Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of the United Nations
The history of the United Nations as an international organisation 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.
Winston Churchill first suggested using the name "United Nations" to refer to the wartime Allies: he 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. United States president Franklin Delano Roosevelt adopted the name and the first official use of the term occurred on January 1, 1942 with the Declaration by the United Nations.
From August to October 1944, representatives of France, the Republic of China (now on Taiwan), 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 Organizations began in San Francisco. In addition to the Governments, a number of non-government organisations, including 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 had 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 — Republic of China, France, USSR, United Kingdom, and the United States — and by a majority of the other 46 signatories.
Subsequent years, particularly the 1960s, saw dramatic growth in the membership of the United Nations, with accompanying changes of emphasis.
On October 25, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly passed UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, replacing the government of the Republic of China with the government of the People's Republic of China as the only "lawful" and "legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations" and as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Multiple attempts by the Republic of China on Taiwan to re-join the UN have never passed committee. (For more on the issue of Taiwan, see China and the United Nations.)
The United Nations has achieved considerable prominence in the social arena, fostering human rights, economic development, de-colonisation, 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).
In December 1945, the US Senate and the US House of Representatives, by unanimous votes, requested that the UN make its headquarters in the United States. The UN accepted this suggestion and constructed the United Nations headquarters building in New York City in 1949 and 1950 beside the East River on land purchased with an 8.5 million dollar donation from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The UN headquarters officially opened on January 9, 1951.
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.
Structure 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 quangos 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.
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