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Saturday, September 29, 2012

The formation of the United Nations.

The United Nations began with the London Declaration of June 12, 1941, when various nationalities had a sense of purpose struggling against a common enemy: Hitler's Germany. They declared that "the only true basis of enduring peace is the willing cooperation of free peoples in a world in which, relieved of the menace of aggression, all may enjoy economic and social security." Signing the London Declaration on June 12, 1941 were Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa and the exiled governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Yugoslavia. Charles deGaulle, in exile from France, also signed.
The United States was not yet in the war. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union and after the U.S. entered World War II, the above powers were joined by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in what was called the "Declaration by United Nations," signed in Washington on January 1, 1942. Each government pledged "to employ its full resources, military or economic" to defeat Germany, Japan and Italy. They agreed not to make a separate peace with the enemy. A number of Latin American nations joined the group, as did Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and some smaller African states.
At their Teheran conference in late 1943, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt discussed the possibility of a United Nations trusteeship for France's colony of Indochina (including Vietnam).  The Indochinese were to be included among the "free peoples" spoken of in the London declaration but after a wait of twenty or thirty years. In deference to Churchill a UN trusteeship for India was not discussed.  
In his campaign for re-election in 1944, Roosevelt argued that the United Nations had to be able to commit people to military action, "to keep the peace by force, if necessary" rather than wait for consultations, discussions and debates. He likened the latter to a local police force calling a town meeting before stopping a burglary. "It is clear," he said, "that if the world organization is to have any reality at all, our American representative must be endowed in advance by the people themselves, by constitutional means through their representatives in the Congress, with authority to act."
Beginning in September 1944, at the Dumbarton Oaks mansion in Washington D.C., representatives of the Soviet Union, Britain, the U.S. and China agreed on the structure of the UN. The purpose of the United Nations, it was declared, would be:
1. To maintain international peace and security; and to that end to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means adjustment or settlement of international disputes which may lead to a breach of the peace;
2. To develop friendly relations among nations and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
3. To achieve international cooperation in the solution of international economic, social and other humanitarian problems; and
4. To afford a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the achievement of these common ends.
The principles by which this was to be realized were:
1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states.
2. All members of the Organization undertake, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership in the Organization, to fulfill the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the Charter.
3. All members of the Organization shall settle their disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security are not endangered.
At the Yalta conference in February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin -- the Big Three -- declared their resolve to establish the UN, with Roosevelt and Churchill both agreeing that the Ukraine and Byelorussia (republics within the Soviet Union) would be separate member states with their own vote. The Big Three agreed to the time and place of a founding meeting of the United Nations and that the UN would be led or dominated by the five major allied powers as permanent members of a Security Council -- the U.S., Soviet Union, Britain, China, and France. The question arose about some Latin American nations joining. Stalin asked how the Soviet Union could build world security with nations that had been hostile to the Soviet Union. Churchill commented about nations that had been waiting "to see who would win," and Roosevelt apologized to Stalin for having prematurely promised these nations UN membership. He added that he was doing what he could to encourage them to declare war on Germany and that they could help write the UN Charter and become initial members when they signed the UN declaration. Stalin agreed. The question arose of a conference to discuss "territorial trusteeship and dependent areas" -- in other words colonialism. Churchill became enraged, stating that as long as he was Prime Minister he would "not yield one scrap" of Britain's heritage. He was placated when the U.S. Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius, showed him a report stating that the United States opposed putting any colony into an arrangement without the consent of the colonial power involved.

The conference for founding the U.N. began in April, 1945, at San Francisco. President Roosevelt died in April, and in May tensions arose between the Soviet Union and Roosevelt's successor, Harry Truman. Truman had lived through some failed idealisms and had his doubts about the United Nations, but he wanted to adhere to Roosevelt's legacy. He did not want a return to the isolationism that had followed World War I, and he was committed to maintaining the U.S. as a player in the new internationalism. Another founding conference for the United Nations was scheduled to meet in San Francisco, and Truman said the U.S. would proceed with that conference and that if his criticism of the Soviet Union regarding Poland upset the Russians then they "could go to hell." On May 12, 1945, Truman stopped the aid called Lend Lease to the Soviet Union, but he wanted to continue working with the Soviet Union within the United Nations for the sake of peace and order.
A survey in May indicated that 40 percent of the American people doubted the conference in San Francisco would succeed. Those believing that the UN could prevent war within the coming fifty years had dropped from 49 to 32 percent. And those who believed the U.S. should join the UN was at 85 percent.
At San Francisco, delegates from fifty nations hammered out an agreement, creating the UN Charter. The Charter declared against wars of aggression and against wars that violated international agreements. The Charter declared against war crimes and crimes against humanity: genocide, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts. Articles 42 and 43 authorized the use of armed force to maintain international peace and security. Article 51 acknowledged the right of members to join together for self-defense -- an issue in support of regionalism that had been advocated by Latin American countries that feared the spread of communism. Articles 55 and 56 required that "all members pledge themselves to take joint and separate action" to promote "universal respect for, and observance and protection of, all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all."
The charter envisaged the regular military force available to the Security Council that had been advocated by Roosevelt. The Charter could be amended by a two-thirds majority vote in the UN's General Assembly. The General Assembly was to be a place for discussion and the making of "recommendations"  regarding the maintenance of international peace and security. Responsibility to implementation was to be with the Security Council. And members of the United Nations were required to pay dues.
The United Nations sought collective agreement, but on the Security Council national sovereignty was reinforced by a requirement of unanimity -- first agreed to at the Yalta Conference. Any one Security Council member could veto a decision made by other members of council. This was a provision insisted upon by the Soviet Union, which wanted protection from the capitalist powers ganging up against it. The other Security Council members were concerned about their own sovereignty and accepted it as a worthy idea. That it weakened United Nations was also accepted. Sovereignty was most important to them.
The UN was to be administered by a Secretary General, appointed by the General Assembly on recommendation of the Security Council, for a term of five years. He was to sit in on sessions of the General Assembly and to be able to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion threatened international peace and security.
Ceremonies for the signing of the UN Charter took place at San Francisco on June 26. President Truman flew in and spoke to the gathering, saying that he would use the United Nations as a central instrument in foreign policy. He renounced great-power dominations. Strong nations, he said, should lead the way to international justice "by their own example." Let us not fail to grasp "this supreme chance," he said, "to establish a worldwide rule of reason." Ratification of the Charter by member nations was completed on October 24, 1945, and October 24 was designated as United Nations Day.
In November, a UN General Conference in London created the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Its constitution claimed that "...since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." It described World War II as having been "made possible by the denial of the democratic principles of the dignity, equality and mutual respect of men, and by the propagation, in their place, through ignorance and prejudice, of the doctrine of the inequality of men and races." The solution, according to the document was education.
Members of the Security Council failed to agree concerning the creation of a regular armed force for the UN, and no such force was created. The sense of urgency and common purpose that had existed in 1941 in Europe had slackened during the peace that followed the war in Europe.


  1. Now that all his friends have their foot in the door, the UN is just another political stage for Obama:

    1. There is a place in the world for the UN. And I prefer it with the USA having a permanent position on the security council than without it.