October 24, 1945

United Nations General Assembly, First session of the United Nations General Assembly, January 10, 1946, at the Central Hall in London. Marcel Bolomey/United Nations, Photo 24480. britannica.com

United Nations Established

The United Nations officially came into existence on October 24, 1945, after the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, China, and France, as well as a majority of the other signatories, had ratified the United Nations Charter.

The United Nations is the world's premier international organization; it was established at the end of World War II to maintain world peace and friendly relations among nations.

The two separate stories our 1945 timeline has been telling: the founding of the United Nations and the creation and use of the A-bomb, finally join together as we describe what happened in late 1945 and January 1946. We were surprised to discover that the very first resolution passed by the first General Assembly of the United Nations included this statement: “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction”.

The next several paragraphs describe what transpired to produce this strong statement against atomic weapons, but that the will of the 51 countries in the United Nations was not achieved and instead an overly powerful military-industrial complex evolved.

Further down this page the WHAT NOW section contains suggestions on what YOU can do about the scourge of nuclear weapons.

Harry S. Truman, President of the United States; C. R. Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and W. L. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, met in Washington, D.C., in November 1945 "to consider the possibility of international action: (a) To prevent the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes, and (b) to promote the use of recent and future advances in scientific knowledge, particularly in the utilization of atomic energy, for peaceful and humanitarian ends." 

On November 15, 1945, the three heads of Governments issued a declaration which stated, among other things, that "in order to attain the most effective means of entirely eliminating the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes and promoting its widest use for industrial and humanitarian purposes, we are of the opinion that at the earliest practicable date a Commission should be set up under the United Nations Organization to prepare recommendations for submission to the Organization."

So, we observe that the US, the only possessor and user of destructive atomic weapons at that time, was willing to “attain the most effective way of entirely eliminating the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes”  via a special Commission.  Below you can read that indeed such a Commission was set up by the United Nations General Assembly through the very first resolution to come before them.

While awaiting a decision on where the United Nations headquarters should be situated, the General Assembly met in the Westminster Central Hall in London, England. Their first session started on 10th January 1946. Fifty-one countries belonged to the United Nations at the time. Here are the important sections of that very first resolution:

Resolution 1 (I) “Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy”

Resolved by the General Assembly of the United Nations to establish a Commission, with the composition and competence set out hereunder, to deal with the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy and other related matters:

...

5. Terms of Reference of the Commission

The Commission shall proceed with the utmost dispatch and enquire into all phases of the problem, and make recommendations from time to time with respect to them as it finds possible. In particular, the Commission shall make specific proposals:

(a) for extending between all nations for the exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful ends;

(b) for control of atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes:

(c) for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction;

(d) for effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions

This resolution was passed unanimously by all States in the UN on 24th January 1946 and the Atomic Energy Commission was set up. But as we now know, in the intervening 74 years there has been a failure of international action to prevent the further development of (as we now call them) nuclear weapons and 9 countries possess nuclear weapons rather than just one.

By 1945 many American industries had successfully converted to defense production, for example the Manhattan Project was the result of an enormous collaborative effort between the U.S. government and the industrial and scientific sectors. But, unfortunately many companies did not cease their production of military equipment and weapons after WWII finished as governments all over the world kept ordering and buying such equipment. So by 1961 President Dwight Eisenhower (Ike had famously served the nation as military commander of the Allied forces during WWII)  expressed his concerns about the growing influence of what he termed the military-industrial complex and counseled American citizens to be vigilant in monitoring it:  “…The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

WHAT NOW?

As we wrote in our introduction to this timeline, 1945 launched the drive for enhanced militarism to secure future markets for profits, not for peace. Here we are 75 years on and profit –making through the military–industrial complex is still dominating our government policies.

In the summer of 2020 we are experiencing the awful results of an overly-powerful military-industrial complex which sucks up a much-too-large percentage of our government’s budget and leaves not enough for the people’s needs. We have the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the whole world; this infectious disease is revealing the inequalities between people of color and whites which are caused by 400 years of racism in the US, Europe and South America.

We must prevail over the “bomb-makers”, we must join peace-making organizations to help bring about a peaceful and justice-loving world. Believing that women’s meaningful participation is vital to all peace efforts, including measures to stop violence against civilians, WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN WITH THE WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE AND FREEDOM (WILPF) ON OUR QUEST FOR PEACE AND FREEDOM FOR ALL. Visit wilpf.org and @WILPF for news outside the USA, and in the USA visit wilpfus.org and @WILPFUS

http://bit.ly/wilpfus-bantreatypetition - Sign the WILPF US petition to members of the U.S. Senate asking for ratification of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

http://bit.ly/prop1petition  - Sign the WILPF US petition to members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking for ratification of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and transformation of the arms industries from producing weapons to producing carbon-free, nuclear-free energy systems, and for environmental restoration and other human needs.

Further readings:

https://research.un.org/en/docs/ga/quick/regular/1  - Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find the full text of the first ever UN resolution, passed on 24th January 1946

https://un75.online/  - Take this online survey organized by the United Nations to offer YOUR views on what the UN’s global priorities should be over the next 25 years.

https://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/about-us/who-we-are - Reaching Critical Will is the disarmament section of WILPF. Their website is a fountain of useful ideas, analyses, reports and links to online webinars about the feminist approach to peace-making.

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