On Saturday, October 24, the world will once again celebrate United Nations Day. The celebration of United Nations Day 2020 is a special one because it marks the international organization’s 75th anniversary.
According to the UN website, the theme this year is #shaping our future together.
The United Nations was established after the Second World War, after the League of Nations was not able to prevent wars from breaking. The League of Nations, the first intergovernmental organization in the world, was established in 1920 after the Paris Peace Conference, which ended WWI. The league’s primary objectives were to prevent wars by collective disarmament and security and to use negotiation and arbitration to settle international disputes.
The League went through many failures and successes in the 1920s. But in the 1930s, it showed that it did not have the capability to prevent Japan, Italy, and Germany’s aggression, the Axis Powers’ main members. The League failed in its main goal – to prevent another world war when the Second World War broke out in September 1939.
Foundation of the United Nations
In June 1945, before World War II ended in September, 50 government leaders had a conference in San Francisco, drafted and adopted the United Nations Charter. It took effect on October 24, 1945, with the following objectives:
- Maintain international security and peace
- Protect human rights
- Uphold international laws
- Promote sustainable development
- Deliver humanitarian aid
The permanent members of the Security Council – the United States, United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Republic of China, and France, and the signatories of 46 countries ratified the Charter. As of 2019, the United Nations has 193 member states and two non-member states, the State of Palestine and the Holy See, which hold observer status. The latest to join the international organization was South Sudan, which became a member in July 2011.
The funds for the United Nations’ operating and peacekeeping budgets come from voluntary contributions and mandatory payments from its 193 member states.
The United Nations
The UN is the world’s most powerful intergovernmental organization. Moreover, it is the most familiar, largest, and most internationally represented organization worldwide. It has several main offices located in The Hague, Vienna, Nairobi, and Geneva. The main headquarters of the UN is in New York City.
The organization comprises five principal bodies: the UN Secretariat, the International Court of Justice, the Economic and Social Council, the Security Council, and the General Assembly. The current UN Secretary-General is António Guterres, who’s from Lisbon. He speaks Spanish, French, English, and Portuguese fluently. He was appointed by the UN General Assembly on October 13, 2016, and started his term on January 1, 2017. He succeeded Ban Ki-Moon. Mr. Guterres, the ninth secretary-general, will hold office for five years.
Under the principal bodies are various agencies, including:
- International Labor Organization (ILO)
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
- International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- World Bank Group
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
- World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
- International Maritime Organization (IMO)
- United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
- International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- Universal Postal Union (UPU)
Multilingualism in the UN
The UN promotes multilingualism and has six official languages: English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, and Chinese. The organization emphasizes the critical importance of accurate translation and interpretation because global issues that affect the world should be relayed concisely and clearly. Almost all the documents released by the UN are translated into the six official languages.
The official languages have their own timelines. On February 1, 1946, the General Assembly’s resolution established Spanish, Russian, English, French, and Chinese as the organization’s official languages. The working languages were French and English. Through various resolutions of the General Assembly, the other languages were named as working languages.
In 1948, Spanish was added to the working languages, while Russian was added to the working languages list in 1968. Chinese became a working language of the General Assembly in 1973 and Arabic as an official language and a working language.
These official languages were also used as the working languages of the UN Security Council.
Interesting facts about the history and global work of the UN
With 75 years behind it, the United Nations has various facts about its accomplishments and work worldwide.
- The first document that detailed what to do to protect fundamental human rights was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed in 1948 by the UN General Assembly.
- The annual budget of the UN Peacekeeping program is only about 0.5% of military spending worldwide. About 100,000 peacekeepers are helping to maintain peace in four continents, comprising 14 operations.
- About 91 million people in 83 countries receive food assistance from the World Food Program.
- The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) supports safe motherhood, helping more than one million women surmount complications during pregnancy.
- The longest speech delivered during the General Assembly was from V.K. Krishna Menon, a representative from India, who defended his country’s position regarding Kashmir. It occurred in January 1957 and lasted for five hours, and went on for another three hours on the following day.
- The first woman to hold a position of high responsibility in the UN was Louise Frechette, a diplomat from Canada chosen by Kofi Annan in 1999. She held the position of UN Deputy Secretary-General for eight years.
- In 2016, 174 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, making it the document with the most number of signatories in one day.
How do we celebrate United Nations Day?
Several activities are organized at the UN’s main offices, including the flying of the UN flag, issuance of declarations by heads of states, debates on the relevance of the UN’s activities worldwide, and concerts.
Schools organize various activities, such as UN Day parades, multicultural fairs, presentations, food fairs, and drawing contests.
At the UN headquarters in New York, the annual concert will be at the General Assembly Hall on October 22 and streamed live at the UN’s social media pages, webtv.un.org, and its website.
This year’s concert, sponsored by the Mission of Italy, will feature the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala, Roberto Bolle, and other guests.
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