Human Rights, Women and Gender Equality

Including widows “to build back better”

Nearly one in ten widows live in extreme poverty. Especially in developing countries, the loss of a partner is magnified by a long-term struggle for basic needs, human rights and dignity. The pandemic, with devastating human loss, has just worsened the situation leaving tens of thousands of women newly widowed at the time when they are cut off from their usual socio-economic and family support. This International Widows’ Day let us ensure that our recovery prioritizes widows’ unique needs. They must not be left out of our work to “build back better” from COVID-19.

Hawa was pregnant when she lost her husband in the fighting in the Central African Republic. She crossed into Cameroon, becoming a refugee at the Gado camp, where she gave birth to Haphisi.
Photo:UN Women/Ryan Brown
Young boys stand in front of a destroyed building in Benghazi Old Town in Libya. (file)

Secretary-General underlines UN commitment to Libya

23 June 2021 — Full implementation of a historic ceasefire agreement and the withdrawal of foreign forces are critical for consolidating peace in Libya, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said...

Time running out to prevent ‘worst case scenario’ arising in Afghanistan

22 June 2021 — With all the major indicators for Afghanistan’s security and development looking “negative or stagnant” as international troops withdraw, the threats that lie ahead cannot be...

COVID-19: First mRNA vaccine tech transfer hub a ‘great step forward’

21 June 2021 — The World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting a South African consortium in establishing the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub, the UN agency announced on...

UN Sustainable Development Goals

17 Goals to transform our world

The Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action by all countries — poor, rich and middle-income — to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.

Act Now

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.

Decade of Action

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.

Thomas the Tank engine

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.

More from the
United Nations

Featured stories from across the United Nations and our world-wide family of agencies, funds, and programmes.

Logo for the SG's Guidance on Behavioural Science Secretary-General

Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on Behavioural Science

The Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on Behavioural Science encourages all UN colleagues to apply behavioural science to enhance policy development, programme implementation and simplify processes. A corner stone of the Secretary-General’s agenda to reform the UN, behavioural science refers to an evidence-based study of how people behave, make decisions and respond to programmes, policies and incentives. The launch also marks the opening of the UN Behavioural Science Week. Join the UN Behavioural Science Group to learn more, connect and collaborate with colleagues from across the UN system.

A man hands a health care worker a box that was just delivered by a drone. UNESCO, Science and Technology

Call for increases in investment in science amidst growing crises

Spending on science worldwide increased (+19%) between 2014 and 2018, as did the number of scientists (+13.7%). This trend has been further boosted by the COVID crisis, according to UNESCO’s new Science Report, The Race against Time for Smarter Development. But these figures hide significant disparities: just two countries, the United States and China, account for nearly two-thirds of this increase (63%) while four out of five countries lag far behind, investing less than 1% of their GDP in scientific research. The scientific landscape remains largely a landscape of power.

People inside a dumpsite watch as some trash burns. WHO, Health, Children

Soaring e-waste affects the health of millions of children

Effective and binding action is urgently required to protect the millions of children, adolescents and expectant mothers worldwide whose health is jeopardized by the informal processing of discarded electrical or electronic devices, according to a new WHO report. As many as 12.9 million women work in the informal waste sector, which potentially exposes them to toxic e-waste and puts them and their unborn children at risk. Meanwhile more than 18 million children and adolescents are actively engaged in the informal industrial sector, of which waste processing is a sub-sector. 

UNHCR, Displaced Persons and Refugees

Photos and football help displaced communities

With disposable cameras, participants capture the unfiltered realities of their football lives and communities, as UNHCR’s Goal Click Refugees campaign reveals the power of sport.

IAEA, Atomic Energy

Improving safety of ageing nuclear power plants

Due to Imposed travel restrictions due to the pandemic, a new set of guidelines provide nuclear power plant operators an additional support tool until IAEA missions can resume. 

UN Women, Women and Gender Equality

Commitments to action at Forum

UN Women invites women’s and feminist organizations, government and private entities to make bold commitments for equality at the Generation Equality Forum, from 30 June to 2 July.

UNRWA, Éducation

Karam’s journey back to school

To address the lasting effects of conflict and economic stressors, UNRWA provides support to students to continue going to school – like Karam – through its ‘Back to School’ project.

What we do

Due to the powers vested in its Charter and its unique international character, the United Nations can take action on the issues confronting humanity in the 21st century, including:

Structure of the
United Nations

The main parts of the UN structure are the General Assembly, the
Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat. All were established in 1945 when the UN was founded.

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.

Learn more

The Middelgrunden Off Shore Windturbines located in the Øresund Straight separating Denmark and Sweden. UN Photo

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 at UN CSW63 Side Event - “Take the Hot Seat”. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

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.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is greeted on his visit to the Central African Republic

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.

young children smiling at camera

The UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020 arrived at a time of great upheaval and peril. To secure a world where everyone can thrive in peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet we need a multilateral system that is inclusive, networked and effective. "Our Common Agenda" will build on the 12 commitments contained in the UN75 Declaration.

Watch and Listen

Video and audio from across the United Nations and our world-wide family of agencies, funds, and programmes.

Science is behind the practices, guidelines and standards that keep our food safe in production, transit, processing, at market and at home. This video shows how the work of scientists all over the world helps to keep food safe along the supply chain. Read more about food safety at FAO and at WHO.

UN Free & Equal and IOM: Apollo’s story

For many lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) people, leaving their communities in search of a safer and more welcoming place to call home is the only way to find a job, get access to healthcare or find safety from poverty, family rejection, criminalization, threats and violence. Every human being deserves the freedom to simply be themselves, without facing violence and discrimination. Together we can create a future free from prejudice, where everyone truly belongs. Help us spread these stories of determination and resilience . Learn more >>

E-waste policy to inspire a continent

Globally, every living human being produces 7.3 kg of e-waste, or WEEE, annually. While developed countries produce more than their share, e-waste is piling up in the developing world. Find out how ITU is supporting Namibia in finding policy solutions, including extended producer responsibility, to the e-waste problem.

UN Podcasts

Michelle Bachelet sitting at the head-table of a conference room

Prisoner of Hope

"I understand the people I speak to in my current job, because I've been in their shoes: I've been arbitrarily detained. I've experienced enforced disappearance.”

In this episode of Awake at Night, we meet Michelle Bachelet who was the first female President of Chile for the Socialist Party of Chile (2006–10; 2014–18). She is now the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Michelle’s father served in the Air Force and, in 1973 after being taken prisoner during a coup that overthrew the government, he died in jail at just 50 years old. Michelle shares the harrowing stories of how she and her mother were later taken to a clandestine detention centre, her exile in Australia and East Germany, her motivations to study medicine and return to Chile and why, despite everything, she remains a prisoner of hope.

"We may not be all responsible for the past, but we are responsible for the future."

Latest Audio from UN News

The United Nations in Pictures

Images from across the United Nations and our world-wide family of agencies, funds, and programmes.

Close-up of a girl smiling

Uprooted in Ethiopia: A day in the life of Gabezech

Eight-year-old Gabezech is one of the many children displaced since chronic border disputes erupted in violence around the Konso zone in southwestern Ethiopia, in late 2020. Tens of thousands of children have been uprooted from their homes, many separated from their families, leaving them at greater risk of disease, struggling to find shelter, and more vulnerable to violence. But conditions at these sites are often dire. The camps are overcrowded and unsanitary. UNICEF is supplying families with water treatment tablets to prevent diarrhoea.

A line of girls in uniform wait for food rations.
Photo:WFP/Gabriella Vivacqua

How school meals are empowering girls in South Sudan

Girls in South Sudan are more likely than boys to be excluded from education. In some parts of the country, it is estimated that over 75 percent of primary-school-aged girls are not in school. Conflict, poverty, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and cultural and religious views are among factors driving educational inequality that hinders the prospects of girls. The WFP’s school feeding programme provides daily hot meals to 500,000 children in 1,100 schools across South Sudan, an essential safeguard contributing to increased enrolment.