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 of the City University of New York 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.
PassBlue uses the highest standards of journalism to publish well-written articles, original videos, exclusive interviews and feature stories that clarify the work of the UN on the topics we cover, especially gender. Moreover, we do not shy away from publishing critical stories of the world body when it fails to act. Our subscribers include top UN officials, diplomats, academics, foreign affairs specialists, policy experts, journalists and general readers.
The UN is a sprawling institution operating with a biennial operating budget of $5 billion (excluding a $9 billion budget for UN Peacekeeping Operations), with the largest contributor to both budgets being the United States. The UN employs more than 44,000 staff members worldwide in the Secretariat category alone.
PassBlue 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; 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 an array of media and policy venues, including the International Relations and Security Network, the Institute of International Education, AWID, The Global Citizens Initiative and the Women, Peace and Security Network of Canada. Our articles are regularly disseminated through MUNPlanet and Women’s UN Report Network (WUNRN).
More recently in 2015, PassBlue reported 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; and on a new campaign to ensure the election of a female secretary-general in the 2017 term. These are just a few of the most-read stories so far this year.
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 ICC’s efforts to prosecute for rape in conflicts; the General Assembly’s resolution to ban female genital mutilation; the tradition of honor killings in Kurdistan; sexual slavery of Yazidi women and girls; the disproportionate number of deaths of women from Ebola; threats to women’s equality in Hungary; and lack of reproductive rights for women in Poland.
We continually publish exclusive interviews with such experts as Herve 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 top 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, Germany, Mali, Nepal, 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, CUNY and Hofstra.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To write for PassBlue, send an e-mail to email@example.com, 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.