Five Years & $575 Million Later: Ted Turner & UN Foundation Reflect on $1 Billion Gift to Support United Nations

Washington, D.C.

December 11, 2002


Megan Rabbitt

Five years ago philanthropist and entrepreneur Ted Turner pledged $1 billion to support the United Nations. On December 11th Mr. Turner, and the Board of Directors of the UN Foundation and the Better World Fund—the sister organizations created to manage the gift—will gather in New York City to be recognized by the UN at a luncheon hosted by the office of the President of the General Assembly, and the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

“The track record of the UN Foundation has far exceeded my expectations,” said Mr. Turner, who serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the UN Foundation and the Better World Fund. “We have established program partnerships with nearly 80 organizations outside the UN, forged a wonderful working relationship with the UN, and worked with others to counter misimpressions of the UN by cheerleading on the organization’s behalf enthusiastically and assiduously. Most important, we have helped alleviate human suffering by fighting deadly but preventable diseases, promoting women’s health, protecting the environment, and encouraging conflict prevention.”

The UN Foundation works with the United Nations and other partners to tackle the most pressing global issues. Since 1997, the UN Foundation has made strategic grants to UN agencies, Funds, and Programs in four areas: Women and Population, the Environment, Children’s Health, and Peace, Security, and Human Rights.

The Better World Fund complements the work of the UN Foundation through support of select programs designed to raise awareness about the vital role of the United Nations and promote international engagement with and through the United Nations. Whereas the UN Foundation only gives grants to UN agencies, the Better World Fund works with NGOs, governments and others to accomplish its mission.

Since its inception, the UN Foundation and Better World Fund have awarded more than 350 grants totaling more than $575 million. More than $150 million was donated by more than 50 major corporations, governments, non-governmental organizations, and foundations.

“Through its grantmaking and partnership-building, the UN Foundation and Better World Fund have touched every continent, produced real results, and helped to revitalize the United Nations as the global mechanism capable to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” said former U.S. Senator Timothy E. Wirth, President of the UN Foundation. Commenting on the fact that the life of the UN Foundation will be extended by an additional five years, Mr. Wirth noted that, “the entire Board felt this decision was the logical response to the unparalleled success the Foundation has achieved.”

Signs of Success

CHILDREN’S HEALTH – In collaboration with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Red Cross, Rotary International, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the UN Foundation has worked to propel major progress in the worldwide eradication of polio and control of measles in Africa. As a result, there are now less than 10 polio-endemic countries remaining in the world and less than 500 worldwide cases.

BIODIVERSITY – World Heritage natural sites are outstanding physical or geological formations, or areas containing globally significant biodiversity, including habitats of threatened species of animals and plants. In the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), home to five World Heritage natural sites, the UN Foundation is working with the DRC Parks Authority and local and international partners to deliver muchneeded resources to site staff and to generate support for long-term biodiversity protection. Already, the population of the rare white rhinoceros and the mountain gorillas has increased by 33 and 10 percent respectively.

WOMEN & POPULATION – In Bangladesh, the UN Foundation is supporting UNICEF and UNFPA efforts to empower adolescent girls by expanding their socioeconomic opportunities, and improving their reproductive health. In rural communities, “girls clubs” have been created as a safe place for girls to discuss their health and futures. With the guidance of older female mentors, Bangladeshi girls have received access to healthcare
and critical job skills training.

PEACE, SECURITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS – The UN Foundation supported International Labour Organization (ILO) efforts to help create greater capacity for indigenous peoples to defend their rights by providing paralegal training to small groups of local men and women and leveraging the effort by enabling students to train others. This “train-the trainer” project provided legal know-how to over 5,000 men and women in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

BETTER WORLD FUND/BETTER WORLD CAMPAIGN – The Better World Fund aims to increase awareness of and support for the United Nations, and one of its most visible efforts has been to build a stronger relationship between the United States and the United Nations. Five years ago, the United States was $1 billion behind in its dues payments to the UN and relations between the two were at an all-time low. The Better World Campaign (BWC), a grant of the Better World Fund, took on this issue and others to ensure the U.S. honored its full financial commitments to the UN. Today the United States has paid nearly $1 billion in arrears, honored its UN peacekeeping commitments, and announced its re-entry into the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after a nearly 20-year absence. In addition to building support for the UN within the U.S. government, the Better World Campaign seeks to connect the American people to the UN’s work. Through its Model Cities program, BWC works in cities across the U.S. to educate the public about the work of the UN and its importance to U.S. national interests. In these cities, BWC works with leaders of community groups, businesses, charitable and advocacy organizations, and other opinion shapers to educate about and build support for the UN and international engagement.

The UN Foundation and the Better World Fund have been successful in garnering the support of the entire UN system. “On behalf of the United Nations, I would like to extend our warmest thanks to Mr. Turner, the Board, the staff, and the scores of partners working with the UN Foundation and Better World Fund. The United Nations system is stronger for the spirit of cooperation and record of success that has been established,” remarked Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN in a recent letter to the Foundation.