Background and Structure on the United Nations

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Student Handout Background on the United Nations
Basic Facts of the United Nations The United Nations was founded in 1945 with the mission to maintain world peace, develop good relations between countries, promote cooperation in solving the world’s problems, and encourage a respect for human rights. It provides the nations of the world a forum to balance their national interests with the interests of the global whole. It operates on the voluntary cooperation and participation of its member nations. Nothing can be accomplished without their agreement and participation. Currently, there are 191 member countries with different social, political, and economic systems. These countries agree to peacefully settle disputes, refrain from threatening or using force against each other, and refuse to help other nations that oppose the U.N.’s mission. Headquartered in New York City, the U.N. is a separate and independent entity with its own flag, post office and postage stamps, and its buildings sit on international territory. Six official languages are used at the U.N. – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

Creation of the United Nations The creation of the U.N. resulted from a long history to promote international cooperation. Nineteenth century European philosophers and statesmen like Immanuel Kant had proposed a federation of nations dedicated to protecting the rights of smaller countries caught up in struggles between larger ones. The federation would punish any nation that committed an act of aggression against another. This idea became a reality after World War I with the establishment of the League of Nations. The League was the brain-child of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and some of the victorious European powers. During its operation from 1920 and 1946 it enjoyed a few notable successes but ultimately faltered when it couldn’t prevent World War II. It suffered from two major flaws: 1) several of the world’s most powerful and influential countries were not members, including the Untied States; 2) The League required unanimous agreement to oppose aggression. If any member disagreed, the League was powerless to act. Thus, when Germany, Italy, and Japan took military action against fellow members of the League in the late 1930s, they would not agree to take action against themselves to stop their aggression. In the end, the League failed in is primary mission to prevent another world war. While fighting the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan during World War II, United States President, Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin met several times between 1941 and 1945 to develop an international peacekeeping organization with the goal of preventing future wars on the scale of World War II. In April of 1945, even before the war was officially over, representatives from 50 countries met in San Francisco to create the charter for the United Nations. Similar to the League of Nations, the U.N. was created to promote international peace and prevent another world war. To avoid the structural failures of the League, the U.N. founders gathered the support of the world’s most powerful nations. U.S. participation was secured when the U.N. headquarters were located in New York City. To provide enough power to impose and enforce its will, a security council was developed with authority to take action against aggressor nations. To reassure powerful nations that their sovereignty would not be threatened, the U.N provided veto authority over its actions. The five victors of World War II – the U.S. Britain, France, the Soviet Union (which Russia gained at the break up of the U.S.S.S.) and China – received this veto power. A veto provides any one of the five permanent Security Council members the authority to reject any U.N. resolution.

The Structure and operation of the United Nations

Accomplishments of the United Nations: During its 60-year history, the U.N....
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