The last decade was marked by significant progress in various fields such as science, medicine and technology but at the same time, the number of problems in today’s society has steadily grown. In 2020 and 2021, which were undoubtedly some of the most uncertain and difficult years of the last decade, the biggest problems in the world were the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty.
This year began optimistically only to have since become even worse. The recurring COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty, climate impacts, catastrophic humanitarian crises, hunger and the situation in war-torn nations. 2022 will cause us to face a plethora of difficulties that require urgent collaboration at unprecedent levels.
As a platform to address global issues that cannot be resolved by any single country, the United Nations organization is spearheading humanity’s struggle to survive. Its most visible efforts concern resolving conflicts and peacekeeping activities.
In addition, the organization, along with its specialized agencies, is involved in a wide range of actions aimed at improving people’s lives worldwide, ranging from humanitarian assistance to peaceful practices of atomic energy.
World’s biggest problems on the UN list
One of the major problems on our planet is linked to the global temperatures that are continuously rising. By 2100, studies show that there is a 50% likelihood of facing global warming that is higher than 3.5 degrees Celsius and a 10% probability of witnessing warming higher than 4.7 degrees Celsius (relative to temperatures registered between 1850 and 1900). This would result in more severe shifts in weather patterns, food and resource shortages, and the more rapid spread of diseases.
A cut in greenhouse gas emissions and increased awareness of the necessity of turning green are among the solutions that can make a significant difference. In addition, proposing strategies to cut carbon emissions and opting for replanting are effective ways to advance climate change.
Wars and military conflicts
Maintaining peace and security is crucial to preventing poverty and high numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. With an increasing number of territories becoming conflict zones, the number of poor and displaced women and children is on rise, causing the spread of diseases and a halt to economic progress.
Preventative diplomacy and demilitarization are the two key tactics for avoiding conflicts. Preventive diplomacy is defined as those actions undertaken to avoid conflicts from forming or worsening. It can also help to limit the spread of existing hostilities. Mediation, conciliation, or negotiation are all options to tackle this world issue.
- At the end of 2020, according to the UN, the world had 82.4 million forcibly displaced people with over 25% of these being refugees
- Around 35 million (42%) of all displaced people were children under the age of 18
- The UN Refugee agency data shows that in mid-2021 around 4.3 million stateless people were living in 93 countries (although it has been estimated that the true figure is much higher)
- 85% of all refugees are housed in developing countries
The conflict in Ukraine and its impact on refugee statistics
Today, one of the greatest world issues is the conflict in Ukraine. About 6.8 million people have fled the country following the invasion. Most have crossed the Polish frontier although Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Russia, and Belarus host around 3.6 million refugees.
Fig.1. Number of Ukrainian war refugees crossing into neighboring countries.
There is no life without water – apparently a simple truth but one that people seem to overlook. Poor management and irrational use forces communities to migrate in search of drinking water. Industries are polluting underground water and this issue is growing massively.
- Due to pollution, poverty, and inadequate resource management, around 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water
- Agriculture is responsible for 70% of global water loss
- Annually, 297,000 children under the age of five die from diarrheal infections caused by poor sanitation, hygiene, or contaminated drinking water
- 80% of wastewater is discharged into the environment without being processed or reused
Possible solutions to the water pollution issue:
The most efficient technique to reduce water pollution is to treat water (filtration, disinfection, etc.) before it reaches the waterway system. Clearing wastewater of pollutants can be performed via biological, physical, and chemical operations.
Human rights violation
Human rights are universal, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or any other status but what if this only happens on paper?
Indeed, the problems in today’s society are linked with the constant violation of human rights – gender inequality, human trafficking, the lack of freedom of speech – all of these can be witnessed in the 21st century in every country, even in developed nations.
50% of the world’s population are women and girls. Gender equality is not only a crucial human right, it is also necessary for a peaceful society, the full development of human potential, and long-term evolution.
Possible solutions to gender inequality:
- Speak up for what you believe in
- Pay attention to what others have to say
- Defend yourself from discrimination
- Raise public awareness of a problem
- Get the media to talk about it
- Demonstrate to those in positions of power that they are being watched
Global health issues
Since its foundation, the UN has been actively concerned with advocating and maintaining good health around the globe. Today, COVID-19 remains the top concern internationally. People continue to experience complex, linked dangers to their health.
Major health problems in the world include:
Influenza outbreaks and COVID-19 are examples of pandemics that highlight our susceptibility to widespread infections, many of which begin in animals. Anxiety and fear are common reactions to pandemics. Other worrisome infectious diseases worth attention are HIV/AIDS, malaria and Ebola which have remained deadly for decades.
- Environmental factors
Air pollution and climate change have a serious impact on our health. Hurricanes, floods and droughts make disease transmission easier among large populations of people.
- Inequalities and poor healthcare access
Poor access to healthcare, increased infant mortality rates, mainly in low-income nations, and income inequality around the world make it virtually impossible for many families to afford healthcare.
- Political aspects
People become increasingly exposed to diseases as wars within or between countries damage essential infrastructure. As a result, they look for ways to escape the harmful situations that jeopardize their safety but diseases can spread swiftly when people migrate.
- Noncommunicable diseases (NDCs)
Around 70% of all the deaths in the world are caused by NDCs, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Possible solutions to global health issues:
- Empower marginalized populations
- Encourage physicians to work in rural regions
- Implement policies that eliminate obstacles and improve access to healthcare
- Promote health breakthroughs (improve research, increase funding)
- Education can help people recognize and improve lifestyle variables such as poor diets, obesity, cigarette use, and alcohol intake which can lead to NCDs.
- Veterinary medicine can enhance global health since diseases originating from livestock play an important role in the spreading of diseases.
Global poverty represents one of the most serious problems in modern society. The world’s poorest people frequently experience hunger, have limited access to proper education, often go without light at night, and face serious health problems. It has been estimated that around 60% of the world’s population lives on less than US$10 per day and around 10% on less than US$1.90 per day.
Possible solutions to poverty:
- End marginalization by ensuring equality and representation for all
- Provide preventative education and treatment assistance during an epidemic
- Offer recovery interventions during climate disasters
- Help refugees and internally displaced people in terms of health, nutrition, and shelter
- Improve education
- Increase the level of food security and clean water access
- Put an end to conflicts
Children’s poor access to healthcare, education and safety
Every child must benefit from the right to proper healthcare, access to education, and grow in safety, and every society benefits from increasing children’s life prospects. Despite this, millions of children worldwide face serious challenges linked with their birthplace, gender, or circumstances.
Over 72 million children around the world who are old enough to attend elementary school are not enrolled. Marginalization and poverty are two major social issues.
Possible solutions to protect children’s rights:
- Encourage education for both children and adults in less developed countries
- Provide clean water
- Ensure basic healthcare
- Tackle gender inequality
- Improve childhood nutrition
Access to food and hunger
By 2030, it is less likely that the world will achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger, according to international agencies and media. The situation in countries that have faced food insecurity and where populations suffer from hunger has worsened further as a result of the health and socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia that followed are expected to lead to hunger in numerous nations, including Somalia, Senegal, and Egypt, that depend on exports from Ukraine and Russia, mainly wheat, sunflower oil, and fertilizers. This problem needs to be solved as soon as possible although this may be not as easy as it sounds.
- In regions impacted by conflict, humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding initiatives should be rolled out quickly
- The resilience of those who are more prone to economic hardship should be increased
- To reduce the cost of nutritious foods, governments should intervene at various points in the food supply chain
- Deal with poverty by focusing on interventions that help those suffering
- Food environments should be reinforced. In addition, it is important to influence consumer behavior to encourage eating habits that are good for both people and the environment.
- Experts believe that the immediate solution to the food crisis linked to the conflict in Ukraine could be monetary, mainly because of the rising food prices. If governments and donors are able to help people to pay for food, fewer will go hungry.
Massive migration movements impact all UN Member States, necessitating greater collaboration and responsibility-sharing.
The United Nations Member States endorsed the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (A/RES/71/1) wherein they acknowledged that there is a need for a comprehensive strategy for migration. The New York Declaration recognizes the beneficial contributions of migrants to inclusive and sustainable development and pledges to defend their dignity, human rights, and basic freedoms, irrespective of their migration status.
Multilateral disarmament and armaments restriction are the aims that have been important to the United Nations’ attempts to keep international peace since its inception.
The United Nations has placed a high priority on decreasing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons, abolishing chemical weapons, and reinforcing the ban on biological weapons, all of which pose the greatest dangers to humanity.
- A number of multilateral treaties and procedures have been developed as a result of worldwide efforts to regulate, limit, or eliminate specific weapons, including:
- Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – one of its goals is to stop nuclear weapons and weapons technology from spreading
- Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty – its goal is to prohibit nuclear weapons trial explosions, as well as any other nuclear explosions
- Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention – forbids biological and toxin weapon manufacturing, procurement, transmission, storage, and use
- Arms Trade Treaty – controls the international conventional armaments trade.
Although the top 10 global issues certainly help to establish what governments and ordinary people around the world should focus on, there are many other problems that everyone should be aware of, including the aging of the population, AIDS, and law and justice. Tackling at least some of these is possible but requires a lot of effort, patience and understanding.