United Nations Day

Thailand #522 (1968)

Thailand #522 (1968)

October 24 is celebrated as United Nations Day in many nations around the world, marking the anniversary of the Charter of the United Nation. The day is devoted to making known to people of the world the aims and achievements of the United Nations Organization. United Nations Day is part of United Nations Week, which runs from 20 to 26 October. The holiday was originally declared by the General Assembly in 1948 but further amended in 1971 with Resolution 2782 which declared that United Nations Day shall be an international holiday and recommended that it should be observed as a public holiday by all United Nations member states. It is traditionally marked throughout the world with meetings, discussions and exhibits about the achievements and goals of the organization. A number of international schools throughout the world also celebrate the diversity of their student body on United Nations Day. Celebrations often include a show of cultural performances in the evening and a food fair, where food is available from all over the world.

In the century prior to the creation of the United Nations, several international treaty organizations and conferences had been formed to regulate conflicts between nations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Following the catastrophic loss of life in the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference established the League of Nations to maintain harmony between countries. This organization resolved some territorial disputes and created international structures for areas such as postal mail, aviation, and opium control, some of which would later be absorbed into the UN. However, the League lacked representation for colonial peoples (then half the world’s population) and significant participation from several major powers, including the United States, Soviet Union, Germany, and Japan; it failed to act against the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the Second Italo-Ethiopian War in 1935, the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, and German expansions under Adolf Hitler that culminated in the Second World War.

The earliest concrete plan for a new world organization began under the aegis of the U.S. State Department in 1939. The text of the “Declaration by United Nations” was drafted by President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins, while meeting at the White House on December 29, 1941. It incorporated Soviet suggestions, but left no role for France. “Four Policemen” was coined to refer to four major Allied countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China — which emerged in the Declaration by United Nations. Roosevelt first coined the term United Nations to describe the Allied countries.

On New Year’s Day 1942, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, Maxim Litvinov, of the USSR, and T. V. Soong, of China, signed a short document which later came to be known as the United Nations Declaration and the next day the representatives of twenty-two other nations added their signatures.” The term United Nations was first officially used when 26 governments signed this Declaration. One major change from the Atlantic Charter was the addition of a provision for religious freedom, which Stalin approved after Roosevelt insisted. By March 1, 1945, 21 additional states had signed. During the remainder of World War II, the United Nations became the official term for the Allies. To join, countries had to sign the Declaration and declare war on the Axis.

The United Nations was formulated and negotiated among the delegations from the Allied Big Four (the Soviet Union, the UK, the US and China) at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in 1944. After months of planning, the UN Conference on International Organization opened in San Francisco on April 25, 1945, attended by 50 governments and a number of non-governmental organizations involved in drafting the United Nations Charter. The United Nations officially came into existence on October 24, 1945, upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council — France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States — and by a majority of the other 46 signatories.

The first meetings of the General Assembly, with 51 nations represented, and the Security Council took place in London beginning January 6. 1946. The General Assembly selected New York City as the site for the headquarters of the United Nations, and the facility was completed in 1952. Its site — like UN headquarters buildings in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi — is designated as international territory. The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Trygve Lie, was elected as the first UN Secretary-General.

The United Nations’ mission to preserve world peace was complicated in its early decades by the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union and their respective allies. The organization participated in major actions in Korea and the Congo, as well as approving the creation of the state of Israel in 1947. The organization’s membership grew significantly following widespread decolonization in the 1960’s, and by the 1970’s its budget for economic and social development programs far outstripped its spending on peacekeeping. After the end of the Cold War, the U.N. took on major military and peacekeeping missions across the world with varying degrees of success.

The United Nations’ system is based on five principal organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. A sixth principal organ, the Trusteeship Council, suspended operations in 1994, upon the independence of Palau, the last remaining U.N. trustee territory.

Four of the five principal organs are located at the main U.N. Headquarters in New York City. The International Court of Justice is located in The Hague, while other major agencies are based in the U.N. offices at Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi. Other U.N. institutions are located throughout the world. The six official languages of the United Nations, used in intergovernmental meetings and documents, are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. On the basis of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, the U.N. and its agencies are immune from the laws of the countries where they operate, safeguarding the U.N.’s impartiality with regard to the host and member countries.

The U.N. Charter stipulates that each primary organ of the United Nations can establish various specialized agencies to fulfill its duties. Some of the best-known agencies are the International Atomic Energy Agency; the Food and Agriculture Organization; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the World Bank; and the World Health Organization (WHO). The U.N. performs most of its humanitarian work through these agencies. Examples include mass vaccination programs (through WHO), the avoidance of famine and malnutrition (through the work of the WFP), and the protection of vulnerable and displaced people (for example, by UNHCR)

With the addition of South Sudan July 14, 2011, there are 193 United Nations member states, including all undisputed independent states apart from Vatican City. In addition, there are two non-member observer states of the United Nations General Assembly: the Holy See (which holds sovereignty over Vatican City) and the State of Palestine. The Cook Islands and Niue, both states in free association with New Zealand, are full members of several of the U.N.’s specialized agencies and have had their “full treaty-making capacity” recognized by the Secretariat.

The United Nations maintains a complex in Bangkok, Thailand. Serving as the U.N.’s regional center for Asia and the Pacific, it’s the third largest complex owned by the U.N. The U.N. Building on Rajadamnern Nok Avenue houses the offices of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Labor Organization (ILO), UNESCO, and many others for a total of 32 agency offices, a figure which includes both the Asian Development Bank and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), neither of which are technically U.N. agencies but both of which have so much in common with it, that they are treated as if they were U.N. agencies for most operational purposes. Twenty-four of these agencies have an exclusive or partial focus on Thailand, while the remaining have only a regional mandate.

The U.N. Building in Bangkok also also includes the U.N. Conference Centre, one of the largest convention facilities in Asia, as well as branches of Siam Commercial Bank, American Express Travel Agency, and Thailand Post which provides normal postal services as well as overseas telephone calls and fax transmissions. For official purposes only, there are United Nations mail pouch services twice weekly to New York and weekly to Geneva, Rome and Vienna and some countries in the region.

Because of it’s close association with the United Nations, Thailand has issued numerous stamps over the years marking U.N. programs, agencies, and special events (such as International Cooperation Year in 1965). Near-annual stamp releases commemorating United Nations Day occurred until 1985. The first of these was Scott #296, a 25-satang stamp released in 1951. This stamp received overprints consisting of the year in carmine ink in 1952 (Scott #297), 1953 (Scott #298), and 1954 (Scott #299), red ink in 1955 (Scott #315), and red violet ink in 1956 (Scott #320). A new design was prepared for the 1958 U.N. stamp issue (Scott #330), printed in olive. This design was re-used in 1958 printed in bright ocher (Scott #331) and in 1959 in indigo (Scott #332).

Different designs were printed for each year from 1960 until 1985, missing only 1965 (replaced by a stamp for International Cooperation Year) and 1972 (replaced with the November 15 commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East). Two stamps were released on United Nations Day in 1986, one for International Peace Year and the other marking Productivity Year. The 50th anniversary of the United Nations was marked by a single issue released on October 24, 1995 (Scott #1629); to date, this is the last U.N.-themed stamp released by Thailand.

Scott #522, denominated 50 satang and featuring the United Nations emblem surrounded by thirteen identifiable country flags (which overlap numerous others which cannot be identified), was issued on October 24, 1968, perforated 13½.

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