About the UN

Following the end of World War II in 1945, 51 countries—including the United States—came together to form the United Nations, an international organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, promoting social progress, and supporting universal human rights.

The work of the United Nations reaches every corner of the globe. Although best known for its peacekeeping ‘blue helmets’ and humanitarian assistance, there are many other ways the United Nations and its system (specialized agencies, funds and programs) affect our lives and make the world a better place.

The UN works on a broad range of fundamental issues in order to achieve its goals and coordinate efforts for a safer world for this and future generations including:

The UN has evolved over the years to keep pace with a rapidly changing world. But one thing has stayed the same:

It remains the one place on Earth where all the world’s nations can gather together, discuss common problems, and find shared solutions that benefit all of humanity.

The U.S. and the UN

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was instrumental in the creation of the organization and even coined the name “United Nations.” Following his death in April 1945, President Harry Truman signed the charter on June 26, 1945 in San Francisco at the War Memorial Opera House. The charter came into force on October 24, 1945, which is annually celebrated as “UN Day.”

Over the 7 ensuing decades, the UN’s work has directly advanced U.S. values and interests around the world. The U.S. has enjoyed a uniquely prominent status within the UN, serving as a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, host of UN headquarters in New York City, and its largest financial contributor. This has placed the U.S. in a prime position to shape the UN’s agenda to advance its own national security interests, foreign policy objectives, and values.

Below is a look at key moments of the U.S.-UN partnership over the UN’s last seven decades.

1940s: MAINTAIN INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY

1940s: MAINTAIN INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY

The UN deployed its first peacekeeping mission to send military observers to the Middle East to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. With strong U.S. support over the last seven decades, the Council has voted to deploy an additional 70 peacekeeping missions to help stabilize some of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

1950s: PREVENTING NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION

1950s: PREVENTING NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), established in 1957, serves as the world’s nuclear inspector. IAEA experts ensure safeguard agreements are in place, and also contributes to development goals like fighting cancer and preventing ocean acidification. Today, the IAEA is playing a crucial role in U.S.-led efforts to monitor nuclear agreements with Iran.

1960s: HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

1960s: HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed to the General Assembly that “a workable scheme should be devised for providing food aid through the UN system.” In 1961, the Assembly approved the establishment of the World Food Programme.

1970s: PROMOTING WOMEN’S RIGHTS

1970s: PROMOTING WOMEN’S RIGHTS

The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – commonly referred to as an international bill of rights for women – was formally adopted in 1979. Today, the UN’s HeForShe campaign is continuing that work, bringing together men and women across the globe in an international movement for gender equality.

 1980s: GLOBAL HEALTH

1980s: GLOBAL HEALTH

Capping 13 years of work by the World Health Organization (WHO), smallpox was declared officially eradicated from the planet in 1980. Smallpox existed for thousands of years, claiming the lives of 300 million people during the 20th century alone. The eradication has saved an estimated $1 billion a year in vaccination and monitoring — almost three times the cost of eliminating the scourge itself.

1990s: DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE

1990s: DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE

The UN has provided electoral assistance to more than 100 countries, often at decisive moments in their history. In the 1990s, the UN organized or observed landmark elections in Cambodia, El Salvador, South Africa, Mozambique and Timor-Leste.

2000s: COMBATING TERRORISM

2000s: COMBATING TERRORISM

In 2006, member states adopted the first-ever global strategy to counter terrorism. Since then, fourteen global agreements have been negotiated under UN auspices, including treaties against hostage-taking, aircraft hijacking, terrorist bombings, terrorism financing, and nuclear terrorism.

2010s: DEVELOPMENT

2010s: DEVELOPMENT

In September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals to guide the global development agenda through 2030. During negotiations, the U.S. government engaged robustly in member state consultations, and U.S. grassroots and civil society organizations worked to feed their own ideas into the process.