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UN Observances

The United Nations (UN) and its related organizations assign specific days during a year to raise awareness about topics of global importance. UN observations are not public holidays.

The United Nation headquarters in Geneva, Europe.

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Spread Awareness and Take Action

UN Days provide stakeholders—nations, non-governmental organizations, and international advocacy groups—a powerful “advocacy tool” to spread awareness and take action on issues affecting millions of lives around the world.

The World Is Interconnected

As technology improves the human condition, it also reveals society’s many fault lines. Issues such as human trafficking, terrorism, and poverty affect the many facets of life and spill over borders.

UN awareness days are an attempt to bring light to these problems and bring together people from all walks of life to collaborate over sustainable solutions. They are also annual reminders of the complexities of some of these issues and that they require a long-term, multi-dimensional resolution.

How Are UN Days Chosen?

Member states can propose awareness or international days to the UN General Assembly, the UN’s main deliberative forum. The General Assembly members then vote on the proposed resolution. If passed, the General Assembly releases a resolution, which is a statement that outlines why the issue is important and what needs to be done.

Some dates are chosen because of their relationship with the issue. For example, Human Rights Day on December 10 honors the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

Are UN Awareness Days Public Holidays?

UN Awareness or International Days are generally not public holidays. Some countries, however, may designate some days as public holidays or as national observations. International Women’s Day on March 8, for instance, is a public holiday in many countries. Nelson Mandela Day is an observation in South Africa.