The History Of The United Nations Charter

By | October 22, 2021

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President Truman examining the United Nations Charter on July 12, 1945. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

On October 24, 1945, the United Nations Charter, which was adopted and signed earlier that year, officially came into existence, ready to be enforced. Previously, the League of Nations was established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles as an international peacekeeping organization, which successfully resolved a dispute between Iraq and Turkey in 1926 and another between Colombia and Peru in the 1930s, but many countries refused to join, including the United States, so it failed to prevent the outbreak of World War II. The United Kingdom soon became home to nine separate exiled governments due to the Axis Powers' takeover of Europe.

President Roosevelt's Proposal

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had recognized the weaknesses of the League of Nations but, with another world war in play, observed the need for an international organization to maintain peace. He met with U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill for the first time off the coast of Newfoundland in August 1941 before the United States had entered the war, and despite being neutral at the time, the U.S. joined Britain in declaring the Atlantic Charter to replace the struggling League of Nations. It was during this secret meeting that Roosevelt suggested to Churchill the name "United Nations."

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World War II poster from the United States on the United Nations. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons)

The Allied vs. Axis Powers

Due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States joined World War II as part of the Allied Powers, and the Atlantic Charter was formalized between the U.S., the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and China in January 1942. Along with 22 other nations, they agreed to work together against the Axis Powers of Italy, Germany, and Japan with the eventual goal of a permanent system of general security for the whole world. This was a giant leap toward defeating oppression across the globe.

The next and final step would not happen for another three years. The sudden death of President Roosevelt on April 12, 1945 meant he never saw his plans reach fruition, but President Truman moved forward with the arrangements, and the United Nations Conference on International Organization commenced in San Francisco as scheduled on April 25. After working for two months, the 50 nations represented at the conference signed the Charter of the United Nations, though many of them needed approval from their congresses or parliaments before the United Nations could be formally established.