The United Nations is undoubtedly the world’s only truly global organization. Its influence straddles all the six inhabitable continents and is also very visible. It has its global headquarters in New York City, USA. This organization did not just exist overnight. Indeed it does have a long and complex history which forms the basis of this whole conversation.
As presently constituted the United Nations is a direct successor of the ineffective League of Nations. This was once a global organization, with more or less similar ethos. It operated from 1920 to 1946. Its failure to maintain world peace and stability during the World War II (1939-1945) is what necessitated its dissolution and subsequent formation of the United Nations.
Countdown to the Establishment of the United Nations
The United Nations was formed as a culmination of six world conferences.
The first conference took place on 12 June 1941 in London, United Kingdom. This brought about leaders of allied powers during the ongoing World War II. It culminated in The Declaration of St. James’ Palace. This stipulated the need for cooperation among the free countries of the world as a way of ensuring long lasting peace.
Ending on 14 August 1941, the second conference culminated in the signing of The Atlantic Charter in Newfoundland, Canada. In the charter, the allied leaders, Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt defined the goals for the postwar era.
Also called the Arcadia Conference, the third conference was held from December 22, 1941, to January 14, 1942, in Washington DC. It was attended by 26 governments drawn from all over the world. The Declaration of the United Nations was to mainly focus on the defeat of the Axis powers.
At the fourth conference, which was held in 1943, the allied powers mainly reiterated the need to establish an international organization to replace the League of Nations. The conference was actually two-in-one and was held in Moscow and at the Russian embassy in Tehran.
Just like the fourth conference, the fifth conference was also two-in-one. It was held in Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, and Yalta, USSR. This was between 1944 and 1945. In these conferences, practical steps were taken to implement the resolutions of Moscow Declaration of 1943 (to create a global organization to succeed the League of Nations).
It was at the sixth conference which was held at various times from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, USA that the United Nations as we know it today was formed. It was attended by 50 allied nations. At this conference, the delegates in attendance reviewed and rewrote the agreements of the previous Dumbarton Oaks conference. They subsequently formed the United Nations.
From 1945 to date
For the 73 years that the organization has been operational (1945-2018), it has been actively involved in various activities and missions worldwide. These range from distributing food and supplies to refugees, peacekeeping missions, solving political stalemates, and settling disputes. There are doubts though as to whether it has lived true to its mission of maintaining global peace. This stems from the existence of numerous armed conflicts worldwide.
It is worth noting that the United Nations has a long and complex history that spans well in excess of 70 years. Due to the limited time and space at our disposal, we just could not exhaust it. We, therefore, urge you to carry out further and independent reading. This way, you will familiarize yourself with all the details you possibly ought to know.