History of the United Nations

History of the United Nations

The United Nations as an international organization has its origins in World War II. Since then its aims and activities have expanded to make it the archetypal international body in the early 21st century.


US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first suggested using the name United Nations to refer to the wartime Allies. [cite web|url=http://www.wordorigins.org/wordoru.htm#united|title=www.wordorigins.org/wordoru.htm#united ] Roosevelt suggested the term to Winston Churchill who cited Byron's use of the phrase "united nations" in "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage", which referred to the Allies at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Franklin Roosevelt adopted the name and the first official use of the term occurred on January 1, 1942 with the Declaration by the United Nations.

During subsequent phases of World War II the Allies used the term "United Nations" to refer to their alliance.


The idea for the future United Nations as an international organization emerged in declarations signed at the wartime Allied conferences in Moscow and in Tehran in 1943.

From August to October 1944, representatives of France, the Republic of China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the USSR met to elaborate plans at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington, D.C. Those and later talks produced proposals outlining the purposes of the United Nations Organization, its membership and organs, as well as arrangements to maintain international peace and security and international economic and social cooperation. Governments and private citizens worldwide discussed and debated these proposals.


On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organization began in San Francisco. Its first Secretary General was Trygve Lie, however Sir Gladwyn Jebb was the first Acting Secretary General from 1945-1946. In addition to the Governments, a number of non-government organizations, including Rotary International and Lions Clubs International received invitations to assist in the drafting of a charter. The 50 nations represented at the conference signed the Charter of the United Nations two months later on June 26. Poland, which had not representation at the conference, but which had had a reserved place among the original signatories, added its name later, bringing the total of "original" signatories to 51. The UN came into existence on October 24, 1945, after ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council — China, France, USSR, United Kingdom, and the United States — and by a majority of the other 46 signatories.

The League of Nations formally dissolved itself on 18 April 1946 and transferred its mission to the United Nations.


The United Nations has achieved considerable prominence in the social arena, fostering human rights, economic development, decolonization, health and education, for example, and interesting itself in refugees and trade.

The founders of the UN had high hopes that it would act to prevent conflicts between nations and make future wars impossible. Those hopes have obviously not fully come to pass. From about 1947 until 1991 the division of the world into hostile camps during the Cold War made agreement on peacekeeping matters extremely difficult. Following the end of the Cold War, renewed calls arose for the UN to become the agency for achieving world peace and co-operation, as several dozen active military conflicts continued to rage across the globe. The breakup of the Soviet Union has also left the United States in a unique position of global dominance, creating a variety of new problems for the UN (See the United States and the United Nations).



Under special agreement with the United States, the UN enjoys certain diplomatic privileges and immunities, but generally the laws of New York City, New York State, and the United States apply.

While the principal headquarters of the UN remain in New York City, major agencies base themselves in Geneva, The Hague, Vienna, Nairobi and elsewhere.

tructure and Offshoots

The basic constitutional makeup of the United Nations has changed little, though vastly increased membership has altered the functioning of some elements. The UN as a whole has generated a rich assortment of non-governmental organizations and special bodies over the years: some with a regional focus, some specific to the various peacekeeping missions, and others of global scope and importance. Other bodies (such as the International Labour Organization) formed prior to the establishment of the United Nations and only subsequently became associated with it.

ee also

* Growth in United Nations membership
* Elected members of the UN Security Council
* Timeline of UN peacekeeping missions
* List of UN Secretaries-General



External links

* [http://www.un.org/aboutun/unhistory History of the UN (UN Official Site)]
* [http://www.un.org/issues/gallery/history/index.html Pictorial history of UN]
* [http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/paw/274.html Declaration by United Nations, January 1, 1942]
* [http://www.unhistory.org UN Intellectual History Project] - Academic study of UN history

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