Portrait of Maria Ressa

Investigative journalist and media executive Maria Ressa of the Philippines has been named as the 2021 laureate of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, by an international jury of media professionals. The Award Ceremony will take place in Windhoek, Namibia, on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, and be streamed  online. In her thirty-year career, Ressa has been a target of attacks, arrests and has been involved in many international initiatives to promote press freedom.

Pramila Patten speaks at the podium surrounded by advocates.

“I returned from Bangladesh...and sent all of my dresses for dry cleaning. I have not worn these dresses again. I can't wear them. There's too much pain...because I came out and I was wet with all the women crying. I like to open the wardrobe and remind myself of the survivors at all times. They are my moral compass and I have to keep fighting for them. This is what keeps me going.”

In this episode of Awake at night, we meet Pramila Patten, the Secretary General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict whose work aims to end rape as a weapon of war, making it a crime that is both preventable and punishable. Pramila travels the world to meet survivors, carrying back the harrowing stories they entrust her to retell. She then advocates tirelessly on their behalf for accountability and justice.

"When you talk to Yazidi women, they tell you they want justice and reparations, in addition to support services [...] Whether it is Iraq [...] Nigeria [...] Somalia or Sudan, they tell you they want to have their day in court. And for me, that is very frustrating that so far, for example, where sexual violence is used as a tactic of terrorism, no single person belonging to Boko Haram or ISIS has been prosecuted for sexual violence. They are getting prosecuted under the counter terrorism legislation, but not for sexual violence. And that is a frustration."

protesters carrying sign Climate, Justice, Peace

“FAQ on human rights and climate change” takes a deep dive into the subject, showing the links between problems caused by worsening climactic factors, and violations of rights, such as the rights to life, culture, housing and food. 

Illustration of people holding signs that read: Stop polluting, no more plastics, protect our seas

UNEP highlights at least 155 states recognize a healthy environment as a human right, either through national legislation or international accords, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

children with portable digital devices

A new guidance establishes that children have rights in the digital world, despite the Convention on the Rights of the Child not stating them explicitly.

Catarina Furtado poses with a woman.

Millions of women and girls are denied their right to have a say in sexual matters, to say yes to contraception and to make their own healthcare choices. This world must become one where every woman and girls’ body is truly her own. Catarina Furtado, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, speaks out to achieve this world  — from educating young people about their bodies and rights, to reforming policies that do not adequately prevent or address gender-based violence, to supporting communities to adopt more gender-equitable practices.

Beach full of trash

Water is the lifeblood of all life on Earth. And yet, over 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water. Over 4 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation. Water shortages now affect more than 3 billion people. Three quarters of all the natural disasters are water-related, including floods, landslides, and other extreme weather events. A recent OHCHR report describes the global water crisis, focusing on the negative impacts of water pollution, water scarcity and water-related disasters on the enjoyment of several human rights.

Hiba Alhamed is a 26-year-old Syrian refugee, living in France. Her father, Ismail, went missing in 2013. While the exact number is unknown, at least tens of thousands of Syrian men, women and children have been forcibly disappeared, detained, abducted or gone missing in Syria since the outbreak of conflict in 2011.

Illustration of the silhouette of people with floating gear trains and light bulbs.

Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood, irrespective of gender, race, or socio-economic status. Appropriate support, accommodation and acceptance allow those on the Spectrum to enjoy full participation in society. The breakdown of support systems due to COVID-19 exacerbated the obstacles that persons with autism face. We must ensure that these disruptions do not result in rollbacks of the rights of persons with autism, including the right to work. On World Autism Awareness Day we celebrate diversity and promote the rights of persons with autism.

People wearing hats that read “No Torture” form a line.

The right to the truth is often invoked in the context of gross violations of human rights and grave breaches of humanitarian law. The relatives of victims of summary executions, enforced disappearance, missing persons, abducted children, torture, require knowing what happened to them. The right to the truth implies knowing the full and complete truth as to the events that transpired, their specific circumstances, who participated in them, as well as the reasons for them. On the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights, we honour the memory of victims. 

A boy with Down syndrome looks out the window of a bus.

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has an extra copy of chromosome 21. It is not yet known why this syndrome occurs, but it exists across the globe and results in variable effects on learning styles, physical characteristics and health. This World Down Syndrome Day focuses on improving connections to ensure that all people with Down syndrome can CONNECT and participate on an equal basis with others. Due to the pandemic we all had to adapt the ways we connect, yet many people have been left behind. Let’s connect in an increasingly inclusive way and to recover better.

Portraits of three young people with the hashtag #FIGHTracism below.

Young people massively showed their support at the 2020 Black Lives Matter marches. On the streets, groundswells of youth came together to protest racial injustice. On social media, they mobilized participation, calling on their peers to speak out, and to stand up for equal rights of all. Their activism was all the more remarkable in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw restrictions on public gatherings. Together, let us #FIGHTracism to foster a global culture of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination. Let us stand up against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes. 

Promoting self-esteem and well-being, BTS is renewing their commitment to the LOVE MYSELF campaign in support of UNICEF’s work to end violence and neglect.

Illustration of a woman with her arms crossed and the silhouette of a man.

Data is critical to providing a better understanding of the nature, magnitude, severity, and frequency of violence against women and girls. While countries are increasingly using similar definitions and approaches, gaps remain in the availability of data on some forms of violence, such as femicide, sexual harassment, and online violence. UN Women established the Global Database on Violence against Women, which includes country profiles with data on various forms of violence. It also identifies effective policy responses to prevent and address violence against women around the world.