United Nations and the Asia-Pacific

Jan 10, 2019 | Asia, Cambodia, China, GOV, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines

by MJ Toledo

A look into the United Nations, achievement and challenges in the Asia-Pacific

With over 70 years of history, United Nation remains as one of the most formidable organizations in the world. Here is everything you need to know about it.

This year, the United Nations just turned 73, which probably makes it the same age as your grandma. But other than being the avenue for viral speeches of celebrities such as Emma Watson, Meghan Markle, and even an outstanding performance by Beyonce, what does this political and diplomatic organization do?

The organization’s name is thrown around in news channels all the time. However, not many people fully know what it does. The United Nations is simply an organization made up of 193 independent countries which work together in order to prevent and end wars.

The organization is not just limiting what they do to serve their main function. As a matter of fact, United Nations also works to alleviate the poor living conditions of many countries by working toward economic development, public health, international cooperation, environmental conservation, and human rights. Currently, the United Nations has its headquarters in New York.  If you want to know more about the United Nations, keep on reading.

History of the United Nations

Before the United Nations was officially established, the League of Nations looked after world peace. However, the League of Nations was considered a failure because it did not prevent World War II from happening.

According to United Nations, its name was formed by no other than the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used it during the Declaration by United Nations on January 1, 1942 to describe the Allied forces of World War II.

During this declaration, representatives from 16 Allied nations signed in the capital of US to formally pledge their support for the Atlantic Charter. In 1944, it took around three months from August to October to deliberate on proposals made by representatives from China, United Kingdom, United States, and the Soviet Union. A year later, representative from 50 countries met at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to make the United Nations Charter on June 26 in San Francisco. Poland signed later on, making the original total member states 51.

Wondering why kids all over the world dress us in other countries’ national costumes on October? This is because after years of hard work, the organization was ratified by France, United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, United States, and other signatories on October 24, 1945.

Asian Countries in the United Nations

United Nations divides its member states into regional geopolitical groups. First, it was done unofficially to share the distribution posts for the members of the General Assembly. However, these groups have taken on a more relevant role to control positions in the organization on the basis of representation. Furthermore, it also helps in the crafting of international policies and common traits for voting and other negotiations.

Along with the African, Eastern European, Latin American and Caribbean, and Western European and other group, United Nations classifies the Asia-Pacific as one group, with 53 member states.

Until 2011, the Asia-Pacific group was referred to as the Asian Group. However, the name change was done due to the demand of its member non-Asian island countries, which comprise around one-fifth of the group’s membership.

In the United Nations list, countries in the Asia-Pacific group includes Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Qatar, Tonga, Solomon Islands, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Kuwait, Nepal, China, Cyprus, Pakistan, Philippines, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Fiji, India, Indonesia, and many more.

Currently, the Asia-Pacific comprises 27.5% of the members of United Nations, making it the second largest group by member states next to the African Group.  It comprises 4.42 billion people or 58.% of the total of UN’s population. The group does not include Russia and Caucasian states which belong in the Eastern European Group.

The group holds eleven positions on the Economic and Social Council, 13 seats on the Human Rights Council, and three seats on the Security Council, China’s permanent seat and two non-permanent seats.

Main Organs of the United Nations

When United nations was founded in 1945, the organization established 6 organs. Here’s everything you need to know about these bodies:

General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly is the major body of the organization which is responsible for policies. All of the 193 members of UN are equally represented in this UN body. Meaning, one state is equal to one vote.

Every year in September, the members of this body meet in the General Assembly Hall in New York to attend its annual session and general debate. The debate period lasts for six days. In this event, all of the members of the member states and three observers are given the privilege to give statements. This year, 27 out of the 196 speakers were women.

The General Assembly makes major decisions on important issues on poverty, development, security, peace, and even the admission of new members which needs more than two-thirds of votes. Each year, the members elect a President who will serve for a one-year period. Now, the president is Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces of Ecuador. She is also the fourth woman to hold the position. The assembly also convenes during special sessions in other times to assess issues.

Despite its formality, the United Nations also has drama. In fact, Taiwan has not been a member of the organization for over 20 years because of China’s objections, because it considers the country as part of its territory. The status of Palestine has also been immensely controversial.

One of the most notable declarations of the assembly was made in 2000 and was called the Millennium Declaration where it set many timely goals that it plans to achieve such as elevating the access to education, decreasing poverty, and stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS. In fact, UNAIDS is immensely active in the Asia and Pacific region. Until now, countless countries still actualize their laws based on these targets. In 2015, the General Assembly issued more targets to achieve sustainable development.

Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council was established to uphold the coordination, policy dialogue and review, and recommendation to improve social, environmental, and economic issues. It also implements the development goals which were agreed by the council.

This body specializes in the field of social and environmental fields, economic, and overseeing other bodies. Currently, this organ has 53 which were elected by the General Assembly. This body also holds debates, and talks which are focused on sustainable development.

The thriving and bustling city of Bangkok, Thailand serves as the home for the Economic and Social Commission for the Asia and Pacific group. The function of this body stretches from Turkey, to Kiribati, to Russia, and New Zealand. With over four billion people served, and 600 staff, the ESCAP is the most far-reaching commission out of the five regional offices of the Economic and Social Commission.

The ESCAP is responsible for creating the Disaster and Climate Preparedness and Trust Fund for Tsunami. It also has sub-regional offices namely, North and Central Asia, The Pacific, South and Southwest Asia, and East and North Asia. The organization has made breakthroughs in Asia. In fact, the Diplomat reported that it had reduced the population who lived in poverty to 15%, a far cry from the 50% statistics in 1990.

Security Council

This body of the United Nations is composed of 15 members. It is widely responsible for maintaining international security and peace. To do this, the members of the council is accountable for tasks such as determining factors that can threaten peace. It also identifies acts of aggression.

If so, the security council settles the conflict by calling the involved parties and recommends a solution to the problem. This main body of the organization can also impose punishments or use force to maintain peace and security across the globe.

Trusteeship Council

The Trusteeship Council is responsible for supervising over the management of Trust Territories to make sure that its Governments take the right steps to achieve the targets set by the Charter.

The Charter gives the go signal to the council to discuss the reports from the Administering Authorities of the territories regarding the state of its education, economy, and social scene. Now, all of the determined Trust Territories are already independent or self-governing as independent states or by joining other counties.

International Court of Justice

Just like governments, United Nations has its own judicial organ as well. The seat of the

International Court of Justice is at the Peace Palace in Hague, Netherlands, making it the only boy of the organization whose office is not located in New York.

The role of this body is to settle legal disputes which were submitted to it by its members using international law. It also gives thoughts on questions of legal matters which were referred by organs and agencies that are authorized by the organization. The International Court of Justice has 15 judges who were elected for nine-year terms by the Security Council and General Assembly.


With all of the functions done by the United Nations, there has to be an organ solely dedicated to administer and coordinate its activities, and the Secretariat does exactly that. This organ is led by the secretary-general of the United Nations and has a great influence on the work done by the organization.

This personnel of the secretariat do international civil service and are made up of thousands of project directors, negotiators, administrators, translator, clerks, and technicians. Unlike other bodies in the United Nations which is made up of appointees, this body is made up of permanent expert officials. Its staff is hired based on a merit basis and location. Additionally, its members also cannot do instructions given by their home governments because of an oath of loyalty to the organization.

Achievements and Challenges Faced by United Nations in Asia-Pacific

Over the years, United Nations have made remarkable successes and achievements for the betterment of people. In Asia, the most notable achievements of United Nations are in democratic governance and peacebuilding, sustainable development, and climate and disaster resilience.

Since Asia and the Pacific group caters to a large audience, there are 11 UN Information Centers that serves its people. The UNICs are located in Jakarta, Kathmandu, Colombo, Tehran, New Delhi, Manila, Tokyo, Islamabad, Canberra, Yangon, and another one in Bangkok which is part of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission. The Canberra site serves the Pacific region, and the information centers in Yangon, Dhaka, and Kathmandu serve in countries which belong in the list of 50 least developed countries.

Democratic Governance and Peacebuilding

United Nations has done wonders to solidify democratic governance through creating spaces for dialogue, and building institutions to help with elections, the actualizing of reforms, and addressing policies that are geared towards peace and empowerment. The United Nations Development Program also ensures that people have a say in decision-making to contribute to national development.

Sustainable Development

While trying to reduce poverty in Asia and the Pacific significantly, United Nations is working hard to bring sustainable development to transform the lives of many people. It promotes an integrated approach as it confronts timely issues such as exclusion, inequality, and sustainability while improving the skills and production to sustain these advances.

United nations have pioneered tons of developments such as smokeless cook stoves in a national park in Karnataka, India to prevent wildfires, marine park conservation in Malaysia to maintain its amazing biodiversity, and many more. While focusing on the most marginalized and vulnerable groups, United Nation works to develop the opportunities of people.

Climate and Disaster Resilience

The Asia-Pacific Region is reaping some of the most intense disasters such as typhoons. This is marks a challenge because it affects the development of the region. Disasters caused by climate change or conflict risks around a billion people who are living in poverty.

To help with this, the best thing done by United Nations is to put the spotlight on risk reduction and integrate it into every single community. To achieve this, every national agenda has assimilated this in the income building, recovery, and disaster preparedness.

Furthermore, with the support of Japan, 18 countries in the Asia-Pacific group are working on strengthening the tsunami emergency preparedness in schools by assessing the risk, crafting evacuation plans, and raising tsunami awareness through safety drills.

Additionally, United Nations in Asia has also made improvements to gender equality, social protection, and growth for all, and regional developmental plans. The organization has invested so much in advancing technology in the region and innovating its data revolution using techniques such as mobile apps, games, and many more.


One of the most successful niches of United Nations that has made a great impact in Asia and the Pacific is done through the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO. The programs initialized by the organization aims to contribute to the 2030 goals of UN by promoting the cultural heritage of many cultures.

UNESCO also recognizes landmarks, manmade or not, which they deem to have international importance and deserves distinct protection.  Some of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asia and the Pacific includes Kinabalu Park in Malaysia, Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines, and Komodo National park in Indonesia.