As part of his agenda to reform the UN, Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed the Commission on Human Rights, established in 1946, be replaced by a new body. By resolution 60/251, the General Assembly established the Human Rights Council as the primary mechanism for promoting universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Council addresses human rights violations and provides corresponding recommendations, responds to human rights emergencies, and assists states in fulfilling their human rights obligations. It also provides an international forum where states can voice their concerns about human rights issues. One of the more unique mechanisms of the Council is the Universal Periodic Review, which involves a review of the human rights of all UN Member States.
Ban Ki-moon took office as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations on 1 January 2007. At the time of his election as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban was the Republic of Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In 2011, he was unanimously re-elected by the General Assembly. He served until the end of 2016.
Priorities for Mr. Ban during his two terms included climate change, women's rights, UN reform, human rights abuses, and prevention of armed conflict. In order to support the expanding scope of UN peacekeeping, he worked towards the establishment of the Department of Field Support, which has taken overall responsibility for worldwide peacekeeping operations. Another initiative he championed was the UNiTE to end Violence Against Women campaign, which aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.
Persons with disabilities are often excluded from the mainstream of society through various forms of discrimination. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first comprehensive international human rights treaty of the 21st century intended to address this discrimination and the first human rights convention with an explicit social development dimension. The Convention prohibits discrimination against the world’s over 1 billion persons with disabilities in all areas of life, including employment, education, health services, transportation, and access to justice.
Following passage by the UN General Assembly in 2007, the treaty gained full legal status on 3 May 2008.
A three-day summit of world leaders was convened in June 2009 at UN Headquarters to assess the worst global economic downturn of the 21st century. Its aim was to identify emergency and long-term responses to mitigate the impact of the crisis, especially for vulnerable populations. It also started a dialogue on the transformation of the international financial architecture, while taking into account the needs and concerns of all Member States.
The result of this dialogue was the document, “Outcome of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development” which emphasizes that, “the crisis has not only highlighted long-standing systemic fragilities and imbalances, but has also led to an intensification of efforts to reform and strengthen the international financial system and architecture”.
On 2 July 2010, the General Assembly adopted resolution 64/289, creating the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, known as UN Women. In doing so, Member States took a historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The creation of UN Women was part of the UN’s reform agenda, which worked towards bringing together UN resources and mandates for greater impact. UN Women aims to be a dynamic and strong champion for women and girls, providing them with a powerful voice at the global, regional and local levels; with a particular focus on eliminating gender-based discrimination against women and girls, empowering women, and achieving equality between women and men.
The Republic of South Sudan formally seceded from Sudan on 9 July 2011, as the result of an internationally monitored referendum. Gaining independence was the culmination of a United Nations-facilitated peace process that ended decades of conflict. The General Assembly admitted South Sudan as a new Member State a few days later, on 14 July 2011 under resolution 65/308.
On the eve of South Sudan's independence, the Security Council voted unanimously to set up the a new UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) to help Africa's newest nation consolidate peace and lay the foundation for longer-term state-building, conflict prevention and economic development.
"Rio+20", the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012; twenty years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit. It was the largest UN conference ever and a major step forward in achieving a sustainable future. At the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders - along with thousands of participants from the private sector, NGOs and other groups - came together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity, and ensure environmental protection on a crowded planet.
The official discussions focused on two main themes: how to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift people out of poverty and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development.
On 30 May 2013, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received a landmark report from The High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda entitled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development”. The Panel had been established by the Secretary-General and was co-chaired by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron.
The report sets out a universal agenda "to end extreme poverty in all its forms in the context of sustainable development, and to have in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all" by 2030. It calls upon the world to rally around a new Global Partnership that offers hope and a role to every person in the world.
In response to the Ebola epidemic that was worsening and rapidly spreading in West Africa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the creation of the first-ever UN emergency health mission, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). UNMEER was established on 19 September 2014 with the unanimous adoption of General Assembly resolution 69/1, and Security Council resolution 2177 (2014), as a temporary measure to meet the immediate needs related to the unprecedented fight against Ebola.
The Mission deployed financial, logistical and human resources to the targeted countries to support the push to zero cases. Having achieved its main objective of scaling up the response on the ground, UNMEER closed on 31 July 2015. The task of overseeing the UN System’s Ebola emergency response is now led by the World Health Organization.
The Paris Agreement was adopted on 12 December 2015 at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This groundbreaking document marks the start of a new course in the global climate effort. For the first time all nations joined a common cause to combat climate change by signing this legally binding document.
The Agreement aims to strengthen the international response to the climate change threat by limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit it even further to 1.5°C. To ensure transparency, governments agreed to come together every five years to report on mitigation measures being taken to rein in global warming, to assess the collective progress towards the long-term goals and inform Parties in updating and enhancing their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
With the adoption of the Agreement, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was requested to produce a special report assessing what a 1.5°C warmer world would look like and recommending different pathways by which global temperature rise could be limited to 1.5°C. In its 2018 report, the IPCC made an urgent call for much stronger climate action.