United Nations Day highlights, celebrates and reflects on the work of the United Nations (UN) and its family of specialized agencies. UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.
24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by Member States as a public holiday.
The foundations for a “League of Nations” were laid in the Treaty of Versailles, which was one of the treaties to formally end World War I. The treaty was signed in Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919. The league aimed to encourage disarmament, prevent outbreaks of war, encourage negotiations and diplomatic measures to settle international disputes and to improve the quality of life around the world. However, the outbreak of World War II suggested that the League of Nations needed to take on a different form.
The ideas around the United Nations were developed in the last years of World War II, particularly during the UN Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, the United States, beginning on April 25, 1945. The UN was officially created when a UN charter was ratified on October 24 that year.
United Nations Day was first observed on October 24, 1948. The UN recommended that United Nations Day should be a public holiday in member states since 1971. There were also calls for United Nations Day to be an international public holiday to bring attention to the work, role and achievements of the UN and its family of specialized agencies. These have been spectacular, particularly in the fields of human rights, support in areas of famine, eradication of disease, promotion of health and settlement of refugees.
The UN does not work alone but together with many specialized agencies, including: the World Health Organization (WHO); the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); International Labour Organization (ILO); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
On and around October 24, many activities are organized by all parts of the UN, particularly in the main offices in New York, the Hague (Netherlands), Geneva (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria) and Nairobi (Kenya). These include: concerts; flying the UN flag on important buildings; debates on the relevance of the work of the UN in modern times; and proclamations by state heads and other leaders.