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UK Mission to the United Nations

New York

London 09:15, 18 Oct 2012
New York 04:15, 18 Oct 2012
Last updated at 19:43 (UK time) 11 Nov 2009

The United Nations Charter

UN Photo/John Isaac

UN Flag

The UN Charter was signed by 50 states at San Francisco on 26 June 1945. It came into force on 24 October 1945 following ratification by a majority of its original signatories, including the UK, China, France, the Soviet Union and the United States. The Charter prepared the way for the establishment of a set of new institutions, including the creation of a number of UN specialised agencies, such as UNESCO and the World Health Organisation. Existing agencies, such as the International Labour Organisation and the Universal Postal Union, were brought under the UN umbrella. Together these institutions make up what we know as the UN system.
The purposes of the United Nations as defined by the Charter are: 
  • To maintain international peace and security through collective measures to prevent or remove threats to the peace, and suppress aggression and other breaches of the peace.
  • Peaceful settlement of international disputes, in conformity with the principles of justice and international law.
  • To develop friendly relations among nations, based upon respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take measures to strengthen universal peace.
  • To achieve international co-operation in solving international economic, social, cultural or humanitarian problems.
  • To promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
Examples of what the United Nations does:
  • Helps prevent or limit armed conflict and rebuilds war-torn States.
  • Feeds the starving by providing emergency relief and monitoring the world food situation.
  • Promotes human rights by setting international standards, assisting countries to reach these standards, and monitoring implementation.
  • Saves lives by providing basic health services, including to those affected by armed conflict.
  • Promotes sustainable development by setting environmental and development targets.
  • Tackles disease through, for example, UNAIDS or the WHO's vaccine initiative.
  • Reduces poverty through development assistance.
  • Looks after refugees by providing protection to those who have fled their country to escape persecution or conflict.
  • Combats the global drugs problem by assisting countries to develop alternatives to crops which can be used for drugs.
  • Settles international disputes through decisions of the International Court of Justice.
  • Helps us predict the weather with the World Meteorological Organisation it assists the rapid exchange of weather information.
  • Keeps us in touch through the work of the International Telecommunications Union and the Universal Postal Union.