Paris Climate Change Conference: COP21 Paris Agreement Explained


At the Paris Climate Change Conference politicians just signed a deal to reduce emissions and stop the planet heating to dangerous levels. Does this mean the world is safe!?

Climate Action: Five Suggested Ways to Fight Climate Change


Though some still deny it exists, most people agree that climate change is no good thing. How can taking fewer selfies help to stop it?

Does Climate Change Cause Violent Conflict?


Bernie Sanders, Prince Charles and Charlotte Church may have little in common, but we recently discovered that they agree on at least one thing.

All three have recently stated that climate change has played a big part in causing the ongoing civil war in Syria, and if we want to end violence in the long-run, we should get more serious about tackling climate change.


Casually saving the world since 1945

United Nations - casually saving the world since 1945The United Nations was set up in 1945.

Its aim: to prevent another world war and make the world a better place. Its mission statement is laid down in the UN charter.

The UN is made up of 193 member states. Members convene at the United Nations General Assembly, which is the main policy making section of the UN. All sounds very important.

The UN Security Council maintains international peace and security. No big deal.

The Security Council has five permanent members;

France, Russia, China, the USA and the UK. 10 additional nations serve two-year terms.


So far the United Nations have had great successes;

In 1961 the United Nations created the World Food Programme. This provides food to around 90 million people. The number of starving people in the world has dropped by around 100 million in the last decade.


United Nations Yokosuka, Japan (Oct. 28, 2004) - Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Tiffany Long of San Diego, Calif., administers the influenza vaccination to a crew member aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). Currently in port, Kitty Hawk demonstrates power projection and sea control as the U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, operating from Yokosuka, Japan. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Joseph R Schmitt (RELEASED)

The UN has vaccinated thousands against deadly diseases.

Eradicating smallpox is one of the United Nations greatest achievements, according to Alex Buskie at the United Nations Association.

By vaccinating more than half the world’s children against deadly diseases the UN is estimated to save 2.5 million lives a year.

The UN also takes a tough stance on war criminals.

A war crime is defined as an act carried during a war that violates accepted international rules of war.

Think: killing civilians and torturing prisoners. Not nice stuff.

In 2003 the UN set up a tribunal to trial Liberian politician Charles Taylor for war crimes during the Liberian Civil war. Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in jail. Go UN!


Oh, and the UN has a list of Global Development Goals which will make the world a better place. Read: the United Nations’ plan to save the world

However, not everything has gone to plan;

Nuclear Bombs Explained: Map of the world showing which countries have nuclear weapons

Nuclear Bombs Explained: Blue = NPT states (with nuclear weapons, Red = other states with Nuclear Weapons, Brown = Suspected of having weapons, Navy = NATO nuclear weapon sharing states, Green = Formally had nuclear weapons

A 1970 UN nuclear treaty committed most members to getting rid of all nuclear weapons. Some countries like South Africa have got rid of their weapons. Yet in 2015, there are still around 15,000 nukes in the world. Yikes.

The United Nations has also struggled to make headway in the fight against climate change.

In 2009, all the UN states met at a summit in Copenhagen to agree on a deal to tackle climate change. It was expected a legal treaty would be signed – but everyone came away with nothing. UN member states meet again in Paris this year to try to lock in a deal. If at first you don’t succeed.

Explained; everything you need to know about the Paris Climate Talks.

Though the UN keeps the world looking pretty by protecting World Heritage Sites it failed to stop Islamist group Islamic State blowing up ancient temples at Palmyra, Syria.

United Nations peacekeepers are now being dispatched to protect other heritage sites around the globe. Better late than never.


Failure to stop Genocide

Graves in Srebrenica, Bosnia

The UN failed to save lives in Srebrenica

The United Nations has also been criticised for the failure of some of its peacekeeping missions. Let’s just say the success rate is well below 100%.

In Rwanda, Africa the UN failed to stop thousands of the Tutsi minority from being murdered by the Hutu majority. It’s claimed that the UN knew it was going to happen beforehand.

The United Nations also failed to prevent another genocide (mass killing of an ethnic group or large group of people) in Srebrenica, Bosnia.

During the Bosnian civil war killings occurred inside zones that were deemed as “safe havens” by UN peacekeeping forces.

According to Human Rights Watch “United Nations peacekeeping officials were unwilling to heed requests for support from their own forces stationed within the enclave, thus allowing Bosnian Serb forces to easily overrun it and

— without interference from U.N. soldiers — to carry out systematic, mass executions of hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilian men and boys and to terrorize, rape, beat, execute, rob and otherwise abuse civilians being deported from the area.”

Not the UN’s finest hour.


Frenemies at the United Nations Security Council

Nuclear War Explained: President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin sit awkwardly in silence

Things are still tense between the USA and Russia

Though the Security Council is supposed to reduce international conflict there’s been tension between certain member states. Ahem, America and Russia.

The five Permanent council members have a veto power, or the power to reject plans put forward by other states. If just one of the five permanent member vetoes a particular action, it cannot go ahead – even if the other 14 countries voted for it.

Things got awkward when the UK, France and the USA wanted to intervene in the Syrian civil war… only to be blocked repeatedly by Russia and China.

Explore; why are things so tense between Russia and the West?

Then there’s the selection of Saudi Arabia as the head of the UN human rights panel.

With reports of beheadings, floggings and planned crucifixions coming from within Saudi Arabia it could be argued the country’s record on human rights is questionable to say the least.

Do we need the United Nations?

Despite some of the shortcomings listed above it is clear that the United Nations has done a lot of good in the world. However some still call it “outdated” and say that it needs to be reformed. What do you think?


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This is how the United Nations is going to save the world

The international organisation the United Nations just set a load of aims to make the world a better place. Only thing is, the UN didn’t meet its previous targets. What are you going to do to help?


United what?

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: The United Nations flag

Cool flag, bro

Everyone has that friend who’s a bit of an overachiever. You know, balancing three careers simultaneously whilst also learning a new language?

In the international community the United Nations is that person.

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organisation promoting international cooperation. That’s a posh way of saying the world’s governments get together to solve problems faced by the planet. For example: war, poverty, climate change, that kind of stuff.

The United Nations formed in 1945, primarily to prevent another conflict like World War II. So far, so good.



So, what are the United Nations planning?

The UN just announced its new set of Sustainable Development Goals. Big words; simple aims. These are the UN goals make the world a better place.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: chatshow host Stephen Colbert gif about poor people

Sustainable Development Goal 1: End Poverty

The full list has 17 goals.

Each goal has numerous aims and targets to be met before 2030. Ambitious much?

The list kicks off with “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”. Starting with something easy then.

It then zips through stuff like “end hunger” and “ensure sanitation for all” (clean water and all that jazz) and “achieve gender equality” for good measure. No biggie.


A to-do list

Think of the Sustainable Development Goals as the worlds to-do list?

That’s not to mention promising “decent work for all” (fair pay and realistic working hours) making our energy and cities sustainable reducing inequality in the world.

All done yet?

The United Nations also believes we must “take urgent action to combat climate change”.

The key word here is sustainable. As in, we only have one world with limited resources, so let’s be smart about how we use them.

Oh, and the UN wants to ensure global society is inclusive and peaceful.

It’s like the to-do list of a higher power.


Did the UN achieve the previous set of sustainable development goals?

Errmmm… not exactly.

The Guardian reports that although the United Nations achieved significant progress with the previous set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many specific targets were missed. For example; Millennium Development Goal One tackled global poverty. The United Nations missed its target of halving the number of people suffering from hunger.

It’s not all doom and gloom; despite some missed targets, other aims were achieved ahead of schedule. It’s estimated that 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Not bad going.


Moving Forward

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: the UN general assembly building

In da house; the Sustainable Development Goals will be adopted at the UN general assembly

United Nations member states will meet at the UN summit 25-27th September 2015 to formally adopt the brand new Sustainable Development goals.

International organisations like the UN relies on aid from countries to fund development work.

In case you were wondering what we spend: the UK government is committed to spending 0.7% of our total income on foreign aid.

The United Nations created the Sustainable Development Fund to put organisations and businesses who want to help in touch with relevant UN and humanitarians agencies around the world.

Call it the world’s largest matchmaker.

However with goals like providing “sanitation for all” estimated to cost $290 billion a year people worry there will not be enough money.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 27JAN11 - Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, New York looks on during the session 'Combating Chronic Disease' at the Annual Meeting 2011 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 27, 2011.

Top man; Ban Ki-Moon admits the previous goals weren’t all met

Is it realistic to set new goals when previous ones are unfinished? Or perhaps setting the bar high is a good thing as it encourages us to strive harder?

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general acknowledges that while remarkable gains were achieved “inequalities persist and that progress has been uneven.”

The United Nations is doing some great things in the world, though we wonder how it would go down if we tried a similar approach in our own lives.

Picture it: next time you’re given a task at work, brand it as part of something much more difficult and say “at least I tried”. Then set new targets and hope no-one notices.


United Nations decoded; sometimes setting seemingly impossible goals can help you achieve great things.

Sometimes it just means you don’t hit your targets.


One goal we can all achieve is to understand the news. Subscribe to our newsletter and let us do the explaining. Also Like and Follow for regular decoded news.