United Nations Charter: History, Objective & Important Provisions

By | September 25, 2020
United Nations Charter: History

The United Nations Charter consists of 19 Chapters and 111 Articles. The Charter deals with the rights and obligations of member states and establishes the procedures of the United Nations. The article mentions the history, objective, members of the UN Charter and discusses the important provisions under the charter.

I. Introduction

The UN Charter is the constitutive instrument of the United Nations, signed on 26 June 1945. It sets out the rights and obligations of Member States and establishes the principal organs and procedures of the United Nations. The Charter is an international treaty which codifies the basic tenets of international relations from the sovereign equality of states to the prohibition of the use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

The Charter was the foundational document for the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, which are themselves tools to further the values espoused in the United Nations Charter[1]. The Charter of the United Nations was signed after the United Nations Conference on International Organization and came into force on 24 October 1945. The Statute of the International Court of Justice is an integral part of the Charter.[2]

II. History of the U.N. Charter

  • 1941: The Declaration of St. James Palace

On June 12, 1941, the representatives of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa and the exiled governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia and of general de Gaulle of France, met at the ancient st. James palace and signed a declaration.

  • 1941: The Atlantic Charter

On August 14, 1941, Two leaders issued a joint declaration destined to be known in history as the Atlantic Charter. This document was not a treat between the two powers, nor a final and formal expression of peace aims. It was only an affirmation, as the document declared certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world.

  • 1942: Declaration of the United Nations

Representatives of 26 countries fighting the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis, decide to affirm their support by Signing the Declaration of the United Nations. This important document pledged the signatory governments to the maximum war effort and bound them against making a separate peace.

  • 1943: Moscow and Teheran Conferences

By 1943 all the principal Allied nations were committed to outright victory and, thereafter, to an attempt to create a world in which “men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.” But the basis for a world organization had yet to be defined, and such a definition came at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union in October 1943.

  • 1944-1945: Dumbarton Oaks and Yalta

The Dumbarton Oaks Conference constituted the first important step taken to carry out paragraph 4 of the Moscow Declaration of 1943, which recognized the need for a postwar international organization to succeed the League of Nations.

  • 1945: San Francisco conference

Forty-six nations, including the four sponsors, were originally invited to the San Francisco Conference: nations which had declared war on Germany and Japan and had subscribed to the United Nations Declaration[3].

III. Objectives

  • To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and nations large and small, and
  • To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

IV. Members

The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries. Poland, which was not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became one of the original 51 Member States.

V. Important Provisions

Article 1 states that the purposes of the United Nations are to maintain peace and international security, and to this end, to take effective collective actions to prevent and eliminate threats to the peace, and to suppress acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace. It is also to develop friendship, realize cooperation and serve as a centre to harmonize these efforts.

Article 3 states that “The original Members of the United Nations shall be the states which, having participated in the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco, or having previously signed the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, sign the present Charter and ratify it following Article 110”.

Article 8 states that the United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs.

Article 9 states that the General Assembly shall consist of all the Members of the United Nations. Each Member shall have not more than five representatives in the General Assembly.

Article 13 says that the responsibilities, functions and powers of the General Assembly shall include ‘assisting in the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

Article 20 states that the General Assembly shall meet in regular annual sessions and such special sessions as occasion may require. Special sessions shall be convoked by the Secretary-General at the request of the Security Council or of a majority of the Members of the United Nations.

Article 21 states that the General Assembly shall adopt its own rules of procedure. It shall elect its President for each session

Article 33 states that ‘The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice’.

Article 42 states that the Security Council take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. The Security Council has sometimes authorized member states to use ‘all necessary means’, and this has been accepted as a legitimate application of Chapter VII powers.

Article 55 describes the purposes of the UN in international co-operation, which include under (c): ‘universal respect for, and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without discrimination as to race, sex, language, or religion’. Article 56 contains a pledge by all members ‘to take joint and separate action in co-operation with the Organisation for the achievement of the purposes outlined in Article 55’.

Article 62 contains similar provisions in describing the responsibilities, functions and powers of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Article 68 authorises the ECOSOC to set up commissions ‘in economic and social fields and for the promotion of human rights’.

Article 76 contains human rights provisions in the description of the international trusteeship system.

Article 99 authorises the Secretary-General to ‘bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security’[4].

[1] Academic Impact, UN Charter,  Available Here

[2] Charter of the United Nations, Available Here

[3] History of United Nations Charter, Available Here

[4] Charter of the United Nations, Available Here

  1. United Nations Human Rights Council; Overview and Function
  2. Human Rights
Author: M. Preetha

Student: Saveetha School of Law

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