Volunteer for an inclusive future

New analysis puts the global volunteer workforce at 109 million full-time equivalent workers. Volunteering provides opportunities for people, particularly those often excluded, in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). International Volunteer Day, celebrated on 5 December every year, is a unique chance for volunteers to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work. This year the international day highlights volunteers contributing to inclusion, and SDG 10, reducing inequality within and among countries.

UN Volunteer Naw Wan Gay serves with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), providing services for refugees in Baan Mai Nai Soi Temporary Shelter Area, Thailand.
Photo:©Panupong Changchai/UNV, 2016
A mother holds her 3-month-old baby as he receives a vaccination against measles at a health centre in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Measles ‘misinformation campaigns’ through social media, fuel rising toll

5 December 2019 — Measles deaths and infections in 2019 are set to “substantially exceed” last year’s toll when more than 142,000 people died from the preventable disease, the World Health...

Partnerships key to taking landlocked countries out of poverty: UN Chief

5 December 2019 — The challenges faced by landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), some of the poorest in the world, can be overcome through more effective partnerships, UN Secretary-General...

Malaria: Focus on pregnant women and children, stresses UN health agency report

4 December 2019 — While more pregnant women and children are being protected against malaria than before, more fast-tracking and greater funding are needed to reinvigorate the global response,...

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.


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.

children holding up books

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.

SDG7 - affordable and clean energy
Affordable and Clean Energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

More from the
United Nations

Featured stories from across the United Nations and our world-wide family of agencies, funds, and programmes.

collage with animation showing young people demonstrating

Stand up for human rights

We need to stand up for our rights and those of others. We can take action in our own daily lives, to uphold the rights that protect us all and thereby promote the kinship of all human beings. Wherever there is discrimination, we can step forward to help safeguard someone's right to live free from fear and abuse. The UN Human Rights Office upholds values that are the roots of peace and inclusion. Join us. It starts with each of us. This Human Rights Day and every day stand up for human rights.

DGC staff member Lonjezo Hamisi standing in front of the ancient Nubian pyramids in Meroe, northern Sudan (16 August 2019/Lonjezo Hamisi).

A staff member’s reflections on peacekeeping deployment

Like many prospective staff members, Lonjezo Hamisi envisioned serving at some point in his career in a region beset by war, injustice, poor governance and poverty, with the hope of easing the plight of the people most in need on the ground. He got his chance when he was posted to the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), where he served as Special Assistant to the Mission Chief of Staff.

dehydrating cacao beans

Bolivia’s sweet new industry

In the Bolivian countryside an appetizing industry has taken off, bringing a sweet new business to rural communities: chocolate production. When it comes to chocolate, Bolivia might not be the first place you think of yet - but thanks to the combined efforts of FAO, smallholder farming collectives and indigenous producers, it soon will be. Over the past five years, Bolivia’s chocolate producers have been quietly racking up the achievements and gaining global recognition for the quality of their products

Teaching behind bars in Valparaiso

The Juan Luis Vives school is located in the Valparaiso Penitentiary Centre, Chile. Founded in 1999, the institution provides basic and secondary education, and vocational training for detainees. The school was awarded the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy in 2015.

Greenhouse gas concentrations in atmosphere reach yet another high

The increase in CO2 from 2017 to 2018 was above the average growth rate over the last decade. 

The adaptive age

Our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through various mitigation measures—phasing out fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency, adopting renewable energy sources, improving land use and agricultural practices—continue to move forward, but the pace is too slow, argues IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva in this editorial.

Basque community opens its doors to welcome family from Syria

A community sponsorship pilot programme aims to provide wrap-around care to five families of refugees as they settle in the Basque Country. It stems from a collaboration between civil society groups, central and regional governments and UNHCR.

women and children holding up SDG cards

No development without safety for all

Violence against women is one of the biggest violations of human rights and a major impediment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Violence against women and girls is preventable if we address the risk factors and underlying harmful social norms that perpetuate and excuse violence, and if hold perpetrators accountable.

woman at loom

Spinning yarns – Investing in wool and mohair in Lesotho

Wool and mohair form the bedrock of Lesotho’s rural economy. The Wool and Mohair Promotion Project works with farmers to improve the quality and quantity of wool and mohair produced. The ultimate goal of the project is to boost the economic and climate resilience of poor, smallholder wool and mohair producers to the adverse effects of climate change in the mountain and foothill regions of Lesotho.

men working with shovels

Which countries reduced poverty rates the most?

Out of 114 measured, 15 countries experienced the largest annual average percentage point declines in extreme poverty rate between 2000 and 2015. In each of these countries, an average of at least 1.6% of the population moved out of extreme poverty every year. Tanzania, Tajikistan and Chad top the list.

woman decorating cake

Refugees, migrants redefine label through entrepreneurship

Bombs were dropping in Yemen, but that didn’t stop one Yemeni woman from completing the task at hand: baking a massive cake. Her resilience was captured by documentary photographer Thana Faroq in an image now on display in a joint exhibit by UNCTAD, IOM and UNHCR. “I never stop craving something sweet,” she told Ms. Faroq, and this made her realize that her neighbours likely felt the same way, igniting a small business.


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.

Fishermen, families, hotel owners, and coastal farmers are all sounding an alarm: North Africa’s coast has reached its tipping point. Coastal hotspots in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, for a start, are “absolutely exhausted” from overfishing and coastal erosion. The Mediterranean Sea is warming twice as fast as the global ocean, with worsening marine pollution, and the fastest-growing coastal cities. Still, many are hopeful that coastal adaptation can turn the tide. A new World Bank program is working within the region to protect the communities on the coast—even as they grow.

On the Brink - Emissions Gap Report 2019

As the world strives to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change, it is crucial to track progress towards globally agreed climate goals. For a decade, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report has compared where greenhouse gas emissions are heading against where they need to be, and highlighted the best ways to close the gap. Are we meeting goals of the Paris Climate Agreement?

The "Stanytsia Luhanska" crossing point in Eastern Ukraine

At the time of filming, the bridge at “Stanytsia Luhanska” was still destroyed. Improvements have been made since then, but civilians continue facing challenges while trying to access services, payments or maintain family ties. Much more needs to be done to ease their suffering.

UN Podcasts


Farmers on the climate front line

This is the inaugural episode of Farms. Food. Future. – a podcast that’s Good for You, Good for the Planet and Good for Farmers and your Food. Brought to you by IFAD and your host, Brian Thomson. In this month’s programme we will be hearing from farmers on the climate front line:

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.

A closeup shot of a Spoon-billed Sandpiper (critically endangered bird) as it drinks water. Also seen is a clear reflection of the bird on the water surface.
Photo:UNDP Thailand

Co-operation for Co-existence

There are less than 400 Spoon-billed Sandpiper (SBS) worldwide. The critically endangered bird is a small migratory wader that breeds in north-eastern Russia and winters in South and South-East Asia; small numbers are recorded in the inner Gulf of Thailand. The good news is mudflats in Khok Kham salt-farming community are rich in food resources for SBS. Salt farming methods have created ecosystems particularly well-suited for feeding and sheltering migratory shorebirds. The bad news is there are just 28 salt-farmers left in the Khok Kham. If salt farming disappears, it will render the return of SBS unlikely. The recognition of symbiosis between bird and farmer is key to preserving biodiversity via sustainable development.

A girl stands proud at a doorway and a colorful curtain flutters behind her as the sun shines on her face.
Photo:UNDP Angola/Cynthia R. Matonhodze

Bridging the HIV Divide

"At first they used to say 'these things are for older people; you can't be here talking.' Now they have started getting used to it and started talking to me,” Reginalda Elias (16) said. Globally, an estimated 6,000 young women and girls become infected with HIV each week. This is particularly stark in Angola where new HIV infections among women aged 15-24 are more than double those of young men. The end of the 27-year civil war in 2002 heralded a new beginning. But widespread inequalities, poverty and a climate change-induced drought in the Eastern and Southern provinces have pushed people’s coping mechanisms to the limit. Angola is one of the few countries in Africa where new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have risen in the last 10 years. But the next generation of female activists are fighting back.

A woman carries Bawk Ra on her back whilst a boy walks next to them sheltering them with an umbrella as they wade through floods.
Photo:UNHCR/© Bawk Ra

What is it like to live with a disability when you’re displaced?

Bawk Ra from Myanmar lost the ability to walk when she was 5. Then she lost her home. With a smartphone, training and help from her family, she captured her life on camera. "I wish someone could understand my worries." As a result of ongoing conflict in Myanmar’s Kachin State, more than 107,000 people live in camps for the internally displaced. Many camps have few livelihood opportunities and limited access to health care and education. This photography project, run by UNHCR and Yangon Photo Festival, gives people like Bawk Ra the skills to share their own stories. Bawk Ra has since won an award for these photos – and a brand new Canon camera.

A black and white photo of a boy standing on tree roots that are submereged in water. In the distance, he observes tankers that are brining in drinking water.
Photo:WHO/Shanth Kumar - India

Climate Change and Health in Pictures

“The Marathwada region in India was hit by the worst drought in 40 years, affecting nearly nine million farmers and their families. With taps and wells running dry, drinking water was brought in with tankers - 17 liters per person, once every 14 days.” WHO's message: implement and monitor national policies that protect the health of your citizens from climate change. This is one of the five key WHO messages on climate and health, captured by five powerful images.