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Preparing for peace after the Second World War

The Story

The end of the war in Europe is in sight. But how can the world's nations keep the peace once the Second World War is over? At a conference in San Francisco, representatives from 50 countries are looking beyond the inevitable German surrender, the redrawing of national boundaries and the problem of millions of refugees displaced by war. Their goal is to prevent another world war by drafting the charter of the United Nations. Planning for peace is crucial, says host Malcolm Wallace of the CBC Radio program Citizens' Forum. Since the start of the war almost six years earlier, scientists have developed increasingly destructive weapons. Those weapons could be used at the outset of any subsequent world war, devastating the human race. By cooperating as the United Nations, the countries represented in San Francisco hope to stop wars before they start. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Citizens' Forum
Broadcast Date: April 10, 1945
Host: Malcolm Wallace
Duration: 4:53
Home page photo credit: City of Toronto Archives / Fonds 1257, Series A, Item 195
Photo: Library and Archives Canada / C-022720

Did You know?

• The term "United Nations" was first used in January 1942. In a document called "Declaration by United Nations," 26 nations (including Canada) agreed to keep fighting the Axis powers in the Second World War.

• In September 1944 a group of 39 American, British, Chinese and Soviet delegates met at Dumbarton Oaks, a mansion outside Washington, D.C., to draft the charter of the United Nations. Their goal was to create an international organization to secure postwar peace.

• The United Nations replaced the League of Nations, an organization that was founded in 1920 in the wake of the First World War. The United States was never a member of the League, and the ineffectiveness of the League became apparent in 1931, when Japan defied the will of the League and invaded Manchuria. In the late 1930s, the League was useless in preventing German aggression in annexing Austria and Czechoslovakia.

• Winston Churchill of Britain, Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union met at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. They were there to plan the defeat of Germany and divide that country for postwar occupation.

• The leaders of the three Allied nations also worked out several thorny issues with the United Nations. One of the biggest points of contention was the composition of the Security Council and its voting power.

• In the end, the leaders agreed that the Security Council would be composed of five permanent members: the "Big Four" -- the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and China -- plus France. Security Council resolutions require the unanimous consent of all members. In effect, each of the five has veto power over the others.

• The Security Council also has 10 seats for non-permanent elected members.

• The San Francisco conference began on April 25, 1945. Canada was represented by Prime Minister Mackenzie King, his minister of justice and deputy Louis St-Laurent, and a delegation that included Lester B. Pearson.

• One of Canada's achievements at the conference was to sponsor a clause (Article 44) related to the Security Council. Non-member nations of the Security Council gained the right to sit in on sessions when use of their countries' military forces was under discussion.

• The Final Charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco by 50 countries on June 26, 1945. (Poland, which was not represented at the conference, became the 51st original member.)

• The charter was ratified by the members of the Security Council and a majority of the 51 signatories on Oct. 24, 1945.

• Listen to a CBC Archives radio clip in which Pearson addresses the United Nations in 1947.


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