The United Kingdom in the World

(Most links on this page, with the exception of the link bar at the bottom, will open a new window - simply close the new window to come back here.)

Click on the Union flag, the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ('UK' for short), to visit the main British government web 'portal'.

The UK is, like most countries, party to many international agreements and organisations. In recent years the European Union (EU) has become, probably, the major international organisation to which the UK adheres. However, there are many others - notably the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Because of its importance, I have created a special page covering the EU - to go there now click here.

Information about some of the international groupings to which the UK adheres is below, with links to various official websites and information which may be useful in understanding these organisations.

Organisation Name Remarks
United Nations The United Nations (UN) officially came into being on 24th October 1945, when the Charter establishing it came into force. It flowed from discussions held toward the end of the Second World War amongst the leaders of the four 'Big Powers' (the US, the USSR, the UK and China). It is headquartered in New York. Like predecessor body, the League of Nation, the UN powers are wide in theory, but in practical terms quite limited, because real power remains with the member states (specially the more powerful amongst them) who comprise the membership.

The Charter established these principal bodies within the United Nations framework: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, The International Court of Justice ('The World Court' at The Hague) and the Secretariat (headed by a Secretary-General).

The United Nations is the successor body to the 'League of Nations', headquartered in Geneva, established by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, in the wake of the First World War; it was a largely impotent body and fell into abeyance during the Second World War.

Commonwealth The full name is 'The Commonwealth of Nations'; this name was adopted in 1946, a change from the original 'The British Commonwealth of Nations', and came about as a by-product of the 'Statute of Westminster' of 1931. The purpose of this statute was to recognise that many of the principal territories ('Dominions') forming part of what was then known as the 'British Empire' had developed into, in practical terms, independent countries. Nevertheless, a number of those Dominions continued until quite recently to look to the House of Lords in London to fulfil the role of supreme court in judicial and/or constitutional matters. Even today, a number of Commonwealth nations continue to recognise the monarch of the United Kingdom as their Head of State, just as the UK itself does. Many others, though, do not - these mostly have a republican form of government. In more recent years it has become accepted that countries not formerly part of the British Empire might seek to join the Commonwealth (e.g. Mozambique).
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on 4th April 1949 and came into force on 24th August 1949. Its purpose was to provide a military counterweight to the Soviet military presence in eastern Europe after the Second World War. Most of the original signatories were located in western Europe, although a few were located on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean (e.g. The United States of America). A few years after its founding two southern European nations, Greece and Turkey, became members. In very recent times, various countries formerly within the Soviet sphere of influence have become members.

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