United Nations Conference on International Organization
|United Nations Conference on International Organization|
Insignia of the conference, prototype of the current logo of the United Nations
|Date||25 April 1945–|
26 June 1945
|Cities||San Francisco, California|
The United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), commonly known as the San Francisco Conference, was a convention of delegates from 50 Allied nations that took place from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, California, United States of America. At this convention, the delegates reviewed and rewrote the Dumbarton Oaks agreements of the previous year. The convention resulted in the creation of the United Nations Charter, which was opened for signature on 26 June, the last day of the conference. The conference was held at various locations, primarily the War Memorial Opera House, with the Charter being signed on 26 June at the Herbst Theatre in Civic Center. A square adjacent to the city's Civic Center, called "UN Plaza," commemorates the conference.
Preparation and background
The idea for the proposed United Nations began as part of the vision of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in which the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and China would lead the post-World War II international order. These countries, with the addition of France, would assume the permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. At the February 1945 conference in Malta, it was proposed that the permanent members have veto power. This proposal was adopted shortly after at the Yalta conference. While at Yalta, they began sending invitations to the San Francisco conference on international organization. A total of 46 countries were invited to San Francisco, all of which had declared war on Germany and Japan, having signed the Declaration by United Nations.
The conference directly invited four additional countries: Denmark (newly liberated from Nazi occupation), Argentina and the Soviet republics of Belarus and Ukraine. The participation of these countries was not without controversy. The decision on the participation of Argentina was troubled because of Soviet opposition to Argentina membership, arguing that Argentina had supported the Axis Powers during the war. Several Latin American countries opposed the inclusion of Belarus and Ukraine unless Argentina was admitted. In the end, Argentina was admitted to the conference with support from the United States and the desire for the participation of the Soviet Union at the conference was maintained.
The participation of Belarus and Ukraine at the conference came as a result of Roosevelt and Churchill's concession to Joseph Stalin, the leader of Russia. Stalin had originally requested that all republics of the Soviet Union have membership in the United Nations, but the US government launched a counterproposal in which all US states obtain membership in the United Nations. This counterproposal encouraged Stalin to attend the Yalta conference by accepting Ukraine and Belarus's admission to the United Nations. This was intended to ensure a balance of power within the United Nations, which, in the opinion of the Soviets, was unbalanced in favor of the Western countries. For this purpose, modifications were made to the constitutions of the two republics in question, so that Belarus and Ukraine's international legal subjects were limited, while they were still part of the Soviet Union.
Poland, despite having signed the Declaration by United Nations, did not attend the conference because there was no consensus on the formation of the postwar Polish government. Therefore, a space was left blank for the Polish signature. The new Polish government was formed after the conference (28 June) and signed the United Nations Charter on 15 October, which made Poland one of the founding countries of the United Nations.
Opening of the Conference
On 25 April, 1945, the conference started in San Francisco, United States. 850 delegates, along with advisors, employees and staff of the secretariat, attended the conference, totaling 3,500 attendees. In addition, the conference was attended by 2,500 representatives of the media and observers from numerous organizations and societies. Earl Warren, then the Governor of California, set the tone for the conference in his welcome speech:
We recognize that our future is linked with a world future in which the term “good neighbor” has become a global consideration. We have learned that understanding of one another’s problems is the greatest assurance of peace. And that true understanding comes only as a product of free consultation. This conference is proof in itself of the new conception of neighborliness and unity which must be recognized in world affairs.
Due to the fact that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was supposed to host the conference, died on 12 April 1945, the delegates held a commemorative ceremony on 19 May among the tall Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument Cathedral Grove, where a dedication plaque was placed in his honor.
A steering committee, composed of heads of delegations, was formed. This committee decided on all important matters relating to principles and rules. Although each country had one representative, the membership was too much for the detailed work. Therefore, it commissioned an executive committee of 14 heads of delegation to submit recommendations to the steering committee.
United Nations Charter
The draft of the United Nations Charter was divided into four sections, each of which was studied by a commission. The first of these was responsible for the organization's purposes, principles, membership, secretariat and the question of amendments to the Charter. The second considered functions of the General Assembly. The third dealt with the Security Council. The fourth dealt with the assessment of the draft Statute of the International Court of Justice. This statute had been drafted by a team of legal experts from 44 countries, meeting in Washington in April 1945.
At the conference, delegates reviewed and sometimes rewrote the text agreed upon at the Dumbarton Oaks conference. The delegations agreed on a role for regional organizations under the "umbrella" of the United Nations. The delineation of the responsibilities of the Secretary General, as well as the creation of the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council was also debated, eventually resulting in a consensus.
The issue of the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council proved to be an obstacle on the quest to reach agreement on the United Nations Charter. Several countries feared that if one of the "big five" assumed a behavior that threatened peace, the Security Council would be helpless to intervene, whereas in the case of a conflict between two countries that are permanent members of the Council, they could proceed arbitrarily. Therefore, they wanted to reduce the scope of the veto. But the great powers insisted that this provision was vital, stressing the fact that the United Nations was for the greater responsibility in maintaining world peace. Finally, these countries gave way.
On 25 June, delegates met for the last time in plenary at the San Francisco Opera. The session was chaired by Lord Halifax, the head of the British delegation. As he submitted the final text of the Charter to the assembly, he said: "The question we are about to solve with our vote is the most important thing that can happen in our lives". Therefore, he proposed to vote not by show of hands, but rather by having those in favor stand. Each of the delegations then stood and remained standing, as did the crowd gathered there. There was then a standing ovation when Lord Halifax announced that the Charter had been adopted unanimously.
The next day, in the auditorium of the Veterans Memorial Hall, the delegates signed the Charter. China signed first, as it had been the first victim of an Axis power. U.S. President Harry S. Truman in his closing speech said:
The Charter of the United Nations which you have just signed is a solid structure upon which we can build a better world. History will honor you for it. Between the victory in Europe and the final victory, in this most destructive of all wars, you have won a victory against war itself. . . . With this Charter the world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people.
Then President Truman pointed out that the Charter would work only if the peoples of the world were determined to make it work:
If we fail to use it, we shall betray all those who have died so that we might meet here in freedom and safety to create it. If we seek to use it selfishly – for the advantage of any one nation or any small group of nations – we shall be equally guilty of that betrayal.
The United Nations did not instantly come into being with the signing of the Charter, since in many countries the Charter had to be subjected to parliamentary approval. It had been agreed that the Charter would come into effect when ratified by the governments of China, France, Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States, and a majority of the other signatory countries, and when they had notified the United States Department of State of their ratifications. This happened on 24 October 1945.
Source: "Charter of the United Nations and Statute for the International Court of Justice" (PDF). United Nations. 1945.
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- San Francisco Conference