Seventy years ago, Victory in Europe Day marked the beginning of the end of World War II. May 8, 1945, also marked the birth of a new international system of norms and ideals, conceived to ensure peace, security and prosperity for all nations.
That order continues to serve global interests through a system of shared institutions and partnerships designed to prevent the atrocities and devastation of the war from ever happening again.
As the war drew to a close, the Allied powers agreed to establish an international body that would be stronger than the ill-fated League of Nations, which failed to prevent the conflict. The charter that established the United Nations was the combined effort of 50 nations whose representatives met at the April 1945 San Francisco Conference.
With the end of European colonialism in sight, especially in Africa and Asia, smaller nations were ensured a voice, and the United Nations assumed responsibility to promote economic and social cooperation and the independence of formerly colonial peoples.
At the same time, economic organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (today’s World Trade Organization) were created to help open markets and avoid a worldwide depression, like the one that helped set the stage for the war.
In the wake of the Holocaust and other horrific crimes, countries recognized the benefits of a world with established norms and shared values.
The Allies established the International Military Tribunal to prosecute crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity, culminating in the 1945–1946 Nuremberg trials. It was the precursor to today’s International Criminal Court. The shared dismay also helped to create the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1949 Geneva Conventions on protection of military and civilians during war.