The UN has made major contributions towards expanding the rule of law among nations through its development and codification of international law. The International Court of Justice has assisted countries in solving important legal disputes and has issued advisory opinions on UN activities.
The UN has initiated hundreds of conventions and treaties covering virtually all areas of international law - from international trade to environmental protection. Action has been particularly strong in human rights law.
For instance, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is the main international legal instrument to further women's equality. The Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs is the key international treaty against drug trafficking. The Convention on the Law of the Sea seeks to ensure equitable access by all countries to the riches of the oceans, protect them from pollution and facilitate freedom of navigation and research.
4.3 UN Humanitarian Assistance to Developing Countries
When countries are stricken by war, famine or natural disaster, the UN helps provide humanitarian aid. Part of this aid is in the form of direct assistance from the UN operational agencies and programs: The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Program (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Program (UNDP).
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is responsible for the protection and assistance of over 26 million people around the world who have fled war or persecution, seeking at the same time durable solutions to their plight. In early 1997, UNHCR's major operations were in the Great Lakes region of Africa, with over 1.4 million people in need; the former Yugoslavia (over 2 million people); and western Asia (some 2.3 million Afghan refugees).
All UN emergency relief is coordinated by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, who heads the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs.
In 1996, the UN raised $1.3 billion for emergency assistance to over 22 million people around the world.
5.1 UN Activity in the Sphere of Disarmament
Halting the arms race and reducing and eventually eliminating all weapons of war are major concerns of the UN. The UN has been a permanent forum for disarmament negotiations, making recommendations and initiating studies. Negotiations have been held bilaterally and through international bodies such as the Conference on Disarmament, which meets regularly in Geneva.
The General Assembly adopted in 1996 the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a landmark agreement that aims at banning all nuclear-weapon tests.
In a major step in advancing non-proliferation, States parties in 1995 extended indefinitely the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Under this Treaty, nuclear-weapon States agree not to provide nuclear weapons to other countries and to pursue nuclear disarmament; non-nuclear weapon States agree not to acquire nuclear weapons. Concluded under UN auspices, the Treaty has been ratified by over 170 countries.
Other treaties have been concluded to prohibit the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons (1992) and bacteriological weapons (1972); reduce conventional armed forces in Europe (1990); ban nuclear weapons from the seabed and ocean floor (1971) and outer space (1967); and ban or restrict other classes of weapons
The United Nations proposed another disarmament agreement in 1972. The 100 nations that signed this Seabed Agreement agreed never to place nuclear weapons on the ocean floor. Both the Soviet Union and the United States were among the signers.
In 1996, States parties strengthened a Protocol restricting the use, production and transfer of landmines - "silent killers" that slay or maim some 20,000 people each year. According to the UN, there are some 110 million landmines in over 70 countries, and 2 million new landmines are laid every year.
The subject of mine clearance is one of critical importance that has recently taken center stage in the forum of pressing world issues. As regards the work of the United Nations, the process of demining is fundamental to the UN's ability to deliver programs effectively in war-torn countries or post-war environments, whether such undertakings be related to peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance or rehabilitation.
Over the past seven years, the need for mine clearance has grown significantly in a number of regions around the world. As a result, the UN is increasingly called upon to operate mine clearance programs in areas that are completely infested with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Consequently, prior to any large deployment of personnel or equipment to a given area, the UN must prepare for a safe working environment by initiating preliminary mine clearance activities in localized areas. Once this has been completed, a broader operation can be accommodated to conduct mine clearance activities on a more comprehensive scale.
The clearance of areas for use by a supported nation is undertaken only when specially mandated by the Security Council. It is standard procedure for the UN to not only performs mine clearance but also to assist a supported nation in the development of its own sustainable clearance capacity. The UN program may include such topics as mine awareness, mine marking, mine survey, mine clearance as well as unexploded ordinance disposal. Additionally, the program's overall efforts may go beyond mine-specific issues to cover related areas, such as management and logistics, training and support.
The UN may vary its approach to each situation as there are currently no standardized templates or universal procedures established for mine clearance activities world-wide.
Mine Clearance in the United Nations is presently divided into two areas of responsibility :
" which plans and advises on mine clearing activities carried out under United Nations auspices as well as maintains contact with Governments and organizations that participate in or contribute to these activities.
" which serves as the focal point for coordinating all humanitarian mine