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Comparison Between North Atlantic Treaty Organization and United Nations Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2021

The North Atlantic treaty organization (NATO) was formed in 1949 in Washington America. The treaty was signed by foreign ministers from eleven different countries that included America, Portugal, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Britain, and Iceland. The organization was then formed with the aim of assisting each of the member countries incases of any attacks by other countries. The number of the countries was later increased to 13 countries in 1952 when Greece and Turkey joined. In 1955 West Germany joined the organization making the number to be 14 countries then, but currently, there are 26 member states (Sandler, and Hartley, 1999)

On the other hand, the United Nations was founded in 1945 when the UN Charter was ratified by China. It was founded to replace the League of Nations. Currently, there are 192 member countries with the headquarter being in New York. The United Nations is an international organization that aims to necessitate corporation among member countries in terms of international policies, security, economic development, and humanitarian rights (United Nations, 2004)

Wilton, (2001) asserted that the United Nations and the North Atlantic treaty organization are two different groups though they affect the world in the same way. The United Nations and the North Atlantic treaty organization both work hard to achieve a difference in the world today by striving for peace and prosperity. The similarity between the two organizations is that they are similar in the way they are organized because they are structured into various groups. United Nations and North Atlantic treaty organizations have councils, secretary-general, and the secretariat.

Martinetti (2006) reported that the United Nations is made up of six administrative classes which include:

  • The general assembly, which is the main organ for any decision made.
  • The secretariat deals with things that are necessary for the body to run for example the facilities needed for the conference and other informational materials.
  • The economic and social council help in assisting member countries to develop economically or socially through enhancing cooperation and development.
  • The international court of justice, which provides judicial cases to international matters.
  • The Security Council, which deals with matters of security by promoting peace or providing solutions for peace in war-torn countries.
  • Trusteeship Council, which strives to promote the trustworthy among the members’ countries on matters pertaining to peace and cooperation in business transactions or intercontinental treaties. Although this organ of the organization was later suspended from operations in 1994.

By contrast, Asmus, (2002) asserted that the North Atlantic organization is made up of the following:

  • Defense planning committee, which is responsible for the matters dealing with defense against any attack or retaliation measures.
  • Nuclear Atlantic corporation council, which deals with issues concerning nuclear use in the war.

In both the organizations, the top governing body is chaired by the secretary-general who is responsible for convening the meeting which they chair in the headquarters. Also, both United Nations and NATO have a general headquarter where matters concerning the organization are made from (Martinetti, 2006)

The United Nations and the North Atlantic treaty organization have a common origin of formation since they were formed after the major crisis of the world. The United Nations was formed during and after World War II where China, Britain, America, and Russia met in America to plan for a peacekeeping organization which was later to become United Nations. The North Atlantic treaty organization on the other hand was formed after World War II just as the United Nations was being formed.

During the formation of NATO, many western countries viewed the policies of Russia then called the united soviet social republic as a threat in terms of nuclear and missile use hence becoming a threat to other countries. This threat from USSR led to the Berlin blockade which began in 1948 marking the beginning of negotiations between Canada, America, and European countries which later to the formation of the North Atlantic treaty organization.

Therefore the two organizations were formed in the same decade with a four-year difference, united formed first in 1945 and NATO in 1949. both the united nations and NATO is dedicated to promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law among the member countries governed by the principles of the united nations charter (Sandler, and Hartley, 1999)

Martinetti, (2006) indicated that although United Nations and the North Atlantic treaty organization had the same origin their aims of formation were different. The United Nations was formed which the aim of facilitating cooperation in international law and security, economic development, and human rights while the NATO was formed to ensure the freedom and security of its members by political and military means in accordance with the principles of United Nations charter.

Its first task was to deter and defend member countries against any attack from other countries. NATO was responsible for the stability and security of the Euro-Atlantic area only. Another difference between the two bodies is on the headquarter. The united nations headquarter located in the United States of America in New York City while the north Atlantic treaty organization have its headquarters in Belgium, Brussels city.

Daclon, (2004) asserted that in addition the United Nations and NATO differ in the number of member countries. The current number of member states and the founding member’s state differ significantly between the two bodies. The founding number of the NATO in 1949 in Washington was 11 countries with most of them being from Europe and the American continent. This number has increased to 26 members currently.

The membership to NATO is limited to non-member states as only European states are eligible to join NATO and also such nations which wish to join NATO must be approved by the current member states, this restricts many non-European nations from joining the organization. Countries wishing to join NATO are however required to follow a mechanism called the membership action plan which was approved in a summit in Washington. The country applying for membership should present a report on its progress on five main areas that include:

  • Its domestic laws should be compatible with NATO cooperation.
  • Should be able to provide enough resources to its armed forces.
  • The candidate should be able to contribute to NATO’s defense and missions.
  • The country should be in a position to provide security and safeguard sensitive information.
  • The country should be willing to settle international disputes peacefully and commit itself to safeguard rule of law and human rights.

Hans (2005) asserted that the United Nations was formed by 50 member states but currently it has 192 member states from the whole over the world, unlike the North Atlantic treaty organization which seems to be regional. Membership in United Nations is governed by the United Nations charter which sets the following guidelines for membership:

  • A country can join the UN as long as it’s a peace-loving nation accepting the obligations contained in the UN charter and it’s willing to carry out the obligation given.
  • Any state allowed to join the UN will be affected by the decision made by the general assembly with a recommendation from the Security Council.

According to the united nations, (2004) its claimed that the united nations under its charter, five official languages are being recognized which include English, French, Russian language, and Spanish, although lately the Arabic language has been added in 1973. The original five languages are used in the UN general assembly, Security Council, and economic or social council. The secretariat uses English and French languages in their meetings.

On another side, the North Atlantic treaty organization, on the other hand, uses both English and French only as of the official languages. These two languages are used in the Security Council meetings and any other official meeting convened by the organization (Martinetti, (2006)

The organizational structure of the united nations and the North Atlantic treaty organization differs to some extent. Each of The 26 member states in NATO sends a delegation to its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Each of the delegations sends by each country represents the permanent representative and it is the ambassador of NATO. These members assemble to form the North Atlantic Council which meets once a week this council also meets the foreign affairs ministers of each of the countries or defense ministers and head of states where decisions on NATO policies are discussed.

The meetings are chaired by the secretary-general. Another powerful delegation is the military representative plus senior armed forces officer. The representative from the military form the military committee which is responsible for NATOs political authorities undertaking the measures necessary for the common defense of the member countries. The principal role of the military committee is to give direction and advice on military issues. In addition, they provide a guide on military issues to the organization commanders whose members meet to discuss the military affairs.

On the other hand, Martinetti, (2006) asserted that the united nations system is based on the five principal bodies with the top-ranking being the general assembly which is the main decision-making organ. The general assembly consists of all the member nations and they meet regularly yearly under the president elected from the country member state. The secretary-general makes the remarks first and then the president of the assembly.

For any decision is made voting is done and the 2/3 majority passes the decision made. Another important organ of the United Nations is the Security Council which is responsible for maintaining the peace and security of the member countries. The Security Council is made up of 15 countries. Also, the economic and social council is another important organ in United Nations which is responsible for assisting the general assembly in promoting economic and social cooperation internationally.

The secretariat is another important organ of the United Nations which is headed by the secretary-general. The secretariat provides information and facilities to United Nations bodies’ meetings. Finally, the international court of justice plays the role of providing judicial services to member states on matters concerning international laws. The international court of justice is located in The Hague, Netherlands. It, therefore, shows that the United Nations has more structured organs dealing with specific matters unlike NATO which is limited to only two top governing organs (Sandler, and Hartley, 1999)

Asmus, (2002) reported that in NATO the fundamental commitment of all members of the Alliance to each other’s security is enshrined in the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that an attack against one member country is considered as an attack against all. The Alliance’s integrated military structure and common defense planning procedures underpin this commitment to collective defense.

This is a different situation in the United Nations where in1945 UN Charter envisaged a system of regulation that would ensure that all the nation’s security is under the control of the United Nations. The united nations promote peace among its countries and any worrying issue concerning each other countries is solved out in the general meeting hence promoting peace and not revenge missions as in the NATOs policies. The financing of the two bodies varies depending on the organization. The United Nations is financed from the assessed and voluntary contributions of the member countries. The financing of the UN is done by the assessment in a regular two-year program. While NATO each of the member countries are required to contribute a fixed amount every year. (Martinetti, (2006)


The contrast and comparison between United Nations and North Atlantic treaty organizations are quite challenging to apprehend since NATO has its most decision made by the United Nations being the supreme governing body in the world. The contrast between the two cannot come out clearly as it may be required. It is also disquieting to observe how the UN/NATO relationship has changed within a few years.

In 1994, at its Brussels summit, NATO had declared its readiness to cooperate with the United Nations in peacekeeping and other operations under the authority of the UN Security Council. In December 1997, the Final Report of a high-level International Task Force on the Enforcement of UN Security Council Resolutions regarded as “doubtful that NATO would consider taking enforcement action, at least out of the area, without Security Council authorization, therefore the real coexisting relationship between the two bodies has become complex that even the contrast between the two become complex.


Asmus, R D (2002): Opening NATO’s Door: How the Alliance Remade Itself for a New Era. Columbia press.

Daclon, (2004): Security through Science. Secretary General of NATO, journal; Vol.4.

Hans, K (2005): United Nation in Law Review. Polytechnic University of the Philippines journal; Vol.4.

Martinetti, I (2006): Reforming Oversight and Governance of the UN Encounter.

Sandler, T and Hartley, K (1999): The Political Economy of NATO: Past, Present, and into the 21st Century. Cambridge press.

United Nations (2004): Basic Facts about the United Nations.

Wilton, D (2001): United Nations. Etymologies & Word Origins: Letter U. Web.

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