Last updated at 17:07 (UK time) 1 Nov 2012
The United Nations (UN) was established in 1945 following the devastation wrought by the Second World War. The UN officially came into existence on 24 October (now designated the annual UN Day) in 1945, with the ratification by a majority of UN members (including the five permanent Security Council members) of the UN Charter. The intention of the founding members was to establish an organisation in which nation states could contend with the principal threat they faced at that time: war. Over the past 60 years, the role of the UN has evolved against the backdrop of a more complex and larger international arena.
In particular, the UN membership has expanded from 51 original members to 193 current members, most recently with the joining of South Sudan on 14 July 2011. But member states are only one of the many actors that play a part in modern international affairs, which include multinational corporations, supranational organisations and others.
Breadth of activity
The scope of UN has also expanded over its 60 year lifespan. Resolution of conflicts between states only tells part of today's story, with threats increasingly occuring within national boundaries and caused by non-state actors. Barriers have also come down as our global village has grown. People move more widely, trade has expanded, and more information is exchanged, alongside which have been increased potential for the problems caused by drugs, disease and environmental degredation. The UN has become one of the central pillars for addressing these wide-ranging, and often cross-cutting, issues.
The UN comprises six principal organs (the Trusteeship Council, the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat), as well as subsidiary bodies of the Security Council and General Assembly, research and training institutes, Functional and Regional Commissions, and numerous Funds, Programmes and Specialised Agencies. For more information, follow the link to the chart of the UN system. The UN 'system' works together in a complementary manner to address the range of international challenges we all face today.
We hope that this website will provide a wealth of useful information about the United Nations, in particular the role the United Kingdom plays. For further information about all parts of the UN system, please visit the United Nations website, including about its Secretary-General and principal organs. In addition to information about the structures that make up the UN and the UN membership, there are also sources about a range of issues with which the United Nations is engaged, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the situation in Iraq or the Middle East Roadmap. Further information can also be found at the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom.
Visiting the UN
For those wishing to visit the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the UN is located on First Avenue between 42nd Street and 48th Street. Tours of the UN are conducted seven days per week.