The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate co-operation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress and human rights issues. It was founded in 1945 at the signing of the United Nations Charter by 50 countries, replacing the League of Nations, founded in 1919.
The UN was founded after the end of World War II by the victorious Allied Powers in the hope that it would act to intervene in conflicts between nations and thereby avoid war. The organization's structure still reflects in some ways the circumstances of its founding. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, each of which has veto power on any UN resolution, are the main victors of World War II or their successor states: People's Republic of China (which replaced the Republic of China), the French Republic, the Russian Federation (which replaced the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
As of 2007, there are 192 United Nations member states, encompassing almost every recognized independent state. From its headquarters in New York City, the UN and its specialized agencies decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held throughout each year. The organization is divided into administrative bodies, including the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Secretariat, Trusteeship Council, and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Additional bodies deal with the governance of all other UN System agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The UN's most visible public figure is the Secretary-General. The current Secretary-General is Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who assumed the post on 1 January 2007.
Our instrument and our hope is theUnited Nations - and I see little merit in the impatience of those who would abandon this imperfect world instrument because they dislike our imperfect world. For the troubles of a world organization merely reflect the troubles of the world itself. And if the organization is weakened, these troubles can only increase. We may not always agree with every detailed action taken by every officer of the world itself. And if the organization is weakened, these troubles can only increase. We may not always agree with every detailed action taken by every officer of the United Nations, or with every voting majority, but as an institution, it should have in the future, as it has had in the past, since its inception, no stronger or more faithful member than the United States of America.- John F. Kennedy, addressing United Nations General Assembly. State of the Union Address, January 11,1962
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