The United Nations


The United Nations (UN) was created at the end of World War II as an international peacekeeping organization and a forum for resolving conflicts between nations.

It replaced the League of Nations, which had failed to prevent the outbreak of World War II.

The UN was established on October 24, 1945, with headquarters in Manhattan, New York City. It reflected the rise of the United States to global leadership in the postwar period.

Negotiating a postwar world order

In 1944, delegations from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China—four of the main Allied powers in World War II—met to negotiate the shape of the postwar world and to discuss the establishment of an international organization, the United Nations.

The United States played an instrumental role in the founding of the United Nations. The UN Charter, with its emphasis on peace, security, international law, economic development, and human rights, reflected the influence of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who shared a vision for the postwar world.

The structure and function of the United Nations

The United Nations has several main bodies that serve different purposes. The Secretariat is the main administrative organ of the UN.

The General Assembly is the main deliberative body. Every country that is a member of the UN is represented in the General Assembly. The UN General Assembly convenes annually to discuss and vote on important issues affecting world peace and security.

The Security Council is composed of five permanent members—the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China— which were the five main Allied powers in World War II. Ten other seats on the Security Council rotate between different countries every two years. The purpose of the Security Council is to peacefully resolve international conflicts and prevent the outbreak of war. UN Security Council resolutions are binding. They are enforced by UN peacekeepers composed of military forces contributed by UN member-states.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) promotes international economic and social cooperation and development, particularly in the developing world.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the judicial body of the UN. Based in The Hague, Netherlands, the court hears legal disputes between states, and it issues opinions on legal matters submitted by members of the General Assembly or other UN agencies.

Preamble to the UN Charter


  • 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 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,


  • 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,


Source: The United Nations
© 2017 Khan Academy

Back to top