(Jan) The United Nations (UN) was set up in October 1945 after the end of the Second World War. It is an association of countries that aims to promote international peace, security and co-operation. (The UN Security Council) The UN Security Council is the UN body responsible for debating and talking decisions on conflict situations. It has five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the UK and the US. The other ten members are elected for 2 years. The five permanent members have the power to veto any decisions they don't agree with. Because the UN Security Council could not agree to take military action against Iraq in 2003, the US-led coalition, which included Britain, decided to take action without waiting for UN approval. (Why has the UN failed to bring peace?) The power of veto in Security Council means that when conflicts occur the UN cannot agree on what action to take. Even when there is agreement to send peacekeeping troops into conflict areas, the UN has stopped short of giving them the authority to take the decisive action necessary to be effective. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite the presence of UN peacekeepers, fighting has continued between government troops and rebels. One million people were made homeless there during 2007 and 2008. Similarly, sending a UN peacekeeping force to the Dafur region of Sudan has failed to bring peace. Critics argue that the UN will continue to be ineffective until it is prepared to commit its troops to take firmer military action, even if this means UN troops getting more involved in conflicts than they have done in the past. (A shattered dream) The UN's founding charter proclaimed its mission to save 'succeeding generations from the scourge of war'. It would tackle global poverty to bring about higher standards of living everywhere. The UN system was supposed to 'harmonise the actions of nations', preventing the clashes that had led to two world wars. After 60 difficult years, and despite some significant achievements, it faces a grim reality. Local wars are widespread. Although living standards have improved in parts of the world, ten of millions still starve or die young. Most damagingly, the vision of an international body that could sort out arguments between nations has not been realised.