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Activities of the Member States

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What are Member States?

Member States

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization. Its members are the countries of the world.

Currently there are 193 Member States of the United Nations.

Some countries joined the UN by signing and ratifying the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. These countries are sometimes referred to as "Original Members", "Founding Members", or "Founding Member States".

Other countries joined the UN later, through the adoption of a resolution admitting them to membership. The process usually follows these steps:

  1. The country applies for membership and makes a declaration accepting the obligations of the Charter;
  2. The Security Council adopts a resolution recommending the General Assembly admit the country to membership;
  3. The General Assembly adopts a resolution admitting the country.

Chapter II, Articles 3-6, of the Charter of the United Nations, concern membership in the United Nations.

The United Nations website's Member States page has additional information and links.

Principal Organs

The work of the United Nations is carried out by its 6 Principal Organs: the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice, and Secretariat.

The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the UN. All current Member States participate in the General Assembly. Elections for membership in other principal organs are held in the General Assembly. Each session, the annexes to the annotated preliminary list include comprehensive (1946 to the present) lists of: Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly; non-permanent members of the Security Council; members of the Economic and Social Council; States Members of the United Nations.

The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It consists of 15 members: 5 permanent members with veto power and 10 non-permanent members, 5 of which are elected each year by the General Assembly for a 2-year term. The permanent members are: China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States of America.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) coordinates the work of the United Nations, its programmes, funds, and specialized agencies, on economic, social, and related fields. ECOSOC is composed of 54 Member States who serve for 3-year terms. Each year the General Assembly elects 18 members.

The Trusteeship Council was established to provide international supervision for Trust Territories and to ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the territories for self-government or independence. This aim has been fulfilled and the Trusteeship Council only meets as the occasion requires. According to Article 86 of the Charter, the Trusteeship Council members are the 5 permanent members of the Security Council.

The role of the International Court of Justice is to settle 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. Every 3 years, the General Assembly and the Security Council elect 5 judges to 9-year terms.

The Secretary-General is the head of the Secretariat. According to Article 97 of the Charter, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council, appoints the Secretary-General for a 5-year, renewable term. The Secretariat 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.

UN Documents

Not all UN documents are available online

Consult the UN Documentation Research Guide and Ask DAG to learn how to access UN documents.