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UN Cooperation with Regional Organizations

Cooperation with regional organizations

The UN cooperates with regional organizations in most areas. Many UN bodies have observer status in various international organizations, and a number of major regional organizations have long had the status of observers in the General Assembly and Ecosoc, among others.

Since the end of the Cold War, co – operation with regional organizations on issues related to peace and security has come into focus. Chapter VIII of the UN Charter addresses the importance of Member States in a dispute trying to resolve their problems through various regional organizations before turning to the UN, and the possibility for the Security Council to delegate peace and security tasks to regional organizations. According to the Charter, however, the UN must have the greatest responsibility for maintaining peace.

During the 1990’s and early 2000’s, several regional organizations, as well as the NATO defense alliance, became increasingly involved in the UN’s work for peace and security. Today, the collaboration is about everything from mediation and joint military efforts in conflicts to holding exercises together and to exchanging experiences.

NATO and the EU cooperated with the UN in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990’s, and the EU has also been involved in Kosovo in the 2000’s. The EU has also sent military forces to Congo-Kinshasa: in 2003 to assist the UN peacekeeping operation Monuc and in 2006 to maintain security ahead of the same year’s elections. Other examples in Africa are Chad and the Central African Republic. The UN, the EU and the African Union have cooperated in several African conflicts.

In the conflicts in Africa, the UN has had to rely heavily on regional organizations. The UN has cooperated with the African Union AU in, for example, Congo-Kinshasa, Sudan and Mali, and with the West African community Ecowas in, for example, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire.

Standing for United Nations according to AbbreviationFinder, the UN has also cooperated with the OSCE in the former Soviet Union. Osse, for example, has mediated in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The Commonwealth of Independent States and the Commonwealth of Independent States, OSS, have also assisted the UN in Georgia.

Attempts are also being made to develop cooperation with several other regional organizations, such as the Southeast Asian regional organization ASEAN and with the Organization of American States, OAS.

Cooperation with voluntary organizations

The question of the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within the UN was already discussed in San Francisco in 1945. A few NGO representatives succeeded in enforcing a special clause in the UN Charter that gave voluntary organizations the opportunity to an advisory position within the UN. However, it was only within the UN’s work on economic and social issues that NGOs would be given this role.

There are a number of criteria that govern which voluntary organizations can receive so-called consultative status at Ecosoc. The most important thing is that the organization should work in one of the areas for which Ecosoc is responsible, and preferably in several countries. In 1948, only 48 NGOs had consultative status. Today, the number has risen to just over 3400.

Over the past two decades, NGOs have begun to play an increasingly important role as initiators of the UN system. The voluntary organizations have not least played an important role during the major UN conferences. Recognition that NGOs can perform tasks such as gathering information and alerting the UN to potential disasters has gradually begun to be recognized. Organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Commission on Legal Affairs have long reported human rights violations to UN humanitarian agencies.

From various quarters, the demand has been raised that voluntary organizations should be given a larger and more formalized role within the UN. Some have suggested that they should also be given advisory status at the General Assembly or the Security Council. Others have argued that NGOs should be represented in the UN through a special assembly. However, some UN member states still view their activities with suspicion.

Sweden and the UN

The Swedish policy of neutrality did not prevent Sweden from joining the UN in October 1946. Admittedly, the Security Council’s ability to decide on behalf of the Member States on military intervention in a conflict between states reduced the Swedish foreign policy goal of remaining neutral in conflicts. However, this did not give rise to any debate; on the contrary, there was a broad political agreement on a Swedish UN membership. Foreign Minister Östen Undén later emphasized that the great powers’ right of veto in the Security Council was a guarantee that Sweden could not be drawn into any military conflicts of great power through UN membership.

On the two occasions when the UN under American leadership used extensive military coercive measures in conflicts, the Korean War in 1950 and the Iraq War in 1991, Sweden contributed with field hospitals and did not become directly militarily involved. Within the UN’s peacekeeping operations, Sweden, together with the other Nordic countries, is one of the countries that often lined up with troops.

Disarmament, the environment and human rights are among the areas that have been given special priority by Swedish governments. Sweden has been represented on the Security Council on three occasions, 1957–1958, 1975–1976 and most recently 1997–1998.

In addition to Dag Hammarskjöld, many Swedes have had important assignments within the UN. Some of them are Folke Bernadotte, who was assassinated in 1948 when he mediated in the Palestinian conflict, Gunnar Jarring, who mediated in Kashmir in 1957 and in the Middle East in 1967–1990, and Olof Palme, who mediated in the war between Iraq and Iran in 1980–1988. Alva Myrdal and Inga Thorsson were two well-known Swedish profiles in the disarmament work. In recent years, diplomat Jan Eliasson has held several important positions within the UN: 2005-2006 as chairman of the UN General Assembly, in 2006 as the UN Special Envoy to the Darfur conflict in Sudan and since July 2012 as Deputy Secretary-General.

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