The United Nations was created in 1945, following the devastation of the Second World War, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN accomplishes this by working to prevent conflict, helping parties in conflict make peace, deploying peacekeepers, and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. These activities often overlap and should reinforce one another, to be effective.
The UN Security Council has the primary responsibility for 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 unanimously adopting resolution 2497 (2019) extending the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). UN Photo/Loey Felipe
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.
Learn more about the UN General Assembly.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. Through regular meetings, the General Assembly provides a forum for Member States to express their views to the entire membership and find consensus on difficult issues. It makes recommendations in the form of General Assembly resolutions. Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority, but other questions are decided by simple majority.
How does the UN maintain international peace and security?
Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation
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. Among the tools the Organization uses to bring peace are special envoys and political missions in the field.
Special and Personal Representatives, Envoys and Advisers of the Secretary-General
The Secretary-General of the United Nations has Special and Personal Representatives, Envoys and Advisers in many areas of the world.
UN Office for West Africa
The UN Office for West Africa, in Dakar, Senegal was the first regional conflict prevention and peacebuilding office of the United Nations. Its overall mandate was to enhance contributions of the UN towards the achievement of peace and security in West Africa and promote an integrated regional approach in addressing issues that impact stability in West Africa. It was recently merged with the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel (OSES) into a single entity.
What is Conflict Prevention?
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.
Peacekeeping operations get their mandates from the UN Security Council; their troops and police are contributed by Members 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.
There are 12 UN peacekeeping operations currently deployed and there have been a total of 71 deployed since 1948. In 2019, the Secretary-General launched the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative (A4P) to renew mutual political commitment to peacekeeping operations.
Life as a UN Peacekeeper
UN Peacekeeping operations by region
Asia and the Pacific
Europe and Central Asia
The Middle East
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 Peacebuilding Support Office assists and supports the Peacebuilding Commission with strategic advice and policy guidance, administers the Peacebuilding Fund and serves the Secretary-General in coordinating United Nations agencies in their peacebuilding efforts.
Innovating for Peace
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.