Safeguarding linguistic diversity

Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Globally 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life. International Mother Language Day is observed every year on 21 February to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

Toddlers in Bangladesh are introduced to the alphabet.
Photo:© UNICEF/BANA2014-00573/Mawa
The United Nations has been providing food aid to hungry South Sudanese over a period of many years.

‘Deliberate starvation’ tactics used in South Sudan could be a war crime

20 February 2020 — The people of South Sudan have been “deliberately starved” in different parts of the country for ethnic and political reasons, and sexual violence against women and men as a...

‘Not a single country’ does enough to help children flourish, say health experts

19 February 2020 — The world’s survival depends on children being able to flourish, but no country is doing enough to give them a sustainable future, dozens of highly respected international...

Polio eradication a UN priority, says Guterres in Pakistan visit

18 February 2020 — In one of the last bastions of polio on the planet, millions of children are being given a fighting chance against the paralyzing and potentially fatal disease. 

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 Climate Campaign aims to trigger individual action on the defining issue of our time. People around the world will be engaged to make a difference in all facets of their lives, from the food they eat to the clothes they wear.

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.

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.

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities


Sustainable Cities and Communities

With the number of people living within cities projected to rise to 5 billion people by 2030, it’s important that efficient urban planning and management practices are in place to deal with the challenges brought by urbanization.

More from the
United Nations

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

illustration of passenger and thermometer

Coronavirus disease: Myth busters

As COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, continues to spread, the World Health Organization is addressing some misconceptions and misinformation surrounding the contagious disease, which first appeared in December 2019, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.  Here are some of the questions answered: 

  • Are hand dryers effective in killing the new coronavirus? 
  • Can an ultraviolet disinfection lamp kill the new coronavirus? 
  • How effective are thermal scanners in detecting people infected with the new coronavirus?

Inform yourself and spread the word!

hands breaking cigarette

UN in History: Anti-tobacco treaty enters into force

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization. It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005. It has since become one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in United Nations history. The Convention was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. The Convention represents a milestone for the promotion of public health and provides new legal dimensions for international health cooperation.

singer in concert

UNESCO funds nine new projects to support culture in developing countries

Nine projects that will boost the creative industries in their countries were selected to receive grants of up to $100,000 by the Committee of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Selected from 480 applications, the projects will enhance cultural professional’s skills and knowledge, boost cultural entrepreneurship, promote creative networks and mobility, gather data, and support the development and implementation of cultural policies and measures. They include empowering youth through music in Argentina, strengthening the dance sector in Ethiopia and enforcing intellectual property in Viet Nam. 

Mineral Resource Governance in the 21st Century

The mining sector, if carefully managed, presents enormous opportunities for advancing sustainable development particularly in low-income countries, the International Resource Panel says in its latest report

Cacao: How just one crop has boosted an entire country’s exports

Cacao – the key ingredient in chocolate, and a major cash crop – is making a comeback in Sao Tome and Principe, thanks to IFAD’s assistance, tripling Sao Tome and Principe’s exports in comparison to just 12 years before.

I am Generation Equality: Kiara Nirghin

Kiara Nirghin, 19, is a student, scientist, and advocate for women and girls in STEM. In 2016, she won the Google Science Fair for her work on a method to increase food security in drought-affected areas.

Handbook for gender-inclusive urban planning and design

The Handbook for Gender-Inclusive Urban Planning and Design seeks to respond to these urgent questions: how might we design and plan cities that work well for everyone? What would such a city look like, and how would we go about creating it?

women dancing

Paving the way to a more secure future

Decades of instability have caused untold suffering for people across the Central African Republic. One of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, more than one million people remain displaced and over half of the country’s five million population requires humanitarian assistance. The small landlocked country has been ravaged by conflict and civil war, which has resulted in countless deaths and forced displacements, and has prevented the country from developing. As part of efforts to alleviate people’s hardship, UNOPS is working with the government and the World Bank to deliver a multifaceted project that is helping to lay the foundations for peace and improve living conditions for displaced communities.

illustration of women scientists

Devoted to discovery: seven women scientists who have shaped our world

For centuries, women have made significant contributions to the field of science. They’ve discovered life-saving remedies, devised world-altering inventions, and produced far-reaching research, but in many cases their invaluable advances are minimized or neglected. For too long, the STEM fields have been shaped by gender biases that exclude women and girls. The gender gap in science, technology and innovation translates to missed talent, untapped discoveries and biased solutions. Here are just seven women scientists you need to know and celebrate.

award laureates

22nd L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Awards recognize five exceptional women researchers in the life sciences

This year, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards, which honour five exceptional women scientists from different regions of the world, recognize the achievement of women scientists in the field of life sciences: biotechnology, ecology, epigenetics, epidemiology and infectiology. Each of the five laureates will receive €100,000 at a ceremony on 12 March 2020 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. They are recognized alongside 15 Rising Talents, young women scientists from all over the world.

A group of Jakun farmers gathers amongst some of their seedlings.

Stronger together: The power of farmers’ organizations

Small family farms make up 85 per cent of all farms worldwide, and smallholder farmers make up the majority of the world’s rural poor. To mitigate the challenges that come with working in isolation − and to increase profitability and productivity − these smallholders often form organizations. Working together makes it easier for small-scale farmers to access raw materials, reach larger markets and reduce costs. And when farmers thrive, other players in the food system benefit, too.

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

Did you know?

As the world’s only truly universal global organization, the United Nations has become the foremost forum to address issues that transcend national boundaries and cannot be resolved by any one country acting alone.

Watch and Listen

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

Facing the extinction of 1 million plant and animal species, countries are working on a plan to stop biodiversity loss. A draft plan being developed under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity calls for urgent action to stop biodiversity decline. Combating climate change, reducing plastic pollution, halting the loss of nature and restoring ecosystems are all part of the draft plan. The goals and commitments to deliver on them are to be adopted later this year at the biodiversity conference in Kunming.

UNOPS: Building the future

Every day, when faced with the unexpected, people in all corners of the world adapt, persevere and show incredible strength. Imagine if the infrastructure that supports them was just as resilient? At UNOPS, we believe that resilient infrastructure is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – and ensuring that people, communities and nations can prosper now and in the future. Find out more about how UNOPS is helping to advance resilient infrastructure around the world.

Everyone included

Homelessness is one of the crudest manifestations of poverty, discrimination and inequality, affecting people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Globally, 1.6 billion people worldwide live in inadequate housing conditions, with about 15 million forcefully evicted every year according to UN-Habitat, which has noted an alarming rise in homelessness in the last 10 years.

UN Podcasts

Children take a group selfie.

Ignoring how children behave online is ‘sticking our heads in the sand’

The way children and teenagers behave online has profoundly changed, and if societies ignore the need to rethink child safety issues, then “we are sticking our heads in the sand”. That’s according to Neil Walsh, Chief of the Cybercrime and Anti-Money Laundering Section at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Highlighting the role of parents and caregivers in understanding and explaining the risks involved in using the internet, Mr. Walsh told UN News’s Elena Vapnitchnaia that it’s essential to “empower the kids”, enabling them to talk about what they feel and see online.

More UN podcasts

Live Now

United Nations meetings, events, and press conferences live and on demand

The United Nations in Pictures

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

Singer and co-founder of the ONE campaign, Bono, poses for a photo with youth leaders and activists.
Photo:Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton

Call for Action to Meet the Unfulfilled Promise of Education for Girls

"The Drive for Five: A Call to Action to Educate Adolescent Girls" initiative is launched in the presence of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Singer and co-founder of the ONE campaign, Bono, and Chair of the Elders, Mary Robinson, were amongst the participants. More than 130 million girls worldwide are not in school!. The only way to reach gender equality is to start with gender parity in the education systems. Let's do it!

A panoramic view of migratory birds in flight at the Hubei wetlands.
Photo:UNDP China

Preserving the "Earth's Kidneys"

Wetlands are vital to the health of our planet. Like kidneys, which filter our blood to eliminate toxins, wetlands store, assimilate and transform pollutants before reaching the water table and waterways. They help control floods, mitigate droughts, naturally disinfect wastewater, and retain carbon. The Hubei province of China, known as the province of a thousand lakes, has 1.4 million hectares of wetlands. This territory serves as an 'ecological kidney' and also provides a habitat to 140 species of migratory birds. Human activity and climate change is threatening the territory. A UNDP project of wetland conservation is alleviating this threat.

A midwife strokes the forehead of a baby whilst the mother affectionately looks at the child.
Photo:WHO/Christine McNab

Bringing Midwifery Back to a Northern Canadian Community

Heather Heinrichs, a midwife, identifies as Métis tracing the descent of her family to the Métis Nation, one of the three distinct groups of Indigenous peoples in Canada. When she completed her 4-year midwifery degree, she began work with a midwifery service focused on care for Indigenous people in Toronto. She was struck by the gaps in access to health care for Canada’s Indigenous people. She saw the potential to improve outcomes by incorporating the strengths of culture and the long history of Indigenous women giving birth in their own communities, attended by experienced local women. Heather now works in remote Hay River in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

A child dressed in soldier attire sits on a tree branch in a forest with his back to the camera.

Stolen Childhoods

"Thomas" is 12 years old and a 'child soldier', or as defined in the Paris principles: “A child associated with an armed force or armed group”  (persons below 18 years of age who are, or who have been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity). Children associated with armed forces and armed groups have the same need to be loved, cared for, and to feel safe as other children. They have dreams about the future, they make jokes, they play football with the same intensity to win as children who have not been in an armed group. But they do have extraordinary experiences which will be with them for the rest of their lives.