PassBlue is an independent digital publication offering in-depth journalism and vivid photographs on women’s rights and gender equality, human rights, development, international justice and peacekeeping through the lens of the United Nations. Founded in 2011, PassBlue is a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and not tied financially or otherwise to the UN.
As philanthropic journalism, PassBlue is financed primarily through the Carnegie Corporation of New York with other grants from the Samuel Rubin Foundation, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation as well as individual donors. We also receive in-kind contributions from writers, photographers and technology professionals, to whom we are extremely grateful.
PassBlue uses the highest standards of journalism to publish compelling, fresh articles, videos, exclusive interviews and feature stories that are read by subscribers from all over the world, with the majority in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Delhi, Lahore, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Berlin, Melbourne, Nairobi and Manila. Our subscribers include UN officials, diplomats, academics, foreign affairs specialists, development experts, journalists and students.
The UN is a sprawling institution operating with a biennial operating budget of $5.4 billion (excluding an $8 billion budget for UN Peacekeeping Operations), with the largest contributor by far to both budgets being the United States. The UN employs more than 44,000 staff members worldwide in the Secretariat category alone. As a bureaucracy meant to promote peace and security around the globe, the UN requires more intensive coverage of its actions, influence, successes and failures.
PassBlue has quickly developed a reputation for incisive coverage: it was the first publication to report, for example, on efforts to have Syrian women’s groups represented at the Geneva peace talks in January 2014, with an exclusive follow-up in 2016 on the new UN-led Syrian Women’s Advisory Board; on China sending combat troops to a UN peacekeeping operation for the first time; on Switzerland’s petition to the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court; and on the Security Council addressing child soldier use in Colombia.
Our articles have been reprinted by media and policy venues, including AIDS-Free World, Armed Conflicts Daily, Business Standard (Delhi), Center for International Policy, Global Peace Operations Review at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, International Peace Institute, International Relations and Security Network, Institute of International Education, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Association of Women in Development (AWID), The Global Citizens Initiative, Women, Peace and Security Network of Canada, Medium, Global Memo, Reddit and World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA).
Our articles are regularly disseminated through Ecowas and AU Digest, MUNPlanet and Women’s UN Report Network (WUNRN). Blog posts by Barbara Crossette and Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue’s top editors and writers, are regularly published on HuffingtonPost and Medium. And we participate in the Habitat III Journalism Project.
In 2015, PassBlue broke news by reporting on the UN’s controversial decision not to use the word “prostitution” in its focus on women’s rights; on no-shows by US Ambassador Samantha Power at UN-based media briefings; on the record number of deaths of peacekeepers in the UN mission in Mali; on reports of sexual abuse allegations by peacekeepers; on a new campaign to promote the election of a female secretary-general in the 2017 term; on how Buffalo, N.Y., offers comprehensive programs to refugees arriving in its city; and that Saudi Arabia would make good on its $276 million pledge to aid Yemenis in the war there, after Saudis had withheld the money for political reasons.
In 2016 so far, after repeatedly questioning why the UN Security Council was keeping information on its “informal dialogues” with secretary-general candidates secretive (including refusing to name dates of the dialogues), the Japanese ambassador, as president of the Council in July, announced who it had met and when.
PassBlue reports on core issues of women, such as how the UN dropped the ball on promoting family planning; the low percentage of women in upper-level UN posts; the likely departure of Michelle Bachelet from UN Women; how women use media in the post-Arab Spring countries; the International Criminal Court’s efforts to prosecute for rape in conflicts; the General Assembly’s resolution to ban female genital mutilation; the prevalence of honor killings in Iraqi Kurdistan; sexual slavery of Yazidi women and girls; the disproportionate number of deaths of women from Ebola; legal threats to women’s equality in Hungary; and lack of reproductive rights for women in Poland.
We have published exclusive interviews with such experts as Hervé Ladsous, chief of UN peacekeeping; Russ Feingold, US envoy for the Great Lakes region in Africa; Nafis Sadik, the former chief of the UN Population Fund; Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor for the ICC; Georgette Gagnon, the head of UN human rights in Afghanistan; Jose Ramos-Horta, head of the UN mission in Guinea-Bissau; Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the Bangaldeshi fund, BRAC; and various ambassadors to the UN.
Our articles and essays are written by such UN journalists and specialists as Barbara Crossette, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times and UN correspondent for The Nation; Thomas G. Weiss, an international scholar on the UN and Presidential Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Grad Center; Irwin Arieff, who covered the UN, the White House and the US State Department for Reuters; Bill Orme, a journalist who contributed to the UN’s human development reports and reported for The Los Angeles Times; Helmut Volger, the editor of A Concise Encyclopedia of the United Nations and German commentator on the UN; Joseph Chamie, the former population expert at the UN and a migrant specialist; Shazia Rafi, former secretary-general of Parliamentarians for Global Action; and Dulcie Leimbach, who was the publications director of UNA-USA and before that an editor and writer at The New York Times for more than two decades.
Stringers also contribute from Washington, Britain, Berlin, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nepal, China, Cambodia, India, Peru and Zimbabwe.
In addition, we have an active mentoring program for journalism students to write on the UN and related foreign affairs from such schools as Columbia, Muhlenberg and City University of New York.
PassBlue features original photography by Armin Smailovic, Joe Penney, Tanya Bindra and others. Our videos have covered such topics as informal migration services in Rome and gender inequality in the UN. Laura Kirkpatrick, a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School, manages PassBlue’s social media.
Through Goings-on, PassBlue reports on important UN appointments and personnel changes. Worldviews is a forum for op-eds. Books allows writers to explore the topic at hand. UN Eats advises the UN community in New York on where to eat in the Turtle Bay neighborhood.
PassBlue is a play on the diplomatic passport known as “laissez-passer” (“let pass”), a blue travel document used by UN officials on missions and issued by national governments and world institutions during wartime and other periods to allow officers to travel to specific areas. The UN grounds passes are also blue; in addition, the UN issues passport-size IDs for travel on contract business.
PassBlue was designed by John Penney (email@example.com).
To write for PassBlue, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, noting your qualifications.
To donate to PassBlue and receive a US tax-deduction, please go to the Donate page.
If you are interested in an internship at PassBlue, find out more on our Interns page.
PassBlue is dedicated to the memory of Janet Leimbach, Aug. 26, 1925-May 23, 2011.