United Kingdom and the United Nations

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
United Nations membership
Membership Full member
Since 1945 (1945)
UNSC seat Permanent
Ambassador Matthew Rycroft
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The United Kingdom is a founding member of the United Nations and one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council.[1][2]

As the fifth largest provider of financial contributions to the United Nations, the UK provided 5 percent of the UN budget in 2015,[3] and 6.7 percent of the peacekeeping budget.[4] British English is one of the six official languages of the United Nations,[5] 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.[6]

United Kingdom's role in establishing the UN

Further information: United Nations § History

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's 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.[7]

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.[8][9]

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.[10][11] 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.[12][13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

The first meetings of the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council took place in London beginning on 6 January 1946.[15] The General Assembly met in Westminster Central Hall,[16] and the Security Council met at Church House, Westminster.[17]

Veto power in the UN Security Council

The United Kingdom has used its Security Council veto power on 32 occasions.[18] The first occurrence was in October 1956 when the United Kingdom and France vetoed a letter from the USA 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.[19]

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 U.S. 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.[20] 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.[19]

Modernisation and reform

The United Kingdom has stated its support for modernisation of the United Nations and reform the Security Council.[21] 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.[22]

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.[4] In September 2015, the UK was contributing 286 troops and five police officers to United Nations peacekeeping missions.[23] In November 1990, it was contributing 769.[24]

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.[25]

See also


  1. "Founding Member States". United Nations. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  2. "Current Members". United Nations Security Council. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  3. "Assessment of Member States' contributions to the United Nations regular budget for the year 2015". United Nations Secretariat. 29 December 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  4. 1 2 "Financing peacekeeping". United Nations Peacekeeping. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  5. "Spelling". United Nations Editorial Manual Online. Retrieved 30 October 2015; "Search Tips". United Nations. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  6. "UK Mission to UN New York"; "UK Mission to the UN Geneva"; "UK Mission to the UN Vienna". Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  7. "1941: The Declaration of St. James' Palace". United Nations. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  8. "United Nations". Wordorigins.org. 3 February 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  9. Ward, Geoffrey C.; Burns, Ken (2014). "Nothing to Conceal". The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 0385353065.
  10. Urquhart, Brian. Looking for the Sheriff. New York Review of Books, July 16, 1998.
  11. "1942: Declaration of The United Nations". United Nations. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  12. Bohlen, C.E. (1973). Witness to History, 1929–1969. New York. p. 159.
  13. Video: Allies Study Post-War Security Etc. (1944). Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  14. "1945: The San Francisco Conference". United Nations. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  15. 1 2 "Milestones in United Nations History". Department of Public Information, United Nations. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2013 via Wayback Machine.
  16. "History of the United Nations 1941 - 1950". United Nations. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  17. "What is the Security Council?". United Nations. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  18. "Changing Patterns in the Use of the Veto in The Security Council" (PDF). Global Policy Forum. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  19. 1 2 "Security Council - Veto List". UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  20. "Emergency Special Sessions". United Nations. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  21. "Speech: "Together, we've spent 70 years striving for peace, 70 years helping the poorest and most vulnerable"". UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. 23 October 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  22. "Joint UK-France Summit Declaration". British Prime Minister’s Office. 27 March 2008. Archived from the original on 5 May 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2008.
  23. "Contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations". United Nations. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  24. "Troop and police contributors archive (1990 - 2014)". United Nations. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  25. "National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015" (PDF). HM Government. November 2015. p. 60. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
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