United Nations Day
The United Nations (UN) came into being on October 24, 1945 when the five permanent members of the Security Council – the US, France, China, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom – ratified the charter which had been drafted earlier that year.
A new international institution had been born in the wake of the Second World War, to protect subsequent generations from conflict.
United Nations Day has been marked on October 24 by member nations (of which there are now 189) since 1948, as a way of highlighting, celebrating and thinking about the UN’s work, and that of its specialist agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), UNESCO and UNICEF.
It tends to be a day of worldwide observance, rather than a public holiday, despite a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1971 that all member states should observe the day as a non-working day.
The day is part of United Nations Week, which generally takes place between October 20 and 26, and is dedicated to making known to people across the world the UN’s aims and achievements – from preventing a third world war to improving the global quality of life – and gathering support for its work.
Events are organised across the UN’s member nations, from flying flags on key buildings to concerts, debate and proclamations by heads of state, including the President of the United States.
The day is always marked in the UN’s main offices in New York, The Hague (Netherlands), Geneva (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria) and Nairobi (Kenya).
International schools around the world also acknowledge the diversity of their student make-up on United Nations Day, with celebrations often comprising evening cultural performances and a food fair including dishes from each country represented on the student body.
Last year, 86 chapters of America’s United Nations Association hosted 136 events across the UN to celebrate 24 October. This year, on the 67th anniversary of when the UN Charter became effective, there will again be events nationwide, under the theme Solutions for a Prosperous World.
Chapters are being encouraged to write to their governor to have a UN Day chair appointed, and to involved congressional leaders in any UN Day event they host.
This year’s global UN Day theme focuses on the eight UN Millennium Development Goals and the international action plan to achieve them by 2015. These are to:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- achieve universal primary education
- promote gender equality and empower women
- reduce child mortality
- improve maternal health
- combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- ensure environmental sustainability
- develop a global partnership for development.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement for UN Day 2012 said: “The United Nations is not just a meeting place for diplomats. The United Nations is a peacekeeper disarming fighters, a health worker distributing medicine, a relief team aiding refugees, a human rights expert helping deliver justice.
“On this UN Day, let us reaffirm our individual commitment and our collective resolve to live up to the ideals of the United Nations Charter and build a better world for all.”
- The 2012 UN Day Concert A Message of Peace featuring Stevie Wonder will take place on the evening of Wednesday, 24 October in the General Assembly Hall at UN Headquarters in New York.