United Nations Overview
The name “United Nations,” coined by United States President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, was first used in the “Declaration by United Nations,”
January 1, 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations
pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis
States first established international organizations to cooperate
on specific matters. The International Telecommunication Union was founded in
1865 as the International Telegraph Union, and the Universal Postal Union was
established in 1874. Both are now the United Nations’ specialized agencies.
In 1899, the International Peace Conference was held in The Hague
to elaborate instruments for settling crises peacefully, preventing wars and
codifying rules of warfare. It adopted the Convention for the Pacific Settlement
of International Disputes and established the Permanent Court of Arbitration,
which began work in 1902.
The forerunner of the United Nations was the League of Nations, an
organization conceived in similar circumstances during the first World War, and
established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles “to promote international
cooperation and to achieve peace and security.” The International Labour
Organization was also created under the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated
agency of the League. The League of Nations ceased its activities after failing
to prevent the Second World War.
In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at
the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the
United Nations Charter. Those delegates deliberated on the basis of proposals
worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom
and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks, United States in August-October 1944.
The representatives of the 50 countries signed the Charter on 26 June 1945.
Poland, which was not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became
one of the original 51 Member States.
The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October
1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the
United Kingdom, the United States and by a majority of other signatories.
United Nations Day is celebrated on 24 October each year.
Extracted from: Basic Facts About the United Nations 2000, Sales
Organization of the United Nations
The primary decision-making organization representing all 189-member nations
is called the General Assembly. The Security Council discusses and votes on
major security issues facing the United Nations. It is charged with keeping
world peace and may vote to take action against a member nation or non-member
nation in order to keep peace and protect lives at risk. One of the most recent
actions sought protection of the Kurdish population in northern Iraq.
There are five permanent members: the United States, Russia, United Kingdom,
France and China. All five permanent members of the Security Council must agree
before any action is approved, such as sending inspections teams into Iraq. The
other members of the Security Council are elected to serve for two years.
There are several main arteries such as the Economic and Social Council which
established regional committees for Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the
Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific and western Asia. There is the Trusteeship
Council, Office of the Secretary General called the Secretariat, and the
International Court of Justice. Permanent commissions and committees, serving to
better the lives of people, work worldwide as international philanthropic
organizations. You may be familiar with UNICEF, the United Nations International
Children’s Emergency Fund, for their fundraising activities on October 31 of
each year. UNICEF helps provide for child development programs, education and
training to youth worldwide.
In addition to UNICEF, some of the most important commissions of the United
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which works to
protect refugees in foreign countries who may have fled their native country
because of drought, famine, ethnic intolerance and war. This commission has
fought the ravages of African famine, sought to bring food and shelter to those
fleeing war and victims of natural disasters.
- Commission on Human Rights wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
to address issues of genocide, ethnic discrimination and intimidation and gender
bias. Successes have been seen recently in Haiti, El Salvador, Syria and
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was
founded in 1947 in the firm belief that through education, development of
peaceful uses of science and technology and cultural cooperation, nations could
There are many more important agencies of the United Nations and through your
study and research you will certainly find that since its founding, the United
Nations has helped foster peace and economic development throughout the