Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

First Meeting of the UN General Assembly: January 10, 1946

“The whole basis of the United Nations is the right of all nations–
great or small–to have weight, to have a vote, to be attended to…”

–US Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)

Representatives of 26 Allied nations fighting against the Axis Powers meet
in Washington, D.C. to sign the Declaration by United Nations, January 1, 1942.
via Library of Congress [public domain]


On this date in 1946, the first General Assembly of the United Nations met at Central Hall Westminster in London. Delegations from 51 nations were present. The General Assembly adopted its first resolution on January 24 of that year, which called for the “control of atomic energy to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes” and “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. ” It is interesting that many of the issues considered in the first meeting are still relevant today. Among them were food security, refugees, peacekeeping and nuclear weapons. View a collection of photos from the first meeting of the UN General Assembly here.

The Charter of the United Nations outlines the functions of the General Assembly, which are to discuss, debate, and make recommendations on subjects pertaining to international peace and security, including development, disarmament, human rights, international law, and the peaceful arbitration of disputes between nations.

The General Assembly is the main decision-making and representative assembly in the UN and is responsible for upholding the principles of the UN through its policies and recommendations. It is the only one of the six bodies in the UN where all member states have equal representation: one nation, one vote. Led by a president elected from the member states, it meets from September to December each year, and in special sessions as needed. From its 51 original members, the UN has grown to include 193 member states in 2018, each with a vote in the General Assembly. Today’s United Nations is actively involved in a wide range of areas, which include peacekeeping, peacebuilding, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.

Flags at United Nations by Naoki Nakashima from New York, USA
via Wikipedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Notable Actions

Three of the General Assembly’s most notable actions are listed below:

1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document contains thirty articles that outline the global standards for human rights, and includes the basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled.

1950: ‘Uniting for Peace’ Resolution. The United States initiated the landmark measure that states in the event that the Security Council cannot maintain international peace, a matter can be taken up by the General Assembly.

2000: Millennium Declaration. World leaders came together to commit to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty, by setting eight targets to be achieved by 2015. They have become known as the Millennium Development Goals.

Screen Cap from SIRS Issues Researcher United Nations Leading Issue


SIRS Issues Researcher provides student researchers insight into the United Nations through its Leading Issues feature. Each Leading Issue includes a topic overview, a timeline of key events, statistics, articles that present the global impact of the problem, and primary source documents that foster an understanding of the history, evolution and continuing impact of the United Nations. Related Leading Issues like Diplomacy, Ethnic Relations, Genocide, Globalization, Sovereignty, Universal Human Rights, U.S. Foreign Aid, and others are also covered in-depth.

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United Nations Day

In 1945, the charter of the United Nations went into effect and the world entered into a new era of cooperation among countries around the world. In honor of this monumental event, every October 24 since 1948 has been celebrated as United Nations Day.

The UN’s roots are in the League of Nations, an organization formed after World War I and promoted by President Woodrow Wilson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. While the League ultimately failed, the idea of an international organization to keep world order was taken up again after World War II, growing out of the establishment of the Allied Powers during the war.

While the success and effectiveness of the UN has been questioned–notably by Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign–it has been a forum for countries to air grievances, cooperate on humanitarian matters, act as a check against aggression and promote human rights, a cause that was taken up by Eleanor Roosevelt and that resulted in the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

United Nations Research Topic

United Nations Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

You can use eLibrary to supplement your Social Studies class lessons on history, civics and world affairs. Our Research Topics are a good way to provide students with background information and in-depth articles, videos and more. Possible strategies:  Assign whole RTs or specific articles from them as background for discussion; have students select topics for research, selecting from a list of RTs; have students search in eLibrary to discover RTs and other resources related to the UN.

See the following for a sample of relevant resources eLibrary has to offer:

United Nations

League of Nations

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

Woodrow Wilson

Eleanor Roosevelt

Every Day Is Human Rights Day!

Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on December 10, commemorating the day in 1948 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first Human Rights Day was celebrated in 1950 to bring global recognition to the Declaration as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who is credited with its inspiration, referred to the Declaration as the “international Magna Carta for all mankind.” The theme for this year’s observance is Human Rights 365, which emphasizes that every day of the year should be Human Rights Day.

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Lake Success, New York, 11/1949 [Public domain], via National Archives and Records Administration

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Lake Success, New York, 11/1949 [Public domain], via National Archives and Records Administration

What Are Human Rights?

“Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.”–UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

SIRS Leading Issues: Human Rights via ProQuest SIRS Researcher

SIRS Leading Issues: Human Rights via ProQuest SIRS Researcher

Educators, you can make human rights the focus in your classroom every day throughout the year by turning to SIRS Issues Researcher’s Leading Issues feature. Spark debate and discussion by engaging students with Essential Questions that include answers and supporting pro/con viewpoint articles which are hand-selected by SIRS editors. Promote critical thinking skills and more in-depth analysis by exploring a topic overview, an interactive feature, a timeline, statistics and more. The “see also” section provides links to more information (including magazine and newspaper articles, government documents, primary sources, graphics and multimedia, reference materials, and websites) on related subjects such as child labor, ethnic relations, genocide, human trafficking, Holocaust denial, torture and more.

Every day really should be Human Rights Day, as the many facets of this issue have implications and significance for every person throughout the world.

Are Human Rights Universal?

Declaration of Human Rights

“Declaration of Human Rights.” Photo credit: Vibragiel via photopin cc

According the American Heritage Dictionary, human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. Basic human rights are valued by some governments more than others. Regardless, citizens across cultural and geographic boundaries seek rights like freedom of expression, freedom to choose a religion, freedom from torture and the right to vote. But is the concept of human rights universal?

In SIRS Issues Researcher, ProQuest editors have posed this essential question in the Leading Issue for Human Rights, Universal.

While some stand by the belief that human rights apply to everyone regardless of their culture, there are others who believe human rights are defined and limited by where they live or their customs and day-to-day challenges.

The concept of universal human rights is outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. This important document has become a highly regarded cornerstone within international law. The declaration describes over two dozen forms of human freedom.

What is your declaration?

Investigate this Leading Issue further with ProQuest resources: