Get involved Vol 24, No. 10 - October 2020

Calling for nominations for the prestigious UN Public Service Awards

Every year, the United Nations recognizes institutions around the world for excellence in delivering public services. The UN Public Service Awards (UNPSA) is an annual competition, promoting the role, professionalism and visibility of public service. This year, from among the 403 institutions from 67 countries that were nominated, seven institutions from seven countries were selected to receive the prestigious award. The call has now been made to find the 2021 honorees.

In launching the nomination process, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin noted the importance of the 2021 awards as ‘the world continues to grapple with the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic’. He noted that ‘the innovation, accountability and effectiveness of public administrations to respond to the crisis and to ensure a green, inclusive and sustainable recovery is more crucial than ever.’

The UNPSA will recognize innovations in the public sector that contribute to more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide, including those that contribute to achieving the global goals.

Mr. Liu stressed the importance of gender responsive governance and public service delivery, noting that ‘throughout the world, women have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening hard-won advances in closing gaps between women and men across all areas of development’. In support of this, UN DESA will continue its collaboration with UN Women for the awards.

Public sector institutions are invited to submit nominations under one of four categories for the 2021 cycle:

  1. 1. Fostering innovation to deliver inclusive and equitable services for all including through digital transformation.
  2. 2. Enhancing the effectiveness of public institutions to reach the SDGs.
  3. 3. Promoting gender-responsive public services to achieve the SDGs.
  4. 4. Institutional preparedness and response in times of crisis.

Initiatives must have been in operation for at least two years at the time of submission, be nominated by a public sector institution, including in the case of public-private partnership initiatives.

Join our webinar to learn more about the awards

Want to make a nomination? On 6 October, UN DESA will host a webinar to showcase the work of the 2020 UNPSA winners, as well as share details on the 2021 process to better prepare institutions to submit a nomination. Details on the webinar can be found here.

Additional details and nomination forms in all six UN languages can be found here. The deadline for submissions is 18 November 2020.

A Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact lives and livelihoods, a health crisis has quickly become a human and socio-economic crisis, impeding progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whilst also making their achievement even more urgent and necessary.

There are only 10 years left to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. That’s why world leaders, at the SDG Summit in September 2019, called for a Decade of Action, pledging to mobilize financing, enhance national implementation and strengthen institutions to achieve the Goals by the target date of 2030.

Accelerated efforts are needed to boost sustainable solutions to the biggest challenges we face. The Decade of Action asks for transformative economic, social and environmental solutions. We will need inspiration and creativity at global, local and individual levels – from national and local governments, civil society, the private sector, academia and youth. A transformative recovery from COVID- 19 should reduce the risk of future crises and re-launch the Decade of Action.

People gets involved to support the global goals

Nations, organizations and people from all the corners of the world are working together to address the present and future challenges from different areas, for a better future for humanity. To collect and share information about inspiring actions being taken to push the needle on the SDGs around the world, UN DESA has developed an online “SDG Accelerations Actions” database that currently includes over 200 initiatives by governments and stakeholders alike. The Government of Egypt is launching the new phase of its housing plan for all, which has received a EGP 10 billion investment to alleviate housing inequality and provide decent housing for slum dwellers and curb the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. The University of South Africa will offer Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development from 2022, aligned with the 2030 and 2063 Agendas, and aims to award degrees to 50 graduates by 2023. UNDP Colombia is supporting the national government to improve ecosystem connectivity and biodiversity conservation of 60,000-80,000 hectares of productive landscapes in Amazon region, benefitting the livelihoods of 4000 people by 2024.

Take part in the Decade of Action!

Don’t be left behind. Join our community in supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developments. Share your story of sustainability on social media using #SDGs and #GlobalGoals and register your SDG Acceleration Actions on SDG implementation! You can also follow the monthly SDG calendar to promote your own Goal-related material and be inspired by the editorial package provided by the UN Department of Global Communications every month.

For more information: Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs

Join International Youth Day celebrations!

As the world is facing and responding to the COVID-19 crisis, many of us are confined to stay at home. But this is no reason not to engage virtually! Looking for ideas on how to get involved and take part in International Youth Day celebrations this year? We’ve got you covered! There are plenty of ways to engage and make your voice heard. Check out how to take action for positive change!

Organize an event! Event formats could range from themed online seminars, lectures, and peer-to-peer debates, all the way through to virtual exhibitions and live streams. Take advantage of social media and virtual platforms available to you and organise some online events.

During your events, be sure to engage and advocate! Engage community leaders and activists and host or organise an online meeting to discuss this year’s theme. You could for example organize a speaking role for a senior politician to share their insights about the importance of youth action. Whatever you decide, be sure to invite youth from a wide range of backgrounds to generate an inclusive conversation. You might even choose to focus on youth action in relation to key issues such as climate change, peacebuilding, inequalities, or COVID-19.

Spread the word! Getting involved with International Youth day can also include raising awareness about the importance of youth engagement. You could begin with those closest to you and engage in discussions about the importance of a youth perspective. On social media, use #YouthDay, #Youth4GlobalAction, and #SDG16 to help spread the word and strike up a conversation surrounding youth engagement for global action.

Make your voice heard, and take part in the UN75 survey where you can inform global priorities moving forward:

You can share your event on our World Map of events. Head over to to get mapping!

Learn more about the International Youth Day on 12 August here


Register your action to #BuildBackBetter and accelerate SDG action

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, and the world slowly coming to terms with the “new normal”, forward-looking governments, businesses and organizations are using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint for rebuilding their economies and essential services in a fairer, more sustainable way.

The brightest ideas, game-changing initiatives and most innovative partnerships are captured by UN DESA in the SDG Acceleration Actions registry. Since its launch ahead of the SDG Summit last September, more than 150 bold commitments to advance the goals have been made. Now is your chance for your initiative to be featured among them!

Whether you represent a big international organization or government, or a small, local business or NGO, you can register your SDG Acceleration Action here: A new functionality on our platform allows you to share how your SDG Acceleration Action can help to tackle the pandemic and build back better from the ravages of COVID-19.

For example, a recent SDG Acceleration Action registered by Mexico, in collaboration with UN Women, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), has launched a programme to improve social protection for 2.5 million women in domestic labour and agriculture, especially for indigenous women and those working in rural areas.

And SDGs for Haiti, a student-led initiative at the State University of Haiti aims to establish four new community pharmacies in Port-au-Prince and by 2021 reach 60 per cent of Haitians through public health awareness campaigns, promoting vaccination and COVID-19-related sanitation practices.

Private sector is also stepping up. For instance, the new “Liechtenstein Initiative” brings together the financial sectors and governments of Liechtenstein, the Netherlands and Austria, in an effort to help put an end to modern slavery and human trafficking.

Under another recently registered programme, called “50:50: The Equality Project”, more than 600 BBC teams and 60 partner organizations have committed to a full gender balance on-screen, on-air and in lead roles across all genres. The initiative is now planning to expand the 50:50 methodology to represent persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities, as well.

Are you feeling inspired already? Whatever your government, business or organization is doing to achieve the SDGs and counter the multifaceted COVID-19 crisis, we want to hear about it! Register your organization’s SDG Acceleration Action—or browse more than 150 actions already registered—at

Keeping the momentum to #SaveOurOcean

The UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon has been postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s no time to press snooze on ocean issues. In fact, the zoonotic coronavirus makes it clear that we must build our cities sustainably and avoid encroaching on wildlife habitats, to avoid increasing our risks for disease exposure.

Despite current challenges, 2020 is still a super year for biodiversity, and the UN is working hard this June to promote environmental issues in support of World Environment Day (5 June) and World Oceans Day (8 June). And there are a number of ways to participate and get involved!

First up, UN DESA has been organizing a webinar series to keep up the momentum for ocean action and engage different stakeholder groups on the latest in SDG 14 implementation and offer them a place to network and inspire new partnerships. The first webinar in May brought together more than 400 youth activists, and the second was aimed at private sector representatives. Our next webinar takes place on 3 June for Asia-Pacific stakeholders, and one for local and regional governments will take place later. To join our webinar on 3 June, sign up here by 1 June.

We also hope you can join the UN World Oceans Day celebration on 8 June, where special attention will be given to this year’s theme, “innovations for a sustainable ocean.” The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, will kick off a “Spotlight Solutions” segment in which eight ocean scientists and entrepreneurs will present their innovations in a “Shark Tank”-style format. Other speakers include the Secretary-General, the actress Cara Delavigne and the environmental activist Bill McKibben.

Additionally, be sure to check out the Reboot the Ocean event—a global hackathon featuring inspiring young people with innovative and techy solutions to today’s ocean challenges. And don’t miss cooking demonstrations by world renowned chefs using sustainably-sourced seafood, live on the @unworldoceansday Instagram account.

Finally, if you or your organization are making efforts to care for the ocean and its resources, we encourage you to register your commitment with UN DESA. Launched in 2017, ahead of the first UN Ocean Conference, the registry now has more than 1,600 commitments, ranging from sustainable fishery programmes, to mangrove and coral reef conservation projects and  marine data collection efforts. Behind each commitment is an inspiring story of ocean action. UN DESA has coordinated all of the commitments into nine active Communities of Ocean Action that are following up on their implementation and facilitating collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

The challenges facing our ocean haven’t stopped with COVID-19, and the UN continues working hard to provide many ways to take ocean action now.

Photo: Henley Spiers, UN World Ocean Day competition 2019

How the world can connect to combat COVID-19

Until a few weeks back, not many of us had heard phrases connected to our health and survival like “the apex”, “flattening the curve”, or staying at home to save lives. But these are unprecedented times. The world is facing one of the gravest health challenges in modern times. It is a time that can test our bonds and kindness towards one another, or it can bring us closer together in solidarity and compassion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is aiming to do just that. Not only is the organization on the frontlines of helping countries prevent, detect and respond to this deadly and rapidly spreading virus, it is also seeking ways to unite us against this invisible enemy.

To encourage and activate people and communities across the world, WHO has been bringing together various partners on a number of initiatives to help people stay connected and healthy through these difficult times.

Here are some of the ways you can engage to support, help boost solidarity, raise awareness and ultimately help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

You can also stay updated on UN DESA’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and access materials that analyze the impacts of the virus, and the sustainable way forward.

Last but not least – remember to be safe, smart and kind. Only by working together, without prejudice or discrimination, but in solidarity and compassion, can we overcome this crisis.


Be safe, be smart, be kind

Have you been experiencing elevated levels of fear and anxiety lately? Are you feeling trapped or hopeless? Don’t worry, these are not the symptoms of the novel coronavirus, they are perfectly natural reactions to a global pandemic. One of the best antidotes to the sense of powerlessness in face of the COVID-19 virus is to take action against it. Here’s what you can do!

Be Safe

It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do for other people at the moment… is to keep away from them. Social distancing is still our most powerful weapon against the coronavirus. If you find yourself in a COVID-19 hotspot, and if urged by local authorities to help flatten the curve, heed the call! This may be the only time in your life when you can literally save lives by simply staying home.

Watch and retweet to learn how you can protect yourself and others from the coronavirus in seven easy steps.

Be Smart

Inform yourself about the virus from a trusted source, such as the official websites of the United Nations and the World Health Organization or your local health authority.

You can also learn about UN DESA’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic through a new web portal just launched. The portal will shine a light on the cutting-edge analysis and policy advice to addressing this global crisis.

It’s good to keep everybody else informed, but be sure to only share facts, not rumours. Never share sensationalist or unverified information. By spreading misinformation, you may be helping the spread of the virus instead of stopping it!

Be Kind

No amount of fear can excuse prejudice and discrimination. The coronavirus pandemic is a human crisis that calls first and foremost for human solidarity. Stand up to racism, xenophobia and stigma.

Show solidarity with those affected:

We are all in this crisis together and we will get through it together.

Are you #GenerationEquality?

Imagine a world where all people have equal rights and opportunities. Women and girls are not afraid of walking home late at night, and men and boys are not trapped in oppressive masculinities. In this world, gender equality is the norm. Men and women get paid equally for work of equal value and share the care work at home.

This is Generation Equality.

UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most visionary agenda for women’s rights and empowerment everywhere.

The Generation Equality campaign is bringing together people of every gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion and country, to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world we all deserve.

Together, we can end gender-based violence; we are calling for economic justice and rights for all; bodily autonomy, sexual and reproductive health and rights; and feminist action for climate justice. We want technology and innovation for gender equality, and feminist leadership.

Small actions can have big impacts in making this vision a reality. On International Women’s Day, join #GenerationEquality and become part of the movement.

Working together to end homelessness

“We want everyone to be involved and make change happen!” says Amine Lamrabat, Information Officer in UN DESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development. Ahead of the UN Commission for Social Development (CSocD) this month, which for the first time in its history will address homelessness, he shares how we can all work together to end homelessness and promote affordable housing. Learn about six key actions we can all support!

  • Raise awareness to support the empowerment and full participation of homeless persons in the societies we live in, paying particular attention to family homelessness, women, children, adolescents, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, people living in poverty and people displaced by natural disasters and conflicts.
  • Advocate for the rights of homeless people to live a dignified life. You can get involved in great initiatives such as the world’s big sleep out campaign, which was founded by Josh Littlejohn, the co-founder of the charity Social Bite, based in Scotland. Social Bite started as a small sandwich shop in Edinburgh that began offering employment and free food to homeless people.
  • Educate yourself, teach others, and push for policies that help the homeless. There are so many reasons why a person becomes homeless. We need to understand how they got there in the first place to be able to do something about it.
  • Invest in your community, volunteer and contribute to the trusted foundations and charities who are working hard to make change happen.
  • Organize networking events and outreach activities to show solidarity with homeless people such as Making Us Count, a campaign powered by the UN Working Group to End Homelessness, made up of NGOs from across the world. The campaign calls on the United Nations to make the voices of homeless people count.
  • Show respect towards homeless persons and treat them with dignity as you would do with anyone else.
  • Contribute to ending this global social crisis, which is growing in every country.

“By adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Member States agreed to make significant progress towards implementing appropriate social protection systems for all and committed to ensuring access to safe and affordable housing for all. Homelessness is a global problem and needs a global solution. We need to find innovative solutions to end and prevent it. All people have the right to lead a decent life with dignity”, says Amine Lamrabat at UN DESA.

It is the first time in the history of the UN Commission for Social Development (CSocD) that the issue of affordable housing and homelessness is addressed. Join the discussions at the CSocD 58th session from 10 to 19 February 2020 at UN Headquarters in New York or live online via UN Web TV.

For more information, please visit the CSocD58 website.

2020 kicks off new decade of action for people and planet

What kind of a world do we want to create? As we dive into a new decade, the United Nations is launching a massive campaign to bridge the gap between the world we hope for and the world we may end up living in if we don’t better manage the dire challenges we are facing, including current climate change and inequality trends. 

The new “Decade of Delivery and Action,” is fully backed by the highest levels of officials within the UN and among international actors. At the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development last July, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on Member States and other stakeholders to “kickstart a decade of delivery and action for people and planet” in 2020, given the short time left to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

This theme was also reflected in the political declaration, “Gearing up for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development,” unanimously adopted at the opening of the SDG Summit in September 2019. UN Member States pledged to mobilize financing, enhance national implementation and strengthen institutions to achieve the sustainable development objectives by the target date and leave no one behind. This January, the Secretary-General will deliver a New Year’s address in which he is expected to rally more enthusiasm for the decade.

The launch of the decade coincides with the 75th anniversary of the UN (#UN75), which will be celebrated under the theme “Shaping our future together,” and which seeks to involve people from all walks of life to join the largest-ever global conversation. Also, the UN’s Act Now campaign continues to gain steam, and this year it will offer tips for reducing your carbon footprint as it relates to oceans and sustainable transport – just in time for UN DESA’s two major conferences on those issues this year.

We can achieve the SDGs only through thoughtful collaboration and teamwork, so let’s get our voices heard and shape our future together!

For more information: Decade of Action for People for Planet

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