When the Nations of the World United in Westminster

Lord Bates


The great buildings on or around Parliament Square are no strangers to momentous events in history. Yet one event which is perhaps less well known and celebrated is the role Methodist Central Hall and Church House played in the formation of the United Nations.

Last Sunday we were afforded an opportunity by the United Nations Association—UK, Westminster branch and the congregation of Methodist Central Hall, to recall and give thanks for that moment and that institution, the United Nations.

In October 1944, before the liberation of Auschwitz and the full evil of the Holoucaust being exposed and before the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, representatives of the USSR, United States, China and the United Kingdom met in a private mansion in Washington DC, Dumbarton Oakes, to draw up proposals for a postwar international organization to succeed the League of Nations.

A year later, at the end of six years of war which had cost the lives of at least fifty million people, their proposals formed what we now know as the Charter of the United Nations. The preamble to the United Nations Charter begins: ‘It is our resolve to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to humankind.’ The Charter was signed by 50 nations in San Francisco on 24 October 1945 and so the UN was born but where would it take its first steps?

During the service at Methodist Central Hall on Sunday morning we received an insight into the answer by way of an interview with Sir Peter Marshall who joined the UK diplomatic service in 1949 and later served Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Sir Peter suggested three reasons for the choice of Methodist Central Hall for the first meeting of the UN General Assembly in January 1946:

First, that there was widespread international admiration for the way in which Britain had resisted tyranny in the war but had suffered greatly as a result. Today Parliament Square and its offshoots are cherished and maintained but then London was “bomb-scarred, war torn, threadbare and emancipated”. Given the objective of the new organisation hosting the inaugural meeting in London would express graphically what its mission as all about;

Second, the Preparatory Commission of the Dumbarton Oakes conference had done much of its work in Church House just across the road from Methodist Central Hall; and

Third, Ernest Bevin who was foreign secretary in the new Atlee Labour Government had said that he had wanted to host the meeting in a venue which had been “bathed in prayer” reflecting the twin imperatives of the pain of the war and hope for the future.

The United Nations was an attempt at a brave new international politics. One which sought raise the sights of the nations of the world beyond their narrow national self-interest to focus on the broader common interest. It is perhaps the single greatest reason why we have managed to avoid to date a World III. It represents humanity’s best hope for a future in which we resolve our differences by reference to agreed international law and arbitration rather than arbitrary aggression and violence. A world in human rights are not vested in nations or dictators but are vested in people, all people. A world in which the powerful see it as their first duty to protect the powerless. A world which in solving our global problems recognises ‘no one nation no matter how great can do it alone and no one nation no matter how small can stand aside from their responsibility’.

Many will point to the failings of the UN to act swiftly in the face of injustice and brutality but it is rarely that it is the United Nations which has failed but more that the nations of the United Nations have failed to live up to its precepts. Now we are increasingly witnessing a revered institution of international society, which to paraphrase Martin Luther King, “is rising up and living out the true meaning of its creed”. A new politics which reveals itself in staggering advances of The New Millennium Development Goals and the COP21 Agreement on Climate Change which everyone said couldn’t done and we all through the UN just got up and did.

As we reflect on the UN’s 70th Anniversary and give thanks for its continued work in upholding peace between the nations, and protecting peoples within nations and think back with pride and resolve to this small corner of ‘bomb scarred and threadbare’ London and the role which it played in giving birth to this remarkable light that still illuminates our troubled world with hope.

7 comments for “When the Nations of the World United in Westminster

  1. 14/01/2016 at 7:48 pm

    Interesting article. Just to pick up on one thing, you should say, “Representatives of the USSR, United States, Republic of China and the United Kingdom met in a private mansion in Washington DC.” The China that was involved in the founding of the UN is not the same as the one that currently holds the UN seat.

  2. MilesJSD
    14/01/2016 at 8:27 pm

    So the inherent “fault” in our Human-Race is not so much in our “Unite-ability”

    as in our failure to make ourselves “participatively-cooperative-peoples”
    [qua “people-nations having nation-state minority governments”]
    and cooperatively recognising our Needs and How best to satisfy them;

    and in this surely we need to be daily practising ‘No-Lose’ and ‘Sustainworthy’ resolution and implementation
    to be longest-term meeting our Needs [and perhaps very minorly our “Wants”, “Wishes”, “Dreams” and “Fantasies”]
    and how all of these Needs are to be best-affordably and sustainworthily met ?
    A ‘Beware’-Note:- At least the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1978 Declaration of Primary Health Care,
    have both been failures;
    in that the 1948 “Rioghts” have been hardly half-implemented, even by us “leading democratic nations”.
    Perhaps worse, the Primary Health Care [largely intended by that UN Document to be begun and achieved through worldwide Generic-Education of People-for-Health
    and not for Patients-for-Cure under Hospitals and Illnesses Treatment Regimes.

    The UK under its BMA Power simply ‘hijacked the whole spirit and wording of the UN Declaration and swept it all under the long-prevailing “Primary Medical Care” powers, treatment-practices, and establishmentarianisms:
    the new “shingle” of “Primary Health Care” has in short never been so, but always indicative of “Primary Medical Treatment”.

    The intended “Health & Wellbeing building for and by All” thus was made to lapse, ‘stillborn’.,
    or rather was deliberately iatrogenicly “strangled away”
    under the same old monopolistic directive-top-down “primary medical treatment” delivered by ‘yours faithfully “Doctor” as had also so unfortunately been misconceived at birth in 1948 as “The National Health Service” [when it has always been, and successfully so, ” ‘The’ National Illnesses & Hospitals Sector”.

    The United Nations has done nothing about that outstanding malfeasance on the parts of Nation-State Governments and Medico-Establishmentarianist Powers-That-be.

    Beautiful babies are still being thrown out with ugly bathwaters.
    [Visit not-for-profit-nor-power http://www.lifefresh.co.uk for lists of such ‘beautiful babies’,
    being denied by Governments
    and excluded from familiarisation by schools and universities
    and these literally dozens of new-advance human-developmental books and DVDs being excluded from from their library shelves and even from their computerised-catalogues].

  3. John and Ruth Bates
    14/01/2016 at 10:11 pm

    Thank you for your review of what was an extraordinary meeting at Methodist Central Hall last Sunday. We couldn’t agree more with your sentiments and join with you in celebrating the 70th anniversary of The United Nations. “Blessed are the peacemakers”.

  4. maude elwes
    19/01/2016 at 3:00 pm

    It would be interesting to know if the nations of the world were aware of the duplicity we have in our democratic West minster palace.


  5. MilesJSD
    21/01/2016 at 8:03 am

    That “the United Nations was a brave attempt at a new international politics” but
    “…it is more that the nations have failed to live up to the United Nations precepts…”

    “…great buildings (recording) momentous events in history..”
    [the great event of “Peace-In-Our-Time” on a slip of internationally-reliable diplomatic paper, waved wind-blown in the open air by our very own deeply trusted and up-front proactive ‘hot-foot’ PM Neville Chamberlain, makes that airport such a ‘great historic place’, as does the place where Martin Luther King was so cowardly-assasinated;

    and as do all the places where, as well as ‘good-governance’, also rage legalised malfeasances and constitutionally-supported iatrogenics –

    the latter includes “The International Community” and various other “fair-weather-friends” and privilegocratic “Clubs-of-Rome” ;

    but to cut to two other buried and festering “too difficult, too embarrassing” cases
    there is the de-facto hostility throughout the nations,
    and evidently within the United Nations too,
    towards ‘No Lose’ Method III Coop human-relationships troubles as beset Eurfope’s warringerative Problem Solving and its kindred support-sources e.g. “Six Thinking Modes (Hats)” and the ‘egalitarian’ but nationally and inter-nationally ‘blocked’ UN WHO Declaration of Primary Health Building [sorry, “Care”];

    and towards many long-avoided and ‘buried’ international and intra-national human-relationship ‘hatreds’ as beset Yugoslavia, Romania, Greece, Croatia, France, Italy, and Germany itself,
    that festered and ‘resisted’ and thus ’caused’ Hitler’s lack-of-humanity to command millions of fiercely-armed “ordinary normal citizens” to blindly-destructively, but “just cause-ly”, rage across the whole world.
    Not least we need to beware of the still foolishly short-sighted and spin-doctoring “duplicity” outside of, as well as within, our British Parliamentary Places, as noted by maude elwes.

    Corruptly too, to use Religious Places for such “spin-doctoring” and “altering-of-states-of-consciousness” is both iatrogenicly-injurious and malfeasant, and becomes neither our leaders nor our citizenry.

    Nor is it good-English-language and sustainworthy-human-conduct leadership to the whole world.

  6. MilesJSD
    05/02/2016 at 8:56 am

    A ‘Last Word’ please:
    There are United Nations Peacekeeping and Peace-Making Armed Forces, and the various Logistics thereto;
    there is the WHO, the UNDP, and a long list of other United Nations workforces,

    there are international-agreements, too: The Human Rights of 1948, and the Primary Health Care of 1978, to name but two

    none of which have sufficient, if any at all, enforcement or Plan B back-ups …

    and that is because, despite such Holy Shrines as the noble lord mentions, neither these nor the overarching UN can make Nations keep their own various Constitutions up-to-date.

    National Constitutions, not just Britain’s, are literally long since obsolete, and can not be quickly enough brought up-to-date to ensure that legislation, and

    (to borrow and paraphrase words spoken by Prince Charles to the BMA (1980) viz the Medical Sector which because it ‘mechanistic’ focus was being so very-successful, had been ‘underplaying’ holistic-health advances such that our whole healthy-human-development was becoming more and more “slightly off balance” like the Tower of Pisa)

    ensuing Law and the Executive Civil Service and Regulatory Practice be designed and physically-made sustainworthy, non-corruptible, non-exploitative, non-manipulative, and non-destructively-competitive;
    but be made positively constructive in both comprehensive-nurturance and in-depth secure integrativity.

  7. MilesJSD
    05/02/2016 at 3:47 pm

    Definitively, “Nation” means The People.

    The correct term for the Country is “Nation-State”
    ruled by the relatively miniscule few in Government and Power.

    It is, and then was, the latter “top-few” who founded the UN;
    and it should in all honesty,
    now that, like the UK National-Ill-Health Service, it is too late to re-name it correctly,
    be thought of as “The United Nation-States”.

    Nevertheless, it has to be observed that the Different People-Nations of the world look no more ‘United’ then ever have been their Nation-State Rulers
    who, in the main, tantamount to two-facedly scribbled their signatures on the UN Foundation Document;
    then turned their backs and went home to their protected luxury-livings, repeatedly, brazenly, and forked-tonguely falling short of all that they in our Peoples Names had ostensibly signed –

    such as to the Declaration of Human Rights, and The Declaration for Primary Health Care
    neither of which still Nation-States-wise, any more than 50% constituted and legislated,
    and peacefully implemented right down to the ground to include the massive majorities of the world’s Various and Neediest Peoples.

Comments are closed.