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Every thing about United nation!
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1 Introduction to the United Nations �.��.��.��.��.��.��.��. 1
2 The UN family .��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.�� 11
3 The UN works for
international peace and security �.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.�� 25
4 The Millennium Development Goals �.��.��.��.��.��.�� 39
5 Human Rights � .��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.�� 51
6 Frequently asked questions �.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.��.�� 59
An introduction to
the United Nations
- The United Nations has four purposes: to maintain international
peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations;
to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting
respect for human rights; and to be a centre for harmonizing the
actions of nations. Cooperating in this effort are more than 30
affiliated organizations, known together as the UN system.
- The United Nations is not a world government, and it does not
make laws. It does, however, provide the means to help resolve
international conflicts and formulate policies on matters affecting
all of us.
- At the UN, all the Member States — large and small, rich and poor,
with differing political views and social systems — have a voice
and a vote in this process. The United Nations gives the opportunity
for countries to balance global interdependence and national
interests when addressing international problems.
- The UN system works to promote respect for human rights, reduce
poverty, fight disease and protect the environment. The United
Nations leads international campaigns against drug trafficking
- Throughout the world, the UN and its agencies help expand food
production, assist refugees, lead the fight against AIDS and set up
programmes to clear landmines, among others.
2 Everything About the United Nations
An introduction to the United Nations 3
What is the United Nations?
The United Nations is a unique organization of
independent countries that have come together
to work for world peace and social progress. The
Organization formally came into existence on
24 October 1945, with 51 countries considered
founding Members. By the end of 2008, the
membership of the UN had grown to 192 countries.
Since its inception, no country has ever been
expelled from membership. Indonesia temporarily
quit the UN in 1965 over a dispute with neighbouring
Malaysia, but returned the following year.
So, the United Nations is like a world government?
Wrong. Governments represent countries and peoples. The United Nations represents
neither a particular government nor any one nation. It represents all its Members and
does only what the Member States decide that it should do.
Is there a set of rules or principles that guides the United
Nations in its work?
Yes, the Charter of the United Nations. It is a set of guidelines that
explains the rights and duties of each Member country, and what
needs to be done to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
When a nation becomes a Member of the UN, it accepts
the aims and rules of the Charter.
How did the United Nations begin?
The idea of the United Nations was born during World War II
(1939-1945). World leaders who had collaborated to end the war
felt a strong need for a mechanism that would help bring peace
and stop future wars. They realized that this was possible only if
all nations worked together through a global organization. The
United Nations was to be that Organization.
An introduction to the
The UN has four
To keep peace throughout
To develop friendly relations
To work together to
help poor people live
better lives, to conquer
hunger, disease and illiteracy,
and to encourage
respect for each other’s
rights and freedoms;
To be a centre for
helping nations achieve
The United Nations building in New York City
4 Everything About the United Nations
Where did the name “United Nations” come from?
The name “United Nations” was suggested by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was
first officially used in 1942, when representatives of 26 countries signed the Declaration by United
Nations. As a tribute to President Roosevelt, who died a few weeks before the signing of the Charter,
all those present at the San Francisco Conference agreed to adopt the name “United Nations”.
Was this the first time that such an organization had been created?
A similar organization, the League of Nations, was set up in 1919, following World War I. Its
main objective was to keep world peace. However, not every country joined the League. The
United States, for example, was never a member. Others that had joined later quit, and the
League often failed to take action. Though it did not succeed, the League ignited a dream for a
universal organization. The result was the United Nations.
Who owns the United Nations Headquarters?
The United Nations Headquarters is an international zone. This means that the land on which the UN
sits does not belong to just the United States, the host country, but to all the Members of the United
Nations. The UN has its own flag and its own security officers who guard the area. It also has its own
post office and issues its own stamps. These stamps can be used only from UN Headquarters or from
UN offices in Vienna and Geneva.
Same view of the site chosen for UN Headquarters,
taken from Tudor City at 41st street, looking north
to 48th street (left). United Nations Headquarters
building in New York City as it stands today (above).
The building that rose from a slaughterhouse
At its first meeting in
London in 1946, the
decided to locate the
United Nations Headquarters
in the United
States. However, New
York was not the first choice. Philadelphia, Boston and
San Francisco were also considered. What eventually
persuaded the General Assembly to settle on the present
site was a last-minute gift of $8.5 million from John D.
Rockefeller, Jr. Later, New York City offered additional
property as a gift.
The site chosen for UN Headquarters was a run-down
area of slaughterhouses, a railroad garage building and
other commercial buildings.
On 24 October 1949, Secretary-General Trygve Lie laid the
cornerstone of the 39-storey building. On 21 August 1950,
the Secretariat staff began moving into their new offices.
Who pays for the work of the United Nations?
The 192 Members of the United Nations pay for everything that the Organization does.
It has no other source of income. There are four types of budgets at the UN:
The regular budget includes the core functions at its Headquarters in New York and
field offices around the world.
The Peacekeeping budget pays for various operations, often in “hot spots” around the
The budget for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
An approved budget of $1.9 billion is allocated towards a renovation project of the
UN headquarters. The project is called the Capital Master Plan (CMP).
Payments to the UN for all types of budgets are compulsory. Members pay according to
a scale of assessments agreed upon by all. This scale is based on a country’s ability to
pay, national income and population.
Is the United Nations a good value for the money?
The regular budget for the United Nations is approved by the General Assembly for a two-year
period. The budget approved for 2008-2009 was $4.17 billion, which pays for UN activities, staff
and basic infrastructure. Citizens of the United States spend approximately the same amount on
cut flowers and potted plants each year. For peacekeeping, the budget for the year from 1 July
2007 to 30 June 2008 was about $6.8 billion. This represented 0.5% of global military spending,
estimated at $1339 billion in 2007. That amount would pay for the entire UN system for
more than 65 years. Peacekeeping is far cheaper than war and is good value for money!
The UN is funded by Member countries.
The top 10 Member States in assessment
for the 2008 UN regular budget were:
Country per cent
United States 22.00 453.3
Japan 16.62 342.5
Germany 8.57 176.7
United Kingdom 6.64 136.8
France 6.30 129.8
Italy 5.07 104.6
Canada 2.97 61.3
Spain 2.96 61.1
China 2.66 54.9
Mexico 2.25 46.5
The road to the
This is how Warsaw
(Poland) looked only
weeks after the start
of the Second World
War. The war reduced
much of Europe to
14 August 1941
and Prime Minister
Churchill met on
board a battleship in
the Atlantic Ocean.
They adopted the Atlantic
a plan for world peace
1 January 1942
On New Year’s Day
1942, the representatives
of 26 nations
signed at Washington,
D.C., the Declaration
by the United Nations.
30 October 1943
China, the Soviet
Union, the United
Kingdom and the
United States signed
the Moscow Declaration
and agreed to set
up an organization of
nations to keep peace
once the war was
An introduction to the United Nations 5
6 Everything About the United Nations
Top ten contributors of uniformed UN personnel
(as of 31 March 2007)
Top ten providers of contributions to
UN Peacekeeping Budget
(as of 1 January 2007)
Summer and fall, 1944
Leaders of China, the
United States and the
United Kingdom met
at Dumbarton Oaks,
Washington, D.C., and
agreed on purposes and
principles of the future
11 February 1945
Prime Minister Churchill
and Premier Joseph
Stalin, after their
meeting in Yalta, in the
Soviet Union, declared
their resolve to establish
the United Nations.
They also agreed on
the voting system to
be used in the Security
26 June 1945
50 countries unanimously
Charter of the United
Nations at a conference
in San Francisco.
24 October 1945
After a majority of
countries, including the
five permanent members
of the Security
Council (China, France,
USA, UK and USSR),
had signed the UN
Charter and officially
recognized it, the
United Nations came
into being. That is why
24 October is observed
as United Nations Day.
: For more:
The UN Peacekeeping
budget is funded by
The top ten contributors
to the UN in 2007 were:
- United States of America (20%),
- Japan (17%), 3. Germany (9%),
- United Kingdom (8%),
- France (7%), 6. Italy (5%),
- China (3%), 8. Canada (3%),
- Spain (3%), and
- Republic of Korea (2%).
Top ten contributors of uniformed UN personnel
(as of 31 March 2007)
Top ten providers of contributions to
UN Peacekeeping Budget
(as of 1 January 2007)
An introduction to the United Nations 7
How does a country become a Member of the United Nations?
Membership in the Organization, in accordance with the Charter of
the United Nations, “is open to all peace-loving States that accept the
obligations contained in the United Nations Charter and, in the judgment
of the Organization, are able to carry out these obligations”. States
are admitted to membership in the United Nations by decision of the
General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
How is the United Nations structured?
The work of the United Nations is carried out almost all over the world
and is done by six main organs:
- General Assembly
- Security Council
- Economic and Social Council
- Trusteeship Council
- International Court of Justice
All these organs are based at UN Headquarters in New York, except for
the International Court of Justice, which is located at The Hague, Netherlands.
Related to the United Nations are 15 specialized agencies that
coordinate their work with the UN but are separate, autonomous organizations.
They work in areas as diverse as health, agriculture, telecommunications
and weather. In addition, there are 24 programmes, funds
and other bodies with responsibilities in specific fields. These bodies,
together with the UN proper and its specialized programmes, compose
the United Nations system.
What is a Permanent Observer?
Non-Member States of the United Nations, which are members of one
or more specialized agencies, can apply for the status of Permanent
Observer. The status of a Permanent Observer is based purely on practice,
and there are no provisions for it in the United Nations Charter. The
practice dates from 1946, when the Secretary-General accepted the designation
of the Swiss Government as a Permanent Observer to the United
Nations. Observers were subsequently put forward by certain States that
later became United Nations Members, including Austria, Finland, Italy,
and Japan. Switzerland became a UN Member on 10 September 2002.
Permanent Observers have free access to most meetings and relevant
documentation. Many regional and international organizations are also
observers in the work and annual sessions of the General Assembly.
What are the official languages of the United Nations?
The official languages used at the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian
and Spanish. The working languages at the UN Secretariat are English and French.
A delegate may speak in any of the official languages, and the speech is interpreted simultaneously
into the other official languages. Most UN documents are also issued in all six
official languages. At times, a delegate may choose to make a statement using a non-official
language. In such cases, the delegation must provide either an interpretation or a written text of
the statement in one of the official languages.
Originally English and French were established as working languages at the UN.
Later, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish were added as working languages in the
General Assembly and in the Economic and Social Council. English, French, Chinese,
Russian and Spanish are the working languages of the Security Council.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) brought together hundreds of children and UN staff as part of a global attempt to break the world record for
largest lesson. The lesson was the value and urgency of girls’ education.
8 Everything About the United Nations
How does a new State or Government obtain recognition
by the United Nations?
The recognition of a new State or Government is an act that only other States and
Governments may grant or withhold. It generally implies readiness to assume diplomatic
relations. The United Nations is neither a State nor a Government, and therefore
does not possess any authority to recognize either a State or a Government. As
an organization of independent States, it may admit a new State to its membership
or accept the credentials of the representatives of a new Government.
Membership in the Organization, in accordance with the Charter of the United
Nations, “is open to all peace-loving States which accept the obligations contained
in the [United Nations Charter] and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able
to carry out these obligations”. States are admitted to membership in the United
Nations by decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the
Security Council. The procedure is briefly as follows:
- The State submits an application to the Secretary-General and a letter
formally stating that it accepts the obligations under the Charter.
- The Security Council considers the application. Any recommendation for
admission must receive the affirmative votes of 9 of the 15 members of
the Council, provided that none of its five permanent members — China,
France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland and the United States of America — have voted
against the application.
- If the Council recommends admission, the recommendation is presented
to the General Assembly for consideration. A two-thirds majority
vote is necessary in the Assembly for admission of a new State.
- Membership becomes effective the date the resolution for admission
At each session, the General Assembly considers the credentials of all representatives
of Member States participating in that session. During such consideration,
which routinely takes place first in the nine-member Credentials Committee but can
also arise at other times, the issue can be raised whether a particular representative
has been accredited by the Government actually in power. This issue is ultimately
decided by a majority vote in the Assembly. It should be noted that the normal
change of Governments, as through a democratic election, does not raise any issues
concerning the credentials of the representative of the State concerned.
From 51 member states in 1945
to 192 member states in 2008
An introduction to the United Nations 9
Q&A Team Play
When playing as team-mates (2 or more players on a team), team-mates can work
together to arrive at an answer, but must reach a consensus before declaring an answer
to the other players.
- In what year was the United Nations founded?
- How many Member States does the United Nations have?
- What are the official languages of the United Nations?
- Who coined the phrase “United Nations”?
- How many organs does the United Nations have?
- What was the League of Nations?
- Has any country ever quit the United Nations?
- What is the list of rules and regulations of the UN called?
- Name one of the aims and purposes of the United Nations.
- When and where was the United Nations Declaration signed?
This is the United Nations flag. It has a blue background with a white emblem in
the centre. The emblem has a world map with olive branches around it, signifying
world peace. The emblem should be one half the height of the flag and
10 Everything About the United Nations
The United Nations Family
Some achievements by the UN System
- The UN was a promoter of the great movement of decolonization,
which led to the independence of more than 80 nations.
- The UN system is a major purchaser of goods and services, totalling
over $6.4 billion a year. UNICEF buys half the vaccines produced
- UN relief agencies together provide aid and protection to more
than 23 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide.
- The UN system defines technical standards in telecommunication,
aviation, shipping and postal services, which make international
- UN campaigns for universal immunization against childhood diseases
have eradicated smallpox and reduced cases of polio by 99
- The World Food Programme, the UN’s front-line food aid organization,
ships over 5 million tonnes of food annually, feeding some 113
million people in 80 countries.
The United Nations Family 13
The UN Charter establishes six main organs of the United Nations. This is a summary of
their composition and functions:
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
All members of the United Nations (currently
192) are represented in the General Assembly.
Each nation, rich or poor, large or small, has
one vote. Decisions on such issues as international
peace and security, admitting new members
and the UN budget are decided by a twothirds
majority. Other matters are decided by
simple majority. In recent years, a special effort
has been made to reach decisions through consensus,
rather than by taking a formal vote.
The General Assembly’s regular session begins
each year in September and continues throughout the year. At the
beginning of each regular session, the Assembly holds a general
debate at which Heads of State or Government and others present
views on a wide-ranging agenda of issues of concern to the international
community, from war and terrorism to disease and poverty.
In 2005, world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York
for the General Assembly High Level Summit and to commemorate
the Organization’s 60th birthday. Each year, the Assembly
elects a president who presides over–that is, runs–the meetings.
To discuss and make recommendations on any subject (except
those being dealt with at the same time by the Security Council);
To discuss questions related to military conflicts and the
To discuss ways and means to improve the state of children,
youth, women and others;
To discuss the issues of sustainable development and human
To decide how much each Member country should pay to run
the United Nations and how this money is spent.
The United Nations Family
President of the 65th Session of the
General Assembly, Mr. Joseph Deiss
of the Switzerland.
The green and gold General Assembly
Hall accommodates all 192 delegations.
Each delegation has six seats, and there
is a gallery for the media and the public,
making a total of 1,898 seats.
One country, one vote
In the General Assembly, each
member has one vote. This rule
applies to all nations, large and
small. China has over a billion people.
It has one vote. Palau, one of the
smallest UN Member countries,
has only 17,000 people. It, too,
has one vote.
Most discussions in the General Assembly take place in its six main committees:
First Committee (Disarmament and International Security)
Second Committee (Economic and Financial)
Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural)
Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization)
Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary)
Sixth Committee (Legal)
Some recent actions by the General Assembly
In 2006, United Nations Member States agreed on a process
of reforming the work of the Assembly that involves speeding
up the decision-making process, streamlining the Assembly’s
agenda, and strengthening the role and authority of the Assembly
In 2006, the Assembly approved the establishment of the new,
strengthened Human Rights Council to replace the muchcriticized
UN Human Rights Commission. The new Council that
was inaugurated on 19 June 2006 in Geneva has a higher status
in the UN system as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly.
The Assembly designated 2001-2010 as Roll Back Malaria
decade in developing countries, particularly in Africa. The Roll
Back Malaria movement helps prevent disease and improves
lives. It is estimated that malaria kills up to 2.7 million persons
each year; 90 per cent of these deaths occur in Africa, and
children under the age of five years are the most vulnerable.
Malaria kills more than 3,000 African children every day.
At the United Nations Summit in 2000, and reconfirmed in
2005, world leaders set goals in a landmark Millennium Declaration
to make the world of the twenty-first century a safer and
14 Everything About the United Nations
The United Nations Family 15
THE SECURITY COUNCIL
While the General Assembly can discuss any world
concern, the Security Council has primary responsibility
for questions of peace and security.
The Security Council has fifteen members. Five are
permanent members: China, France, the Russian Federation,
the United Kingdom and the United States.
The other ten non-permanent members are elected
by the General Assembly for two-year terms and are
chosen on the basis of geographical representation.
To investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to
To recommend methods and terms of settlement;
To recommend actions against any threat or act of aggression;
To recommend to the General Assembly who should be appointed
Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The Security Council, unlike the General Assembly, does not hold regular meetings. It can be called
to meet at any time on short notice. The members take turns at being President of the Council for a
month at a time. They serve in the English alphabetical order of the names of their countries.
To pass a resolution in the Security Council, nine members of the Council must vote “yes”, but if
any of the five permanent members votes “no”, it is called a veto, and the resolution does not pass.
Some recent actions by the Security Council
In July 2007, the Council voted unanimously to deploy a
26,000-strong joint United Nations-African Union Mission
in Darfur (UNAMID) in an attempt to quell the violence in
Sudan’s western Darfur region, where fighting between pro-
Government militias and rebel guerillas has killed more than
250,000 people since 2003.
The Council established two international criminal tribunals
to prosecute crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia
and in Rwanda.
Following the terrorist attacks on the United States on
11 September 2001, the Council established its Counter-
Terrorism Committee to help States increase their capability
to fight terrorism.
The Security Council chamber, a
gift from Norway, was designed
by Norwegian artist Arnstein
Arneberg. A large mural by Per
Krohg (Norway), symbolizing
the promise of future peace
and individual freedom, covers
most of the east wall.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks with Red Cross
Youth students in the Security Council.
16 Everything About the United Nations
THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
The Economic and Social Council is the forum
to discuss economic problems, such as trade,
transport, economic development, and social
issues. It also helps countries reach agreement
on how to improve education and health conditions
and to promote respect for and observance
of universal human rights and freedoms
of people everywhere.
Serves as the main forum for international economic and
Promotes higher standards of living, full employment and economic and social progress;
Advances solutions to international economic, social and health-related problems, as well as
international cultural and educational cooperation.
The Council has 54 members, who serve for three-year terms. Voting in the Council is by simple
majority; each member has one vote. Each year, the Council holds several short sessions with
regard to the organization of its work, often including representatives of civil society. The Economic
and Social Council also holds an annual four-week substantive session in July, alternating
the venue between Geneva and New York.
A gift from Sweden, the ECOSOC chamber was
designed by Sven Markelius of Sweden.
Is it fair that only five major Powers have the right to veto?
At the end of World War II, China, France, the
Russian Federation (originally the USSR),
the United Kingdom and the United States
played key roles in the establishment of
the United Nations. The creators of the UN
Charter conceived that these five countries
would continue to play important roles in
the maintenance of international peace and
security. So the “big five” were given a special
voting power known as the “right to veto”. It
was agreed by the drafters that if any one of the “big five” cast a negative vote in the
15-member Security Council, the resolution or decision would not be approved.
The United Nations Family 17
ECOSOC has many commissions to administer the wide range of issues that fall within
its purview. Among them, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Commission for Social
Development, the Commission on Population and Development, the Commission on the
Status of Women, the Statistical Commission, the Commission on Crime Prevention and
Criminal Justice, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission on Science
and Technology for Development and the United Nations Forum on Forests.
The Council also directs 5 regional commissions: the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA),
the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Economic Commission for Latin America
and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(ESCAP), and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
Some UN Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programmes
The Economic and Social Council considers reports from several specialized agencies, funds
and programmes, each of which is a separate organization with its own membership, budget
and headquarters. A partial list follows.
The United Nations Development Programme is the UN’s global development
network, advocating for change and connecting countries
to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better
life. UNDP is on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on
their own solutions to global and national development challenges.
The United Nations Children’s Fund is the main UN organization
defending, promoting and protecting children’s rights. It also works
towards protecting the world’s most disadvantaged children.
The United Nations Environment Programme provides leadership
and encourages partnership in caring for the environment. It supports
environmental monitoring, assessment and early warning.
The United Nations Population Fund promotes the right of women, men
and children to enjoy a healthy life. UNFPA supports countries in using
population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to
ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every girl
and woman is treated with dignity and respect.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides legal
protection for refugees and seeks durable solutions to their problems,
either by helping them to return voluntarily to their homes or to settle
in other countries.
The International Labour Organization formulates policies and programmes
to promote basic human rights of workers, improve working
and living conditions and enhance employment opportunities.
The International Monetary Fund ensures that the global monetary
and financial system is stable. It advises on key economic policies,
provides temporary financial assistance and training, promotes
growth and alleviates poverty.
18 Everything About the United Nations
The Food and Agriculture Organization works to eradicate hunger and
malnutrition and to raise levels of nutrition. It also assists its Member
States in the sustainable development of their agricultural sector.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
promotes international cooperation and facilitates the
exchange of information in the fields of education, science, culture
The World Health Organization directs and coordinates international
health work. It also promotes and coordinates research on preventing
The World Bank provides low-interest loans and interest-free credits
and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure,
communications and other purposes.
The International Civil Aviation Organization assures the safe, secure,
orderly and sustainable development of international air transport
while minimizing the adverse effect of global civil aviation on the
The International Maritime Organization is responsible for safe, secure
and efficient shipping on clean oceans and the prevention of marine
pollution from ships.
The International Telecommunications Union works with governments
and the private sector to coordinate the operation of global telecommunications
networks and services. From broadband internet to latest-generation
wireless technologies, from aeronautical and maritime navigation
to radio astronomy and satellite-based meteorology, from phone and fax
services to television broadcasting, ITU helps the world communicate.
The Universal Postal Union fosters the sustainable development of
quality universal, efficient, accessible postal services in order to facilitate
communication among the people of the world.
The World Meteorological Organization coordinates global scientific
activity on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its
interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting
distribution of water resources.
The World Intellectual Property Organization ensures that the rights of
creators and owners of intellectual property are protected worldwide
and that inventors and authors are, thus, recognized and rewarded for
The International Fund for Agricultural Development provides direct
funding and mobilizes additional resources for programmes designed
to promote the economic advancement of the rural poor. 800 million
women, children and men live in rural areas and depend on agriculture
and related activities for their livelihoods.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization helps countries
improve their national development policies and regulatory frameworks.
Its tailor-made programmes support market access and access to finance
for micro, small and medium scale agro-industrial development.
The United Nations Family 19
The World Tourism Organization promotes the development of responsible,
sustainable and universally accessible tourism, with the aim
of contributing to economic development, international understanding,
peace, prosperity and universal respect for, and observance of,
human rights and fundamental freedoms. It pays particular attention
to the interests of developing countries in the field of tourism.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime assists countries in
their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism. It seeks to increase
understanding of drug and crime issues and to assist countries
in developing domestic legislature and implementing international
The United Nations Development Fund for Women provides financial
and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies to
foster women’s empowerment and gender equality, and acts as a catalyst
to ensure the appropriate involvement of women in mainstream
The World Food Programme supplies food to sustain victims of manmade
and natural disasters, improves the nutrition and quality of
life of the most vulnerable people at critical times in their lives, and
promotes self-reliance of people and communities.
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme promotes socially
and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of
ensuring adequate shelter for all.
THE TRUSTEESHIP COUNCIL
In 1945, when the United Nations was established,
there were eleven territories (mostly in Africa and in
the Pacific Ocean) that were placed under international
supervision. The major goals of the Trusteeship System
were to promote the advancement of the inhabitants
of Trust Territories and their progressive development
towards self-government or independence.
The Trusteeship Council is composed of the permanent
members of the Security Council (China, France,
the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the
United States). Each member has one vote, and decisions
are made by a simple majority.
Since the last Trust Territory — Palau, formerly administered
by the United States — achieved self-government
in 1994, the Council has formally suspended
operations after nearly half a century. It will meet only
as the need arises.
The Trusteeship Council chamber was furnished
by Denmark and designed by Finn Juhl, a Dane.
Against one wall is a nine-foot statue of a woman
with arms up-raised carved from teak by Henrik
Starcke, also a Dane.
THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established
in 1945 and assumed its functions in 1946
as the main UN organ for handing down legal
judgments. Only countries, not individuals, can
take cases before the Court. Once a country agrees
to let the Court act on a case, it must agree to comply
with the Court’s decision. In addition, other
organs of the UN may seek an advisory opinion
from the Court.
As of June 2006, the ICJ had delivered 92 judgments
on disputes between states, including cases
on territorial boundaries, diplomatic relations,
not interfering in countries’ domestic affairs, and
The Court sits at the Peace Palace in The Hague,
Netherlands. It has fifteen judges who are elected by
the General Assembly and the Security Council. No
two judges can come from the same country. Nine
judges have to agree before a decision can be made.
All the judgments passed by the Court are final and
without appeal. If one of the states involved fails
to comply with the decision, the other party may
take the issue to the Security Council. On 6 February
2006, Judge Rosalyn Higgins (United Kingdom),
the sole woman Member of the Court, was elected
the first female President of the International Court
for a term of three years.
In 1945, half of the world’s people lived in countries that were controlled by outsiders. These
countries, known as colonies, were divided by a handful of major Powers, including Great
Britain, France and Portugal. Through the process known as decolonization, the United Nations
has helped most of the colonies gain independence. The General Assembly, in 1960, adopted a
declaration to urge the speedy independence of all colonies and peoples. The following year it
set up the Special Committee on Decolonization. As a result of the UN’s decolonization efforts,
more than 80 former colonies are now themselves members of the United Nations. Today, only
1.5 million people live in dependent territories.
After an international competition, French architect Louis Cordonnier’s
design of the Peace Palace now stands in The Hague, Netherlands. It has
housed the International Court of Justice and its predecessors since 1913.
The International Court of Justice in observance of its 60th anniversary
at the Peace Palace at the Hague in the Netherlands.
20 Everything About the United Nations
The United Nations Family 21
Some recent decisions by the International Court of Justice
After the Court concluded public hearings in 2006, it decided to hear the case brought by Bosnia
and Herzegovina alleging that Serbia and Montenegro had breached their obligations under the
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
In 2004, the Court unanimously reaffirmed that Israel’s construction of the wall in the Occupied
Palestinian Territory violates international law.
In 2002, the Court ruled on the border dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon, placing the main
territory under dispute, the Bakassi Peninsula, under Cameroonian sovereignty.
The Secretariat, headed by the Secretary-General, consists of an
international staff working at the United Nations Headquarters
in New York, and all over the world. It carries out the day-to-day
work of the Organization. Its duties are as varied as the problems
dealt with by the United Nations. These range from administering
peacekeeping operations to mediating international disputes or
surveying social and economic trends and problems. The Secretariat
is responsible for servicing the other organs of the United Nations
and administering the programmes and policies laid down by them.
Who it serves
The United Nations Headquarters was designed to serve four major groups: delegations, who represent
the 192 current Member States and who send more than 5,000 persons to New York each year for the
annual sessions of the General Assembly; the international staff or Secretariat, numbering about 5,478
persons in New York; visitors, estimated at about 1 million in 2007; and journalists, close to 2,000 of
whom are permanently accredited while nearly 5,000 are present during major meetings. There are also
more than 3,000 non-governmental organizations accredited to the United Nations, many of whom
attend meetings at Headquarters. The aggregate annual income to New York resulting from the UN
presence is estimated at $3.3 billion.
What are some other international courts?
The International Criminal Court (ICC) adjudicates individuals for
the most serious offenses of global concern, such as genocide, war
crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Over 5,000 people, drawn from all parts of the
world, work at the UN Headquarters in New York.
22 Everything About the United Nations
To gather and prepare background information on various problems so that the
government delegates can study the facts and make their recommendations;
To help carry out the decisions of the United Nations;
To organize international conferences;
To interpret speeches and translate documents into the UN’s official languages.
The Secretary-General is the chief officer of the United Nations. He or she is assisted by a
staff of international civil servants. Unlike diplomats, who represent a particular country,
the civil servants work for all 192 Member countries and take their orders not from governments,
but from the Secretary-General.
How is the UN Secretary-General appointed?
The Secretary-General is appointed for a period of five years by the General Assembly on the
recommendation of the Security Council. There have been eight Secretaries-General since the
UN was created. The appointment of the Secretary-General follows a regional rotation.
- Trygve Lie (Norway) 1946-1952
- Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden) 1953-1961
- U Thant (Myanmar) 1961-1971
- Kurt Waldheim (Austria) 1972-1981
- Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (Peru) 1982-1991
- Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt) 1992-1996
- Kofi Annan (Ghana) 1997-2006
- Ban Ki-moon (South Korea) 2007-
Some functions of the Secretary-General
The UN Charter describes the Secretary-General as the “chief administrative officer” of the
Organization, who shall act in the capacity and perform “functions as are entrusted” to him or
her by the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and other United
Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the Secretary-General to bring to the attention of the
Security Council any matter that threatens international peace and security.
To propose issues to be discussed by the General
Assembly or any other organ of the United
To bring to the attention of the Security Council
any problem which the Secretary-General feels
may threaten world peace;
To act as a “referee” in disputes between Member
To offer his or her “good offices”.
Does the Secretary-General act alone?
No. The Secretary-General does not act without
the support and approval of the United Nations
Member States. Any course of action, whether it
concerns sending peacekeeping troops to war-torn
areas or helping a country rebuild after a war or a
natural disaster, must be set by the Member States.
The United Nations Family 23
Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea (ROK), the eighth
Secretary-General of the United Nations, brings to his post 37
years of service both in government and on the global stage.
Career highlights At the time of his election as Secretary-
General, Mr. Ban was his country’s Minister of Foreign
Affairs and Trade. His long tenure with the ministry included
postings in New Delhi, Washington D.C. and Vienna, and
responsibility for a variety of portfolios, including Foreign
Policy Advisor to the President, Chief National Security
Advisor to the President, Deputy Minister for Policy Planning and Director-General
of American Affairs. Throughout this service, his guiding vision was that of a peaceful
Korean peninsula, playing an expanding role for peace and prosperity in the
region and the world.
Mr. Ban has long-standing ties with the United Nations, dating back to 1975, when
he worked for the Foreign Ministry’s United Nations Division. That work expanded
over the years, with assignments as First Secretary at the ROK’s Permanent Mission
to the UN in New York, Director of the UN Division at the Ministry’s headquarters
in Seoul, and Ambassador to Vienna, during which time, in 1999, he served as
Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty Organization. In 2001-2002, as Chef-de-Cabinet during the ROK’s Presidency
of the General Assembly, he facilitated the prompt adoption of the first resolution
of the session, condemning the terrorist attacks of 11 September, and undertook a
number of initiatives aimed at strengthening the Assembly’s functioning, thereby
helping to turn a session that started out in crisis and confusion into one in which
a number of important reforms were adopted.
Mr. Ban has also been actively involved in issues relating to inter-Korean relations.
In 1992, as Special Advisor to the Foreign Minister, he served as Vice Chair
of the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission following the adoption of
the historic Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
In September 2005, as Foreign Minister, he played a leading role in bringing about
another landmark agreement aimed at promoting peace and stability on the Korean
peninsula with the adoption at the Six Party Talks of the Joint Statement on resolving
the North Korean nuclear issue.
Education Mr. Ban received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from
Seoul National University in 1970. In1985, he earned a master’s degree in public
administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Prizes and awards Mr. Ban has received numerous national and international
prizes, medals and honours. In 1975, 1986 and again in 2006, he was awarded the
ROK’s Highest Order of Service Merit for service to his country.
Personal Mr. Ban was born on 13 June 1944. He and his wife, Madam Yoo (Ban)
Soon-taek, whom he met in high school in 1962, have one son and two daughters. In
addition to Korean, Mr. Ban speaks English and French.
24 Everything About the United Nations
Why a Nobel peace prize for the United Nations?
The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2001
in two equal portions–to the United Nations and to its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan
– “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.”
The Committee said the end of the Cold War had at last made it possible for the UN
to perform more fully the part it was originally intended to play; the Organization
was at the forefront of efforts to achieve peace and security in the world, and central
to the international mobilization aimed at meeting the world’s economic, social and
environmental challenges. Besides, Secretary-General Kofi Annan had been preeminent
in bringing new life to the Organization, “while clearly underlining the UN’s
traditional responsibility for peace and security, he has also emphasized its obligations
with regard to human rights.” In its statement announcing the peace prize, the
Nobel Committee acknowledged “he has risen to such new challenges as HIV/AIDS
and international terrorism, and brought about more efficient utilization of the UN’s
In 2007, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly
with Albert Arnold Gore Jr, former Vice-President of the United States. This was the fifteenth time the UN
was honoured by the Nobel Committee with the peace award. Previous winners were: the International
Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA Director-General ( 2005); the United Nations and Kofi
Annan, UN Secretary-General (2001); the UN Peacekeeping Forces (1988); Seán MacBride, UN Commissioner
for Namibia (1974); Lester Bowles Pearson, for striving to end the Suez conflict and
Middle East question through the UN (1957); the Office of the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (1954 and 1981); the International Labour Organization (1969); the UN Children’s
Fund (1965); Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary-General (1961); Léon Jouhaux, a
founder of the ILO (1951); Ralph Bunche, UN Trusteeship Director (1950); Lord John Boyd
Orr, founding Director-General of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (1949); and
Cordell Hull, US Secretary of State instrumental in establishing the United Nations (1945). Q&A Team Play
When playing as team-mates (2 or more players on a team), team-mates can work together to arrive at an answer, but
must reach a consensus before declaring an answer to the other players.
- What does UNICEF stand for?
- Where is the International Court of Justice located?
- What is the name of the UN agency that deals with
- What is a veto?
- How many votes does each Member State have in the
- What is the main judicial organ of the United Nations?
- How many members does the Security Council have?
- True or false- China has more votes at the General Assembly
than Monaco because its population is larger?
- On what does the General Assembly discuss and/or
- With what is ECOSOC concerned?
- Which Trust territory was the last country to achieve
self-government thanks to the Trusteeship Council?
- The judges of the International Court of Justice come
from how many different countries?
- Who are the members of the Secretariat?
- How many times has the United Nations system been
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?
The seventh Secretary-General of
the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan,
holds the Nobel Peace Prize
awarded to the United Nations
and to him.
The United Nations works
for international peace
UN peacemaking efforts
- UN peacebuilding in post-conflict situations often includes overseeing
the collection and destruction of hundreds of thousands of
weapons and facilitating the reintegration of former combatants
into civil society.
- The UN played a crucial role in encouraging countries to support
the 1997 Ottawa Convention – which provides for the total ban on
the production, export and use of landmines – and continues to
promote universal adherence to this treaty.
- UN support has resulted in a wide range of agreements, including
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear-
Test-Ban Treaty, and treaties to establish nuclear-free zones.
- During the 1990s, more than 2 million children were killed and 6 million
seriously injured in conflicts involving revolvers, assault rifles,
mortars, hand grenades and portable missile launchers. At a UN
Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Lights Weapons
in 2001, States agreed on measures to strengthen international
cooperation in curbing this illegal arms trade.
26 Everything About the United Nations
The United Nations works for international peace and security 27
The UN was created to keep peace. How does it do that?
The United Nations serves as a global forum where countries can raise and discuss the
most difficult issues, including problems of war and peace. When government leaders talk
to each other face-to-face, a dialogue is established. This can result in agreement on how
to peacefully settle disputes. When many countries speak with one voice – or by consensus
– it creates a global pressure on all. The Secretary-General, either directly or through a
representative, may also advance a dialogue between and among nations.
Who commands the peacekeeping operations?
Peacekeeping operations are established by the Security
Council and directed by the Secretary-General,
often through a special representative. When a threat
to peace is brought before the Council, it usually
first asks the parties to reach agreement by peaceful
means. If fighting breaks out or persists, the Council
tries to secure a ceasefire. It may then send peacekeeping
missions to troubled areas to restore peace
or call for economic sanctions and embargoes.
Has the UN stopped any war?
The UN has helped prevent many conflicts from flaring up into full-scale wars. It has also negotiated the
peaceful settlement of conflicts. On many occasions, the UN has provided a mechanism to help defuse
hostilities, for example, the Berlin crisis (1948-1949), the Cuban missile crisis (1962) and the 1973 Middle
East crisis. In each of these cases, UN intervention helped prevent war between the super-powers.
The UN also played a major role in ending wars in the Congo (1964), between Iran and Iraq (1988), and
in El Salvador (1992) and Guatemala (1996). The UN led the way to a peace that has brought sustained
economic growth in Mozambique (1994); independence to Timor-Leste (2002) and in December 2005,
the Organization successfully completed its peacekeeping mandate in Sierra Leone.
Other accomplishments include:
The UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) supervised Namibia’s first free and fair elections,
leading to its independence.
In Cambodia, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) monitored a ceasefire
and withdrawal of foreign forces, supervised various government offices and organized a free
and fair election.
In the former Yugoslavia, the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) worked to protect
the civilians in demilitarized zones and to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
The United Nations works for
international peace and security
Blue helmets and uniforms
What happens when a country ignores the decisions of the Security Council?
When decisions of the Security Council are not complied with, the Council may take several
actions to ensure their implementation. Should a country threaten or breach the peace or commit
an act of aggression, it may impose economic and trade sanctions, or other specific measures
such as arms and travel ban and diplomatic restrictions. It can also authorize the use of force in
certain instances. But these measures are usually a last resort, to be used only if peaceful means
of settling a dispute have been exhausted.
The Security Council can authorize a coalition of Member States to use “all necessary means”,
including military action, to deal with a conflict as for example :
in 1991 to restore the sovereignty of Kuwait after its invasion by Iraq;
in 1992 to secure the environment for humanitarian relief to be delivered in Somalia;
in 1994 to restore the democratically-elected government in Haiti;
in 1999 to restore peace and security in East Timor.
Does the UN have an army?
No, the United Nations has no standing international police or military force. Troops
who serve in the UN peacekeeping operations are voluntarily contributed by the Member
States. Civilians, often drawn from the UN itself, also play a key role in forming
UN Peacekeepers on patrol in El Arish, Egypt.
The first UN peacekeeping operation, the UN Truce Supervision
Organization, was created in 1948 following a war between Israel and its
Arab neighbours. To this day, UNTSO ’s military observers remain in the
region to monitor ceasefires and supervise agreements.
28 Everything About the United Nations
The United Nations works for international peace and security 29
What, then, is a peacekeeping operation?
Peacekeeping has traditionally been defined as the use of multinational forces, under UN command,
to help control and resolve conflicts between countries. Peacekeeping operations fulfill the
role of a neutral third party to help create and maintain a ceasefire and form a buffer zone between
warring parties. They also provide electoral assistance and help in clearing deadly landmines.
As peacekeepers maintain peace on the ground, mediators from the United Nations meet with
leaders from the disputing parties or countries and try to reach a peaceful solution.
There are two types of peacekeeping operations: observer missions and peacekeeping forces.
Observers are not armed. Soldiers of UN peacekeeping forces carry light weapons, which they may
use only in self-defence. The UN peacekeepers are easily identifiable by the UN insignia and the
blue beret they wear when on duty. The blue helmet, which has become the symbol of UN peacekeepers,
is carried during all operations and is worn when there is danger. Peacekeepers wear their
own national uniforms. Governments that volunteer personnel retain ultimate control over their
own military forces serving under the UN flag.
Why does the UN have so many peacekeeping operations?
Peacekeeping operations are created in response to serious military or humanitarian crises. In the
past, peacekeepers were mainly involved in keeping peace between warring nations. But now many
nations are at war with themselves. Due to civil strife and ethnic conflicts, some governments are
unable to exercise authority over their own territory, causing great human suffering. In such situations,
the United Nations is often asked, on the one hand, to negotiate a settlement and, on the
other, to provide emergency relief to the people affected by the conflict. Working under difficult
conditions, the United Nations integrates humanitarian assistance with efforts to resolve the crisis.
What are some recent United Nations peacekeeping operations?
In the first 40 years of its history (1945-1985); the United Nations set up only 13 peacekeeping operations.
In the 20 years since then (1986-2006), 47 peacekeeping missions were deployed.
United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)
A joint African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur was authorized by the Security Council
on 31 July 2007. The Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, authorized UNAMID
to take necessary action to support the implementation of the Darfur
Peace Agreement, as well as to protect its personnel and civilians, without
“prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan”. The Council
decided that UNAMID would start implementing its mandated tasks no later
than 31 December 2007.
United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad
On 25 September 2007, the Security Council approved the establishment
in Chad and the Central African Republic, in concert with the European
Union, of a multi-dimensional presence intended to help create the security
conditions conducive to a voluntary, secure and sustainable return
of refugees and displaced persons. The Council decided that the multidimensional
presence would include a United Nations Mission in the
Central African Republic and Chad.
Sudanese refugees in Iridimi Camp in
30 Everything About the United Nations
United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS)
On 24 March 2005, the Security Council voted unanimously
to send 10,000 troops and more than 700
civilian police to southern Sudan to support the peace
agreement between the Government of Sudan and the
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A),
which ended more than two decades of civil strife.
Until the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
in 2005, there had been 21 years of continuous
fighting over resources, power, the role of religion and
self-determination in southern Sudan. Over two million
people died, four million people were uprooted and
some 600,000 people fled the country as refugees.
United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT)
The UN was called in to East Timor (now Timor-Leste) in late 1999 to guide the Timorese towards statehood
in the wake of violence and devastation that followed a UN-led consultation on integration with
Indonesia. The UN established an effective administration, enabled refugees to return, helped to develop
civil and social services, ensured humanitarian assistance, supported capacity-building for self-governance
and helped to establish conditions for sustainable development. In 2005, the peacekeeping mission
was transformed into an assitance and peacebuilding mission.
United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone
The efforts of the international community to end
an 11-year civil war and move the country towards
peace enabled Sierra Leone since 2002 to enjoy
a much improved security environment. After a
decisive intervention by British troops in 2001, the
UN helped disarm and demobilize some 75,000
combatants. UN peacekeepers reconstructed roads;
renovated and built schools, houses of worship and
clinics; and initiated agricultural projects and welfare
programmes. UNAMSIL also helped Sierra Leone to
ensure that the rights of its citizens were fully protected;
to bring to justice those who bore the greatest
responsibility for serious violations of international
humanitarian law through the UN-backed Special
Court for Sierra Leone; and to develop a professional
and democratic police force. A new mission—the
United Nations Integrated Office for Sierra Leone
(UNIOSIL)—was established by the Security Council
to help consolidate the peace, strengthen human rights, develop the economy, improve transparency
and hold elections in 2007. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, which came to a close at the
end of 2005, could serve as a prototype for the UN’s new emphasis on peacebuilding.
60 years of peacekeeping
63 peacekeeping operations
16 current operations (2008)
107,503 personnel serving
in current peacekeeping
One Nobel peace prize
UN Peacekeeping troops from Rwanda mount the guard
during the commemoration of the International Day of
United Nations Peacekeepers, at the Headquarters of the
United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) in Khartoum.
What else does the UN do for peace?
The UN’s work for peace does not end with the successful conclusion of a peacekeeping
mission. In the aftermath of a conflict, the UN helps displaced persons and
refugees to return to their homes. It clears mines, repairs roads and bridges and provides
economic and technical help to rebuild the economy. It also monitors elections
and closely follows how a country respects the human rights of its citizens.
This process, also known as peacebuilding, has helped over 60 countries to build
Peacebuilding, peacekeeping, nation-building: what’s the difference?
Peacekeeping is organized around a military deployment. It is often a central part
of a peacebuilding effort. Nation-building means different things to different people
and is not a term used by the UN. It normally refers to a longer historical process
and includes the building up of a national identity. Peacebuilding provides all that is
needed to help a country move from war to peace and a functioning self-government.
The UN has been engaged in peacebuilding activities for years, but only
recently decided to establish a Peacebuilding Commission. Why?
The United Nations has played a vital role in reducing the level of conflict in several
regions by mediating peace agreements and assisting in their implementation. However,
some of those accords have failed to take hold, such as in Angola in 1993 and
Rwanda in 1994. Roughly half of all countries that emerge from war lapse back into
violence within five years, driving home the message that, to prevent conflict, peace
agreements must be implemented in a sustained manner.
In June 2006, the UN set up the Peacebuilding Commission with a view to helping
countries make the transition from war to lasting peace. It forms the connecting link
between peacekeeping and post-conflict operations. Its job is to bring together all the
major actors in a given situation to discuss and decide on a long-term peacebuilding
strategy. What that means is that assistance is better coordinated, money is better
spent, and there is a real link between immediate post-conflict efforts on the one
hand and long-term recovery and development efforts on the other.
The United Nations works for peace and progress. But there is so little peace
in the world today. Do we really need the UN?
The world has fought more than 50 wars in the past 60 years. According to the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute, in 2006 alone, 17 major armed conflicts
were waged around the world. Luckily, none of them turned into devastating world
wars. There is general agreement that the UN’s campaign for peace and disarmament
played a key role in this regard.
Many people feel that the UN should be made stronger to stop smaller wars and have
its decisions fully carried out. But the effectiveness of UN actions depends on the
political will of the Member States — on their readiness to respect the decisions they
The United Nations works for international peace and security 31
32 Everything About the United Nations
themselves take. Also, these operations are costly. Because of a lack of funds, the UN is often
unable to play a greater role.
The strength of the UN comes from its refusal to give up, even in the face of the stiffest challenge.
When countries at war do not have the political will to stop, the UN sometimes has to
withdraw its peacekeeping troops. But it continues its work through diplomacy and negotiations,
by constantly speaking with the parties concerned. When better conditions are created,
the peacekeepers may return.
The world still has a long way to go before it can ensure peace and justice for everyone.
Wars, poverty and human rights violations are still widespread. But that’s precisely why there
is a need for the UN to continue to operate. It has been said that, if the UN did not exist, the
countries of the world would have to create another organization, maybe with another name,
to do exactly what the UN does.
What is the UN doing to combat terrorism?
The United Nations has long been active in the fight against international terrorism. Reflecting
the determination of the international community to eliminate this threat, the Organization
and its agencies have developed a wide range of international legal instruments that
enable the international community to take action to suppress terrorism and bring those
responsible to justice. Thirteen global conventions have been negotiated through the UN
dating back to 1963, including treaties against hostage-taking, airplane hijacking, terrorist
bombings and terrorism financing. A Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee oversees
how Member States carry out the commitments they promised subsequent to 11 September
2001 and works to increase their capability to fight terrorism.
“Whether we like it or not, our generation will go down in history as one that
was challenged to protect the world from terrorism”.
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
19 August 2003
A suicide attacker set off a bomb
explosion in a cement truck
parked outside the Canal Hotel
that housed the UN Headquarters
in Baghdad, Iraq, killing at
least 17 people including the
Secretary-General’s Special Representative
in Iraq, Sergio Vieira
de Mello, and wounding some
A Global counter-terrorism strategy
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a global counter-terrorism
strategy on 8 September 2006. The strategy – in the form of a Resolution
and an annexed Plan of Action – is a unique instrument to enhance
national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism. Its adoption
marks the first time that all Member States have agreed to a common
strategic and operational approach to fight terrorism. Important new initiatives
set forth in the strategy include:
- Improving the coherence and efficiency of counter-terrorism technical
assistance delivery so that all States can play their part effectively.
- Voluntarily putting in place systems of assistance that would address
the needs of victims of terrorism and their families.
- Addressing the threat of bioterrorism by establishing a single comprehensive
database on biological incidents, focusing on improving States’
public health systems, and acknowledging the need to bring together
major stakeholders to ensure that biotechnology’s advances are not
used for terrorist or other criminal purposes but for the public good.
- Involving civil society, regional and sub-regional organizations in the
fight against terrorism and developing partnerships with the private
sector to prevent terrorist attacks on particularly vulnerable targets.
- Exploring innovative means to address the growing threat of terrorists’
use of the internet.
- Modernizing border and customs controls systems, and improving
the security of travel documents, to prevent terrorists’ travel and the
movement of illicit materials.
- Enhancing cooperation to combat money laundering and the financing
The United Nations works for international peace and security 33
Since the 1980s, the United Nations has been addressing the problems posed
by the millions of deadly landmines scattered in over 60 countries. Each year
thousands of people – most of them children, women and the elderly – are
maimed or killed by these “silent killers”. Meanwhile, new landmines continue
to be deployed in various countries around the world.
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) acts as the focal point for
mine action and coordinates all mine-related activities of UN agencies, funds
and programmes. The work focuses on mine action clearance, mine awareness
and risk-reduction education, victim assistance and stockpile destruction.
- E very 20 minutes someone is either killed or maimed by a landmine.
- A t the beginning of the 20th century, nearly 80 per cent of landmine victims were
military personnel. Today, nearly 80 per cent of landmine victims are civilians.
- It cost as little as $3 to buy a landmine but as much as $1000 to remove one.
- T he countries most affected by landmines are Angola, Afghanistan, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Eritrea, Iraq, Mozambique, Sudan and Vietnam.
The Mine-Ban Convention forbids the possession and use of anti-personnel landmines.
As of April 2007, 133 States had signed the Convention. A total of 153 States have formally
agreed to be bound by the Convention.
- 76 States Parties have completed destruction of their stockpiles.
- 58 States Parties have officially declared not having a stockpile of anti-personnel mines.
- 9 States Parties are in the process of destroying their stockpiles.
- 8 States Parties are late to declare the presence or absence of stockpiles.
- 2 States Parties are scheduled to formally announce the presence or absence of
stockpiles in their initial transparency measures report.
Unexploded cluster bombs in Lebanon
Some of the unexploded devices found in
the de-mining of the town of Hiniyah in
Lebanon by a United Nations Chinese battalion.
The soldiers remove the unexploded
devices, and relocate them to a safe area
where they then detonate them.
34 Everything About the United Nations
Cluster Munitions and Mine Action
Since the antipersonnel mine-ban treaty went into force in 1999, the number
of new victims each year has dropped, large tracts of land have been cleared,
and the number of stockpiled mines has decreased by millions. The treaty has had a major impact on the
global landmine problem. It has not, however, addressed another major problem: explosive remnants of
war, which kill thousands of civilians annually.
“Explosive remnants of war” refer to abandoned explosive ordnance and unexploded ordnance, or UXO,
such as cluster munitions that fail to detonate but remain volatile and dangerous, often threatening the
safety of civilians. UN-supported mine-action programmes help countries eliminate the threat of landmines
and explosive remnants of war. An international movement seeking to limit the use of cluster
munitions has gained momentum in recent years.
Peacekeeping, in the
traditional sense, is sending
multinational troops under
the UN command to keep
warring factions apart.
These days, UN peacekeepers
do much more
than just acting as a buffer
between opposing forces.
Here are a few examples:
A young man
method involved to
deactivate a mine.
More spending for weapons
than for people
The United Nations works for international peace and security 35
$1339 billion — annual world
military expenditures in 2007
$50 billion Provide clean,
$30 bil Retire developing
$24 billion Prevent soil erosion
$21 billion Provide health care
and AIDS control
$21 billion Provide shelter
$19 billion Eliminate starvation
$10.5 billion Stabilize population
$10 billion Provide clean,
$8 billion Prevent acid rain
$8 billion Prevent global
$7 billion Eliminate nuclear
$7 billion Stop deforestation
$5 billion Stop ozone
$5 billion Refugee relief
$5billion Eliminate illiteracy
$2 billion Remove landmines
$2 billion Build democracy
36 Everything About the United Nations
Ensuring world safety by reducing nuclear weapons
Humankind has so far avoided a second nuclear war, due in large part
to United Nations activities for disarmament, in particular, the elimination
of weapons of mass destruction. But the world remains a dangerous
place: weapon supplies continue to grow; more people train for war
every day; and the costs of the arms race continue to mount.
Consider this: In 1945, after two atomic bombs were dropped over Hiroshima
and Nagasaki in Japan, the Second World War (1939-1945) was
over. Since then, the world has witnessed some 150 wars. These conflicts
have cost more than 20 million lives, more than 80 per cent of them
civilians. Though nobody has used nuclear weapons again, we now have
at least seven “nuclear Powers”. The total stockpile of nuclear weapons
in the world now amounts to some 15,000 megatons, roughly equivalent
to more than 1 million Hiroshima bombs.
Now consider this: Take a minute to count from 1 to 60. By
the time you finish counting from 1 to 60, the world has lost
25 to 30 children. During the same time, the world has spent
about $2.55 million for military purposes- or approximately
$1339 billion annually.
The accumulation of arms and economic development both
require large-scale human and material resources. But since
resources are limited, pursuing either process tends to be at
the expense of the other. There is growing agreement that,
in the long run, the world can either continue to pursue the
arms race or achieve and sustain social and economic development
for the benefit of all, but it will not be able to do both.
General and complete disarmament — or gradual elimination
of weapons of mass destruction — is one of the goals set by the
United Nations. Its immediate objectives are to eliminate the danger of war, particularly nuclear war,
and to implement measures to halt and reverse the arms race.
Some UN actions for disarmament
The Partial Test-Ban Treaty, 1963, prohibits nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space
and under water.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty, 1968, prohibits the spread of nuclear weapons from nuclear to
The Chemical Weapons Convention, 1992, prohibits use, manufacturing and stockpiling of
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, 1996, bans all underground nuclear-test explosions.
The Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention, 1997, prohibits the use, stock-piling, production
and transfer of such mines.
In 1945, more than 120,000 people
were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
(Japan) by atomic bombs.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)
was the only structure left standing in the area
where the first atomic bomb exploded. In 1996 it
became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The story of a child soldier
“I don’t know how old I am,” said Abu Bakar Bangura, a slight and serious
young boy from the West African country of Sierra Leone. “I was very
young when I was taken from my family,” he explained. Abu, as he is
known, is one of the 10,000 children who were abducted from their homes
and forced to become soldiers by both the pro-government and the rebel
forces during the 11-year civil war that tore his country apart.
After being kidnapped by the rebel group, Abu was drugged, beaten,
and forced to commit terrible atrocities. Instead of a childhood of innocence
and affection, he lived a life of violence and fear. Only once the fighting
in Sierra Leone stopped in 2001, could these children put down their
weapons and return to their homes and their childhoods. But many had
forgotten how to be children and part of a family. Fighting and fending for
themselves was all that they remembered.
Actor Michael Douglas of the United States, a United Nations
Messenger of Peace, met Abu while at the Child Protection Care Center
in Kono in the eastern district of Sierra Leone. At that point, Abu’s
time was running out – if his family wasn’t found soon, he would be
placed in foster care, an option that he was not looking forward to.
Although Samuel T. Kamanda, the assistant programme manager of
the International Red Cross’ Child Protection Care Center, had already
visited several villages trying to track down Abu’s family without success,
he decided to follow one of Abu’s last leads – a village in another
region of Sierra Leone. Michael Douglas accompanied Kamanda and
Abu on the quest. After flying in on a UN helicopter, they walked for
miles under the hot sun in a tiring search for Abu’s village and family.
Finally they came to a village, and suddenly, while waiting for the village
chief, Abu heard a cry of joy and surprise. It was his mother. Abu recognized
her immediately and rushed to her crying with relief and excitement.
The United Nations works for international peace and security 37
Michael Douglas and
Abu – screenshot
from the UN Works
“What’s Going On?’
Far right photo:
Actor George Clooney,
Messenger of Peace
38 Everything About the United Nations
“The Meditation Room” • United Nations Headquarters, New York
In the original plan for the new Headquarters, a tiny room had been provided as a place
dedicated to silence, where people could withdraw into themselves, regardless of their faith,
creed or religion, but Dag Hammarskjöld wanted something more dignified. In his efforts he
was supported by a group, composed of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the “Friends of the
UN Meditation Room”, who combined their efforts and provided the money for a room worthy
of a world organization. The work on the room began, and Mr. Hammarskjöld personally
planned and supervised in every detail the creation of the “Meditation Room”. The abstract
mural was made by his friend and artist Bo Beskow.
Q&A Team Play
When playing as team-mates (2 or more players on a team), team-mates can work together to arrive at an
answer, but must reach a consensus before declaring an answer to the other players.
- Does the United Nations have its own army?
- What are the two types of peacekeeping operations under UN command?
- UN peacekeepers are easily recognized by what piece of clothing?
- Can peacekeeping soldiers fight for one side of a dispute?
- What does the United Nations do to promote peace after the successful completion of a peacekeeping mission?
- What is the Mine-ban Convention?
- What is the UN doing to combat terrorism?
“We all have within us a centre of stillness
surrounded by silence. This house, dedicated
to work and debate in the service of
peace, should have one room dedicated to
silence in the outward sense and stillness
in the inner sense. It has been the aim to
create in this small room a place where the
doors may be open to the infinite lands of
thought and prayer”.
Dag Hammarskjöld, 1957
Photo: Arun Malhotra
Seeking Inner Peace
- The proportion of the worldwide population living in extreme
poverty has fallen from one-third to one-fifth since 1990.
However, in sub-Saharan Africa, while the poverty rate has leveled
off, life expectancy is lower today than it was three decades
ago. The percentage of underweight children is still very high in
sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia.
- The benefits of economic growth in the developing world have
been unequally shared. Widening income inequality is of particular
concern. Also, most economies have failed to provide
employment opportunities to their youth, with young people
more than three times as likely as adults to be unemployed.
- Half the population of the developing world lacks basic sanitation.
Approximately 1.1 billion people have no access to clean water.
- Over half a million women still die each year from treatable
and preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. The
odds that a woman will die from these causes in sub-Saharan
Africa are 1 in 16 over the course of her lifetime, compared to
1 in 3,800 in the developed world.
- The number of people dying from AIDS worldwide increased to
2.9 million in 2006, and prevention measures are failing to keep
pace with the growth of the epidemic.
A girl in Karachi, Pakistan, masters the art of writing.
Children in a refugee camp, in Goma, Rwanda.
What are the Millennium Development Goals?
At the Millennium Summit in 2000, the Member States of the United Nations agreed on eight goals, the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) that call for national action, and international cooperation, to provide
access to food, education, healthcare and economic opportunities for children, women and men everywhere.
In 2005, world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York for the General Assembly High-Level Summit,
at which they spoke about the progress they had made nationally in achieving the Millennium Development
Goals. United Nations Member States have vowed to work together to reduce poverty and eliminate
hunger in developing countries, and to achieve the targets set out in the MDGs by 2015.
What is the UN doing about fighting poverty?
In the Millennium Declaration, world leaders resolved to halve, by 2015, the number of people living on less
than $1 a day, and also set targets in the fight against poverty and disease.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed specific actions that rich countries should take:
- Grant free access to their markets for goods produced in poorer countries:
Many developing countries are forced to rely on exporting unprocessed agricultural products to
earn income overseas. At the same time, world market prices for fuel and for manufactured and
processed goods have risen. Furthermore, many developed countries have imposed steep trade
restrictions on agricultural products from developing countries, making it almost impossible for
them to sell their goods.
- Write off foreign debts:
Over the last few years, there has been a worldwide movement pressing for the cancellation of
the debts that poor countries owe to their creditors—developed country Governments, commercial
banks, and multilateral international lending institutions, such as the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund launched a programme in 1996 known as
the Debt Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), to help the world’s poorest countries
with crippling debts. By October 2007, there were 32 countries receiving debt relief. As a
result, the money that might have been used to repay their huge debts could instead be used for
health, education and other social services.
- Grant more generous development assistance:
Overcoming poverty requires global efforts. In 1980, the industrialized countries pledged at the
General Assembly to devote 0.7 per cent of their gross national products (GNP) to official development
assistance. To date, only five countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway
and Sweden – have consistently provided 0.7 per cent of their GNP as development assistance
to poor countries.
The Millennium Development Goals 41
- Work with pharmaceutical companies to develop an effective and affordable vaccine
Developing a vaccine to combat HIV/AIDS has been slow, mainly due to the enormous scientific,
logistical and financial challenges involved. Since the discovery of the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV) as the cause of AIDS, multiple vaccines have been tested in scores of
human clinical trials, with moderate success.
The World Health Organization and its partners successfully implemented a global initiative
called “3 by 5”, to provide antiretroviral therapy to 3 million people with HIV/AIDS in developing
countries by the end of 2005.
Towards eradicating poverty
The United Nations system assists Governments and civic groups in the developing world to
address various factors that contribute to poverty. Here are a few examples:
China: Improve Teacher Quality in
Poor Areas of Western China
Raising the standards of teacher qualifications,
and continuing professional development of
teachers are priorities in China’s educational
development strategy. It is especially true in
western China where poor rural teachers, particularly
women teachers and minority teachers,
find few means to improve their professional
skills. A United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) project aims at increasing educational
equity and improving teachers’ abilities
at the primary level in three western provinces
of China through delivering high-quality, distance
teacher training. So far, 45,000 teachers
have been trained under this project.
Ethiopia: Leadership Development
Programme to combat HIV/AIDS
One of the main components of UNDP’s poverty
reduction initiative is combating HIV/AIDS. The
objective of the Leadership Development Programme
is to promote leadership at all levels, and
develop the capacity of government, civil society,
development partners, communities and individuals
to effectively respond to the epidemic. The
programme has been successful in building partnerships
through forming coalitions such as the Ethiopian
Volunteer Media Professionals against AIDS
and the National Coalition for Women against HIV/
AIDS, uniquely positioned to mobilize women at all
levels in advocating for gender equality and HIV/
AIDS issues from policy level to the grassroots.
Timor-Leste: Local Development Programme
UNDP and the UN Capital Development Fund are supporting the Government of Timor-Leste in
“piloting” decentralized assemblies at the district and sub-district level in Bobonaro and Lautem,
to test-run participatory planning processes, financial management and procurement procedures as
well as representational arrangements at the local level.
The pilot programme is resolving practical obstacles for the future transfer of funds from central
government to local governments. Simultaneously, the programme is building the capacity of local
assembly members, local technical staff and the population on how to interact and respect each
others’ responsibilities. It creates a downward accountability mechanism through the local assembly
members who are empowered as the decision makers to determine local development priorities.
42 Everything About the United Nations
The Millennium Development Goals 43
Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day.
By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
Goal 2 Achieve universal primary education
By 2015, ensure a full course of primary schooling for all boys and girls.
Goal 3 Promote gender equality and empower women
By 2005, eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, and at
all levels of education no later than 2015.
Goal 4 Reduce child mortality
By 2015, reduce by two-thirds the number of children dying under the age of five.
Goal 5 Improve maternal health
By 2015, reduce by three quarters the number of women dying from complications
of pregnancy and childbirth.
Goal 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
By 2015, halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
By 2015, halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
Goal 7 Ensure environmental sustainability
Reverse the loss of environmental resources.
By 2015, halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe
By 2020, achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million
Goal 8 Develop a global partnership for development
Address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked countries
and small island developing states.
Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through
national and international measures in order to make debt repayment sustainable
in the long term.
In cooperation with the private sector, make available to developing countries
the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications
Millennium Development Goals
to achieve by the year 2015
MDG logo by UNDP/Brazil
44 Everything About the United Nations
What is the connection between the environment and development?
The environment is everything that surrounds us. It is the air we breathe, the
water we drink, the soil that grows all our food, and all living beings. Development
is what we do with these resources to improve our lives. All over the
world we do things that we think will make our lives better, but everything we do
changes us and our environment.
Sometimes we do not see how we are connected to the Earth and to each other, but the connections are
there. Medicines that save lives in Germany may depend on plants that grow in the forests of Costa Rica.
Pollution from automobiles in London or Mexico City may affect the climate in Rabat or Tokyo. We now
know that carbon dioxide and other gases from factories and cars cause the atmosphere to heat up. This
rise in temperature may change the world’s climate. Forests help free the air of carbon dioxide, but many
forests are being cut down for their wood or to clear land for farms.
What is sustainable development?
It means that development should meet our current needs without diminishing the ability of future generations
to meet theirs. In other words, we must use our resources wisely. Sustainable development requires
us to conserve more and waste less. In industrialized countries, many people live beyond nature’s means.
For example, one person in a very rich country uses as much energy as 80 people in a very poor country.
Over-consumption leads to waste, which pollutes our environment and uses up our resources.
Crushing poverty and growing populations also create great pressure on the environment. When land and
forests, which provide food, natural resources and employment, are exhausted, people find it harder, and
sometimes impossible, to survive. Many go to cities, crowding into unhealthy and unsafe slums.
If poor people are forced to destroy their environment to survive, all countries will suffer the consequences.
What does the UN do to protect our environment?
The natural world around us is a fragile place that requires
care, respect and knowledge by all people in all nations. Air
pollution, waterborne diseases, toxic chemicals and natural
disasters are just some of the challenges the environment
presents for mankind.
The UN plays a key role in shaping international action to
protect our environment, and the United Nations Environment
Programme (UNEP) leads its global efforts. The UN conducts
research, monitors the state of the environment and advises
Governments on ways to preserve their natural resources. Most
importantly, it brings Governments together to make international
laws to solve particular environmental problems.
Some UN actions to protect the environment
The Kyoto Protocol to the Convention on Climate Change (1997) aims to slow global warming.
It became a legally binding treaty in 2004. It requires countries to cut harmful green house gasses
by 5.2% by 2012.
The Declaration and Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island
Developing States (1994) calls on countries to take special action in the interest of 40 small island
developing States to promote their social and economic development. Many of these small islands
have very limited resources and have been unable to reap the benefits of globalization.
The Millennium Development Goals 45
The Convention to Combat Desertification (1994) seeks to resolve problems of overcultivation,
deforestation, overgrazing and poor irrigation. One quarter of the Earth’s land is threatened by
desertification. The livelihoods of over one billion people in more than 100 countries are jeopardized,
as farming and grazing land become less productive.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) seeks to protect and conserve
the wide variety of animal and plant life that is essential for human survival.
Tony taps the coconut:
Making sustainable development work
In the middle of the South Pacific,
the island nation of Vanuatu has
a precious resource that could
help it overcome trouble in paradise.
Tony Deamer, an Australianborn
mechanic and environmental
entrepreneur, believes that coconuts
hold the promise of a better
future for Vanuatu’s people. There
are plenty of coconuts on the 80
beautiful tropical islands that make
up Vanuatu, but the global price for
coconuts fluctuates, and as a result, farmers cannot count on a steady income
and the local economy suffers.
Tony has a solution. He has successfully used pure coconut oil as an alternative
to petroleum in automotive diesel engines. The result is both environmentally
friendly and good for the local economy. Deamer believes that if Vanuatu
embraces coconut oil as a fuel, the local demand for copra, or dried coconut
meat, would increase, stimulate the economy and create more jobs. Copra is
an excellent animal feed, its fibre has many
uses and coconut shells can be converted into
Tony’s project has the potential to lessen the
need for imported fuel and put much needed
cash in the hands of local coconut growers.
Currently, Vanuatu has to import all of its diesel
fuel, costing $12 million a year, which is a lot of money for a tiny island
nation with limited resources and purchasing power. The Government in
Vanuatu sees his project’s potential and has given some support.
Water, water . . .
Water is such a basic necessity that it is often called the
source of life. When contaminated, water can become
dangerous and cause serious illness. In many countries,
people have limited access to safe drinking water. As a
result, at least 4 million children die every year in developing
countries from water-borne diseases. In 1980, the
United Nations launched an international campaign to
bring safe drinking water to everyone by the year 2000.
This campaign has already brought safe drinking water
to over 1.3 billion people worldwide. Another 1.9 billion
people have been helped with sanitation facilities.
Waking up to a Disaster
The United Nations jumped into action to
assist the survivors of the December 2004
tsunami in East Asia. Within three days, a
UN disaster assessment team had arrived
in the worst-affected area, the Indonesian
province of Aceh, where some 165,000
people had died and 600,000 were made
homeless. In the following six months,
the UN fed two million people, vaccinated
more than 1.2 million children and
employed more than 30,000 people in
“cash-to-work” programmes in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other areas. More than 561,000 children
were learning again with the help of “school in a box” education start-up kits, and fishermen and
farmers were being helped to rebuild their businesses. UN agencies continue to work to promote
recovery and reconstruction.
46 Everything About the United Nations
Goodbye to Small Pox & Polio
Measles, tuberculosis, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and polio are six of the deadliest diseases
affecting children in developing countries. Today, some 3 million people in the developing
world, who would have been paralysed, are walking because they have been immunized against
polio, as a result of efforts by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health
Smallpox, another deadly disease, has now been eradicated worldwide. Ali Maalin of Merka
town, Somalia, is the last recorded case of smallpox. In October 1977, he suffered a mild
form of the disease and quickly recovered. Not sure whether this was the end of smallpox,
the WHO offered a reward of $1,000 to anyone who could identify a case of smallpox. None
was reported. Two years later, in December 1979, WHO declared that smallpox had been
eradicated from the world.
The Millennium Development Goals 47
What is it?
Globalization is an inevitable phenomenon in human history that has brought the world
closer through the exchange of goods and products, information, knowledge and culture.
Over the last few decades, the pace of this global integration has become much faster and
dramatic because of unprecedented advancements in technology, communications, science,
transport and industry.
While globalization is a catalyst for and a consequence of human progress, it is also a messy
process that requires adjustment and creates significant challenges and problems.
Why should I care?
Globalization has sparked one of the most highly charged debates of the past decade.
When people criticize the effects of globalization, they generally refer to economic integration.
Economic integration occurs when countries lower barriers such as import tariffs and
open their economies up to investment and trade with the rest of the world. These critics
complain that inequalities in the current global trading system hurt developing countries.
Supporters of globalization say countries—like China, Vietnam, India and Uganda—that
have opened up to the world economy have significantly reduced poverty.
Critics argue that the process has exploited people in developing countries, caused massive
disruptions and produced few benefits.
For all countries to be able to reap the benefits of globalization, the international community
must continue working to reduce distortions in international trade (cutting agricultural
subsidies and trade barriers) that favour developed countries and to create a more
Some countries have profited from globalization • India: Cut its poverty rate in half in the past two decades. • China: Reform led to the largest poverty
reduction in history. The number of rural poor
fell from 250 million in 1978 to 34 million in 1999.
But others have not • Many countries in Africa have failed to share in the gains of globalization. Their exports
have remained confined to a narrow range of primary commodities. • Some experts suggest poor policies and infrastructure, weak institutions and corrupt
governance have marginalized a number of countries. • Others believe that geographical and climatic disadvantages have locked some countries
out of global growth.
48 Everything About the United Nations
Goals and Targets
Northern Sub-Saharan Eastern South-Eastern Southern Western Europe Asia
GOAL 1 | Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
poverty by half low poverty
low poverty —
low poverty low poverty
Reduce hunger by
half very low hunger
very low hunger high hunger
GOAL 2 | Achieve universal primary education
schooling high enrolment low enrolment high enrolment high enrolment high enrolment
high enrolment high enrolment high enrolment
GOAL 3 | Promote gender equality and empower women
Equal girls’ enrolment
in primary school close to parity
parity parity close to parity close to parity close to parity parity parity parity
Women’s share of
paid employment low share medium share high share medium share low share low share medium share high share high share high share
Women’s equal representation
GOAL 4 | Reduce child mortality
Reduce mortality of
by two thirds
low mortality low mortality
immunization high coverage low coverage
low coverage high coverage low coverage high coverage high coverage high coverage
GOAL 5 | Improve maternal health
mortality by three
low mortality high mortality
low mortality low mortality
GOAL 6 | Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Halt and reverse
low prevalence low prevalence
Halt and reverse
low risk high risk moderate risk moderate risk moderate risk low risk low risk moderate risk low risk low risk
Halt and reverse
low mortality high mortality
GOAL 7 | Ensure environmental sustainability
Reverse loss of
forests** low forest cover
high forest cover
low forest cover high forest cover high forest cover high forest cover low forest cover
high coverage low coverage
high coverage low coverage high coverage high coverage
Millennium Development Goals: 2007 Progress Chart
Goals and Targets
Northern Sub-Saharan Eastern South-Eastern Southern Western Europe Asia
GOAL 7 | Ensure environmental sustainability (continued)
Improve the lives
GOAL 8 | Develop a global partnership for development
Internet users moderate access very low access moderate access moderate access low access moderate access low access high access moderate access moderate
Compiled by: Statistics Division, UN DESA.
Country experiences in each region may differ significantly from the regional average. For the regional groupings and country data, see http://mdgs.un.org.
Sources: United Nations, based on data and estimates provided by: Food and Agriculture Organization; Inter-Parliamentary Union; International Labour Organization;
Unit; UNESCO; UNICEF; World Health Organization; UNAIDS; UN-Habitat; World Bank – based on statistics available as of June 2007.
The progress chart operates on two levels. The words in each box tell the current rate of compliance with each target.
The colours show the trend, towards meeting the target by 2015 or not. See legend below:
Target already met or very close to being met.
Target is expected to be met by 2015 if prevailing trends
persist, or the problem that this target is designed to
address is not a serious concern in the region.
Target is not expected to be met by 2015.
No progress, or a deterioration or reversal.
* The available data for maternal mortality and malaria do not allow a trend analysis. Progress in the chart has been assessed by the responsible agencies
on the basis of proxy indicators.
** The assessment is based on a new methodology and therefore not comparable with previous assessments.
URBANIZATION AND MDGS
In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population – 3.3 billion people –
will be living in urban areas. This number is expected to swell to almost 5 billion by 2030. In 1800,
only 2% of people lived in cities and towns. In 1950, only 30% of the world population was urban.
Though mega-cities (more than 10 million people) will continue to grow, most people will be living
in cities of 500,000 or fewer. Globally, future population growth will take place in cities, nearly all of it
in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The battle for the Millennium Development Goals to halve extreme poverty by 2015 will be won or
lost in the cities of the developing world.
The Millennium Development Goals 49
50 Everything About the United Nations
Q&A Team Play
When playing as team-mates (2 or more players on a team), team-mates can work together to arrive at an
answer, but must reach a consensus before declaring an answer to the other players.
- What is sustainable development?
- What are the Millennium Development Goals?
- How would you define poverty?
- What is the Kyoto Protocol?
- How have some countries benefitted from globalization?
- What does the United Nations do to reduce poverty?
- What is the World Heritage list?
- What kind of emergency relief did the UN provide to the December 2004 tsunami victims?
Saving the Temples of Nubia
Egypt is the home of many ancient temples and monuments, including those at
Nubia. The construction of the Aswan Dam on the River Nile threatened the existence
of these 5,000-year-old monuments. In 1960, the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNES CO) launched an international campaign
to save them from destruction. But this could be done only by removing the monuments
from the flooded area and taking them to a higher place. This is exactly
what the international experts, brought together by the United Nations, did:
they cut the monuments into blocks and then reassembled them at a safer
place. It took them 20 years of hard work to accomplish this spectacular job.
By 2008 the United Nations placed over 851 cultural, natural and mixed
properties onto its World Heritage List. Such diverse sites as the Pyramids
of Egypt, the Grand Canyon in the United States, and the Taj Mahal of
India are included in the list. Because of their outstanding universal value,
these sites are considered to be mankind’s common heritage. Some 180
nations have signed a treaty agreeing to cooperate and contribute to the
protection of these properties.
UNES CO has helped to protect many such historic monuments in over
80 countries, including the Acropolis in Greece; the Angkor Wat Temple in
Cambodia; Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia and the Borobudur
Shrine in Indonesia.
Some facts about human rights
- In 2007, 113 million school-age children were not in school—97% of
them in developing countries. Of the world’s estimated 854 million
illiterate adults, 544 million are women.
- An estimated 171 million children – of whom 73 million are under
the age of 10 – are working with hazardous chemicals and pesticides
in agriculture, with dangerous machinery or in mines.
- An estimated 8.4 million children are forced into bonded labor,
prostitution, pornography, armed conflict or other illicit activities.
- The UN has successfully negotiated two Optional Protocols to its
1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child—by which States parties
agree to ban the participation of children under 18 in armed
conflict; and agree to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution
and child pornography. Both came into force in early 2002
- Women tend to face higher rates of violence because discrimination
on the basis of gender frequently renders them among the
powerless members of society. Racial discrimination often results
in violence. Women who face discrimination based on both race
and gender are thus doubly at risk of violence.
Four-year old boy on the garbage dump in Sao Paulo.
A group of children are at the International Rescue Committee kindergarden at the Hamadiya internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in Zalingei, West Darfur,
Human Rights 53
What is meant by human rights?
Human rights are those rights which are essential for us to live as human beings. Without
human rights, we cannot fully develop and use our human qualities, our intelligence, our talent
and our spirituality.
The United Nations set a common standard on human rights for all nations when, in 1948,
it adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By this Declaration, Governments
accepted the obligation to ensure that all human beings, rich and poor, strong and weak, male
and female, of all races and religions, are treated equally. The Declaration is not part of binding
international law, but due to widespread acceptance by countries in the world, it has gained
great moral weight.
The UN has also adopted many international
human rights treaties, legally
binding nations to guarantee their
citizens’ social, economic and political
rights. The most important of these
treaties are two International Covenants
— one on economic, social and cultural
rights and the other on civil and political
rights. These treaties, together with
Optional Protocols, are known as the
International Bill of Human Rights.
Which UN body has responsibility for human rights?
The Human Rights Council was established in
June 2006 to replace the Human Rights Commission
which operated from 1946 to 2006.
Unlike the Commission, the new Council is a
subsidiary body of the General Assembly. This
makes it directly accountable to the full membership
of the United Nations. The Council is
the main United Nations forum for dialogue
and cooperation on human rights. It is administered
by the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights.
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United
States, holds a poster-size copy of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. She was one of the authors of the
Declaration in 1948.
Inaugural session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in
Geneva, 19 June 2006.
Every child has the right to:
a name and a
protection from all
forms of violence,
Do children enjoy human rights?
Children enjoy the same rights as adults. However, because they are minors,
they need special protection. The Convention on the Rights of the Child,
adopted in 1989, sets forth the individual rights that any person under 18
years of age requires to develop his or her full potential, free from hunger and
want, neglect and abuse. More countries have ratified the Child Rights Convention
than any other human rights treaty in history – 193 States are Parties
to the Convention as of May 2010.
What other human rights laws and agreements have been
negotiated by the UN?
The United Nations has helped negotiate over 80 human rights treaties and
declarations, dealing with the rights of women, children, disabled persons,
minorities, indigenous people and other vulnerable groups. Together, these
agreements have helped create a “culture of human rights” throughout the
world, proving to be a powerful tool in curbing abuses.
Some human rights conventions :
The Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide
(1948) defines genocide as the committing of certain acts with
the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial
or religious group;
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) holds States responsible
for preventing torture and makes it legally punishable;
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Racial Discrimination (1966) defines racial discrimination as “any
distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour,
descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect
of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on
an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the
political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”,
and obliges States to eliminate racial discrimination;
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (1979) is often described as an international bill
54 Everything About the United Nations
Human Rights 55
of rights for women. It defines discrimination against women as any distinction,
exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex and encourages
governments to take measures to stop discrimination.
The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) defines the rights
of refugees, especially their right not to be forcibly returned to countries
where they are at risk, and makes provisions for various aspects of their
everyday lives, including their right to work, education, public assistance
and social security, as well as their right to travel documents.
Other than adopting international laws, how does the UN protect
The UN promotes respect for human rights in several ways, including:
Monitoring the human rights records of nations. It has set up the Human
Rights Council which has the authority to recommend that the General
Assembly suspend the rights and privileges of any Council Member that
it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of
human rights. This process of suspension would require a two-thirds
majority vote by the General Assembly.
Through its six committees, which may call upon the Governments to
respond to allegations; they may also adopt decisions and make them public,
along with criticisms or recommendations;
Appointing experts known as special rapporteurs or representatives who
gather facts, visit prisons, interview victims, and make recommendations
on how to increase respect for human rights;
Establishing working groups to investigate such issues as arbitrary detention.
When their reports highlight human rights violations, they help to
mobilize international attention;
Providing technical assistance to strengthen national and regional institutions,
such as courts and school systems.
Holding international conferences to discuss human rights issues and ask
Governments to commit themselves publicly on human rights issues.
Who are the special rapporteurs and working groups?
Special rapporteurs and working groups on human rights are on the front lines in
the protection of human rights. They investigate violations and intervene in individual
cases and emergency situations, in what are referred to as “special procedures”.
Human rights experts are independent. They serve in their personal capacity
for a maximum of six years. The number of such experts has grown steadily
over the years. There are currently over 30 special procedure mandates.
In preparing their reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,
these experts use all reliable resources, including individual complaints and infor-
All people have the right to: life,
mation from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A significant portion of their
research is done locally, where they meet both with authorities and victims, and
gather on-site evidence. Their reports are made public to emphasize the responsibility
of Governments for the protection of human rights.
Can individuals complain about violations of their rights?
Yes. Optional protocols to some UN treaties allow individuals to lodge complaints
if the Government in question has ratified the protocols. Under a confidential communications
procedure, allegations of gross and systematic violations of human
rights can also be submitted to the UN if domestic remedies have been exhausted.
There is a Human Rights website to go to if one has human rights complaints or
concerns: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/complaints.htm. The email
Who created the International Criminal Court?
Why do we need such a court?
In 1998, at a conference in Rome, 120 nations agreed to establish
a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC). The court
has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for some of the
most serious offences, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes
against humanity. As of 1 June 2008, 106 countries were partners
to the Rome Statute of the ICC.
There are real needs for such a court. In some countries, in times of conflict, there
may be no courts capable of dealing properly with war crimes. It may also be that
the Government in power is unwilling to prosecute its own citizens, especially if
they are high-ranking officials. The ICC provides a just option in such cases.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples
On 13 December 2007, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration
on the Indigenous Peoples. It is a triumph for justice and human dignity
following more than two decades of negotiations between Governments and Indigenous
The Declaration establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for
the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s Indigenous peoples. It
addresses both individual and collective rights; cultural rights and identity; rights
to education, health, employment, language; and others. It outlaws discrimination
against Indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in
all matters that concern them. The Declaration also ensures their right to remain
distinct and to pursue their own priorities in economic, social and cultural development.
It explicitly encourages harmonious and cooperative relations between
States and Indigenous peoples.
56 Everything About the United Nations
Human Rights 57
Sending Girls to School
Everywhere in the world, girls face discrimination. They often receive less food than boys do and, in
many countries, they work long hours even when they are only 5 or 6 years old. Eighty million girls
aged 6 to 11 do not go to school. The United Nations has adopted a treaty, the Convention on the
Rights of the Child (1989), which asks Governments to spend more money to educate girls. Thanks in
part to the United Nations, today 77 per cent of primary-school-age children are enrolled in school, a
big jump from less than 50 per cent in 1960. This is progress, but a lot remains to be done.
Children who work
Until recently, 12-year-old Leandra Cristina Da
Silva worked hard for a living. Instead of playing
in her backyard or attending school, she
laboured seven days a week, coated with dust
and grime in the filth of the Olinda garbage
dump on the outskirts of the coastal town of
Recife in northern Brazil. Although she lives
close to the sea, with Marcia, her mother, and
her brother and sister, Leandra had never
seen the Atlantic Ocean. Each day for Leandra
was the same: after finishing her chores at
home, she left every morning to work alongside
her mother for 10 hours or more each day, scavenging for cans and bottles to sell.
After an exhausting day at the dump, she returned to a home with no running water
and crawled into a bed that she shared with her mother and two siblings.
Working at the Olinda dump is mind-numbing and dangerous. When the supermarket
truck appears, men, women and children scramble to get the best garbage.
Yet for all the drudgery and hazards, Leandra barely earned the equivalent of $3 a
day selling the collected bottles to a middleman, who makes money exploiting child
workers. It is illegal for children in Brazil to work in such dangerous conditions,
but the pressures of poverty force parents to take risks to feed their families.
Recognizing that education is the best way to fight poverty, the United Nations
Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN International Labour Organization have joined
forces with the Brazilian Government to open new doors for children, putting them
back in school where they belong. The Bolsa Escola (“School Scholarship”) programme
makes cash and in-kind grants to families to replace the income children bring in.
Though Leandra was proud to help her family, she longed to go to school. Her
mother, Marcia, had worked all her life and did not get any schooling. She did not
really understand the bolsa and did not believe it would replace the money her
daughter earned at the dump to help support the family. But then one day, good
fortune smiled on Leandra. With the help of UNICEF Project Officer Ana Maria
Azevedo and Susan Sarandon, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Leandra was awarded
a bolsa. She was thrilled to make a new start.
Adapted from: UN Works
58 Everything About the United Nations
Helping the victims of torture
The police arrived in the middle of the night. They fired tear gas, kicked down the door and began
assaulting the people in the house. A small group of people had gathered to mourn the death of
a 15-year-old boy who had died in police custody. Everyone in the house, including three boys
between the ages of 11 and 15, was forced into police vans.
The event described above is just an illustration of torture by the State, still practiced in many
countries. The United Nations wants this to stop.
In 1984 the UN adopted the Convention against Torture. A 10-member Committee against Torture
periodically examines reports from countries that have ratified the Convention. The UN has also
set up a voluntary fund for victims of torture. It provides humanitarian, legal and financial assistance
to torture victims and their children.
The UN fights apartheid:
a crime against humanity
Apartheid, in the Afrikaans language of South Africa, means
separateness. South Africa, though 80 per cent of its people
are black, had long been ruled by the country’s tiny white
minority. They imposed the policy of apartheid, racially segregating
the country and depriving the black population of
the very basic human rights. The United Nations, condemning
apartheid as a “crime against humanity”, carried out a
sustained campaign against this policy for more than three
decades. Apartheid finally ended in April 1994 after the United
Nations assisted in and supervised the holding of the country’s first free and multiracial election. Nelson
Mandela, speaking before the United Nations (left), who was jailed for decades by the apartheid regime,
became the first President of a new, racially-integrated South Africa.
Q&A Team Play
When playing as team-mates (2 or more players on a team), team-mates can work together to arrive at an
answer, but must reach a consensus before declaring an answer to the other players.
- What are human rights?
- When was the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted? What does it entail?
- Which UN body has primary responsibility for human rights?
- Other than adopting international laws, how does the UN protect human rights?
- What is the function of a special rapporteur?
- What does apartheid mean?
- What does the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples say?
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions 61
Frequently asked questions
How can individuals support the UN? Can they join the Organization as members?
No, only independent countries with international recognition can become members of the UN.
However, individuals can support the work of the United Nations through international and
local non-governmental organizations. Some of them collaborate with the UN Department of
Public Information and provide the UN with valuable links to people around the world.
For more information:
There are United Nations Associations (UNA-USA and WFUNA) in more than 100 countries,
often with many local chapters. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has national committees in
many countries, spreading awareness about UNICEF’s programmes and raising the funds to help
make them a reality. Some 3,600 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization
(UNESCO) clubs, centres and associations (associated with UNESCO) in over 90 countries
undertake activities in the areas of education, science, culture and communication. Major contact
points are the UN information centres and services all over the world.
If you have a skill in such fields as agriculture, medicine, education, information technology, vocational
training, the promotion of human rights, industry and population – as well as the necessary
flexibility and commitment – the UN Volunteers (UNV) programme may place you, for a one- to
two-year period, with an appropriate UN development project in a developing country.
Contact UN Volunteers, P.O. Box 260111, D-53153, Bonn, Germany • Tel: 49 (228) 815-2000;
Fax: 49 (228) 815-2001 • Email:
I want to continue my studies at a foreign university. Can the UN provide me with
The United Nations does not provide financial assistance to students. You can find some information
about scholarships offered by higher education institutions and international organizations
in a guide published by UNESCO, entitled “Study Abroad”. To purchase a copy of the
Study Abroad catalogue, please write to: UNESCO Publishing, Promotion and Sales Division,
1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris Cedex 15 (France) or order on-line at:
Does the UN accept student interns?
The United Nations offers an unpaid internship programme for graduate students only at its New
York Headquarters. It consists of three two-month periods throughout the year. For more information
62 Everything About the United Nations
Where can I get information about a UN Member country’s position on various
You can obtain such information from the Permanent Mission to the United Nations of the
country concerned. The list of websites for the Member States can be found at:
What is United Nations Day?
It is the birthday of the United Nations. It falls on 24 October, the day that the Organization
came into being in 1945 after a majority of its original Members formally accepted their
membership by agreeing to the Charter of the United Nations. Thus, 24 October is celebrated
all over the world as United Nations Day.
Is information about the UN available through the Internet?
The UN has its own home page at
Is there anything on the UN webite designed especially
for young people?
The United Nations CyberSchoolBus has been set up to provide
materials about the Organization for children and teachers.
Does the UN have an anthem?
The UN does not have an official anthem or hymn. The General
Assembly recognized the need for an official song and reserved the
right to select and adopt one. So far, no decision has been taken.
In 1970, Maestro Pablo Casals of Spain set music to a hymn written
in honour of the UN by English poet W. H. Auden. This hymn was
performed on UN Day in 1971 at UN Headquarters.
Where can I write for more information about the
You can write to:
Visitors Services, Department of Public Information,
GA-57, United Nations, New York, NY 10017, USA.
Phone: (212) 963-4475
Fax: (212) 963-0071
Maestro Pablo Casals of Spain conducting
the premiere of his “Hymn to the United
Nations” at UN Headquarters,
24 October 1971.
What are some of the special days celebrated by the United Nations?
27 January International Day of Commemoration in Memory of
the Victims of the Holocaust
8 March International Women’s Day
21 March International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
25 March International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery
and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
7 April World Health Day
3 May World Press Freedom Day
15 May International Day of Families
21 May World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
29 May International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers
31 May World No-Tobacco Day
5 June World Environment Day
20 June World Refugee Day
26 June International Day against Drug Abuse
11 July World Population Day
9 August International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
8 September International Literacy Day
21 September International Day of Peace
1 October International Day of Older Persons
2 October International Day of Non-Violence
17 October International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
24 October United Nations Day
16 November International Day of Tolerance
20 November Universal Children’s Day
25 November International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
29 November International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
1 December World AIDS Day
3 December International Day of Disabled Persons
9 December International Anti-Corruption Day
10 December Human Rights Day
18 December International Migrant’s Day
Frequently asked questions 63
64 Everything About the United Nations
Did You Know?
NN Since 1945, the UN has assisted in negotiating more than
170 peace settlements that have ended regional conflicts.
NN The United Nations played a role in bringing about
independence in more than 80 countries that are now
NN Over 500 multinational treaties – on human rights, terrorism,
international crime, refugees, disarmament, commodities and
the oceans – have been enacted through the efforts of the
NN The World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian
agency, reaches on average 90 million hungry people in
80 countries every year.
NN An estimated 90 per cent of global conflict-related deaths
since 1990 have been civilians, and 80 percent of these have
been women and children.
NN If each poor person on the planet had the same energy-rich
lifestyle as an average person in Germany or the United
Kingdom, four planets would be needed to safely cope with
the pollution. That figure rises to nine planets when compared
with the average of the United States or Canada.
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