United Kingdom and the United Nations
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As the fifth largest provider of financial contributions to the United Nations, the UK provided 5 percent of the UN budget in 2015, and 6.7 percent of the peacekeeping budget. British English is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and the United Kingdom is home to the International Maritime Organisation, whose head office is in London.
Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom to the United Nations are maintained in New York City, Geneva, and Vienna. These diplomatic missions represent the UK during negotiations and ensure Britain's interests and views are taken into account by UN bodies and other member states.
United Kingdom's role in establishing the UN
On 12 June 1941, representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, and of the exiled governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia, as well as General de Gaulle of France, met in London and signed the Declaration of St. James' Palace. This was the first of six conferences that led up to the founding of the United Nations and the Charter of the United Nations.
Following the drafting of the Atlantic Charter in August 1941 by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, Churchill visited the White House for three weeks in December 1941. During the visit, the name "United Nations" was suggested by Roosevelt to Churchill to refer to the Allies of World War II. Roosevelt proposed it as an alternative to "Associated Powers", a term the U.S. used in the First World War (the U.S. was never formally a member of the Allies of World War I but entered the war in 1917 as a self-styled "Associated Power"). Churchill accepted the idea noting the phase was used by Lord Byron in the poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which referred to the Allies at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The name appeared in the "Declaration by the United Nations", which was drafted by Roosevelt and Churchill with Roosevelt's aide Harry Hopkins while meeting at the White House in December 1941. The phrase "Four Policemen" was coined to refer to the four major Allied countries, the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and the Republic of China. The term United Nations was first officially used when 26 governments signed this Declaration in January 1942.
The concept of the United Nations as an international organisation to replace the ineffective League of Nations was formulated and negotiated among the delegations from the U.S., the U.K., the Soviet Union and China at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in 1944. Winston Churchill urged Roosevelt to restore France to its status of a major Power after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. After months of planning, the UN Conference on International Organization opened in San Francisco in April 1945 attended by 50 governments and a number of non-governmental organisations involved in drafting the United Nations Charter. The heads of the delegations of the sponsoring countries took turns as chairman of the plenary meetings beginning with Anthony Eden of Britain. The UN officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council—the U.S., the U.K., France, the Soviet Union and the Republic of China—and by a majority of the other 46 signatories.
The first meetings of the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council took place in London beginning on 6 January 1946. The General Assembly met in Westminster Central Hall, and the Security Council met at Church House, Westminster.
Veto power in the UN Security Council
The United Kingdom has used its Security Council veto power on 32 occasions. The first occurrence was in October 1956 when the United Kingdom and France vetoed a letter from the US to the president of the Security Council concerning Palestine. The most recent was in December 1989 when the United Kingdom, France and the United States vetoed a draft resolution condemning the United States invasion of Panama.
Along with France, the United Kingdom used its veto power to veto a draft resolution aimed at resolving the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. The UK and France eventually withdrew after the US instigated an 'emergency special session' of the General Assembly, under the terms of the "Uniting for Peace" resolution, which led to the establishment of the United Nations Emergency Force I (UNEF I), by the adoption of Assembly resolution 1001. The UK also used its veto seven times in relation to Rhodesia from 1963 to 1973, five of these occasions were unilateral which are the only occasions on which the UK has used its veto power unilaterally.
Modernisation and reform
The United Kingdom has stated its support for modernisation of the United Nations and reform the Security Council. According to a formal statement made jointly by the United Kingdom and France in 2008:
Reform of the UNSC, both its enlargement and the improvement of its working methods, must therefore succeed. We reaffirm the support of our two countries for the candidacies of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan for permanent membership, as well as for permanent representation for Africa on the Council. ...
We will work with all our partners to define the parameters of such a reform.UNSC reform requires a political commitment from the member states at the highest level. We will work in this direction in the coming months with a view to achieving effective reform.
Military operations and peacekeeping
Under the United Nations Command, the United Kingdom participated in the Korean War from 1950-53. Since then, the UK has contributed to a number of United Nations peacekeeping missions. In the 1990s, British Armed Forces were part of the United Nations Protection Force from 1992–1995 that intervened in the Bosnian War. The 2000 British military intervention in the Sierra Leone Civil War supported the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone. Acting under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 in 2011, the UK and other NATO countries intervened in the Libyan Civil War.
As the fifth largest provider of financial contributions to United Nations peacekeeping, the UK provided 6.7 percent of the budget in 2013-15. In September 2015, the UK was contributing 286 troops and five police officers to United Nations peacekeeping missions. In November 1990, it was contributing 769.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 included a commitment to double the number of UK military personnel contributed to UN peacekeeping operations as well as increasing the number of UK law enforcement and civilian experts on UN peace operations and in UN headquarters.
- European Union and the United Nations
- Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations
- United Nations Association – UK
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