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The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights and achieving world peace. The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between countries and to provide a platform for dialogue.
There are currently 192 member states, including nearly every recognized independent state in the world. From its headquarters on international territory in New York City, the UN and its specialized agencies decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout the year. The organization is divided into administrative bodies, primarily:
- The General Assembly (the main deliberative assembly);
- The Security Council (decides certain resolutions for peace and security);
- The Economic and Social Council (assists in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development);
- The Secretariat (provides studies, information and facilities needed by the UN);
- The International Court of Justice (the primary judicial organ).
Additional bodies deal with the governance of all other UN System agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The UN's most visible public figure is the Secretary-General, currently Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who attained the post in 2007. The organization is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states, and has six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
The Security Council is charged with maintaining peace and security among countries. While other organs of the United Nations can only make "recommendations" to member governments, the Security Council has the power to make binding decisions that member governments have agreed to carry out, under the terms of Charter Article 25. The decisions of the Council are known as United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The Security Council is made up of 15 member states, consisting of 5 permanent members - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - and 10 non-permanent members, currently Belgium, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Panama, South Africa and Vietnam. The five permanent members hold veto power over substantive but not procedural resolutions allowing a permanent member to block adoption but not to block the debate of a resolution unacceptable to it. The ten temporary seats are held for two-year terms with member states voted in by the General Assembly on a regional basis. The presidency of the Security Council is rotated alphabetically each month, and is currently held by Costa Rica.