Getting Started

To begin searching within the
Government Manual simply type
in a keyword or phrase
to find your match.

United Nations

United Nations, New York, NY 10017


United Nations Office at Geneva: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

United Nations Office at Vienna: Vienna International Centre, P.O. Box 500, A–1400, Vienna, Austria

Washington, DC: United Nations Information Centre, Suite 500, 1775 K Street NW., Washington, DC 20006

202-331-9191 | Email:

Deputy Secretary-GeneralAmina J. Mohammed
Director-General, United Nations Office at GenevaTatiana Valovaya

Director-General, United Nations Office at ViennaGhada Fathi Waly
Director, Washington DC Information CentreMary Kirtley Waters

The above list of key personnel was updated 1–2021.

The above list of key personnel was updated 1–2021.

The United Nations supports tolerance and peaceful coexistence among the nations; seeks to maintain peace and security among them; opposes the use of armed force, except in the common interest; and promotes the economic and social advancement of all peoples.


The United Nations is an international organization that was set up in accordance with the Charter drafted by governments represented at the Conference on International Organization meeting at San Francisco. The Charter was signed on June 26, 1945, and came into force on October 24, 1945, when the required number of ratifications and accessions had been made by the signatories. Amendments increasing membership of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council came into effect on August 31, 1965.

The United Nations now consists of 193 member states, of which 51 are founding members.

A chart of the United Nations System's principal organs is available in Portable Document Format (PDF) for downloading and online viewing.

The purposes of the United Nations set out in the Charter are to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting respect for human rights; and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.


The principal organs of the United Nations are the Economic and Social Council, General Assembly, International Court of Justice, Secretariat, Security Council, and Trusteeship Council.

Economic and Social Council

This organ is responsible, under the authority of the General Assembly, for the economic and social programs of the United Nations. Its functions include making or initiating studies, reports, and recommendations on international economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related matters; promoting respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all; calling international conferences and preparing draft conventions for submission to the General Assembly on matters within its competence; negotiating agreements with the specialized agencies and defining their relationship with the United Nations; coordinating the activities of the specialized agencies; and consulting with nongovernmental organizations concerned with matters within its competence. The Council consists of 54 members of the United Nations elected by the General Assembly for 3-year terms; 18 are elected each year.

The Council usually holds two regular sessions a year. It has also held a number of special sessions.

General Assembly

All states that are members of the United Nations are members of the General Assembly. Its functions are to consider and discuss any matter within the scope of the Charter of the United Nations and to make recommendations to the members of the United Nations and other organs. It approves the budget of the organization, the expenses of which are borne by the members as apportioned by the General Assembly.

The General Assembly may call the attention of the Security Council to situations likely to endanger international peace and security, may initiate studies, and may receive and consider reports from other organs of the United Nations. Under the "Uniting for Peace" resolution adopted by the General Assembly in November 1950, if the Security Council fails to act on an apparent threat to or breach of the peace or act of aggression because of lack of unanimity of its five permanent members, the Assembly itself may take up the matter within 24 hours—in emergency special session—and recommend collective measures, including, in case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression, use of armed force when necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The General Assembly normally meets in regular annual session from September through December. It also has met in special sessions and emergency special sessions.

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It has its seat at The Hague, the Netherlands. All members of the United Nations are ipso facto parties to the Statute of the Court. Nonmembers of the United Nations may become parties to the Statute of the Court on conditions prescribed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council.

The jurisdiction of the Court comprises all cases that the parties refer to it and all matters specially provided for in the Charter of the United Nations or in treaties and conventions in force.

The Court consists of 15 judges known as members of the Court. They are elected for 9-year terms by the General Assembly and the Security Council, voting independently, and may be reelected.


The Secretariat consists of a Secretary-General and "such staff as the Organization may require." The Secretary-General, who is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council, is the chief administrative officer of the United Nations. He acts in that capacity for the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the Trusteeship Council. Under the Charter, the Secretary-General "may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."

Security Council

The Security Council consists of 15 members, of which 5—the People's Republic of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America—are permanent members. The 10 nonpermanent members are elected for 2-year terms by the General Assembly. The primary responsibility of the Security Council is to act on behalf of the members of the United Nations in maintenance of international peace and security. Measures that may be employed by the Security Council are outlined in the Charter.

The Security Council, together with the General Assembly, also elects the judges of the International Court of Justice and makes a recommendation to the General Assembly on the appointment of the Secretary-General of the organization.

The Security Council first met in London on January 17, 1946, and is so organized as to be able to function continuously.

Trusteeship Council

The Trusteeship Council was initially established to consist of any member states that administered trust territories, permanent members of the Security Council that did not administer trust territories, and enough other nonadministering countries elected by the General Assembly for 3-year terms to ensure that membership would be equally divided between administering and nonadministering members. Under authority of the General Assembly, the Council considered reports from members administering trust territories, examined petitions from trust territory inhabitants, and provided for periodic inspection visits to trust territories.

With the independence of Palau, the last remaining United Nations trust territory, the Trusteeship Council formally suspended operations after nearly half a century. The Council will henceforth meet only on an extraordinary basis, as the need may arise.

Sources of Information

A–Z Index

An alphabetical index is available on the United Nations' website to help visitors search for specific topics or browse content that aligns with their interests.

Career Opportunities

United Nations staff members coordinate relief in humanitarian crises, disarm child soldiers, monitor elections, provide administrative and logistical support for carrying out complex mandates, and carry out a host of other functions around the world.

Children in Detention

Many children are held in inhuman conditions and in adult facilities—in violation of their human rights—where they are at high risk of violence, rape, and sexual assault, including acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently released the "Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty" (OCT 2019).

Climate Change

Climate change now affects every country, on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and damaging lives—costing people, communities, and countries today and even more tomorrow.

On December 2, 2020, Secretary-General António Guterres gave an address at Columbia University in New York City on "The State of the Planet." As part of the address, the Secretary-General warned: "Human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos."

Contact the Public Inquiries Team

The public inquiries team answers general questions about the UN and its website. Questions are submitted by using the electronic form on the "Contact Us" web page. Quick links to the "United Nations Careers" and "Dag Hammarskjöld Library" websites are also available on the web page.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19)

The United Nations has added "Coronavirus Disease (COVID–19)" web pages where it posts informational resources and its most recent updates on the pandemic.

The Department of Global Communications has posted the photo essay "We're All in This Together" as part of the UN website's "COVID–19 Response" section.


Launched in 1993 and updated in 2016, the Official Document System (ODS) is an online database of United Nations documents that has full-text, born-digital documents published from 1993 onward. The ODS also includes scanned documents that were published between 1946 and 1993. Documents are available in the official languages of the United Nations. Some documents are also available in German.

Empowering the Next Generation

In the face of crises whose effects are global in scale and scope, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs identifies an important source of hope: the next generation because it is different.

Food Loss and Waste

The Food and Agriculture Organization maintains the "Food Loss and Waste Database," which is the largest online collection of data on food loss, food waste, and the causes that are reported for the loss and waste. The data and information come from openly accessible reports and studies that measure food loss and waste across food products, stages of the value chain, and geographical areas. The database may be used by anyone who seeks information on food loss and waste and who has Internet access.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The United Nations posts answers to FAQs on its website.

Global Issues

The "Global Issues Overview" web page offers convenient access to a trove of information on aging, atomic energy, children, climate change, decolonization, democracy, food, population, refugees, water, women, and more.

Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a short history of this document are posted on the United Nation's website.

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The IMO is a specialized UN agency whose responsibilities include shipping safety and security and preventing ships from polluting the atmosphere and marine environment. The work of the IMO supports the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. The "Affiliated Bodies and Programmes" web page has a collection of links that provide convenient access to the websites of IMO affiliates and IMO programs.


The Dag Hammarskjöld Library is accessible online.

Mine Awareness

The United Nations Mine Action Service observes International Mine Awareness Day each year on April 4th. To hear the United Nation's global advocate's 2019 message, watch the 3-minute video.


The News Centre provides breaking news coverage of developments around the United Nations system, offering quick access to news-related products and resources.

Non-English Readers

The United Nations provides versions of its website in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish. Language options are available on the site's welcome page.


Books, reports, and data are available from the online bookshop.

Resources by Audience

The United Nations groups information and resources on its website according to categories of people who may be interested in them. Audiences include academics, businessmen and women, delegates, job seekers, journalists, representatives of civil society, students, and visitors.

Social Media

Official United Nations social media include Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, and other accounts.

Sustainable Development

The United Nations promotes 17 sustainable development goals to end poverty, to ensure prosperity for all people, and to protect Earth's biosphere as part of a development agenda.

System Organizations Directory

The Charter of the United Nations established the organizations that constitute the United Nations system. The directory presents these organizations in categories with links to their web pages. Viewing these organizations in alphabetical order is also an option.

Web TV / Video

The United Nation's Web TV Channel is accessible around the clock. Its programming includes selected live broadcasts of United Nations meetings and events and prerecorded video features and documentaries on various global issues.

United Nations Video is accessible online and features documentaries, as well as coverage of events, news developments, and issues at the United Nations.

Where We Work

The United Nations is a global organization that affects billions of people. It and the components comprising the United Nations system have a worldwide presence to ensure that timely assistance can reach people who most need it. The activities of the United Nations are divided into five geographical regions: Africa, Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and the Middle East. An overview of each area and links to relevant offices, agencies, and programs are available on the "Where We Work" web page.

Zoonotic Diseases

The UN Environment Programme has released the report "Preventing the Next Pandemic—Zoonotic Diseases and How To Break the Chain of Transmission."

The Sources of Information were updated 1–2021.