UN 75th Anniversary: A Look Back

Author: Dr. Oscar Perez de Tagle

They’ve been keeping the peace and implementing social & economic development programs worldwide since 1945. And yet, what do we really know about the United Nations (UN)?

This October 24th marks the 75th Anniversary of the foundation of the UN (actually, the ratification by 50 countries of the UN Charter, which made them member states of the UN). There are major celebrations planned in many national capitals, including in Canada (Ottawa).

Check them out at: UN day events

Now for a short history lesson: After the devastation of World War II (and the attendant issues of genocide, colonial liberation, rearmament & atomic energy), the 5 victorious Allied countries (joined by other peace-loving nations) convened in San Francisco; and later ratified the UN Charter on October 24, 1945, establishing the UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION (UNO) with a list of mutually-agreed principles on international peace & security, social justice & international standards & cooperation. The UN thus replaced the defunct “League of Nations” which was formed in 1918 at the end of World War I.

The UN is an international organization founded in 1945.  It is currently made up of 193 Member States. The mission and work of the UN are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter. Each of the 193 Member States of the UN is a member of the General Assembly. States are admitted to membership in the UN by a decision of the General Assembly upon ratification of adherence to the UN Charter. The main organs of the UN are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, & the UN Secretariat.  All were established in 1945 when the UN was founded. 

The Security Council, with its 5 permanent members (US, UK, France, Russia & China) plus elected member nations decides on issues of international peace & security. The Economic & Social Council deals with issues of social justice & economic development. The Trusteeship Council no longer exists, but it accomplished its task of moving former colonies into independent countries. The International Court of Justice decides cases referred to it such as genocide & international legal disputes. The UN Secretariat is the executive branch of the UN which manages its operations and is considered the primary practitioner of international diplomacy. In addition to its formal structure, the UN oversees a number of international agencies, funds & programs, some of which you will recognize (and some you won’t): UNICEF (UN International Children’s Emergency Fund) look after children’s welfare especially in poor developing countries; UNESCO deals with international scientific, cultural & educational issues, such as child literacy & designation of Intl. Cultural Sites. The WHO (World Health Organization) plays a major role in international health issues, including as primary source of information & guidance during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The IATA regulates international air traffic & air safety, with a leading role in investigating & determining the cause of recent major air crashes in which hundreds died. The IAEA regulates atomic tests & inspects suspected sites of nuclear weapon development. The UNDP (UN Development Program) implements economic development programs in over 100 developing countries. The UNEP deals with worldwide environmental protection. Plus, there are many other similar agencies/programs dealing with Agriculture & Fisheries, International Trade disputes, Labour Unions, Navigation & Sea Boundaries, International Tourism, etc., etc., etc. (click for list & description of UN Specialized Agencies/funds/programs).

People from all over the world (including many prominent Canadians) work for the UN and its Agencies as diplomats, administrators, expert consultants, staff and (college graduate equivalent) volunteers. In addition, Canada’s Armed Forces has participated in UN Peacekeeping Missions in Cyprus, & more recently in Mali. I myself served as expert consultant in Sri Lanka & Cambodia for a total of 14 years (off & on) in the fields of Economics, Statistics & Human Resource Management. My wife Belle served as a UNESCO Volunteer Project Manager in Cambodia & as ILO Consultant in Dominica. Now, just to show you how vital the UN & its agencies are in so many critical areas of the world, the forthcoming quarterly issues of this UNAC-Victoria Newsletter will feature brief stories about how the UN intervened (and sometimes deployed) in a few “hot spots” in 10 regions/countries in the recent past:

(1) Palestinian-Israeli-Egyptian Conflicts & Observers

(2) The Korean War

(3) Iraq, Iran & North Korea Nuclear Weapon Containment

(4) Worldwide Environmental Threats

(5) Regional Conflicts in former Yugoslavia

(6) Genocide in Cambodia

(7) Genocide in Rwanda

(8) Apartheid in South Africa

(9) Famine in Ethiopia

(10) Greece-Turkey Conflict in Cyprus

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