United Nations Day is a global day of celebration, marking the day representatives from 50 countries met to sign the charter that established the UN. Sabaton’s song A Light in the Black, from the 2006 album Attero Dominatus, is about peacekeeping – just one part of the UN’s international work.
After the end of World War II, representatives of 50 countries gathered together in San Francisco to formally establish the United Nations. The alliance of countries was set up to ensure that future generations would not have to live under the shadow of war, and to promote friendly relations between members. A similar organisation, the League of Nations, had been formed following the Great War (now known as World War I), but it was disbanded because it had failed to prevent World War II.
The name “United Nations” was first used by US president Franklin D. Roosevelt to describe the group of 26 nations who made a pledge on 1 January 1942 to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan). The formal establishment of the United Nations (UN) as an organisation came more than three years later, once the war was over.
A huge amount of discussion and preparation went into drawing up the United Nations Charter, which still governs the UN’s actions and principles to this day. The first proposals were drawn up by representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the USA, who met at Dumbarton Oaks, a private mansion in Washington D.C., between August and October 1944. These were then sent to all the countries who would become members of the UN, for study and comment.
The following year, representatives from 50 nations came together at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to finalise and sign the Charter. Poland was not represented at the conference but was able to sign the document later and become one of the original 51 member states.
The Charter officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the majority of members had signed the document including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Soviet Union [now Russian Federation], United Kingdom and USA). United Nations Day has been celebrated on this date every year since 1948.
Today, the UN has 193 member states and performs a number of functions, taking action on important international issues including:
- maintaining peace and security
- protecting human rights
- delivering humanitarian aid
- promoting sustainable development
- upholding international law.
A Light in the Black is about the UN’s peacekeeping forces, who are sent into countries to help them transition from conflict to peace. The band chose to write about this subject because they have a number of friends around the world who have served in peacekeeping forces and felt that these people deserved their own tribute.
Modern peacekeeping has various important roles, including protecting civilians, reinstating political processes and supporting elections, disarming former combatants and getting them back into society, and helping to restore law and order. The troops and police come from UN member states, and between 1948 and 2018 there were 71 peacekeeping operations deployed worldwide.