60 Ways the United Nations Makes a Difference


1 Promoting development

The United Nations has devoted its attention and resources to promoting living standards and human skills and potential throughout the world. Since 2000, this work has been guided by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN system's annual expenditures for development, excluding the international financial institutions, amount to more than $10 billion. For instance, the UN Development Programme, with staff in 166 countries, leads the UN's work on eradicating extreme poverty and promoting good governance in the developing world. UNICEF works in 157 countries and spends more than $1.2 billion a year, primarily on child protection, immunization, fighting HIV/AIDS and girls’ education. UNCTAD helps countries make the most of their trade opportunities for development purposes. In addition, the World Bank provides developing countries with loans and grants totalling around $18 billion-$20 billion a year and has supported more than 9,500 development projects since 1947. Virtually all funds for development aid come from contributions donated by countries.

2 Promoting democracy

The UN has helped to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world. It has enabled people in many countries to participate in free and fair elections, including in Cambodia, Namibia, El Salvador, Eritrea, Mozambique, Nicaragua, South Africa, Kosovo and East Timor. It has provided electoral advice and assistance, including the monitoring of results, to more than 90 countries, often at decisive moments in their history, as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Burundi.

3Promoting human rights

Since the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the United Nations has helped to enact dozens of comprehensive agreements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. By investigating individual complaints, the UN human rights bodies have focused world attention on cases of torture, disappearance and arbitrary detention and have generated international pressure to be brought to bear on Governments to improve their human rights records.

4Maintaining peace and security

By sending a total of 60 peacekeeping and observer missions to the world’s trouble spots, as of 2005, the United Nations has been able to restore calm sufficiently to allow the negotiating process to go forward, saving millions of people from becoming casualties of war. There are at present 16 peacekeeping operations around the world.

5Making peace

Since 1945, the UN has assisted in negotiating more than 170 peace settlements that have ended regional conflicts. Examples include ending the Iran-Iraq war, facilitating the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and ending the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United Nations has used quiet diplomacy to avert imminent wars.

6Protecting the environment

The United Nations is working to solve global environmental problems. As an international forum for building consensus and negotiating agreements, the UN is tackling global problems like climate change, ozone layer depletion, toxic waste, loss of forests and species, and air and water pollution. Unless these problems are addressed, markets and economies will not be sustainable in the long term, as environmental losses are depleting the natural "capital" on which growth and human survival are based.

7Preventing nuclear proliferation

The United Nations, through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), helps to ensure that countries using nuclear technologies are not secretly developing nuclear weapons. Hundreds of nuclear facilities are safeguarded by IAEA in more than 70 countries. To date, there are 237 safeguards agreements in force with 152 States.

8Promoting self-determination and independence

When the UN was established in 1945, 750 million people ¡ª almost a third of the world population ¡ª lived in Non-Self- governing Territories dependent on colonial Powers. The United Nations played a role in bringing about independence
in more than 80 countries that are now sovereign

9 Prosecuting war criminals

UN tribunals established for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda have convicted war criminals and put them behind bars, have developed important case law on genocide and human rights and have provided a measure of justice that has been taken very seriously by the people of the affected regions.

10 Ending apartheid in South Africa

By imposing measures ranging from an arms embargo to a convention against segregated sporting events, the United Nations was a major factor in bringing about the downfall of the apartheid system. In 1994, elections in which all South Africans were allowed to participate on an equal basis led to the establishment of a multiracial Government.

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60 Ways the United Nations Makes a Difference

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