*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
As the world recovered from World War II, officials from all over the planet convened in Flushing in the New York City borough of Queens on October 23, 1946. The United Nations General Assembly, meeting for the first time in the metropolis that would later house its headquarters, has since become the primary international body for humanitarian aid — though it has fallen short of being the peacemaker many hoped it would be due to Cold War divisions and diverse political interests.
The idea for an organization to help mete out peace first arose during the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, and others hoped an international commission would be able to quell disputes before they erupted into the worldwide catastrophe that became World War I. In founding the League of Nations, the adherents of the Paris Peace Conference believed it was possible for countries to utilize legal proceedings to settle arguments long before weapons could be deployed.
With leadership in many nations reluctant to commit to the enforcement of League decisions, including the United States Congress in Wilson’s own country, the organization quickly fell apart by the middle of the 1930s. Nazi Germany, Japan, Italy and others quickly ceased participating. Without much in the way of force behind its resolutions, the League collapsed and the world sunk into another global conflict.
As battles raged on multiple fronts during World War II, leaders from the United States, Soviet Union and Great Britain began a series of discussions about creating a more secure international organization in 1943 at meetings in Moscow and Tehran. The following year, the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington, DC gave representatives from all sides an opportunity to spend six weeks hammering out details for the what became the United Nations.
The slow process for determining how the group would function, which would later grow to include a wide variety of governments and non-government organizations, came to a head when the United Nations Conference on International Organization met in San Francisco during April 1945 — mere days before the Allies would claim victory in Europe. By the end of June, delegates from 50 nations had signed the official charter. On October 24th, the document was ratified by the necessary number of countries and the UN became more than just an abstract concept on paper.
Almost a year to the day, after the League of Nations had officially moved its operations under the UN umbrella six months before, the General Assembly came together for the first time in its new home city on October 23, 1946 after meetings in London earlier in the year. Thanks to an $8.5 million grant from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the UN received land on the East River in New York City and built its headquarters, opening the sleek modern building early in 1951. With 51 founding members, the organization has grown to include 193 nations today.
Also On This Day:
1295 – The Auld Alliance, pitting Scotland and France against England, is first signed
1917 – Vladimir Lenin calls for the October Revolution in Petrograd, Russia
1973 – United States President Richard Nixon agrees to turn over tapes requested in the investigation of the Watergate scandal
1983 – A US Marines barracks in Beirut is hit by a truck bomb, killing 241 Americans the same morning as a French installation is hit, killing 58
2001 – Steve Jobs announces the iPod at a small event on the Apple campus