Diplomacy : The U.N. at 50

On Tuesday, the United Nations will mark 50 years since its charter took effect in the wake of the century's most devastating war. The organization, now with 185 member nations, contributes money and troops to global peacekeeping and humanitarian causes. As ceremonies marking the 50 years begin, here is a look at where the organization has been, how it has evolved and where it is today.

The Rise In The Ranks

U.N membership is rising dramatically this decade after gaining only seven countries in the '80s. Membership allows a nation to send a representative to New York.

Total membership

1940s: 59

1950s: 83

1960s: 125

1970s: 150

1980s: 157

1990s: 185

Requirements To Join

Open to all "peace-loving states" that are able to carry out the obligations of membership.

A two-thirds vote is required from the General Assembly.

Recommendation by a majority of the 15-member Security Council.

Notable Holdouts: Why They Haven't Joined

Switzerland: Has a long tradition of neutrality and many believe that membership in the United Nations would jeopardize that position.

Taiwan: Originally held the China seat but was replaced by the People's Republic of China and has never applied as Taiwan.

Vatican City: Not considered by all nations to be sovereign.

Tonga: Independent since 1970, has never applied for admission.

U.N. Peacekkeping

U.N. peacekeeping operrations have increased in number in the 1990s. Past and current missions:

Current U.N. mission:





Western Sahara








Top Contributors

The United States easily outdistances other major contributors in 1995 dues.

(In millions of dollars)

United States

Regular budget dues: $315

Peacekeepers/International dues: $974



Regular budget dues: $152

Peacekeepers/International dues: $422



Regular budget dues: $98

Peacekeepers/International dues: $276



Regular budget dues: $69

Peacekeepers/International dues: $240



Regular budget dues: $62

Peacekeepers/International dues: $226


Regular budget dues: $1,134,628,998*

Peacekeepers/International dues: $3,088,500,587*

* Total 1995 spending

Structured Around General Assembly

The U.N. Charter, the organization's manual, sets up six major operating units:

General Assembly: The only major unit to which all members belong.

Security Council: Responsible for maintaining peace.

Secretariat: Helps other units work together efficiently.

Economic and Social Council: Advances human rights and promotes better living standards.

Court of Justice: Handles international legal disputes.

Trusteeship Council: Oversees territories that were not self-governing when United Nations was founded.

U.N. Milestones

1945: June--U.N charter is signed.

1946: March 21--U.N. moves from London to New York.

1950: June 24--Security Council authorizes U.N. defense of South Korea after North Korean invasion.

1953: July 27--U.N. Command and Chinese-North Korean Command sign armistice.

1956: Nov. 6--General Assembly establishes first peacekeeping force for Suez crisis.

1963: Oct. 22--United States and Russia for head to head in Cuban missile crisis.

1964: March 4--Peacekeepers sent to Cyprus.

1966: Dec. 16--Security Council imposes sanctions on the breakaway British colony of Rhodesia.

1971: Oct. 25--Communist China replaces Taiwan.

1980: May 8--World Health Organization announces that smallpox has been eradicated.

1987: September--Treaty on ozone layer is signed, the first global environment agreement.

1990: Aug. 2--Security Council condemns Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and imposes sanctions.

1990: Dec 31--El Salvador and rebel forces sign peace accords at U.N. headquarters, ending 10-year war.

1994: April-- U.N. approves first NATO airstrikes in Bosnia

Sources: "United Nations: The First 50 Years" by Stanley Meisler, Europa World Yearbook 1992, Encyclopedia Britannica, United Nations Department of Public Information, World Book, Associated Press; Researched by D'JAMILA SALEM / Los Angeles Times

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