UN Charter: Purpose, Preamble, Background & Summary

United Nations is the largest intergovernmental organization in the world that is tasked with the noble duty of maintaining international peace and security. It aims at fostering friendly relations between the nations. It was formed after the catastrophic World War II, with an intention to prevent any such large-scale destruction of the human race in the future. In order to make it an effective organization, unlike its predecessor League of Nations, a constitutive document was created and signed on 26 January 1945. This constitutive document of the United Nations is known as the UN Charter.

What is the UN Charter?

The UN Charter, in simple words, is a document that sets out rights and obligations for the member states of the United Nations and establishes the principal organs and procedures of the organization. It is also an international treaty that codifies the basic rules to be followed by countries in order to maintain their as well as the sovereignty of other states. It prohibits any country to misuse its power and threaten the sovereignty of any other country.

The Preamble to the UN Charter

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS

DETERMINED

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

AND FOR THESE ENDS

  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

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What is the main purpose of the UN Charter?

The UN Charter has been formed to codify the rules and clearly state the aims, aspirations and purposes of the United Nations. Article I of the UN Charter lists down the purposes of the United Nations. It states that the purpose of the UN is:

  • to maintain international peace and security
  • to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples
  • to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character
  • to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion
  • to harmonize the actions of nations in the attainment of the common goals
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History and Background of the United Nations Charter

The United Nations Conference on the international organization was held in 1945 when representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco to draw up the UN Charter. These delegates of 50 countries discussed the proposal worked out by the representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union and China in August-October 1944. The Charter was then finally signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of 50 countries. Poland was not among those 50 countries but it also signed the charter later and became one of the 51 countries that originally signed the UN Charter.

On 24 October 1945, the charter was ratified by the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, France and China along with the majority of the signatories. With the ratification of the UN Charter, the United Nations officially came into existence and hence 24 October is celebrated every year as the UN Day.

Summary of the UN Charter

The UN Charter consists of an introductory note, preamble and 19 chapters divided into 111 articles.

Chapter I lists down Purposes and Principles. Chapter II deals with the membership of the United Nations. Chapter III lists down the primary organs of the UN, namely – General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and Secretariat. It states that subsidiary organs can be formed as and when required.

Chapter IV then details the power, purposes, membership and procedures of the General Assembly. Similarly, Chapter V deals with the details of the Security Council.

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Chapter VI is headed as Pacific Settlement of disputes. It deliberates the details of settling disputes among nations by the way of negotiations, arbitrations, mediation etc. in order to prevent any war. Chapter VII deals with the proposed actions concerning threats to peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.

Chapter VIII is about regional arrangements. The chapter, in a way, provides the freedom to the countries for forming any regional group or alliance to foster friendly relationships and peace, which is the ultimate goal of the UN.

Chapter IX is about international economic and social co-operation. The liability to enhance co-operations lies on the shoulder of the organization and all the members (jointly as well as separately). Chapter X deals with the details of the economic and social council of the United Nations.

Chapter XI is the declaration about the non-self-governing territories. The main declaration of the chapter states that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount and the well-being of the inhabitants must be ensured by the administrating state. Chapter XII provides the theory of the international trusteeship system. It again talks about the interests of the inhabitants of the non-self-governing territories. Chapter XIII is about the trusteeship council of the United Nations.

Chapter XIV gives details about the power and functioning of the International Court of Justice. Chapter XV is about the Secretariat of the UN.

Chapter XVI lists down miscellaneous provisions. Chapter XVII is about transitional security arrangements. Chapter XVIII is the chapter that deals with the provisions for amendments to the charter. Chapter XIX is headed as Ratification and Signatures.