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The History of the UN

A story of countries uniting

By David Watson | May , 2007

united states representative signing un charter
United States representative signing the United Nations Charter in April 1945, San Francisco, CA. (Photo: Bettmann/Corbis)

May 2007 

It took the world a long time and a lot of wars were fought before nations decided to work together for peace. The first effort was made in 1919 after World War I. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proposed the formation of what he called the League of Nations. Even though the League was Wilson’s idea, it was unpopular with Americans and the U.S. never joined. Just 20 years later, World War II began. The League of Nations had failed to keep the world safe.

But the League wasn’t a total failure. The lessons learned from its 20 years of existence were put to use to make a new international organization: the United Nations (UN).

The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II. This time, America and most of the rest of the world said they were ready to make the necessary commitments. Two world wars in 40 years were enough—especially with the introduction of nuclear bombs at the end of the Second World War. Everyone seemed willing to do whatever it took to make sure there wouldn’t be a World War III.

On October 24, 1945 the United Nations Charter was signed by the five permanent Security Council members: The Soviet Union (now Russia), the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China. The Charter outlines the purposes of the UN, gives rules for members, and explains the structure of the organization.

Since 1945 the UN has had an enormous impact on global issues like poverty, hunger, war, and disease. Even though it is often criticized for being weak and ineffective, the UN has already done a much better job than its predecessor, the League of Nations, at keeping the peace and using authority. It may not be perfect, but the UN is working hard to make the world safe and healthy for nations and people.

Today, 192 countries have signed the United Nations Charter. The most recent was Montenegro in Europe. The United Nations headquarters is in New York City. The land and the buildings do not belong to the U.S. but to the world.

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