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                    The UN‚s 50th Anniversary

The United Nations celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 

Established in San Francisco in the concluding months of World War II, 

the United Nations was created in a spirit of optimism about the 

economic and social progress of all nations, as well as sober concern 

for the prevention of future wars. In 1945, the United States and its 

allies crafted the UN Charter to meet the challenges of the last half of 

the 20th century. In 1995, the United States, as the major contributor 

of resources to the organization, is in the forefront of efforts to 

revitalize and realign key UN functions to make the body viable and 

effective in the 21st century.

Fifty years of experience with the United Nations, together with the 

realities of the post-Cold War world, show that the United States can 

pursue many of its interests more effectively and with less risk through 

the world body than it can by acting alone. The list of key national 

goals that the U.S. simply cannot achieve by acting alone is a long one. 

It includes: containing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, 

enforcing sanctions on pariah states such as Iraq, protecting the 

environment (ozone depletion, acid rain, deforestation), and combating 

international crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism.

U.S. participation in the multilateral system also allows it to promote 

wider adherence to standards and norms that advance U.S. global interest 

in such areas as human rights, aviation safety, maritime law, labor 

standards, and public health practice. In today‚s interdependent world, 

the need also clearly exists for multilateral bodies to set regulatory 

standards and arbitrate differences among countries in other areas. For 

example, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture 

Organization jointly sponsor a trade standardization program called 

"Codex Alimentarius" which sets food product safety and quality 

standards worldwide.

The world‚s growing interdependence and the value of the United Nations 

in such a world are widely understood by the American people, three-

quarters of whom-according to recent polls-support U.S. participation in 

the United Nations.

The UN Today

To many Americans, the United Nations is embodied in the General 

Assembly (where 185 of the world‚s nations are now represented) and the 

Security Council (consisting of five permanent members-the United 

States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia-and 10 rotating 

members). But the United Nations is much more than this. It is also a 

complex system of technical and operational agencies and programs such 

as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, 

the UN Development Program, the World Food Program, and the 

International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as a number of standing 

committees, commissions, and regional organizations.

Some technical agencies such as the Universal Postal Union and the 

International Telecommunications Union predate the United Nations by 

many years. These were established by international agreements to 

deliver services, compile data, or regulate international commerce. So 

too, the UN Children‚s Fund (UNICEF) was established in the closing days 

of World War II to assist the many displaced and needy children in 

Europe and Asia. It now provides services to children and women of 

child-bearing age in more than 100 countries.

Peace and Security

The United States and others have asked much of the United Nations 

during its 50-year history, but nothing has been more demanding and 

complex than fulfilling the responsibilities established by the UN 

Charter for maintaining international peace and security. From its 

inception to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the United Nations 

directed 17 interventions involving peace-keeping forces drawn from a 

number of member nation armies including the United States. One of the 

oldest of these still in operation is the UN Force in Cyprus, 

established by the UN Security Council in 1964 and now consisting of 

about 1,100 troops.

From 1989 to 1994, as the end of the Cold War was accompanied by the 

rise of regional and local security threats, 20 new peace-keeping 

operations were approved. Peace-keeping costs have strained UN finances, 

increasing from about several hundred million dollars a year in the 

1980s to more than $3 billion per year in the 1990s. To reduce this 

strain, the U.S. fully supported new Security Council guidelines in 1994 

that placed more stringent requirements on UN participation in peace-

keeping operations. The number of peace-keeping operations already has 

been reduced from 18 in early 1994 to 16 in February 1995, with the 

conclusion of two more expected by April 1995. 

Into the 2lst Century

The 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, as President 

Clinton stated to last fall‚s General Assembly, offers a golden 

opportunity to reshape the organization to meet the political, economic, 

and security needs of the international community in the next century. 

This will not only involve making sure that UN programs are focused on 

meeting their basic objectives but also upgrading program delivery and 

management systems to meet new challenges.

The United States is in the forefront of numerous initiatives, including 

the establishment last year of an Inspector General function at UN 

Headquarters (the Office of Internal Oversight Services), to improve 

financial and management accountability as well as to assure the cost 

effectiveness or "value for money" of each of the departments, agencies, 

and programs. Other efforts are underway to streamline procurement 

systems and to improve the hiring and evaluation of the 55,000 UN 


Fundamental to this UN reform effort is the development of a clear road 

map for the future. For example, some agencies and programs which once 

concentrated their efforts on sending outside technical experts to the 

developing world now are redundant due to the full-time presence of 

trained specialists in many countries and by the ability to 

instantaneously transfer vast amounts of technical information to almost 

any point on the globe.

Some UN commissions and programs, which have evolved over the past 50 

years, now have overlapping mandates and responsibilities. Therefore, 

the United States, together with other member nations and outside 

scholars, is embarked on a comprehensive review to determine the 

structure of the organization and where program consolidation or 

elimination is possible. Here, much attention is being given to the 

future United Nation‚s role in crisis prevention as well as peace-

keeping and peacemaking.


Born in the aftermath of World War II, the United Nations is even more 

relevant in the post-Cold War era. In fact, if the United Nations did 

not already exist, the world surely would have to invent it. The United 

States, as the world‚s leading political, economic, and military power, 

has an especially strong interest in cooperating with the multilateral 

system. It recognizes the importance of the United Nations in today‚s 

interdependent world and looks forward to cooperating with other nations 

in planning and implementing the UN system for the next 50 years. 

Preamble to Charter Of the United Nations

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 REAFFIRM faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth 

of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women 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 


And for these ends

TO PRACTICE tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good 

neighbors, 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.

"After World War II, the allies learned the lessons of the past.  In the 

face of a new totalitarian threat and the nuclear menace, great nations 

did not walk away from the challenge of the moment.  Instead they chose 

to reach out, to rebuild, and to lead.  They chose to create the United 

Nations, and they left us stronger, safer, and freer ... We must ensure 

that those who fought ... who love freedom, did not labor in vain."

President Clinton

UN General Assembly Address

September 26, 1994
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