What’s Happening at the UN

Results from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban

After extended negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, the 194 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed on a package of decisions, known as the Durban Platform, which include the launch of a protocol or legal instrument that would apply to all members, a second commitment period for the existing Kyoto Protocol and the launch of the Green Climate Fund.

UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Convenes in Doha, Qatar

More than 2,000 participants, including political and corporate leaders, civil society activists and faith communities gathered at the UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum (UNAOC) to discuss how to improve relations across cultures, combat prejudice and build lasting peace.

Elections in Cote d’Ivoire

After post-presidential election disputes spiraled into violence one year ago, legislative elections recently completed in Cote d’Ivoire with little violence. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Ivorian political parties and candidates to continue to act peacefully as counting gets under way in polls to elect the 225 members of their country’s National Assembly. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Ban said the election marked “an important step towards the full restoration of constitutional order in Côte d’Ivoire, and should contribute to national reconciliation in the country.”

Sanctions Passed Against Eritrea

The UN Security Council recently passed a resolution toughening sanctions against Eritrea after East African governments accused the state of plotting terrorist attacks and supporting rebel groups. The action, passed with 13 votes in favor and two abstentions, allows the council to increase the number of individuals and entities that can be hit with a travel ban and assets freeze. The resolution demands that Eritrea "cease all direct or indirect efforts to destabilize states, including through financial, military, intelligence, and non-military assistance."

Advancing Human Rights through the UN

Human Rights Council Holds Special Session on Syria

In early December, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) held a special session on Syria to discuss a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry, which noted that the Syrian forces had committed “crimes against humanity.” The HRC adopted a resolution, cosponsored by the U.S., which: condemned the Assad regime for these abuses; called upon the Syrian government to end attacks on civilians, release political prisoners, and allow humanitarian agencies access to regions affected by violence; and established a Special Rapporteur to further monitor the human rights situation in the country. Additionally, the Security Council issued a statement condemning the violence in Syria, following the December 23 twin suicide attacks, but has not passed a resolution on Syria.

UN Releases Historic Report on LGBT Rights

The UN released its first ever report on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, which details how people are killed or otherwise endure hate-motivated violence, torture, detention, criminalization and discrimination in jobs, health care and education worldwide because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The report outlines “a pattern of human rights violations… that demands a response,” and calls on countries to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality, abolish the death penalty for offenses involving consensual sexual relations, harmonize the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual conduct, and enact comprehensive anti-discrimination laws.

New Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

Fatou Bensouda of Gambia was elected in December as the new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bensouda has served as the ICC's deputy prosecutor since 2004 and was previously the senior legal adviser at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which prosecutes those most responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Bensouda is the first African to hold the high-profile post at the ICC, which many African leaders have criticized as unfairly focusing on the continent since all of the Court's cases so far involve African countries. The ICC was founded in 2002 to prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

U.S. Submits Report on Implementation of Key Human Rights Treaty

On December 30, the U.S. submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee its fourth periodic report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a requirement for all States Parties to the Covenant. According to a senior State Department official, this report provides the U.S. with another opportunity to update and inform the international community on its human rights record, and to lead by example on human rights.  The report follows U.S. participation in 2010-2011 in the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process and incorporated consultations with civil society organizations, including UNA-USA Chapters.

Supporting the Millennium Development Goals

Meningitis Vaccine Project

Three countries in the so-called “meningitis belt” stretching across Africa will introduce a new vaccine designed to eliminate a particular strain of the often deadly disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad will vaccinate millions of their citizens with MenAfriVac, which was created to target Group A meningitis, responsible for millions of cases in sub-Saharan Africa over the past century. MenAfriVac was developed by the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) — a partnership between WHO and the global non-profit organization PATH, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

UNAIDS and PEPFAR Partnership

UNAIDS, in partnership with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), launched a five-year action framework to accelerate the scale-up of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) as a prevention measure in Africa. The action framework – developed by WHO, UNAIDS, PEPFAR, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank in consultation with national health ministries – calls for the immediate roll-out and expansion of VMMC services in 14 priority countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. Such a scale-up would cost $1.5 billion and prevent an estimated 3.4 million new HIV infections through 2025, resulting in a net savings of $16.5 billion due to averted treatment and care costs. 

Indonesia Ratifies the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty

Indonesia ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT). Indonesia is one of the so-called “Annex 2 States,” whose ratification is required for the treaty to enter into force. The States in that group that have yet to ratify are China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. Tibor Tóth, head of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), congratulated Indonesia’s parliamentarians for bringing the treaty “a significant step closer” to becoming international law.

The UN: In Everyone’s Interest

What They’re Saying

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses high-level debate of the 66th General Assembly Session, 21 September 2011:

“Seven billion now look to us — the world's leaders. They need solutions. They demand leadership. They want us to act. To act with compassion, courage and conviction. To act in concert — nations united at the United Nations.”

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The United Nations: More than 60 years of extraordinary accomplishments

Here are a few of the accomplishments of the UN in its first 60 years:

  1. The UN works to eradicate the leading cause of death worldwide — malaria. More than 1 million people die of this parasitic disease each year — a child dies from this disease every 30 seconds. The UN has contributed to saving 7 million children from going blind from the river blindness and to rescuing others from guinea worm, malaria and other tropical diseases by fighting parasitic diseases. This is an extraordinary accomplishment and an ongoing challenge for the UN.

  2. The UN worked to make safe drinking water available to 1.3 billion people.

  3. The UN distributes 2 million tons of food each year and is a first responder to international needs in natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes and conflict zones.

  4. The UN responded to the tsunami of 2004 within 48 hours and was still there in 2006.

  5. The UN, through UNICEF, responded immediately to Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States. UNICEF provided grants and materials for teachers and students to help get normalcy back into the lives of these children and families.

  6. The UN is credited with negotiating more than 170 peaceful settlements that have ended regional conflicts.

  7. The UN has enabled people in more than 45 countries to participate in free and fair democratic elections.

  8. A primary goal of the UN has been to eradicate colonialism. In 1945, more than 750 million people lived in colonial or dependent territories. Today, less than 1.5 million people, out of a world population of more than 6 billion, live in dependent territories.

  9. The UN has a focus on universal education. Since 1990 more than 50 million more primary-age children have been enrolled in schools. A country like Oman once provided about 900 boys with education, and today there are about 500,000 children in school in Oman — 49% are girls.

  10. The UN helps to clear a path to a safer world through work to eliminate land mines, which kill or injure about 2,000 people each month — mostly children. This work is carried out by Adopt-A-Minefield, a UN program.

  11. Some 150 wars have been waged during the past 50 years. None of them turned into devastating world wars. The world consensus is that the UN's work for peace and disarmament played a key role in this regard.

The United Nations:  Looking to the Future

At the 2000 UN Millennium Summit, world leaders from rich and poor countries alike committed themselves — at the highest political level — to a set of eight time-bound targets that, when achieved, will end extreme poverty worldwide by 2015.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality rates

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development