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International Organisations | Class 12 Political Science Notes

The chapter introduces students to the major political International Organisations and the role they play in International Politics. We also highlight the various structures of the United Nations and the formation of the League of Nations, IMF, World Bank, IAEA etc.


Introduction to International Organisations

What is an International Organisation?

An 'International Organisation' is a legal entity established at the international level by a treaty or other instrument. It has its own legal international identity.

Organisations with international recognition include the United Nations, NATO, and the World Health Organisation.

What is the role of the International Organisation?

The international organisation aids in the setting of the international agenda, as well as providing a forum for global political initiatives and acting as a catalyst in international relations between member states.

The European Union, African Union, and NATO, for example, have member states from all over the world. On the other hand organisations such as the European Union, African Union and NATO have geographic limitations.

The primary aim of the International organisations is to facilitate cooperation and coordination among member countries.

The United Nations is one of the most important intergovernmental organisations in the world today. The organisations also comprise of its various bodies and regional organisations, such as the UNECE (European Economic Council) and the UNECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) (Economic council for Africa).

What led to the formation of such organisations for peace, stability and cooperation in the international arena?

The First World War resulted in the formation of the 'League of Nations,' an international organisation.

The United States played a major role in the formation of the league; Woodrow Wilson, the US president, bought into the idea of the league's formation for the sake of international peace and stability.

After the 'Treaty of Versailles,' the League of Nations was proposed in 1919 and formally established in January 1920.

The outbreak of World War II, following the Nazi invasion of Poland, demonstrates the 'League of Nations's' greatest failure.

The United Nations

It is an intergovernmental organisation responsible for maintaining international peace and security.

The major aim of the organisation is to develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and being a centre for harmonising the actions of the member states.

It is one of the largest, most internationally represented and powerful organisations in the world.

Why do we need organisations like the UN?

International organisations help in both war and peace situations. They also help countries work together to improve everyone's living conditions.

An international organisation is not a super-state with authority over its members. When states agree to create it, it takes shape. Some problems are so difficult to solve that they can only be solved if everyone works together to solve them.

Some diseases, for example, can only be eradicated if every country in the world collaborates to inoculate or vaccinate their citizens.

An international organisation can help with the collection of information and ideas for collaboration.

It can provide mechanisms, rules, and bureaucracy to give members more confidence that costs will be properly shared, benefits will be distributed fairly, and once a member joins an agreement, it will follow its terms and conditions.

What led to the formation of the United Nations?

The United Nations was established as a successor to the League of Nations. It was established in 1945, shortly after World War II ended. The United Nations charter was signed by 51 countries.

The UN attempted to accomplish what the League of Nations had failed to do between the two world wars. The UN mission was to prevent international conflict and promote interstate cooperation.

It was created in the hopes of preventing inter-state conflicts from escalating into war and, if war did break out, limiting the scope of hostilities.

The United Nations was established in order to bring countries together in order to improve global social and economic development prospects.

The United Nations had 192 member states by 2006. Almost every independent state was represented and in 2011 South Sudan joined the United Nations as the 193rd member state.

The Structure Of United Nations

The United Nations has six main organs:

  • General Assembly: It is the central deliberative body composed of representatives of all member states. It is empowered to discuss and make recommendations on the subjects within the scope of the charter itself.

  • Security Council: It is the 15 member body with the primary responsibility of maintaining peace and stability around the world. It comprises permanent and non-permanent members.

  • The Economic and Social council (ECOSOC): It has the responsibility to look after the economic and social matters. It comprises the 54 members elected by the general assembly for an overlapping 3 year term.

  • Trusteeship council: It is composed of the five permanent members of the Security Council, to ensure equal division of administering and non-administering powers.

  • The International Court of Justice: It is the principal judicial organ of the UN. It consists of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms by the General Assembly and the Security Council voting independently.

  • The Secretariat: It is the administrative arm of the organisation. It is headed by a Secretary-General appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year, renewable term.

The UN also consists of many different structures and agencies, Social and economic issues are dealt with by many agencies including :

  • World Health Organisation (WHO)

  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

  • United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC)

  • United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)

  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

League Of Nations

The League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. The organisation was officially formalised on 10th January 1920.

It was founded following the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War; in 1919 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leading architect of the League.

Reform Of the UN After The Cold War

The reform and improvement are fundamentals to any organisation to serve the needs of a changing environment.

The UN faced two basic kinds of reforms:

  • Reform of the organisation’s structures and processes.

  • A review of the issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the organisation.

The biggest discussion has been on the functioning of the Security Council. There has been the demand for an increase in the UN Security Council’s permanent and non-permanent membership so that the realities of contemporary world politics are better reflected in the structure of the organisation.

There are proposals to increase membership from Asia, Africa and South America. The US and other Western countries want improvements in the UN’s budgetary procedures and its administration.

It was also stated by many leaders that the UN is a seventy five year old body the way it was organised and the way it functioned reflected the realities of world politics after the Second World War, and these realities changed with a due course of time.

What were the changes the world faced after the cold war?

The Soviet Union has collapsed.

  • The US became the strongest power. The relationship between Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union, and the US is much more cooperative.

  • China was rapidly emerging as a great power, and India was also growing rapidly.

  • The economies of Asia were growing at an unprecedented rate.

  • Many new countries have joined the UN (as they became independent from the Soviet Union or former communist states in eastern Europe).

  • A whole new set of challenges confronts the world (genocide, civil war, ethnic conflict, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, environmental degradation, epidemics).

What reforms are necessary to make the UN work better?

In 1992, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution. The resolution reflected three main complaints:

  • The Security Council no longer represents contemporary political realities.

  • Its decisions reflect only Western values and interests and are dominated by a few powers.

  • It lacks equitable representation.

How should New Security Council members be chosen?

The following are just some of the criteria that have been proposed for new permanent and nonpermanent members of the Security Council.

It was suggested that a new member must be:

  • A major economic power.

  • A major military power

  • A substantial contributor to the UN budget.

  • A big nation in terms of its population.

  • A nation that respects democracy and human rights.

  • A country that would make the Council more representative of the world’s diversity in terms of geography, economic systems, and culture.

Depending on their interests and aspirations, the governments of various states saw advantages in some criteria and disadvantages in others. Countries could see that the criteria were problematic, even if they had no desire to be members themselves.

There are five permanent members and ten non-permanent members on the Security Council. The charter gave permanent members a special position in the post-World War II world, allowing them to help bring stability to the world.

Permanency and veto power are the main benefits of the five permanent members. Non-permanent members serve for a maximum of two years before being replaced by newly elected members.

After completing a two-year term, a country cannot be re-elected immediately. The non-permanent members are chosen in such a way that they represent all of the world's continents. They also don't have veto power.

What is the veto power?

The Security Council makes decisions through voting, Every member has one vote.

Permanent members have the ability to vote negatively, so even if all other permanent and non-permanent members vote in favour of a decision, a single permanent member's negative vote can put the decision on hold.

The veto is this negative vote. While there has been talk of abolishing or changing the veto system, it is clear that the permanent members are unlikely to agree to such a change.

Jurisdiction of the UN

The question of membership is a serious one. Also there are more substantial issues before the world. As the UN completed 60 years of its existence, the heads of all the member-states met in September 2005 to celebrate the anniversary and review the situation.

The leaders in this meeting decided that the following steps should be taken to make the UN more relevant in the changing context.

  • Creation of a Peace building Commission.

  • Acceptance of the responsibility of the international community in case of failures of national governments to protect their own citizens from atrocities.

  • Establishment of a Human Rights Council (operational since 19 June 2006).

  • Agreements to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

  • Condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

  • Creation of a Democracy Fund

  • An agreement to wind up the Trusteeship Council

India and the UN reforms

As far as India and the UN relations are concerned, India has backed UN reform for many reasons. India wants a stronger and more vibrant UN amid this changing world order.

India thinks the UN should do more to promote development and inter-state cooperation. As a precondition for international peace and security, India believes the UN should prioritise development.

India's main concern is the Security Council's composition, which has remained largely unchanged while the UN General Assembly has grown significantly. India also claims this has harmed the security Council's representativeness.

India also states that a larger council with more representation will have more international support.

In 1965, the UN Security Council grew from 11 to 15 members. However, the number of permanent members remained constant. The size of the council has remained constant since.

The developing countries now make up the majority of UN General assembly members. As a result India believes it should be consulted on Security Council decisions.

The support of the international community is required for the security council's actions. Hence, India advocates the addition of more permanent and non-permanent members. Also, India wants itself to be in the UNSC as a permanent member.

How India is the right fit for the UNSC permanent members Candidature?

  • India is the world's second most populous country, with nearly a fifth of the world's population.

  • India is also the world's most populous democracy.

  • India has taken part in nearly every UN initiative.

  • It has a long and important history of UN peacekeeping.

  • The country's economy's global rise is also notable. It has also made regular financial contributions to the UN, never defaulting.

India recognises the symbolic value of permanent Security Council membership. It denotes a country's rising global stature.

India wants to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto power, but some countries doubt it.

Ineffectiveness as a permanent member of the UN Security Council Many believe India's problems with Pakistan. Others argue that by including India, other emerging powers like Brazil, Germany, Japan, and possibly even South Africa will be forced to accommodate.

Some argue that permanent membership should be expanded to include Africa and South America, the only unrepresented continents. Given these reservations, India, or anyone else, may struggle to gain permanent membership in the UN.

The UN in the unipolar world

Some countries have expressed concern about the UN's reform and restructuring, hoping that the changes will assist the UN in dealing with a unipolar world in which the US is the most powerful country with no serious rivals.

As a result of the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States has become the world's sole superpower. Its military and economic might enable it to ignore the United Nations and other international organisations.

The United States wields considerable power within the United Nations. (In its capacity as the world's largest donor to the United Nations.) The fact that the United Nations is physically located on US soil gives Washington extra leverage.

The United States has a large number of nationals in the UN bureaucracy. The United States has the ability to put a stop to any actions that irritate or harm its own interests, as well as the interests of its friends and allies.

The power and veto of the United States within the organisation ensure that Washington has a significant say in the selection of the UN Secretary General.

The US can and does use this power to "split" the world and lessen opposition to its policies.

As a result, the UN offers little in the way of a counterbalance to the US.

The United Nations can and has served to bring the United States and the rest of the world together to discuss various issues in a unipolar world dominated by the United States.

Despite their frequent criticism of the United Nations, US leaders believe the organisation serves a purpose by bringing together over 190 countries to deal with conflict and social and economic development.

The United Nations provides a forum for changing American attitudes and policies. While the rest of the world rarely stands united against Washington, and "balancing" US power is nearly impossible, the UN does provide a forum for arguments against specific US attitudes and policies, as well as compromises and concessions.

United Nations and The Russia Ukraine War

The recent Russia-Ukraine war has created an existential dilemma for the UN. It has also been plagued by several recent crises including Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and Covid pandemic.

The UN's inability in firstly, preventing the war and secondly, putting an end to it speaks largely of its inability to achieve peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian assistance.

The first military confrontation in Europe since World War II has created an existential crisis for the UN as it failed in preventing the humanitarian and refugee crisis faced by Ukraine where over 10 million people have been displaced and 5 million have become refugees.

The leader of the UN himself, Secretary General Antonio Guterres agrees in his address on the organisation’s 75th anniversary in 2020 that the UN now lacks ambition and political will and unity of member states to overcome any humanitarian crisis.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Headquarters: Washington, DC.

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organisation that oversees international financial institutions and regulations.

  • The IMF has 184 member countries, but they do not have equal representation.

  • The top ten countries received 55% of the votes.

  • They are the members of the G-8 (the US, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Canada and Russia).

  • The US alone has 17.4 per cent voting rights.

The World bank

The World Bank was established shortly after World War II ended in 1945. Its activities are focused primarily on developing countries.

Human development (education, health), agriculture and rural development (irrigation, rural services), environmental protection (pollution reduction, establishing and enforcing regulations), infrastructure (roads, urban regeneration, and electricity), and governance are all areas in which it works (anti-corruption, development of legal institutions).

  • It makes loans and grants to member countries. As a result, it has a significant impact on developing countries' economic policies.

  • It is frequently chastised for dictating the economic agendas of poorer countries, imposing stringent loan conditions, and imposing free-market reforms.

World Trade Organisation

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is an international organisation that establishes global trade rules.

This organisation was established in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was established following World War II.

It consists of 150 people. Although all decisions are made unanimously, major economic powers such as the United States, the European Union, and Japan have been able to use the WTO to frame trade rules in order to advance their own interests.

Developing countries frequently complain about opaque procedures and are being bullied by major powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency

In 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established.

It was established to carry out US President Dwight Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" proposal.

Its goal is to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy while discouraging its use for military purposes.

IAEA teams inspect nuclear facilities around the world on a regular basis to ensure that civilian reactors are not being used for military purposes.


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