United Nations

United Nations Logo

The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945.  It is currently made up of 193 Member States.  The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.

UN Photo
United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Due to the powers vested in its Charter and its unique international character, the United Nations can take action on the issues confronting humanity in the 21st century, such as peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food production, and more.

The UN also provides a forum for its members to express their views in the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and other bodies and committees. By enabling dialogue between its members, and by hosting negotiations, the Organization has become a mechanism for governments to find areas of agreement and solve problems together.

The UN’s Chief Administrative Officer is the Secretary-General.

2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

UN Photo/Pasqual Gorriz
An Indian UNIFIL peacekeeper watches over the “Blue Line”, which demarcates the border between Israel and Lebanon, from the town of Shab’a, Lebanon, in 2012.

MAINTAIN INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY

The United Nations came into being in 1945, following the devastation of the Second World War, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN does this by working to prevent conflict; helping parties in conflict make peace; peacekeeping; and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. These activities often overlap and should reinforce one another, to be effective. The UN Security Council has the primary responsibility for international peace and security. The General Assembly and the Secretary-General play major, important, and complementary roles, along with other UN offices and bodies.

UN Photo/Fardin Waezi
Students at Butkhak High School in Kabul, Afghanistan, cheer in unison on the last day of Global Action Week, an international campaign advocating free, quality education for all.

PROTECT 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.

UN Photo/Albert González Farran
A child has a meal at a food distribution centre in the Rwanda camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), near Tawila, North Darfur. More than 8,000 women and children living in the camp benefit from nutrition programmes run by the World Food Programme (WFP).

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.

UN Photo/Riccardo Gangale
Grace, a farmer from Kipilat village, and a leading member of the forest community in Ainabkoi, Kenya, planting a tree in 2012.

PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

From the start in 1945, one of the main priorities of the United Nations was to “achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”  Improving people’s well-being continues to be one of the main focuses of the UN. The global understanding of development has changed over the years, and countries now have agreed that sustainable development – development that promotes prosperity and economic opportunity, greater social well-being, and protection of the environment – offers the best path forward for improving the lives of people everywhere.

UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivers its order on the request for the indication of provisional measures filed by Nicaragua on 11 October 2013 in the case concerning Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica).

UPHOLD INTERNATIONAL LAW

The UN Charter, in its Preamble, set an objective: “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. Ever since, the development of, and respect for international law has been a key part of the work of the Organization.  This work is carried out in many ways – by courts, tribunals, multilateral treaties – and by the Security Council, which can approve peacekeeping missions, impose sanctions, or authorize the use of force when there is a threat to international peace and security, if it deems this necessary.  These powers are given to it by the UN Charter, which is considered an international treaty.  As such, it is an instrument of international law, and UN Member States are bound by it.  The UN Charter codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.

 

Working as a staff member in the UN Secretariat gives you the opportunity to work in a dynamic, multicultural environment.  The 41,000 staff of the United Nations, who come from its 193 Member States, are from many backgrounds and have varied experience.  It is an exciting and unique challenge to be part of such a working environment because it leads to a broader understanding of all the world’s countries and cultures. The UN welcomes applications from nationals of all of its Member States and strongly encourages women to apply.

UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Aerial group photo of staff in Geneva simulating the Sustainable Development Goals logo on United Nations Staff Day in October 2016.

The world looks to the UN for solutions to complex problems. The issues the UN deals with are as diverse as the careers it offers.  Its work touches every challenge humanity faces, from peace and security to human rights, humanitarian work, development, and more.  Working for the UN is exciting and rewarding because you are not only working for the UN.  You are working for humanity.  You are trying to make the world a better place to live in.

Where to Apply

Job openings are published on the United Nations Careers Portal. Applicants with disabilities are considered by the United Nations for employment under all types of contracts in full compliance with the United Nations Charter. The United Nations offers a variety of ways to join its workforce.  Professional positions are available by applying on the Careers Portal, or through the examination process.  Candidates for jobs in the General Service and related categories, including those in the trades and crafts, security and safety, secretarial and other support positions, are recruited locally.

What are you doing for peace?

The Department of Field Support is running a global awareness campaign to highlight the diverse range of career opportunities that are available in peace operations across multiple duty stations worldwide.

Human Resources Information

At the United Nations HR Portal, you can find information on UN Secretariat Staff Members’ duties, obligations and privileges.  There is also information on the portal about resources available to staff, pay and benefits, career development, learning opportunities, tracking your performance, taking care of your health and well-being, and other tools and resources.

Competitive Examinations

The United Nations offers the Young Professionals Programme for Junior Professionals and examinations for positions requiring special language skills.

Associate Experts Programme

This Programme offers young professionals who are graduates from universities or institutions of higher education an opportunity to acquire professional experience in the technical cooperation of the United Nations Secretariat.

Headquarters Internship Programme

The United Nations provides internship opportunities at UN Headquarters in New York, and at other major UN duty stations.  Applicants must, at the time of application, either be enrolled in a graduate school programme (second university degree or equivalent or higher); or be enrolled in the final academic year of a first university degree programme (minimum Bachelor’s level or equivalent); or they must have graduated with a university degree (as defined above) and if selected, must commence the internship within a one-year period of graduation, as provided for in section 11.4 of ST/AI/2014/1.

Working in the UN system

If you are interested in working for other United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, please visit their websites directly.  Most websites can be accessed through the links found at the International Civil Service Commission.

Warning to Job Seekers

There are job advertisements and offers that falsely state that they are from the United Nations. Please be aware that the United Nations does not request payment at any stage of the application and review process.  See more about fraudulent announcements.

Volunteer

You can create beneficial change and have a positive impact on people’s lives by volunteering. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is based in Bonn (Germany) and is active in over 100 countries every year.  You can be a volunteer in the field or online.

The unfinished business of our time

Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential. Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development. Moreover, it has been shown that empowering women spurs productivity and economic growth.

Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go to achieve full equality of rights and opportunities between men and women, warns UN Women. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to end the multiple forms of gender violence and secure equal access to quality education and health, economic resources and participation in political life for both women and girls and men and boys. It is also essential to achieve equal opportunities in access to employment and to positions of leadership and decision-making at all levels.

The UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres has stated that achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.

The United Nations and women

UN support for the rights of women began with the Organization’s founding Charter.  Among the purposes of the UN declared in Article 1 of its Charter is “To achieve international co-operation … in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

Within the UN’s first year, the Economic and Social Council established its Commission on the Status of Women, as the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.  Among its earliest accomplishments was ensuring gender-neutral language in the draft Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Women and human rights

The landmark Declaration, adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948, reaffirms that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, … birth or another status.”

As the international feminist movement began to gain momentum during the 1970s, the General Assembly declared 1975 as the International Women’s Year and organized the first World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City.  At the urging of the Conference, it subsequently declared the years 1976-1985 as the UN Decade for Women, and established a Voluntary Fund for Decade.

In 1979, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which is often described as an International Bill of Rights for Women.  In its 30 articles, the Convention explicitly defines discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. The Convention targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations, and it is the first human rights treaty to affirm the reproductive rights of women.

Five years after the Mexico City conference, a Second World Conference on Women was held in Copenhagen in 1980.  The resulting Programme of Action called for stronger national measures to ensure women’s ownership and control of property, as well as improvements in women’s rights with respect to inheritance, child custody and loss of nationality.

Birth of Global Feminism

In 1985, the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, was held in Nairobi.  It was convened at a time when the movement for gender equality had finally gained true global recognition, and 15,000 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participated in a parallel NGO Forum.

The event was described by many as “the birth of global feminism”. Realizing that the goals of the Mexico City Conference had not been adequately met, the 157 participating governments adopted the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies to the Year 2000. The document broke new ground by declaring all issues to be women’s issues.

Beijing Conference on Women

The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, went a step further than the Nairobi Conference.  The Beijing Platform for Action asserted women’s rights as human rights and committed to specific actions to ensure respect for those rights.

Commission on the Status of Women

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

An Organization for women

On 2 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously voted to create a single UN body tasked with accelerating progress in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. The new UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – or UN Women – merged four of the world body’s agencies and offices: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.

Women and the Sustainable Development Goals

Gender Equality

The United Nations is now focusing its global development work on the recently-developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Women have a critical role to play in all of the SDGs, with many targets specifically recognizing women’s equality and empowerment as both the objective and as part of the solution.

Goal 5, to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” is known as the stand-alone gender goal, because it is dedicated to achieving these ends. Deep legal and legislative changes are needed to ensure women’s rights around the world. While a record 143 countries guaranteed equality between men and women in their Constitutions by 2014, another 52 had not taken this step.

Stark gender disparities remain in economic and political realms. While there has been some progress over the decades, on average women in the labour market still earn 24 per cent less than men globally. As of August 2015, only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female, a slow rise from 11.3 per cent in 1995.

Eliminating Violence Against Women

The UN system continues to give particular attention to the issue of violence against women.  The 1993 General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women contained “a clear and comprehensive definition of violence against women [and] a clear statement of the rights to be applied to ensure the elimination of violence against women in all its forms”.  It represented “a commitment by States in respect of their responsibilities and a commitment by the international community at large to the elimination of violence against women”.

Violence against women is a pandemic affecting all countries, even those that have made laudable progress in other areas. Worldwide, 35 per cent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence

In September 2017, the European Union and the United Nations joined forces to launch the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative that focuses on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is observed on 25 November.

Women’s Day and other observances

International Women’s Day is observed annually on 8 March.  International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. It is a day, observed by many countries around the world, on which women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

Besides International Women’s Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the UN observes other international days dedicated to raising awareness of different aspects of the struggle for gender equality and women empowerment. On February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is observed, February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science,  June 19 is the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict,  June 23 is International Widows’ Day,  October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child and on October 15 the International Day of Rural Women is observed.

Gender Inclusive Language GuidelinesGender-inclusive language

Given the key role that language plays in shaping cultural and social attitudes, using gender-inclusive language is a powerful way to promote gender equality and eradicate gender bias.

Being inclusive from a gender language perspective means speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.

These Guidelines include recommendations and materials, created to help United Nations staff use gender-inclusive language in any type of communication — oral or written, formal or informal — and are a useful starting point for anyone.


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Date Established

October 1945

Headquarters

New York City