Essay: THE UNITED NATIONS (Page 2 of 2)

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The need to keep the world safe and a better place for the continuous existence of humanity cannot be overemphasized. This responsibility is the main focus for the formation and establishment of the UN.


In 1899, an International Peace Conference was held in The Hague to elaborate instruments for settling crises peacefully, preventing wars and codifying rules of warfare. It adopted the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes and established the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which began work in 1902.

The forerunner of the United Nations was the League of Nations, an organization conceived in similar circumstances during the First World War, and established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security.” The International Labour Organization was also created under the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency of the League. The League of Nations ceased its activities after failing to prevent the Second World War.

On the twelfth of that June 1941 the representatives of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa and of the exiled governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia and of General de Gaulle of France, met at the ancient St. James’s Palace and signed a declaration. These sentences from this declaration still serve as the watchwords of peace:

“The only true basis of enduring peace is the willing cooperation of free peoples in a world in which, relieved of the menace of aggression, all may enjoy economic and social security; It is our intention to work together, and with other free peoples, both in war and peace, to this end.”

On New Year’s Day 1942, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, Maxim Litvinov, of the USSR, and T. V. Soong, of China, signed a short document which later came to be known as the United Nations Declaration and the next day the representatives of twenty-two other nations added their signatures. This important document pledged the signatory governments to the maximum war effort and bound them against making a separate peace. The complete alliance thus effected was in the light of the principles of the Atlantic Charter, and the first clause of the United Nations Declaration reads that the signatory nations had:

“. . .subscribed to a common program of purposes and principles embodied in the Joint Declaration of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dated August 14, 1941, known as the Atlantic Charter” .

The name “United Nations” was coined and used by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Declaration by United Nations of 1st January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.

Thus by 1943 all the principal Allied nations were committed to outright victory and, thereafter, to an attempt to create a world in which

“….men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.”

But the basis for a world organization had yet to be defined, and such a definition came at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union in October 1943. On October 30, the Moscow Declaration was signed by Vyaches Molotov, Anthony Eden, Cordell Hull and Foo Ping Shen, the Chinese Ambassador to the Soviet Union. The Declaration pledged further joint action in dealing with the enemies’ surrender .

In December, two months after the four-power Declaration, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, meeting for the first time at Teheran, the capital of Iran, declared that they had worked out concerted plans for final victory. As to peace, the Declaration read:

“We are sure that our concord will win an enduring peace. We recognize fully the supreme responsibility resting upon us and all the United Nations to make a peace which will command the goodwill of the overwhelming mass of the peoples of the world and banish the scourge and terror of war for many generations.”

The principles of the world organization-to-be were thus laid down. But it is a long step from defining the principles and purpose of such a body to setting up the structure. In order to draft a blueprint that will be acceptable by many nations, representatives of China, Great Britain, the USSR and the United States met at Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, D. C. The discussions were completed on October 7, 1944, and a proposal for the structure of the world organization was submitted by the four powers to all the United Nations governments and to the peoples of all countries for their study and discussion .

The Dumbarton Oaks proposals:

Four principal bodies were to constitute the organization to be known as the United Nations.

i. There was to be a General Assembly composed of all the members.

ii. Then a Security Council of eleven members. Five of these were to be permanent and the other six were to be chosen from the remaining members by the General Assembly to hold office for two years.

iii. Establishment of an International Court of Justice.

iv. A Secretariat.

An Economic and Social Council, working under the authority of the General Assembly, was also provided for. The essence of the plan was that responsibility for preventing future war should be conferred upon the Security Council. The General Assembly could study, discuss and make recommendations in order to promote international cooperation and adjust situations likely to impair welfare. It could consider problems of cooperation in maintaining peace and security, and disarmament, in their general principles. But it could not make recommendations on any matter being considered by the Security Council, and all questions on which action was necessary had to be referred to the Security Council.

The actual method of voting in the Security Council was left open at Dumbarton Oaks for future discussion. The issue with regards to the voting procedure in the Security Council was resolved at Yalta in the Crimea where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, together with their foreign ministers and chiefs of staff, met in a conference. Another important feature of the Dumbarton Oaks plan was that member states were to place armed forces at the disposal of the Security Council in its task of preventing war and suppressing acts of aggression. The absence of such force, it was generally agreed, had been a fatal weakness in the older League of Nations machinery for preserving peace. The Dumbarton Oaks proposals were fully discussed throughout the Allied countries.

Three years later, when preparations were being made for the San Francisco Conference, only those states which had, by March 1945, declared war on Germany and Japan and subscribed to the United Nations Declaration, were invited to take part.

The San Francisco Conference:

Forty-six nations, including the four sponsors, were originally invited to the San Francisco Conference: nations which had declared war on Germany and Japan and had subscribed to the United Nations Declaration. The Conference Hall in San Francisco One of these, Poland, did not attend because the composition of her new government was not announced until too late for the conference. Therefore, a space was left for the signature of Poland, one of the original signatories of the United Nations Declaration. At the time of the conference there was no generally recognized Polish Government, but on June 28, such a government was announced and on October 15, 1945 Poland signed the Charter, thus becoming one of the original Members. The conference itself invited four other states — the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, newly-liberated Denmark and Argentina. Thus delegates of fifty nations in all, gathered at the City of the Golden Gate, representatives of over eighty per cent of the world’s population, people of every race, religion and continent; all determined to set up an organization which would preserve peace and help build a better world. They had before them the Dumbarton Oaks proposals as the agenda for the conference and, working on this basis, they had to produce a Charter acceptable to all the countries.

There were many serious clashes of opinion, divergences of outlook and even a crisis or two, during which some observers feared that the conference might adjourn without an agreement. There was the question, for example, of the status of “regional organizations.” Many countries had their own arrangements for regional defence and mutual assistance. There was for example the Inter-American System and the Arab League. The conference decided to give them part in peaceful settlement and also, in certain circumstances, in enforcement measures, provided that the aims and acts of these groups accorded with the aims and purposes of the United Nations .

On the issue of Treaties and Trusteeship the conference agreed that treaties made after the formation of the United Nations should be registered with the Secretariat and published by it.

The conference added a whole new chapter on the subject not covered by the Dumbarton Oaks proposals: proposals creating a system for territories placed under United Nations trusteeship. It was recommended that the promotion of the progressive development of the peoples of trust territories should be directed toward “independence or self-government.”

There was also considerable debate on the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the conference decided that member nations would not be compelled to accept the Court’s jurisdiction but might voluntarily declare their acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction.

The right of each of the “Big Five” to exercise a “veto” on action by the powerful Security Council provoked long and heated debate. There was a genuine but unfounded cause of worry by smaller powers that when one of the “Big Five” menaced the peace, the Security Council would be powerless to act, while in the event of a clash between two powers not permanent members of the Security Council, the “Big Five” could act arbitrarily. They strove therefore to have the power of the “veto” reduced. But the great powers unanimously insisted on this provision as vital, and emphasized that the main responsibility for maintaining world peace would fall most heavily on them. Eventually the smaller powers conceded the point in the interest of setting up the world organization. This and other vital issues were resolved only because every nation was determined to set up, if not the perfect international organization, at least the best that could possibly be made .

United Nations did not come into existence at the signing of the Charter. In many countries the Charter had to be approved by their congresses or parliaments. It was provided that the Charter would come into force when the Governments of China, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States and a majority of the other signatory states had ratified it and deposited notification to this effect with the State Department of the United States. On October 24, 1945, this condition was fulfilled and the United Nations came into existence.


There are basically six organs of the U.N. These are:

i. The General Assembly:

The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the United Nations and includes all its Members. It may discuss any matter arising under the UN Charter and make recommendations to UN Members (except on disputes or situations which are being considered by the Security Council). In the Assembly, each nation, large or small, has one vote and important decisions are taken by a two-thirds majority vote. The Assembly meets every year from September to December. Special sessions may be summoned by the Assembly, at the request of the Security Council, or at the request of a majority of UN Members.

The work of the General Assembly is also carried out by its six main committees, the Human Rights Council, other subsidiary bodies and the UN Secretariat.

ii. The Security Council:

The Security Council has primary responsibility under the Charter for maintaining peace and security. It can be convened at any time, whenever peace is threatened. Member States are obligated to carry out its decisions. When a threat to peace is brought before the Council, it usually first asks the parties to reach agreement by peaceful means. If fighting breaks out, the Council tries to secure a ceasefire. It may then send peacekeeping missions to troubled areas or call for economic sanctions and embargoes to restore peace. The Council has 15 members, including five permanent members: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The other 10 are elected by the General Assembly on the basis of geographical representation for two-year terms. Decisions require nine votes; except on procedural questions, a decision cannot be taken if there is a negative vote by a permanent member (known as the “veto”). The Council also makes recommendations to the General Assembly on the appointment of a new Secretary-General and on the admission of new members to the UN. Over the years and in recent time, there have been clamours by many countries for the expansion of the membership of the Council to include new permanent and non-permanent members.

iii. The Economic and Social Council:

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