The Bomb in My Garden Tidbit #2~The UN and IAEA

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The Bomb in My Garden Tidbit #2~The UN and IAEA

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Jun 12, 2007 8:18 am


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The UN emblem shows the world held in the “olive branches of peace”.

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The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the UN Charter had been ratified by a majority of the original 51 Member States. The day is now celebrated each year around the world as United Nations Day.

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The purpose of the United Nations is to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well-being of all people. It affords the opportunity for countries to balance global interdependence and national interests when addressing international problems.

There are currently 192 Members of the United Nations. They meet in the General Assembly, which is the closest thing to a world parliament. Each country, large or small, rich or poor, has a single vote, however, none of the decisions taken by the Assembly are binding. Nevertheless, the Assembly's decisions become resolutions that carry the weight of world governmental opinion.

The United Nations Headquarters is in New York City but the land and buildings are international territory. The United Nations has its own flag,

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its own post office and its own postage stamps.

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Six official languages are used at the United Nations - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. The UN European Headquarters is in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. It has offices in Vienna, Austria and Economic Commissions in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Amman in Jordan, Bangkok in Thailand and Santiago in Chile. The senior officer of the United Nations Secretariat is the Secretary-General.

The Aims of the United Nations:
• To keep peace throughout the world.
• To develop friendly relations between nations.
• To work together to help people live better lives, to eliminate poverty, disease and illiteracy in the world, to stop environmental destruction and to encourage respect for each other's rights and freedoms.
• To be a centre for helping nations achieve these aims.
The Principles of the United Nations:
• All Member States have sovereign equality.
• All Member States must obey the Charter.
• Countries must try to settle their differences by peaceful means.
• Countries must avoid using force or threatening to use force.
• The UN may not interfere in the domestic affairs of any country.
• Countries should try to assist the United Nations.

The predecessor: The League of Nations

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The League of Nations was founded immediately after the First World War. It originally consisted of 42 countries, 26 of which were non-European. At its largest, 57 countries were members of the League. The League was created because a number of people in France, South Africa, the UK and the US believed that a world organization of nations could keep the peace and prevent a repetition of the horrors of the 1914-18 war in Europe. An effective world body now seemed possible because communications were so much better and there was increasing experience of working together in international organizations. Coordination and cooperation for economic and social progress were becoming important.

The League had two basic aims. Firstly, it sought to preserve the peace through collective action. Disputes would be referred to the League's Council for arbitration and conciliation. If necessary, economic and then military sanctions could be used. In other words, members undertook to defend other members from aggression. Secondly, the League aimed to promote international cooperation in economic and social affairs.

The Covenant of the League of Nations begins...
“In order to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just and honourable relations between nations, by the firm establishment of the understandings of international law as the actual rule of conduct among Governments, and by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another, Agree to this Covenant of the League of Nations."

The end of the League

As the Second World War unfolded, it became clear that the League had failed in its chief aim of keeping the peace. The League had no military power of its own. It depended on its members' contributions; and its members were not willing to use sanctions, economic or military.Moral authority was insufficient.

Several Big Powers failed to support the League: the United States crucially never joined; Germany was a member for only seven years from 1926 and the USSR for only five years from 1934; Japan and Italy both withdrew in the 30s. The League then depended mainly on Britain and France, who were understandably hesitant to act forcefully. It was indeed difficult for governments long accustomed to operating independently to work through this new organization.

The UN Charter

Even as the Second World War raged, the leaders of Britain, China, the US and the USSR, under intense pressure from the press and public, discussed the details of a post-war organization. In 1944 representatives of China, the UK, the US and the USSR meeting at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC, prepared a blueprint for an international organization.

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Towards the end of the war representatives of 50 countries gathered in San Francisco between April and June 1945 to hammer out the final text that would lay the foundations of international cooperation. This was the Charter of the United Nations, signed on 26 June by 50 countries. Poland, the 51st country, was not able to send a representative to the San Francisco conference but is considered an original member.

Although the League was abandoned, most of its ideals and some of its structure were kept by the United Nations and outlined in its Charter. The ideals of peace and social and economic progress remained the basic goals of the new world organization. However, these were developed to fit the new and more complex post-war world.

The League's Council was transformed into the Security Council consisting of the five victors of the war as permanent members and ten other countries serving two year terms. The five permanent members - China, France, the UK, the USSR, and the US were also given veto power, which means that decisions taken by the Security Council can be blocked by any of the five permanent members. This is significant firstly because the Security Council is the principle UN organ responsible for ensuring peace, and, secondly, because it is the only body whose decisions are binding on all Member States. Since the creation of the UN the balance of Big Powers has changed and over one hundred new Member States, mainly non-Western, have joined. With these changes have come increasing demands to reform the Security Council.

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Security Council Chambers

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UN General Assembly Chamber

The brief provision for Social Activities in the League's Covenant was turned into a comprehensive prescription for international economic and social cooperation, with the aim of achieving conditions of stability and well-being recognised as essential for peaceful relations among nations. Under the aegis of a new organ, the Economic and Social Council, the work of existing and anticipated Specialized Agencies in the fields of labour, education, health, agriculture, development and many others would be coordinated within the UN system. Racism and repression demanded that another, new, people's element should enter emphatically into the Charter, that of rights. Many sorts of rights, from the right to self-determination, which encouraged the independence of colonized peoples, to general human rights, which aimed to protect individuals, are enshrined in the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and two Covenants which have become major, standard-setting additions to international law.

The UN System

The basic structure of the United Nations is outlined in an organizational chart. What the structure does not show is that decision-making within the UN system is not as easy as in many other organizations. The UN is not an independent, homogeneous organization; it is made up of sovereign states, so actions by the UN depend on the will of Member States, to accept, fund or carry them out. Especially in matters of peace-keeping and international politics, it requires a complex, often slow, process of consensus-building that must take into account national sovereignty as well as global needs.

The Specialized Agencies, while part of the UN system, are separate, autonomous intergovernmental organizations which work with the UN and with each other. The agencies carry out work relating to specific fields such as trade, communications, air and maritime transport, agriculture and development. Although they have more autonomy, their work within a country or between countries is always carried out in partnership with those countries. They also depend on funds from Member States to achieve their goals.

Recently, international conferences organized by the UN have gained significance. UN conferences have been held since the 1960s, but with the Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, they turned into real forums for deciding on national and international policy regarding issues that affect everyone such as the environment, human rights and economic development. Since the Earth Summit, UN conferences have turned into forums in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can voice their concerns alongside those of governments. Such conferences focus world attention on these issues and place them squarely on the global agenda. Yet, once the international agreements produced by these conferences are signed, it is still up to each individual country to carry them out. With the moral weight of international conferences and the pressures of media and NGOs, Member States are more likely to endorse the agreements and put them into effect.

Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch
of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs


The Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch provides substantive support for the activities of the United Nations in the area of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological weapons), including the threat of use of weapons of mass destruction in terrorist acts, as well as missiles. The Branch follows closely all developments and trends with regard to weapons of mass destruction in all their aspects in order to keep the Secretary-General fully informed and to provide information to Member States and the international community. The Branch supports, and participates in, multilateral efforts to strengthen the international norm on disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and, in this connection, it cooperates with relevant intergovernmental organizations and specialized agencies of the United Nations system, in particular the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO PrepCom).

The International Atomic Energy Agency

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IAEA Headquarters in Vienna

The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations resulting from the discovery of nuclear energy. Its fortunes are uniquely geared to this controversial technology that can be used either as a weapon or as a practical and useful tool.

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The Agency's genesis was US President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 December 1953. These ideas helped to shape the IAEA Statute, which 81 nations unanimously approved in October 1956. The Statute outlines the three pillars of the Agency's work - nuclear verification and security, safety and technology transfer.

In the years following the Agency's creation, the political and technical climate had changed so much that by 1958 it had become politically impracticable for the IAEA to begin work on some of the main tasks foreseen in its Statute. But in the aftermath of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the USA and the USSR began seeking common ground in nuclear arms control.

In 1961 the IAEA opened its Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria, creating a channel for cooperative global nuclear research. That year the Agency signed a trilateral agreement with Monaco and the Oceanographic Institute headed by Jacques Cousteau for research on the effects of radioactivity in the sea, an action that eventually lead to the creation of the IAEA's Marine Environment Laboratory.

As more countries mastered nuclear technology, concern deepened that they would sooner or later acquire nuclear weapons, particularly since two additional nations had "joined the club", France in 1960 and China in 1964. The safeguards prescribed in the IAEA's Statute, designed chiefly to cover individual nuclear plants or supplies of fuel, were clearly inadequate to deter proliferation. There was growing support for international, legally binding, commitments and comprehensive safeguards to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons and to work towards their eventual elimination.

This found regional expression in 1968, with the approval of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT essentially freezes the number of declared nuclear weapon States at five (USA, Russia, UK, France and China). Other States are required to forswear the nuclear weapons option and to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA on their nuclear materials.

The 1970s showed that the NPT would be accepted by almost all of the key industrial countries and by the vast majority of developing countries. At the same time the prospects for nuclear power improved dramatically. The technology had matured and was commercially available, and the oil crisis of 1973 enhanced the attraction of the nuclear energy option. The IAEA's functions became distinctly more important. But the pendulum was soon to swing back. The first surge of worldwide enthusiasm for nuclear power lasted barely two decades. By the early 1980s, the demand for new nuclear power plants had declined sharply in most Western countries, and it shrank nearly to zero in these countries after the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

In 1988 the IAEA and UN Food and Agricultural Organization joined forces with other agencies to eradicate New World Screwworm - which spreads a deadly livestock disease. The radiation-based technology to eradicate the worm was developed at the Agency's Seibersdorf Laboratory.

In 1991, the discovery of Iraq's clandestine weapon programme sowed doubts about the adequacy of IAEA safeguards, but also led to steps to strengthen them, some of which were put to the test when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) became the second country that was discovered violating its NPT safeguards agreement. The Three Mile Island accident and especially the Chernobyl disaster persuaded governments to strengthen the IAEA’s role in enhancing nuclear safety.

In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War and the consequent improvement in international security virtually eliminated the danger of a global nuclear conflict. Broad adherence to regional treaties underscored the nuclear weapon free status of Latin America, Africa and South East Asia, as well as the South Pacific. The threat of proliferation in some successor States of the former Soviet Union was averted; in Iraq and the DPRK the threat was contained.

In 1995, the NPT was made permanent and in 1996 the UN General Assembly approved and opened for signature a comprehensive test ban treaty. While military nuclear activities were beyond the IAEA's statutory scope, it was now accepted that the Agency might properly deal with some of the problems bequeathed by the nuclear arms race - verification of the peaceful use or storage of nuclear material from dismantled weapons and surplus military stocks of fissile material, determining the risks posed by the nuclear wastes of nuclear warships dumped in the Arctic, and verifying the safety of former nuclear test sites in Central Asia and the Pacific.

In recent years, the Agency's work has taken on some urgent added dimensions. Among them are countermeasures against the threat of nuclear terrorism, the focus of a new multi-faceted Agency action plan.
Last edited by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas on Tue Jun 12, 2007 1:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Iceflower » Tue Jun 12, 2007 9:49 am

Thanks for the information about the UN and IAEA. Very interesting. Didn't know anything about IAEA.

Thanks, DITHOT!
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Unread postby Linda Lee » Tue Jun 12, 2007 10:58 am

Once again, ONBC is a good learning experience. I remember some of this information from civics class, and this is a good refresher before reading the book. But there is also more information in the tidbit that's new to me.
Thank you, DITHOT.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:02 am

I needed the refresher course on the UN too, Linda Lee. When I read the book I had heard of the IAEA but didn't really understand what they did. We're always on a learning curve around here! :cool:
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Unread postby Liz » Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:56 am

I needed a refresher course, too. The last time I paid attention to the UN was when I was in the Model UN in high school.
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Unread postby ThirdArm » Tue Jun 12, 2007 12:19 pm

Thanks for the info on the IAEA. I had no real idea what they did; never would have thought about the irradiating those worms. Very interesting.

When I lived in NYC, I visited the UN. It is worth the trip to see. Obviously, they give tours and answer questions; I thought that would be a very cool job, being a tour guide there.
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Unread postby rainbowsoul » Tue Jun 12, 2007 7:56 pm

Another very interesting tidbit. I did a minor in political science for one of my degrees....I had considered majoring in it - I just love this kind of info.

Thanks DITHOT.
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Unread postby Glendaleigh » Tue Jun 12, 2007 8:13 pm

I've always been a slacker about international politics, even though I know that burying my head in the sand is no good. :dunce: I expect to learn a lot. I'll probably have to do a lot of
'homework' and ask questions.

Needless to say, I learned a LOT with this tidbit.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Jun 12, 2007 10:41 pm

Third Arm, I've always wanted to visit the United Nations. I think it would be an intoxicating place.

rainbowsoul, I took a bit of political science too and can be quite a political junkie sometimes. I find it all fascinating, not necessarily pretty, but interesting! :-?

Ask away, Glendaleigh!
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Unread postby gemini » Wed Jun 13, 2007 1:25 am

Very interesting... rainbowsoul and DITHOT, I have no education in political scence like you, but I am also a political junkie.

Who is in or out of the Nuclear Club has been discussed much in the past years. Most now say India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, should be added to the original 5, USSR, US UK, France and ChIna.

With all this talk and the relevance of "TBIMG", who is building Nuclear as a means of providing energy or for a weapon is certainly the question of the day?
The United Nations and the IAEA certainly have their work cut out for them.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Jun 13, 2007 9:03 am

True, gemini. And here is wishing them all the success they can find!
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Unread postby rainbowsoul » Wed Jun 13, 2007 8:19 pm

I find it all fascinating, not necessarily pretty, but interesting!


:rotflmao: That is exactly why I find it so facinating, DITHOT!! My area of study was specifically US politics as it is quite different from the governmental system in Canada.

This should be an interesting discussion.

I am hoping that real life doesn't get in the way for me as it often does...
No! Not Barker. That man is dead. It's Todd, now. Sweeney Todd. And he shall have his revenge...


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