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United Nations

Definition and Purpose

Imagine how the world might look if no opportunities were available for countries to discuss
international matters. Would there be cooperation among countries? Would there be consensus
on international matters? Would any international problems be resolved?

Countries generally enter into treaties in order to resolve matters between each other. However,
on more complex worldwide matters, such as world peace and promoting social justice for
humanity, a forum is needed to foster discussion and decision. The United Nations is one such

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization created in 1945, shortly after the end
of WWII. The UN was formed by 51 countries in order to encourage resolution of international
conflicts without war and to form policies on international issues. Like most organizations, the
UN was formed in order to meet certain goals and purposes. Article I of the Charter of United
Nations specifies the purposes of the UN. The Charter of United Nations (UN Charter) is the
UN's governing document, much like the Constitution of the United States of America.

The UN Charter sets out four main purposes:

1. Maintaining worldwide peace and security

2. Developing relations among nations
3. Fostering cooperation between nations in order to solve economic, social, cultural, or
humanitarian international problems
4. Providing a forum for bringing countries together to meet the UN's purposes and goals

History of the United Nations

The predecessor entity to the UN was the League of Nations. The League of Nations was
established during WWI in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles (one of the peace treaties adopted at
the end of WWI). The League of Nations' goal was to encourage cooperation between countries
and keep international peace and security. Unfortunately, the League of Nations failed to prevent
WWII and, therefore, was seen as a failure.

The phrase 'United Nations' was first used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1942
Declaration by United Nations to describe the group of countries signing such declaration.
The Declaration by United Nations was a pledge by twenty-six nations to fight together as the
Allied Powers against the Axis Powers during WWII. The Axis Powers was a coalition of
countries in WWII headed by Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Two months after WWII ended, the representatives of the Allied Powers and twenty-four other
countries met in San Francisco for the United Nations Conference on International Organization.
The conference's sole purpose was to draft the UN Charter. On June 26, 1945, the United
Nations Charter was signed by 51 countries, including Poland, which did not attend the
conference but signed later. Shortly after the UN formation, other countries began joining. After
the ratification of the UN Charter, the remaining members of the League of Nations met and
unanimously voted to transfer all of its assets to the United Nations and formally dissolve the
League of Nations.

Functions and Powers

Under the United Nations Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:

 to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes
of the United Nations;

 to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;

 to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;

 to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;

 to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend
what action should be taken;

 to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use
of force to prevent or stop aggression;

 to take military action against an aggressor;

 to recommend the admission of new Members;

 to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in "strategic areas";

 to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and,

together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.


The United Nations came into being in 1945, following the devastation of the Second World
War, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN does
this by working to prevent conflict; helping parties in conflict make peace; peacekeeping; and
creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. These activities often overlap and
should reinforce one another, to be effective. The UN Security Council has the primary
responsibility for international peace and security. The General Assembly and the Secretary-
General play major, important, and complementary roles, along with other UN offices and


The term “human rights” was mentioned seven times in the UN's founding Charter, making the
promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the
Organization. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights brought human rights into
the realm of international law. Since then, the Organization has diligently protected human
rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities.


One of the purposes of the United Nations, as stated in its Charter, is "to achieve international
co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian
character." The UN first did this in the aftermath of the Second World War on the devastated
continent of Europe, which it helped to rebuild. The Organization is now relied upon by the
international community to coordinate humanitarian relief operations due to natural and man-
made disasters in areas beyond the relief capacity of national authorities alone.

From the start in 1945, one of the main priorities of the United Nations was to “achieve
international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or
humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for
fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”
Improving people’s well-being continues to be one of the main focuses of the UN. The global
understanding of development has changed over the years, and countries now have agreed that
sustainable development – development that promotes prosperity and economic opportunity,
greater social well-being, and protection of the environment – offers the best path forward for
improving the lives of people everywhere.


The UN Charter, in its Preamble, set an objective: "to establish conditions under which justice
and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be
maintained". Ever since, the development of, and respect for international law has been a key
part of the work of the Organization. This work is carried out in many ways - by courts,
tribunals, multilateral treaties - and by the Security Council, which can approve peacekeeping
missions, impose sanctions, or authorize the use of force when there is a threat to international
peace and security, if it deems this necessary. These powers are given to it by the UN Charter,
which is considered an international treaty. As such, it is an instrument of international law, and
UN Member States are bound by it. The UN Charter codifies the major principles of
international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in
international relations.
European Union - EU

What is the 'European Union - EU'?

The European Union is a group of 28 countries that operates as a cohesive economic and
political block. Nineteen of the countries use the euro as their official currency. The EU grew out
of a desire to form a single European political entity to end the centuries of warfare among
European countries that culminated with World War II and decimated much of the continent.
The European Single Market was established by 12 countries in 1993 to ensure the so-called four
freedoms: the movement of goods, services, people and money.

BREAKING DOWN 'European Union - EU'

The EU began as the European Coal and Steel Community, which was founded in 1950 and had
just six members: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It became
the European Economic Community in 1957 under the Treaty of Rome and, subsequently,
became the European Community.The early focus of the EC was a common agricultural policy
as well as the elimination of customs barriers. The EC initially expanded in 1973 when
Denmark, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Greece and Spain became members. A directly elected
European Parliament took office in 1979.

In 1986, the Single European Act solidified the principles of foreign policy cooperation and
extended the powers of the community over the members. The act also formalized the idea of a
single European market. The Maastricht Treaty took effect on Nov. 1, 1993, and the European
Union replaced the EC. The Treaty created the euro, which is intended to be the single currency
for the EU. The euro debuted on Jan. 1, 1999. Denmark and the United Kingdom negotiated "opt
out" provisions that permitted them to retain their own currencies. Several newer members of the
EU have not yet met the criteria for adopting the euro. In 2017, the EU's gross domestic
product totaled $17.1 trillion (nominal), which was $2.9 trillion less than the United States' $20
trillion GDP.

Euro Crisis
The EU and the European Central Bank (ECB) have struggled with high sovereign debt and
collapsing growth in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain since the global financial
market collapse of 2008. Greece and Ireland received financial bailouts from the community in
2009, which were accompanied by fiscal austerity. Portugal followed in 2011, along with a
second Greek bailout.

Multiple rounds of interest rate cuts and economic stimulus failed to resolve the problem.
Northern countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands increasingly
resent the financial drain from the south. Repeated rumors that Greece would be forced to
withdraw from the euro failed to materialize amid disagreement as to whether the move was
legally possible as it was not covered in the Maastricht Treaty.

UK Referendum
As the situation moved from crisis to stagnation, the U.K. government announced it would hold a
referendum to determine whether it would remain a part of the EU on June 23, 2016. The nation
voted to leave the EU under what's now called Brexit.