PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the United Nations, covering women’s rights and gender equality, human rights, development, international justice, peacekeeping and other vital matters before the world body. 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.
PassBlue’s mission is to educate the public on the fundamental work of the UN — its successes and failures, actions and missteps — through high-quality reporting by writers based at the UN and throughout the world. We are one of the few English-language media sites dedicated to investigative reporting and analysis on 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 from individuals making tax-deductible donations. We also receive in-kind contributions from writers, photographers and technology professionals, to whom we are extremely grateful.
The United Nations was founded in 1945 to maintain international peace and security and develop friendly relations between countries, and the United States is by far the biggest financial contributor to its operating and peacekeeping budgets. Yet at its core the UN has always been a political institution and its 193 member states and staff often resort to obfuscation to manage the fact that its work is invariably controversial and sometimes flawed.
PassBlue clears the air by reporting on how the UN deals — or does not deal — with the most important problems plaguing the world today. Our well-written articles, op-eds and short videos have pushed the UN to increased transparency and accountability. PassBlue consistently publishes compelling, original articles, videos, exclusive interviews and feature stories read by influential people worldwide, with the majority of our readers in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Delhi, Lahore, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Berlin, Melbourne and Manila. Our subscribers include UN officials, diplomats, academics, foreign affairs specialists, development experts, journalists and students.
Our articles are consistently 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).
In addition, our articles are regularly disseminated through such partners as Ecowas and AU Digest, MUNPlanet, Women’s UN Report Network (WUNRN) and International Press Syndicate. Blog posts by Barbara Crossette and Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue’s top editors and writers and veterans of The New York Times, are regularly published on HuffingtonPost and Medium.
In 2015, PassBlue broke news by reporting on the UN’s contentious 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 how Saudi Arabia followed up on 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, PassBlue has extensively covered the UN process to select the next secretary-general, including a scoop in September on the possibility of a new candidate, Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria, becoming a candidate. That article was cited widely in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, and led to Germany officially denying its involvement in promoting Georgieva. PassBlue also reported exclusively from Geneva on the new UN Syria Women’s Advisory Board and its participation in the UN-led peace talks in the spring. The article included an interview with Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria.
PassBlue’s reporting is heavily focused on core issues of women, and we have covered, for example, 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; 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; and legal threats to women’s equality in Hungary.
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; Jose Ramos-Horta, head of the UN mission in Guinea-Bissau; Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the Bangladeshi fund, BRAC; and Peter Sutherland, the UN envoy on migration.
PassBlue’s most-read story is a primer on how to get a job at 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; Shazia Rafi, former secretary-general of Parliamentarians for Global Action; Joanne Myers, director of the Public Affairs Programs for the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs; 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; 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. Laura Kirkpatrick, a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School, manages PassBlue’s social media.
Stringers also contribute from Washington, Britain, Berlin, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nepal, China, Cambodia, India, Peru and Zimbabwe.
In addition, we offer an active mentoring program for journalism students to write on the UN and 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.
Through Goings-on, PassBlue reports on important UN appointments and personnel changes. Worldviews is a forum for op-eds. Books allows writers to explore current international topics. 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 button or send a check to PassBlue, P.O. Box 23166, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11202.
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.