and unnecessarily destroyed) all remain in a poor state of reconstruction while the oil ministry and oil
production facilities, by contrast, were clearly protected from destruction during the attacks, immediately secured after the
invasion and quickly restored to operation
- The theft of billions from the national treasury, imposition of economic policy and privatisation of national resources all
serve to expose the blatant plunder of the nation and true purpose of the invasion.
All of these matters stand as damning testimony to the truth of the invasion of Iraq that was known and
vehemently objected to by millions of people around the world who vigorously demonstrated, TO THE LIMITS THAT LAW ALLOWS and
within the boundaries of peaceful civilised behaviour their intense opposition to it.
That war proceeded without regard to the wishes of the majority of people in the countries that
participated in the coalition and the majority of countries who are signatories to the UN Charter.
Kofi Annan vs the Superpower
On September 12, 2002, in a speech to the UN General Assembly, George W. Bush contended that if the UN did
not support action against Iraq it would become irrelevant, a contention based on a logic similar to that used later in
forging a coalition for an aggressive attack; "you're either with us or against us". This was just one instance in an
increasingly acrimonious relationship between the Bush Administration and the UN in relation to the war in Iraq.
The Bush Administration expressed impatience with the UN Weapons Inspections Team and later disputed their
findings - that Iraq was WMD-free.
Although the Weapons Inspections Team, the Security Council and the UN in general were all subjected to derision
by the Bush Administration and the US media it was Kofi Annan who bore the brunt of US "impatience", perhaps because of his
pronouncement that the war was illegal. John Boulton was US ambassador to the UN during Kofi Annan's time and never missed an
opportunity to issue unconstructive, public criticism of Annan and the UN generally and on one occasion made ominous remarks about
the future of the UN. At the conclusion of Kofi Annan's term of office, when asked to sum up Annan's years at the UN, he responded
simply: "I'll pass".
Typical of the US media treatment of Kofi Annan was an article punlished on the website of the American Heritage
Foundation, an organisation which purports to provide “leadership” for America. It was an article by Nile Gardiner (Director of the
Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom) titled
Kofi Annan's Legacy of Failure which opened with a stinging paragraph to match the title:
“United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan delivered his swan song today at the Truman Presidential Library in
Missouri. It was a thinly veiled parting shot at U.S. foreign policy delivered by an embittered U.N. leader seething with
self-righteous indignation and resentment. Annan's Missouri speech will go down in history as one of the most blatant assaults on
a U.S. administration by a serving U.N. official”.
It's notable that Margaret Thatcher was a devoted friend of Pinochet, hardly a man at the centre of the fight for
freedom , and also, how often the words "self-righteous indignation" appear in ad hominem response to an attack on someone's moral
integrity when there is no more substantial defence.
On the matter of Kofi Annan's assertion that the Iraq war was illegal
the BBC sought to construe Kofi Annan's diplomatic choice of
words, which sought to avoid direct confrontation, as a failure to clearly state that the war in Iraq was illegal - before it
Kofi Annan: I think as secretary general I did everything I could. I worked with the member states, and you've read some of the
comments I made before the war.
BBC: But you made many comments, for example, you waited until 2004 in a BBC interview to say the war was "illegal".
Kofi Annan: No.
BBC: Why didn't you stand up in the UN Security Council and say in 2003:
"This war is illegal without a Security Council resolution"?
Kofi Annan: I think, if you go back to the records, you will discover that before the war I said that for the US and its allies
to go to war without Security Council approval would not be in conformity with the Charter.
BBC: Which is a very sort of UN bureaucratic thing, rather than saying "it's illegal" which would have much more impact. And your
aides say to me: "This was Kofi Annan, the cautious man, not wanting to confront."
Kofi Annan: It's easy to - what do the Americans call it? - "Saturday morning quarter-backing", or "armchair critic". I mean,
it was one of those situations where even before a shot had been fired, you had millions in the street and it didn't make
Once again it's notable that in 2003 the BBC did not take it upon itself to draw and publicise the inevitable
conclusion of Kofi Annan's remark and that in the years that have passed since then the BBC has studiously avoided the question of the
illegality of the Iraq war.
Abuses of the UN Charter
Another event that may have earned the ire of the US
(Wikipedia) was Kofi Annan's support for his deputy
Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, who openly criticized segments of the United States media in a speech of 6 June 2006:
"The prevailing practice of seeking to use the UN almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand
up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable. You will lose the UN one way or another. [...] That the US is
constructively engaged with the UN [...] is not well known or understood, in part because much of the public discourse that reaches
the US heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News."
But the US exploits the UN in a much more practical sense than merely as "diplomatic tool" and it is very clear that
the US would be quite content to "lose the UN one way or another". The general thrust of worldwide entertainment media propaganda
for all the post-WW2 years has been to persuade the world that America is virtuous and moral - a defender of "truth and justice".
William Blum points to some of the dangers
of this misguided belief. But the US has been ever ready to step into the breech as "World Policeman" (at least where "American
Interests" can be served - East Timor had no oil). The signs of covert maneuvers towards this end are evident as the Chief Prosecutor
for the ICC proposes that the US, a non-signatory to the Rome Statute, serve as
World Law Enforcer
“Washington is quite eager to use the ICC as a tool of its own foreign policy objectives.”
Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford
In relation to the invasion of Iraq, the US had used the UN weapons inspection process not merely to ensure that
Iraq was a "safe" victim but had been hard at work manipulating the UN Sanctions programme it debilitate Iraq for all of the 12
years after the first gulf war. The UN Security Council resolotion that imposed sanctions was framed such as to require another
UN Security Council resolotion to lift them - which the US consistently vetoed. At the same time the US manipulated the sanctions,
through bureaucratic delays and pedantry, to the point that the sanctions were far more punitave, especially in their effect on the
lives of ordinary Iraqis than they were ever intended to be. An estimated 500,000 infant-under-five deaths were attributed directly
to the sanctions due to lack of medicines and medical equipment and lack of materials and parts required to supply clean drinking
water supplies. A report of an investigation into the sanctions applied to Iraq in the 12 years prior to the invasion of 2003 by
Joy Gordon in Harper’s Magazine titled
Cool war: Economic sanctions as a weapon of mass destruction provides a damning catalogue of vicious, vindictive, ruthless
contrivance calculated to inflict a maximum of death and sufferings on a population, effected most severely among those most
In the constant derision of the UN, intended to imply that it must fall to the US to "make the world safe for
freedom and democracy" the main theme is that the UN is ineffective and therefore irrelevant. However, there is a strong case
to say that the UN is
Still Relevant even if Ineffective.