The Charter of the United Nations gives the Security Council the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The General Assembly and the Secretary-General play major, important, and complementary roles, along with other UN offices and bodies.
The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or an act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council can take enforcement measures to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such measures range from economic sanctions to international military action. The Council also establishes UN Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions. The Council expresses its will in resolutions.
The most effective way to diminish human suffering and the massive economic costs of conflicts and their aftermath is to prevent conflicts in the first place. The United Nations plays an important role in conflict prevention, using diplomacy, good offices and mediation to help nations prevent and resolve conflicts peacefully.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations has Special and Personal Representatives, Envoys and Advisers who are dispatched to areas of tension around the world to assist in defusing crises and brokering negotiated settlements to conflicts. The Secretary-General may also exercise their "good offices" to facilitate the resolution of the conflict -- steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon their independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
Civilian-led political missions are deployed to the field with mandates to encourage dialogue and cooperation within and between nations, or to promote reconciliation and democratic governance in societies rebuilding after civil wars.
The work of the United Nations to foster credible elections around the world also contributes directly to its efforts to promote peace and prevent conflict.
Underpinning the activities is the conviction that political issues lie at the root of many conflicts, and thus political solutions are required to resolve them.
Peacekeeping has proven to be one of the most effective tools available to the UN to assist countries to navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace. Today's multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security, but also to facilitate political processes, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; support constitutional processes and the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights and assist in restoring the rule of law and extending legitimate state authority.
UN Peacekeeping is guided by three basic principles:
Peacekeeping operations get their mandates from the UN Security Council; their troops and police are contributed by Member States; and they are managed by the Department of Peace Operations and supported by the Department of Operational Support at UN Headquarters in New York.
The first peacekeeping mission was the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), set up in 1945 to monitor an Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Since then, more than one million women and men from 125 countries have served in 71 UN peacekeeping missions around the world.
Today there are 12 UN peacekeeping operations currently deployed with 90,000 civilian, police and military peacekeepers. In 2019, the Secretary-General launched the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative (A4P) to renew mutual political commitment to peacekeeping operations.
The annual UN peacekeeping budget is less than 0.5 per cent of global military spending.
United Nations peacebuilding activities are aimed at assisting countries emerging from conflict, reducing the risk of relapsing into conflict and laying the foundation for sustainable peace and development.
The UN peacebuilding architecture comprises the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Fund and the Peacebuilding Support Office.
Since the birth of the United Nations, the goals of multilateral disarmament and arms limitation have been central to the Organization’s efforts to maintain international peace and security. These goals range from reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, destroying chemical weapons and strengthening the prohibition of biological weapons, to halting the proliferation of landmines, small arms and light weapons.
Through global efforts, several multilateral treaties and instruments have been established with the aim of regulating, restricting or eliminating certain weapons. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) came into force in 1970, the Biological Weapons Convention in 1975, the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997 and the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention in 1999. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was adopted in 1996, however it has not yet entered into force. There is also the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Arms Trade Treaty.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force in 2021 and held its first Meeting of States Parties in June 2022 in Vienna.
While women remain a minority of combatants and perpetrators of war, they increasingly suffer the greatest harm. The UN Security Council recognized that including women and gender perspectives in decision-making can strengthen prospects for sustainable peace with the unanimous adoption of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The landmark resolution specifically addresses the situation of women in armed conflict and calls for their participation at all levels of decision-making on conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
Young people are essential actors of peace. Sustainable development and peace cannot be achieved without their active contribution. In conflict areas, youth often have invaluable knowledge about their communities and can drive remarkable change. For youth to actively contribute to building peace within their communities, their needs must be addressed, their voices amplified, and their engagement advanced.
UN Peacekeeping has long recognized the importance of engaging with youth as an essential demographic in most host countries, as well as to welcome them within operations as civilian, police and military peacekeepers. UN peacekeepers under 30 are often able to better connect with and serve as role models to young members of the local populations. They help to increase innovation and overall performance in UN peace operations.
On the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, we honour more than two million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers since the first mission was deployed in 1948. We salute and remember the more than 4,000 personnel who have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag. We express our deepest gratitude to the 90,000 civilian, police and military peacekeepers currently deployed around the world in 12 UN peace operations.
The United Nations is being increasingly called upon to coordinate the global fight against terrorism. Eighteen universal instruments against international terrorism have been elaborated within the framework of the United Nations system relating to specific terrorist activities. In September 2006, UN Member States adopted the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. This was the first time that Member States agreed to a common strategic and operational framework against terrorism.
Transnational organized crime takes many forms from trafficking in drugs, firearms and even people to money laundering and corruption. Today organized crime has diversified, gone global and reached macro-economic proportions, so that it constitutes a threat to peace and security.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Organized Crime Convention) and the three supplementary Protocols -on Trafficking in Persons, Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking of Firearms.
“The one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stands as a grim milestone — for the people of Ukraine and for the international community. That invasion is an affront to our collective conscience. It is a violation of the United Nations Charter and international law. It is having dramatic humanitarian and human rights consequences. And the impact is being felt far beyond Ukraine.” — António Guterres
The 25th anniversary year of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature on 24 September 1996, has generated fresh momentum towards securing a world free of nuclear testing by anyone, anywhere, for all time.
Seventy-seven years ago, nuclear weapons were dropped on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
For the people of Ukraine, the Russian invasion is a waking nightmare, and a humanitarian disaster on a terrifying scale. But the war is also fast becoming a matter of life and death for vulnerable people around the world.