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. 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.

urban landscape

Global forum on cities highlights need for sustainable development

Cities are hubs for cultural, scientific and economic development, but they can also be stark reminders of the environmental and socio-economic challenges we face. Today, cities are responsible for some 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and consume 75 per cent of the world’s energy and resources. As the human population continues to grow and the planet faces unprecedented threats from climate change, there is a critical need for sustainable urban planning. The tenth World Urban Forum (WUF)—the foremost international gathering on sustainable urbanization established by the United Nations—focused on the intersection of culture and innovation to address emerging urban challenges.

culinary creation

UNWTO and Basque Culinary Centre launch 2nd Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition

After the success of the first edition, the competition has returned to identify and celebrate disruptive ideas and innovators who will lead the transformation of the sector as well as those who are making a positive impact in their local communities. In 2019, over 300 initiatives from 84 countries were submitted. Projects ranged from new technologies, community-based tourism development initiatives, innovation software and startups focused on innovation-driven agricultural sustainability. For this second edition there will be two prizes. The first category will identify the initiative that is both innovative and has a sustainable social impact. The other category will recognize the most disruptive gastronomy tourism startup overall. 

Cassava mutant lines under evaluation at Gisozi research station.

Fighting two major cassava diseases in Burundi with nuclear technology

When Burundian cassava farmers split open the plant’s starchy root, they’re hoping to find white flesh that resembles coconut meat. If instead the inside is marked with brown patches, it’s likely suffering from cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) — bad news for the farmer, who can no longer eat or sell the produce, and whose entire harvest may be at risk of loss due to the disease. Cassava, a carbohydrate-rich root vegetable, is the second most important staple crop in Burundi. Low cassava yields can exacerbate the country’s food insecurity, from which half of the population already suffers. IAEA experts trained Burundian scientists in plant breeding techniques, using induced mutation and tissue culture techniques to develop a new cassava variety. 

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.

Thirty years after the adoption of the only international Convention on the rights of indigenous peoples, a new ILO report finds they are still more likely to be poor and face particular hardships in the world of work.

Nakout, a refugee from South Sudan, pens a letter to her long-lost daughter

Nakout hasn’t seen her daughter Achan since she was kidnapped by a Ugandan rebel group in 2003. After escaping from the group, Nakout became a refugee in Finland. She has written a letter to her long-lost daughter in the hope they can begin to rebuild their relationship.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, works to protect and assist those fleeing war and persecution. Since 1950, UNHCR has helped tens of millions of people find safety and rebuild their lives. If you would like to use this video to communicate refugee stories or require B-Roll, transcripts, stills or more information, please visit UNHCR's media page: https://media.unhcr.org.

Manipulative marketing

Much marketing deliberately targets children with a wide range of unhealthy products, from fast food to sugar, tobacco and alcohol. What do young people make of manipulative marketing?

For more information on the WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission, A future for the world’s children?, see www.who.int/futureforchildren

UN Podcasts

Host is conducting an interview with guest inside the UN audio studios.

UNcomplicated: Keeping the peace

New York City spends far more on its fire, police and the prison system than the entire peacekeeping budget of the United Nations. This is just one of the startling facts uncovered by hosts, Sinduja Srinivasan and Jason DeWall, in the latest episode of Uncomplicated.

They talk to Ken Payumo, Chief of the peacekeeping operations support section of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security, and Nick Birnback, Chief of Strategic Communications at the Department of Peace Operations, and learn more about the challenges faced by peacekeeping staff, keeping millions safe with limited resources.

Music credits: 'The Veil', by the band Signal and Report, written by Chris Hall and Noah Miller; plus their track, 'Abbey Minor'

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.

Palestinian girls, donning traditional garments, dance dabkeh in a school yard.
Photo:© UNRWA

UNRWA Inaugurates New School in Dera’a Refugee Camp

On 12 February, UNRWA inaugurated the newly reconstructed UNRWA Al-Safsaf School in Dera’a refugee camp, southern Syria. Dera’a camp was home to 10,500 Palestine refugees before 2011. Dera’a camp and its surroundings returned to government control in the summer of 2018. The camp is now largely destroyed. UNRWA was able to return to Dera’a camp in November 2018 to conduct a needs assessment.  Inside Dera’a camp, all premises including three school buildings and a clinic need substantial repairs or complete rebuilding. As of February 2020, some 770 Palestine refugee families have returned to their homes.

The Secretary-General stands next to a colorful Tuk Tuk and talks to the driver while onlookers stand by.
Photo:UN Photo/Mark Garten

Pakistan-India Crossing is a ‘Corridor of Hope,’ UN Chief Says

Secretary-General António Guterres said he had been moved by the show of religious unity he had witnessed in Pakistan after paying visits to a mosque, a gurdwara and Kartarpur Corridor, the visa-free crossing which allows Sikhs to travel between nearby holy sites on each side of the India-Pakistan border. “This is a very emotional moment. It is wonderful to see interfaith dialogue” said Guterres, on the last leg of his 3-day visit to Pakistan, where he has pressed for climate action, and praised Pakistan’s compassion for hosting Afghan refugees, as well as the South Asian country’s major contributions to UN peacekeeping.

A boy looks out to sea as he stands at the front of a row boat, which has green grass growing inside of it.
Photo:© IOM/Amanda Nero 2016

Young People Call for Action at the Migration Youth Forum in Ecuador

“We sometimes don’t believe in ourselves or we think our solutions don’t matter,” said Marta Verani - a young Italian migrant and a representative of the UN Major Group for Children and Youth - at the Migration Youth Forum in Quito, Ecuador, “Sometimes we feel that we should leave this work to governments and other stakeholders. Actually, we should act on our ideas and make them a reality.” The Forum brought together young people who are working at the forefront of migration issues as grassroots activists, experts, professionals, and leaders, in their home or host communities. Here are their policy recommendations.

A man proudly holds a fish up to the camera.
Photo:© FAO/Emre Tazegul

Help Kids Save our Oceans and be Environmental Heroes

Eat sustainably sourced fish... Do a local clean up... Reuse disposed items... Reduce plastic use... There isn’t just one approach to keeping our oceans clean and our planet healthy. Everything is interconnected. Every little bit helps. Kids can start young in making sustainable choices and forming habits that are beneficial for our future. Let's engage the young and the old in making sustainable choices that help transform our food systems. We all have a part to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the better future it envisions.