Celebrate the United Nations
Sixty-Four Years of Success
October 23, 2009
Tomorrow is United Nations Day, the 64th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. In June 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco to create an organization to support international communications, address common problems, and promote world peace. The United Nations was officially launched on October 24, 1945. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering that the world was mired in the aftermath of World War II and faced incredible disruption and destruction.
Today, the UN headquarters in New York City is home to its 192 member nations. Ban Ki-moon, of the Republic of (South) Korea, is the eighth Secretary-General. Only three countries in the world are not represented: Vatican City, Taiwan, and Kosovo. All business is conducted in six languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
The six divisions are the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, www.un.org/ecosoc/ Trusteeship Council, Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. All members belong to the General Assembly, in which each nation has one vote. The Security Council is composed of fifteen members. China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States are permanent members. The remaining ten seats rotate two-year terms among the other nations. Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libyan Arab Jahahiriya, and Vietnam will be replaced On January 1, 2010 by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria. Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, and Uganda will serve until the end of 2010.
Successful UN Programs
There have always been disputes about the UN’s value and effectiveness. Some consider it a failure because the world still endures war, terrorism, poverty, and other evils. Actually, there are so many UN success stories that I can’t list them all here.
In 1967, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global effort to eradicate smallpox, a horrible disease that killed one-fourth of its victims and scarred and blinded most survivors. Smallpox threatened sixty percent of the world’s population. Due to the UN’s education and immunization program, there has not been a documented case of smallpox anywhere in the world since 1977. Most of you remember receiving your smallpox vaccine, and still have the scar on your arm. Because of the immunization success, your children or grandchildren probably never needed the vaccine. That’s what the UN did for you. WHO is now working to eliminate polio and AIDS/HIV.
Whether from wars, oppression, or natural disasters, the UN has always faced the problem of refugees. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, established in 1950, coordinates international action for the worldwide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. Its staff of more than 6,000 people helps 32.9 million refugees in more than 110 countries.
The UN is well known for its humanitarian efforts which address hunger, poverty, health, education, and other issues. While those problems remain, UN programs have helped tens of millions of people through their agencies such as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the Human Settlements Program and the Population Fund.
Peacekeeping is a major focus of UN activities. Yes, there is still war. It’s impossible to eliminate all human conflict, and that conflict often results in violence. However, UN peacekeepers have responded to 63 conflicts in its history and is currently involved in 15 peacekeeping operations throughout the world. While it’s difficult to measure “success” in this area, several international studies have documented the end of or decrease in armed conflicts due to UN peacekeeping efforts. We can’t know how many other conflicts were avoided. The UN, its agencies, and its staff have won the Nobel Peace Prize ten times.
At its opening sessions in September, the General Assembly placed 168 topics on its agenda for the coming year. In addition to those mentioned above, UN programs address terrorism, human rights, climate change, education, and other issues.
The United Nations was not designed to solve all of the world’s problems. Its founders envisioned a platform for discussion and debate, a place to share information and ideas, and a fellowship of world citizens with common goals. In that, it has succeeded.
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