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The Human Rights Council adopts its 2020 agenda

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN system, based in Geneva. It is made up of 47 States and can discuss all human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It is meeting to adopt its programme of work for the year and to select country rapporteurs for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in 2020. One of the main features of the Council, the UPR asks States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. 

A wide view of the Human Rights Council in session (2019).
Photo:UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
A wide range of human rights activists have been targeted in Colombia, especially those living in rural areas.

Colombia: ‘Staggering number’ of human rights defenders killed in 2019

14 January 2020 — The UN human rights office, OHCHR, is “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia” last year, its spokesperson said on Tuesday.

‘No shortcuts to a healthier world’: WHO chief sets out health priorities for the decade

13 January 2020 — The head of the UN health agency, WHO, has set out his urgent global health challenges for the next ten years – designated the “Decade of Action” by the UN General Assembly” –...

Colombia: ‘Significant strides’ towards integrated peace, UN envoy tells Security Council

13 January 2020 — Colombia has continued to make “significant strides in its peace process”, the top UN envoy in the country told the Security Council on Monday.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

17 Goals to transform our world

The Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action by all countries — poor, rich and middle-income — to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.


The ActNow Climate Campaign aims to trigger individual action on the defining issue of our time. People around the world will be engaged to make a difference in all facets of their lives, from the food they eat to the clothes they wear.

Thomas the Tank engine

Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals! On our student resources page you will find plenty of materials for young people and adults alike. Share with your family and friends to help achieve a better world for all.

children holding up books

Reading and learning are essential to children’s growth and development; stories can fuel their imagination and raise awareness of new possibilities. The SDG Book Club aims to encourage them to learn about the Goals in a fun, engaging way, empowering them to make a difference.

Icons of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. Today, progress is being made in many places, but, overall, action to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. 2020 needs to usher in a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Goals by 2030. 

More from the
United Nations

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

Signing of the Chemical Weapons treaty in Paris in 1993.

UN in History: Chemical Weapons Convention signed

The history of the serious efforts to achieve chemical disarmament that culminated in the conclusion of the Chemical Weapons Convention began more than a century ago. Chemical Weapons were used on a massive scale during World War I, resulting in more than 100,000 fatalities and a million casualties. Adopted in 1993, the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force on 29 April 1997. It determined, “for the sake of all mankind, to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons.” The States Parties to this Convention established the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Today, the OPCW Member States represent about 98% of the global population and landmass, as well as 98% of the worldwide chemical industry.

Firefighters in Australia. Photo by NSW Rural Fire Services

Governments, smart data and wildfires: where are we at?

The ongoing bushfires in Australia have focused media attention on wildfires more generally and their link to biodiversity and habitat loss, as well as global heating. We take a look at the some of the different types of wildfires, assess their impact and what is causing them, and why accurate, real-time data is so important for wise action to curb them. We need to better understand the different drivers of wildfires and be able to prioritize which wildfires cause the most environmental damage. “The trick is to marshal the relevant data to make it useful to governments and that’s where platforms like the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) World Environment Situation Room can help,” says Pascal Peduzzi, Director of UNEP’s Global Resource Information Database in Geneva.

Venezuelans Osmar and Valeria at the ceremony marking the end of their participation in a training program aimed at giving them the skills to provide for themselves in their new home, Ecuador.

Innovative programme helps lift Venezuelan refugees out of poverty

On graduation day, proud parents Osmar and Valeria beamed with pride. But this very special graduation honoured the accomplishments not only of the couple’s two school-age children, but rather of the whole family, marking their completion of a programme aimed at helping lift refugees out of extreme poverty and giving them the tools to rebuild their lives.“They trained us in entrepreneurship, and we also took a class about how to manage our finances,” said Valeria, a 32-year-old former hairdresser from Venezuela, who opened her own event planning business after fleeing to Ecuador. After receiving accommodation assistance from UNHCR and its partner in Ecuador, the family was selected to participate in a refugee integration and poverty prevention programme known as the Graduation Model.

Five New Year resolutions with a green twist

As you make your New Year’s resolutions, keep the environment in mind. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. UNEP’s change-maker community is happy to lead the way. Read on for inspiration, so that you can kick off 2020 as a more sustainable global citizen!

Infographic: Human Rights of Women

Women are entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of all of their human rights and to be free from all forms of discrimination. See the full infographic on the various aspects of women's human rights, prepared by UN Women.

A recipe for sound debt management

The role of a debt manager is similar to that of a baker, who is asked to prepare a pie: he or she can choose to add sugar and fat to please the customer, or figure out the right mix of the ingredients to deliver a healthy, but still tasty pie. 

I am Generation Equality: Francy Jaramillo Piedrahita

Francy L. Jaramillo Piedrahita is a human rights defender with over a decade of experience working on women’s rights, LGBTQ issues and peacebuilding in Colombia. Read her story.

Voluntary returnees wave as the boat carrying them back to the Central African Republic leaves Zongo port in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 21 November.

A joyous return for Central African refugees after years in exile

It was as joyous a boat trip as they will ever take. The passengers sang cheerfully from the moment the launch left the dock in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They were refugees, 200 of them returning home across the Oubangui River, to the Central African Republic, or CAR, for the first time in six years. They had fled violence and upsurges of civil conflict that erupted in 2013. Now, thanks to a voluntary repatriation agreement signed in July between the governments of the two countries and UNHCR, they were going back. 

Three women sifting through produce.

Latin America and the Caribbean: a laboratory for climate action

From hurricanes pounding islands to drought destroying crops across Central America, and erratic rain patterns affecting the livelihoods of indigenous communities living on Andean slopes, climate-related challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean are as diverse as are the region’s landscapes. Climate change is exacerbating many of these, with higher temperatures, delayed rainy seasons, rainfall irregularity, and increasingly frequent and extreme weather events. The World Food Programme is implementing an array of measures to face up to the region’s challenges.

A woman looks at a poster in an opening to an exhibition titled "Planet or Plastic?"

The circular economy solution to marine plastic litter

Around 80% of the total plastic in the oceans comes from the land. Land-based plastic pollution is caused primarily by inappropriate management of waste of plastic packaging and short-lived products (single and multilayer food and beverage containers; cleaning and personal care product containers; food wrapping and trays; single-use cutlery; synthetic textiles and clothing; and so on). One way to approach the challenge is by transitioning to a circular economy, where the crucial concept is the designing out of waste, rather than trying to deal with waste at the end of the product’s life.

Smiling young woman

Decent Jobs for Youth

Decent Jobs for Youth is the global initiative to scale up action and impact on youth employment in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This platform is a hub for catalyzing partnerships, collaboration and coordinated action grounded in evidence-based strategies. ILO and its partners' vision is a world in which young women and men everywhere have greater access to decent jobs.

What we do

Due to the powers vested in its Charter and its unique international character, the United Nations can take action on the issues confronting humanity in the 21st century, including:

Structure of the
United Nations

The main parts of the UN structure are the General Assembly, the
Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat. All were established in 1945 when the UN was founded.

The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. All 193 Member States of the UN are represented in the General Assembly, making it the only UN body with universal representation.

The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the UN Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 Members (5 permanent and 10 non-permanent members). Each Member has one vote. Under the Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.

The Economic and Social Council is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals.

The Trusteeship Council was established in 1945 by the UN Charter, under Chapter XIII, to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories that had been placed under the administration of seven Member States, and ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self-government and independence.

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its seat is at the Peace Palace in the Hague (Netherlands). It is the only one of the six principal organs of the United Nations not located in New York (United States of America).

The Secretariat comprises the Secretary-General and tens of thousands of international UN staff members who carry out the day-to-day work of the UN as mandated by the General Assembly and the Organization's other principal organs.

Learn more

The Middelgrunden Off Shore Windturbines located in the Øresund Straight separating Denmark and Sweden. UN Photo

Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society.

Women at UN CSW63 Side Event - “Take the Hot Seat”. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential. Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is greeted on his visit to the Central African Republic

While global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000, one in ten people in developing regions still lives on less than US$1.90 a day — the internationally agreed poverty line, and millions of others live on slightly more than this daily amount.

young children smiling at camera

In 2020, the United Nations turns 75. UN75 aims to build a global vision for the year 2045, the UN's centenary; to increase understanding of the threats to that future; and to drive collective action to realize that vision.  #Join the Conversation #Be the Change

Did you know?

As the world’s only truly universal global organization, the United Nations has become the foremost forum to address issues that transcend national boundaries and cannot be resolved by any one country acting alone.

Watch and Listen

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

Go.Data is the latest innovation in outbreak investigation tools developed by the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). In order to control an outbreak of infectious disease, it is important to identify rapidly the transmission pathways of the disease and intervene quickly to ensure that the disease doesn’t spread further. Go.Data enables real time data collection, sharing and analysis helping outbreak responders to identify the most effective life-saving interventions rapidly.

How Technology Can Help Build Resilient Communities

Mobile phones, satellite mapping, and other technologies can help the world better prepare for – and respond to – disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and landslides. Watch the video to learn how cities and communities in developing countries are building climate and disaster resilience with the help of technology. Learn more about the World Bank Group’s Global Tech Challenge on resilience.

The state of our world

The world economy has barely had the time to recover from a string of shocks that began with the 2007 financial crisis, and we can already see another global slowdown looming large.

UN Podcasts

UNcomplicated hosts, Sinduja Srinivasan and Jason DeWall, celebrate a milestone year for the UN, as it turns 75 and talk to Fabrizio Hochschild.

UNcomplicated: The UN turns 75

For their first podcast of 2020, Sinduja Srinivasan and Jason DeWall, hosts of UNcomplicated, celebrate a milestone year for the UN as it turns 75.

They’ve been talking to Fabrizio Hochschild, who’s leading the world body’s birthday mission, to listen to the concerns of a new generation of global citizens, and keep the UN relevant in the decades ahead.

Music credits: 'The Veil', by the band Signal and Report, written by Chris Hall and Noah Miller; plus their track, 'Abbey Minor'.

More UN podcasts

Live Now

United Nations meetings, events, and press conferences live and on demand

The United Nations in Pictures

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

Safa, a young woman with a disability, looks at her reflection in a mirror with pride.

Building Social Bonds, Improving Lives

“I am not a failure! I am a girl, like all girls. I have a right to study, to work, to achieve my ambitions, and to live in peace!.” Despite the social barriers she had to face while growing up with a disability, Safa determined to realize her dreams: become an actor. Art Theatre Troupe, funded by UNDP, provided her with the right opportunity. Read about this and other stories on "Building social bonds in Jordan."

A teenage boy walks through water carrying a spear gun as he searches for fish in Timor-Leste.

UNICEF: A Year in Photos

Pictured is a teenage boy walking through water, carrying a spear gun, searching for fish in Timor-Leste. UNICEF editors sorted through the photography archive of 2019 and selected some of the most moving, striking, and inspiring images from its work with children around the world. The collection is a mere fraction of the countless moments and issues that shaped 2019 across more than 190 countries and territories.

Portrait photo of Mivtar and his daughter, Lirije, who were among people left stateless by the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Photo:UNHCR/Roger Arnold

Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

Mivtar and his daughter, Lirije, were among people left stateless by the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. A programme by the Republic of North Macedonia allowed children like Lirije to obtain birth certificates and attend school. According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, North Macedonia’s accession to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness is an important step in global efforts to end statelessness. This brings the total number of State parties to the Convention to 75.

Elias’s daughter holds a plate of cicadas. In the background we see many children sitting on the ground, leaning against a wall.
Photo:WFP/Matteo Cosorich

Eating Insects and Praying for Rain

Elias Shamba’s daughter holds a plate of cicadas which the family eats when WFP food has run out. Zimbabwe is gripped by hunger. In 2019, for the third consecutive year, Zimbabwe experienced drought, the worst seen in 40 years. Elias, and others, receive food as part of a WFP program designed to help farmers deal with drought and climate change. When assistance runs out, some take extraordinary measures to feed themselves.