United Nations is a international organization that acts as a global platform for cooperation among world’s countries. It was established on 24 October 1945 in San Francisco, United States of America. After the devastating World War II, the world realized that it was extremely important to prevent such a future conflict. For prevention of wars, the world needed a global platform where nations could come together and resolve their conflicts through peaceful measures. Thus, the United Nations (UN) was created by a group of 51 countries. Later on, the UN was also entrusted with the global developmental goals.
- The UN was established on 24 October 1945 in San Francisco, USA.
- 51 nations were the founding members of the UN.
- Founder Members signed the Charter of the United Nations treaty to create the UN.
- Chief of the UN is called the Secretary General.
- Trygve Lie was the first elected Secretary-General of the United Nations.
- Headquarters of the UN is located in the New York City, USA.
- The UN system consists six principal organs:
- General Assembly,
- Security Council,
- Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC),
- International Court of Justice, and
- UN Secretariat
- Trusteeship Council (operations suspended in 1994)
- Four principal organs of the UN are located at the UN Headquarters in New York City. The International Court of Justice is located in The Hague, Netherlands.
- Five permanent members of the Security Council hold the veto power. These members are: France, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Six official languages of the UN are: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
- At present the UN has 193 member states and 2 observer states.
Purpose and Role of the United Nations
The United Nations has the three main objectives:
Peacekeeping and Security
The primary objective of the United Nations was to act an intermediary in conflict resolution among world’s nations. The founder members envisioned the purpose of UN as a place where world’s problems are resolved through dialog and agreements. Also the UN Peacekeeping Forces have been instrumental in reducing the effects of military conflicts.
Ensuring Human Rights
One of the UN’s primary purposes is “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion“, and member states pledge to undertake “joint and separate action” to protect these rights. In 1993, The United Nations Commission on Human Rights was formed to oversee human rights issues for the United Nations.
The UN has provided stages for signing and implementation of several treaties for human rights. For example:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
- Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2006)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008)
Economic development and humanitarian assistance
Another primary purpose of the UN is “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character”.
In the year 2000, the UN floated the Millennium Development Goals to be achieve all the 192 signatory countries by 2015.
In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals succeeded and these are to be achieved by 2030.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are primary UN agencies that provide financial assistance for uniform economic development as well as on humanitarian basis.
Other UN body like World Food Program and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also play crucial role in providing humanitarian assistance.
United Nations and its specialized agencies, like UNDP, WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF etc., also run programs for ensuring development and human rights all around the world. Through World Health Organization, the United Nations has played a key role in combating global health issues including viral diseases like HIV AIDS, Polio, Covid-19 etc.
History of the United Nations
During the World War I, the need for a United Nations type of international organization was felt. When world leaders realized the meaninglessness of bloodbath and nonsensical killings of young men in the World War I, voices for a platform for conflict resolution became louder. Through the Treaty of Versailles, the World War I came to an end. Soon after a total of 42 countries ratified the Covenant of the League of Nations. On 10 January 1920, this Covenant brought the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, into existence.
However, the League of Nations was found to be toothless when it failed to act against Japan‘s invasion of Manchuria in 1933.
40 countries in the League of Nations voted against Japan and asked it to withdraw from Manchuria. However, instead of withdrawing from Manchuria, Japan chose to walk out of the League of Nations.
The League of Nations again proved to be ineffective when it could not stop Benito Mussolini’s Italy from invading Ethiopia. Despite the League’s attempts, Italy attacked and conquer Ethiopia in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.
The final blow for the League of Nations came when, in 1939, Adolf Hitler’s Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. The World War II broke out and League of Nations was closed down.
Without losing time, in 1939, the United States began efforts of forming a new world organization. The then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt first coined the term United Nations to describe the Allied countries. On 01 January 1942, United States, United Kingdom, USSR and China signed the United Nations Declaration. The next day 22 more countries signed the Declaration. By 01 March 1945, a total of 47 countries had the Declaration.
During the World War II, “the United Nations” became the official term for the Allies. In order to join the group, countries had to sign the United Nations Declaration and declare war on the Axis Powers.
After the end of World War II, on 25 April 1945, the UN Conference on International Organization was organized in San Francisco. Representatives of 50 countries and several non-governmental organizations attended the Conference and drafted the UN Charter.
Five permanent members of the Security Council (France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the UK and the US) and a majority of the other 46 signatories ratified the UN Charter and the United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945.
Founding Members of the United Nations
|Founding Member State||Date of Signing||Deposit of Ratification||Current Name/Successor States|
|Republic of China
(now known as People’s Republic of China)
|26 June 1945||28 September 1945|
|France||26 June 1945||31 August 1945|
|Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
(UN seat succeeded by Russian Federation)
|26 June 1945||24 October 1945|
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||26 June 1945||20 October 1945|
|United States of America||26 June 1945||8 August 1945|
|Argentina||26 June 1945||24 September 1945|
|Brazil||26 June 1945||21 September 1945|
|Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic
(now known as Belarus)
|26 June 1945||24 October 1945|
|Chile||26 June 1945||11 October 1945|
|Cuba||26 June 1945||15 October 1945|
(has divided into Czechia and Slovakia)
|26 June 1945||19 October 1945|
|Denmark||26 June 1945||9 October 1945|
|Dominican Republic||26 June 1945||4 September 1945|
|Egypt||26 June 1945||22 October 1945|
|El Salvador||26 June 1945||26 September 1945|
|Haiti||26 June 1945||27 September 1945|
|Iran||26 June 1945||16 October 1945|
|Lebanon||26 June 1945||15 October 1945|
|Luxembourg||26 June 1945||17 October 1945|
|New Zealand||26 June 1945||19 September 1945|
|Nicaragua||26 June 1945||6 September 1945|
|Paraguay||26 June 1945||12 October 1945|
(now known as Philippines)
|26 June 1945||11 October 1945|
|Poland||15 Oct. 1945||24 October 1945|
|Saudi Arabia||26 June 1945||18 October 1945|
|Syrian Arab Republic||26 June 1945||19 October 1945|
|Turkey||26 June 1945||28 September 1945|
|Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
(now known as Ukraine)
|26 June 1945||24 October 1945|
(has been divided as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia)
|26 June 1945||19 October 1945|
|Australia||26 June 1945||1 November 1945|
|Belgium||26 June 1945||27 December 1945|
|Bolivia||26 June 1945||14 November. 1945|
|Canada||26 June 1945||9 November 1945|
|Colombia||26 June 1945||5 November 1945|
|Costa Rica||26 June 1945||2 November 1945|
|Ecuador||26 June 1945||21 December 1945|
|Ethiopia||26 June 1945||13 November 1945|
|Greece||26 June 1945||25 October 1945|
|Guatemala||26 June 1945||21 November 1945|
|Honduras||26 June 1945||17 November 1945|
|India||26 June 1945||30 October 1945|
|Iraq||26 June 1945||21 December 1945|
|Liberia||26 June 1945||2 November 1945|
|Mexico||26 June 1945||7 November 1945|
|Netherlands||26 June 1945||10 December 1945|
|Norway||26 June 1945||27 November 1945|
|Panama||26 June 1945||13 November 1945|
|Peru||26 June 1945||31 October 1945|
|Union of South Africa
(now known as South Africa)
|26 June 1945||7 November 1945|
|Uruguay||26 June 1945||18 December 1945|
|Venezuela||26 June 1945||15 November 1945|