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UN Timeline: 1946-1960s
1946: USSR casts first Security Council veto. On Feb. 16, Soviet Ambassador Andrei Vishinsky vetoes a resolution calling for the withdrawal of British and French troops from Syria because he considers its language too weak, transforming the assumption among UN founders that Security Council veto power would be used sparingly and only for major events. The USSR went on to become the lead veto-er blocking 250 Security Council resolutions.
1946: Iran becomes UN's first Cold War crisis. British and Soviet troops had jointly occupied Iran since 1941 to protect oil reserves from falling into German hands. The Soviets refused to withdraw their forces and the case came up before the newly formed Security Council in March 1946. When the Soviet Ambassador, Andrei Gromyko, failed to get a postponement of the debate, the Soviets walked out. Nevertheless, the Security Council stood its ground and six weeks later Stalin withdrew his troops from Iran.
1946: New York becomes UN headquarters After a year-long stint in postwar London, the United Nations moves to New York City on Dec. 14. John D. Rockefeller donates $8.5 million to buy the site of former slaughter houses on New York's East Side and an international team of architects -- including mega-stars Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer -- design a building that reflects a metropolitan setting, but does not reflect any particular national brand of architecture.
1947: Palestine divided. The General Assembly endorses the partition of Palestine into an independent Arab state and an independent Jewish state and the designation of Jerusalem as an "international" city. Britain surrenders its League of Nations Palestine mandate to the UN, the state of Israel is proclaimed and hostilities immediately break out. The first of many UN missions for the Middle East -- the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) -- is established in 1948 to monitor the peace in Palestine. In 1948, Resolution 194 sets up the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for the Palestinian refugee populations.
1948: UN adopts Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Three years in the making, the Declaration is adopted unanimously by the General Assembly. The first international agreement on individual rights and freedoms, it sets a standard for human rights ranging from freedom of expression to freedom of religion as well as promoting such social principles as the right to work and to an education. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the commission that created the declaration.
1949: Ralph Bunche secures Israeli-Arab cease-fire. This pivotal set of four armistices - between Israel and Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria -- marked the only time that all Arab contenders in the Middle East conflict signed an armistice with Israel. A high point for UN peacekeeping, it did not, however, lead to peace agreements within six months, as hoped. UN mediator Ralph Bunche, who won the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, declared in his acceptance speech that, "The United Nations exists not merely to preserve the peace but also to make change -- even radical change -- possible without violent upheaval."
The two thorny issues that lingered were left to be decided at Yalta.
1950: The Security Council, in the absence of the Soviet Union, votes to have UN members defend South Korea from North Korea. : U.S. General Douglas MacArthur is sent in as the head of the UN command of US forces and small groups of British, Canadian, Australian and Turkish troops. The war kills millions and ends in 1953 with the division of the Korean Peninsula between a communist north and a capitalist south.
An American interpreter at Yalta observed that without the veto resolution "there would hardly have been a United Nations."
1952: The UN moves into its New York City headquarters.
1953: Dag Hammarskjöld of Sweden becomes Secretary-General. Hammarskjöld, the poet-diplomat, takes over from Trygve Lie who resigned from the post, stating, "...In my new official capacity the private man should disappear and the
1956: First emergency Special Session of the General Assembly meets on the Suez crisis and establishes first UN peacekeeping force. The General Assembly voted to establish the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) -- the UN's first full-scale peacekeeping force. Ten days later six thousand troops landed in Egypt to supervise the 273-kilometer border with Israel and oversee the withdrawal of British, French and Israeli forces. The result -- for a while -- was peace and it appeared the UN had scored its first peacekeeping victory. In 1974, UNEF II was established to supervise the cease-fire between Israel and Egypt.
1957: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is set up to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
1960: Peacekeeping forces are sent to the Congo. United Nations Operations in the Congo -- known by its acronym in French, ONUC -- is established in July 1960 to ensure the withdrawal of the former colonial power, Belgium, and maintain law and order. The mission was deployed within 48 hours of the request from the Congolese government and at its peak included nearly 20,000 personnel. The mandate rapidly expanded to prevent civil war and the break-up of the country because of the internal political chaos in the Congo. The operation ended on June 30, 1960.
1960: Largest increase in UN membership when 17 newly created countries join -- 16 are from Africa.
1960: Soviet President Nikita Krushchev pounds his shoe on his desk at the UN and makes his famous proclamation, "We will bury you!"
1961: Dag Hammarskjoeld dies in a plane crash while on mission to negotiate a cease-fire in the Congo.
1961: U Thant of Burma (now Myanmar) is named Secretary-General.
1963: Security Council votes for a voluntary arms embargo against South Africa because of its policy of apartheid.
1964: Peacekeepers sent to Cyprus. The UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was set up in 1964 to prevent fighting between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island. Though outright hostilities ended in 1974, the mission remains to supervise the ceasefire, maintain a buffer zone and do humanitarian work. It is the UN's long running peace operation.
1964: The developing nations form the "Group of 77." The largest bloc of developing countries, G77 is formed to boost the Third World's collective negotiating strength on economic issues. Although the membership has increased to 133, the original name stuck.
1965: UNICEF wins Nobel Peace Prize. Set up in 1946 to help children in the aftermath of World War II in Europe, the United Nations Children's Fund later became a permanent UN agency to assist children and mothers living in poverty everywhere. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for the promotion of brotherhood among nations."
1966: Security Council imposes mandatory sanctions against Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) against the white minority government.
1967: Six Day War erupts following UN troop withdrawal from Egypt. When UN peacekeepers pulled out, hostilities quickly break out between Arab states and Israel. Israel secures a quick and decisive victory in six days of fighting. The Security Council approves Resolution 242 as a framework for "a just and lasting peace" in the region: Israeli troops would withdraw from territories it captured in exchange for the recognition of the State of Israel. The conflicting interpretations that have kept a solution out of reach for 33 years.
1968: Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. A landmark international agreement, the treaty aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and work toward disarmament -- nuclear and otherwise. Ratified in 1970, it has been extended indefinitely.
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