British Prime Minister Clement Attlee delivers a speech during the opening session of the first general assembly of the United nations on Jan. 10, 1946, in London
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By Merrill Fabry
September 15, 2015

This year the United Nations General Assembly opens in New York on Sept. 15 for its 70th session. When the organization first convened a general assembly, in January 1946, it met in London, not New York, and had only 51 of today’s 193 Member States. Still, that first agenda shows that the U.N. of 1946 confronted many issues that are strikingly similar to the problems the world is currently facing:

Food Security: The first item added to the 1946 agenda was about the “world shortage of cereals.” This year, on Sept. 25-27., the U.N. will discuss the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which sets goals in areas including poverty, hunger and food security.

Refugees: In 1946 the U.N. addressed the question of refugees and planned “to encourage and assist in every way possible their early return to their countries of origin.” The U.N. Refugee Agency released an emergency report on Sept. 8 estimating 400,000 refugees will reach Europe in 2015.

Peacekeeping: In the aftermath of World War II, the Security Council’s first meeting dealt with lingering occupations. Iran raised the matter of Russian occupied Azerbaijan, Russia countered by opening the issue of British troops in Greece and Indonesia, and Russia used the first Security Council veto to block a plan for Britain and France to withdraw from Syria and Lebanon. Today, peacekeeping continues to be a major subject for the United Nations, including in the regions of the world that were topics of discussion in 1946, specifically Syria and Lebanon.

Nuclear weapons: The Atomic Control Commission was created at that first U.N. meeting “to deal with problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy.” Today the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency oversees Iran’s nuclear program, attempting to ensure it remains peaceful in nature. The IAEA also has a role in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda’s sustainable energy goals, as nuclear power has very low carbon emissions.

Read TIME’s original coverage of the first session of the United Nations, in 1946, here in the TIME Vault: UNO

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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