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United Nations Day

The foundations for a league of Nations were laid in the Treaty of Versailles, which was one of the treaties to formally end World War I. The treaty was signed in Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919. The league aimed to encourage disarmament, prevent outbreaks of war, encourage negotiations and diplomatic measures to settle international disputes and to improve the quality of life around the world. However, the outbreak of World War II suggested that the League of Nations needed to take on a different form.

The ideas around the United Nations were developed in the last years of World War II, particularly during the UN Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, the United States, beginning on April 25, 1945. The UN was officially created when a UN charter was ratified on October 24 that year.

United Nations Day was first observed on October 24, 1948. The UN recommended that United Nations Day should be a public holiday in member states since 1971. There were also calls for United Nations Day to be an international public holiday to bring attention to the work, role and achievements of the UN and its family of specialized agencies. These have been spectacular, particularly in the fields of human rights, support in areas of famine, eradication of disease, promotion of health and settlement of refugees.

The UN does not work alone but together with many specialized agencies, including: the World Health Organization (WHO); the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); International Labour Organization (ILO); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

International days are occasions to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems and to celebrate and reinforce the achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

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Each international day offers many actors the opportunity to organize activities related to the theme of the day. Organizations and offices of the United Nations system, and most importantly, governments, civil society, the public and private sectors, schools, universities and, more generally, citizens, make an international day a springboard for awareness-raising actions.

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