Global Crises

I addressed the General Assembly and identified “four horsemen” in our midst — four threats that endanger our common future. First, the highest global geo-strategic tensions in years. Second, an existential climate crisis. Third, deep and growing global mistrust. And fourth, the dark side of the digital world. But a fifth horseman was lurking in the shadows.  Since January, the COVID-19 pandemic has galloped across the globe – joining the four other horsemen and adding to the fury of each.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Address to the General Assembly, New York, September 2020

Global Crises, new, reemerging or unrelenting, have been dominating the agenda and work of the United Nations system since its foundation. The UN system has been striving to support Member States in resolving, alleviating and jointly tackling these crises, with a view to safeguarding peace, protecting human rights, establishing the framework for international justice and promoting economic and social progress. The Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) and its two high-level committees, the High-level Committee on Management (HLCM) and the High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), have been repeatedly working to advance system-wide coherence and leadership on different aspects of major crises the world has been confronted with.


“Over the course of 2020, the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, infected millions of people and upended the global economy. From the outset of the pandemic, the United Nations system mobilized early and comprehensively.

It led to the global health response, provided life-saving humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable, established instruments for rapid responses to the socio-economic impact and laid out a broad policy agenda for action on all fronts. It also provided logistics, common services and operational support to governments and other partners around the world on the front lines of the pandemic, as they mounted national responses to this new virus and unprecedented global challenge.”

From the UN Comprehensive Response to COVID-19: Saving Lives, Protecting Societies, Recovering Better, launched by the UN Secretary-General. For more information, please visit the United Nations COVID-19 Response webpage.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the High-level Committee on Management, through its Networks, has conducted an intense activity of coordination among all CEB member organizations to develop and put in place a set of common and consistent measures, policies and administrative guidelines aimed at supporting strategic guidance, operational decision-making, and overall monitoring of the response to the outbreak.

CEB deliberations in the context of COVID-19

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, key CEB focus areas – from tackling inequalities, to innovating UN data and statistics, to promoting climate action and utilizing nature-based solutions – have taken on added significance and constitute important contributions towards efforts to build back better.

CEB’s first regular session of 2020, held in an abbreviated virtual format, reflected on the positioning of the multilateral system in the immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Principals recognized that deep-rooted and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities were being magnified by the pandemic, affirming the salience and urgency of HLCP’s renewed collective effort through its Inequalities Task Team, which, in October 2020, produced a short policy brief on “COVID-19, inequalities and building back better”.

CEB members further reflected on the role of the UN system in supporting Member States: (i) to unlock additional financing for the COVID-19 response while sustaining the ambition for the Decade of Action; and (ii) to align the response to COVID-19 within national economic policies and financial systems with the 2030 Agenda.

Recognizing that protecting nature will be critical to preventing future pandemics, the Board, in considering ways to reverse the current trajectory of biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, while rebuilding stronger and more resilient economies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw the need for a stronger focus on nature across the whole UN system. More information here.

Climate Change

Climate change is recognized as one of the greatest global challenges, requiring enhanced coordination and cooperation at all levels to protect the global climate for the well-being of present and future generations of humankind (A/RES/72/219).

The United Nations system has been at the forefront of efforts to address climate change and continues to play an important role in supporting Member States in their efforts to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change, increase countries’ ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience.

In preparation for the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, the Secretary-General asked the UN system to raise the level of its internal ambitions and to intensify its efforts to combat climate change from within to highlight that the UN is “walking the talk” on environmental sustainability and climate change.  

In support of the Secretary-General’s vision of an action-oriented climate summit and his call to raise the level of internal ambitions and leverage the collective capacities of the UN system, the Chief Executives Board for Coordination endorsed the Joint Appeal from the UN System to the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit developed through its HLCP.

Drug Policy

The global drug problem, which affects approximately 275 million people, presents a complex global challenge that is closely interlinked with sustainable development, peace and security and human rights. Combatting the problem is therefore integral to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 3 - Good health and well-being. By adopting the outcome document of the 2016 special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, entitled “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem”, global leaders reaffirmed the need to address the key causes and consequences of the world drug problem in a coherent and coordinated manner.  

In response to the call of Member States to United Nations system entities to strengthen inter-agency coordination and enhance coherence at all levels with regard to the world drug problem, CEB adopted a common position among United Nations system entities to support the implementation of international drug control policy through effective inter-agency collaboration, in November 2018. At its first regular session of 2023, when CEB took up the subject of international drug policy from a human rights perspective, it was concluded that the United Nations system common position remained the reference point for informing organizations’ policy work, advocacy and capacity-building activities. Additional information can be found on the Drug Policies topic page


Within the context of CEB, Board members have received updates on health emergencies, and, where appropriate, gave guidance on the UN system response, including the Western African Ebola virus epidemic 2013-2016 and more recently the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 2018-2020.

  • Climate Change
  • Health
  • Inequalities
  • Peace and Conflict Prevention
  • Drug Policies
  • Chief Executives Board (CEB)
  • High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP)
  • High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM)

Related resources


Content type
  • Chief Executives Board (CEB)

    2020 Annual Overview Report

  • High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM)

    United Nations Representatives of Internal Audit Services

  • Chief Executives Board (CEB)

    Report on the Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19

  • Chief Executives Board (CEB)

    Session Report

  • Chief Executives Board (CEB)High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP)

    United Nations System Common Position Supporting the Implementation of the International Drug Control Policy Through Effective Inter-agency Collaboration

  • High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM)

    Duty of Care Task Force (now Occupational Health and Safety Forum)

  • Chief Executives Board (CEB)High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP)

    United Nations System Strategic Approach on Climate Change Action

  • Chief Executives Board (CEB)

    Session Report

  • High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP)

    Session Report