Banks help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

During periods of financial insecurity, households often focus on immediate needs. And policymakers are often guided by short-term political cycles. Yet, achieving sustainable development — eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and combating climate change — requires a long-term perspective. Development banks can help with Sustainable Development Goal-related investments. The United Nations recognizes the significant role multilateral development banks play in financing sustainable development and providing know-how, therefore designates 4 December as the International Day of Banks.

The Akuapem Rural Bank Ltd., founded in 1980, in the town of Mamfe, Ghana, June 19, 2006.
Photo:Jonathan Ernst / World Bank
Children wait outside a community toilet in a urban slum in Mumbai, India.

COVID-19 recovery focus of UN General Assembly special session

3 December 2020 — Nations united on Thursday for a special session of the UN General Assembly to survey the wreckage of the COVID-19 pandemic, reflect on the best response, and forge a path to...

Revealed: The cost of the pandemic on world's poorest countries

3 December 2020 — More than 32 million of the world’s poorest people face being pulled back into extreme poverty because of COVID-19, leading UN economists said on Thursday, highlighting data...

The race to zero emissions, and why the world depends on it

2 December 2020 — A host of countries have recently announced major commitments to significantly cut their carbon emissions, promising to reach "net zero" in the coming years. The term is becoming...

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.

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

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?

#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

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.

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 Democratic 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.