On This Day

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United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
President Truman looks on as U.S. delegate Edward R. Stettinius signs the UN Charter at the San Francisco Conference, June 26, 1945.

On This Day: United Nations Charter Ratified

October 24, 2011 02:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Oct. 24, 1945, the United Nations charter took effect after it was ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council and a majority of the other 46 members.

The Creation of the United Nations

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The United Nations was born out of discussions during World War II between Allied leaders who felt that a new international organization would be needed to replace the League of Nations, which had been ineffective in preventing the war. The term United Nations was first used by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 to describe the Allied powers.

Following the Moscow Conference of October 1943, the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and Republic of China released a declaration that included the statement that “they recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, and open to membership by all such states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.”

A year later, the four powers drafted plans for the United Nations in conferences at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. The plans included the formation of a General Assembly containing all members and the Security Council including all four powers. The issue of the Security Council’s voting method and veto power was left unresolved until the February 1945 Yalta Conference featuring President Roosevelt, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

The Dumbarton Oaks agreement included the creation of an army under the control of the Security Council. “The absence of such force, it was generally agreed, had been a fatal weakness in the older League of Nations machinery for preserving peace,” according to the UN Web site. This provision would not be included in the final UN Charter.

Representatives from 50 nations (Poland, one of the 51 founding members, was absent) met in San Francisco in April-June 1945 to revise the Dumbarton Oaks agreement and draft the final UN Charter. The discussions generally went smoothly, though there was continued contention over the Security Council veto power, with the Soviets arguing for the strongest veto power possible. The issue was settled when the U.S. went to Stalin directly rather than negotiating with the Soviet representative. The UN Charter was unanimously approved and signed on June 26, 1945.
The UN Charter expressed the purposes and principles of the organization, mainly to “maintain international peace and security,” “develop friendly relations among nations,” and “achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.” It also stated that membership in the UN was “open to all other peace-loving states.”

Further, it established the organization and procedures of the UN. There would be five permanent members of the Security Council (the four original powers plus France) and 10 rotating members. The General Assembly, which included every UN member, would elect members to the Security Council and other councils, including the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council, dedicated to assisting decolonization in dependent countries.

The Charter was sent to each member country for ratification. The U.S., Congress, which had refused membership in the League of Nations, quickly approved the Charter. The U.S. became the first country to compete the ratification process when Truman signed the Charter on Aug. 8, the same day that the U.S. dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan, effectively ending the war.

The Charter took effect on Oct. 24 when the Soviet Union became the final Security Council member to ratify the charter. Oct. 24 is today celebrated as United Nations Day.

The UN Today

The United Nations includes every internationally recognized country in the world except for the Vatican. Its actions include peacekeeping efforts in hostile areas, fighting disease and hunger through the World Health Organization, furthering economic development through the World Bank and promoting education and cultural development through UNESCO.

Learn more about the United Nations at its Web site.
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