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Talking is Important: The Formation of the United Nations

The United Nations began operating 71 years ago today, following the second of two world wars that killed up to 100 million people around the globe.

As those conflicts dwindle further and further into the past and out of our collective memories, we forget the toll that kind of death had on humanity. While the number of Americans who died was relatively low, entire generations were lost in other parts of the world.

The Soviet Union lost almost 14 percent of its population, Poland 17 percent and Germany 8 percent, just to name a few.

The United Nations was established to prevent another such conflict, and was the successor to the post-World War I League of Nations that itself failed to do the same thing.

By most accounts, the UN has been rather successful. Despite high-profile conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Israel, the number of people killed in wars is close to its lowest point since 1946 (when World War II ended).

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker told the Wall Street Journal a few years ago that “we may be living in the peaceable era in the history of our species.”

But the United Nations doesn’t exist simply to prevent war. The 195 countries that are part of the UN also collaborate on other important issues.

In 2015, world leaders adopted 17 sustainable development goals that include ending poverty, eliminating hunger, providing quality education and ensuring gender equality, among other things.

Hundreds of other organizations—called “nongovernmental organizations”—also have roles at the UN, along with its 193 member states and 2 observer states.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has been an accredited NGO at the UN since 1985, and takes an active role in advocating on the behalf of refugees and migrants, against human trafficking, and in favor of the right to clean water worldwide.

The UN experiment of the last 71 years has shown just how effective open communication can be in resolving conflict.

The Charter of the United Nations took force on Oct. 24, 1945.

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the UN for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

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