The practice of a careful and extensive preparatory process for major transitions in international structures is rooted in the origins of all the major post-WWII institutions.
As early as January 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt publically acknowledged a “United Nations” and began planning a new post-World War governance system. During these negotiations, Roosevelt himself took a commanding role in creating the body intended to govern international security and forge global peace: the UN Security Council. The League of Nations, Roosevelt felt, lacked an enforcement mechanism and sufficient troop commitments to ensure international security. Consequently, he was intent on having a post-World War II institution with the ability to control military conflicts. In his view, the next international organization structure should not suffer the same failures as the League of Nations.
Roosevelt sought support for his concept of a Security Council from those countries with the greatest capacity to provide military force and ensure international peace. He initially tapped Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Nationalist China, and his own state as the “Four Policemen,” capable of adding the armed forces that collective security under the League of Nations had been missing. 1 Roosevelt’s vision succeeded in 1942 when the “Declaration by United Nations,” pledging to establish an international organization, was signed in Washington by the US, USSR, Great Britain, Republic of China, five British Commonwealth countries (Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa), nine Latin American and Caribbean countries (Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama), and eight governments in exile.
In September, 1944, the United States, China, Great Britain, and the USSR convened in Dumbarton Oaks (Washington, D.C.) to draft the organizational charter for the United Nations. Negotiations centered on the Security Council, which originally had eleven members, five permanent and six that held two-year rotations. The Security Council was charged with making decisions about UN actions to prevent war and suppress acts of aggression, and providing sufficient and dedicated armed forces from member states to implement these Council decisions. 2
In April 1945, Roosevelt died, leading to the inauguration of Harry Truman, one of Roosevelt’s strongest supporters in the creation of a United Nations. Under Truman, the text of the UN Charter was agreed upon in San Francisco. The Charter obligated member countries to implement the decisions of the Security Council. 3
It includes a distinctly American delimitation of the Security Council’s power in Chapter VII, allowing the Security Council to authorize “such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Pressures from the USSR molded the first stated purpose of the United Nations in Article I, “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace…” 4
In contrast to the focus on the Security Council, the negotiation process for Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was given significantly less attention. The primary role of the new United Nations in economic and social matters was to act as a coordination body. Unlike the Security Council, the new Economic and Social Council would have no economic enforcement powers. 5
In addition, separate organizations with leadership on economic, monetary and trade matters were created. These organizations were established to be independent of both the ECOSOC and the United Nations. 6 Preparation for the creation of the Bretton Woods Institutions began with the signing of the Atlantic Charter in 1941. This Charter initiated a series of negotiations, resulting in the establishment of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1944, a year before the United Nations was formally launched. A second track of negotiations culminated in the Havana Charter in 1948 with the subsequent creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Not all the preparatory work resulted in exactly the recommended outcomes, 7
Thirty years later the UN returned to the debate on governance and macroeconomics. In 1974, at the insistence of the newly de-colonized members of the UN, the General Assembly adopted the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States 8 and the New International Economic Order. 9
Related Ideas: 1994 process
The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples and commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of the context of GRI project.