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US Participation in International Organizations

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 5 months, 1 week ago

Focus Question:  How does the United States participate in international and transnational organizations?


Topics on the Page



  • The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund



  • European Union (EU) 





Go here for a list of International Organization Membership of the United States




AP United States History Key Concept 9.3:  Post Cold War American Foreign Policy


International Governmental and Nongovernmental Organizations


The Creation of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights




The United Nations

external image UN_General_Assembly.jpg



The United Nations was formed was on October 24, 1945, to replace the League of Nations which had failed to prevent World War II.

The United Nations is a global organization of sovereign States (not dependent upon, or subject to, another power) which voluntarily join the UN to work for world peace and security.

The United Nations is a forum for nearly all the nations of the world and its peacekeepers play a central role in reducing international tensions and conflicts.

  • The UN also addresses environmental, social, economic, and humanitarian issues.


  • The UN has played a major role in helping and protecting refugees, promoting human rights, responding to natural disasters, expanding literacy and has helped to wipe out many diseases.





The UN at a Glance from the United Nations website provides an overview of the organization.


Worldometer provides a list of members states in the United Nation and when did each member states joined the organization.

  • It also provides a list of countries that are not part of the UN and a history of UN members by years.


The Secretary-General of the United Nations

Biography for Antonio Guterres, current Secretary-General of the United Nations

Biography for Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Click here for his homepage.


Who Is and Has Been Secretary-General of the United Nations

UN Security Council Profile from the BBC

external image Red_apple.jpg The United Nations and Reform: Background, Activities and Critical Analysis

Read about the day the US Senate approved US participation in the UN here


Displaced women and children in Mali, 2012
Displaced women and children in Mali, 2012


  • Against All Odds from the United Nations Regional Information Center focuses on problems facing refugees.



"Finding the Hidden UN," Brian Urquhart, The New York Review of Books, May 27, 2010 (pp. 26-28). Key points from his article include:


  • "At its founding, the United Nations was widely perceived by the public as a fundamentally idealistic institution that would change the way nations behaved." Yet, the three most powerful forming nations—the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union—did not have that type of change in mind. Rather, the UN was in the words of historian C. K. Webster, "an Alliance of the Great Powers embedded in a universal organization."


  • "Starting in the 1950s, the organization improvised a new method, peacekeeping operations, to contain brush fire conflicts that might ignite an East-West confrontation, particularly in the Middle East."


  • "The UN was a catalyst for decolonization, a process that went much faster than its founders had anticipated. . . . Economic and social development became the predominant task of the UN and its specialized agencies and programs—World Health OrganizationFood and Agriculture Organization, and UNICEF among them—that make up the so-called 'UN system'."

Click here for an overview of the role the United States played in the founding of the United Nations from the U.S. State Department.

Click here for an overview geared toward children.

See also What's Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It, Thomas G. Weiss (Polity, 2008).


 The United Nations began with 51 member states and an annual budget of $19m. Now in its seventh decade, the UN has 193 member nations and spends over $40 billion a year. How did the UN get so big? Has it stayed true to its founding principles of spreading human rights, social progress and upholding international justice?



Click here to view a 1940s short animated film about the United Nations titled "Another Chance."


 Click here to view an overview video about how the United Nations works from RMIT University.


Click here to view an overview video about how the United Nations Works from NowThis. (A more updated version)


The Image below shows the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations begins on September 25, 2007.

According to tradition since the 1970's, a Brazilian gives the inaugural speech.

Photo by Marcello Casal, Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency

external image UN_62nd_General_Assembly.jpg
Wikipedia offers a brief overview of the role of the United States in the formation of the United Nations. Note the controversy around the neutrality of the article.

Here are official sites on America's relationship to the United Nations:
The United States Mission to the United Nations


Funding for the United Nations: How Much Does the U.S. Pay?


 Here is the United Nation's overview of the role of women in the organization and beyond, starting as far back as the League of Nations.

Bureau of International Organizational Affairs

Read more: http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/E-N/International-Organization-Democratic-constitutionalism-versus-international-commitments.html#ixzz0mDfjvboU

Click here for lesson plans about the United Nations offered by the UN website.

See the website of the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations more teaching resources and materials.

Here's a quiz to review material on the United Nations.


The United Nations has made strides in LGBT equality, detailed on their 'Free & Equal' campaign page.


  • Another page from the United Nations Human Rights website, titled "Speak Up Stop Discrimination", aims to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 
    • Also be sure to read an article from msnbc.com detailing the UN's passing of a resolution on behalf of international LGBT citizens here.



The League of Nations

Preceding the formation of the United Nations on January 1, 1942 , was the attempt to form the League of Nations.
President Woodrow Wilson attempted to engage the United States into a dialogue with other Nations through the League of Nations. There was much opposition to his desires underscoring the dilemma of a democratic government. 



Here is a photo link and essay on key facts.

Here is a speech made by Woodrow Wilson to appeal to the people of the United States.

Here is a brief history of the League of Nations

Click here for a lesson plan on the League of Nations.


Click here for a video on the rise and fall of the League of Nations. It tells us why it was formed and why it failed. 




The World Bank and International Monetary Fund

external image 320_worldbank-logo.jpg
In July 1944, as World War II was still being fought, delegates from the Allied Nations met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to discuss how best to rebuild the global economy.


  • Concerned with preventing another Great Depression and creating a more stable global economy in the wake of the devastating war, the delegates created the World Bank and IMF, both of which officially came into existence in December 1945. 
    • The stated goal of the World Bank is to fight poverty around the globe. 


  • The stated goal of the IMF is to promote economic cooperation and financial stability around the globe.


    • Both are headquartered in Washington, D.C. and the United States plays a very important role in both of them. 
      • Ten of the eleven World Bank Presidents have been American, and the United States has nearly 17% of the votes in the 187-member IMF.

Read about US involvement in the World Bank here

The World Bank states that they are working to improve the lives of women and girls in the developing world. Click here to read their view of how they are"Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity" and here to see all of the statistics in their gender data site.

Click here for a lesson plan on the World Bank and IMF

Caroline Anstey is current Managing Director of the World Bank.

Criticism of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund


Some people and organizations are critical of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, such as in this description from Global Exchange, an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world.

"The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were created in 1944 at a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, and are now based in Washington, DC. The IMF was originally designed to promote international economic cooperation and provide its member countries with short-term loans so they could trade with other countries (achieve a balance of payments). Since the debt crisis of the 1980's, the IMF has assumed the role of bailing out countries during financial crises (caused in large part by currency speculation in the global casino economy) with emergency loan packages tied to certain conditions, often referred to as structural adjustment policies (SAPs). The IMF now acts like a global loan shark, exerting enormous leverage over the economies of more than 60 countries. These countries have to follow the IMF's policies to get loans, international assistance, and even debt relief. Thus, the IMF decides how much debtor countries can spend on education, healthcare, and environmental protection."

Click here to read Global Exchange's Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the World Bank.

For another critical view, you can visit the Bretton Woods Project.

View the IMF's YouTube channel here



North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

- Created in 1949, NATO was the United States system of allies countering Soviet armies in central and eastern Europe


US government page on NATO


short history of NATO


A timeline of NATO through 2019: https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/30/world/nato-fast-facts/index.html


An interactive map with NATO Facts and Knowledge: https://www.nato.int/nato-on-the-map/#lat=44.96446784737924&lon=10.298335764409114&zoom=0&layer-3


Women of NATO - the Foreign Policy Project podcasts with prominent women within NATO



Trump and NATO - Foreignpolicy.com article on Trump's administration and its change of relations towards NATO compared to previous presidential administration


LGBTQ and NATO - an article on LGBTQ troops and their service under the NATO banner



European Union (EU)


Created in 1958 as the European Economic Community which brought together six founding countries to increase economic cooperation amongst themselves. It changed its name to the European Union in 1993.


Official website of the EU: https://europa.eu/european-union/index_en


Video describing the history of the EU: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O37yJBFRrfg 


Official website of the USEU, the formal alliance between the United States and the European Union: Homepage - U.S. Mission to the European Union (usmission.gov)





North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)



  • Agreement between Mexico, U.S., and Canada to allow free trade between North American countries
  • Signed in 1992 and went into effect in 1994
  • Immediately lifted tariffs and made trade and business investments easier 

How it was created:


  • Inspired by the success of Europe and the European Economic Community (EEC) economists believed committing to free trade within North America would bring prosperity 


  • NAFTA was an extension of the Canadian-U.S. free trade agreement made a few years earlier this time adding Mexico into the agreement
  • Signed by Bill Clinton 


What did it do?

  • reduced tariffs and other trade barriers
  • provisions to secure intellectual-property rights


Criticism of NAFTA 

  • The low wages in Mexico would entice companies to move production to Mexico thus taking away jobs from Canada and U.S.
  • Environmentalists were concerned over the environmental effects the industrializing Mexico would have and if they could enforce environment rules.  



  • Mexico exports increased drastically due to agreement
  • Better quality and lower-priced goods for Mexican consumers 
  • Overall the GDP of Mexico paled in comparison to other Latin American countries and South American countries
  • Very little growth in the labor market that proponents hoped for
  • NAFTA expanded over the years to include countries in central and South America to join the agreement 


For two websites with information about NAFTA click here and here

For a video click here

For a study tool click here

For a primary source about president Clinton and others remarks on NAFTA click here


Flag of the World Health Organization


World Health Organization


Website of the World Health Organization


 Learning plan


Governing Global Health: The World Health Organization and Ebola

(This may help students better understand the current situation through comparing it to another pandemic)



Plague Inc.: The Cure is a reversed spinoff of the board game 'Pandemic' that asks students to coordinate and launch a response to a global outbreak of disease, acting as a fictional World Health Organization. 


Click here for a video titled:

What is the World Health Organization?


Click here for a video titled:

What does the World Health Organization Do?


Click here for a video titled:

WHO: Guardian of Health


Click here for a video titled:

WHO: Preventing disease through healthy environments


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