The United Nations observes designated days, weeks, years, and decades, each with a theme, or topic. By creating special observances, the United Nations promotes international awareness and action on these issues. The majority of observances have been established by resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, although some have been designated by UN specialized agencies.
The list of May observances are:
- 3 May, World Press Freedom Day
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet every day around the world, journalists and media workers are under attack. They face intimidation, threats and violence from governments, corporations, criminals or other forces that wish to silence or censor. World Press Freedom Day encourages all people worldwide to celebrate and defend the fundamental freedom of the press. This Day is marked worldwide through events and tributes to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 1993 declaration A/DEC/48/432.
- 8-9 May, Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation for Those Who Lost Their Lives during the Second World War
The United Nations was founded in 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation for Those Who Lost Their Lives during the Second World War pays tribute to all victims of this conflict. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this observance in its 2004 resolution A/RES/59/26, calling upon Member States to unite their efforts in dealing with new challenges and threats, and to make every effort to settle all disputes by peaceful means in conformity with the UN Charter.
- 10-11 May, World Migratory Bird Day
Many human activities such as unsustainable hunting, as well as the impacts of climate change, fisheries by-catch and pollution, gravely threaten migratory bird populations. World Migratory Bird Day raises awareness of the threats to the migration patterns of these species and advocates for their protection. The observance is marked by birdwatching excursions, festivals and educational programmes around the world. The United Nations Environment Programme established this Day in 2006.
- 15 May, International Day of Families
- Families hold societies together, and intergenerational relationships extend this legacy over time. Yet millions of people around the world lack decent working conditions and the social support to care for their families. International Day of Families promotes awareness of the social, demographic and economic issues relating to families. This Day is marked by activities such as workshops, conferences and cultural programmes that highlight areas of interest to families, as well as guidance on ways to strengthen family-centered programmes and policies. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 1993 resolution A/RES/47/237.
- 16 May, International Day of Living Together in Peace
The General Assembly bearing in mind the Charter of the United Nations, including the purposes and principles contained therein, and especially the dedication to saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war in its Resolution A/RES/72/130 adopted on 8 December 2017 declared 16 May the International Day of Living Together in Peace. It invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Living Together in Peace in accordance with the culture and other appropriate circumstances or customs of their local, national and regional communities, including through education and public awareness-raising activities.
- 17 May, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
Information and communication technologies (ICT) can contribute to achieving a sustainable future, helping protect natural resources, combat climate change and assist vulnerable people. World Telecommunication and Information Society Day highlights the possibilities that ICT can bring to societies and economies, as well as ways to bridge the digital divide. This Day also marks the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 2006 resolution A/RES/60/252.
- 20 May, World Bee Day
Slovenia proposed that the United Nations proclaim 20 May as World Bee Day. On 20 December 2017, the UN Member States unanimously approved Slovenia’s proposal, thus proclaiming 20 May as World Bee Day.
- 21 May, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
Three quarters of the world's major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Bridging the gap between cultures is necessary for peace, stability and development. World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development provides an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to build a world community of individuals committed to supporting diversity. The 'Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion' campaign allows people to share through social media their experiences in learning about other cultures. The UN General Assembly declared this Day in its 2002 resolution A/RES/57/249.
- 22 May, International Day for Biological Diversity
Biological diversity—or biodiversity—is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. Seventy per cent of the world's poor live in rural areas and depend on biodiversity for their survival and well-being. International Day for Biological Diversity highlights the action needed to conserve and maintain genes, species and ecosystems for sustainable management of biological resources. Annual celebrations include the Billion Tree Campaign, which aims at planting one billion trees worldwide each year, and the Green Wave, which allows schools around the world to add their newly planted trees to an interactive online map. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 2000 resolution A/RES/55/201.
- 23 May, International Day to End Obstetric Fistula
Obstetric fistula—the result of prolonged, obstructed labour-is a debilitating condition that continues to leave hundreds of thousands of women worldwide suffering in solitude. Each year between 50,000 and 100,000 women worldwide are affected by this preventable and treatable condition. International Day to End Obstetric Fistula aims to intensify collective action towards ending obstetric fistula through education and timely access to obstetric care. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 2012 resolution A/RES/67/147.
- 29 May, International Day of UN Peacekeepers
29 May UN Peacekeepers protect the vulnerable in the world's most dangerous places, but their service comes at a high cost: more than 3,100 UN peacekeepers have died devoting their lives to peace. International Day of Peacekeepers gives the international community a chance to mourn the fallen and salute more than 117,000 personnel currently serving in 16 missions in the world's most dangerous environments. Every year the UN holds a wreath-laying ceremony and a parade, and awards the Dag Hammarskjöld medal to those who lost their lives during peacekeeping missions. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this Day in its 2003 resolution A/RES/57/129.
- 31 May, World No-Tobacco Day
Nearly 6 million people are killed by tobacco each year. World No-Tobacco Day increases awareness of the dangers of tobacco and the threats of second-hand smoke. Annual events take place around the world to inform the public about the health benefits of quitting smoking, as well as promote the protection of future generations from this preventable cause of death. The World Health Organization declared this Day in 1988.