United Nations Day

The United Nations is the world’s biggest international organisation. 193 diverse countries, each of whom is concerned with their own interest, come together for one cause. How did it all begin?
Image caption: The United Nations Flag Image source: Palestine Return Centre

Image caption: The United Nations Flag Image source: Palestine Return Centre

Once upon a time, there happened a horrible war. It was a war that had hoped to end all wars. A war that would end the discussion of who was the supreme power of the world. However, World War I didn't bring an end to anything it had promised, just loads and loads of destruction and mental trauma.

After Germany was defeated, the opposite party known as the Allied forces realised how being winners of the first World War didn't feel like a victory, just an empty treasury with exhausted people.

The Allied forces together decided to form an organisation called ‘The League of Nations.’ It was the first international organisation whose aim was to avoid such a war at any cost. It was to open a platform for open and respectful discussion among countries.

League of Nations failed miserably as the Second World War happened before its eyes. Nations like Germany, Italy and Japan dropped out of the organisation to pursue a war to establish themselves as the superpower. So much for world peace!

World War II was the most destructive war of all time, much more than the first. It was also a witness to the two nuclear bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A near about, 70 million people died in this war.

It was obvious, a new pledge and force was required to avoid such a thing from happening again. 26 countries from around the world pledged to sign a declaration called “ The Declaration by United nations”. It said all the 26 countries led by the big four- US, UK, USSR and China would fight together to put an end to Hitler and the Axis power. To them defeating Hitler was important for the protection of human rights. Even, India was part of the 26 countries to sign this declaration, for it was a colony of the British.

By the near end of the war, more and more countries were willing to join the declaration even the ones which were friends of the axis power earlier. Obviously, they weren't allowed to join but this raised the need for an international organisation whose aim was world peace.

The world leaders kept meeting and finally, in April 1945, in San Fransico during the United Nations Conference on International organisation, representatives from more than 50 countries created a United Nations charter that gave birth to the United Nations. India too, was among the first 50 countries to join the UN.

It was created on 26 June 1950 though came into effect on 24th October, which is why 24th October is celebrated as United Nations Day.

The UN has six branches. The General Assembly makes the big decisions and votes on resolutions. The Secretariat sets the agenda and decides what resolutions to be voted upon. The International court of dispute settles legal disputes among countries. The Security Council is responsible for peace-keeping and punishing countries that are acting up. The Economic and Social Council looks into the economic and social issues of the world. The Trusteeship Council has been dead since 1994 as its work was to manage the finances of the colonised nations.

But here is the question how is the UN different from its failed predecessor, the League of Nations?

The League of Nations was dependent on the permanent members that were Britain, France, Italy and Japan rather than having an army of its own. Also, at the end of the organisation, its own permanent members like Italy and Japan withdrew from it. For voting on resolutions, if any of the permanent members did not agree, the resolution was not passed.

In contrast, the UN has an army of its own. They are called peacekeepers. India is one of the largest contributors to the troop of peacekeepers and has to date sent the highest number of troops.

Also, in the UN General Assembly, each country gets one vote. However, in the UN Security Council, there are 5 permanent members- US, UK, China, France and Russia each of whom gets a ‘veto power’. Instead of agreeing to a proposition, it’s based on a system where one has to disagree. Even if one country vetoes the resolution doesn't pass. Critics say this has allowed a lot of war crimes to go on.

India has been seeking a permanent seat in the security council. After all, India has the second largest population, is the world’s largest liberal democracy and is one of the biggest growing economies. All these reasons are enough to justify India’s claim. However, such a change might not be happening soon as made clear by China, a current permanent member who doesn’t agree with this proposition.

There are many cases every year where the UN has failed to keep the peace. The most recent that comes to mind is how it has been unsuccessful in preventing the Taliban from overthrowing the government or Russia from attacking Ukraine. Yet it has prevented World War III which is a win.

Even though it has struggled to maintain world peace on many accounts it still functions with representatives from 193 countries meeting every year to talk on multiple issues. The UN has extended work on many other fronts like helping overcome the pandemic and epidemics, expanding the rights of women, and overcoming poverty across the globe.

As of now, it is the largest international organisation almost encompassing the entire globe. The only countries not part of it are unrecognised or partially recognised countries. It is truly amazing how so many countries with diverse backgrounds come together to work towards the common goal of world peace.


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