World War II (page 88) destroyed the lives of millions of people. The leaders of the “Big Four” countries (the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and China) knew they had to find a way to prevent another world war and reduce world conflicts.
In 1944, delegations from the Big Four met at a mansion called Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., to discuss the establishment of an international organization. Its aim would be to foster world peace, justice, human dignity and fairness. It would be called the United Nations (UN).
The League of Nations, established after World War I, had had similar goals, but it failed to keep the peace. Perhaps that was because not all of the major powers supported the League, and some, such as the United States, never joined. Other countries, including Japan and the Soviet Union, were no longer members by the 1930s. But now, at the end of this second terrible world war, it was clear that the world needed to work toward peace again.
On October 24, 1945, the UN Charter was ratified. The UN was officially born.
Since 1949, the UN has been headquartered in New York City, but its land and buildings are considered international territory.
All of its members have one vote in the General Assembly. The Assembly’s main role is to discuss issues, set standards and help establish international law. The UN’s 15-member Security Council is responsible for international peace and security.
Today, the UN has more than 190 member countries. Over the years, the UN’s work has branched out into human rights, emergency aid, economic development and international law, but its primary focus remains world peace.