Basic Facts: The Charter of the United Nations

Tuesday, 05 November 2019

Tuesday, 5 November 2019 | Worldwide | Department of Global Communications (DGC) 

The Charter of the United Nations is the constitutive instrument of the UN, setting out the rights and obligations of Member States, and establishing its principal organs and procedures.

An international treaty, the Charter codifies basic tenets of international relations—from the sovereign equality of states to prohibition of the use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

The Charter consists of a Preamble and 111 articles grouped into 19 chapters:

  • Chapter 1 sets forth the purposes and principles of the United Nations;
  • Chapter 2 establishes the criteria for UN membership;
  • Chapter 3 names the six principal UN organs;
  • Chapters 4–15 define the functions and powers of these organs;
  • Chapters 16–17 relate the United Nations to existing international law; and
  • Chapters 18–19 define the amendment and ratification of the Charter.

The Preamble to the Charter expresses the shared ideals and common aims of all the peoples whose governments joined together to form the United Nations:

We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom...

Learn more in Basic Facts about the United Nations, which is free to download in PDF or to read online, on the UN iLibrary. Basic Facts is available in all 6 official languages.