The Structure of Global Governance

Throughout World War II, the priority given to finalizing negotiations for the creation of the United Nations was second only to winning the war. On January 1, 1942, the allies issued a statement of principles of the Atlantic Charter . It was presented to the world as the statement from “United Nations,” the first time the term was used in an official document.

In October, 1943, another statement was issued by the allies from the Moscow Conference. Articles 5-7 began to spell out the purpose of the United Nations after the war.

Eleanor Roosevelt led in the creation of the American Association for the United Nations (AAUN), a citizen-based organization dedicated to educating Americans about the U.N. and global issues. In 1964, the AAUN merged with the U.S. Committee for the United Nations, composed of 138 national organizations supporting the work of the world body, thereby creating the United Nations Association of today.

On the domestic front, an all-out effort was underway to prepare the United States to expect and accept the new version of the old League of Nations as soon as victory on the foreign front was secure.

Every international conference among the allies included approval and agreement of work being done behind the scenes by negotiators from Roosevelt’s committee and from the European negotiators. Although Edward Mandell House did not live to see it, his dream was being pursued by the most powerful people on earth.

So confident were the leaders of ultimate victory on both the battlefield, and at the negotiating table, that a conference was scheduled in July, 1944 at Bretton Woods , New Hampshire. The agreements reached there created the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

A month later, on August 21, 1944, the negotiators from Britain and Russia met with the American team to begin finalizing the U.N. Charter. The conference took place at the Dumbarton Oaks Estate near Washington D.C. They met for nine days, agreeing on most of the remaining issues. When the Brits and Russians left, the Chinese arrived. Russia could not be seen in the same neighborhood with the Chinese for fear of upsetting the Japanese.

The Dumbarton “conversations,” as they were called, ended on October 7, and the Yalta conference convened on February 4-11, 1945. All the issues left outstanding at the Dumbarton meeting were resolved at Yalta. The United Nations Conference was scheduled for April 24, 1945, in San Francisco. The Charter was adopted on June 26th , and was ratified by the U.S. Senate, July 28 by a vote of 89-2.

That such a complex agreement among so many nations could be reached in such a short period of time is a testament to the scope of the behind-the-scenes work done by the negotiators. British and American negotiators were in general agreement from the start. Russia was not a part of the League of Nations effort a generation earlier, and had no reason to promote a United Nations except for her own protection.

Russia argued that the United Nations should be organized exclusively for security, and had no business concerning itself with such things as were proposed for the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council. Russia was in no position to demand too much; she had been weakened by the war. Russia’s obstinance did win for her an agreement that the U.N.’s Undersecretary-General for Political and Security Council Affairs, would always be a Russian. So far, there have been fifteen people to hold this office – all Russian.

(We will resist the temptation to explore the many juicy stories that have emerged since this fateful period of history [1941-1945]. Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury in connection with spy charges. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, secret documents now reveal that several people in the Roosevelt administration were deeply involved with, and even on the payroll, of the Kremlin, passing information through agents stationed at the United Nations in New York. (1))

United Nations Structure

The United Nations Charter Contains 111 Articles which create six major organs:

  1. The General Assembly (Chapter IV, Article 9);
  2. The Security Council (Chapter V, Article 23);
  3. The Economic and Social Council (Chapter X, Article 61);
  4. The Trusteeship Council (Chapter XIII, Article 86);
  5. The International Court of Justice (Chapter XIV, Article 92);
  6. The Secretariat (Chapter XV, Article 97).

The Secretary-General is the chief executive officer. Although he is elected by the General Assembly, he must be recommended by the Security Council. The real choice, therefore, rests with the Security Council. The Secretary-General’s term is for five years, and he is not term-limited.

The General Assembly consists of not more than five representatives from each member nation (currently 188 members). Each nation has one vote. This body may initiate studies and investigations; make recommendations to member states, and to each of the major organs or to any subsidiary organ; approve the Secretary’s budget, establish operational and administrative policies and procedures, and consider any other matter brought before it.

The Security Council consists of five permanent members: China, England, France, Russia, and the United States; and ten members elected by the General Assembly, who serve two-year terms. Non-permanent members may not succeed themselves. Each member may have only one representative. This Council has “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” (Article 24).

Article 25 requires that each member nation yield a significant measure of national sovereignty to the United Nations:

“The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter.”

The language of Article 27(3) effectively gives the five permanent members the power to veto any decision of the Security Council. Action on any non-procedural decision requires the affirmative vote of all five permanent member and nine additional votes. Provision is made for abstention.

The Economic and Social Council consists of 54 members elected by the General Assembly to staggered terms of three years. Each member may have only one representative, and members may serve consecutive terms. The work of this Council is set forth in Article 62:

“The Economic and Social Council may make or initiate studies and reports with respect to international economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related matters and may make recommendations with respect to any such matters to the General Assembly, to the Members of the United Nations, and to the specialized agencies concerned.”

The Trusteeship Council consists of the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus each member “that administers trust territories,” and as many additional members as may be elected by the General Assembly to assure that the Council’s membership is balanced between the number of members who are administering trust territories and those who are not.

The purpose of the Trusteeship Council was to oversee the condition of the citizens of trust territories, and to guide colonies in the transition to independence. The last of the trust territories, Palau, in the South Pacific, gained its independence in 1994. The Council has had no work to do for the last eight years. It still exists.

The International Court of Justice

Article 94(1) requires only that members “undertake to comply with the decisions” of the court. This his been interpreted to mean that compliance is voluntary. The very next paragraph in the Article, gives the Security Council to provide recourse for an aggrieved party in which a court decision is ignored. The Court was established by an annexed Statute.

Chapter VII (Articles 39-51) deserve special attention. This is the Chapter that authorizes U.N. Peacekeeping activity. The U.N. has no authority to initiate any action beyond a call to disputing parties to end the dispute (Article 33), or to “investigate any dispute” (Article 34).

Article 35 says that any member “may bring any dispute or situation” to the Security Council or to the General Assembly. Historically, this Article has prevented the U.N. from taking military action inside the borders of a sovereign nation unless that nation has “brought the situation” to the U.N. In other words, requested U.N. intervention.

While this language does not explicitly prohibit the U.N. from initiating action without a request from a member nation, this tradition has been observed and respected until now. The Commission on Global Governance recommended that this understanding of “security for member nations” be expanded to include “security for people” within sovereign nations, with or without the request or permission of sovereign states. (2)

At the 2000 Millennium Summit, both Secretary-General Kofi Annan and President Bill Clinton stated publicly that no longer could national sovereignty be used to prevent U.N. intervention when the situation demands it – in the opinion of the U.N.

This very issue brought the U.N. Security Council to a standstill over the situation in Kosovo, where people were being slaughtered, but the U.N. had not been asked to intervene. Debate in the Security Council dragged on, with Russia’s or China’s threats of veto of any action. Before the issue was resolved, NATO took action, setting an important and dangerous precedent. Neither institution was asked by the sovereign nation for military assistance. A third party, NATO in this case, invaded a sovereign nation to provide “security for the people.”

This is an extremely important redefinition of the word security in the evolution of global governance.

We have seen a skeletal picture of the structure of the United Nations, which is the foundation of global governance. It is from this point that the structure of global governance rises.

The United Nations System

The ink was hardly dry on the United Nations Charter when, five months later, in November, UNESCO was formed. Obviously, organizational plans and activities had been going on for some time, since at least 1942, in fact. So when the U.N. became a reality, the new organization was ready to go: the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Sir Julian Huxley was chosen as the first Director (1946-1948). Huxley, brother of Aldous Huxley of Brave New World fame, was a former President of the British Eugenics Society and author of The New Divinity. Joseph Needham, an avid marxist, was chosen as Director of Natural Science.

A study of the lives of these two individuals explains the direction that UNESCO took originally, and still pursues. Education was seen to be the highest priority for the new organization. By 1949, UNESCO was conducting a series of workshops for primary and secondary teachers around the world. The series was titled “Toward Education for World-mindedness.” The opening paragraph in an instruction manual illustrates the substance of the program:

“The task to which the group applied itself was a study of the role the school can play in developing among children a sense of international understanding. Before the child enters school his mind has already been profoundly marked, and often injuriously, by earlier influences; but the process of schooling may exercise a decisive effect, for it is through the experience of schooling that the child applies and develops the rudimentary sense of community he has first gained, however dimly, in the home.” (3)

As its name implies, UNESCO dabbles in all things related to education, science, and culture – and much, much more. Population control programs around the world are operated through UNESCO. The World Heritage Treaty, as well as the Man and the Biosphere Program are also operated under the auspices of UNESCO.

Is there an overlap of purpose and program between the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)? Of course. But each entity has found enough special projects to justify their separate, parallel existence.

Thus begins a continuous expansion of the United Nations system through the creation of new organizations, agencies, institutions, commissions, conferences, and committees which now total more than 130. Some of the organizations, such as UNESCO, are said to be “independent,” or free standing because they have a separate Charter which specifies terms of membership. Others are temporary, such as the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, created for a specific purpose, and with a limited life span.


Others are permanent agencies, created by temporary commissions, such as the United Nations Environment Programme, created by the General Assembly in 1973 at the request of the 1972 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. An organizational chart will help to visualize the maze of bureaucracy that is the United Nations.

This lifetime is far too short to review and critique all the United Nations organizations. Here, we have pointed you to the system in hopes that you will explore further those institutions, agencies and organizations that have special meaning in your individual pursuit of knowledge. We will revisit many of these component parts of the United Nations system as we continue our pursuit of global governance. There is, however, another element of global governance that lies outside the official domain of the United Nations. Global governance cannot be understood without thorough knowledge of this component.

Non-government Organizations

As Huxley’s new prize, UNESCO, became a reality, he turned his attention to the creation of a new organization: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ( ) – a non-government organization. Huxley was the organization’s first Director. Founded in Fontainbleau, France, October 5, 1948, but set up permanent headquarters on the shores of Lake Geneva, in Gland, Switzerland, a suburb of Geneva.

The IUCN is unique. Its membership consists of 70 sovereign nations, 112 government agencies in 98 countries, 756 non-government organizations in 126 countries, and 36 affiliates (as of August 1, 2001). Federal Agencies that are members of the IUCN include:

  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce – (NOAA)
  2. National Park Service (NAPS)
  3. US Agency for International Development (USAID)
  4. US Department of Agriculture – Forest Service (USDA-FS)
  5. US Department of the Interior (Fish and Wildlife Service)
  6. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (4)

Of the 44 U.S. NGOs listed as members, twelve are of particular interest:

  1. Defenders of Wildlife
  2. Environmental Defense Fund
  3. National Audubon Society
  4. National Parks and Conservation Society
  5. National Wildlife Federation
  6. National Heritage Institute
  7. Natural Resources Defense Council
  8. The Nature Conservancy
  9. The WILD Foundation
  10. Wildlife Management Institute
  11. World Resources Institute
  12. World Wildlife Fund

The individual members of the IUCN are organized into six commissions:

  1. World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)
  2. Species Survival Commission (SSC)
  3. Environmental Economic & Social Policy (CEESP)
  4. Ecosystem Management (CEM)
  5. Education & Communication (CEC)
  6. Environmental Law (CEL)

Each of these six commissions conducts meetings on a continual basis, to develop policy proposals for adoption by the appropriate governmental body.

These meetings are held outside any requirement for public participation, input, or review. The IUCN claims “transparency” in its proceedings, but only to the extent that its members may participate, and there is no legal requirement from any authority for public disclosure.

Moreover, on January 18, 1996, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12986, which says, in part:

“I hereby extend to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the privileges and immunities that provide or pertain to immunity from suit….”

Therefore, the IUCN cannot be sued in a court of law for discovery of any information they may possess pursuant to the development of public policy.

To become a member, an agency, or state, or NGO, must declare that they support the aims of the IUCN, and an applicant may be required to document “at least three years” of activity to demonstrate that support.

In these meetings, members of The Nature Conservancy, and the National Audubon Society, for example, meet with employees of the Department of Interior, or the EPA or the Department of Agriculture, to develop proposals, strategies, and tactics for advancing whatever policy they wish.

Membership in the IUCN is not cheap. As of 1997, membership fees for the United States, was 353,310 SF ($207, 001.41), and each agency paid an additional 10, 599 SF ($6,209.87). (5) In addition to these payments, the U.S. contribution to the IUCN has been in excess of $1 million per year since 1993. (6)

We will revisit the IUCN frequently in our next lesson. It is only one of three NGOs that must be recognized as the driving force for environmental policy throughout the United Nations system, and therefore, one of the major forces in the evolution of global governance.

On October 6, 1961, a picture of a black rhino appeared in the London Daily Mirror, along with an emotional description if its probable extinction, unless concerned people send money to the specified address of a new NGO – the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The appeal produced 45,000 pounds sterling, and the new organization was off and running – with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburg as its titular head. Julian Huxley, and other founders of the IUCN organized the effort. The WWF now uses the familiar panda as its logo and drawing card, and has changed its name to the Worldwide Fund for Nature while continuing to use the WWF acronym.

The WWF also made its headquarters in Gland Switzerland, in the same building with the IUCN.

For the next 20 years, these two NGOs exerted extensive influence over the affairs of the United Nations, especially through UNESCO, and ECOSOC. The IUCN defined the role and relationship of NGOs and United Nations. ECOSOC is the U.N. body responsible for accrediting NGOs for participation in U.N. activities. Among many other similarities to the IUCN membership application, the ECOSOC application for NGO accreditation requires a declaration of support for the aims of the United Nations, and demonstration of that support for at least two years prior to accreditation.

By 1982, the WWF had grown dramatically, with offices on several continents, including a very active organization in the United States, which was headed by former EPA Administrator, Russell Train. The IUCN and the WWF discovered that they needed more support and credibility in their policy proposals, from the scientific, technical, and academic community. So together, the two organizations facilitated the creation of another NGO – the World Resources Institute.

A co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council (an NGO member of the IUCN), Gustave Speth , was chosen to head the New World Resources Institute, based in Washington D.C. Speth chose Rafe Pomerance as his chief policy analyst, and the two quickly molded the WRI into the third leg of the stool that directs, supports, promotes, and in many instances, implements the United Nations’ efforts to achieve global governance.

These three NGOs, working in concert, are the driving force in the development of environmental and social policy, as well as the coordinating mechanism through which thousands of affiliated NGOs promote and implement those policies. The extent of their influence in United Nations policy is evidenced by three major publications of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in which the involvement of these three NGOs is proudly credited:

Caring for the Earth: A Strategy for Sustainable Living (IUCN, WWF, UNEP, 1991);

Conserving the World’s Biological Diversity (IUCN, WRI, UNEP, 1990); and

Global Biodiversity Strategy (WRI, IUCN, UNEP, 1992).

These three publications only hint at the depth of influence these NGOs exert on both the development and implementation of policy at the international, national, and local levels.

In our next lesson, “The Politics of Global Governance,” we will begin to see how the structure of global governance is used to shape the freedom people in the 21st century will be to allowed to experience.


  1. Harvey Klehr, et. al., The Secret World of American Communism, .
  2. Report of the Commission on Global Governance, Our Global Neighborhood, Oxford University Press, (1995), pp. 78-82.
  3. Georges Lang, Toward World Understanding, UNESCO Publication 356, Paris (1949) p. 1 ( ).
  4. IUCN Membership list:
  5. Membership Guidelines, International Union for Conservation of Nature, January, 1996, pp. 19-20.
  6. Eco-logic, “State Department Contributions to the U.N.,” March/April, 1995, ( ( .