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1 Maintaining peace and security

By sending 63 peacekeeping and observer missions to the world’s trouble spots over the past 60 years, the United Nations has been able to restore calm, allowing many countries to recover from conflict. There are now 17 peacekeeping operations around the world, carried out by some 88,500 brave men and women from 119 countries who go where others can’t or won’t go.

2 Making peace

Since the 1990s, many conflicts have been brought to an end either through UN mediation or the action of third parties acting with UN support. The list includes El Salvador, Guatemala, Namibia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Burundi and the north-south conflict in Sudan. Research credits UN peacemaking, peacekeeping and conflict prevention activities as a major factor behind a 40-per cent decline in conflict around the world since the 1990s. UN preventive diplomacy and other forms of preventive action have defused many potential conflicts. In addition, UN peace missions in the field address post-conflict situations and carry out peacebuilding measures.

3 Preventing nuclear proliferation

For over five decades, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has served as the world’s nuclear inspector. IAEA experts work to verify that safeguarded nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes. To date, the Agency has safeguards agreements with 163 States.

4 Promoting development

The United Nations has devoted its attention and resources to promoting living standards and human skills and potential throughout the world. Since 2000, this work has been guided by the Millennium Development Goals. Virtually all funds for UN development assistance come from contributions donated by countries. For instance, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), with staff in 166 countries, supports projects to reduce poverty, promote good governance, address crises and preserve the environment. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 155 countries, primarily on child protection, immunization, girls’ education and fighting HIV/AIDS. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) helps developing countries make the most of their trade opportunities. The World Bank provides developing countries with loans and grants, and has supported more than 10,000 development projects since 1947.

5 Focusing on African development

Africa continues to be a high priority for the United Nations. In 2001, African Heads of State adopted the continent’s own plan, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, which was endorsed by the General Assembly in 2002 as the main framework for channelling international
support to Africa. The continent receives 38 per cent of UN system expenditures for development, the largest share among the world’s regions. All UN agencies have special programmes to benefit Africa.

6 Seeking a global solution to climate change

Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. The United Nations has been at the forefront in assessing the science and forging a political solution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which brings together 2,000 leading climate change scientists, issues comprehensive scientific assessments every five or six years: in 2007, it concluded with certainty that climate change was occurring and that human activities were a primary cause. The 192 members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are negotiating a long-term agreement that would both guide countries in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change and help countries adapt to its effects. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and other UN agencies have been at the forefront in raising awareness.

7 Helping countries to cope with climate change

The UN helps developing countries to respond to the challenges of global climate change. Twenty-seven UN agencies have formed a partnership to deal comprehensively with the problem. For instance, the Global Environment Facility, which brings together the UN Development Programme, the UN Environment Programme and the World Bank, funds projects in developing countries. As the financial mechanism of the Climate Convention, it allocates about $250 million per year in projects on energy efficiency, renewable energies and sustainable transportation.

8 Protecting the environment

The United Nations is working to solve global environmental problems. As an international forum for building consensus and negotiating agreements, the UN is tackling global problems like climate change, ozone layer depletion, toxic waste, loss of forests and species, and air and water pollution. Unless these problems are addressed, markets and economies will not be sustainable in the long term, as environmental losses are depleting the natural “capital” on which growth and human survival are based.

9 Promoting human rights

Since the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the United Nations has helped to enact dozens of comprehensive agreements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. By investigating individual complaints, the UN human rights bodies have focused world attention on cases of torture, disappearance, arbitrary detention and other human rights violations, and have generated international pressure on Governments to improve their human rights records.

10 Promoting democracy

The United Nations promotes and strengthens democratic institutions and practices around the world, including by helping people in many countries to participate in free and fair elections.
The UN has provided electoral advice and assistance, and in some cases election monitors, to more than 100 countries, often at decisive moments in their history, such as Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique, South Africa, Timor Leste, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nepal.