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United Nations: Looking back on 75 years

Updated: May 4

Not only our OLMUN conference celebrates an anniversary, but also the United Nations itself. They are looking back on 75 years of work!

The Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26th June 1945 and came into force a couple of months later. Now, most countries have ratified the Charter and are therefore bound to its articles. Even though it’s been 75 years, it is still as relevant as ever, focusing on human rights, freedom and standards of living. Keeping the peace throughout the world, developing friendly relations among countries, helping other nations and other people and being a centre for harmonising the actions of the nations when tackling the aforementioned are the main purposes of the UN.

Needless to say, that - within the period since its foundation - there have been some struggles and obstacles, but also successes and improvements.

In 1945, 50 nations signed the UN Charter, kicking off their work on October 24. One year later, the General Assembly passed their first resolution focused on tackling the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy.

Their work continues, and in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted - staring this the famous Article I:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Following the 1948 war in Israel and the turmoil in Korea, the UN then adopts a convention to protect displaced people and refugees in 1951. Since the causes of such problems also have to be addressed, the UN then creates an disarmament commission. Its impact, however, was limited in the following years and decades. Nevertheless, the UN was successful with negotiating the end of the Korean War, dividing the peninsula as it is known to this day.

In 1959, the UN declares children’s rights to help them develop in a healthy and free manner.

Apart from declaring and adopting, the UN also serves as a mediator, like during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. The Secretary General mediated between the US and the USSR, helping to put an end to the nuclear standoff.

To further establish peace, the General Assembly approves the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1968, which was ratified in 1970 and extended indefinitely in 1995.

Preventing the spread of diseases and promoting health is a main goal of the World Health Organisation. After 13 years of effort, the WHO declared the smallpox as eradicated. What a major achievement!

Even though climate change seems to be a problem that only occurred to the world in the past few years, the UN started their efforts to protect the environment of the planet long before that: in 1987, they signed a treaty to protect the ozone layer.

A dark chapter in the history of the United Nations: the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda fails to prevent the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi, Twa and moderate Hutus. Around 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, about 70% of the country's Tutsi population. Sexual violence was a huge problem, too, with around 250,000 - 500,000 women raped during that period.

A Rwanda tribunal followed in 1998 and for the first time the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was enforced.

A year before that, the Kyoto protocol to reduce the level of harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was agreed. It is linked to another UN convention.

2000: Millennium Development Goals! These are set up to tackle poverty, disease (like HIV), infant and maternal mortality, and many more.

The United Nations also have a fund to aid people in need after a crisis - like the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. $6.25 billion were raised, more than ever before.

The UN continue their effort to combat climate change with an summit in 2009, but sadly, no binding agreement was reached. The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris finally achieved that, with 195 countries agreeing to it, ultimately signing it in 2016.

Ten years ago, UN Women was implemented, the agency for gender equality and the empowerment of women!

After some successful responses to diseases, the WHO was heavily criticised for the slow response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

In 2015, the member states agreed on 17 sustainable development goals that are intended to be achieved by 2030. Let’s take a look at them:

No Poverty. Zero Hunger. Good Health and Well-being. Quality Education. Gender Equality. Clean Water and Sanitation. Affordable and Clean Energy. Decent Work and Economic Growth. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. Reducing Inequality. Sustainable Cities and Communities. Responsible Consumption and Production. Climate Action. Life Below Water. Life On Land. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Partnerships for the Goals

Of course the UN is quite interested in keeping peace all around the world. So the UN started helping in conflict zones to create conditions for sustainable peace with numerous peacekeeping missions.

In this way, many things have been achieved, of course some missions were not as successful as planned, but the United National have nonetheless a great impact on keeping the peace, working together and preserving the nice parts of our world.

Anne zur Horst


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