Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. Since its inception, the UN maintains human rights as one of its three pillars, in addition to peace and security and sustainable development. Read more about human rights as a cross-cutting theme in the Organization’s work.
The Human Rights section of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) supports programmes for persons with disabilities.
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.
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.
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.
Those working from home, whose number has greatly increased due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, need better protection, says the International Labour Organization (ILO) in a new report. Since homeworking occurs in the private sphere it is often “invisible.” In low- and middle-income countries for instance, almost all home-based workers (90 per cent) work informally. They are usually worse off than those who work outside the home, even in higher-skilled professions. In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 an estimated one-in-five workers found themselves working from home.
UNICEF's Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, has issued a statement underlining the importance of keeping schools open or prioritizing them in reopening plans: “Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, too many countries have opted to keep schools closed, some for nearly a year. The cost of closing schools – which at the peak of pandemic lockdowns affected 90 per cent of students worldwide and left more than a third of schoolchildren with no access to remote education – has been devastating."
The effort to establish the stockpile was led by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The stockpile will allow countries, with the support of humanitarian organizations, to contain future Ebola epidemics by ensuring timely access to vaccines for populations at risk during outbreaks. UNICEF manages the stockpile on behalf of the ICG.
To better understand the mysteries of the world’s oceans, a team of scientists is using satellite imaging to map out, in unprecedented detail, one of the planet’s most iconic underwater ecosystems: the shallow coral reef.
UNAIDS is concerned that the vilification of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Uganda could lead to heightened violence, stigma and discrimination against them and reduce their access to HIV and other essential services. In a recent media interview, the President, Yoweri Museveni, described being LGBT as a “deviation”. “Using offensive language that describes LGBT people as “deviant” is simply wrong,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
IFAD has been working with farmers in Africa to fight back against desertification since the 1980s and has evidence that community-focused efforts can reap big dividends. In the Tahoua region of south-western Niger, IFAD encouraged farmers in the area to plant their crops in shallow pits or in half-moons – water catchments made by creating raised semi-circular barriers of soil on sloped land. During the project’s eight years of operation, nearly 6,000 hectares of severely degraded land was restored.
The World Bank plans to invest over $5 billion over the next five years to help restore degraded landscapes, improve agriculture productivity, and promote livelihoods across 11 African countries on a swathe of land stretching from Senegal to Djibouti. World Bank Group President David Malpass announced the investment at the One Planet Summit: “This investment, which comes at a crucial time, will help improve livelihoods as countries recover from COVID-19 while also dealing with the impact of both biodiversity loss and climate change on their people and economies.”
Colombia's venerable University of Antioquia joined the flagship WIPO public-private partnership. WIPO and the U.S.-based BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) established WIPO Re:Search in 2011 to accelerate early-stage research and development (R&D) for NTDs, malaria and TB. This is achieved through the sharing of intellectual property (IP) among the global health research community on a royalty-free basis. The target diseases affect some 2 billion people globally, disproportionally striking the world's most vulnerable individuals.
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.
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
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.
UN75: 2020 and Beyond - The world spoke. The UN listened.
In January 2020, the UN launched a yearlong, global initiative to listen to people’s priorities and expectations of international cooperation. Through surveys and dialogues, over 1.5 million people from all walks of life shared their hopes and fears for the future, and discussed how all actors, including the UN, can innovate and work together to better to address the global challenges we face. The world spoke. The UN listened. Now, it’s time to act.
2020: Year in Review
UNDP calls on us to unite as a global community, with the Sustainable Development Goals as our guide, and recommit to help every country recover justly and fairly from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three factors help you make safer choices during COVID-19
Check out this animation and see how location, proximity and time can help you make safer choices when you're in an area of widespread COVID-19 transmission. Visit WHO for more information.
State of the Planet: Natural ways to cope with climate change
What progress is the world making in adapting to the changing climate? And can nature itself provide the answers? UN News presents the first episode of UNEP’s State of the Planet podcast.
Host Tim Albone speaks to Valerie Kapos, head of the Climate Change & Biodiversity Programme of the UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre. She and her team look at the role of “nature-based solutions”, which involve maintaining and restoring ecosystems such as mangrove forests, which provide protection against rising sea levels and extreme weather.
Tim and Ms. Kapos discuss the findings of the latest UNEP Adaptation Gap report, which details the scale of the gulf between countries’ ambitions in adapting to the crisis, and what they are doing in practice.
On 4 December 2019, at least 62 Gambians perished in a tragic shipwreck off the coast of Mauritania. One year later, IOM remembers and pays tribute to them, while shedding light on the stories of those who survived the tragedy. As the affected communities begin to heal, they have not been spared by COVID-19’s impact on livelihoods. Public health measures, such as restricted market hours and school closures, have made life more difficult, the survivors say. Enhancing community-based psychosocial support has since been a key focus of IOM’s work in the affected communities.
WFP emergencies chief calls for funds to avert famine
Famine seems to be the hardest word—an outcome no one working to end hunger wants, not least Margot van der Velden, Head of Emergencies at the WFP. She is very concerned about the increasing number of hungry people in the world today. According to figures released in December, there are currently 151 million people facing acute hunger, including 31 million at severe risk across 40 countries. As ever, the key culprit is conflict - fighting between warring parties cuts off humanitarian access to communities. What results is low food intake, high rates of acute malnutrition.
Measles explained: What’s behind the recent outbreaks?
Measles cases are reaching alarming rates across the world. According to the latest estimates, measles cases more than doubled in 2018 compared to 2017. And while data for 2019 is not yet available, provisional reporting shows that there were 690,000 cases in the first 11 months in 2019 – up more than 200 per cent from the same period last year. Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of getting measles and suffering complications, including death. So what is measles? UNICEF explains everything you need to know.
Photo:UNDP Peru/Jasmin Ramirez Romero
Enabling entrepreneurs in Peru
Entrepreneurship has always implied risk, and even more so in a pandemic. When COVID-19 coronavirus paralyzed Peru, most companies turned to their savings to sustain themselves during what initially was thought to be a two-week quarantine. During April, May and June, more than six million jobs were lost throughout the country. Small businesses, which represent 85 percent of formal employment, were hardest hit. UNDP worked together with the private sector, civil society, and the Peruvian government to respond to the emergency.