Category Archives: United Nations

The world needs solidarity. Join #UN75


A survey from The United Nations

The UN is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great disruption for the world, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts. Will we emerge stronger and better equipped to work together? Or will distrust and isolation grow further? 2020 must be a year of dialogue, when we come together to discuss our priorities as a human family, and how we can build a better future for all.

Why now?

Covid-19 is a stark reminder of the need for cooperation across borders, sectors and generations. Our response will determine how fast the world recovers, whether we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and how well we handle pressing challenges: from the climate crisis to pandemics, inequalities, new forms of violence, and rapid changes in technology and in our population.

But just when we need collective action more than ever, support for global cooperation has been flagging. In many countries, public trust in traditional institutions is in decline and relations between countries have been under strain. Will this pandemic bring the world closer together? Or will it lead to greater mistrust? Global dialogue – and action – is now more urgent than ever.

What is UN75 doing?

In January 2020, we launched our global dialogue initiative, and discussions have taken place in all settings, from classrooms to boardrooms, across the world. In order to reach as many people as possible, we have built partnerships with youth, civil society, business and media organisations, and created a one-minute survey that is quick and easy to complete.

We have always placed strong emphasis on online engagement, through virtual dialogues and social media, and are now increasing these efforts in light of Covid-19. We are also working with our partners to take planned events into the digital space, and find innovative ways to engage audiences in line with WHO guidelines and local health regulations.

Why join?

It is vital that your voice is heard at this crucial time for the world. Your views, concerns and ideas will be presented to world leaders and senior UN officials at the official commemoration of the 75th Anniversary by the UN General Assembly in September 2020. After September, groups around the world will discuss how best to take forward the priorities and proposals generated.

Each conversation is an opportunity to encourage individuals to take actions in their own lives in line with what they have heard and learned. They can yield insights and evidence that national and international organisations can apply. Findings may inspire new programmes, investments, partnerships and campaigns, among other options. A global platform to illustrate key outcomes of discussions is being developed by the UN75 team.

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(click here for the version in French or click here for the version in Spanish.)

Question related to this article:
How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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How can I take part?

Take our one-minute survey and share it widely:

Check out the UN75 toolkit with guidelines on how to join, and inspire conversations and amplify voices through channels and communities for people to talk and be heard. We will be adding more information on online dialogues in the coming days

Follow @JoinUN75 and #UN75  on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and add your voice to the testimonials from people who have already taken part

One-minute survey

Overall, do you think that people in 2045 will be better off, worse off, the same as you are today?

The same

If you picture the world you want in 25 years, what three things would you most want to see? (Select up to THREE)

More employment opportunities
More respect for human rights
Better access to education
Greater equality within countries
Greater equality between countries
Greater equality between men and women
More sustainable consumption and production
More environmental protection
Less conflict
Better access to healthcare
Better management of international migration
Other, please specify

Which of these global trends do you think will most affect our future (Select up to THREE)

Risks arising from new technologies (data privacy, impacts on jobs)
Climate change and environmental issues (e.g. pollution, deforestation)
Forced migration and displacement (e.g. people fleeing conflict or disasters)
Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction
Armed conflict and politically motivated violence
Rapid changes in our populations (e.g. more people living in cities, ageing populations)
Risk of terrorism
Cyber warfare and new forms of weapons (e.g. artificial intelligence weapons)
Breakdown in relations between countries
Risks related to health (e.g. pandemics, greater resistance to antibiotics)
Organised crime (e.g. trafficking)
Other, please specify

How important – or not – is it for countries to work together to manage the above trends?

Very important
Fairly important
Not very important
Not important at all

What would you advise the UN Secretary-General to do to address these global trends?
(140 characters) – OPTIONAL

UN Secretary-General calls for global ceasefire


Transcript of virtual press conference March 23 by the Secretary-General of the United Nations

Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19.
The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.  It attacks all, relentlessly.
Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced — pay the highest price.
They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.
Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed.
Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted.
Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable.
The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.

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Question(s) related to this article:

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.
It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.
To warring parties, I say:
Pull back from hostilities. 
Put aside mistrust and animosity.
Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes.
This is crucial…
To help create corridors for life-saving aid.
To open precious windows for diplomacy.
To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties in some parts to enable joint approaches to COVID-19.  But we need much more.
End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.
It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.
That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.

(Note: The call by Guterres for a ceasefire has been applauded by the belligerents in the Yemen war which gives hope for a ceasefire there.)

Federico Mayor pays tribute to Javier Pérez de Cuéllar


A blog by Federico Mayor (translation by CPNN)

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, former Secretary General of the United Nations (1982-1991), architect, among many other important achievements, of the peace processes in Mozambique, with the Community of Sant’Egidio, that of El Salvador and restart Guatemala. In the last two, I participated actively, following his guidelines as Director-General of UNESCO (1987-1999). His serenity and measure were always accompanied by great firmness and decisive action, with great logistical capacity. He was very demanding in the exercise of democratic multilateralism. He believed in the value and strength of the word, of the encounter, of the outstretched hand.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar

Working with him was a very sobering experience. His clear vision, his conviction that the solution lies in the encounter, in the dialogue, in the mediation and conciliation constitute a luminous legacy that could clarify many challenges, some potentially irreversible, that confront humanity today.

We are in “… times of doubts and resignations in which noise drowns out words”, as Miquel Martí i Pol so beautifully wrote in 1981 (in “L’ámbit de tots el ámbits)”). As Secretary-General, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar was committed equally to freedom of expression and non-violence, but now the voices of the United Nations and its Institutions have been silenced. Now, more than ever – as between Calvino and Castellio – the principle of the word must be defended against the sword. Silencing “the voice of the world” goes against humanity’s interests, encouraging frustration, exclusion, radicalization.

Tireless on the path of reconciliation and concord, his life followed the common thread of his principles. From his time as Secretary-General, it is important to highlight how he made the orgaization effective, which is not easy given its complexity and the historical moment in which he carried out his responsibility with special dedication and a vision for the future. Despite the achievements made, “the majority of humanity still lives in conditions of poverty … and human excesses threaten the environment on which we all depend … There will be conflicts in the world until human aspirations can be more fully satisfied …”, he writes in the introduction to his book “Pilgrimage for Peace”, published in New York in 1997.

His reflections on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Security Council, relations with the United States and the role of NGOs and civil society could help today to redirect global governance, which is now irresponsibly placed in the hands of plutocratic groups. In the face of deadly invasions based on lies occur, the United Nations System is marginalized and outbreaks of xenophobia, supremacy and racism proliferate, refugee reception is neglected and development cooperation is reduced to shameful minimums.

At the ECOSOC meeting of 7 July 1988 in Geneva on international economic and social policy, I had an opportunity to directly appreciate his unusual ability as the Secretary-General. I participated in the debate with the participation of the United States, the Administrator of UNDP, Greece representing the European Economic Community, the United Kingdom, Germany, Tunisia (on behalf of the Group of 77), Canada, the Executive Director of UNICEF , China, Soviet Union …

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(Click here for the original Spanish.)

Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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Before assuming the United Nations General Secretariat, he had already achieved great successes, such as the one he achieved in 1974 when, as the UN Commissioner, he was able to broker an agreement in Cyprus between the Greek and Turkish leaders.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, has left us but he remains, as in the verse by Miguel Hernández, who also became invisible on a fateful day, but is always with us: “I’m leaving, I’m leaving, I’m leaving, but I’m staying… ”

In October 1987, he received the Prince of Asturias Award “for promoting Ibero-American cooperation.” In February 1989, the Nehru Prize “for international understanding”.

On January 19, 2000, I participated in Lima, with the “Discourse on Order”, in the tribute paid to the universities of Lima and Salamanca on their eightieth birthday. In these last twenty years, we have been in constant contact and have supported multiple initiatives in favor of multilateralism.

I end with a verse I dedicated to him in 1989:

“We must all build
in a place that is
in the middle of nowhere,
on the brink of the abyss.
Outside the borders
of the prosperous lands,
in the unknown swamps.
(No, you are not unknown,
the ignored swamps
where our past
each day
before eyes that are
and distant,
of the helpless
who cannot,
who don’t know,
of the well-to-do
who don’t hear,
who do not want to …).

To preserve memory,
the footprints of men,
their paths past,
to clarify
their steps tomorrow
we must, my children,
my friends,
you whom I do not know,
we must build everything
next to the abyss,
in the place,
rough and unique,
of our future,
and create only wealth
that can be shared”.

People with such a long journey and unusual attitude leave an imperishable mark. One day, they are absent and they become invisible, but what matters most remains: citizens of the world, continue to illuminate the paths of tomorrow and set new directions for future generations.

International Women’s Day 2020


An article from UN Women

Women’s rights and gender equality are taking centre stage in 2020.

Twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—a progressive roadmap for gender equality—it’s time to take stock of progress and bridge the gaps that remain through bold, decisive actions.

Video: We are #GenerationEquality

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) is, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights“.

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(Click here for a French version of this article or here for a Spanish version.)

Questions for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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The Generation Equality campaign  is bringing together people of every gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion and country, to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world we all deserve.

Together, we want to mobilize to end gender-based violence; we are calling for economic justice and rights for all; bodily autonomy, sexual and reproductive health and rights; and feminist action for climate justice. We want technology and innovation for gender equality; and feminist leadership.

Small actions can have big impacts in making this vision a reality. On International Women’s Day, join #GenerationEquality and become part of the movement.

Statement for International Women’s Day by Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. 
In her statement for International Women’s Day (8 March), UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka highlights 2020 as the year for gender equality and calls on everyone to tackle the persistent barriers against gender equality.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar praised as ‘accomplished statesman’ who had ‘profound impact’ on the world


An article from UN News

Javier Pérez  de Cuéllar, the fifth United Nations Secretary-General, praised for his ability to foster dialogue and for leading the Organization through a turbulent decade, has passed away at the age of 100.  

A veteran Peruvian diplomat, lawyer and professor, he is the first and only Latin American to hold the top UN job so far.  

Video about Perez de Cuellar


In a statement Wednesday evening, current UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that he was profoundly saddened  at Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar’s passing and praised the former UN chief as “an accomplished statesman, a committed diplomat and a personal inspiration who left a profound impact on the United Nations and our world.” 

Born in Lima, Peru, on 19 January 1920, he was appointed to lead the UN after 42 years of diplomatic service. 

Distinguished diplomatic caree

“Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar’s life spanned not only a century but also the entire history of the United Nations, dating back to his participation in the first meeting of the General Assembly in 1946,” said Mr. Guterres. 

Over the course of his career, in addition to being his country’s Ambassador to Switzerland – as well as the then Soviet Union, Poland and Venezuela – Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar held many high level positions in Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1971.  

During his month presiding over the UN Security Council, in July 1974, he ably-managed the crisis in Cyprus. A year later, he was appointed as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus for two years, then went on to become the UN chief of Political Affairs and Representative of the UN in Afghanistan. 

The Cold War period and the growing role of the UN 

Mr. Guterres said that his predecessor’s tenure as Secretary-General coincided with two distinct eras in international affairs: first, some of the iciest years of the Cold War, and then, with the ideological confrontation at an end, a time when the UN began to play more fully the role envisaged by the founders.

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Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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In 1982, his tenure as UN chief started with intense negotiations between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the disputed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas. Persistent through the countless challenges, Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar  produced a now famous phrase, referring to the peace talks: “The patient is in intensive care but still alive.”  

Despite health issues, he agreed to serve for a second term as UN chief. In his acceptance speech in 1986, he referenced the financial crisis that the UN was going through at the time, saying that “to decline in such circumstances would have been tantamount to abandoning a moral duty toward the United Nations.”  

Reiterating his “unshakable faith” in the “permanent validity” of the Organization, he added that the UN’s “difficult situation” provided a “creative opportunity for renewal and reform.”  

“Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar played a crucial role in a number of diplomatic successes — including the independence of Namibia, an end to the Iran-Iraq War, the release of American hostages held in Lebanon, the peace accord in Cambodia and, in his very last days in office, a historic peace agreement in El Salvador,” said the current UN chief. 

His second term was also marked by the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Among others, his team facilitated political stability in Nicaragua .  

In 1987, he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for the promotion of Ibero-American co-operation. In 1989, he received the Olof Palme Prize for International Understanding and Common Security, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. 

Long after his term as Secretary-General ended in 1991, he remained true to the values of the UN, and continued advocating for peace, justice, human rights and human dignity throughout his life. Decorated by some 25 countries, he was also the recipient of several honorary degrees. 

In his speech to the Nobel Committee, which awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to UN Peacekeeping Operations in 1989, he defined the role of inter-governmental organizations like the United Nations as being to “draw the line between struggle and conflict.” Thanks to his unyielding determination, he helped many nations “stay on the right side of that line”.  

“I extend my deepest condolences to Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar’s family, the Peruvian people and so many others around the world whose lives were touched by a remarkable and compassionate global leader who left our world a far better place,” said Mr. Guterres. 

World Urban Forum ends with call for united action to ensure sustainable future for cities and towns


An article from the United Nationsl News Service

The premier international gathering on the future of cities wrapped up on Thursday [February 13] in Abu Dhabi with delegates urging action on all aspects of rapid urbanization, recognizing that an increasingly urbanized world is a ‘transformative force’ that can be harnessed and steered to boost sustainable development.

video of Forum

The Tenth World Urban Forum (WUF 10), which attracted over 13,000 attendees taking part in more than 540 official events, focused on the theme ‘Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation,’ and called for united action to ensure a better future for cities and towns. 

The outcome, known as the Abu Dhabi Declared Actions, includes commitments from international organizations, national, local and regional governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and others for the next two years and beyond to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs) agreed by world leaders in 2015.  

“All three ingredients – culture, innovation and cities – are co-dependent and co-creating. Human settlements exist and excel on the dynamic mixture of cultures.” @MaimunahSharif UNHabitat Executive Director puts into context the theme of #WUF10 at the closing ceremony

Alongside their declared actions, the participants hailed cities as centres of creativity and innovation, as well as places with valuable cultural heritage and identity. And they were convinced that ‘culture is an integral part of the solution to the challenges of urbanization and achieving the New Urban Agenda.’  

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Questions for this article:

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

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Adopted in Quito, Ecuador, in 2015 at the UN conference known as Habitat lll, the Agenda represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future – one in which all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities that cities can offer, and in which the international community reconsiders the urban systems and physical form of urban spaces to achieve this. 

On Thursday, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, the UN agency that convenes the WUF, told  the Closing Ceremony that during six-day meeting, delegates from all walks of life had insisted on the importance of a common goal of leaving a legacy of a better world for future generations.  

All the SDGS came together in ‘urban’ goal SDG 11  aimed at achieving inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements, said Ms. Sharif, stressing that: “Through the Abu Dhabi Declared Actions, we now have the what, how and when components as well.”  

The UN-Habitat  Assembly President and Under-Secretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, Martha Delgado, who co-chaired the Advisory Group which put together the WUF10 Abu Dhabi Declared Actions, said they had listened to participants thoughts, wishes and aspirations. 

The Executive Director of Strategic Affairs at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipalities and Transport and General Coordinator of WUF10, Mohamed Al Khadar Al Ahmed, said their job with UN-Habitat was “not to only masterplan our cities we want to masterpiece our cities and that’s a big difference.” 

Other speakers at the Closing Ceremony included Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), who stressed the importance of bringing all sectors together to think afresh on overcoming challenges.  

In addition, Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond, the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Preparations for the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN75), said it was inspirational to see the mixture of idealism, practical reflection, lessons learnt and suggestions for action. 

In a video message, UN General Assembly  President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande  referred to the WUF10 theme, saying: “We must take urgent action to utilize culture and innovation as an accelerator of SDG implementation if we are to create a better world for all.” 

Switzerland: Lutheran World Federation marks World Interfaith Harmony Week


An article from the Lutheran World News (non-commercial use)

During the first week of February, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is joining with the World Council of Churches  (WCC) and many other faith-based organizations to mark the 10th edition of World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Photo from the celebration at the United Nations

The annual event was first proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan and adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in October 2010. The following year, the LWF Council responded by encouraging all its member churches to enhance understanding, harmony, and cooperation among people of different faiths in their respective contexts.

To mark this year’s event, the LWF’s Program Executive for Public Theology and Interreligious Relations, Rev. Dr Sivin Kit, is participating in a round table discussion entitled ‘Rethinking Interreligious Engagement in a Wounded World.’ The event, to be held on 7 February in Geneva’s Ecumenical Center, is sponsored by the WCC and includes religious leaders from different faith groups alongside diplomats, peace activists and members of grass-roots communities.

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Question related to this article:
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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Dialogue integral to Christian life and witness

Kit, who was ordained and worked in the multifaith context of his native Malaysia, says: “Dialogue and engagement with people of other faiths, in a humble manner, is integral to our Christian life and witness.”  He adds: “Healthy interreligious relations are particularly relevant in today’s world, where we are not only aware of religious diversity and vitality in society, but also how religion is easily misused for political mileage.”

Personal relationships, practical cooperation and a shared sense of community, Kit believes, are the keys to building trust and improving interfaith harmony. To help promote greater understanding of other faith communities, the LWF is publishing an online reader with a selection of articles exploring some of the key issues at the heart of the Christian’s encounter with believers from other faith communities.

Blessed are the peacemakers

Interfaith dialogue and cooperation to build mutual understanding is a priority for the LWF and a daily reality for members of many of its member churches and World Service country programs in different parts of the globe. In 2018, World Service staff worked closely with Islamic Relief Worldwide  (IRW) to publish a practical guide entitled ‘A Faith Sensitive Approach in Humanitarian Response’. The LWF is currently working with IRW to organize an international conference in October 2020 entitled ‘Welcoming the Stranger, Shaping the Future’.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week, Kit says, is an important reminder “that we need to work harder to cultivate healthy interfaith relations by reaching out to those who are unlike us (and perhaps to those who don’t like us too). This week can serve as an opportunity for us to create safe spaces where people of different faiths can share about the rewards and challenges of living in their respective contexts.”

In some cases, he continues, “these contexts reflect highly secularized environments; in other situations, religious communities are confronted with political instability and even the threat of violence. In times like this, how do we interpret the multifaith reality we live in? Is it a threat to our religious survival or can it be an opportunity for us to be peacemakers?  The answer from the words of Jesus is clear: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”

Devoted to discovery: seven women scientists who have shaped our world


An article from UN Women

On International Day of Women and Girls in STEM [February 11], here are just seven women scientists you need to know and celebrate.

Left to right: Tu Youyou, Maryam Mirzakhani and Segenet Kelemu.

For centuries, women have made significant contributions to the field of science. They’ve discovered life-saving remedies, devised world-altering inventions, and produced far-reaching research, but in many cases their invaluable advances are minimized or neglected.

For too long, the STEM fields [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] have been shaped by gender biases that exclude women and girls, past, present, and future.

Unequal access to education, technologies, and leadership positions have steered countless bright female minds away from STEM careers and stalled their progress.

Despite the setbacks,creative and tenacious women and girls are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge and seeking solutions to complex global challenges every day. Their work has changed the way we see our world, and their stories deserve to be told, and retold.

The scientific breakthroughs we get reflect those who make them. The gender gap in science, technology and innovation translates to missed talent, untapped discoveries and biased solutions.

Tu Youyou

Tu Youyou is a pharmaceutical chemist whose visionary research on malaria treatment is rooted in ancient Chinese medicine. Her discovery of artemisinin, a compound that quickly reduces the number of plasmodium parasites in the blood of patients with malaria, has saved millions of lives.

As a pharmacology student, Youyou learned to classify medicinal plants, extract active ingredients, and determine their chemical structures. Early in her career she spent years in the rainforests of South China, studying the devastating consequences of malaria and ancient medical texts about traditional Chinese treatments for the disease.

After years of research, Youyou and her team finally found a reference to sweet wormwood, which had been used in China around 400 AD to treat intermittent fevers, a symptom of malaria.
They extracted the active compound artemisinin, tested it, and published their findings. Today the World Health Organization recommends artemisinin combination therapy as the first line of defense against malaria.

‘“Every scientist dreams of doing something that can help the world,” says Youyou.

In 2015 she and two colleagues were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, making her the first Chinese Nobel laureate of this category and the first Chinese woman to receive a Nobel Prize in any category.

Youyou’s discovery continues to save lives every day. Click here to learn more about her extraordinary work.

Kiara Nirghin

“Ever since I was young, I was interested in asking questions about how the world worked,” says 19 year-old Kiara Nirghin, winner of 2016 Google Science Fair for creating a super absorbent polymer that can retain over 100 times its mass—potentially revolutionizing water conservation and sustaining crops through periods of drought. Best yet: it’s low-cost and biodegradable, made of orange peels and avocado skins.

Nirghin’s interest in water conservation stems from her experience of the 2015 drought in her home country of South Africa. She was struck to see water dams, once full to the brim, run dry, and she felt frustrated by the lack of solutions to the problem. “I always knew that I had to do something to solve the drought because nobody else was doing anything,” she said at the United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day 2019.

Nirghin’s discovery has the potential to reach far beyond her hometown; applied to agricultural fields, her super absorbent polymer could increase food security around the globe.

Nirghin continues her research and studies at the University of Stanford and advocates for young girls to pursue their STEM interests: “Getting girls involved in science should be on everyone’s agenda. I think that every idea fundamentally has the power to change our world.”

Lending her voice to UN Women’s I am Generation Equality campaign, Nirghin said: “We can encourage more women and girls to pursue STEM careers by showcasing more positive role models and other women’s success stories. Role models are so important because they are proof to young girls and aspiring scientists that they too can achieve their dreams.”

Learn more about Nirghin’s discovery and experience as a girl in STEM in an Instagram live interview alongside 2015 Google Science Fair winner Olivia Anne Hallisey.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson is a mathematician whose calculations have been essential to U.S. space exploration. As a NASA scientist, Johnson calculated trajectories, launch windows, and emergency return paths that flew the first U.S. astronauts into space and Earth’s orbit.

“I found myself very inquisitive. I wanted to know what was going on and why. It was important to me to learn why,” Johnson says of her drive to push the boundaries of possibility

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Question for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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She was the first African-American woman to attend her graduate school and was one of few African-American women to work on the NASA space program. She faced discrimination because of her race and gender, but she knew she belonged on the team.
“They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there,” she shares.

Today, at 101 years old, Johnson is a steadfast proponent of women and girls in STEM. “Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing,” she says.

She encourages those inspired by her pioneering career to pursue their own interests: “Find out what your dream is, and then work at it. Because if you like what you’re doing you will do well.”

Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist whose radioactivity research laid the foundation for modern nuclear science, from X-rays to radiotherapy for treating cancer. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes in different sciences.

Curie attended university in her native Poland and received her Doctorate degree from the University of Paris. She and her husband Pierre discovered two radioactive elements, polonium and radium, she founded a medical research institute in Warsaw, and she invented mobile X-ray units that helped more than one million wounded soldiers in World War I.

Curie was unaware of the risks her research posed. She eventually died of a radiation-related illness, but her discoveries continue to save lives today.

Encouraging us all to pursue our passions with curiosity and courage, Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Her legacy continues to inspire women and girls in STEM today.

Marcia Barbosa

Marcia Barbosa is a Brazilian physicist known for her research on the complex structures of the water molecule. “Water is weird,” says Barbosa, who thinks the anomalies of the molecule could help address freshwater shortage problems.

Barbosa has developed a series of models of water’s properties that may improve our understanding on a wide variety of topics, such as: how earthquakes occur, proteins fold, cleaner energy is generated, and diseases are treated. In 2013, she was awarded the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science.

In addition to her remarkable research, Barbosa is committed to leveling the playing field for women and girls in STEM. She has organized a number of conferences on women in physics, authored papers on geographic and gender diversity inscience, and taught seminars that examined the lack of women in the field.

Be inspired by Barbosa’s activism and share you support for women and girls’ equal access to education and opportunity by using #WomenInScience.

Segenet Kelemu

Segenet Kelemu is a molecular plant pathologist whose cutting-edge research is dedicated to helping the world’s smallholder farmers grow more food and rise out of poverty.

“The drive of my life is to make a difference in people’s lives and to improve agriculture in Africa,” she shares.

Kelemu grew up in a poor farming family in Ethiopia and was the first woman from her region to get a college degree. “In my village, girls were married off at a very young age, but luckily I was too rebellious for anyone to arrange a marriage for me,” she laughs. “I was really determined to go to university.”

After years of studying and working abroad, Kelemu returned to Africa to lead a new generation of scientists. “I think investment in African agriculture, investment in African research is actually investment for mankind as a whole,” she says.

Kelemu was awarded a L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in 2014, named one of the 100 most influential African women by Forbes Africa, and elected as a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences in 2015.

A woman of many firsts and a hero in her field, Kelemu inspires us to work with purpose and dedication for the causes we care about.

Maryam Mirzakhani

As a girl growing up in Tehran, Iran, Maryam Mirzakhani dreamed of becoming a writer. It wasn’t until her high school years that she discovered her talent for mathematics—the subject that captured her creativity and intellect for the rest of her life.

In 1994, Mirzakhani became the first female Iranian student to win the gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad, scoring 41 out of 42 points, and in 2015 she returned to win with a perfect score.

She earned her PhD from Harvard University and was a leading scholar on the dynamics and geometry of complex surfaces. In 2014, she became the first female winner of the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics.

“The more I spent time on mathematics, the more excited I became,” Mirzakhani said of her research. She recalls loving “the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new, the feeling of being on top of a hill, and having a clear view.”

Although Mirzakhani passed away in 2017, her invaluable contributions to the field of mathematics endure, and her trailblazing career has paved the way forward for many women mathematicians to come.

CONGO issues statement ahead of United Nations 75th anniversary


An article from the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations

President Liberato Bautista of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) will be holding presidential briefings in Geneva, Vienna and New York this December.

The briefings will focus on CoNGO’s Declaration on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. This thoughtful and challenging document was adopted by the CoNGO Board when it met in Geneva this past October.

The Declaration was a product of intense consultations involving many CoNGO members and leaders of CoNGO Substantive Committees worldwide. 

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Question(s) related to this article:

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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The Declaration honors the United Nations System as the essential multilateral mechanism that the world needs to mobilize, coordinate and manage solutions to the planet’s ”Problems without Borders”.

CoNGO calls for the 75th Anniversary to be the occasion for the United Nations System to be strengthened, better structured, better used by governments,  and considerably better financed.

CoNGO calls for the UN System to make greater use of the competence and experience of NGOs and the broader Civil Society as essential partners in ensuring a peaceful and just world built upon achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

President Bautista will hold these Presidential B riefing s to expound upon the Declaration, and to seek further input and participation in conveying the central messages to Civil Society worldwide, to all governments, to all elements and entities of the UN System, and to the people of the planet.

President Bautista will make use of the occasion to discuss CoNGO’s invitation to other NGO and civil society groups with similar initiatives of revisiting the 75 years of the UN and proposing visions of the “world we need”, the world we want” and the UN that is responsive, accountable and well-funded to meet these needs and wants.

Bautista hopes for the development of he calls “CS75 at UN75”. These 75 unities that will be developed through NGO and civil society consultations will be short statements on agreed issues and concerns that shall be conveyed to all entities within the UN System and its member states as the UN approaches its 75th anniversary next year and plan for the years ahead.

The CoNGO Declaration is for use throughout the whole Anniversary Year, and in all UN and Civil Society fora. It is available in EnglishFrench  and Spanish  versions.

Your presence and active participation in any of these three  briefings is most welcome.

UNWomen: In lead up to Generation Equality Forum, Action Coalition themes announced


An article from UN Women

Today, UN Women, together with feminists across the world, and the Governments of Mexico and France, announced the  Action Coalition  themes for the Generation Equality Forum  to be held in Mexico City and Paris this year.

UN Women staff during Generation Equality Private Sector discussions in Kenya. Photo: UN Women/Kennedy Okoth

The Action Coalitions are global, innovative partnerships with governments, civil society, international organizations, and the private sector, to catalyze collective action, drive increased public and private investment, and deliver game-changing results for women and girls everywhere.

The Generation Equality Forum, a civil society-led global gathering convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the Governments of Mexico and France, taking place in Mexico City from 7 to 8 May, and in Paris from 7 to 10 July 2020, will launch the following six catalytic Action Coalitions:

1. Gender-Based Violence
2. Economic justice and rights
3. Bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)
4. Feminist action for climate justice
5. Technology and innovation for gender equality
6. Feminist movements and leadership

The six themes were based on data-driven analysis and selected in consultation with international feminist groups, grassroots activist organizations, governments and other partners.

The Generation Equality Forum is taking place in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most comprehensive blueprint for achieving gender equality and women’s rights, adopted by 189 countries in 1995.

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Question for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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Despite some progress, real change has been slow, and no country has achieved gender equality.As the world faces unprecedented challenges, including climate crisis, rising inequality and threat to multilateralism, progress on girls’ and women’s rights is at risk.

The Action Coalitions, backed with financing and impactful partnerships, aim to make accelerated and irreversible progress to advance gender equality.
Each Action Coalition will be led by a group of partners, including: Member States, women’s movements and civil society organizations and the private sector, as well as UN agencies, other international organizations and youth leaders. 
Adolescent girls and young women are at the heart of Generation Equality, lifting up those who have been silenced, stigmatized and shamed far too long, and ensuring that no one is left behind. One of the concrete actions in each Action Coalition theme will specifically target the unique needs of adolescent girls and young women. 

Each Coalition will develop and implement targeted solutions that advance the rights of adolescent girls and young women during the UN Decade of Action  (2020 – 2030) to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals.

In the coming months, the formation of Action Coalition leadership and membership will be advanced, as well as the development of “Blueprints” accompanying each Action Coalition, which will detail the expected goals, results, budget, a catalogue of commitments and the accountability framework.The upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women  (9 – 20 March) and the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico (7-8 May) will provide opportunities for partners to come together and further elaborate upon the Action Coalition Blueprints.

The Action Coalitions will be officially launched during the Generation Equality Forum from 7 to10 July in Paris, and further amplified at the UN General Assembly in September 2020. 

For more information on Generation Equality Forum and the Action Coalitions, click here. Get involved and join the global campaign, #GenerationEquality  to make gender equality a reality within our lifetimes.