Today is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. We must emphasise the existence of this supranational body, which seems to have always accompanied the world in its desire to seek peace and harmony among the various nations. However, this has not always been the case; in order to understand the present, we need to be familiar with the past. Below, we shall put together the story of the background and the first steps of the United Nations.
The starting points of this macro-project were the international conferences of the International Red Cross and The Hague in the early years of the twentieth century. The goal was clear: try to prevent wars between the various nations of the world.
Their failure became evident with the outbreak of ‘The Great War’ as they were unable to prevent the construction of a system of alliances that eventually involved all the stronger nations of the time in the war. Therefore, after signing the Peace Treaty in Paris – which put an end to the First World War – one of the priorities was to promote harmony among nations by creating an institution where all countries could settle their differences. At this point, the League of Nations was created in 1919; however it is surprising that more than half of the world population was not represented. The entire population of the colonies continued in ostracism.
The League of Nations was another blot on the record of world nations in their attempt to create a world of harmony and cooperation. When the Second World War broke out, while the hostilities were still on-going, the United States decided to arrange a final draft that guaranteed the representation of all countries, an umbrella that would cover the entire world. The Atlantic Charter was signed in 1941 and the Declaration of the United Nations in 1942; both are the real embryos of the institution that was finally set up at the San Francisco Conference in 1945.
With this background, it began to operate on 24 October and, as you will see in subsequent articles, its history has been fraught with ups and downs as Secretary-General U. Thant acknowledged.
Before proceeding to the story of the first few years, I would like to stress the fact that the mere creation and maintenance of a supranational structure is a triumph in itself. The first General Assembly took place in London on 10 January 1946, where its main mandate became clear: keep the peace. This contrasted with the scenario of military blocks that arose with the beginning of the Cold War. This conflict would determine the institution’s roadmap in the following years. In fact, from the moment it was created, there was a surge in violence with the fighting in Korea. Later, in 1947, the partition of Palestine was approved together with the creation of the state of Israel. A conflict that is still on-going and that remains well entrenched and difficult to solve. Furthermore, a UN milestone was set in 1956 when the first peace-keeping force was sent to deal with the Suez Canal crisis. The main purpose of these forces is to keep the peace by lowering the tension in the various regions of the world. The following years saw a slow and sometimes violent and tortuous period of decolonization that the UN had to deal with.