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What is the role of the United Nations in maintaining peace?  

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The United Nations does a number of things to try to maintain peace in the world.  They can generally be broken down into three categories.

First, the UN does what is called peacekeeping.  In instances like this, it sends armed forces under its control (contributed by member nations) to separate the two sides in a conflict.  The UN troops are there to prevent the sides from attacking one another while peace is negotiated.

Secondly, the UN can provide or threaten collective security.  In some cases, the UN will threaten military action or economic sanctions.  The UN will do this to try to keep a particular country from continuing to take actions that might lead to war.

Finally, the UN does many less direct things to keep the peace.  It has many agencies that are meant to promote economic and social development.  These agencies try to reduce poverty and other causes of conflict.  The UN also provides a forum for countries to interact with one another in hopes that the constant contacts will help encourage the countries to solve their differences peacefully.

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The League of Nations was created after World War I in an attempt to give countries a way to solve problems without resorting to war, but was not structured in a way that allowed this goal to be achieved. The United Nations was founded after World War II as a second attempt to create an organization allowing countries to gather and discuss differences and problems and work to find solutions without resorting to fighting. It has the authority to intervene in situations with mediators to try to resolve conflicts, with aid to support and assist persons being affected or displaced by conflicts, and with troops if necessary to try to control and end military actions. The United Nations also sponsors efforts to support economic development, improvement of health care and other social programs, enforcement of international law, and recognition of human rights.

The Preamble, or introduction, to the Charter of the United Nations, reads:

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to regain faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMSAccordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.


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