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Seventy-one years after its founding, the United Nations remains a work in progress. Established in 1945 after a murderous world war, the new international organization set out to achieve peace and prosperity around the globe. Its supporters cite a record of success in many areas: The U.N. helped keep the Cold War from turning hot, its peacekeepers routinely monitor post-conflict zones, and it has promoted economic development, education and better health for hundreds of millions of people. But critics say the U.N. is an ineffectual colossus made up of 193 bickering member nations, overseen by a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy whose operations are plagued by corruption. Reform is needed at both the governing and bureaucratic level, they say, to ensure the organization remains relevant in the new century, and the Security Council — dominated by the United States and four other big powers — needs to expand to include more permanent members representing emerging nations such as India.
|1945–1950||The United Nations is founded.|
|1956–1968||U.N. peacekeepers begin operating, but hopes the world's great powers could work in concert are dashed by the Cold War.|
|1972–1987||U.N. treaties and agencies extend the organization's global influence.|
|1990–2000||Cold War's end brings hope that a more unified and influential United Nations can emerge.|
|2001–Present||Terrorist attacks on U.S. mark a new era of conflict that tests U.N. capabilities.|