UN Secretary General's office

The Secretary General of the United Nations is based at the organization’s Headquarters in New York City, USA. In fact, there are three other headquarters around the world, but the NYC one is the oldest and the most prominent. It houses the office of the UN Secretary General, the Head of the Secretariat which performs the day-to-day business of the United Nations. It services the other principal organs of the UN and administers the policies and programmes laid down by them. The Secretariat staff are effectively international civil servants who answer solely to the UN. The Secretary General is an amalgam of civil servant and CEO, diplomat and advocate, who carries in his person the moral authority and humanitarianism of UN principles, while maintaining awareness of the wishes and concerns of the member states individually and collectively. At the level of concrete practice, the Secretary General is the chair of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, the body tasked with overseeing and improving levels of integration and coordination within the complex UN system.

The General Assembly

The General Assembly was established in 1945 under the UN Charter, and occupies a pivotal role as the organization’s primary deliberative, policy-making and representative organ. Made up of all of the 192 member states of the UN, it provides the forum at which the entire spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter are discussed. Each year between September and December, the General Assembly meets in regular and intensive session, and holds further sessions as required. It is an important body in the setting of norms and standards, and in the codification of international law. The General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations — the other four being the Security Council, ECOSOC, the Secretariat and the International Court of Justice — and the only one in which all member states possess equal status. It oversees the organization’s budget, appoints non-permanent members to the Security Council, receives reports from other UN bodies and makes recommendations in the form of General Assembly resolutions. Voting in the GA is taken on a one-member one vote basis; on the most important questions, such as those involving security, a two-thirds majority is necessary, while other matters can be decided by simple majority. In recent years there has been a trend toward deciding issues through consensus.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

The Economic and Social Council was established under the UN Charter to act as the principal organ to coordinate the economic, social and related work of the specialized agencies, functional commissions (such as CND) and regional commissions. It forms the central forum for the discussion of economic and social issues and the formulation of policy recommendations addressed to member states and the UN system. It is responsible for the promotion of the following goals: raised living standards, full employment and economic and social progress; the identification of solutions to economic, social and health-related problems; international educational and cultural cooperation; and the encouragement of universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. ECOSOC has 54 members, all of whom are elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term. The president is elected for a year term of one year from amongst the small or mid-ranking nations represented on ECOSOC. ECOSOC meets once a year in July for a four-week session. The Bureau, which proposes the agenda, draws up programmes of work and liaises with the Secretariat, is elected annually at the start of the session. It includes government representatives from each of the world’s five regions.

While these bodies are not directly involved in the detail of drug policy debates, there are reasons to engage with them from time to time. For example, the ECOSOC formally receives the reports from CND meetings, and is the place where elections for (amongst others) the CND, INCB and UNAIDS Programme Co-ordinating Board are administered. Meanwhile, the Secretary General is responsible for appointing, and reviewing the performance of, the Executive Director of the UNODC, and his office has ultimate oversight of the concept of system wide coherence.