The U.N. and the NATO are two entities that are easily confused because they both refer to international organizations. In a situation such as the current one it is certainly necessary to know the difference between the two and understand their respective peculiarities.
The League of Nations, “forerunner” of the U.N.
On the 28th of April 1919, after the First World War, the League of Nations (LON) was founded, an international organization headquartered in Geneva, aimed at peacefully solving conflicts, deleting every form of injustice and violence between populations. The objective of the organization, which was joined by several countries, was to seek peaceful solutions and negotiations. However, the L.O.N. was a very weak entity and it did not have enough power to prevent wars: it did not possess any practical means of intervention to preserve peace, other than applying economic sanctions to the member that did not respect the agreements and used war to resolve disputes. Moreover, due to the non-adherence of the USA, alongside the late or temporary membership of Germany, Japan and USSR, the LON was completely unprepared to face the international unrest of the Thirties which will lead, shortly after, to the Second World War.
What is the U.N. and when was it born?
The United Nations (U.N.) was formally born the 26th of June 1945, on the base of a statute approved by 49 countries reunited at the San Francisco conference. Founded after the killings of the Second World War, the U.N. replaced the League of Nations and it swore to preserve peace, international safety, respect of the fundamental rights of man, promoting the economic, social and cultural development of all countries. The theme of human rights was very heartfelt, so much that, on the 10th December of 1948, a document about human freedom was presented during the General Assembly: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its first article says:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art.1)
The U.N. consisted of two entities: the General Assembly and the Security Council
- General Assembly: Deliberative body to which all the countries took part equally. The Vatican participated as a “permanent observer”.
- Security Council: Executive body, composed of five permanent members and 10 countries that took part in rotation. The permanent members were the allied countries during the war (US, USSR, Great Britain, France and China) and each of them had veto power: the Security Council could make binding decisions only if said members reached unanimity. The other ten members were chosen every two years (Italy has been elected 6 times, starting from 1959).
What is the NATO and when was it born?
NATO refers to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is an intergovernmental military alliance with the objective to protect its members against a potential soviet attack. This entity lays its foundation on the Atlantic Alliance of 1949. On the 4th of April 1949, the United States, Canada and almost all the countries of western Europe, including Italy, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, which was considered as a sort of western response to the pressure that the USSR exerted on the countries of Eastern Europe. If the USSR had invaded even one of the signatory countries, the alliance would have taken action. Tensions between the two blocks were very high, also because of the nuclear arms race.
On the 29th of August 1949, the USSR experimented its first nuclear fission bomb.
Differences between UN and NATO
- The UN is the organization of the United Nations, while NATO is the North Atlatinc Treaty Organization.
- UN has to facilitate cooperation among its countries in several fields, the NATO is a military alliance.
- UN was founded in 1945, the NATO was founded in 1949.
- The UN is headquartered in New York while the NATO is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
- As of today, the UN and the NATO consist of, respectively, 193 and 30 member states.