Slavery is not merely a historical relic

According to the ILO more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery. Although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking. Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power. The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December) focuses the eradication of slavery, as it has evolved and manifested itself throughout history.

Abdoulaye and his family: his two slaves, Soumana and Aboubaca take care of the cattle. They belong to the family in Niger and share its living conditions.
Photo:ILO / Marcel Crozet
A family flees the violence in Idlib, Syria. (file)

UN appeals for $35 billion to help world’s ‘most vulnerable and fragile’ in 2021

1 December 2020 — A record 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year, a near- 40 per cent increase on 2020 which is “almost entirely from COVID-19”, the UN’s...

New COVID-19 infections fall globally for first time since September; WHO chief urges ‘extreme caution’

30 November 2020 — Last week saw the first global decline in newly reported cases of COVID-19 since September, the head of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday, advising that the...

UN chief calls for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities

30 November 2020 — Achieving a world where all people have equal access to opportunities is a goal worth fighting for, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday in a speech calling for...

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.

SDG Goal 13: Climate Action
Climate Action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

More from the
United Nations

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

event poster

Reimagining education for a more just world: inspire, change, together

From 1-4 December, UNODC is hosting the Education for Justice (E4J) Global Dialogue Series. More than 35 online interactive panels will discuss how the international education community is working towards teaching justice and rule of law issues, with inspiration from innovative approaches from around the world to ensure that learning never stops even during a global pandemic. Join E4J and see how the UN and its partners are reimagining education for a more just world, and inspiring change together!

mother holding child

A six-point plan to protect our children

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, governments around the world have mobilized billions of dollars to save their economies. But there is another impending and devastating loss if we do not act: a lost generation of children. Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals is slipping backwards, and children continue to pay the steepest price. Without coordinated, global action to prevent, mitigate and respond to the effects of the pandemic, the consequences for children now, and for the future of our shared humanity, will be severe. UNICEF's six-point plan proposes a set of practical and concrete actions to reunite the world around a common cause: the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Poster of the Orange the World campaign.

16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence

The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign is marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (25 November to 10 December 2020) under the global theme, “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!". UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign is amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls. Read and share stories, get inspired by activists.

Keeping children safe online

ITU introduces Guidelines on Child Online Protection with their mascot Sango to support children online for a safe and positive digital experience.

The hospitality challenge

The initiative of the World Tourism Organization and Sommet Education has received 600 applications. Out of the 30 selected finalists, the three winning projects will be announced in March 2021.

Six ‘Films of Hope’ for uncertain times

Sex and the City co-stars Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon chat about their go-to films for inspiration and what the world needs to fight the coronavirus. 

Resource Efficiency and Climate Change

The UNEP report conducts a rigorous assessment of the contribution of material efficiency in residential buildings and light duty vehicle to greenhouse gas abatement strategies. 

woman looking out from behind drapes

Unheard voices from Nigeria

UNFPA collaborated with documentary photographer and visual artist Etinosa Yvonne on a multimedia storytelling project "Unheard Voices From Nigeria" for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The Abuja-based Etinosa interviewed, photographed, and filmed 16 women in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in northeastern Nigeria, a region afflicted by insurgent groups that have forced millions to flee their homes. For too long, the stories of these women—child marriage, domestic abuse, abduction and rape—have gone untold. Breaking the silence starts now. Each day through 10 December, one woman's story will be released.

discarded electronic equipment

Creating a circular economy for ICT equipment

Discarded electrical and electronic equipment (such as phones, laptops, fridges, sensors and TVs), known as e-waste, is a growing challenge, matching the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry. There are currently more mobile cellular subscriptions on Earth than there are humans. E-waste contains substances that can be hazardous to human health and the environment if not dealt with properly – including mercury, cadmium and lead. Improper e-waste management can also contribute to global warming. The goal is a system in which all discarded products are collected and then the materials or components reintegrated into new products.

Thirteen-year-old Syrian refugee

2020 risks lowest resettlement levels in recent history

2020 will be a record low for refugee resettlement, UNHCR has warned. “We are dealing with a disappointingly low resettlement ceiling to begin with - a quota of less than 50,000 for the entire year - and this was further impacted by COVID-19 delaying departures and pausing some states’ resettlement programs,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs. According to latest UNHCR data, only 15,425 refugees were resettled from January to the end of September this year, compared to 50,086 over the same period last year. “Current rates point to one of the lowest levels of resettlement witnessed in almost two decades. This is a blow for refugee protection and for the ability to save lives and protect those most at risk,” said Triggs.

Close-up of an artefact displayed at an exhibition

Art traffickers: Pillaging peoples’ identities

Half a century after its adoption, the UNESCO 1970 Convention against the illicit trafficking of cultural property is still a major instrument to stem this scourge. Over the last fifty years, the fight against this underground trade has intensified, and awareness of the moral damage caused by the plunder has grown. But the craze for these objects, the prices of which have skyrocketed; the leniency of sanctions, and the vulnerability of sites in conflict zones are all challenges that need to be addressed to curb the trafficking of what some call “blood antiquities”.

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

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

Watch and Listen

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

Every day, people are dying from infections that cannot be treated anymore. Our misuse and overuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobials has led to an increase in microbes that are resistant to the medicines designed to kill them. The more antimicrobials we use, the more severe the threat of antimicrobial resistance becomes. FAO guides us against the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance affects us all.

Road Safety: World Day of Remembrance

In observance of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, WHO highlights the need to remember those who died; support those who survived; and take action to save lives on the world’s roads.

Hand over the mic series

For the #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (25 Nov – 10 Dec), UN Women brings us the stories  of activists and survivors and calls to take a stand to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

UN Podcasts

Stack of canned food.

Don’t let your kindness go to waste

Donating goods overseas after disasters can be unhelpful and even harmful, and with the Pacific Cyclone season now in full swing, WFP has begun a campaign urging people to donate more responsibly.  

Via the Donate Responsibly website, the user is taken on a journey to discover why donations of things like clothing and food, which are thought to be helpful, may in fact have the opposite effect.  

UN News brings us the conversation between Julia Dean from the UN Country Team in Australia and Jo Pilgrim, Director of WFP’s Pacific Multi-Country office in Fiji, which started with the question of what the most donated items were.  

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.

A girl and a boy, in an alley, face each other smiling.
Photo:WFP / Mohammed Awadh

‘Dear people of the world’: Two girls in Yemen, two letters for Children’s Day

A generation of children in Yemen — where the WFP provides food assistance to more than 13 million people — are growing up knowing only war. Up to one in four children are acutely malnourished in parts of the country, which for more than five years has been in the throes of conflict. More than 2 million are out of school. To mark World Children's Day, WFP invited two girls from displaced families to explain in their own words what life is like for them. Elaf and Amina are survivors of an ongoing conflict.

A girl sits on a wooden bed in a room with a latrine next to it.
Photo:UNICEF / Ijazah

The state of the world’s sanitation

Talking about toilets may be awkward, but we need to act now to eliminate open defecation. Everyone is entitled to sanitation services that are affordable and accessible, and provide privacy, dignity and safety. Meeting the goal of universal sanitation by 2030 is possible – with greater investment, sustained effort and increased rates of sanitation coverage. UNICEF features countries making rapid progress in access to sanitation, transforming lives, the environment, and their economies, all within one generation.

A man stands surrounded by a swarm of flying locust.
Photo:FAO / Haji Dirir

Floods, locusts and COVID-19; Somalia’s triple threat

Somalia has come a long way in the last few years. The economy has been growing steadily, government services are expanding and progress on constitutional reform and power-sharing arrangements are paving the way for long-term stability. It is now imperative that we respond at speed and at scale to the current triple crisis of flooding, locusts and disease. UNDP is directing new resources to meet the immediate threat of COVID-19, such as a communications campaign to reach millions with life-saving information.

Collage of photos of events with people wearing orange or places lit in orange.
Photo:UN Women

Best of the 16 Days of Activism

Even before COVID-19 hit, violence against women and girls had reached pandemic proportions. During the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence - from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November to Human Rights Day on 10 December - “Orange Events” take place around the world. UN Women brings us the best of collection of photos from 2014 to the present showcasing the passionate global advocacy and activism taking place all around the world each year during this time.