End Violence Against WomenOn December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly officially acknowledged November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Since then, efforts to fight violence against women have risen at local, regional and global levels. Roughly a decade after the U.N. officially marked November 15 as the global day to fight violence against women, then-U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon launched the “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women” campaign. The main goal of this campaign is to eliminate all forms of violence — physical, emotional and sexual — against women.

Key Achievements and Milestones

Since its launch, the UNiTE campaign has sparked a revolutionary change across the globe in the following ways:

  • The campaign led to the creation of a new post of “Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict,” whose first occupant, Margöt Wallstrom, played a crucial role in fighting the culture of impunity by bringing to court perpetrators like Bernard Munyagishari, who was later convicted of various crimes against humanity, such as rape, which were perpetrated during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
  • The deployment of Gender Advisers to peacekeeping and political missions includes:
    • UNAMID in Sudan, which addressed the impact of conflict on Sudanese women and girls.
    • MINUSTAH in Haiti, which has worked to restore order and stability, promote the country’s political process and protect human rights.
    • MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose major goals were monitoring, collecting and reporting information related to human rights violations, which played a crucial role in the international criminal justice’s fight against impunity and supported the court’s prosecution of Germain Katanga and Bosco Ntaganda, both of whom were convicted of war crimes of rape and sexual slavery.
    • The campaign also devitalized impunity for sexual violence as an act of war: the most prominent example is the 2016 conviction of Congolese Jean-Pierre Bemba of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape.
    • The rise of other campaigns against the violation of women’s rights, such as the Stop Rape Now campaign and the Spotlight Initiative, which deploys substantial investments to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls across regions of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.

Current State of Affairs: Violence Against Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the years, efforts to fight violence against women have generated remarkable results, but in 2020, reports show that the rate of violence against women has skyrocketed at a shocking rate due to the stay-at-home measures that most governments implemented to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In the report “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19,” the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres says, “Accompanying the crisis has been a spike in domestic violence reporting, at exactly the time that services, including rule of law, health and shelters, are being diverted to address the pandemic.”

Another early 2020 U.N. report reveals that in the last 12 months, a total of 243 women and girls aged 15-49 have experienced sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner.

UNiTE Campaign: “Fund, Prevent, Respond, Collect!”

In response to the intensifying rates of violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNiTE has increased its efforts and is kickstarting this year’s campaign in partnership with the theme, “Orange the World: Fund, Prevent, Respond, Collect!

The main goal of this theme is to fund essential services that include gender-based violence (GBV) prevention in COVID-19 fiscal stimulus packages, the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy for GBV, putting in place measures to strengthen services that support GBV victims and collecting the necessary data to ensure the effectiveness of GBV services and programs.

The Battle Continues

Over the years, transformative action, such as the creation of the Spotlight Initiative, the conviction of major war criminals, a majority of whom had violated women’s rights, and the deployment of Gender Advisers across areas in dire need, has taken place.

There is no doubt that there is still much work to do to diminish the high rates of violence plaguing the world, but the past success that the UNiTE campaign has achieved is not only worth celebrating but is also a guarantee of an even higher leap in the coming years.

– Divine Mbabazi
Photo: Flickr

Global Education InstituteOn July 11, 2017, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres held a ceremony for the Global Education Institute in Pohang, Korea. The project was initiated by the previous U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — the institute’s namesake. Ban Ki-moon’s hope is for the Institute to help in the effort of meeting the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The building of the Global Education Institute is financed and supported by U.N. Academic Impact (UNAI) in Korea and Handong Global University. UNAI is a global initiative that was started by Ban Ki-moon in 2010 to align higher education with the U.N. Their goal is to utilize higher education to help realize SDGs through research and shared social responsibility. Currently, more than 1,000 institutions in over 120 countries are members of this initiative.

The Ban Ki-moon Global Education Institute will be completed in October 2018. The Institute will be built three-stories high and on a 3,400 square-meter lot. The building will house both the Handong GRACE School for rounded education and the Ban Ki-moon Sustainable Development International Research Center.

The Institute’s primary focus is advancing the UNAI’s ten basic principles. Their principles include providing all people with educational opportunities as well as promoting global citizenship. Thus, the goal of the Institute is not only to provide more people with education, but to also create leaders that will further global education efforts.

Mainly the Institute’s goal is to concentrate on three fundamental efforts: to carry out SDG research, support developing countries, and nurture youth leaders. Towards the third of these efforts, the Global Education Institute plans to seek exchanges with UNAI ASPIRE. ASPIRE stands for Action by Students to Promote Innovation and Reform through Education and is the student branch of UNAI.

The initiative aims to connect “student organizations and individuals to global opportunities through the U.N. and education.” Members of ASPIRE actively support UNAI principles as well as attend and participate in UNAI events and conferences.

From promoting equality in education to fostering young leaders, the Global Education Institute is promising. If nothing else, hopefully the Institute will inspire more potential solutions to the global education crisis.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

Advocates for Refugees
Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to world leaders to make a greater effort to become advocates for refugees. The secretary-general called helping refugees a “moral obligation.”

His comments came after the conclusion of the Sept. 19 U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants.

U.N. member states unanimously adopted the New York Declaration, which expresses the “political will” of world leaders to protect the rights and dignity of refugees, hence becoming advocates for refugees.

U.N. leaders urged world leaders to ensure all refugee children receive education within months of arrival in Europe. The declaration also called for an expansion of economic opportunities for refugees.

The declaration also petitioned leaders to support countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants. Turkey, Greece, Germany and France have taken in large numbers of refugees, while other European nations and the U.S. have resisted relocation efforts.

Civil unrest and Islamic extremism in the Middle East drove 1.3 million from their homes, most of these people have found political asylum in Europe. However, asylum does not always entail adequate living conditions.

Around 60,000 Middle Eastern refugees are currently stranded in Greece awaiting processing and relocation in Europe. The refugees are held in a massive tent city under appalling inhumane conditions.

In France over 1,000 unaccompanied minors live in squatter camps in and around the coastal town of Calais. The camp, which is called “The Jungle” by locals, is home to thousands of refugees hoping for a better life in the United Kingdom.

The U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants addressed the question of refugee food security. Ki-moon urged leaders to make policy decisions which would empower immigrants to seek and hold employment. To become sustainable, migrants need to have access to land, banking services and freedom of movement.

World leaders at the U.N. summit did more than just craft a paper promise. Under the U.N. directive, more children will be able to attend school and get an education. More immigrants will be able to seek safe, sustainable employment. By making poverty alleviation a top priority, the U.N. has opened a door to opportunity for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Peter Nilson

Photo: Flickr

3 Points to Take Away from United Nations Week 2016
The following are three of the highlights during the United Nations Week 2016:

1. The United Nations bids its farewell to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

As the end of the year approaches, so does the second and final term for the current secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. The decorated diplomat began his political career following his graduation from John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University when he then entered the South Korean Foreign Service. Following a career of various diplomatic posts, Ban accepted the position after collecting 14 approval votes out of 15 voting members with a platform that emphasized ending violence against women.

Ten years later the secretary-general addresses the United Nation General Assembly for the last time. During his farewell speech at the United Nations Week 2016, Secretary-General Ki-moon reflected on accomplishments undertaken during his tenure (prioritizing the curbing of climate change), but also addressed issues still looming over the international community. “Gulfs of mistrust divide citizens from their leaders. Extremists push people into camps of “us” and “them”. The Earth assails us with rising seas, record heat and extreme storms. And danger defines the days of many.”

Change evokes excitement along with fresh ideas; however, departing with the compassion, intellect and efforts of the United Nations under Ki-moon brings a feeling of saudade. Mr. secretary-general, the international community will reflect fondly on your actions to support the impoverished.

2. The Paris Accord shows early signs of success.

December 2015 marked a fundamental pivot in the course of the world’s contribution to greenhouse gases. Efforts undertaken by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change eliminated the contrast of developed and developing nations in the fight to thwart the effects of climate change. The international community will now operate under a common framework: limit the global temperature increase beyond 2 degrees Celsius, increase nationally determined contributions and ensure regular reports of emission and implementation efforts.

The Paris Accord, however, is not fully implemented until “thirty days after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emission […]” have ratified the agreement. According to the Office of the Spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, over 60 countries have joined the agreement, but they only account for 47.5 percent of the global greenhouse gasses.

Secretary-General Ki-moon notes that the progress made thus far is laudable and he is confident the threshold will be surpassed as soon as significant contributors (Canada, the European Union and Australia) ratify the agreement.

3. What issues are on the docket for the next secretary-general?

As the search for the next secretary-general continues, member-states alike and the world more broadly are left with many daunting crises to combat.

The most arresting issue will be how the international community equitably and efficiently addresses the unprecedented number of refugees. Following a series of civil wars and acts of ethnic cleansing, member-states have yet to demonstrate its full commitment to offer a viable alternative for those fleeing a hostile environment.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights noted on Sep. 19, 2016 during his speech to the General Assembly, that “it is shameful that the victims of abominable crimes should be made to suffer further by our failures to give them protection.”

In addition to matters of human rights violations, the global community is projected to undergo a health crisis that undermines the ability for immune systems to defeat infections by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.

Antimicrobial resistance happens from the overexposure to treatment (antibiotics). As a result, the bacteria evolve into a “superbug” with the capacity to defeat current forms of medication.

Consequences of the proliferation of antimicrobial resistance could result in increased health care costs, in the inability to treat common infectious diseases, in the destruction of gains made with the millennium development goals, as well as in the inhibition of the aspirations of the sustainable development goals.

The United Nations has demonstrated, time and time again, that it is one of the most effective, existing, regulatory and cooperative international bodies. Regardless of the secretary-general, the United Nations will have to continue, if not increase, its presence and efforts as the resources to combating global poverty have never been so plentiful.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

Possible Female Leadership at the United Nations
Recently, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was time for women to lead the United Nations. As elections are approaching the end of the year, there are eleven candidates among which six are women. This could be a historic first time for female leadership at the United Nations since the organization was created 70 years ago.

Ki-moon said that it was high time now for a female leader. He further elaborated: “We have many distinguished and eminent women leaders in national governments or other organizations or even business communities, political communities, and cultural and every aspect of our life. […] There’s no reason why not in the United Nations.”

Generally, there are strong voices that call for a woman leader. There is an impatient demand, which is higher than ever, for women to lead the United Nations. The female candidates definitely have their chances and it’s now their time to shine.

People are excited to see how a female leader would continue using soft power and coalition tactics to pursue U.N. goals. The new leader will set the tone and vision of the organization for the next decade. A female leader could definitely bring a much-needed change.

Furthermore, the women aspiring to a leadership role in the United Nations demonstrate interesting qualifications and well-experienced cadres. Many have worked in their respective governments but also in handling many projects related to the United Nations. Each woman candidate can bring a whole lot of shift in the U.N. with their diverse practical experience.

Women have been underrepresented in the United Nations. A new female chief will certainly address this critical issue. This is part of achieving gender equality on a global, leadership level. A female U.N. chief will also shed the light on women groups and issues related to feminism, education and equality that would otherwise be overshadowed by superpowers in favor of other issues.

Another interesting fact is that women make up almost half of the population of the world. However, they only hold 25 percent of the U.N.’s highest positions. Thus, having female leadership at the United Nations would significantly change the view of women worldwide. The world would see women leaders as equally capable of handling international crises with high qualifications and potential.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr


The Common Ground Initiative was unveiled at the Cannes Lions advertising festival on Friday, June 24 to a crowd of some of the industry’s top leaders. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon shared the stage with some of advertising’s most powerful CEOs to make the announcement.

The initiative is a plan to produce and distribute advertising about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nation’s set of 17 goals for improving living conditions around the world. The ads will run in publications such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, the Daily Mail and Le Figaro, to name a few.

The collaborative effort between the rival companies is unprecedented, even more so when considering that both the ads and media time were gifted pro-bono for the cause.

However, considering the importance of the SDG’s, the necessity of raising awareness in participating countries cannot be understated. It is especially vital considering that there are no legal mandates pushing countries towards adopting the SDGs.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Jan Eliasson, the deputy secretary-general of the U.N. In his interview, Eliasson argued that raising awareness of the goals would add pressure on governments to take a stand on some of the issues in question.

A 2013 survey by the European Commission found that only six percent of the European Union was aware of the U.N.’s previous initiative, the Millennium Development Goals, despite their success. The U.N. hopes that Common Ground will inspire more countries to reach the 2030 date for the current goals.

According to the Jamestown Sun, the first set of advertisements will focus on everyday people agreeing that the goals of the SDG’s are more important any rivalries between interested parties, implying that everybody should be a strong supporter of the U.N.’s goals.

In debuting the initiative, the advertising companies issued the following statement: “By working in partnership to support the Sustainable Development Goals, we want to demonstrate that even fierce competitors can set aside their differences in order to serve a wider common interest.”

Sabrina Santos

Photo: U.N. Multimedia


The world’s first-ever World Humanitarian Summit took place May 23–24, 2016 in Istanbul. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the summit in 2012 after recognizing the need to reaffirm global responsibility of our shared humanity.

Since the original announcement, the need for the summit has become increasingly urgent. 125 million people around the world are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, according to Ban Ki-moon’s report for the World Humanitarian Summit last year.

The World Humanitarian Summit included over 9,000 people–a mix of world leaders, non-governmental organizations, people affected by crises and partners in the private sector and civil society.

Packed with roundtable discussions and events, the aim of The World Humanitarian Summit is to change the way the world responds to global issues by committing to a unified goal to end suffering.

The Agenda for Humanity outlines the five core responsibilities that the summit centered on:

  1. “Global leadership to prevent and end conflict.” The first core responsibility proposes responding quickly to crises and investing in risk analysis, political unity, and peace building to prevent conflicts from occurring. Manmade conflict accounts for 80 percent of humanitarian aid that is sent, according to the WHS Executive Summary Report. Investing in conflict prevention would save billions of dollars and lives.
  2. “Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity.” The second core responsibility addresses the need to recommit to rules of war and speak out against violations. When bombs or explosives are used in populated areas, 90 percent of people that are killed or injured are civilians, according to the WHS Executive Summary Report. This responsibility presents the launch of a global campaign to stop violations of the human rights law while investing in ways to increase adherence and accountability.
  3. “Leave no one behind.” The third core responsibility is dedicated to reaching everyone affected by crises, risk and vulnerability. According to the WHS Report, 60 million people are forcibly displaced, and there is a severe lack of funding in humanitarian aid. This responsibility commits to empowering marginalized groups, addressing displacement and supporting migrants.
  4. “Changing people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need.” The fourth core responsibility is centered on shifting the priority from delivering aid to ending the need for aid. Reinforcing the idea that support should be drawn from within, this commitment advises employing local solutions and empowering local systems that already work instead of replacing them with international aid.
  5. “Invest in humanity.” The fifth core responsibility commits to political, institutional and financial investments in stability and local systems. It proposes to decrease the funding gap and improve the efficiency of aid. The World Humanitarian Summit comes at a critical time in history – a time when the U.N. estimates that the number of people displaced has not been as high since World War II.

In his WHS Report, Ki-Moon deliberately references The Declaration of St. James’s Palace in London in 1941, the first act toward the formation of the United Nations. At St. James’s Palace in London, governments came together to pledge a unified commitment to work toward peace. Ban acknowledges that 75 years later, it is time to renew that commitment to humanity.

Erica Rawles

Photo: Flickr

UN Secretary General

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s term comes to an end in 2016, the selection procedure for the next leader has been underway since January. The position is indeed invested with the prestige and heavy responsibilities as old as the organization itself – but the promises of candidates and the unprecedented public stage the selection process is taking this year indicate the body is adapting to new currents as well.

The UN General Assembly website lists nine official candidates for UN Secretary General:

  1. Dr. Srgjan Kerim, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  2. Prof. Vesna Pusic, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia
  3. Dr. Igor Lukšic, former Prime Minister and current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro
  4. Dr. Danilo Türk, former president of Slovenia and Slovenian Ambassador to the United Nations
  5. Ms. Irina Bokova, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and current Director-General of UNESCO
  6. Ms. Natalia Gherman, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova and Acting Prime Minister of Moldova
  7. Mr. António Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal and UN High Commissioner of Refugees
  8. Ms. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the UN Development Program
  9. Vuk Jeremić, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and President of the UN General Assembly

The disclosed Vision Statements of these candidates address a variety of policies, but many focus on the issue of structurally reforming the UN body, especially the Security Council. Their approach on reform ranges from Natalia Gherman’s “zero tolerance policy on mismanagement, fraud, abuse, corruption and unethical behavior” to Vuk Jeremic’s promise for utilizing social media to communicate with youth and ensure transparency. Economic empowerment of women worldwide and consistent effort for Sustainable Development Goals were also recurring topics.

The selection procedure is expected to be the most transparent in the UN’s 70 years of history, as the UN General Assembly will organize public debates in London and New York. Not only will diplomats of all 193 member’s states attend, but the event will be open to social organizations and individuals as well. A video of the event will be released on the UN website – the first round of informal dialogues and Q&A sessions with the civil society board has already been uploaded. Compared to how all debates and hearings were held behind closed doors until Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s election, this constitutes a big step in guaranteeing the equity in deciding the leadership of the world’s largest coalition of nations.

Following the principle of regional rotation, the next Secretary General is most likely to be selected from Eastern Europe. But many organizations, such as Equality Now, are also arguing for a fair gender representation. The first female UN Secretary General would not only be a symbolic empowerment for female politicians worldwide but would also increase the body’s knowledge in women’s issues. “A woman as secretary general would send a strong signal of progress,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of UN Women.

Haena Chu

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid

In March 2016, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced proposals for improving the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. These suggestions will be brought forth at the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in May 2016 in Istanbul. Proposals to be discussed include ending refugee limbo, increasing refugee access to education, and localizing disaster response.

According to IRIN, the U.N. has worked in consultation with over 20,000 people for improvements in crisis response. The summit will cover the trends and findings pertaining to the utilization of humanitarian aid more efficiently through future crises that arose from this work.

With the influx of refugees to Europe at its highest since WWII, improving the assistance system will be a top priority at the WHS. Concerning the refugee crisis, the summit hopes to merge ideas on how to address the problem more equitably for all states. For instance, the Secretary General recommends that more countries share the financial and hosting responsibilities.

Other ideas that the summit will deliberate upon include providing sustainable livelihoods for refugees in their host countries. This involves providing more immediate access to education rather than refugees remaining in a period of limbo. Another innovative idea to be discussed is a “global finance package,” which would deliver increased funds to hosting countries.

Ban Ki-Moon will also advocate for Security Council members to abstain from vetoing resolutions potentially aiding and preventing crises and atrocities, states IRIN.

In order to successfully provide aid, Ban Ki-Moon says that following international law is an essential factor. Too often hospitals and schools are bombed and destroyed, further disabling quick and effective humanitarian aid provisions. The summit will debate how to competently ensure that international law is respected by all states.

The conference’s discourse on improving humanitarian assistance will also mention the need to localize financing and to empower local organizations.

One round table at the summit will be called “Catalysing Action To Achieve Gender Equality,” covering issues pertaining to gender equality in the face of crises. Myriad women’s needs are left behind in displacement settings. This roundtable will discuss solutions to women’s inclusion in decision-making during crises.

The program’s website states, “The summit is an opportunity to confront these global challenges head-on and generate greater global leadership and political will to end conflict, alleviate suffering, and reduce risk.”

Mayra Vega

Photo: Flickr

Ban Ki-moon
Like all jobs, the role of Secretary-General of the U.N. comes with its own challenges and rewards, especially when you’re following in the footsteps of someone like Kofi Annon. Ban Ki-moon has served in this position since January 2007.

Ban Ki-moon’s agenda has been all encompassing — promoting sustainable development, empowering women, supporting countries facing crisis and instability, dealing with arms control and non-proliferation, all while strengthening the U.N.

“Be a global citizen. Act with passion and compassion,” said Ban Ki-moon at Our World, Our Dignity, Our Planet: the Post-2015 Agenda and the Role of Youth. “Help us make this world safer and more sustainable today and for the generations that will follow us. That is our moral responsibility.”

In his first year as secretary-general, he called attention to the genocide in Darfur and made it a top priority. Under Ban Ki-moon’s leadership, a hybrid force, part African-Union and part U.N., was established for peacekeeping, according to the BBC.

“He worked doggedly on agreements between the government of Sudan and the African Union that led to a UN Security Council resolution last summer authorizing a hybrid UN force made up largely of African Union soldiers,” said Howard LaFranchi in a March 2008 Christian Science Monitor article.

Not only has Ban Ki-moon worked to address humanitarian issues like global poverty through the use of the Millennium Development Goals but he has also made it his mission to tackle climate change through the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

“The Goals are universal; they apply to all countries, since we know that even the wealthiest have yet to conquer poverty or achieve full gender equality,” said Ban Ki-moon in an op-ed for the Huffington Post in 2015.

According to his U.N. priorities, he also sought to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation along with increasing monies for the Green Climate Fund and putting them to good use.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel applauded Ban Ki-moon’s efforts to address climate change, global humanitarian issues and the refugee crisis. “With sound preparations, and when the many partners involved pull together, the international community can accept shared responsibility,” said Merkel at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris. “To a very great extent we have you to thank for this achievement. And I would like to thank you most warmly.”

Although Ban Ki-moon’s term as secretary-general concludes at the end of this year, he can leave knowing he had a positive impact on the global community.

— Summer Jackson

Sources: Bundesregierung , BBC, Huffington Post, UN 1, UN 2, UN 3