United Nations for All
By: John Shepler
What amazing 71 year old has a staff of 52,000, commands troops of a hundred nations, intervenes to make peace when fighting breaks out anywhere in the world, is working to eradicate poverty and disease for a billion people, is largely responsible for keeping mankind from annihilating itself since World War II...and sends children out on Halloween to raise money?
October 24 is the birthday of that amazing 71 year old: The United Nations. It was a necessary child of a world that very nearly did reach the brink of annihilation in World War II. On August 14, 1941, on board the ship HMS Prince of Wales, "somewhere at sea," President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom both realized that even the most powerful nations on earth could no longer feel that their future was secure. The nations of the world needed something larger than themselves. Not a world government, but a council of sovereign nations that would vote to act as one to intervene as needed to keep the peace. President Roosevelt suggested the term "United Nations."
The "Declaration by United Nations" was signed on New Year's Day, 1942. By then the leaders of 24 other nations had joined with Roosevelt and Churchill to pledge their unity in fighting the Axis powers. There were further conferences in Moscow and Tehran in 1943. Finally the pivotal one in Yalta in 1945, where Roosevelt, Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin of the USSR declared their resolve to establish "a general international organization to maintain peace and security."
World War II was nearly over, but the leaders of the Allied nations knew better than to just go back to minding their own affairs. The world had changed and matters of global importance had to be managed by a global organization, with as many countries as possible actively participating. Representatives of 51 countries signed the original Charter of the United Nations on June 26, 1945. The United Nations was officially born on October 24, 1945 after the Charter was ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council and the majority of the other signing nations. That day is celebrated each year as United Nations Day.
Perhaps United Nations Day should be a world holiday. Consider what the United Nations does for us. The most obvious role is that of peacekeeper. Not an evening newscast goes by without some mention of United Nations troops policing a recent war zone or area of conflict. East Timor, Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq are some of the most current examples. There have been 49 peacekeeping operations since 1948, with 118 countries voluntarily providing 750,000 personnel. Some 12,500 military and civilian police are on duty for the UN right now.
What you hear less about and may quickly forget is that the United Nations steps in, sometimes very quietly, to prevent imminent wars and to broker peace settlements in regional conflicts. Over the years, the UN has been credited with negotiating 172 such peaceful settlements. United Nations representatives have provided assistance for holding free elections in over 45 countries.
Even more surprising may be that the primary activity of the United Nations is not policing the world, but improving the standard of life for all peoples. This has included adopting a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, helping to end apartheid in South Africa, reducing child mortality rates in developing countries through sanitation and nutrition, promoting the rights of women, establishing food safety standards, cleaning up pollution, clearing land mines and distributing two million tons of food to needy people each year. The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded five times to the United Nations and its organizations, and an additional six time to individuals associated with the UN.
The General Assembly and Security Council are probably the most recognized organs of the United Nations and the ones we've studied in school. So, too, are the United Nations Headquarters buildings in New York City. The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is part of the United Nations and is located at The Hague, Netherlands. There are UN offices in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi. Leaders of the United Nations have come from around the world. The current Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is from Kumasi, Ghana.
So why does the United Nations have children raising funds on Halloween? The tradition was actually started in Philadelphia in 1950, when a youth group collected $17 in decorated milk cartons for the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, to help other children overseas. The idea caught on, and "Trick or Treat for UNICEF" became a nationwide tradition. In fact, October 31 was declared National UNICEF Day by presidential proclamation in 1967 and has expanded to be a month long fund drive. How much can a bunch of kids going door to door on Halloween with their orange UNICEF boxes possibly collect? Would you believe $100 million since 1950? Truly, everyone can both benefit and participate in our United Nations.
Books of Interest:
The United Nations and Changing World Politics by Thomas George Weiss; David P. Forsythe; Roger A. Coate
Basic Facts about the United Nations by United Nations
The United Nations for Beginners by Ian Williams, Christian Clark (Illustrator). Thoroughly exploring the role of the U.N. in world events and the true dimensions of its power, Williams clearly explains the General Assembly and Security Council and examines the leadership of secretary generals. He discusses the World Bank and UNESCO and traces the U.N.'s mediation attempts in long-standing conflicts such as that between the Arabs and the Israelis. Illustrations.
United Nations; The First Fifty Years by Stanley Meisler. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, Meisler has written a compelling popular history, exploring the U.N.'s culture, its adventures in war, and its evolution into a key international player. From Roosevelt, Stalin, and Truman, who set the stage at the birth of the U.N., to Daniel Moynihan, who walked out of the General Assembly over the Third World's anti-Zion resolution, this is a story filled with action and heartbreak. Photos.
My Wish for Tomorrow: Words and Pictures from Children Around the World In Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations by Jim Henson Publishing (Compiler). With The United Nations, Foreword by Nelson Mandela, Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Introduction). Children from around the world express with words and pictures their wishes to make the world a better place. Published on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations.
Also visit Books-A-Million for an excellent selection of new books, magazines, e-books, audio books and more at low, low prices.
Also visit these related sites:
United Nations - This is the basic site for the United Nations, and a good place to begin.
Volunteer Abroad With Global Volunteers - Make a difference in one, two or three weeks. No special skills are needed. Here's a unique opportunity to combine meaningful service with unmatched cultural learning opportunities.
Doctors Without Borders - This organization delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and to others who lack health care due to social or geographical isolation.
Copyright 1999 - 2017 by John E. Shepler. Contact me at: John (at) JohnShepler.com
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First Published: October 24, 1999 as part of A Positive Light