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With its headquarters in New York, the United Nations (U.N.) is an international organization made up of 193 member states. The U.N. was formed on October 24, 1945. After World War II, representatives of 50 nations came together to draw up the charter for what was to become the United Nations. This charter outlined the four main purposes of the U.N., which are ensuring peace is maintained throughout the world, fostering friendly relationships between nations, providing for the poor, and acting as a central means by which nations can work to achieve these goals.


The United Nations as we know it today wasn’t the first attempt at such a group. The League of Nations was formed in 1920 following World War I. The United States was not a member, and it proved ineffectual at stopping the aggression of the Axis Powers and the outbreak of World War II. In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill developed a declaration known as the Atlantic Charter, an outline of the goals of the war made by the two nations. This later grew into a pledge of 26 nations fighting the Axis powers, marking the first time the term “United Nations” was used.


Something many people find surprising is the fact that the U.N. doesn’t actually have the power to make laws, as it is not a government in itself. The General Assembly and Security Council are two aspects of this organization that you typically hear about in the news. The General Assembly is the main policymaking organ, providing a forum for discussion of a variety of international issues. Each member nation gets one vote, and any important question needs a two-thirds majority before it can be approved. Several examples of these are the election of members, admitting or expelling new member states, or making recommendations to ensure peace and security.


The United Nations’ goal of maintaining international peace and security is the responsibility of the Security Council. This council is made up of fifteen members. China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the five permanent members, while representatives from ten other countries are selected in two-year terms.


While its original purpose was maintaining international peace and security, there are other ways the United Nations makes a difference all over the globe. One of the most significant efforts is providing humanitarian assistance. This includes disaster relief, addressing food shortages, clearing landmines, as well as promoting democracy, equality, and human rights. The United Nations also tackles environmental issues such as global warming. The U.N. was put in place to make our world healthier and safer as well as peaceful and beautiful.