BIO: Susan Myers is the UN Foundation’s Vice President for UN Relations and leader of the Foundation’s office in New York. Susan has worked for the UN Foundation in various positions since 2000. As a member of the Foundation’s leadership team, she provides overall guidance and participates in the development of long-term strategy for the organization.
Q: Okay. The UN seems complicated. Can you break it down for me?
A: The United Nations (UN) is an international organization that brings the world’s nations together to promote peace and the well-being of all people.
Founded in 1945 after World War II, the UN was created to encourage international cooperation among countries around the world. In the beginning, there were 54 countries. Today, there are 193 Member States and the UN works in every corner of the globe.
You can find the UN Headquarters in New York City, but there are offices all over the world, including in Geneva, Switzerland, Vienna, Austria, and Nairobi, Kenya. The UN has both members (countries) and leaders (such as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon). The General Assembly is where all 193 Member States have an equal vote and countries decide on the big priorities of the UN. The Security Council, made up of 15 countries, is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. You may also have heard of some other important UN bodies, such as the Economic and Social Council and Human Rights Council.
“Founded in 1945 after World War II, the UN was created to encourage international cooperation among countries around the world.”
Q: How does the UN work in other countries?
A: The UN works on five main areas: peace and security, development (including global health and climate change), human rights, humanitarian affairs (such as responding to natural disaster) and international law. Because the UN covers so much, it has many agencies to work effectively on all of these issues.
Q: Is Girl Up an agency of the UN?
A: No. Girl Up and the United Nations Foundation are not part of the UN System.
In fact, Girl Up doesn’t get any money from the UN. Instead, Girl Up helps fund and support UN agencies that focus on adolescent girls. Girl Up cooperates with UN agencies including: UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), WHO (World Health Organization), ILO (International Labor Organization), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), UN Women, UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency), and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund).
Q: So, give me an example of how Girl Up works with the UN.
A: I’ll tell you about Hodan who was just five-years-old when she fled Somalia with her family. She has now lived more than half of her life in exile, in a refugee camp in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The fighting between opposition groups was too violent, forcing them to leave everything behind.
It’s the UN’s job to run these refugee camps, but they need your support. Through your donations, Girl Up works with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Ethiopia to fund resources and programs that provide Hodan opportunities to access education and safe spaces. Take solar lamps for example. Supplied to all families with older girls who are still in school, these lanterns allow the girls, many of whom are expected to do numerous chores after school, the ability to study at night in the non-electrified camps. Without Girl Up’s support, Hodan would literally be left in the dark.
Q: Where can I find out more?
A: Each UN agency has its own website where you can learn more about the issues, and the UN Youth Envoy’s website is specifically focused on making sure youth can easily access the UN.