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...