The Charter of the United Nations (also known as the UN Charter) of 1945 is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, an intergovernmental organization. The UN Charter articulated a commitment to uphold human rights of citizens and outlined a broad set of principles relating to achieving ‘higher standards of living’, addressing ‘economic, social, health, and related problems,’ and ‘universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.’ As a charter, it is a constituent treaty, and all members are bound by its articles. Furthermore, Article 103 of the Charter states that obligations to the United Nations prevail over all other treaty obligations.
The Charter was opened for signature on 26 June 1945 and was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries (Poland, the other original member, which was not represented at the conference, signed it two months later). It entered into force on 24 October 1945, after being ratified by the original five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the Republic of China (after 1949, located in Taiwan and was later replaced by the People's Republic of China), the Provisional Government of the French Republic (later replaced by the Fourth Republic and then the Fifth Republic), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (later replaced by the Russian Federation), the United Kingdom, and the United States—and a majority of the other signatories. In the meantime, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place on 6 and 9 August, respectively; the introduction of this new weapon of warfare completely changed the security environment in which the UN Charter was promulgated. Most countries in the world have now ratified the Charter.
The preamble consists of two principal parts. The first part contains a general call for the maintenance of peace and international security and respect for human rights. The second part of the preamble is a declaration in a contractual style that the governments of the peoples of the United Nations have agreed to the Charter and it is the first international document regarding human rights.
The following chapters deal with the enforcement powers of UN bodies: