11 through 20

11 Promoting women’s rights

A long-term objective of the United Nations has been to improve the lives of women and empower them to have greater control over their lives. The UN organized the first-ever World Conference on Women (Mexico City, 1975), which, together with two World Conferences during the UN Decade for Women (1976-1985) and the World Conference in Beijing (1995), set the agenda for advancing women’s rights and promoting gender equality. The 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by 185 countries, has helped to promote the rights of women worldwide.

12 Prosecuting war criminals

By prosecuting and convicting war criminals, the UN tribunals established for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda have helped to expand international humanitarian and international criminal law dealing with genocide and other violations of international law. Both tribunals have contributed to restoring peace and justice in the affected countries and in the region. The International Criminal Court is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious international crimes — genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes — if national authorities are unwilling or unable to do so. Situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Uganda, Sudan’s Darfur region and the Central African Republic have been referred to the Court, which has already established itself as the centrepiece of the system of international criminal justice. UN-backed courts in Sierra Leone and Cambodia are prosecuting those responsible for serious violations of international law, including mass killings and war crimes.

13 Ending apartheid in South Africa

By imposing measures ranging from an arms embargo to a convention against segregated sporting events, the United Nations was a major factor in bringing about the downfall of the apartheid system. In 1994, elections in which all South Africans were allowed to participate on an equal basis led to the establishment of a multiracial Government.

14 Promoting self-determination and independence

When the United Nations was established in 1945, 750 million people — almost a third of the world population — lived in non-self-governing territories dependent on colonial powers. The UN played a role in bringing about the independence of more than 80 countries that are now sovereign nations.

15 Strengthening international law

Over 510 multilateral treaties — on human rights, terrorism, global crime, refugees, disarmament, trade, commodities, the oceans and many other matters — have been negotiated and concluded through the efforts of the United Nations.

16 Providing humanitarian aid to refugees

More than 50 million refugees fleeing persecution, violence and war have received aid from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since 1951, in a continuing effort that often involves other agencies. UNHCR seeks long-term or “durable” solutions by helping refugees repatriate to their homelands, if conditions warrant, or by helping them to integrate in their countries of asylum or to resettle in third countries. There are more than 25 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, mostly women and children, who are receiving food, shelter, medical aid, education and repatriation assistance from the UN.

17 Aiding Palestine refugees

As the global community strives for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a relief and human development agency, has assisted four generations of Palestinian refugees with education, health care, social services, microfinance and emergency aid. Today, 4.4 million refugees in the Middle East are registered with UNRWA.

18 Alleviating rural poverty in developing countries

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) provides low-interest loans and grants to very poor rural people. Since 1978, IFAD has invested more than $10 billion, helping more than 300 million women and men increase their incomes and provide for their families. Today, IFAD supports more than 200 programmes and projects in 81 developing countries.

19 Promoting women’s well-being

The United Nations has helped to promote women’s equality and well-being. The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) supports programmes in more than 100 countries that seek to eliminate violence against women, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, support women’s political participation and promote their economic security — for instance, by increasing their access to work and their rights to land and inheritance. The International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) helps to improve women’s quality of life and promote women’s rights by carrying out action-oriented research and capacity-building on security, migration and governance. All UN agencies must take into account the needs of women.

20 Promoting reproductive and maternal health

By promoting the right of individuals to make their own decisions on the number, spacing and timing of their children through voluntary family planning programmes, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has helped people to make informed choices and given families, especially women, greater control over their lives. As a result, women in developing countries are having fewer children—from six in the 1960s to three today—slowing world population growth. Fewer unintended pregnancies also means less maternal death and fewer unsafe abortions. When UNFPA started work in 1969, under 20 per cent of couples practiced family planning; the number now stands at about 63 per cent. UNFPA and several partners also help to provide skilled assistance during childbirth and access to emergency obstetrical care to reduce maternal deaths. UNFPA supports safe motherhood initiatives in about 90 countries.