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Human Rights and Humanitarian Law: The UN System

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute's Guide to Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

Links to All of UN's Specialized Institutions

United Nations General Assembly

The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter. The Assembly meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required.

United Nations Security Council

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council resolutions.

United Nations Economic and Social Council

United Nations Secretariat

The Secretariat — an international staff working in duty stations around the world — carries out the diverse day-to-day work of the Organization. It services the other principal organs of the United Nations and administers the programmes and policies laid down by them. At its head is the Secretary-General, who is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year, renewable term.

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies. The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council.


The Court has a twofold role: to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States (Contentious cases ) and to give advisory opinions (Advisory proceedings) on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies. In Contentious proceedings, when a dispute is brought before the Court by a unilateral application filed by one State against another State, the names of parties in the official title of the case are separated by the abbreviation v. for the Latin versus (e.g., Cameroonv. Nigeria). When a dispute is submitted to the Court on the basis of a special agreement between two States, the names of the parties are separated by an oblique stroke (e.g., Indonesia/Malaysia).


The first case entered in the General List of the Court (Corfu Channel (United Kingdom v. Albania)) was submitted on 22 May 1947. From 22nd May 1947 to 6 December 2011, 151 cases were entered in the General List.