The United Nations was founded in 1945, after World War II, to replace the League of Nations and to bring countries together to reach debate, discuss and reach consensus on how to tackle the tough issues of the day.
The UN Human Rights Council, a body within the United Nations system that works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is composed of 47 member states that can be elected for two maximum consecutive three-year terms. The Geneva-based council meets at least three times a year for 10-week sessions, and can call special sessions as well. Along with assessing other human-rights concerns around the globe, members are supposed to commit to upholding high human-rights standards at home. The UN mission states that the council fosters "dialogue and cooperation" on human-rights concerns.
A military no-fly zone is usually agreed upon with the cooperation of multiple nations and often with the intent of protecting civilian populations, such as when Saddam Hussein was waging chemical attacks against the Kurds in the northern region of Iraq.
In order to further a political objective, countries may unilaterally or as part of a coalition take out diplomatic, economic or military sanctions on a country or countries. This can involved revoking diplomatic ties and recalling an ambassador, placing bans on financial or trade transactions, or arms embargoes.
World leaders -- and at least one actor -- gathered in New York for the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
In September 2009 Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi made his first trip to the United States to address the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations. His controversial 96-minute speech caused quite a stir; here are the images from that visit.
Crimes against humanity "are particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings," the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines. Part of a government policy or condoned by such powers, "murder; extermination; torture; rape; political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice." As the definition is debated when applied to various humanitarian tragedies, crimes against humanity continue. Here are some of the cases that have caught attention or ignited debate at the UN and beyond.
League members unite to forge a number of programs and policies ranging from education to economic in their respective states, but the countries also tend to form a bloc on the world stage in forums such as the United Nations. The League also meets and foments unified policy on current events ranging from the Mideast peace process to wars and international intervention.
At the end of October 2008, angry and frustrated Congolese were chucking rocks at a U.N. compound in the tumultuous eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tutsi rebels were advancing unchecked, as many as 250,000 Congolese had already been displaced from their homes, and the Spanish commander of the peacekeeping mission who had only been in the country for three weeks, Lt. Gen. Vicente Díaz de Villegas y Herrería, had abruptly resigned. Officially, this resignation was for "personal reasons," but the New York Times cited sources that said he was frustrated by the lack of cohesion and resources in the mission, leaving the civilians with little protection from the fighting.
The Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti -- or MINUSTAH -- was born from the chaos that arose in Haiti after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide claimed victory in the 2000 elections with about 10 percent voter turnout. Aristide fled the country before the end of that term due to a coup that saw violence wracking the nation -- and inching ever closer to the capital Port-au-Prince -- for about three weeks. The interim president called on the United Nations to help regain the peace, and the same day the Security Council passed a resolution authorizing a peacekeeping mission and "[t]aking note of the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as President of Haiti and the swearing-in of President Boniface Alexandre as the acting President of Haiti in accordance with the Constitution of Haiti."