60 Ways the United Nations Makes a Difference


11 Strengthening international law

Over 500 multilateral treaties ?on human rights, terrorism, international crime, refugees, disarmament, commodities and the oceans ?have been enacted through the efforts of the United Nations.

12 Providing humanitarian aid to refugees

More than 50 million refugees fleeing war, famine or persecution have received aid from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees since 1951, in a continuing effort that often involves other agencies. The organization seeks long-term or "durable?solutions by helping refugees repatriate to their homeland if conditions warrant, or by helping them to integrate in their countries of asylum or to resettle in third countries. There are more than 19 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, mostly women and children, who are receiving food, shelter, medical aid, education and repatriation assistance from the UN.

13 Alleviating rural poverty in developing countries

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has developed a system for providing credit, often in very small amounts, that enables rural poor people to overcome poverty. Since starting operations in 1978, IFAD has invested more than $8.5 billion in 676 projects and programmes, benefiting more than 250 million people. All IFAD funds come from voluntary contributions from countries.

14 Aiding Palestine refugees

As the global community strives for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a relief and human development agency, has assisted four generations of Palestinian refugees with education, health care, social services, microfinance and emergency aid. Today, over 4 million refugees in the Middle East are registered with UNRWA.

15 Focusing on African development

Africa continues to be a high priority for the United Nations. In 1986, the UN convened a special session to drum up international support for African economic recovery and development. In 2001, African Heads of State adopted the continent's own plan, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which was endorsed by the General Assembly in 2002 as the main framework for channelling international support to Africa. The continent receives 33 per cent of UN system expenditures for development, the largest share among regions. All UN agencies have special programmes to benefit Africa.

16 Promoting women's well-being

The United Nations has helped to promote women's equality and well-being. The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) have helped to improve women's quality of life and promote women's rights in over 100 countries. INSTRAW carries out research and training activities and UNIFEM supports projects that seek to eliminate violence against women, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and promote women's economic security ?for instance, by increasing their access to work and their rights to land and inheritance. All UN agencies must take into account the needs of women.

17 Promoting women's rights

A long-term objective of the United Nations has been to improve the lives of women and to empower women to have greater control over their lives. The UN organized the first-ever World Women's Conference (Mexico City, 1975), which together with other conferences during the UN-sponsored International Women's Decade set the agenda for advancing women's rights. The 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by 180 countries, has helped to promote the rights of women worldwide.

18 Providing safe drinking water

During the first UN decade on water (1981-1990), more than a billion people gained access to safe drinking water for the first time in their lives. An additional 1.1 billion people gained access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2002. In 2003, the International Year of Freshwater raised awareness of the importance of protecting this precious resource. The second international water decade (2005-2015) aims to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water.

19 Wiping out polio

Poliomyelitis has been eliminated from all but six countries ?Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Niger, Nigeria and Pakistan ?as a result of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the largest international public health effort to date. Thanks to the Initiative, spearheaded by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 5 million children are walking who would otherwise have been paralysed by polio. A disease which once crippled children in 125 countries around the world is on the verge of being eradicated.

20 Responding to HIV/AIDS

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) coordinates global action against an epidemic that is affecting nearly 40 million people. It works in more than 130 countries to provide universal access to HIV prevention and treatment services, as well as reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities and alleviate the impact of the epidemic. UNAIDS brings together the expertise of its 10 co-sponsoring UN organizations.

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60 Ways the United Nations Makes a Difference

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