The United Nations

A photograph of New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser signing the United Nations Charter in 1945 leads us to think about the role of the United Nations and New Zealand’s involvement in this organisation.

San Francisco Conference: New Zealand signs UN Charter by McLain, 1945.

Peter Fraser, Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs; Chairman of the Delegation from New Zealand, signing the UN Charter at a ceremony held at the Veterans' War Memorial Building on 26 June 1945.


This photo shows New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser signing the United Nations Charter at the end of the Second World War in 1945, following on from the League of Nations after the First World War. The charter was the document that founded the United Nations, and New Zealand was one of the original 51 states to sign it.

The United Nations (UN) is now an international organisation of 193 member states working together to try and keep peace and improve the lives of people who need international support. The League of Nations had a similar purpose but failed to prevent the Second World War. In 2014, New Zealand won a seat on the United Nations Security Council; this has a special responsibility for maintaining international peace. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, so New Zealand has a strong connection with this important organisation.

The United Nations (UN) is best known for its roles in peacekeeping, human rights, health, and providing support in developing nations. The distinctive UN peacekeeper blue berets and helmets are often seen in places where international help is needed.

Key questions

  • What can we observe?
  • What do we already know?
  • How might people view this photograph in different ways?

Possible discussion questions

  • What do you know about the United Nations? Who belongs? What does this organisation do? How does it work for human rights and keep peace? What is the relationship between member countries?
  • What are some of the positives and negatives about having an organisation like the United Nations?
  • What do you think are some of the rights and responsibilities of belonging to an organisation like the UN?
  • What does the United Nations Security Council do? What are the benefits for New Zealand of having a seat on the Security Council?
  • Where have you seen or heard about peacekeepers at work? What is the role of a peacekeeper? What makes peacekeeping a difficult job to do?
  • Can you think of other organisations that are responsible for promoting peace between different groups in your community or overseas?
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