UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.
PEACE AND SECURITY
1. Maintaining Peace and Security
By sending 69 peacekeeping and observer missions to the world’s trouble spots over the past six decades, the United Nations has been able to restore calm, allowing many countries to recover from conflict. There are now 16 peacekeeping operations around the world, carried out by some 125,000 brave men and women from 120 countries who go where others can’t or won’t go.
The United Nations has devoted its attention and resources to promoting living standards and human skills and potential throughout the world. Since 2000, this work has been guided by the Millennium Development Goals. Virtually all funds for UN development assistance come from contributions donated by countries. For instance, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), with staff in 170 countries, supports more than 4,800 projects to reduce poverty, promote good governance, address crises and preserve the environment. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 150 countries, primarily on child protection, immunization, girls’ education and emergency aid. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) helps developing countries make the most of their trade opportunities. The World Bank provides developing countries with loans and grants, and has supported more than 12,000 projects in more than 170 countries since 1947.
Improving Literacy and Education
Today 84 per cent of adults can read and write and 91 per cent of children attend primary school. The goal now is to ensure that by 2015 all children complete a full course of primary school. Programmes aimed at promoting education and advancement for women helped to raise the global adult female literacy rate to 79.9 per cent in 2011. The next goal is to ensure that by 2015 all girls complete primary and secondary school.
Promoting Human Rights
Since the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the United Nations has helped to enact dozens of legally binding agreements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. By investigating individual complaints, the UN human rights bodies have focused world attention on cases of torture, disappearance, arbitrary detention and other violations, and have generated international pressure on Governments to improve their human rights records.
Seeking solutions to climate change
Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. The United Nations has been at the forefront in assessing the science and forging a political solution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which brings together 2,000 leading climate change scientists, issues comprehensive scientific assessments every five or six years: in 2007, it concluded with certainty that climate change was occurring and that human activities were a primary cause. The 196 members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are negotiating agreements to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and help countries adapt to its effects. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and other UN agencies have been at the forefront in raising awareness.
Prosecuting War Criminals
By prosecuting and convicting war criminals, the UN tribunals established for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda have helped to expand international humanitarian and international criminal law dealing with genocide and other violations of international law. Both tribunals have contributed to restoring peace and justice in the affected countries and in the region. The International Criminal Court is an independent permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious international crimes—genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes—if national authorities are unwilling or unable to do so. Situations in nine countries have been referred to the Court, which has already established itself as the centrepiece of the system of international criminal justice. UN-backed courts in Cambodia and Lebanon are prosecuting those responsible for serious violations of international law, including mass killings and war crimes.
More than 60 million refugees fleeing persecution, violence and war have received aid from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since 1951, in a continuing effort that often involves other agencies. UNHCR seeks long-term or “durable” solutions by helping refugees repatriate to their homelands, if conditions warrant, or by helping them to integrate in their countries of asylum or to resettle in third countries. There are more than 42 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, mostly women and children, who are receiving food, shelter, medical aid, education and repatriation assistance from the UN.
Promoting Reproductive and Maternal Health
By promoting the right of individuals to make their own decisions on the number and spacing of their children through voluntary family planning programmes, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has helped people to make informed choices and given families, especially women, greater control over their lives. As a result, women in developing countries are having fewer children—from six in the 1960s to three today—slowing world population growth. Fewer unintended pregnancies also means less maternal death and fewer abortions. When UNFPA started work in 1969, fewer than 20 per cent of couples practiced family planning; the number now stands at 63 per cent. UNFPA and its partners also help to provide skilled assistance during childbirth and access to emergency obstetrical care. UNFPA supports safe motherhood initiatives in more than 90 countries.