The Charter of the United Nations (also known as the UN Charter) of 1945 is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, an intergovernmental organization. The UN Charter articulated a commitment to uphold human rights of citizens and outlined a broad set of principles relating to achieving ‘higher standards of living’, addressing ‘economic, social, health, and related problems,’ and ‘universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.’ As a charter, it is a constituent treaty, and all members are bound by its articles. Furthermore, Article 103 of the Charter states that obligations to the United Nations prevail over all other treaty obligations.
The Charter was opened for signature on 26 June 1945 and was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries (Poland, the other original member, which was not represented at the conference, signed it two months later). It entered into force on 24 October 1945, after being ratified by the original five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the Republic of China (after 1949, located in Taiwan and was later replaced by the People's Republic of China), the Provisional Government of the French Republic (later replaced by the Fourth Republic and then the Fifth Republic), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (later replaced by the Russian Federation), the United Kingdom, and the United States—and a majority of the other signatories. In the meantime, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place on 6 and 9 August, respectively; the introduction of this new weapon of warfare completely changed the security environment in which the UN Charter was promulgated. Most countries in the world have now ratified the Charter.
The preamble consists of two principal parts. The first part contains a general call for the maintenance of peace and international security and respect for human rights. The second part of the preamble is a declaration in a contractual style that the governments of the peoples of the United Nations have agreed to the Charter and it is the first international document regarding human rights.
The following chapters deal with the enforcement powers of UN bodies:
- WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
- to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
- AND FOR THESE ENDS
- to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
- to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
- to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
- HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS.
Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.
Although the Preamble is an integral part of the Charter, it does not set out any of the rights or obligations of member states; its purpose is to serve as an interpretative guide for the provisions of the Charter through the highlighting of some of the core motives of the founders of the organization.
The Purposes of the United Nations are
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles:
Chapter II of the United Nations Charter deals with membership of the United Nations organization
1. The Security Council shall consist of fifteen Members of the United Nations. The Republic of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America shall be permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly shall elect ten other Members of the United Nations to be non-permanent members of the Security Council, due regard being specially paid, in the first instance to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization, and also to equitable geographical distribution.
2. The non-permanent members of the Security Council shall be elected for a term of two years. In the first election of the non-permanent members after the increase of the membership of the Security Council from eleven to fifteen, two of the four additional members shall be chosen for a term of one year. A retiring member shall not be eligible for immediate re-election.
3. Each member of the Security Council shall have one representative.
FUNCTIONS and POWERS
1. In order to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations, its Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf.
2. In discharging these duties the Security Council shall act in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations. The specific powers granted to the Security Council for the discharge of these duties are laid down in Chapters VI, VII, VIII, and XII.
3. The Security Council shall submit annual and, when necessary, special reports to the General Assembly for its consideration.
The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter.
In order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources, the Security Council shall be responsible for formulating, with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee referred to in Article 47, plans to be submitted to the Members of the United Nations for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments.
1. Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.
2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.
3. Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members; provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.
1. The Security Council shall be so organized as to be able to function continuously. Each member of the Security Council shall for this purpose be represented at all times at the seat of the Organization.
2. The Security Council shall hold periodic meetings at which each of its members may, if it so desires, be represented by a member of the government or by some other specially designated representative.
3. The Security Council may hold meetings at such places other than the seat of the Organization as in its judgment will best facilitate its work.
The Security Council may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions.
The Security Council shall adopt its own rules of procedure, including the method of selecting its President.
Any Member of the United Nations which is not a member of the Security Council may participate, without vote, in the discussion of any question brought before the Security Council whenever the latter considers that the interests of that Member are specially affected.
Any Member of the United Nations which is not a member of the Security Council or any state which is not a Member of the United Nations, if it is a party to a dispute under consideration by the Security Council, shall be invited to participate, without vote, in the discussion relating to the dispute. The Security Council shall lay down such conditions as it deems just for the participation of a state which is not a Member of the United Nations.
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Chapter XIX of the United Nations Charter deals with ratification and signature of the UN Charter. It provided that the Charter would enter into force once ratified by the Permanent Five members of the United Nations Security Council and a majority of the other signatory states.