Portal:United Nations

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The flag of the United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, and human rights issues. It was founded in 1945 with the signing of the United Nations Charter by 51 countries.

The UN was founded after the end of World War II (October 24,1945) by the victorious Allied Powers in the hope that it would act to intervene in conflicts between nations and thereby avoid war. The organization's structure still reflects in some ways the political power-structure of when it was founded. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, each of which has veto power on any UN resolution, are the main victors of World War II or their successor states: the People's Republic of China (formerly the Republic of China), France, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, and the United States.

There are currently 193 United Nations member states, including the majority of internationally recognized independent state. From its headquarters in New York City, the UN and its specialized agencies decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. The United Nations is divided into five major administrative organs - the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat, the International Court of Justice, and the Economic and Social Council. Additional bodies deal with the governance of all other United Nations system organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The UN's most visible public figure is the Secretary-General, currently Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who attained the post on 1 January 2007. The newest Member State is South Sudan, added on July 2011.

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The United Nations Charter is the treaty that forms and establishes the international organization called the United Nations. While this document is occasionally misconstrued as a constitution it is, in fact, an agreement between states and not a compact among the individual peoples to create a government. It was signed at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, California, United States, in 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries (Poland, the other original member, which was not represented at the conference, signed it later). It entered into force on October 24, 1945, after being ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council—the Republic of China (later replaced by the People's Republic of China), France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (later replaced by the Russian Federation), the United Kingdom, and the United States—and a majority of the other signatories.

Selected biography

Dag Hammarskjöld (29 July 1905 – 18 September 1961) was a Swedish diplomat and the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, serving from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961.

During his time in office, Hammarskjöld tried to smooth relations between Israel and the Arab states, negotiated the release of 15 U.S. pilots who had captured by the Chinese during the Korean War, established the United Nations Emergency Force, and intervened in the Suez Crisis. While overseeing the decolonization of Africa, he was strongly criticized by the Soviet Union for his decision to send a UN emergency force to keep the peace.

Hammarskjöld is still the only UN Secretary-General to die in office, and is the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. U.S. President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century".

Selected image

Warren Austin at the Security Council
At the UN Security Council in September 1951, Warren Austin, the United States delegate, holds a Soviet-made submachine gun captured by American troops in July of the previous year. He charged that the Soviet Union was delivering arms to North Korea, at the time of the Korean War.

Photo credit: United States Information Agency

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U Thant
Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves.
U Thant, Secretary-General from 1961 to 1972

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Flag of the United Nations (1945-1947)

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