Keep soil alive

There are more living creatures in a single teaspoon of healthy soil - from tiny bacteria to agile millipedes and slimy earthworms - than there are people on Earth. Soil organisms are responsible for many critical ecosystem processes, on which humans depend: from supporting plant growth, to storing carbon and being a vast reservoir for pharmaceuticals. This year, for World Soil Day (5 December), the FAO campaign Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity addresses the increasing challenges of soil management and highlights the importance of sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being.

Soil organisms act as the primary driving agents of nutrient cycling.
Photo:FAO Photo Contest / Alessandra Málory Arrázola Céspedes
Local school children water a vegetable garden at their Primary School in Laos.

Contribution of life in soil ‘remains largely underestimated’, says UN agriculture agency 

4 December 2020 — Even though soil organisms play a crucial role in boosting food production, enhancing nutritious diets, preserving human health, and combating climate change, the real...

Scientists optimistic about COVID-19 vaccines for all

4 December 2020 — Scientists developing COVID-19 vaccines are optimistic that by the end of next year, all people everywhere will have access to safe and effective treatments against a disease...

COVID-19: Right decisions now will secure a life of dignity for all

4 December 2020 — Critical decisions made now to address the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a life of dignity for all people, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said on Friday, addressing...

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.

Illustration of interconnectivity.

Household internet access in urban areas twice as high as in rural areas

While most urban areas are covered by a mobile-broadband network, worrying gaps in internet access persist in rural areas, according to ITU’s Measuring Digital Development: Facts and figures 2020. Connectivity gaps in rural areas are particularly pronounced in least developed countries (LDCs), where 17 per cent of the rural population live in areas with no mobile coverage at all, and 19 per cent of the rural population is covered by only a 2G network. 72 per cent of households in urban areas has access to the Internet at home, almost twice as much as in rural areas.

Four people surrounded by vegetation.

Soils should have rights too

As the climate changes rapidly in many parts of the world, FAO is encouraging the adoption of more resilient and efficient production systems such as Conservation Agriculture (CA).  If the world’s small-scale farmers are to achieve food security, soils must play a key role. At its core, CA minimises soil disturbance, provides permanent soil cover and diversifies crop production This is why FAO promotes sustainable soil management through initiatives such as the Global Soil Partnership and celebrates World Soil Day, to raise awareness on the importance of soil resources.

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.

2020: One of three warmest years

Climate change continued its relentless march in 2020, which is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record. 2011-2020 will be the warmest decade on record, according to the WMO.

Isha Sesay, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador

Journalist and author Isha Sesay  from Sierra Leone has joined UNFPA as its newest Goodwill Ambassador to help raise awareness of gender-based violence and support efforts in ending it.

Eradicating cluster bombs

Cluster munitions blanket wide areas with miniature explosives and cause devastating harm to civilians. UN ODA brings us information on cluster bombs and the world’s work to eliminate them.

Call for nominations: Prize for science

The UNESCO-Russia Mendeleev International Prize in the Basic Sciences aims promotes and honours excellence in science and celebrates its role in the advance of sustainable development.  

Illustration of 50,000 cases

WIPO marks 50,000 anti-cybersquatting cases

The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center has registered its 50,000th “cybersquatting” case, a major milestone capping two decades of pro-consumer activity ensuring Internet users can easily find genuine sites for the brands they love and trust. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) is at the heart of WIPO’s anti-cybersquatting service.  It was created in 1999 by WIPO and is used by brand owners around the world to combat abuse of their trademarks in domain names. 

Composite of images of two men.

International Year of Plant Health advocates

FAO appoints the popular British gardening expert, writer and broadcaster, Monty Don, as Goodwill Ambassador to promote the International Year of Plant Health. FAO also appoints the Irish garden designer, writer, and broadcaster, Diarmuid Gavin, as Champion of the cause. The UN declared 2020 (extended into 2021 due to COVID-19) as the International Year of Plant Health to protect plant health to help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

Maize hanging from a roof.

Boosting incomes to reduce vulnerabilities in Laos

As the second most planted crop in the country, maize has an important bearing on welfare in a land where almost a quarter of people live in poverty, and where the poverty rate is four times higher in rural communities than in urban areas. The UNCTAD study, Analyzing the maize value chain for export in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, highlights measures that could help the country’s farmers capture a larger share of value from maize exports, and support poverty reduction efforts.  

People work together to build a temporary shelter.

After the storms

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Saint-Louis is fighting a problem that is all too common to coastal cities – erosion caused by rising seas. As part of the Saint-Louis Emergency Recovery and Resilience Project, UNOPS is implementing the Relocation of the Displaced Populations of the Langue de Barbarie Project. As part of the project, more than 400 shelters will be built. These will provide housing to more than 1,400 people and serve as a temporary school and be used for offices.

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.

The global HIV epidemic is not over and may be accelerating during the COVID-19, with a devastating impact on communities and countries. On World AIDS Day, WHO is calling on global leaders and citizens to rally for “global solidarity” to maintain essential HIV services during COVID 19 and beyond.

COVID-19: How to combat stigma and discrimination at the workplace?

COVID-19 outbreak has provocated stigma and discrimination against people perceived to have been in contact with the virus or people with certain ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and migrants. How trade unions can address stigma and discrimination at the workplace?

#VisitUN: A short tour of the United Nations Headquarters

Watch United Nations tour guides Daria (Russia), Papa (Senegal) and Emily (China) take you on an exciting journey inside the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Visit the Security Council, General Assembly Hall, Economic and Social Council and more.  Book an interactive virtual tour LIVE with one of our multilingual Tour Guides:

UN Podcasts

Yasmine Sherif speaks to young girl

"You have to take action"

"And he rushes up to embrace his mother. At that moment, I just said, thank you. This is what happiness is, I want to do this all my life. I just want to repatriate refugees for the rest of my life."

This week’s guest on Awake at Night is Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, which delivers education in humanitarian crises through funding investments for UN agencies and civil society organizations. Yasmine describes herself as a pragmatic idealist, who was taught by her mother not to look for success in life, but to seek to serve. Before her current role Yasmine worked for UNHCR resettling refugees.  She says that her mission now is crucial to helping people overcome crises and rebuild their lives:

“If you invest in the children, give them the tools, the education, so that they are no longer disempowered, that if you and I cannot change the world, they can do it.”

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.

mother and baby daughter in DRC
Photo:WFP/Alice Rahmoun

‘One step forward, two steps back’

COVID-19 has impacted transport systems like never before. The global connectedness we’ve come to rely on to move people and goods around the world ground to a halt as governments raced to stop its spread. WFP stepped up to help. With thousands of tons of health and humanitarian cargo and over 25,000 passengers now transported, four WFP staff recall how they dealt with the onset of the coronavirus crisis. Sephora, aged 18, with her daughter is at a WFP health centre in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, run with funding from China— the organization’s Common Services assists humanitarian partners transporting staff and cargo including PPE, around the world. 

Sri Lankan tea farmer
Photo:UNEP/Max Zieren

Crop Certification: Going green unlocks global markets for farmers

Over the last 30 years, more and more tea, coffee and cocoa farmers have embraced towards climate-smart and sustainable practices by adopting “certification standards” that help to maintain soil quality, increase productivity and reduce costs. The standards also assure buyers of agricultural commodities that the products in their supply chains are environmentally sustainable. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) partner, the Rainforest Alliance, has published its new unified standard (certification programme) for production systems that conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. The standard applies to over 5 million hectares of tropical farmland, impacting the livelihoods of over 2 million farming families.

Fishing vessel
Photo:UNDP Guatemala/Giovanni Diffidenti

Monitoring climate adaptation in Guatemala’s marine coastal zones 

The oceans on either side of Guatemala are national and international treasures. Home to thousands of species, they play a crucial role in regulating the Earth's climate system, while also providing essential goods and services for sustaining human health and wellbeing: food, clean air and water, and livelihoods. Guatemala ranked 16th in the world for countries most affected by extreme weather events in the 20-year period 1999 to 2018. Particularly vulnerable are the Pacific and Caribbean marine coastal zones, which straddle either side of the country. UNDP and the Rainforest Alliance have been working with the Guatemalan government over the past year to develop its first fully-fledged monitoring, evaluation, and reporting system in this area.

man holding a cat
Photo:UNDP Kyrgyzstan/Dmitry Motinov

COVID-19 comes as a double blow to those living with HIV

In March 2020, as soon as the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Kyrgyzstan, a state of emergency was declared, and the country went into lockdown. For people living with HIV, or those at risk of contracting the disease, the pandemic created a new challenge — how to get essential healthcare. This has also been the challenge for UNDP and its partners. This summer UNDP reopened two shelters for people living with HIV, one in Bishkek, the capital, and one in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city. Andrei, 45, has been living with HIV for over 15 years and was previously homeless. Here, he pets a cat in the Ishenim Nuru shelter courtyard.