A number of chiropractors have asked me to explain the structure of the United Nations (U.N.), and why U.N. involvement is important to the chiropractic profession. The following discussion will provide an overview of the structure of the U.N.
The General Assembly
All Member States are represented in the General Assembly. The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the United Nations. Every country has an equal vote in the General Assembly. All countries can share their differences, and reach an understanding on how to proceed on major issues. The General Assembly is a forum which practices “parliamentary diplomacy.” Its decisions are not legally binding on Member States, yet represent the “moral authority” of the community of nations.
The Security Council
Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council is the organ primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security. Member States are obligated to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council, which are legally binding. Five of the permanent members of the Security Council, China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States may exercise veto power in the Security Council.
The Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council is the principal organ, under the General Assembly, to promote: (a) higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development; (b) solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems, as well as international cultural and educational cooperation; and (c) universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.
The International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It is located at the Peace Palace in the Hague, Netherlands. The Court is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office. Judges are elected by the General Assembly and Security Council sitting independently of each other. States seeking settlement of legal disputes by the Court voluntarily accept its jurisdiction.
The Secretariat is the administrative body of the United Nations. It carries out the day-to-day work of the Organization. It is headed by the Secretary-General, who is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year, renewable term. More than 25,000 persons from 160 countries make up the staff of the Secretariat.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
The United Nations is the world organization of States. However, the structure of the United Nations provides for the involvement of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) — non-profit, voluntary citizens’ groups. NGOs provide analysis and expertise, serve as early warning mechanisms and help monitor and implement international agreements.
Some 1,600 NGOs have consultive status with the Economic and Social Council. NGOs carrying out information programs on matters of concern to the U.N. are accredited with the U.N. Department of Public Information. All these NGOs have official representatives at UN Headquarters. The World health Organization has provisions for entering into official relations with NGOs which may or may not be accredited with the Department of Public Information. Such NGOs are engaged in collaborative projects.
As noted in the U.N. publication Image and Reality, “NGOs speak for broad international and national constituencies, and have increasing influence on U.N. work. They play a prominent role at U.N. conferences, advancing the views of their constituencies…In the field, NGOs work hand in hand with the U.N. in assisting people in need.”
It is important to realize that by definition, NGOs are voluntary organizations. Their representatives have no special legal privileges or immunities. NGOs do not have any authority over non- members.
There are two recognized chiropractic NGOs associated with the U.N.
The World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) has official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO). The former president of the WFC is Louis Sportelli, D.C. WFC represents approximately 65 chiropractic trade associations.
The WFC states that it was “prominent in the development” of the Mercy Guidelines. These guidelines represent the opinions of the participants, did not involve broad international participation, and were never subjected to peer review. The Mercy Guidelines have not qualified for inclusion in the National Guideline Clearinghouse.
WFC has characterized chiropractic as a neuromusculoskeletal specialty which employs joint manipulation, physical therapy modalities, orthotics, and other procedures. According to WFC by- laws, the organization promotes uniform standards for chiropractic education, research, and practice.
The World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA) is accredited as an NGO by the U.N. Department of Public Information, and has an official representative at U.N. Headquarters in New York. The WCA has the stated mission of “a subluxation-free world.”
The WCA is committed to promoting and educating health care consumers about subluxation-centered chiropractic, which provides for lifetime wellness care for all persons, without regard to age or health condition. This is consistent with the WHO definition of health.
Position Paper Number 1 of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges states, in part, “Chiropractic is concerned with the preservation and restoration of health, and focuses particular attention on the subluxation.
The WCA was instrumental in the development of the Council on Chiropractic Practice guidelines. These are the first evidence-based guidelines produced by the profession which qualified for inclusion in the National Guideline Clearinghouse. The CCP Guidelines were selected for inclusion after being evaluated by ECRI, a WHO Collaborating Center. The guidelines underwent peer review by 195 chiropractors in 12 countries, making them truly international in scope.
The WCA is committed to ensuring that health care consumers throughout the global community have access to lifetime, wellness-centered chiropractic care. Through its information delivery systems, the WCA is committed to maintaining proper characterization of the chiropractic profession in the international community.