The United Nations is an international institution with an extraordinary history. Created out of the League of Nations after World War Two, the United Nations was formed in 1945 with just 51 member states on its charter. The United Nations now encompasses numerous intergovernmental organizations around the world, with head offices in Nairobi, New York, Geneva, and Vienna, and has 193 member nations signed on to its charter.
The creation of the United Nations was no small feat in and of itself. The organization, based in New York, is an intergovernmental organization that seeks to promote international cooperation towards peace and prosperity. The organization does not technically have legal power over its member nations, but has been instrumental in demilitarizing and stabilizing situations around the globe.
Creation of the United Nations Flag and Emblem
Of course, an organization as instrumental and essential as this couldn’t just come into being without some way of recognizing it. Although the flags of member nations hang outside its various offices and affiliated agencies, the United Nations organization itself carries a special emblem that distinguishes it from any other. The United Nations flag with a white map on top of a light blue background, is universally recognized.
When the United Nations was created in 1945 the first flag was introduced after a special conference. The flag was designed and agreed upon at the United Nations Conference on International Organization and agreed upon in 1946. The map was designed by a team led by a man named Oliver Lincoln Lundquist and was based on an original design by Donal McLaughlin. Although the light blue color itself is insignificant as far as symbolism, Donal McLaughlin chose it as an antithesis to the traditional color of war, which is red. The blue and white colors used in the flag later became the two colors used by the United Nations and are most closely associated with this organization.
Map Projection of the United Nations’ Emblem and Flag
There are a few differences between the emblem that was approved in 1946 and the second, most widely accepted United Nations flag. The first was designed to show the United States in the center of the map on the flag, designating it as the host of the United Nations Conference on International Organization that ratified the design. The map was shown as an azimuthal projection focused on the North Pole. In an article celebrating the designer’s 100th birthday, McLaughlin explained, “We had been using maps all throughout the war and we picked up on that projection. The idea that we had was to represent one world through this projection.”
The second United Nations flag changed slightly. The second flag was agreed upon in 1946 and altered the azimuthal projection slightly, so that no country could be seen at the center. The map was now divided by the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line, with the nations of the world around these points. Laughlin explained, “The map was turned a quarter to the left so the east and west were in balance,” whereas the logo on the Charter had North America on the centerline and the rest of the world upside down.“
The flag’s map was designed to be seen from the North Pole, an autonomous and neutral area of the world. This was to show equality and unity of the member nations, so that no one nation would be seen to be any more important than any of the others. The map shows the United Nation’s area of concern, which is the entire world, and the map is surrounded by olive branches that symbolize peace. The background is a light blue and the map is white.
More specifically, an azimuthal projection creates a map where the points are all at proportionally correct distances from the center point; in this case, the North Pole. This kind of map lends itself best to a polar projection, because the Earth’s meridians are straight. Although the distances of the points of the map along the meridians, or lines of longitude, are correct, other distances between the points on the map are incorrect based on the inherent inaccuracies of mapping a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface.
The flag of the United Nations was designed to be universally recognized and to embody the hopes of people around the world dreaming of a more peaceful and united future. The United Nations flag is flown outside of its world headquarters and used by its member organizations and affiliates globally.