10 Things Accomplished by the United Nations

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NEW YORK, New York – Among the many prominent activist projects done to help the world each year, below are 10 things accomplished by the United Nations.

1. Promoting Women’s Rights

The UN has made great strides in promoting women’s rights and empowering them for greater participation in society and the global economy. In 1995, 189 countries, activists, and organizations participated in the World Conference on Women held in Beijing. According to the UN, it “set the agenda for advancing women’s rights and promoting gender equality.”

At the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the 1995 Beijing Conference was an “ambitious platform of action” that “called for the full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social, and cultural life.” She added, “it has served as a road map, guiding progress for women and girls.”

One hundred eighty-seven countries endorsed the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has often been described as the “international bill of rights for women.”

The 1979 Convention provided “the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life–including the right to vote and to stand for election–as well as education, health, and employment.”

2. Fighting Hunger

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) spearheaded international efforts to reduce world hunger. FAO’s collaborative efforts with its partners such as the European Union (EU) has accelerated efforts in eradicating world hunger and progressed more rapidly to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

FAO and EU implemented the EU Food Facility, a €1 billion initiative in response to the food price crisis of 2008-2011. This initiative improved the livelihood of 59 million people in 50 countries. More recently, the FAO and EU partnership was further augmented by a €1 billion EU initiative which provided two million people in six countries with agricultural development activities worth almost €60 million EU. This new initiative aimed to achieve the 2015 international development goal of reducing by half the world’s number of hungry people.

3. Alleviating Rural Poverty in Developing Countries

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) makes available low-interest loans and grants to poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell food, increase income, and decide the direction of their lives. According to the UN, IFAD has invested more than $14 billion since 1978, assisted more than 410 million people to grow and sell more food, and increased their incomes, which has helped provide for their families. Currently, IFAD oversees more than 250 programs and projects in 97 countries.

4. Reducing Child Mortality

In 1990, the child mortality rate was significantly high. One out of 10 children died before they were five years old. UN agencies embarked on definitive measures such as oral rehydration therapy, clear water and sanitation and other health and nutrition practices to reduce child mortality rates in developing countries. As a result, it decreased to one in 18 by 2011. The new objective for 2015 is to reduce the 1990 under-five mortality rate by two-thirds.

5. Protecting Consumers’ Health

Food safety is an important public health priority. The joint efforts of FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) have set standards for 300 food commodities, safety limits for over 3,000 food contaminants and regulations on food processing, transport, and storage. Establishing standards on labeling and description has helped to safeguard the consumer from being misinformed.

6. Wiping Out Polio

Five million children are now walking instead of being paralyzed by polio–a devastating disease that once crippled children in 125 countries. Except for three countries, poliomyelitis has been eliminated from all as a result of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fronted this initiative to wipe out polio.

7. Containing the World Drug Problem

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) worked hard to diminish the supply of and demand for illicit drugs under the three key UN Conventions to combat drug abuse and trafficking. Efforts to contain the global drug problem have successfully overturned a 25-year increase in drug abuse.

The UNODC continues to engage in drug control in Afghanistan, the Andean countries, Central Asia, Myanmar and West Africa as these regions remain at risk to the issues created by drug cultivation and trafficking.

8. Responding to HIV/AIDS

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) steers the global action to counter an epidemic that affects 35.3 million people around the world. UNAIDS reports a 52 percent reduction in new HIV infections among children and a combined 33 percent reduction among adults and children since 2001. AIDS-related deaths have also plunged by 30 percent since a peak in 2005, as access to antiretroviral treatment grows.

9. Combating Terrorism

In 2006, the UN adopted a global strategy to counter terrorism. All Member States agreed on a strategic approach to fight terrorism, and to send a clear message that terrorism is unacceptable. The UN also advocated practical measures such as strengthening state capacity to counter terrorist threats. The UN crafted a total of 14 major legal instruments and four additional amendments dealing with terrorism. After 9/11, the Security Council set up a Counter-Terrorism Committee comprising all members of the Security Council.

10. Halting the Spread of Epidemics

WHO directed the international investigation of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak with the assistance of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). WHO and GOARN worked closely with health authorities in the affected countries to provide epidemiological, clinical, and logistical support. In March 2003, it issued a global alert and emergency travel advisory. WHO’s prompt leadership brought to a halt this new disease from becoming a worldwide epidemic.

– Flora Khoo

Sources: United Nations, Clinton Global Initiative, UN Women, FAO, IFAD, UNAIDs, UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, WHO
Photo: Paper Masters

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About Author

Flora is from Singapore and she graduated from Regent University with a master's degree in Journalism. She was drawn to The Borgen Project because of her love for writing and interest in international development issues. She speaks both English and Mandarin and enjoys canoeing.

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