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The United Nations

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The United Nations was established in 1945. The idea behind the UN came from an earlier organization called the League of Nations, which was founded after World War I. The Allies from the Second World War (at the time, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Republic of China, and the USSR) wanted to prevent future wars if possible, as the war had been so devastating. They wanted the UN to intervene in conflicts between nations, and bring about peaceful solutions. They also wanted it to improve human rights, social progress, economic development, international security, and international law.

Although there are major offices in several European countries, the headquarters of the UN are in New York City. In addition to representatives from member nations, there are numerous departments, employees, and support staff working towards the UN's declared goals of peace and human development. The Secretary General serves as the main spokesperson of the organization. Because of his position, he often brings problems to the world's attention. He also can influence other countries' policies on global issues. To finance the organization, governments who belong to the UN pay voluntary fees. The amount is determined by each country's wealth.

Over the years, the United Nations has had both successes and failures. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a 40% drop in violent conflict, and an 80% drop in genocide. However, the UN couldn't prevent the Rwandan genocide in 1994. And in Somalia, warlords often stole massive food shipments meant for starving people. Critics list these as only two of the many examples of the organization's failures. Other critics point to the United States, Britain, and France who have too much control over UN. Others also believe that the organization is horribly bureaucratic, which leads to inefficiency.

Regardless of the criticisms, the United Nations has worked hard to uphold its founding principles. People all over the world are familiar with white Humvees that the UN officials and armed forces use. The white vehicles with "UN" written in large letters travel to hotspots around the world. In 1988, the Peace-Keeping Forces received a Nobel Peace Prize. And in 2001, both the United Nations as a whole and Secretary General Kofi Annan as an individual won the Nobel Peace Prize "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world."

Regardless of successes, failures, and criticisms, there are now more than 190 members in the UN. In other words, there is one representative for almost every nation on Earth. Additionally, all members have agreed to accomplish the following by 2015:

  1. End extreme poverty end hunger.
  2. Offer elementary education for everyone.
  3. Develop more equality between men and women.
  4. Lower childhood death rates.
  5. Improve the health of mothers.
  6. Fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
  7. Protect the environment.
  8. Develop a global partnership.


Step 1: You will listen to an article about the United Nations. The article is about five long. Listen only, and don't worry about understanding everything.
Step 2: Listen once more, and try to understand the general information of each paragraph. In your head, explain a paragraph's main idea in one or two sentences. Write your paragraph summaries after you have listened to the whole article. Listen again, check your answers, and compare your answers with a partner.
Step 3: Look at the article, which has missing vocabulary words. Try to write any words that you remember from the listening. Listen once more, and write the missing words.
Step 4: Read the article, and look up any unknown words. Now listen again. Can you understand more?
Step 5: Listen! Listen! Listen! Listen to the article on the train or in your free time. Each time you listen, you will slowly improve!

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