The United Nations came into existence at a time of great despair, when the penholders of its founding document dared to imagine a better world, one that would be defined by peace and equality. Visionary world leaders chose hope over cynicism, empathy over indifference and partnership over distrust when they came together in San Francisco on 26 June 1945 to sign the Charter of the United Nations
. They embarked upon a new, rules-based world order, with an Organization of unrivalled legitimacy at its core.
“Reconciling the requirements of the ideal with the possibilities of the real": this is how Georges Bidault, Minister for Foreign Affairs and head of the French delegation to the San Francisco Conference, summed up the objective
pursued by the drafters of the Charter of the United Nations. On the still living ashes of the Second World War, the fathers of an Organization charged with developing friendly relations between nations, promoting human rights and economic and social progress were less utopian than visionary. They understood that the community of States should have a common constitution. It has been tested by conflict, crisis and upheaval, but its resilience and strength have shaped the very structure of contemporary international relations.
This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, written and signed during a period of great global change. Today, the world is again shifting beneath our feet. Yet, the Charter remains a firm foundation for our joint efforts.
The Charter of the United Nations
is not only the constituent instrument of the United Nations as an organization. It is a multilateral legal manifesto encompassing a set of basic principles and norms aimed at ensuring peace, freedom, development, equality and human rights throughout the world. These principles and norms reflect the shared values proclaimed in the preamble on behalf of the “Peoples of the United Nations”. As such, it is the most innovative and trailblazing multilateral treaty ever concluded among States. Today, it is a universal instrument by which all States have solemnly accepted to be bound in their international relations.
The Charter of the United Nations has been a constant presence in my life. My awareness of it started with the usual brief introduction to the basics of the United Nations as an organization that many young people receive in school. Later, as my political awareness took shape against the backdrop of military rule in Portugal and my country’s status as a colonial power, the Charter’s calls for self-determination and other freedoms registered with urgency. During the time I spent as a volunteer in the poor neighbourhoods of Lisbon, the Charter’s vision of social justice was equally resonant. In subsequent service as a parliamentarian and then as Prime Minister, I was privileged to have an opportunity to advance not only national progress but one of the Charter’s other main objectives: international cooperation. Across a decade as High Commissioner for Refugees and now in my current role, the Charter’s power inspires me onward every day in serving “we the peoples”, including the most vulnerable members of the human family, who have a special claim on that landmark document’s provisions and protections.