United Nations

Intergovernmental organizations are permanent organisations set up by states to carry out activities in common.  The United Nations was set up for the purpose of the maintenance of peace, and security in the world, the promotion of economic and social cooperation and the protection of human rights.  Almost every country in the world is a member of the United Nations.

The organs of the United Nations are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat, the International Court of Justice, the Trusteeship Council and the Economic and Social Council.

The General Assembly is a legislative-type body made up of representatives of all states.  It discusses matters within its charter.  The Security Council consists of 5 — 15 members, 5 permanent and 10 rotating members.

The secretary-general is selected by the General Assembly and heads up the U.N. Secretariat.  The international secretariat is administered in part and makes reports and recommendations to the General Assembly and Security Council.

The International Court of Justice is the court body.  The Trusteeship Council should no longer function.

Agencies of UN

The United Nations system includes agencies dealing with a range of economic and social issues, which have entered into agreements with the U.N. Some are U.N. specialized agencies.  There are autonomous agencies working with the U.N. through the coordinating machinery of ECOSOC and which receive executive support or coordination at secretariat levels.  The World Trade Organisation, and International Atomic Energy Agency have entered similar relationships with the U.N.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, responsible for coordinating the economic and social fields of the organization, specifically in regard to the fifteen specialised agencies, the eight functional commissions, and the five regional commissions under its jurisdiction.ECOSOC serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and formulating policy recommendations addressed to member states and the United Nations System.

European Union

The European Union has its own organs, the Commission and the Council.  The European Parliament is a quasi-legislative assembly.  It has an integral role in making most laws.  Those laws are proposed by the European Commission and legislated for by the European Council and the European Parliament. The European Commission is the permanent executive or government.  The European Court of Justice interprets European Union laws.

Pan-European Union laws are directly effective and bind states and persons directly.  Other laws are made by way of directives which are binding on the states.  States most translate directives into their domestic law. The Commission makes decisions collectively, although each commissioner is responsible for a specific activity or area of government.

EU Institutions

The Council is the main decision-making party.  It adopts legislation in conjunction with the parliament, adopts budgets and international agreements, and coordinates with economic policy. The Council is made up of Ministers from each state.  Each minister reports to his government.

Councils of Ministers of General Affairs, External Relations. Economic and Financial Affairs, Agriculture and Fisheries Councils meet monthly.  Justice and Home Affairs, Environmental Council, Employment Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs, Competitiveness, Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Ministers periodically.

The European Parliament is directly elected and has 786 members.  It has three main roles.  It oversees all the EU legislation.  It shares law-making power with the Council.  It determines the annual budget in conjunction with the Council.

It can appoint, dismiss and censure the Commission.  It may ask questions of the Commission.  Most legislation is made by co-decision.  In the case of certain legislation, parliament may only veto it.

EU Courts I

The Court of Justice of the European is an independent body composed of 27 judges and 8 Advocates General.  The Advocates Generals assist the court in carrying out functions.

The General Court is made up of two judges from each Member State. The judges are appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States after consultation of a panel responsible for giving an opinion on candidates\’ suitability to perform the duties of Judge.

Their term of office is six years and is renewable. They appoint their President, for a period of three years, from amongst themselves. They appoint a Registrar for a term of office of six years.

The Judges are to  perform their duties in a totally impartial and independent manner. Unlike the Court of Justice, the General Court does not have permanent Advocates General. However, that task may, in exceptional circumstances, be carried out by a Judge.

EU Courts II

Cases before the General Court are heard by Chambers of five or three Judges or, in some cases, as a single Judge. It may also sit as a Grand Chamber (fifteen Judges) when this is justified by the legal complexity or importance of the case.

The Presidents of the Chambers of five Judges are elected from amongst the Judges for a period of three years. The General Court has its own Registry but uses the administrative and linguistic services of the institution for its other requirements.

The judges sit in chambers of three or five judges or in plenary sessions.  It hears contentious cases of preliminary rulings from courts in member state courts on points of European Union law.

It hears appeals from the court of first instance, complaints made by the Commission against states for failure to comply with European Union law, complaints by member states against an institution for failure to act or injuries caused, actions brought by a member state Council, Commission, or Parliament seeking annulment of EU measures.

Legal Organisations

There are a number of types of international government law organizations.  Some have general competence across a range of fields, such as the United Nations.

Others are specialized, dealing with particular fields.  Examples include international criminal peace organizations, Interpol, the International Institution for Unification of Private Law, UNIDROIT.

Free Trade Areas

A number of regional free trade areas have been established to provide customs unions and provide for free trade.  These include the

  • European Union
  • Association of South-East Asian Nations Free Trade Area, NAFTA.
  • Andean Community powers, Bolivia, Libya, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela,
  • Central American Integration Systems, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua.
  • Caribbean Community, Antigua, Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Vincent’s.
  • Common Market for Eastern and South Africa;
  • Economic Community of Central African states;
  • Economic Community of West African states;
  • South African Customs Union;
  • South African Development Community;
  • Central African Customs and Economic Area;


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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