During the closing days of the Second World War, representatives of 51 nations attended the UN Conference on International Organization in San Francisco and signed the UN Charter. This event brought the Organization into existence on 24 October 1945, the day now known as United Nations Day. In 1995 the United Nations celebrated its 50th Anniversary of service to the global community.
The 50th Anniversary was an historic opportunity to encourage international debate about the role of the UN, as well as to celebrate its accomplishments. Coinciding with a turning point in international relations, it was a time to rekindle the ideals of the UN Charter and to spread the spirit of cooperation among the peoples of the world. An overall theme of the celebration, "We The Peoples of the United Nations...United for a Better World," was endorsed by the General Assembly in October 1993. The UN 50th Anniversary celebrations culminated in New York on 24 October 1995 with a commemorative session of the General Assembly. During the formal proceedings of the Assembly, the 50th Anniversary Declaration of the UN was endorsed by the Membership. The Declaration promotes themes of peace, development, equality and justice.
The Anniversary celebration was a global undertaking involving a UN50 Secretariat established by the Secretary-General and 152 National Committees formed by the Member States. In addition, National Committees around the world spearheaded programs such as academic conferences, debates, documentaries, Model UNs, art exhibits, concerts and other popular events. United Nations Associations (UNAs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also broadened public understanding of UN achievements through educational programs, conferences and numerous activities throughout 1995.
Many of the UN50 programs were geared toward educating young people -- those who will determine the future role of the United Nations. A centerpiece of UN50 educational activities was the Global Teach-In, a call to educators to focus on the UN and global concerns during October 1995. Over 70 countries participated in Global Teach-In activities, ranging from UN quizzes in schools and teacher training workshops to the distribution of School Kits on the United Nations. It is anticipated that the Teach-Ins will continue to be held each year to commemorate UN Day.
UN50 also sought to highlight the scope of work and achievements of the UN in areas such as development, human rights, environmental protection and humanitarian aid that have traditionally received less visibility than peacekeeping and conflict resolution.
A special UN50 emblem was created for use with official Anniversary activities of the Secretariat and Member States. In addition, UN50 commemorative coin and stamp programs were established globally to promote the 50th Anniversary celebration. Approximately 200 postal administration issued stamps commemorating the Anniversary.
In November 1995 the UN flag was carried into outer space by the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, to salute United Nations work for the peaceful uses of outer space.