Kofi Annan - Center of the Storm


1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted
1949: Ralph Bunche secures Middle East peace.
1950: UN action in Korea
1956: UN helps resolve Suez crisis.

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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 Council's lead veto-er, blocking 250 Security Council resolutions.
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.

Learn more: PBS Online Newshour
James Woolsey and Noam Chomsky debate U.S. Cold War foreign policy.
UN headquarters 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.

Learn more: UN UN Headquarters
Take a tour of the building that houses the United Nations.
Palestinian refugees 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.

Learn more: UN UN on Palestine
Find out what the UN does to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Learn more: PBS Global Connections
Explore the history and questions that drive conflict in the Middle East.
Eleanor Roosevelt with Univ. Declaration of Human Rights 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.

Later, in 1993, the position of High Commissioner was created to oversee the UN's work in promoting and protecting human rights and international law.

Learn more: UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Read this landmark human rights document.
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."

Learn more: PBS Ralph Bunche, An American Odyssey
A full biography of this crusading diplomat

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