The United Nations was formed on 1 January 1942 in response to World War II with the goals of preventing war, and upholding human rights, including self-determination and social progression. The precursor to the United Nations was the League of Nations, created in part by President Woodrow Wilson after World War I. The League of Nations collapsed with the outbreak of World War II. It is the largest (191 member states) and most prominent of international organizations, with main headquarters in New York, Geneva, The Hague, and Vienna. It serves to encourage public diplomacy between states through such subsidiary groups as the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly.

Principal Organs of the United Nations

UN's Role in Public Diplomacy

The United Nations is an internationally recognized body and has made a large effort in peacekeeping and humanitarian aid since its conception. Since the Cold War, UN peacekeepers have been deployed to a number of nations to prevent violent conflict and help maintain humanitarian efforts. The peacekeepers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in 1988. Their efforts through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have also been internationally recognized.

There have also been a number of criticism and failures by the UN. The sanctions imposed by the Security Council have had general success in reforming certain states, but in some cases, particularly Iraq during the 1990's until the 2003 war, have failed. In addition, the Oil-for-Food Programme, which allowed Iraq to sell oil for basic needs such as food and shelter, came under fire for directors taking bribes from the Iraqi government and Saddam Hussein's embezzlement of millions of dollars from the program.

One of the largest failures of the United Nations was its inability to provide any response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Though there were UN peacekeepers in the area, they only function was to help provide foreigners with safe passage out of the country. The security council, and the UN as a whole failed to create any coalition force to prevent one of the most brutal genocides in modern history.

The weakness of the UN's role as a political actor was again seen during the months leading up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2002, the Security Council issued Resoultion 1441, one of 17 resolutions recognizing Iraq's resistance to disarmament and disclosure of nuclear and military development. The United States, in 2003, had made a presentation to the UN on the need for military intervention in Iraq. The UN stated that a military invasion of Iraq would be in violation of Resolution 1441; mainly due to UN inspector Hans Blix's report of no sufficient evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. On 20 March 2003, the US led an invasion in Iraq, despite the UN's recommendation.

External Links and Resources

United Nations

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