The Olympic Games have long exemplified the ideals of peace and goodwill among nations. As the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games get underway, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has issued a call for silencing the guns, saying: “People and nations can build on this temporary respite to establish lasting ceasefires and find paths towards sustainable peace.” Upholding a tradition started in 1994, the President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, also made a solemn appeal to the UN Member States to observe the Olympic Truce.
The United Nations and the Olympic flags are raised at UN Headquarters.
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.
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.
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.
23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines through routine health services in 2020, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019. WHO/UNICEF data shows that a majority of countries last year experienced drops in childhood vaccination rates. Up to 17 million children – likely did not receive a single vaccine during the year, widening already immense inequities in vaccine access. Most of these children live in communities affected by conflict, in under-served remote places, or in informal or slum settings where they face multiple deprivations including limited access to basic health and key social services.
Since March 2020, governments have spent $16 trillion providing fiscal support amid the pandemic. Deficits are the highest they have been since World War II. This was absolutely necessary — IMF research indicates that if policymakers had not acted, last year’s recession, which was the worst peacetime recession since the Great Depression, would have been three times worse. The world lost $15 trillion in output as a result of COVID-19. The same energy that is being put into vaccination and plans for recovery spending also needs to be put into growth measures to make up for this lost output.
Every day, in cities across Europe, frontline workers provide essential services to migrant communities in a challenging context. They play a vital role in the daily lives of many individuals and families by serving as a link between these communities and the host country. Who are these frontline workers? What do they do, what barriers do they face in their daily work, and how do they build trust and engage with the people they serve? How does their work impact their own lives? The UN Organization for Migration (IOM) got to know nine frontline workers from across Europe who shared their experiences.
With project funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund, FAO supported 37,200 smallholder farmers, including Khialy Gul, across 16 provinces of Afghanistan with an emergency wheat cultivation package.
The United Nations came into being in 1945, following the devastation of the Second World War, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN does this by working to prevent conflict; helping parties in conflict make peace; peacekeeping; and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. These activities often overlap and should reinforce one another, to be effective. The UN Security Council has the primary responsibility for international peace and security. The General Assembly and the Secretary-General play major, important, and complementary roles, along with other UN offices and bodies.
Protect Human Rights
The term “human rights” was mentioned seven times in the UN's founding Charter, making the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the Organization. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights brought human rights into the realm of international law. Since then, the Organization has diligently protected human rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities.
Deliver Humanitarian Aid
One of the purposes of the United Nations, as stated in its Charter, is "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character." The UN first did this in the aftermath of the Second World War on the devastated continent of Europe, which it helped to rebuild. The Organization is now relied upon by the international community to coordinate humanitarian relief operations due to natural and man-made disasters in areas beyond the relief capacity of national authorities alone.
Promote Sustainable Development
From the start in 1945, one of the main priorities of the United Nations was to “achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” Improving people’s well-being continues to be one of the main focuses of the UN. The global understanding of development has changed over the years, and countries now have agreed that sustainable development offers the best path forward for improving the lives of people everywhere.
Uphold International Law
The UN Charter, in its Preamble, set an objective: "to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained." Ever since, the development of, and respect for international law has been a key part of the work of the Organization. This work is carried out in many ways - by courts, tribunals, multilateral treaties - and by the Security Council, which can approve peacekeeping missions, impose sanctions, or authorize the use of force when there is a threat to international peace and security, if it deems this necessary. These powers are given to it by the UN Charter, which is considered an international treaty. As such, it is an instrument of international law, and UN Member States are bound by it. The UN Charter codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Video and audio from across the United Nations and our world-wide family of agencies, funds, and programmes.
Our actions are our future
Calling all children and teens around the world! If you’re between the ages 5 to 19, FAO wants you to use your imagination and create a poster showing a food journey! There are many different kinds of journeys that food can take, some that guarantee a healthier future for people and the planet. Choose your favourite and be creative!
Let's talk about sex
Who decides whether or when you can have sex? Watch what people on the streets of Paris had to say and join the conversation. As the Generation Equality Forum drew leaders and activists from around the world, UNFPA highlights the critical importance of realizing bodily autonomy for all.
Free the world of work from violence and harassment
The workplace should be safe for everyone, everywhere. The ILO Convention No. 190 aims to end all forms of violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence. The Convention focuses on restoring dignity and respect for all. Ask your governments to #RatifyC190.
Chats with STEMinists: Mothers in Science
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted women’s employment not only because they make up the majority of the hardest hit sectors but because mothers have been feeling more pressures at home due to lockdown measures and school closures. Have a listen to Isabel Torres, co-founder and CEO of Mothers in Science, which aims to raise awareness of the career obstacles faced by mothers in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) and advocates for workplace equality and inclusion. UNDP’s Chats with STEMinists is a podcast series sharing conversations with people working to advance girls and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Furaha, a participant in a literacy project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is among thousands of farmers trained by the WFP and FAO in techniques that increase yields. But it is her newfound ability to read, write and count that she says she’s most proud of. Like many other women in the eastern parts of the DRC, torn apart by years of conflict, Furaha was not able to go to school. Today she is the president of her savings-and-loans group and helps a lot of women. It is through such community bodies that the UN seeks to empower communities.
For years it appeared as though Lake Turkana, which sits in an arid part of northern Kenya, was drying up. Its main river inflows had been muffled by dams and many feared water levels were poised to drop by two-thirds, causing the lake to cleave into two smaller bodies of water. It was an African “Aral Sea disaster in the making” – where only 10 per cent remains of the original sea. But a new study from the UNEP predicts a far wetter future for Lake Turkana – and possibly a more perilous one for the 15 million people who live on its shores.