The Essential UN
Take a moment to learn about the UN
UN Logo and Flag
The logo and flag of the UN have become its symbols as it carries out its work on the world stage. They have the practical effect of identifying the United Nations in areas of trouble and conflict to any and all parties concerned. They are also aspirational symbols, for they speak to the hopes and dreams of people the world over, for peace and unity. On 20 October 1947 the General Assembly adopted resolution 167 (II) on the United Nations Flag.
Description: The official emblem of the United Nations in white, centered on a light blue background (colour code PMS 279 in the Pantone Matching System).
Proportions: Hoist (width) : Fly (length) 2:3 or 3:5 or the same proportions as the national flag of any country in which the UN flag is flown. The emblem is one half of the hoist and is entirely centered.
Use: The use of the flag is regulated by the United Nations Flag Code and Regulations (ST/SGB/132) of January 1967.

The United Nations Emblem

The design is “a map of the world representing an azimuthal equidistant projection centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree, in gold on a field of smoke-blue with all water areas in white. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles (A/107)”.
Symbolism: The olive branches symbolize peace. The world map depicts the area of concern to the United Nations in achieving its main purpose; peace and security.
Use: The use of the emblem is restricted. The restrictions are based on the following documents:
• General Assembly resolution 92(I);
• Regulations for the control and limitation of documentation –
Addendum – Use of the United Nations emblem on documents and publications (ST/AI/189/Add.21) of 15 January 1979 and its Amendment 1 of 23 January 2008.
An international organization that helps to build a better world.

Take a moment to learn about the UN. The United Nations remains an essential pillar of the international system, working around the world, around the clock, for peace, sustainable development and human rights. At a time when challenges are increasingly global, and our fates are inexorably intertwined, understanding the United Nations itself—its aims, workings and ideals—is more important than ever. The Essential UN website, available in multiple languages, provides a succinct and interactive way to quickly grasp the essentials of the Organization through fast facts, short videos, information cards and fun quizzes.
Video “What is the UN?” is available on:

What UN does

The United Nations serves as a global forum where countries can raise and discuss the most difficult issues, including problems of war and peace. In addition to maintaining international peace and security, the United Nations protects human rights, delivers humanitarian aid, promotes sustainable development and upholds international law.
UN Action: 10 Facts
The United Nations
• Provides food and assistance to 80 million people in 80 countries
• Supplies vaccines to 45% of the world’s children, helping save 3 million lives a year
• Assists and protects 65.3 million people fleeing war, famine and persecution
• Works with 195 nations to hold the rise in global temperature below 2°C/3.6°F
• Keeps peace with 117,000 peacekeepers in 15 operations on 4 continents
• Fights extreme poverty, helping improve the lives of more than 1.1 billion people
• Protects and promotes human rights globally and through 80 treaties/declarations
• Coordinates US$22.5 billion appeal for the humanitarian needs of 93.5 million people
• Uses diplomacy to prevent conflict: assists some 67 countries a year with their elections
• Supports maternal health, helping over 1 million women a month overcome pregnancy risks

Did you know?

Children playing. UN Photo
As the world’s only truly universal global organization, the United Nations has become the foremost forum to address issues that transcend national boundaries and cannot be resolved by any one country acting alone. Taking a global view reveals some interesting facts.

Did you know:
• that most of the world’s people live no more than 200 miles from the sea, or
• that decolonization changed the face of the planet, creating more than 80 nations, or
• that women in the labour market still earn on average a quarter less than men globally?
The idea of the United Nations was born during World War II (1939-1945). The name “United Nations”, coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. World leaders who had collaborated to end the war felt a strong need for a mechanism that would help bring peace and stop future wars. They realized that this was possible only if all nations worked together through a global organization. The United Nations was to be that Organization.

Charter of the United Nations
The founding document of the United Nations, the UN Charter, was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco.
According to its Charter, the UN aims:
• to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,
• to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,
• to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained,
• and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations, it sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
The Declaration has been translated into more than 500 languages.

Member States
States are admitted to membership in the United Nations by decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. The recognition of a new State or Government is an act that only other States and Governments may grant or withhold. The UN currently has 193 member states. The Members of the United Nations pay for everything that the Organization does, according to a scale of assessments agreed upon by all. This scale is based on a country’s ability to pay, national income and population.

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) and Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.
Equal parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO, the Secretary-General is a symbol of United Nations ideals and a spokesman for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them. The current Secretary-General, and the ninth occupant of the post, is Mr. António Guterres of Portugal, who took office on 1 January 2017. Since 1997, the Secretary-General has been assisted in managing Secretariat operations by the Deputy Secretary-General, a post currently held by Ms. Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria.

The Nobel Peace Prize medal. UN Photo
In 70 years, the United Nations, its specialised agencies, related agencies, funds, programmes and staff were awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize eleven times. Two Secretaries-General, Kofi Annan and Dag Hammarskjöld, were also honoured for their work by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Funds, Programmes, Specialized Agencies and Others

The UN system, also known unofficially as the “UN family”, is made up of the UN itself and many affiliated programmes, funds, and specialized agencies, all with their own membership, leadership, and budget. The programmes and funds are financed through voluntary rather than assessed contributions. The Specialized Agencies are independent international organizations funded by both voluntary and assessed contributions.
What is UN Peacekeeping?
United Nations Peacekeeping helps countries torn by conflict create conditions for lasting peace. UN Peacekeeping is a unique global partnership. It draws together the legal and political authority of the Security Council, the personnel and financial contributions of Member States, the support of host countries and the accumulated experience of the Secretariat in managing operations in the field. It is this partnership that gives UN Peacekeeping its legitimacy, sustainability and global reach.

UN Peacekeeping facts
• Peacekeeping operations since 1948: 71
• Current peacekeeping operations: 15
• Total number of personnel: about 112,000
• Annual budget: about $8 billion

The Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth serves as a global advocate for addressing the needs and rights of young people, as well as for bringing the United Nations closer to them. The Envoy’s Office is part of the United Nations Secretariat and supports multi-stakeholder partnerships related to the United Nations system-wide action plan on youth and to youth volunteer initiatives. The office also promotes the empowerment and foster the leadership of youth at the national, regional, and global levels, including through exploring and encourages mechanisms for young people’s participation in the work of the United Nations and in political and economic processes with a special focus on the most marginalized and vulnerable youth.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Jayathma Wickramanayake of Sri Lanka as his Envoy on Youth. She succeeded Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan. The success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on empowering young people as rights-holders, agents of change and torchbearers.
Ask the UN: FAQs
Frequently asked questions about the UN answered succinctly by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library. All answers are provided with references to official sources.
For example:
• How much does my country contribute to the UN budget and how is it determined?
• Does the United Nations have an army?
• How do I file a human rights violation complaint with the United Nations?

Please visit:

UN tour guides answer questions about the
• UN budget
• UN humanitarian and development activities.
• action on peace and security.
Explore documents, votes, speeches, public domain publications and more!
The United Nations Digital Library (UNDL) is now available! The platform provides access to UN-produced materials in digital format free of charge. The system incorporates content presented in various ” stand-alone databases” such as the UN Bibliographic Information System (UNBISNET) and the UN Official Document System (ODS) – almost 900,000 records and counting. It provides one global point of access to UN information – current and historical. Enhancements will be rolled out on a regular basis.
What can you find in the United Nations Digital Library now?
– UN documents and open access publications
– UN voting data and speeches
– UN maps
– UN content freely available around the world
– Content in 6+ languages
Official Languages of UN
There are six official languages of the UN. These are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. The correct interpretation and translation of these six languages, in both spoken and written form, is very important to the work of the Organization, because this enables clear and concise communication on issues of global importance.
UN on Social Media

Connect to UN Radio

What Is Sustainable Development?

Sustainable development (SD) is defined as “development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Thus, sustainable development is the organizing principle for sustaining finite resources necessary to provide for the needs of future generations of life on the planet. (Brundtland Report)
Sustainable development recognizes that growth must be both inclusive and environmentally sound to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity for today’s population and continue to meet the needs of future generations.
On September 25th 2015, at an historic UN summit, world leaders adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda to be achieved by 2030 . The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a set of 17 “Global Goals” with 169 targets between them. Each goal has specific targets. For the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and people.

Sustainable Development Goals:
Improve Life All Around The Globe

The new Goals are unique in that they call for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.
Human Rights

The term “human rights” was mentioned seven times in the UN’s founding Charter, making the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the Organization. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights brought human rights into the realm of international law. Since then, the Organization has diligently protected human rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities.
How does the UN promote and protect human rights?
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) ,Human Rights Council, Human Rights Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures, UNDG-HRM, and Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect

Deliver Humanitarian Aid

One of the purposes of the United Nations, as stated in its Charter, is “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.” The UN first did this in the aftermath of the Second World War on the devastated continent of Europe, which it helped to rebuild. The Organization is now relied upon by the international community to coordinate humanitarian relief operations due to natural and man-made disasters in areas beyond the relief capacity of national authorities alone. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of the UN Secretariat is responsible for coordinating responses to emergencies.
What key UN entities deliver humanitarian aid?
Four UN entities, UNDP, UNHCR,UNICEF and the WFP have primary roles in the delivery of relief assistance. UNDP is the agency responsible for operational activities for natural disaster mitigation, prevention and preparedness. When emergencies occur, UNDP Resident Coordinators coordinate relief and rehabilitation efforts at the national level.

UN Observances -Mark your calendar

The United Nations observes designated days, weeks, years, and decades, each with a theme, or topic. By creating special observances, the United Nations promotes international awareness and action on these issues. The majority of observances have been established by resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, although some have been designated by UN specialized agencies. The United Nations also observes anniversaries of key events in its history.

Around-the-clock news
Check out the UN News stream for the latest news, photos, videos, audio, tweets and Secretary-General’s statements, updated continuously throughout the day.
UN Video Products
To see a full selection of UN videos go to
This comprehensive handbook explains the structure of the United Nations, how the Organization works, the main issues it addresses and its importance for people everywhere.

DPI/The Essential UN -Fast Facts -New Website Page/750
(August 2017)

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Information For a Better World
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