June 26, 1945

The ceremonial book the representatives of 50 nations signed on 26th June 1945, signifying their agreement to have a United Nations organization. Photo credit: United Nations Archive.

The UN Charter is Unanimously Adopted and Signed in San Francisco

From the outset, the US delegation had left nothing to chance as to the desired outcome: not a democratic institution but one in which the US would reign supreme, along with its wartime allies, to rule the postwar peace. Notes Phyllis Bennis, during the deliberations “at least 35 counties were closely allied to the US, five were close to the Soviet Union and only 10 non--aligned.”

By bugging  the rooms of delegates, the US , according to historian Stephen Schlesinger, "set the agenda of the UN, to control the debate, to pressure nations to agree to its positions and to write the UN charter mostly according to its own blueprint."

The creation of  Security Council, with its 5 permanent seats for the Allies and each member’s right to the veto, was part of the blueprint. The Security council would control all matters relating to war, peace, and international security. The smaller countries and those still under colonial rule had no say. According to UN historian Innis Claude, the “big 5” (the US, the British, the French, the Soviets and the Chinese) “made it very clear they were going to have a veto or there wouldn’t be an organization.

 On the positive side, the much larger General Assembly was set up on the basis of one country, one vote and gave the UN’s least powerful members a sense of democracy and engagement with the world. With decolonization and the emergence of independent nations over the next decade, the Assembly reflected the different races and ethnicities of the Third World, with new member nations admitted from Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. “The powerful countries, notes Bennis, “didn’t try to stop the process and keep the newly independent nations out of the UN; after all, in most cases occupations had been replaced by less overt but no less complete control, using political and economic rather than military means, by the same countries who now also controlled the Security Council.”

The Charter allowed for the creation of the UN’s constituent institutions, among them the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)  to fight hunger; the World Health Organization (WHO) which saw health as fundamental to peace and security; the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as likewise essential for “the defense of peace”, and  the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission.

Further Reading:

 

Calling the Shots by Phyllis Bennis

 

Challenges to the United Nations by Erskine Chalmers

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