PassBlue is an independent digital publication providing in-depth journalism and vivid photographs on the United Nations, with a strong focus on women. Founded in 2011, it 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 a recipient of grants from the Samuel Rubin Foundation, Feminist Majority Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York, as well as individual donors.
PassBlue covers the UN with a primary focus on women’s rights and gender equality, population, international justice, the Security Council, peacekeeping and human rights, forging a journalistic path through well-written articles, exclusive interviews and feature stories that clarify the work of the UN and related nonprofit groups throughout the world. We also report on the UN’s specialized agencies and US-UN relations, with a view to making the world body as open, accountable and accessible as possible to all readers.
Our subscribers include top UN officials, academics, students, diplomats, foreign affairs specialists, policy experts, journalists and general readers who follow the UN.
The UN is a large, complex institution that operates with a biennial operating budget of $5 billion (excluding a $7.5 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: 15,588 in departments and offices; 2,704 in regional commissions; nearly 24,000 in peacekeeping missions; and 1,849 in war tribunals.
PassBlue has quickly developed a reputation for incisive coverage: it was the first publication to report 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 (Mali) for the first time; on Switzerland’s petition to the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court; on Mary Robinson becoming the first special envoy for Central Africa; Bert Koenders leaving the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali; and on the Security Council addressing child soldier use in Colombia.
PassBlue reports on the 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; and Tanzania schoolgirls forced to undergo “pregnancy testing.”
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; John Hendra, a deputy director of UN Women; Jose Ramos Horta, head of the UN mission in Guinea-Bissau; Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the Bangaldeshi fund, BRAC; and Liat Shetret, director of the New York office of the Global Center on Cooperative Security.
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; John Torpey, director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at CUNY Graduate Center; 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; 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; and Dulcie Leimbach, who was the publications director of UNA-USA for three years and an editor and writer at The New York Times for more than two decades.
In addition, we have an active mentoring program for journalism students to write on the UN from such universities as Columbia, CUNY and Hofstra.
PassBlue features original photography by Joe Penney, Kaisa Rautaheimo, Tanya Bindra and others. Yixin Zhao, a graduate student in communications and education at Columbia University, is PassBlue’s social media specialist.
Through Goings-on, PassBlue reports on important UN appointments and personnel changes. Worldviews is a forum for op-eds by such contributors as Graciana del Castillo, Maria Luisa Gambale, Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Thomas Pogge, Christof Heyns and Ramesh Thakur. 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 submit the contact form below.
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.