The United Nations Charter is the constitution of the United Nations. It was signed at San Francisco on June 26, 1945 by the 50 original member countries. It entered into force on October 24, 1945, after being ratified by the five founding members—the Republic of China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and a majority of the other signatories.
As a Charter it is a constituent treaty, and all signatories are bound by its articles. Furthermore, it explicitly says that the Charter trumps all other treaty obligations. It was ratified by the United States on August 8, 1945, making that nation the first to join the new international organization.
Organization of the document
The Charter consists of a preamble, broadly patterned after the preamble of the Constitution of the United States, and a series of articles divided into chapters.
Chapter I sets forth the purposes of the United Nations, including the important provisions of the maintenance of international peace and security. Chapter II defines the criteria for membership in the United Nations. Chapters III-XV, the bulk of the document, describe the organs of the UN and their respective powers. Chapters XVI and XVII describe arrangements for integrating the UN with established international law. Chapters XVIII and XIX provide for amendment and ratification of the Charter.
The most important chapters are those dealing with the enforcement powers of UN bodies:
Chapter VI describes the Security Council's power to investigate and mediate disputes; Chapter VII describes the Security Council's power to authorize economic, diplomatic, and military sanctions, as well as the use of military force, to resolve disputes; Chapters IX and X describe the UN's powers for economic and social cooperation, and the Economic and Social Council that oversees these powers; Chapters XII and XIII describe the trusteeship system, which oversaw decolonization; Chapters XIV and XV establish the powers of, respectively, the World Court and the United Nations Secretariat.
- Full text of the charter (http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter)