Human Rights

Human Rights – the basis for equality and inclusion

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. Since its inception, the UN maintains human rights as one of its three pillars, in addition to peace and security and sustainable development. Read more about human rights as a cross-cutting theme in the Organization’s work.

The Human Rights section of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) supports programmes for persons with disabilities.
Photo:UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti
Healthcare workers at a hospital in New York move a patient who died from COVID-19 towards the beginning of the pandemic in the US, in April 2020.

As COVID deaths pass two million worldwide, Guterres warns against self-defeating ‘vaccinationalism'

15 January 2021 — With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the...

Pandemic curbs trend towards ever-increasing migration

15 January 2021 — Travel restrictions and other curbs to movement put in place in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, have put a significant dent in migration figures, but the overall trend shows...

Four UN peacekeepers killed, five wounded in attack in Mali

14 January 2021 — Four United Nations peacekeepers in Mali were killed and five others wounded in an attack by unidentified armed elements on Wednesday, the UN mission in the country has said. ...

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.

Act Now

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

Decade of Action

With just 10 years to go, an ambitious global effort is underway to deliver the 2030 promise—by mobilizing more governments, civil society, businesses and calling on all people to make the Global Goals their own.

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.

Icons of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face. Find out more and learn how they are all connected.

More from the
United Nations

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

man working at computer and woman at sewing machine

Homeworkers need to be better protected

Those working from home, whose number has greatly increased due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, need better protection, says the International Labour Organization (ILO) in a new report. Since homeworking occurs in the private sphere it is often “invisible.” In low- and middle-income countries for instance, almost all home-based workers (90 per cent) work informally. 
They are usually worse off than those who work outside the home, even in higher-skilled professions. In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 an estimated one-in-five workers found themselves working from home. 

child studying on a bed

Children cannot afford another year of school disruption

UNICEF's Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, has issued a statement underlining the importance of keeping schools open or prioritizing them in reopening plans: “Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, too many countries have opted to keep schools closed, some for nearly a year. The cost of closing schools – which at the peak of pandemic lockdowns affected 90 per cent of students worldwide and left more than a third of schoolchildren with no access to remote education – has been devastating."

medical worker with vaccine vials

Global Ebola vaccine stockpile announced

The effort to establish the stockpile was led by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The stockpile will allow countries, with the support of humanitarian organizations, to contain future Ebola epidemics by ensuring timely access to vaccines for populations at risk during outbreaks. UNICEF manages the stockpile on behalf of the ICG.

Creative economy to have its year in the sun

After a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns, there couldn’t be a better time to appreciate the creative economy. The United Nations is doing just this as it marks 2021 as the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

The plan to map every coral reef on Earth – from space

To better understand the mysteries of the world’s oceans, a team of scientists is using satellite imaging to map out, in unprecedented detail, one of the planet’s most iconic underwater ecosystems: the shallow coral reef.

Five things to know about desalination

More and more people in water-scarce countries rely on desalinated water for drinking, cooking and washing. Here are five things to know about desalination.

Gorillas test positive for COVID-19

Primatologists around the world are closely monitoring the disease in the infected San Diego gorillas. UNESCO has alerted managers of its biosphere reserves and world heritage sites.

clay hands united in a rainbow heart

UNAIDS calls for the LGBT community in Uganda to be treated with respect and dignity

UNAIDS is concerned that the vilification of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Uganda could lead to heightened violence, stigma and discrimination against them and reduce their access to HIV and other essential services. In a recent media interview, the President, Yoweri Museveni, described being LGBT as a “deviation”. “Using offensive language that describes LGBT people as “deviant” is simply wrong,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. 

crops in shallow pits

To “green” the Sahel, we need big plans and small actions

IFAD has been working with farmers in Africa to fight back against desertification since the 1980s and has evidence that community-focused efforts can reap big dividends. In the Tahoua region of south-western Niger, IFAD encouraged farmers in the area to plant their crops in shallow pits or in half-moons – water catchments made by creating raised semi-circular barriers of soil on sloped land. During the project’s eight years of operation, nearly 6,000 hectares of severely degraded land was restored.

Three women tossing grain from dishes.

World Bank to invest in rehabilitation of drylands

The World Bank plans to invest over $5 billion over the next five years to help restore degraded landscapes, improve agriculture productivity, and promote livelihoods across 11 African countries on a swathe of land stretching from Senegal to Djibouti. World Bank Group President David Malpass announced the investment at the One Planet Summit: “This investment, which comes at a crucial time, will help improve livelihoods as countries recover from COVID-19 while also dealing with the impact of both biodiversity loss and climate change on their people and economies.”

lab scientist at work

150th member joins the fight against neglected tropical diseases, malaria and TB

Colombia's venerable University of Antioquia joined the flagship WIPO public-private partnership. WIPO and the U.S.-based BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) established WIPO Re:Search in 2011 to accelerate early-stage research and development (R&D) for NTDs, malaria and TB. This is achieved through the sharing of intellectual property (IP) among the global health research community on a royalty-free basis. The target diseases affect some 2 billion people globally, disproportionally striking the world's most vulnerable individuals.

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.

In January 2020, the UN launched a yearlong, global initiative to listen to people’s priorities and expectations of international cooperation. Through surveys and dialogues, over 1.5 million people from all walks of life shared their hopes and fears for the future, and discussed how all actors, including the UN, can innovate and work together to better to address the global challenges we face. The world spoke. The UN listened. Now, it’s time to act.

2020: Year in Review

UNDP calls on us to unite as a global community, with the Sustainable Development Goals as our guide, and recommit to help every country recover justly and fairly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three factors help you make safer choices during COVID-19

Check out this animation and see how location, proximity and time can help you make safer choices when you're in an area of widespread COVID-19 transmission. Visit WHO for more information.

UN Podcasts

Boy in a rice field laughing while others tend to the field.

State of the Planet: Natural ways to cope with climate change

What progress is the world making in adapting to the changing climate? And can nature itself provide the answers? UN News presents the first episode of UNEP’s State of the Planet podcast.

Host Tim Albone speaks to Valerie Kapos, head of the Climate Change & Biodiversity Programme of the UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre. She and her team look at the role of “nature-based solutions”, which involve maintaining and restoring ecosystems such as mangrove forests, which provide protection against rising sea levels and extreme weather.

Tim and Ms. Kapos discuss the findings of the latest UNEP Adaptation Gap report, which details the scale of the gulf between countries’ ambitions in adapting to the crisis, and what they are doing in practice.

Latest Audio from UN News

The United Nations in Pictures

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

Man walks along the edge of a wooden boat.
Photo:© IOM 2020 / Alessandro Lira

Returnees in The Gambia Rebuild Their Lives

On 4 December 2019, at least 62 Gambians perished in a tragic shipwreck off the coast of Mauritania. One year later, IOM remembers and pays tribute to them, while shedding light on the stories of those who survived the tragedy. As the affected communities begin to heal, they have not been spared by COVID-19’s impact on livelihoods. Public health measures, such as restricted market hours and school closures, have made life more difficult, the survivors say. Enhancing community-based psychosocial support has since been a key focus of IOM’s work in the affected communities. 

A smiling woman holds up the cutest baby.
Photo:WFP/Arete/Damilola Onafuwa

WFP emergencies chief calls for funds to avert famine

Famine seems to be the hardest word—an outcome no one working to end hunger wants, not least Margot van der Velden, Head of Emergencies at the WFP. She is very concerned about the increasing number of hungry people in the world today. According to figures released in December, there are currently 151 million people facing acute hunger, including 31 million at severe risk across 40 countries. As ever, the key culprit is conflict - fighting between warring parties cuts off humanitarian access to communities. What results is low food intake, high rates of acute malnutrition. 

Mom holds baby as a nurse vaccinates her in the arm.

Measles explained: What’s behind the recent outbreaks?

Measles cases are reaching alarming rates across the world.  According to the latest estimates, measles cases more than doubled in 2018 compared to 2017. And while data for 2019 is not yet available, provisional reporting shows that there were 690,000 cases in the first 11 months in 2019 – up more than 200 per cent from the same period last year. Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of getting measles and suffering complications, including death. So what is measles? UNICEF explains everything you need to know.

Hands shaping a donut, called picaron, on top of a deep-frying pan.
Photo:UNDP Peru/Jasmin Ramirez Romero

Enabling entrepreneurs in Peru

Entrepreneurship has always implied risk, and even more so in a pandemic. When COVID-19 coronavirus paralyzed Peru, most companies turned to their savings to sustain themselves during what initially was thought to be a two-week quarantine. During April, May and June, more than six million jobs were lost throughout the country. Small businesses, which represent 85 percent of formal employment, were hardest hit. UNDP worked together with the private sector, civil society, and the Peruvian government to respond to the emergency.