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United Nations (UN)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


The organization which replaced the League of Nations at the end of the Second World War. The structure of the UN was worked out by the Big Four (US, USSR, Britain and China) in 1944 and approved at Yalta (February 1945) after the Russians had inserted a veto for the permanent members of the Security Council. The UN's aim was ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war [and] reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights’. The Charter, however, prohibits intervention ‘in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state’, thus making it impossible to enforce human rights. To safeguard peace the UN can impose economic sanctions or intervene militarily with forces provided by the member states. The Charter was adopted by 51 nations at San Francisco in June 1945: by 1997 there were 185 members. No state has been expelled from or has left the organization. The main bodies in the UN are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat and the International Court of Justice. The General Assembly, which meets for the last quarter of every year, approves the budget, calls international conferences, adopts resolutions and oversees the work of many subsidiary organizations. The Security Council, responsible for maintaining international peace and security, had originally 11 members: five permanent members, who were victors in the war (the US, USSR, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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