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Charter of the United Nations

Historical Background

Declaration by United Nations. 01 January 1942. UN Photo # 31319

Several conferences and agreements led up to the 1945 San Francisco Conference when the text of the Charter was finalized, adopted and signed. ​

  • The 1946-1947 Yearbook of the United Nations provides a detailed overview of the events. 
  • A procedural history is available in the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law.
  • The 70 Years, 70 documents exhibit provides additional information. 

Between the adoption of the Charter and the beginning of the functioning of the United Nations, the Preparatory Commission and its subsidiaries worked on many practical matters and made recommendations to the UN organs.

Key texts were published in United Nations Documents, 1941-1945, published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1946.

Resources and Links

San Francisco Conference, 1945

The San Francisco Conference, 25 April-26 June 1945. 12 June 1945. UN Photo #179012

The United Nations Conference on International Organization, was held in San Francisco, California, 25 April - 26 June 1945, to draft the Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice. The text was based on earlier proposals, negotiated in various subsidiary bodies, and finally adopted unanimously in a plenary meeting of the Conference on 25 June 1945.

Representatives of 50 countries participated in the San Francisco Conference. The Charter was opened for signature on 26 June 1945. The representatives of 50 countries signed on 26 June; Poland signed on 15 October 1945. 

In accordance with Article 110, the Charter entered into force on 24 October 1945, after ratification by the five permanent members of the Security Council and a majority of the other countries. Twenty-two countries subsequently deposited their instruments of ratification.

Resources and Links

Preparatory Commission of the United Nations, 1945

The Preparatory Commission of the United Nations was established by the San Francisco Conference on 25 June 1945 through the adoption of the "Interim Arrangements Concluded by the Governments Represented at the United Nations Conference on International Organization".

The Preparatory Commission was established to make practical arrangements for the transition from a proposal embodied in the Charter to a functioning organization. According to the document, the Commission:

  • was established "for the purpose of making provisional arrangements for the first sessions of the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the Trusteeship Council, for the establishment of the Secretariat, and for the convening of the International Court of Justice"
  • consisted of "one representative from each government signatory to the Charter"
    • Executive Committee was composed of the representatives of the governments on the Executive Committee of the Conference
  • was assigned several tasks, including among others:
    • convocation of the first session of the General Assembly
    • preparation of the agendas for the first sessions of the principal organs
    • making recommendations regarding the "possible transfer of certain functions, activities, and assets of the League of Nations" to the United Nations
    • making recommendations about the Secretariat and the location of the permanent headquarters
  • met in London
  • ceased to exist "upon the election of the Secretary-General" of the United Nations

Key Documents

Report of the Executive Committee to the Preparatory Commission

Report of the Preparatory Commission

  • PC/20
  • Includes, among others,
    • recommendations, proposed agendas, and provisional rules of procedure for:
      • General Assembly
      • Security Council
      • Economic and Social Council
      • Trusteeship Council
    • reports on matters related to the International Court of Justice
    • recommendation concerning the registration and publication of treaties
    • items related to privileges and immunities
    • recommendations concerning
      • the organization of the Secretariat and draft Staff Regulations and Staff Rules
      • budgetary and financial arrangements
      • the location of the headquarters