The United Nations

In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter. The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States (members of the Security Council) and a majority of other signatories, amongst which the Netherlands. United Nations Day is celebrated on 24 October each year.


The Charter is the constituting instrument of the Organization, setting out the rights and obligations of member states, and establishing the United Nations organs and procedures.


The purposes of the United Nations, as set forth in the Charter, are to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples; to cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these ends.


The Charter established six principal organs of the United Nations, are the: General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and Secretariat. The United Nations family, however, is much larger, encompassing 15 agencies and several programmes and bodies.


The budget covers the costs of United Nations programmes in areas such as political affairs, international justice and law, international cooperation for development, public information, human rights and humanitarian affairs. The main source of funds for the budget is the contributions of member states.

The fundamental criterion on which the scale of assessments is based is the capacity of countries to pay. This is determined by considering their relative shares of total gross national product, adjusted to take into account a number of factors, including their per capita incomes. In addition to the regular budget, member states are assessed for the costs of the international tribunals and, in accordance with a modified version of the basic scale, for the costs of peacekeeping operations which .

The United Nations family

The United Nations family of organizations (the “United Nations system”) consists of the United Nations Secretariat, the United Nations funds and programmes (such as UNICEF and UNDP), the specialized agencies (such as UNESCO and WHO) and related organizations. The funds and programmes are subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly. The specialized agencies are linked to the United Nations through special agreements and report to the Economic and Social Council and/or the General Assembly. The related organizations — including IAEA and the World Trade Organization — address specialized areas and have their own legislative bodies and budgets.


The United Nations origins lie in the 1941 Atlantic Charter, signed by US President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who intended it to help ensure peace and security for all peoples. On 1 January 1942, 26 countries including the Netherlands endorsed the principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter in the Declaration by the United Nations.

The United Nations Charter

The United Nations Charter sets out the purposes, principles, activities, and organisational structure of the United Nations. Its purposes are to:

  • maintain international peace and security
  • develop friendly international relations based on respect for equal rights and the self-determination of peoples
  • achieve international cooperation in solving global economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems
  • promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • serve as a centre for harmonising international efforts to achieve these common objectives.

The UN Charter came into force on 24 October 1945. That day of the year has been designated United Nations Day.

Since the Cold War

Since the end of the Cold War, radical changes in the geopolitical landscape have ended the bipolar dominance of the superpowers. The old balance of power among UN members has been consigned to history. The task of maintaining the international legal order now poses new challenges, and the UN has to show more decisiveness and efficiency. In partnership with its fellow member states of the European Union, the Netherlands aims to play an active part in adapting the UN to these new cirsumstances.

In Agenda for Development (1994), UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali stressed the new complexity of development efforts in recent decades. The drive for development has become inseparable from efforts to promote peace and security, human rights, democracy, and the environment. The Agenda for Development built on the findings of a previous report by Boutros-Ghali: the Agenda for Peace, which he published in 1992. The Agenda for Peace set out the UN's immediate post-Cold-War priorities: the preventive deployment of troops in areas threatened by conflict, preventive diplomacy, and closer cooperation with regional organisations. Together, the Agenda for Peace and the Agenda for Development altered the UN's approach to development problems, ushering in a more integrated perspective on the whole range of development problems.

In the run-up to the Millennium Summit (September 2000), UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote a report entitled We the Peoples: the Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century. In it, Annan outlined the UN's role with respect to globalisation, good governance, poverty reduction, peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development. The Millennium Summit produced the Millennium Declaration, in which the UN set out its 21st-century priorities: peace and security, human rights, the environment, reform of its own organisational structure, and - above all - development cooperation. The declaration included the Millennium Development Goals, measurable targets for 2015, such as halving the number of people without access to clean drinking water.

Agenda for Peace (1992)

  • preventive deployment of troops in areas at risk of conflict
  • preventive diplomacy
  • troop readiness for rapid deployment when conflicts break out
  • closer cooperation with regional organisations.

Agenda for Development (1994)

  • promoting economic growth with sound national and global macroeconomic policies
  • promoting peace to allow economic growth
  • protecting natural resources essential for development
  • promoting democracy and good governance
  • investing in job creation, poverty reduction, education, and birth control.

We the Peoples (2000)

  • freedom from want: targets for poverty reduction, access to clean water, education, and HIV/AIDS
  • freedom from fear: fostering peace and security
  • a sustainable future: encouraging sustainable development
  • renewing the United Nations: reforming the UN's institutional structure.

Millennium Development Goals (2001)

  • eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • achieve universal primary education
  • promote gender equality and empower women
  • reduce child mortality
  • improve maternal health
  • combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  • ensure environmental sustainability
  • develop a global partnership for development.