The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 191 countries.
When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.
The United Nations has six main organs. Five of them -- the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council and the Secretariat -- are based at UN Headquarters in New York.
The sixth, the International Court of Justice, is located at The Hague in the Netherlands.
Most people, when asked about the UN, would reply in terms of its peacekeeping functions. Indeed, over the years, the UN has played a major role in helping defuse international crises and in resolving protracted conflicts. It has undertaken complex operations involving peacemaking, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. It has worked to prevent conflicts from breaking out. And after a conflict, it has increasingly undertaken action to address the root causes of war and lay the foundation for durable peace.
But the activities of the UN are not limited to this alone. It has many other functions, some of them equally important. One of the UN's central mandates is the promotion of higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development. In the face of disaster, the UN family of...