THE United Nations is 60 today. Please don't feel badly that you forgot to send a card to Kofi Annan. Yesterday's London newspapers did not carry a word, either positive or negative, about the anniversary and I doubt that any of today's will either. Yet it's not an anniversary to be ignored, especially at a time that the United Nations is under attack from many quarters. In San Francisco on June 26, 1945, the Charter of the United Nations was signed by its fifty founding members. The idea of such an organisation had first come into being in January 1942 when the 26 states allied in opposition to the so-called Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, signed the Declaration of the United Nations which set out their war aims. As victory over the Axis powers became certain, the Big Four (US, UK, USSR and China) held meetings in 1944 to make plans for a permanent organisation that would replace the discredited pre-war League of Nations. Despite many difficulties, especially over the voting system in the Security Council, broad agreement was reached at the Yalta Conference between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in February 1945. The Charter of the United Nations organisation was drafted in San Franciso in April and May 1945 and signed there, as already noted, on June 26 of that year. It came into force on October 24, 1945, and the first meeting of the General Assembly of the UN took place soon thereafter at Church House, Westminster. The United Nations has had its successes and its failures. While the latter make the headlines the former are less heard about although they are by far the more numerous. The UN is a forum in which the problems of the world can be discussed in an atmosphere of civility and solutions sought. It is far from perfect but on this anniversary it is reasonable to ask: if the UN did not exist would it be necessary to invent it? I have absolutely no doubt that the answer is Yes.
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