In the spring of 1945, representatives of fifty nations gathered in San Francisco to put the final touches to a document of far-reaching consequences--the Charter of the United Nations. Enthusiastically supported by the United States, the U.N. Charter went into effect on October 24, 1945. Two years later the U.N. General Assembly adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution declaring October 24th United Nations Day, to be commemorated annually by all member-states of the United Nations. Since 1947, U.N. Day has been observed in nations large and small around the world.
In the United States, each President, beginning with Harry Truman, has issued a proclamation asking citizens to observe U.N. Day and to reflect upon the importance of the United Nations to our national interest, as well as to each one of us. At the time of the drafting of the Charter, close to one hundred U.S. national non-governmental organizations were represented at San Francisco, giving their advice and support to the official U.S. delegation. Out of these organizations grew the United States Committee for the United Nations, a group consulted regularly by our government on matters related to the United Nations. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Robert S. Benjamin, Chairman of United Artists Corporation, as chairman of the U.S. Committee for the United Nations and as the first National U.N. Day Chairman.
In 1964, the U.S. Committee for the United Nations merged with the American Association for the United Nations to become the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). UNA-USA took on the coordination and supervision of the National U.N. Day Program working closely with the National U.N. Day Chairman.
Over the years, the observance of U.N. Day in hundreds of communities all over the United States has changed significantly. In the early years, community observances tended to be symbolic events consisting of an international dinner in the town's high school or the U.N. flag flying from an official building. Today's program delves into world issues that are on the agenda of the United Nations and that affect every American citizen. The university campus, city hall, the governor's mansion have become sites for serious debates of issues before the U.N. and how to approach them through international cooperation.
The generation born after the founding of the U.N. in 1945 has come to realize that the U.N. offers no "quick fix," but is an instrument through which multilateral processes to solve global problems are made possible. The United Nations Day Program will continue to offer the opportunity to succeeding generations to acquaint themselves with the activities and accomplishments of the U.N. system in the years ahead.
UNA-USA is the national secretariat for the coordination and supervision of U.N. Day in the United States. Its chapters, divisions, affiliated organizations, colleges and universities, places of worship, and other civic groups participate in U.N. Day through countless local programs on the U.N. and the importance of a strong and cooperative U.S.-U.N. relationship.
UNA-USA produces an annual United Nations Day Program Manual (see above) offering program assistance, U.N. information, and much more to help in organizing a U.N. Day event. UNA-USA encourages members of fellow-organizations to join UNA chapters and divisions nationwide in educating Americans about the importance of a strong U.S.-U.N. relationship, with benefits for all Americans.
For more information about observing United Nations Day, contact Liz Marmanides at (212) 907-1328.