Whilst we can’t predict what will be making the headlines, we do know that the UN will make full use of its unique convening power, to bring together leaders and decision-makers in the hope of making the world a more peaceful, equitable and prosperous place for all.
As many people look forward after the end of year celebrations, the release of the flagship World Economic Situation and Prospects report probably won’t provide much relief: the 2024 edition of this authoritative study is likely to predict that economic growth, and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, will be slow.
The gloomy outlook, led by the UN Department of Economic Affairs (DESA) is down to monetary tightening, weak global trade and investment, and rising debt vulnerabilities, compounded by heightened geopolitical risks and worsening climate impacts.
On the plus side, inflation is likely to fall, but further global conflict could push it back up. Improved international cooperation will be promoted as a way to improve the world’s economic prospects. The report is launched on 4 January.
In other news: A desperate Gazan Winter
The conflict in Gaza is likely to continue dominating UN News and global media outlets, possibly for months. The Security Council resolution adopted on 22 December, calling for more aid to be delivered to the strip, is a step in the right direction, but the situation remains desperate for the civilian population. Ramping up and monitoring the flow of aid will be the primary responsibility of Sigrid Kaag, the newly appointed UN Senior Humanitarian Coordinator for Gaza, whose brief also includes reconstruction of the territory, once the fighting ends.
Following the agreement adopted at COP28 UN Climate Conference which, for the first time, saw the nations of the world agree to a transition away from fossil fuels, 2024 will see the inaugural International Day of Clean Energy on 26 January. The introduction of the Day reflects the rapid growth in the use of renewable energy sources, which are becoming cheaper and within the reach of communities which, until now, have had no access to electricity.
The state of the environment will be high on the agenda in February, when the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) meets. The “world’s parliament on the environment”, brings together governments, civil society groups, the scientific community, and the private sector, to highlight the most pressing environmental issues and improve global governance of the environment.
Held between 26 February and 1 March at the HQ of the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi, UNEA 2024 will focus on climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
In other news: Two full years of war in Ukraine
24 February marks two full years since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The UN has continued to provide humanitarian aid to affected communities throughout the conflict.
Imagine not being able to access education in your mother tongue. That is the fate of around 40 per cent of the population worldwide. On 21 February the UN celebrates International Mother Language Day, to raise awareness for the importance of multilingual education in a child’s first language.
Over eight decades, the high-profile Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has been pushing for action on gender equality. CSW contributed to some of the most widely agreed upon international conventions in UN history, including the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1967, and the 1995 Beijing Declaration, the key global gender equality policy document.
The 2024 session will take place from 11 to 22 March, with an emphasis on speeding up the achievement of gender equality, empowering women and girls by addressing poverty, and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.
In other news: Not a drop to drink
In 2015, the world committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – the promise that everyone would have safely managed water and sanitation by 2030. Yet we’re way off track, and billions of people are being held back, because they don’t have sufficient access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
On World Water Day, 22 March, the UN raises awareness of the need to accelerate change, often with the help of actor Matt Damon, who has made frequent appearances at UN Headquarters, as co-founder of the charity water.org.
“Arranged in words, coloured with images, struck with the right metre, the power of poetry has no match,” says Audrey Azoulay, Director General of the UN agency for culture (UNESCO) on the website for World Poetry Day, celebrated on 21 March. The aim of the Day is to promote the artform, particularly in endangered languages.
When the UN was created, the rights and priorities of Indigenous People were generally not considered a priority, but this all changed with the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), typically the largest gathering of peoples in the UN System.
The Forum was established in 2000 to give them a voice and enable them to come together to discuss global issues. Expect the 2024 meeting, which takes place between from 15 to 26 April, to have a youthful feel to it: many Indigenous youth leaders will be invited to speak about the issues that affect them and their communities.
In other news: too many or two few?
There are now more than eight billion people on the planet, and the population has more than doubled in the last 50 years. However, there are growing fears of an “underpopulation crisis,” or even a collapse in the human population, as fertility rates slow.
On 16 April, the UN reproductive rights agency (UNFPA), will release its annual State of World Population report, and is likely to again underline the importance of women having autonomy over their own bodies, and being able to make their own decisions over health care, sex, or contraception.
What breaks down barriers, is a symbol of unity and peace, and encourages new forms of expression? Yes, the answer is…jazz! And that is why 30 April is International Jazz Day, which is led by the legendary pianist Herbie Hancock. Expect another star-studded concert to mark the Day.
In the early years of this century, there was a growing realization that digital technology would have a profound impact on our lives, for good and ill. In response, governments and UN agencies came together in 2003 for the first World Summit on the Information Society, in the hope of adopting multilateral agreements on the use of tech.
Twenty-one years on, and in the wake of heightened fears surrounding the development and use of Artificial Intelligence, the Summit convenes in Geneva from 27 to 31 May. Delegates will discuss the challenges and opportunities of new technology, and the importance of international agreements to govern its use.
In other news: SIDS fight to stay afloat
Despite their small size and population, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have attracted a lot of attention at recent climate conferences, raising awareness of the existential threat that the climate crisis poses: some island states risk being completely submerged as a result of sea level rises in the coming years. Sustainable development and resilience in the face of the crisis will be addressed at the fourth International Conference on SIDS, which will be held in Antigua and Barbuda from 27-30 May.
It’s around us all day, and we take it for granted, but light plays a role in science, culture and art. The UN celebrates the International Day of Light, on 16 May, the anniversary of the first successful operation of a laser in 1960.
Landlocked developing countries face specific challenges, from high transportation costs to expensive imports and isolation from world markets. In recognition of this, the UN held a conference held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2003, devoted to the needs of these nations.
Twenty years on, the third edition (LLDC3) will take place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 18-21 June. The delegates will be tasked with shaping the new development agenda for landlocked developing countries over the next decade.
In other news: Cats, dogs, and crows
Ban Ki-moon , the only surviving former UN Secretary-General , who led the organization from 2007-2016, is due to celebrate his 80th birthday on 13 June. Under Mr. Ban ‘s leadership, UN Women, a major new agency, was created, and he was instrumental in pushing the climate crisis up the international agenda, with the 2007 Climate Change Summit.
There will be plenty of rolled up mats coming through the security gates of UN Headquarters on 21 June, when colleagues will attempt to stretch themselves into positions named after cows, cats, dogs, and crows, some more gracefully than others. The occasion is part of the celebrations for the International Day of Yoga, which is hailed for its physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.