To "Promote gender equality and empower women" is one of eight MiIlennium Development Goals (MDGs) committed to by governments through the United Nations (UN) system. A series of United Nations forums have been dedicated to the special challenges faced by women and girls. The fourth world forum on women's issues held in Beijing in 1995 identified 12 Critical Areas of concern and outlined a "Platform for Action" that continues to guide discussion and policy. It has been subject to review (Beijing +5, Beijing +10) and many critical areas are yet be resolved.
Globally women and girls continue to be the victims of inequality, poverty and violence. Soroptimist Programme of Service seeks to support these global initiatives and address issues that impact on women and girls at a local and national level, as well as through international communities. Soroptimists work to achieve these goals through UN representation.
Soroptimist International has General Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), this provides the opportunity to make statements and to discuss global issues.
Soroptimist representatives to the United Nations in New York, Geneva, Paris and Vienna participate in general meetings, sit on committees and provide Soroptimist information and opinions based upon the "Where We Stand" and the international database of Soroptimist Club Programme Focus Reports. These representatives also report to the membership and make recommendations for the Soroptimist Programme of Service.
Soroptimists, United Nations and other Non Government Organisations (NGOs) work to Advocate and Improve Human Rights for All.
Soroptimist International sends delegations to major NGO forums, particularly those relating to women's issues. Soroptimists are encouraged to become aware of the commitments made by their governments at such forums and to advocate for the implementation of those commitments through national legislation and policies.
Other international NGOs that pursue Economic and Social Rights for women include:
UNESCO leads the global Education for All (EFA) movement, aiming to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015 in accordance with Millenium Development Goal (MDG) Two. A mid-term summary of progress is available from the UNESCO website. Interesting statistics and Fact Sheets are also available from the UNICEF site.
Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, was adopted by more than 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992. The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, to monitor and report on implementation of the agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels. The full implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Commitments to the Rio principles, were strongly reaffirmed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002 out of which came the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).
Agenda 21 remains the comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organisations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment. Women's groups in Rio prepared a more strongly worded Women's Agenda 21. Women continue to work actively for gender equality in decision making about the environment and financing for development through organisations like Women's Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO).
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs - Division for Sustainable Development website includes an interactive list of information, documents and publications relating to issues contained in Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) and Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) implementation cycles. The UN also maintains a Gateway on Climate Change. Soroptimist International have a document on Women and Climate Change.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a major worldwide tree-planting campaign. Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, business and industry, civil society organisations and governments are encouraged to enter tree-planting pledges online with the objective of planting at least one billion trees worldwide each year.
Security Council Resolution 1325, passed unanimously on 31 October 2000, (S/RES/1325) is the first resolution ever passed by the Security Council that specifically addresses the impact of war on women, and women's contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. It invited the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan to “carry out a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace-building and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution.” Details about the resolution and other issues of women, war and peace can be found at the UNIFEM portal on women, peace and security.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has a Public Information Unit that provides information on refugee programmes world-wide. It also produces newsletters and discussion papers on key policy issues relevant to the region and has a wide range of informational packs, educational resources and display materials for teachers, community groups and the public - many downloadable from their website.
United Nations Observances
A full list of United Nations (UN) observances can be found from their website but we have included a selection of them below.
United Nations Decades
United Nations Days