On June 26, 1945, after months of negotiations in the city of San Francisco, representatives from 50 countries signed the Charter of the United Nations. In October that year, after the requisite number of countries ratified the charter, the United Nations was born.
The UN Charter is the founding treaty of the United Nations. The document itself spells out the rules and procedures of today’s UN. But it stands for much more. The charter brought to life a longstanding idea that collective security and international cooperation can be sought through an international organization that represented all humanity.
To mark the 75th anniversary of the signing of treaty that created the United Nations — UN Charter Day — I am re-leasing a conversation I had with author Stephen Schlesinger who wrote the definitive book about the 1945 San Francisco Conference, Act of Creation.
Stephen Schlesinger and I recorded this conversation exactly five years ago, when the UN turned 70. We discuss the unique history of the UN Charter, some of the key players that drove diplomacy in San Francisco in 1945 and the post-war diplomatic intrigue that lead to its signing.
Here is the preamble to the Charter, which reflects the determination of the international community, in the wake of World War Two, to build a better world and design the future they wanted.
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to regain faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS…to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS…Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.
75 years on, the United Nations is still trying to achieve the ideals reflected in this pre-amble. To that end, the UN has launched a massive survey available in nearly every language, asking “we the peoples” to help determine the future of the UN. You can find that here.