Flag of the United Nations

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Flag of the United Nations
Sky blue flag banner with white United Nations emblem
Proportion2:3 or 3:5[a]
Adopted20 October 1947; 76 years ago (1947-10-20)
DesignSky blue banner with an all-white UN emblem (azimuthal equidistant projection surrounded by two olive branches) in the centre.
Designed byDonal McLaughlin (emblem only)

The flag of the United Nations is a sky blue banner containing the United Nations' emblem in the centre. The emblem on the flag is coloured white; it is a depiction of the world map in the azimuthal equidistant projection (centred on the North Pole), which is surrounded by a pair of olive branches. The emblem was officially adopted on 7 December 1946, and the flag containing the emblem was officially adopted on 20 October 1947.[1]


The emblem of the United Nations.

The flag of the United Nations consists of the white emblem on the sky blue background. The emblem depicts a azimuthal equidistant projection of the world map, centred on the North Pole, with the globe being bisected in the centre by the Prime meridian and the International Date Line, thus ensuring that no country is at prominence within the flag. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles. The map is inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree.[1][2]

The size of the emblem on the flag is one half the width of the flag itself. The flag proportions of the aspect ratio of the flag height to its width, are equal 2:3, 3:5 or to the same proportions as the national flag of any country in which the UN flag is flown.[2] White and blue are the official colours of the United Nations. The light blue background colour code is Pantone Matching System 2925. It approximates sky blue.[3]

The olive branches are a symbol for peace, and the world map represents all the people and the countries of the world.[2]


Insignia displayed on the cover of the United Nations Charter, from 26 June 1945, predating the official adoption of a flag of the United Nations. Notably, the lower, upright part of the globe is centered on 100° West, which places North America at prominence. Later versions of the United Nations insignia changes this to align closer to, and eventually at, the prime meridian (0° longitude).
Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag The first version of the UN flag, April 1945
Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag The "United Nations Honour Flag", used as a symbol of the wartime allies, c. 1943–1948

The organizers of the 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, California wanted an insignia that could be made into a pin to identify delegates. United States Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, Jr. was chairperson of the U.S. delegation, and realized that a temporary design might become the permanent symbol of the United Nations. He formed a committee headed by Oliver Lundquist that developed a design consisting of a world map surrounded by leaves from a design created by Donal McLaughlin.[4][5]

McLaughlin had previously worked as chief of graphics for the Office of Strategic Services that preceded the CIA. The azimuthal equidistant projection used in his design was heavily influenced by the maps created during World War II by Richard Edes Harrison, a popular cartographer working for Fortune and Life.[6][7].

The blue that appears in the background of the insignia was chosen to be "the opposite of red, the war colour",[8] although the exact shade has never been officially specified by the United Nations. The original colour the group chose in 1945 was a gray blue that differs from the current United Nations flag. The globe used in the original design was an azimuthal projection focused on the North Pole with the United States, the host nation of the conference, at the centre. The projection that was used cut off portions of the Southern Hemisphere at the latitude of Argentina, which was acceptable at the time, as Argentina was not planned to be an original member of the United Nations.[9] The projection was later altered so that no country will be at prominence within the flag. The new logo was now designed so that the globe is bisected in the centre by the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line. The earlier version of the emblem had the globe 90 degrees turned eastward compared with the present flag, which has the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line forming the vertical diameter. According to press statements, the change was made to move North America away from the centre of the emblem.[1]

In 1946, a UNO committee was tasked to make a definite design, which was presented 2 December 1946. The emblem was adopted by the plenary session of the UNO on 7 December 1946, and the flag was officially adopted on 20 October 1947.[1]


According to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, the emblem and the flag of the United Nations can be used by the personnel and material of UN peacekeeping missions as a protective sign to prevent attacks during an armed conflict.

The United Nations flag may also be flown as a garrison flag with other country flags. Garrison size is 10 feet by 30 feet.

Derived flags

Agencies and organizations

Image Entity abbrev. Entity name Image description
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency The IAEA has a flag with the same colours and olive branches as the United Nations. The central symbol is the Bohr model of the Beryllium-atom with four electrons.[10] The IAEA is independent of but reporting to the United Nations.
ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization Is that of the UN with pilot's wings superimposed.
ILO International Labour Organization Is that of the UN, but replacing the map with an interrupted gear wheel with the letters "ILO" inside it.
IMO International Maritime Organization Takes the UN flag, shrinks the map image and puts a chained cross of anchors behind it.
ITU International Telecommunication Union Has the ITU logo—a globe, lightning bolt, and the letters "ITU".
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Has the same colours as the United Nations; its symbol is a Greek temple (possibly the Parthenon), representing science, learning and culture. The six columns are made of the letters of the organization's name.
UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund Has the leaves and globe of the UN flag but with a mother and child inlay instead of the world map.
UPU Universal Postal Union Is UN blue with the organization's logo in white.
WFP World Food Programme Has the olive leaves of the UN flag, with a hand clutching grains in the centre, in place of the globe. The white/blue colours of the UN flag are reversed in the WFP flag.
WHO World Health Organization Identical to the UN flag, with a Rod of Asclepius, a traditional symbol of medicine, added.
WMO World Meteorological Organization The flag is that of the UN with a compass rose and the letters "OMM/WMO" atop the globe.

National flags

The UN flag is the origin of a family of national flags. Because of the UN's association with peace and cooperation, UN-inspired flags are often adopted by states that have experienced conflict or instability. Many states with UN-inspired flags either were or were a part of United Nations trust territories.

Image Entity abbrev. Description
Cambodia (1992–1993) The flag of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia uses the UN colours with a white map of Cambodia with the word for Cambodia in Khmer script.
Cyprus The flag of Cyprus uses a map and olive branches inspired by the UN flag.
Eritrea (1952–1962) The first flag of Eritrea used UN blue and olive branches.
Eritrea (1993–present) The current flag of Eritrea uses less UN blue but retains the olive branches.
Federated States of Micronesia The flag of the Federated States of Micronesia is derived from the former UN-inspired flag of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, of which it was a part.
Northern Mariana Islands The flag of the Northern Mariana Islands is also derived from the former UN-inspired flag of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, of which it was a part.
Somalia (1954–present) The flag of Somalia has UN blue and white, and was first used during the period of the United Nations Trust Territory of Somaliland.
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands The flag of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands uses UN blue and was adopted during a period of UN-administered transition to independence.
Turkmenistan The Flag of Turkmenistan uses UN olive branches below the five carpet guls.

Usage outside of the United Nations

See also


  1. ^ Or using the same proportions of the national flag of whatever country it is being flown in, with the emblem being centred and one half of the hoist.


  1. ^ a b c d General Assembly A/107, Official Seal and Emblem of the United Nations, 15 October 1946
  2. ^ a b c Department of the Air Force (1 August 1957). Use and Display of Air Force Flags, Guidons, Streamers, and Automobile and Aircraft Plates.
  3. ^ United Nations Flag Code, 20 November 2020
  4. ^ Bertram, Hulen. "Origin of the UNO Seal", The New York Times, 10 March 1946. Accessed 4 January 2009.
  5. ^ Lyons, Catherine. "UN Logo Designer Celebrates His Centennial" Archived 2008-10-10 at the Wayback Machine, United Nations Association, c. 1975. Accessed January 4, 2009.
  6. ^ Immerwahr, Daniel (2019). "13. Kilroy was here". How to hide an empire: geography, territory, and power in the greater united states. The Bodley Head ltd. ISBN 978-1847923998. OCLC 1038055837.
  7. ^ Capdepuy, Vincent (2015). "L'entrée des États-Unis dans l'" âge global " : un tournant géohistorique ?". Monde(s) (in French). 8 (2): 177. doi:10.3917/mond1.152.0177. ISSN 2261-6268.
  8. ^ UN General Assembly A/107, Official Seal and Emblem of the United Nations, 15 October 1946. Accessed 15 March 2010.
  9. ^ Heller, Steven. "Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, Designer, Is Dead at 92 ", The New York Times, 3 January 2009. Accessed 4 January 2009.
  10. ^ Alex Wellerstein (11 January 2013). "The story behind the IAEA's atomic logo". Restricted Data - the Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  11. ^ "New banknotes". Sveriges Riksbank. Archived from the original on 14 January 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2013.

External links