The United Nations


The 20th Century was the century of global conflict, but out of that conflict came the hope that humanity could prevent war by creating an organisation of all nations working for peace.


The first attempt, the League of Nations, failed to prevent World War 2, but out of that war the United Nations was born. Although it has not been a complete success the United Nations has so far prevented another global conflict and while it has its critics, many good things have been done under the UN banner.


















United Nations

The official website of the United Nations. There is so much material here that it may seem like you are unlikely to need any other source, but the challenge is to find other sources that balance out the picture presented by the UN itself. The United Nations Information Centre in Australia also has a website at


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

The website of the branch of the UN looking after the intellectual state of humanity.


United Nations Youth Association of Australia

Offers what it calls a “significant voice” for the under represented youth of Australia.


Human Rights Watch

A critical examination of the UN's committment to human rights. Shows their strengths and their weaknesses.


Cyber School Bus

Educational site for schools with quizzes, games, free stuff for teachers and lots of useful, easily digestible information.


UN Environment Program website

Lots of information about global environment issues. News and in depth analysis of a range of environment problems.




The United Nations Since 1945 : Peacekeeping and the Cold War

By Norrie MacQueen

Looks at peacekeeping efforts within the broader history of the Cold War and particularly of the United Nations as a key institution of the time. Explores the parallel histories of superpower relations and of peacekeeping. (Pearson Professional Education/Longman)


20th Century Perspectives: United Nations

By Paul Dowswell

Examining key events of the 20th century, each title in this series outlines the lead-up and aftermath, explores the issues, and introduces leaders and key figures. Titles of useful websites and further reading recommendations are given. (Heinemann)


United Nations at the Millennium

By Paul Taylor

This work provides coverage of each of the principle organs of the United Nations including the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the International Court of Justice. The book provides a survey of the life of each organ since its inception in 1945. (Continuum International)


Troubled World- United Nations: Keeping the Peace

By Ivan Minnis

More than a straightforward narrative, this series provides a thorough account of 20th century conflicts. Each provides biographies of the leading figures involved and examined media coverage. (Heinemann Library)


The U.N. for Beginners

By Ian Williams

A look at how the UN should work and how it actually does work. This is the United Nations simplified for outsiders and with the gloss stripped away. (Writers and Readers Publishing)


War On Iraq

By Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt

Written by members of the team who worked to disarm Iraq after the 1991 war, this book debunks some of the Bush administration's reasoning behind their beef with Iraq. (Allen and Unwin)


A Bed For the Night- Humanitarianism in Crisis

By David Rieff

Looks at the problems confronting humanitarian efforts in the world today, including the programs run by the UN. (Allen and Unwin)


UN Milestones:


January 7, 1949

A UN envoy, Ralph Bunche, secures a cease-fire between Arab states and the new state of Israel.


June 27, 1950

The Security Council calls on Member States to help South Korea repel invasion from North Korea.



UNICEF, The United Nations Children's Fund is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.



The UN General Assembly declared the South African occupation illegal and renamed it Nambia in 1968. (In 1990 independent Nambia entered the UN).


January 4, 1969

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination comes into force.


June 1972

The first UN Environment Conference is held in Stockholm, Sweden. This led to the establishment of the UN Environment Program (UNEP).



The UN Security Council made an arms embargo against South Africa. Nelson Mandela's accession to the presidency in 1994 marked the end of Apartheid.


8 May 1980

The World Health Organisation declares smallpox eradicated.


10 December 1984

The General Assembly adopts the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.



Iraq invades Kuwait and the UN uses diplomacy, sanctions and then collective military action to force Saddam Hussein to dissolve his puppet government in Kuwait.


Until the 1990/1991

Iraq invasion of Kuwait, the UN played a relatively secondary role in most world disturbances. These included the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1967 and 1973, the India-Pakistan War of 1971, the Vietnam War and the Afghanistan War.


31 May 1991

A cease-fire is brokered in the 16-year civil war in Angola.


31 December 1991

UN overseen agreement signed between the warring sides of the El Salvador civil war - the Government of El Salvador and FMLN (National Liberation Front).



The UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, "Earth Summit,'', results in treaties on biodiversity and climate change.



The UN International Court of Justice ruled that genocide is happening in Bosnia. UNPROFOR is deployed for peacekeeping.


10 September 1996

The General Assembly adopts the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty as an effort to steer the world towards nuclear disarmament.



The World Food Programme (WFP) distributes 4.2 million tons of food to 77 million people in 82 countries.



There are presently 15 active peace-keeping forces in operation.