As 2014 wraps up and we start reflecting on the past year, I would like to take a moment to give thought to what the United Nations has done over the past 69 years. Here are five highlights as listed on the UN web page of what the organization has achieved to make the world a better place.
Promoting Women’s Well-being. UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women seeks to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. UN Women supports countries as they set global standards for achieving gender equality, and works with governments and civil society to design laws, policies, programs, and services needed to implement these standards. It stands for women’s equal participation in all aspects of life, focusing on increasing women’s leadership and participation; ending violence against women; engaging women in all aspects of peace and security; enhancing women’s economic empowerment, and making gender equality central to national development planning and budgeting.
Improving Global Trade. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has helped developing countries to negotiate trade agreements and win preferential treatment for their exports. It has negotiated international commodity agreements to ensure fair prices for developing countries, improved the efficiency of their trade infrastructure and helped them to diversify their production and to integrate into the global economy.
Pressing for Universal Immunization. Immunization saves more than 2 million lives every year. As a result of efforts by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, other organizations and Governments, an estimated 84 percent of the world’s children are now vaccinated with the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine, up from 20 percent in 1980. Between 2000 and 2012, measles deaths declined by 78 percent globally. Barriers to introducing new vaccines are gradually being overcome, and contacts forged through immunization are being used to provide additional life-saving assistance, such as insecticide-treated nets to protect against malaria and vitamin A supplements to prevent malnutrition.
Improving Literacy and Education. Today 84 percent of adults can read and write and 91 percent of children attend primary school. The goal now is to ensure that by 2015 all children complete a full course of primary school. Programmes aimed at promoting education and advancement for women helped to raise the global adult female literacy rate to 79.9 per cent in 2011. The next goal is to ensure that by 2015 all girls complete primary and secondary school.
Providing Food to the Neediest. The World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency, reaches an average of 80 million hungry people in 75 countries every year, including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people. WFP food assistance is designed to meet the special needs of hungry people, especially women and children—the vulnerable majority most often affected by hunger. School-feeding projects provide free lunches or take-home meals to some 20 million schoolchildren—with each meal costing just 25 U.S. cents. With over 90 per cent of its staff working in the field, WFP uses a global network of planes, ships, helicopters, trucks and, if needed, donkeys, camels, and elephants to reach those most in need.