Great Moments in the UN's History
The United Nations was established to foster global peace, prosperity and justice. It has succeeded in its fundamental mission of preventing a third world war and improving global quality of life. But over the years, the UN’s mission and membership have been broadened dramatically.
1945: United Nations Founded
President Harry Truman, along with representatives from 50 other countries, signed the UN Charter in San Francisco, California.
1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights Signed
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt personally helped prepare the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first document considered to have international normative value.
1950-1953: The Korean War
With news that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) attacked the Republic of Korea (South Korea), the Security Council declared the attack to be a breach of peace and recommended that Member States make forces available to a UN Unified Command under the United States. In all, 16 nations supplied troops. UN agencies such as UNDP assisted South Korea in rebuilding and providing development assistance, allowing it to become one of the largest economies in the world today.
1960: 17 States Join the UN
17 newly independent States, 16 from Africa, join the UN -the biggest increase in membership in any one year.
1962: Cuban Missile Crisis Resolved
UN Secretary-General U Thant is widely credited for having defused the Cuban Missile Crisis by interceding between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, thereby avoiding a nuclear war.
1965: UNICEF Receives Nobel Peace Prize
UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1968: GA Approves Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
General Assembly approves Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and calls for its ratification.
1972: First UN Environment Conference
The first UN Environment Conference is held in Stockholm, Sweden, leading to the establishment of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), headquartered in Nairobi.
1979: General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, covering political, economic, social, cultural and civic values.
1980: Smallpox Eradicated
A 13-year effort by the UN's World Health Organization resulted in the complete eradication of smallpox in 1980 — saving an estimated $1 billion a year in vaccination and monitoring.
1988: UN Peacekeeping Receives Nobel Peace Prize
UN Peacekeeping operations awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, at the time there were seven peacekeeping or observer missions in operation.
1992: "Earth Summit" Held
The UN Conference on Environment and Development, the "Earth Summit", is held in Rio de Janeiro attended by leaders from over 100 countries, the largest intergovernmental gathering in history, resulting in Agenda 21, a plan of action for sustainable development.
1993: World Conference on Human Rights Held
The World Conference on Human Rights is held in Vienna, which commemorated the International Year for the World's Indigenous People (1993).
1996: General Assembly Adopts Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty
The General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. This is a turning point in the history of efforts towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The treaty was opened for signature on 24 September.
2005: Humanitarian Response to the South Asian Tsunami Led by UN
The United Nations was credited with coordinating and leading the historic international relief effort in 12 countries undertaken in response to the 2004 South Asian Tsunami.
2011: UN Admits South Sudan as 193rd Member State
The UN General Assembly admitted the Republic of South Sudan as the 193rd member state, welcoming the newly independent country to the community of nations.