What Happens When We Act for the World: Stories of Progress in 2017

Photo: Georgina Goodwin for UN Foundation

Behind the headlines of division and challenge are stories of progress that don’t often make the front pages. They are stories of people and groups refusing to stand on the sidelines in the face of today’s global problems…

  • Adolescent girls speaking out for the rights of girls everywhere, and Americans advocating for U.S. support for the United Nations;
  • Peacekeepers working to bring stability to some of the world’s most dangerous places;
  • Cities, companies, and citizens taking action to stop climate change and advance sustainable development;
  • And organizations, governments, and UN agencies working together to respond to disasters and crises, secure human rights for all, and protect children from deadly diseases.

They prove that when we act for the world, change happens. Just look at the data: Child deaths continue to decline, more people continue to move out of extreme poverty, and the world has begun implementing landmark plans to end poverty, reduce inequalities, and combat climate change. This progress is made possible by working together across borders — because global problems need global answers.

While it may seem easier to close our eyes to what’s happening around us, we can’t hide from the world — and it’s much more effective to join hands than turn our backs. That is why we need the United Nations, the world’s platform for peace and progress.

Throughout 2017, the United Nations Foundation has worked to connect people, ideas, and resources to the UN to help move forward on some of the world’s biggest issues. In support of UN causes, the UN Foundation has worked with partners and supporters to:

Advance the Rights and Well-Being of Girls & Women

We believe in the dignity and rights of every person and continue to work to advance gender equality — because it’s a moral obligation and an opportunity to grow economies and strengthen communities. For example:

  • Since launching in the U.S. in 2010, the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign has grown to more than 2,000 clubs in 98 countries and has trained 66,342 girls in leadership development programs. This year, Girl Up also partnered with Disney on #DreamBigPrincess,a global photographic campaign where people shared inspiring stories of girls worldwide, which garnered 1 million likes and shares on social media — enabling Disney to donate $1 million to Girl Up for its leadership work.
  • In response to U.S. policies and funding cuts that jeopardize the sexual and reproductive health and rights of millions of women, the Universal Access Project (UAP) rallied the global women’s health advocacy community, including engaging with nearly 40 top-tier U.S. journalists and launching a Private Sector Action for Women’s Health business guide.
  • Family Planning 2020 — which grew to 120+ commitment makers — gathered policymakers, donors, and advocates at a summit to discuss efforts to ensure that more women and girls around the world are able to access and use robust, rights-based family planning services and information. As of July 2017, more than 309 million women and girls in 69 focus countries are using a modern method of contraception.
  • Partners of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves have helped more than 80 million people gain access to cleaner, more efficient stoves and fuels — helping to improve health, protect the environment, empower girls and women, and improve livelihoods.
  • The UN Foundation and BNY Mellon, with support from McKinsey & Company, launched, “Return on Equality: Investment Opportunities that Help Close the Global Gender Gap, which found that closing gender gaps in access to products and services in the water, contraceptives, telecommunications, energy, and child care sectors could unlock $300 billion in incremental annual spending by 2025.

Support a Strong U.S.-UN Partnership

With the future of the United States’ international engagement in the spotlight, Americans have demonstrated their support for the UN. A recent nationwide bipartisan poll found that 79% of voters believe the UN is still needed today. Majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree that the U.S. should pay its dues to the UN and UN Peacekeeping on time and in full. The UN Foundation and partners engage Americans across the country to support a strong partnership between the U.S. and the UN.

  • During pivotal budget decisions on Capitol Hill, the Better World Campaign mobilized Americans to send more than 200,000 letters to their Members of Congress in support of strong U.S. engagement and full funding for the UN.
  • As part of this year’s UNA-USA annual Leadership Summit, a historic number of Americans — more than 300 advocates from 39 states — held 271 meetings with Members of Congress and their staff to collectively call for full U.S. funding for the UN. This includes a number of young people: UNA-USA has 81 chapters on college campuses across the U.S., and more than half of its membership is under the age of 25.

Improve the Health of Families

We have solutions to improve the health of families around the world, and we’re working with the UN and partners to expand access to them.

  • Over the course of 2017, the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign sent 730,000 bed nets to protect families from malaria in South Sudan, Kenya, and other emergency situations; trained health care workers in Kenya; funded mobile clinics in Malawi with the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation; advocated for U.S. funding to stop malaria; and expanded its work into the Western Hemisphere. Since its launch, Nothing But Nets has helped the UN deliver 12 million bed nets to families in need.
  • The UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, in collaboration with Walgreens, is in the fifth year of the Get a Shot. Give a Shot.® program, which has helped the UN provide more than 20 million vaccines for children worldwide. To date, Shot@Life has helped the UN provide more than 42 million vaccines to protect children from preventable diseases.
  • The UN Foundation, a founding partner of the Measles & Rubella Initiative, also continued our work supporting global efforts to reduce measles and rubella cases. For the first time ever, fewer than 100,000 people around the world died from measles over the course of a year. We also continued to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which continues to drive progress in the effort to wipe out polio.
  • Through the Global Moms Relay, the Global Moms Challenge community and partners unlocked $500,000 from Johnson & Johnson for programs to expand access to vaccines; prevent child marriage; train women health workers in Pakistan; help women in Haiti impacted by Hurricane Matthew; and send bed nets to stop malaria.
  • In 2017, the UN Foundation played a key role in bringing together stakeholders from the human, animal, and environmental sectors to tackle the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and consequential spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This includes launching a report and co-hosting a conference to identify concrete solutions to stop AMR.

Leverage Data for Development

The data revolution holds enormous potential to drive sustainable development and improve lives, which is why the UN Foundation is working to improve the collection, analysis, and use of data.

  • In 2017, Data2X demonstrated how big data can be harnessed to fill gender data gaps, inform policy aimed at mitigating gender inequality, and move the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) forward through a new report, Big Data and the Well-Being of Women and Girls, and the first-ever Big Data for Gender Challenge, which gave out over $650,000 in awards to 10 innovative projects by 29 researchers across 8 countries.
  • The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) continued to advance its mission of creating an inclusive digital society that connects everyone to life-enabling and life-enhancing technology, including by stewarding the Principles for Digital Development, a set of nine “living” guidelines designed to help digital development practitioners integrate established best practices into technology-enabled programs.
  • The UN Foundation partnered with Aviva, the Index Initiative, and the Business & Sustainable Development Commission to launch the World Benchmarking Alliance’s global consultation phase to develop free, publicly-available, and comparable benchmarks ranking companies on their sustainability performance and contributions to the SDGs.
  • The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data developed plans with the governments of Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, and Sierra Leone; brokered data partnerships, including support from NASA and the Group on Earth Observations for access to satellite data for SDG implementation and monitoring; and launched an Innovation Fund with the World Bank to invest $2.5 million in projects aimed at improving data around the environment and ensuring no one is left behind.

Protect the Planet

We cannot separate the well-being of people from the well-being of the planet. The UN Foundation continues to support efforts to protect the planet, advance the Paris Agreement on climate change, and provide sustainable energy access to the most vulnerable.

  • The UN Foundation has been working to showcase and build partnerships with states, cities, businesses, and non-governmental groups to galvanize climate action. This includes working with partners on the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit, which will be focused on sub-national and private sector leadership; helping connect sub-national climate action to the UN and member states; and educating governors’ and mayors’ offices on opportunities to have local leadership recognized internationally.
  • To raise awareness of the impacts of climate change, we launched an #EyeOnClimate photo campaign around the annual UN Climate Change Conference. The campaign had 2,000 posts (reaching 33 million users) on social media from people sharing images and stories of how climate changing is threatening communities.
  • In the spring, UNA-USA joined key environmental organizations in sending a letter, on behalf of 65,000 Americans, to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging him to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • The Energy Access Practitioner Network continued its work to build a vibrant community for those involved in distributed energy access. Our Powering Health Care initiative is working to provide energy access in the health sector, with solar power installations now in 62 rural health facilities in Uganda and Ghana, benefiting an estimated 300,000 patients. The Practitioner Network also organized workshops in Tanzania and Kenya focused on fuel and energy in humanitarian settings, off-grid energy solutions, and the role of women in sustainable energy.

Stand Up for LGBTI Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The UN Foundation supports the UN’s vital work on human rights, including LGBTI rights.

  • In June, Gap Inc. and the UN Foundation partnered to #WearYourPride and raise awareness and funds for UN Free and Equal, a program of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote equal rights and fair treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people globally. In addition to joining Pride Parades, as part of the campaign, 30 percent of net sales from Gap brand’s Pride t-shirts and $2 from Pride-themed eGift cards were donated to the UN Foundation to benefit Free & Equal.

Engage People in Global Issues

Connecting people to the UN and to global issues is at the heart of what we do. From business leaders to policymakers, entrepreneurs to students, we bring together people to promote collaboration on the world’s biggest issues.

  • This year, the UN Foundation’s Global Bureau project helped to connect over 500 journalists across 17 countries with information on the SDGs and global issues, helping to increase public dialogue around sustainable development topics.
  • At an event with over 150 entrepreneurs, the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, in partnership with the UN Development Programme and Mara Foundation, launched Mara Mentor for Arab States — a free online mentoring platform — to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs in the Middle East.
  • During the UN General Assembly, the UN Foundation and partners brought together innovators, business leaders, advocates, UN officials, and government representatives for Global Goals Week, a series of events to track and promote progress on the SDGs. This included the Social Good Summit, the Solutions Summit, and We The Future, events the UN Foundation co-hosted to elevate the work of entrepreneurs, business leaders, activists, and non-profit visionaries to drive social change.
  • The +SocialGood community of changemakers held more than 100 events around the world to discuss how to advance progress at the local and global levels.
Thank you for being a part of our community and acting for the world. As we look back on 2017, we’re also looking forward to continuing our work in 2018. Visit unfoundation.org to join us in supporting the UN’s efforts to build a better world.