The United Nations (UN)

The United Nations was formed in 1945, after the close of World War II, and now has 193 member states.  It aims to create international co-ordination to make the world a better and safer place for current and future generations. They help promote and work towards better health and human development across the globe in many ways.

We learn about the United Nations’ four action areas, the four major ways they improve global health and sustainable human development.

World peace and security

The UN promotes peace worldwide through:

  • Conflict prevention and mediation: the UN mediates between countries to stop small disputes escalating into violent conflict.
  • Peacekeeping: UN peacekeepers deploy to war-torn areas to stop conflict returning or escalating (e.g. protect civilians, disarm combatants, and encourage ceasefire and negotiation).
  • Peacebuilding: the UN addresses the core issues and needs that lead to conflict, laying the foundation for long-term peace.
  • Disarmament: the UN collects and disposes of weapons.

Promoting peace and reducing conflict improves health and human development (see the impact of factors on health status).

Human rights

The UN developed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which sets out the basic rights all humans are entitled to, such as the right to work, to adequate living standards (food, clothing, housing, and medical care), to education, to liberty, and to freedom of opinion.  The UN then works to increase awareness of these rights and enforce them, through its Human Rights Council, and through promoting world peace and security and social and economic development.

Humanitarian assistance

The UN is the major provider of emergency relief and long-term assistance. It reduces suffering in disasters and emergencies, advocates for the rights of those in need, promotes preparedness and prevention, and facilitates sustainable solutions.

The UN provides necessary supplies, such as food, water, shelter, and medical attention, those in areas severely affected by natural disasters or conflict.  The World Food Programme (WFP) provides large-scale food drops, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) organises the response to health emergencies.

The UN also maintains camps for those forced to leave their homes in emergencies, and the UNHCR provides international protection and aid to refugees.

Social and economic development

The UN set up and works towards the Millennium Development Goals, which promote:

  • decent and productive employment (economic development)
  • access to education (social and economic)
  • gender equality (social development)
  • a global partnership for economic development by helping countries to overcome debt and trade competitively

Through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the UN promotes increased employment, higher living standards, and human rights.  UN Women and UNICEF protect rights and equality towards women and children.