The United Nations at 60

Today marks the 60th United Nations day. In the first of a three-part special feature, looks at its highs and lows. Tomorrow we hear from MPs about what they think the future of the UN is, and on Sunday veteran left winger Tony Benn sketches out a radical vision of what the UN could be.

In 1945 representatives of 50 nations gathered in San Francisco and created the United Nations Charter. The United Nations came into existence officially on October 24 1945 and since 1948 that date is celebrated as United Nations day. Traditionally this date is met around the world with meetings, discussions and exhibits celebrating the accomplishments and goals of the UN and today is the 60th United Nations day.

There are 192 member states represented in the United Nations; nearly every independent state in the world. The UN’s headquarters are in New York and from there with its specialised agencies such the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout the year.

Since its formation the UN has been extensively involved in a number of worldwide operations including peace keeping and security, human rights and humanitarian assistance and social and economic development.

UN lows

Iraq invasion

The UN is bypassed by a US-led “coalition of the willing” in 2003, failing to prevent the invasion of Iraq and a conflict which is still raging. Secretary general Kofi Annan declared the invasion illegal in 2004.

Rwanda 1994

The UN is heavily criticised for its inactions which many blame for the genocide of around 800,000 people in Rwanda.

Somalia 1993

The UN’s UNOSOM II mission fails to create the circumstances needed for a humanitarian mission to the nation.

Oil for food 2003

The Iraqi oil for food programme is abandoned because of accusations of corruption and abuse amid allegations of senior UN officials accepting bribes from the Iraqi regime and Kofi Annan’s son illegally procuring contracts.

Srebrenica massacre 1995

The UN fails to prevent the massacre of around 8,000 Bosnian men and boys by Serbian paramilitaries, the worst mass murder of civilians in Europe since the second world war and an event now branded as genocide.

Darfur conflict

An under-resourced hybrid UN and African Union peacekeeping force deploys to Darfur in earl 2008, five years after conflict broke out in the Sudanese region.

UN highs

El Salvador 1992

The UN successfully negotiates about a ceasefire bringing to an end 12 years of civil war.

Unicef 1953

The United Nations Children’s Fund becomes a permanent part of the United Nations system providing long-term humanitarian and developmental aid and assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

Suez crisis 1957

A successful ceasefire is reached in the conflict over the Suez Canal between the British, French and Israeli forces and the Egyptians. Lester Pearson who negotiated the deal was later awarded the Nobel peace prize.

Cyprus 1974

Since 1974 the UN has successfully overseen an end in armed hostilities between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and the restoration of law and order in the region.

Somalia 2008

The World Health Organisation secures a major victory in the worldwide battle against polio by successfully eradicating the disease in Somalia.

Edward Irby