The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the most recent global agreement to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of this chemical element. It is named after the bay in Japan where, in the mid-20th century, mercury-tainted industrial wastewater poisoned thousands of people leading to severe health damage that became known as the “Minamata disease”. Since it entered into force in 2017, 137 Parties have worked to control the mercury supply and trade, reduce the use, emission and release of mercury, raise public awareness, and build institutional capacity.
Ecuador promotes sustainable initiatives for the “jancheras”, the women that classify ore discarded by small-scale mining.
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.
Reading and learning are essential to children’s growth and development; stories can fuel their imagination and raise awareness of new possibilities. The SDG Book Club aims to encourage them to learn about the Goals in a fun, engaging way, empowering them to make a difference.
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.
Cheymi Gallardo Sánchez became a mother at age 15. In 2019, Cheymi was invited to participate in UNFPA-supported youth activities in her community, and she soon attended a camp for young leaders from around the country. There she learned about sexual and reproductive rights issues, including the issue of teenage pregnancy, contraceptive methods and abusive relationships. Today, she works with Kabata Konana, a group of indigenous women leaders, to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights and challenge gender stereotypes.
With fossil fuel prices reaching record highs, companies around the world are focusing on energy efficiency to save money and reduce the emissions driving the climate crisis. Research shows that a safe future below 1.5°C requires the world to cut 30 gigatonnes greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) annually by 2030. Transport and buildings are among the largest contributors. Increasing energy efficiency, particularly industrial energy efficiency, can make a real difference in reducing our need for fossil fuels, according to UNEP.
Proud of her land and community, Nila has always looked for new ways to contribute to its development. An opportunity arose when FAO and partners implemented a joint programme called: Strengthening the bridge to development strategy to break the cycle of poverty at the local level with a gender and environmental approach. Nila worked hard to get involved in the programme and obtain the capital that allowed her to start a chicken farm. This support set Nila off with 25 chickens and four months later, she had quadrupled her stock.
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" builds 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.
Giga transforms lives in rural Rwanda, one school at a time
Find out with first-hand insights how Giga is transforming education at the local school G.S. Nyagihunika. Watch how Internet-connected laptops help local educators teach students and make the classroom experience more rewarding and how the benefits of school connectivity also extend to the residents of the Bugesera district.
Cooperation in agricultural development
South–South and triangular cooperation (SSTC) can play a catalytic role in accelerating progress towards the SDGs. A new publication provides a snapshot of FAO’s engagement in SSTC through three case studies.
Five facts about displacement in Ukraine
The International Organizaiton for Migration wants you to know five things about the people displaced by the war in Ukraine.
Blockchain reaction: The high cost of unregulated cryptocurrency
After two years of incredible gains, the prices of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have plunged in recent months; and more turbulence is likely, according to the UN trade and development agency, UNCTAD.
In its latest podcast, the Geneva-based agency is talking about cryptocurrencies with economist Marina Zucker of UNCTAD’s debt and development finance branch.
Are cryptocurrencies here to stay? Is it time for governments to regulate them? Tune in to hear Ms. Zucker spell out the risks and share her ideas about solutions.
At a time when at least one in three children aged under 5 is affected by malnutrition, breastfeeding remains a critical way to help babies and young children meet their nutritional needs. In responding to a global hunger crisis in a year of unprecedented needs, the World Food Programme supports breastfeeding across the world, supplying pregnant and breastfeeding women with specialized nutritious foods to prevent and treat malnutrition. WFP provides nutrition training to mothers and their communities on what is very literally a lifeline – breastfeeding helps to provide immunity against diseases, serving children well beyond their earliest days.
Mohammad Al-Amin was 14 years old when he was arrested. He had been accused of vandalism and was transferred to a child detention centre in the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. He was terrified. Al-Amin would go on to spend 9 months in detention. He was eventually released through a virtual court system that had been established by Bangladesh’s Supreme Court, with UNICEF’s support. Since Bangladesh’s first virtual children’s court was set up, more than 5,000 children have been granted bail and released from detention. The majority have been reunited with their families and so far, only two children have reoffended.