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Friday, October 20, 2006

United Nations Week

On Tuesday, October 24, the United Nations celebrates its 61st anniversary. The organization’s charter was ratified in 1945 by China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and 47 other countries.

The U.N. was not the first attempt at international cooperation. Early efforts developed around sharing technology. The International Telegraph Union was formed in 1865 and the Universal Postal Union was established in 1874. Both are now U.N. agencies. The immediate forerunner to the U.N. was the League of Nations, created in the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. The League of Nations was disbanded after it failed to prevent World War II.

Franklin D. Roosevelt first used the term “United Nations” in 1942 when 26 nations signed a "Declaration of United Nations," pledging to continue the fight against the Axis powers during World War II. (Actually, he may have borrowed the phrase from Lord Byron’s poem, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage".) In the 1950s, the U.N. was referred to as the U.N.O., the United Nations Organization, but over time “Organization” was dropped from its formal title.

Today, there are 192 U.N. member states. While the U.N. usually makes the news for its peace-keeping role, a number of U.N. agencies are involved in humanitarian assistance and international development. These include the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, while separate agencies, are also affiliated with the U.N.

You’re invited to a special program in honor of United Nations Week (October 20–27). A panel of experts will discuss Working Together Towards Peace, Security & Human Rights on Sunday, October 22 at 2 p.m. at the Sherwood Regional Library. This event is free but seating is limited; please call 703-765-3645 to sign up.

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