The United Nations and its founding Charter turn 75 this year. The anniversary comes at a time of great disruption for the world, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis, with severe economic and social impacts. But it is also a reminder that times of struggle can become an opportunity for positive change and transformation. The observance ceremony in commemoration of United Nations Day, on 26 October 2020, highlights UN voices from the field and insiders’ perspectives on the Organization and its work to deliver the future we want.
The ActNow campaign aims to trigger individual action on the defining issue of our time. People around the world have joined to make a difference in all facets of their lives, from the food they eat to the clothes they wear.
With just 10 years to go, an ambitious global effort is underway to deliver the 2030 promise—by mobilizing more governments, civil society, businesses and calling on all people to make the Global Goals their own.
Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals! On our student resources page you will find plenty of materials for young people and adults alike. Share with your family and friends to help achieve a better world for all.
On 23 March, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an urgent appeal for a global ceasefire in all corners of the world to focus together on the true fight – defeating COVID-19. He repeated the call at the start of the 75th UN General Assembly session in September. He called for the global ceasefire to become a reality by the end of the year. Silencing the guns can not only support the fight against COVID-19, but also create opportunities for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to people suffering in conflict zones who are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.
The coronavirus COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that a society is only as strong as its weakest link; this is true both for the health of its people and of its economy. Ending poverty in all its forms is the foundation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet the World Bank estimates that we will see the first rise in poverty since 1998. UNDP estimates that human development will decline since we first began measuring it in 1990. The new extreme poor will be concentrated in regions already struggling with a high burden of poverty, such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
For Idris Elba, returning to Sierra Leone late last year was about two things: reconnecting with his roots and learning about the challenges facing the country where his father was born, so that he could become a better advocate for its people. The actor, producer, and humanitarian took part in a project field visit with his wife Sabrina Dhowre Elba, the model and activist, organized by the United Nations’ International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD) and Global Citizen last December. The Elbas saw firsthand how IFAD transforms the lives of smallholder farmers while in Sierra Leone.
“Teaching girls how to read and write is one of the biggest ways I can make a difference,” says Rimu Sultana Rimu, an 18-year-old peace activist, who is part of the Young Women for Leadership (YWL) network in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, one of the world’s largest refugee settlements. She runs workshops on women and youth participation in peacebuilding, educates young women about their rights, using theater and radio broadcasts. UN Women spoke with Rimu on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325, which continues to shape the agenda for women, peace and security.
While recent data collection has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on HIV testing services, the impact on HIV treatment is less than originally feared. In a study conducted by UNAIDS, World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund, only five out of 22 countries reported monthly declines in the number of people on treatment after April—these include Zimbabwe in June, Peru and Guyana in July, the Dominican Republic in April, and Sierra Leone in May through to July. The remaining 18 countries did not show a decline and some countries showed a steady increase (e.g. Kenya, Ukraine, Togo and Tajikistan).
Senegalese musician, singer and UNHCR supporter calls for action to end world’s fastest growing displacement crisis: "My homeland – the Sahel – is on its knees, brought low by conflict, hunger and disease. I am called the ‘Voice of the Sahel’. For years, it has fed my poetry and music. Now I raise that voice to call on the world to stop the misery and suffering ripping this hard, but beautiful land apart." UNHCR says that across the region, over 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Shelter, water, sanitation, health, and other basic assistance needs are now immense.
The United Nations came into being in 1945, following the devastation of the Second World War, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN does this by working to prevent conflict; helping parties in conflict make peace; peacekeeping; and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. These activities often overlap and should reinforce one another, to be effective. The UN Security Council has the primary responsibility for international peace and security. The General Assembly and the Secretary-General play major, important, and complementary roles, along with other UN offices and bodies.
Protect Human Rights
The term “human rights” was mentioned seven times in the UN's founding Charter, making the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the Organization. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights brought human rights into the realm of international law. Since then, the Organization has diligently protected human rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities.
Promote Sustainable Development
From the start in 1945, one of the main priorities of the United Nations was to “achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” Improving people’s well-being continues to be one of the main focuses of the UN. The global understanding of development has changed over the years, and countries now have agreed that sustainable development offers the best path forward for improving the lives of people everywhere.
Uphold International Law
The UN Charter, in its Preamble, set an objective: "to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained." Ever since, the development of, and respect for international law has been a key part of the work of the Organization. This work is carried out in many ways - by courts, tribunals, multilateral treaties - and by the Security Council, which can approve peacekeeping missions, impose sanctions, or authorize the use of force when there is a threat to international peace and security, if it deems this necessary. These powers are given to it by the UN Charter, which is considered an international treaty. As such, it is an instrument of international law, and UN Member States are bound by it. The UN Charter codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.
On the Brink - Emissions Gap Report 2019
As the world strives to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change, it is crucial to track progress towards globally agreed climate goals. For a decade, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report has compared where greenhouse gas emissions are heading against where they need to be, and highlighted the best ways to close the gap. Are we meeting goals of the Paris Climate Agreement?
The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. All 193 Member States of the UN are represented in the General Assembly, making it the only UN body with universal representation.
The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the UN Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 Members (5 permanent and 10 non-permanent members). Each Member has one vote. Under the Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.
The Economic and Social Council is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals.
The Trusteeship Council was established in 1945 by the UN Charter, under Chapter XIII, to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories that had been placed under the administration of seven Member States, and ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self-government and independence.
The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its seat is at the Peace Palace in the Hague (Netherlands). It is the only one of the six principal organs of the United Nations not located in New York (United States of America).
The Secretariat comprises the Secretary-General and tens of thousands of international UN staff members who carry out the day-to-day work of the UN as mandated by the General Assembly and the Organization's other principal organs.
Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society.
Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential. Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development.
While global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000, one in ten people in developing regions still lives on less than US$1.90 a day — the internationally agreed poverty line, and millions of others live on slightly more than this daily amount.
In 2020, the United Nations turns 75. UN75 aims to build a global vision for the year 2045, the UN's centenary; to increase understanding of the threats to that future; and to drive collective action to realize that vision. #Join the Conversation #Be the Change
As the world’s only truly universal global organization, the United Nations has become the foremost forum to address issues that transcend national boundaries and cannot be resolved by any one country acting alone.
Video and audio from across the United Nations and our world-wide family of agencies, funds, and programmes.
Grow, nourish, sustain. Together.
#WorldFoodDay called for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers. We are also giving thanks to the world’s #FoodHeroes who, produce, plant, harvest, fish or transport our food.
UNESCO Qualifications Passport for refugees
One of the main obstacles that refugee face when applying for higher education or seeking employment in host countries is a lack of recognition of prior qualifications acquired in their country of origin.
Hymn to the United Nations
W.H. Auden’s “Hymn to the United Nations” is revived in this tribute produced for United Nations Day.
COVID-19 widening gender gap in Pakistan
In Pakistan, women are major contributors to agricultural production and food security for their families, but like many other nations, the COVID pandemic has exacerbated an already alarming gender gap there.
That’s especially true for rural women, where the amount of work and responsibility that they have to shoulder has gone up, leading to a decrease in living standards, as they’re forced to stay at home and care for others.
Mina Dowlatchahi, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative to Pakistan, explains to Charlotta Lomas, how the UN agency is supporting women in the countryside, despite the corrosive impact of the pandemic.
Images from across the United Nations and our world-wide family of agencies, funds, and programmes.
Photo:Andika Oky Arisandi
Global citizens share vision of #TheWorldWeWant
People from across the world have been sharing their hopes and dreams for the future as part of a photo exhibition to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. The #TheWorldWeWant exhibition is a collection of 75 photos, curated from more than 50,000 images crowdsourced from over 130 countries. One of the participants from Indonesia, Andika Oky Arisandi’s message is a simple one. “I want the world to be full of happiness.”
Bridging the divide: Transforming the human-carnivore relationship to protect snow leopards
It might be hard for a city-dweller to imagine a life that is directly reliant on the elements of nature - where sudden and erratic weather changes can spell the difference between prosperity or poverty; where quotidian tasks are reliant on the changing sun, rain, and seasons; where an attack on one’s livestock can mean disaster and diminished futures for an entire family. The Pakistan Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program promotes a landscape approach for the survival of snow leopards and their prey by reducing threats to co-existence and applying sustainable land and forest management in critical habitats like this glacier in Northern Pakistan.
Rural women, nature and development: An agenda to advance towards just, inclusive and, resilient societies
Rural women play a fundamental role in the conservation of nature and the socio-economic development of communities and nations. Therefore, the efforts for gender equality are a fundamental priority to enable fair, inclusive, and resilient societies. Heimy Arguedas Madrigal is one of 23 women in her community in Río Jesús de Santiago, San Ramón -Costa Rica- who received training in a project of organic production and stingless-bee honey production.
Teen. Girl. Activist.
Oumou Kalsoum Diop, 18, hears stories from the girls in her community. Stories that need to be shared, she says. Sexual assaults have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Young women are stuck at home, sometimes with their attacker. “Since I was little, I watched films but didn’t know who was behind the camera." Now, she trains her lens on issues she knows well. “We have to liberate what's in our hearts," she tells the young women she meets at the community centre, at school, in the city. “Don’t keep it inside.”