Author Archives: UNA-GB
It’s time to celebrate human rights!
Human Rights Day was first declared on December 10, 1950, to celebrate and remind the world each year of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year marks twenty years since the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was created to carry out the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action of 1993. The UN calls this list of goals the “the most significant human rights document produced in the past 40 years”.
In celebration of Human Rights Day, UNA-GB wants to help inform its readers about both the history of human rights and the difficulties that arise when trying to define and uphold basic rights for the entire world.
History of Human Rights Day
Lessons learned from the failure to stabilize relations between powerful countries after WWI (and the huge amount of death and destruction that ensued) inspired countries to create an international governmental body, the League of Nations. However, it wasn’t until the end of WWII that the stage was set for the institutionalization of our current system of international cooperation. In 1945, the United Nations was born. One of the UN’s first tasks and top priorities was to create a universal set of standards to ensure that the human rights atrocities of the past decades would never again happen unchecked.
The 10th of December, 1948, is the date the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It outlines the basic human rights that should be guaranteed to individuals, starting at the most basic: the right to life and freedom. It describes the responsibility of society to ensure these rights, also including freedom of thought and speech, religion, association, and culture.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a major contributor to the commission that drafted the declaration. She had become an active voice for human rights domestically during her husband’s presidency, and was offered a position on the delegation to the UN after he died in office. After it was drafted, she vouched for the UNDHR to function as a moral call to action rather than a legal treaty. She wanted the language of the treaty to be easily understood by the general public, and hoped that it would rally the people to the world to take back their rights. Now, its provisions have been worked into most national constitutions since its creation, and have become accepted as international law.
UN Day would be announced in 1950, and has served to remind the world about the gains and ground yet to cover each year in the realm of human rights.
Focus: the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Nepal
Indigenous peoples are just one of many groups that are at high risk to become victims of human rights infractions. Indigenous people are defined in international or national legislation as having a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their cultural or historical distinctiveness from other populations that are often politically dominant.
It is difficult to determine whether or not a group is “indigenous;” the name can refer to a minority group, a society that falls outside of the realm of nation-state politics, a tribe or nomadic people, or any other group that has deep ancestral ties. In a world that continuously becomes more interconnected, there are many implications for populations that are not under the complete jurisdiction of classic societal frameworks or governments. These peoples tend to be at high risk for exploitation, marginalization, and other human rights infractions.
The Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities estimates that about 37% of the population of Nepal can be called indigenous peoples.
The Newa people, who have been the focus of a UN fellowship that strives to learn about and advocate for indigenous rights, are believed to have had huge impacts on the culture, architecture, and history of Nepal today. Their language, Nepal Bhasa, was the official language of Nepal between the 14th and 18th centuries. One of the gravest problems concerning all of the indigenous people of Nepal is the threat of disintegration of their language and culture.
However, the issue of cultural preservation is complex. For example, another group in Nepal, the Dalits, belong (historically) to the lowest caste in of society (they and similar groups are traditionally known as “untouchables” in both Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan). Discrimination against this group has undeniably caused human rights to be violated in many instances. How does one honor culture while also ensuring that the wishes and rights of these groups are represented in the international governing structure?
Other challenges concerning the land that indigenous people live on and their status in society are common. They are often victims of biopiracy when ancient foods, medicines, etc. are discovered and patented by foreign companies. In Nepal and India, this is particularly a threat in the realm of medicinal plants.
Nepal was the first country in South Asia to ratify the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169, which deals with the rights of indigenous peoples. The UN has taken a number of strides to help recognize the unique needs of indigenous peoples. The United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007, and an Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was established within the Human Rights Council.
What You Can Do This Human Rights Day:
1) Celebrate the Life of Nelson Mandela:
This year, celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, whose successes symbolize the difference that ethical leadership and activism can make when ensuring basic human rights are granted to a people. Mandela fought hard against discrimination and was deeply devoted to equality, and the outcomes of his battle against oppression were some of the greatest human rights successes of our time.
2) Get Informed:
- This Human Rights Day, pick an indigenous group and learn about it! Strike up a conversation with friends and share what you know.
- Check out this list of stories about some of the most prevalent Human Rights issues that face societies around the world.
- Read about Rajani Maharjan’s work with the Newa People in Nepal here
- Read the UN Declaration of Human Rights here
3) Recognize what we need to do next and remember how far we have come :
- A list of Human Rights Achievements can be found on the Human Rights Day website
4) Start a Conversation
- Take what you’ve learned and share it with a friend, classmate, colleague, or family member
- Join the conversation with @UNrightswire on Twitter (#UNRightsAt20)
- Like UN Human Rights on Facebook
Happy Human Rights Day!
I am a second year graduate student studying international affairs at Boston University. My area of focus is theory and policy and I am very much interested in Latin America, specifically Brazil. I was originally born in Florida but my parents are from Peru and El Salvador. My heritage has played such a significant part in my professional interests that I decided to major in Portuguese and Spanish for my undergraduate studies. During my free time, I love to go salsa, forro, and samba dancing and spend time with my husband, friends and family. I also love traveling; visiting Brazil has been one of the highlights of my travels. One place I would love to travel to is Greece; I spent the summer studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland and visited many other places in Europe yet did not have enough time to squeeze in Greece. Ultimately, my dream job would be to work in international development focusing on improving the lives of children, their families and communities.
I am currently a senior at Boston University studying International Relations and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and I am very excited to continue my internship at UNA-GB! Originally from a small town in New Hampshire, I have slowly become accustomed to the busy city life in Boston and I love all of the diverse opportunities for research, networking, performance, and art (to name a few) here! One of my favorite things to do in Boston is take walks along the esplanade next to the Charles River, and to eat delicious food at restaurants and cafes with a variety of cuisines. I’ve made it my goal to go to one restaurant per month that features food from a different area of the world (which should be easy with YP’s awesome “Taste Of” events!) One of the places that I have always wanted to visit is Morocco, and I am finally getting the opportunity to go to Rabat in January to do some independent research! I would also love to visit other North African and Middle Eastern countries, and I love learning the Arabic language. For these reasons (and because of my research interests) I hope to one day work for a non-profit or government agency that promotes women’s rights in the MENA and other developing countries.
I am a senior at Northeastern University studying International Affairs with minors in Political Science and History. I’m from a small town in central New Jersey. I love traveling abroad, and I have studied abroad multiple times and have done internships abroad as well. I have studied in England, Austria, the Czech Republic, and France, and did two different internships in Northern Ireland. I really enjoyed studying in Austria and the Czech Republic because I have both Austrian and Czech heritage. Every city I have been to is beautiful and charming in its own way, but if I had to go back to one, I would buy a one way ticket to Belfast, Northern Ireland. My dream job would probably be to be a country singer!
I am a senior at Boston University studying International Relations and Public Relations. I am originally from Falmouth, MA, which is on Cape Cod. I have always loved anything and everything to do with the ocean. In my free time, I love to read, walk or hike outside, write, and explore wherever I happen to be living! Last year, I studied abroad in Paris, France, doing an internship program. I learned so much and got to travel all over Europe; it’s hard to choose, but I think that my favorite place was Edinburgh, Scotland. I loved the medieval feel of the city, the natural beauty both in and around the city, and the people- and I even got to see a fire festival while I was there! If I had a time machine, I would want to go to the lost Inca city at Machu Picchu. I have two dream jobs: one would be to be a highly-in-demand travel blogger, paid to travel all over the world and write about it, and the other would be to work for an international nonprofit, maybe doing conservation or development work.
I am a sophomore at Northeastern University studying International Affairs and am from Chicago, IL. This semester my free time has been devoted to movie hopping–seeing three movies for the price of one–and creating homemade conditioners. I have been to the movies about three times this semester and seen five movies, my goal is to see all of the films that have been given the Oscar nod. I would definitely go to Morocco. I am fluent in French but miss being around french speakers, although Morocco isn’t the first place people go to practice their french I have recently become fascinated with their presence in North Africa. My dream job is to be an international super star like Celine Dion! If I could, I would go into the future to see myself at age 30. I’m curious to know what I will be doing for a living, what friends I will have and if I have kept any, what my younger siblings would be doing, where I will be living, and what the world would be like.
It’s officially fall (and pretty chilly in Boston)…which means it’s once again time to celebrate United Nations Day with UNA-GB! The office honored UN Day last week on October 24th by raising the UN flag above Boston City Hall, did anyone spot it?
UN Day, which has been celebrated every year since 1948, recognizes the creation of the United Nations and its founding principles of peace, cooperation, and collective action. This year, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed these founding ideals in his address: “we continue to show what collective action can do. We can do even more. In a world that is more connected, we must be more united. On United Nations Day, let us pledge to live up to our founding ideals and work together for peace, development, and human rights.”
In a more formal celebration of UN Day, UNA-GB is hosting its annual UN Day Luncheon on Tuesday, November 5th (next week!) from 12:30 to 2 pm at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Why should you honor us with your attendance? Here are a few reasons we can think of!
1) Ambassador Nicholas Burns will be there.
Not only will he be there – he’ll be delivering the keynote speech on “America’s Global Challenges 2014.” Ambassador Burns served in the US Foreign Service for twenty-seven years, during which time he was appointed Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to NATO, Ambassador to Greece, and State Department Spokesman.
He worked on the National Security Council staff as Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Affairs and was Special Assistant to President Clinton and Director for Soviet Affairs for President George H.W.Bush. He is currently Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and Faculty Chair for the Programs on the Middle East and on India and South Asia, as well as Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project. Burns is also the Director of the Aspen Strategy Group, Senior Counselor at the Cohen Group, and serves on the Board of Directors of Entegris, Inc.
You may have read some of his work in The Boston Globe, where he writes a bi-weekly column on foreign affairs.
2) Special guests, Georg Kell and Jonas Haertle will also be there.
Mr. Kell and Mr. Haertle are this year’s Global Corporate Citizenship Honor Roll guests! The honor roll recognizes Massachusetts-based companies who have signed on to key business principles through the UN Global Compact.
Georg Kell is the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative with 8,000 corporate participants in 145 countries. A key architect of the Global Compact, he has led the initiative since its founding in 2000, establishing the most widely recognized multi-stakeholder network and action platform to advance responsible business practices. Mr. Kell joined the United Nations in 1987, and has been at the leading edge of the organization’s private-sector engagement ever since.
Jonas Haertle is Head of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) secretariat of the United Nations Global Compact Office. The mission of the PRME initiative is to inspire and champion responsible management education, research and thought leadership globally. In his role as coordinator for Global Compact Local Networks he works with the country networks in Latin America and the Caribbean. Mr. Haertle holds a master’s degree in European Studies of Hamburg University. As a Fulbright scholar, he also attained a MSc degree in Global Affairs from Rutgers University.
3) There will be opportunities to network with professionals, consuls, and other individuals who are dedicated to promoting the founding principles of the United Nations!
Members of the UNA-GB, professionals of all ages, Consuls from a variety of Consulates in Boston, and most importantly, YOU will have the opportunity to discuss anything from national issues/achievements to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, to the chilly Boston weather! This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with like-minded people who support the work of the United Nations.
4) It’s a good excuse to get out of the office (or school or the house) and enjoy some delicious food!
Could there be a better incentive? The Boston Park Plaza Hotel will serve some delicious appetizers, entrees, and desserts! It is a chance to spend a few hours out of the office/school, enjoy great company, and have a tasty meal at a swanky hotel…what more could you ask for?
5) You will be supporting UNA-GB’s programs, which aim to educate today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders!
Funds raised from ticket sales and sponsorships at the UN Day Luncheon directly support UNA-GB’s community events and classroom-based programs, which serve more than 5,000 participants annually in greater Boston.
Convinced? Then what are you waiting for?! Sign up to attend UN Day Luncheon 2013 today!
Written by: Eliza Berg, Programs Intern
On Thursday, October 10th, Katrina Sousounis introduced Girl Rising to about two hundred and sixty attendees at a film screening hosted by UNA-GB. She explained that the most pervasive issues affecting the people of the world today (including poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, violence) disproportionately affect young women. Katrina finished the speech with a call for educational reform to give opportunities to women everywhere, and ended with this quote from the film: “Boys need to believe in girls, and girls need to learn to believe in themselves.”
Katrina is 13 years old.
Founder of the first Girl Up club in Massachusetts, Katrina was inspired to try and solve the problems so carefully outlined in her speech. Her club is part of an organization founded to help girls and young women around the world to reach their full potential by ensuring that they are educated, safe, well-fed, and guaranteed basic human rights.
Because of this, Katrina was asked to introduce Girl Rising at UNA-GB’s screening of the film on Thursday, which was a fundraiser for Girl Up. Her presence and hard work demonstrate a distinctive part of Girl Up’s message: to help girls reach their potential around the world, we must empower girls themselves to effect the change that they want to see.
Girl Rising is the story of nine girls from around the world: Sokha from Cambodia, Wadley from Haiti, Suma from Nepal, Yasmin from Egypt, Azmera from Ethiopia, Ruksana from India, Senna from Peru, Mariama from Sierra Leone, and Amina from Afghanistan. Each girl was paired with a writer from her country to help tell her story. Each story is artistically captured differently, with varying experiences when it comes to cultural restraints, parental support, and environmental circumstances. In essence, Girl Rising is a movement to deliver a “simple, critical truth: educate girls and you will change the world.”
The UNA-GB decided to screen this film to get a dialogue started to help men, women, boys and girls in Boston and elsewhere think about solutions to various forms of discrimination against girls around the world. After the film, a musical group called “Women of the World”, which sings in 21 different languages, performed. They chose a song that resonated with the idea that together, we can create positive change.
In 2011, the UN declared October 11th as the first annual tribute to its goal to improve gender equality everywhere. This year, the theme of the day is “Innovating for Girls’ Education.” It sounds simple enough, but the task of ensuring that girls worldwide are educated is complex, both in implementation and consequence.
What exactly is keeping girls from going to school?
A wide breadth of causes keep girls out of school each day. Governmental policies and social issues alike can keep girls and boys out of school. Here are a few major perpetrators:
- School is not free everywhere, and many poor families cannot afford to send any or all of their children to school. In some countries, boys are sent to school while girls stay home and work.
- It can be dangerous: in 2012, Save the Children reported that there were more than 3,600 attacks on education around the world.
- About half of all girls living in the world’s least developed countries are married before the age of 18. Child marriage greatly decreases a girl’s likelihood of finishing school, according to World Vision.
- Lack of sanitary protection means that girls may miss up to five days of school a month
- When basic needs aren’t being met and students are not healthy or well-fed, school may be a low priority.
- There may not be a school within walking distance, especially in rural areas.
- Governmental policies and societal norms can make it illegal or abnormal for girls to become educated
So, how exactly does educating girls help the world?
- According to the UN: “When girls are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, they can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families and participate in the progress of their nations.”
- Educated mothers educate their children; this not only breaks the cycle of poverty, but their sons will be more inclined to educate their daughters.
- UNICEF connected discrimination against women and girls and hunger. Child malnutrition in South Asia is highly linked to women’s limited access to education and difficulties with finding paid employment.
What can you do?
- Education, education, education! Educate yourself by exploring the issue even more- try checking out some of the links below
- Donate! Visit Girl Up’s website, or one of the other initiatives below, to give to the cause.
- Become an activist! Join one of the causes below, or create your own!
Happy International Day of the Girl Child!
UN Day of the Girl Child
By Miriam Shahidi, Travel and Foreign Language Lover and Assistant UNA-GB Blogger
Ni Hao readers!
We hope you’re ready for the next UNA-GB Young Professionals cultural event, Taste of China! Read along to gain some insight into China’s unique cuisine and rev your appetites for our event, which is only mere days away!
I’m sure most of you have heard many things about Chinese food and its sometimes bizarre ingredients and offbeat recipes. The first thing we should know about our idea of Chinese food is that what we eat here in the US is very different from native Chinese food. In fact, American Chinese food is almost an entirely different genre by itself!
Globalization has always brought an integration of cultures, allowing people in one part of our shrinking world to experience some cultural aspect of another faraway country, and a perfect example is Chinese food in America. What we eat here varies vastly from what people eat in China. In America, a typical Chinese restaurant will serve dishes rich in oil and heavy sauce, and somewhat uniform in flavor. To an American, this seems like an exotic dining experience, but in fact, these dishes are missing a common characteristic of authentic Chinese cuisine- simplicity. Which leads us to ask, what actually is real Chinese Food? What role does it play in China besides basic sustenance?
Food is an extremely important part of Chinese culture. China, having the largest population in the world, stands in at about 1.35 BILLION people. That explains its huge agricultural industry and extensive diversity of cuisine. Historically, the idea has been for Chinese people that if you want a good meal you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it, no matter who you are or where you come from. What most Chinese recipes have in common are their inexpensive ingredients and great nutritional value. Here are some common staple ingredients in Chinese cuisine:
- Basic grains: rice and wheat, which are either eaten as is or processed into hundreds of different types of noodles and dumplings.
- Meat, tofu, or bean curd are used as the protein of the meal.
- Vegetables: bok choy, or Chinese mustard, has the texture of lettuce and is cooked or steamed. Eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, bean sprouts, mushrooms, snow peas, radish, and bamboo shoots are also very common vegetables to steam or fry.
- Flavor: soy sauce, chili paste or sauce, rice vinegar, plum sauce (also known as sweet and sour sauce). All are flavor enhancing and give each specialty its energizing kick!
- Green tea, black tea, and white tea are the most common drinks with and between any meal. They are all rich in antioxidants and carry great medicinal value. No meal is complete without a small, hot cup of tea!
Authentic Chinese food has many forms and recipes, depending on the region it comes from. A trip to China in 2007 along the Silk Trail showed me how much food really differs by region. Going from coastal China’s large cities like Beijing and Xi’an, to the Gobi desert in the West, food transforms from simple, predictable dishes like rice noodles with steamed vegetables, pork, beef, or chicken, garlic notes, and lots of soy sauce, to more exotic dishes the more West you go. In the West, dishes tend to be more exotic, and sometimes bizarre, especially through the eyes of a Westerner! Somewhere in the Gobi desert, people are eating pickled chicken feet with spicy yellow curry sauce and green peppers (which would rank 5 out of 5 peppers on those spicy guides on menus in American Chinese restaurants). Chicken feet, which are more delicious than they sound, are something you can find in Chinese grocery stores in America. Meanwhile, somewhere in America, people are eating Sweet and Sour Chicken with knives and forks, reading their zodiac sign from a menu. Another bizarre specialty in Western China is pig’s snout and it is eaten with flavorful soy and sesame sauce- and despite what it looks like, it’s absolutely delicious!
Real Chinese food is uniquely delicious and not to be missed. The detail, care, and craftsmanship that go into a real Chinese meal is unlike like any other. Don’t be put off when you see something like pickled chicken feet or frog legs at an Asian market in America. This is just one part of China’s vast culinary diversity. When you have the chance to taste authentic Chinese food, or better yet, make it yourself, it’s a meal you will never forget!
Are you hungry yet? We hope you are excited for A Taste of China and won’t miss the opportunity to try some real Chinese food with your fellow YP’s! Tickets are $20 and you should reserve your spot as soon as possible!
Taste of China
Wednesday, August 21 @ 6pm
Tickets on sale here!
Summer 2013 has started and so have the new interns! Here is a little bit more about each one…
“Ali’s Interns” (Programming)
Hi, my name is Brittany Osachuk and I am a fifth year student at Northeastern University studying International Affairs with a minor in Political Science. I am a citizen of the U.S. and Finland and grew up in central Massachusetts but spent time living in Grenada and Finland during my younger years. I have a passion for travelling and experiencing new cultures which has led me to study abroad in the Czech Republic and Japan. In my free time I love to dance hip-hop and am on the No Limits Dance Crew at Northeastern. Fun fact: I can speak Finnish fluently, and yes, it is an uncommon and unusual language! If I could be anyone for a day I would be a KGB spy during the Cold War.
My name is Timothy Jude Lawlor Jr. I am a senior at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (home of real education). I am from Merica, meaning I am American from Irish background. My favorite country is Germany, and my hobbies include outdoors activities and working on my truck. Fun fact – I worked in Germany for a summer at a camp for the Boy Scouts. If I could be anyone for a day, I would be Darius Rucker so I could wagon wheel all the time.
Hi! My name Cayla and I am a rising junior at Providence College. I am a Raynham, MA native, but both of my parents are from Lebanon making me 100% Lebanese. I love my family’s homeland,but Lebanon is only one of my favorite places to travel. Being a Spanish minor, I love Spain, specifically the city of Granada. I love countries and languages, and that has inspired me to pursue a degree in Global Studies with a double minor in Spanish and Political Science. Along with academics at PC, I am also a cheerleader for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, and I enjoy dancing with the dance club and playing intramural soccer. A fun fact about me is that I can lick my elbow, and if I could be anyone for a day, I would be Kate Middleton (or Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge).
Hello. My name is Shuvam Rizal and I am a junior at UMass Amherst. I am from Kathmandu in Nepal, but my favorite place is obviously here at UNA-GB building in Boston. Like Tim, I am fan of Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel,” and one of my hobbies is jamming out to it on the guitar every now and then. Fun fact – A large part of me is still very angry at Scar for Mufasa’s death. If I could be anyone for a day, I’d be one of the Beatles, no question!
“Rebecca & Monika’s Interns” (Education)
Hi! My name is Beatriz, and I am currently a sophomore at UMass Boston studying Political Science and International Relations. I am originally from Vitoria, Brazil but I have been living in Boston since 2001. Officially I am Brazilian because I was born in Brazil but I have a crazy mixture of German, Portuguese and Italian because of my parents’ ancestors. If I had to visit one place I would go to Australia, who wouldn’t want to visit the biggest island in the world? I love their accents, their free-spirited style and their way of living. My hobbies include volunteering at my local church, playing the piano and going out with my friends! I would love to be Queen Elizabeth for a day, to just know the feeling of being a queen without the responsibilities. A random fun fact about me is — I am a little obsessed with painting my nails.
Hi, my name is Maham, and I will be a freshman this fall at UMass Amherst! I am from Reading, MA, and I am originally from Pakistan. I love traveling especially to older cities like London, but I am a little biased when it comes to my favorite city as it would have to be Peshawar, Pakistan, the city I was born in. My hobbies include cooking, baking, reading, watching movies, making collages, and photography. I love Thai, Chinese, and Mexican food! A fun fact about me is that I can speak 6 languages (including English). And if I could be anyone for a day I would probably be… Michael Kors or Vera Wang.
My name is Wenwen Zhang, Class 2013 in Wheaton College. I am from an ancient city Shaoxing (China) with 2,500 years’ history. I really want to visit North Korea one day and learn the local cultures and history. I love travelling and photography, and three facts about myself: 1. I cannot swim and am afraid of water; 2. I always mix “kitchen” and “chicken”; 3. I am a big fan of Mayday, a Taiwanese band. If I could choose a person to be for a day, it must be Luxun, a writer who used his pen to fight against darkness and dictators, and his books influenced and inspired many young people at that time. I am really interested in economic development and I would like to work on improving people in developing countries’ living standards in the future.
Hi, my name is Caio and I’m going to be a freshman at Umass Boston in the fall where I’ll be studying Political Science. I was born in the town of Mendes Pimentel in Minas Gerais, Brasil. I’m a native Brasilian of both Italian and Portuguese ancestry. I haven’t traveled enough to have a favorite place picked out in the world but there’s no place I want to get to know more than northern Italy. I love my hometown of Boston and I’m a huge Boston sports fanatic! I love film and acting and I hope to one day pursue my love of acting and become a major Hollywood film star. I also love international relations and might end up choosing to become a diplomat and follow my love of international diplomacy. I love sports, and I was a Division I swimmer in high school and hope to continue swimming in college. A fun fact about me is that I won Best Hair in my graduating class and if I could be anyone for a day I’d be James Bond.
In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly decided that from the next year on, the 20th of June would be celebrated annually as ‘World Refugee Day’ – a day dedicated to raising awareness on the situation of refugees throughout the world. The focused theme this year is the impact of war on families – with the campaign tagline ‘One family torn apart by war is too many.’ Today, keeping with the spirit, UNA-GB is celebrating this important occasion and we hope this blog post will help our readers become more aware on the matter.
So let’s start at the very root of the subject. What exactly do we mean when we use the term ‘refugee?’ According to the legal definition, a refugee is a person who is outside his or her country of nationality and is unable to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. In other words – a refugee is somebody exiled from his or her country for having opinions and beliefs that don’t agree with the authority’s opinions and beliefs. For those of us living stably, it is hard to even contemplate just how radically our lives would change if, without notice, we were forced to leave our homes and possessions behind in order to relocate to an area where we don’t know anyone. Unfortunately, this is the reality of millions of people across the world today.
In early 2012, there were 15.4 million refugees around the world – a staggering statistic. Geographically, the highest number of refugees last year was observed in Pakistan – 4.8 million, with most originating from Afghanistan – a total of 2.7 million refugees. The pie chart to the left reveals how an overwhelming proportion of Afghani refugees eventually land in either Pakistan or Iran. Worldwide, it is estimated that 80 percent of refugees are women and children. According to 2012 data, 48 percent were women, and 46 percent of refugees throughout the world were under the age of 18.
As alarmingly high as they may be, the numbers described above do not tell the complete story of all the people that were forced out of their countries. Due to technical complications in definition, not all nationals exiled from their nations qualify as refugees. The 15.4 million people were only the ones that officially qualified under the ranks of being
a refugee. In total, about 45.2 million were forcibly displaced by the end of 2012. This figure includes the 15.4 million refugees as well as 28.8 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and 937,000 asylum seekers. IDPs are people who have been force to leave their homes as a result of armed conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. Unlike refugees, they have not crossed international borders.
The other category of displaced nationals – asylum seekers – represent the people who are looking to be recognized as a refugee, but have not yet received formal refugee status. These IDPs and asylum seekers do not qualify legally as refugees, so are also not able to receive the same legal protections or rights. Clearly, there are many technical complications while dealing with refugee statistics and we must be careful of such implications while reading data. Furthermore, because not every displaced person is qualified under the ranks of being a refugee, thousands of people do not receive the help being provided to refugees and end up waiting for official paperwork for long periods of time. In the meantime, they are stranded without a home or belongings.
According to 2011 data, the countries with the most number of IDPs were Colombia (3.8 million), Sudan (2.4 million), Democratic Republic of Congo (1.7 million), Somalia (1.4 million) and Iraq (1.3 million). A total of 895,000 individual applications for asylum or refugee status were submitted to governments and UNHCR offices (more on the UNHCR coming up) offices in 166 countries in 2011. Unfortunately, only roughly 11 percent of these requests were fulfilled. What happens to the rest of these people who were not granted refugee status?
Still, 2011 saw a significant number of people seeking asylum or refugee status from countries experiencing recent/ongoing conflict or security concerns. Research has shown that the developing countries of the world host around 80 percent of the world’s refugees.
While delving deep into the technicalities and statistics can be disheartening, we must recognize that there are multiple organizations throughout the world that continue to work towards providing necessary help-to displaced people – the most notable one being the UNHCR – The UN Refuge Agency. At the request of national governments or the UN itself, UNHCR assists people in voluntary repatriation (the process of returning a person back to one’s place of origin), local integration, or resettlement to a third country. It’s headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNHCR has been recognized multiple times for its work with refugees throughout the world, and has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 1954 and again in 1981.
Along with its work in assisting refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs in attaining their needs, UNHCR also works actively in research and statistical analysis. It produces detailed and highly sophisticated research data every year in order to bring more light into the matter of issues pertaining to displaced people. A thorough and comprehensive statistical account of the status of refugees today categorized according to the geography of world by following this link here. The UNHCR also continues its work in raising public awareness on the matter. Several new programs have recently been introduced to support and to heighten awareness of the issues faced by refugees around the world. Two of these programs are products of the benchmarks set out by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
So now that you are more informed about the displaced people of the world and their current status – one question still remains. What can you do to celebrate World Refugee Day? Here are a couple of suggestions from the UNA-GB team:
- Spread The Word!
The idea behind dedicating a day of the year to this particular issue is primary raising awareness. So do some research, form potential ideas and discuss! Over a cup of coffee, by the water cooler at work or through a Facebook status – just spread the word!
Try to experience and share the experience what it is like to be a refugee, in game form. Play “Against All Odds”, a computer game created by UNHCR and experience what it is like to flee your home, cross into a new country and start a new life.
- Read articles, watch videos and inform yourself.
Again, the primary idea behind World Refugee Day is informing oneself as well as others on the matter. There are multiple organizations (of course, including UNHCR) that produce informative videos and release them online. Here is one of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie discussing the 2011 World Refugee Day. The first step toward change is knowledge, after all – so go ahead and educate yourself!
Also, sign up to receive email alerts containing news, events and ways to get involved through UNHCR.
For an immediate impact towards the cause, the best way to go is to make a donation. There are plenty of organizations that can assist in making donations to refugee camps all over the world. The official UNHCR website is currently hosting an urgent appeal donation cause for people displaced due to the Syria Crisis.
- Get to Know Some Refugees if You Can!
There are over 4.8 million displaced nationals throughout the world, there is a good chance you might just find a few around you. Pay them a visit, donate some items that you may not be in need of and have a quick chat – hear their stories first hand. This World Refugee day, step out of your comfort zone and meet some these brave individuals.
Happy World Refugee Day!
Education, health, and human rights are three prevalent international issues on their own, but they are also tightly interwoven into each other. How often do we get to see them as such? ”We go to a conference on education; And we go to a conference on health care; And we may even go to a conference that focuses only on human rights, but not often do we have the chance to bring them together,” says Jackie Jenkins-Scott the President of Wheelock College. And she is right! Alone, these causes are expansive, so focusing too much on one may warrant the neglect of another, but the overlap should not be forgotten. Wheelock College is not only remembering this, they are celebrating it. Next week, the institution is holding a four day conference that will delve into global issues in education, health, and human rights. It is called Global Challenges and Opportunities Facing Children, Youth and Families.
From Wednesday, June 19th until Saturday, June 22nd, international activists can come dissect, discuss, and collaborate on the issues of social justice, power, protection, prevention, aid, and programs available for children and families around the world. Keynotes will be speaking throughout the conference, and they are an impressive set of minds. The event will kick off with Cherie Blair, Founder of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and will continue with other notables such as Kevin Carroll – Author, Speaker, Agent for Social Change, Founder Katalyst LLC, Ögmundur Jónasson – Minister of the Interior of Iceland, Kerry Kennedy – President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and Simona-Mirela Miculescu – Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
The six keynotes are not the only reasons to join the conference. In addition to the stimulating conversations and inspiring words of amazing individuals, there will be a Cultural Festival with international music, food, and dance, screenings of international films exploring critical global issues, concurrent sessions on education, health, and human rights, expert panelists, spotlight sessions highlighting exemplary programs in education, health, and human rights, and an Awards Celebration evening at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.
The conference is a chance for 42 countries to come together so voices can be heard, and a cross-cultural think tank can be explored. Definitely something all activists will want to check out!
For more information and registration, click here! #GlobalCauses
Also, email email@example.com to get a great discount code!
We’re sure you’re just as super excited for the Young Professionals ‘Taste of Poland’ event next week as we are here at the UNA-GB! In life, you may not be able to have your cake and eat it too, but here at the UNA-GB, you can make your all the perogies you want and eat them until you’re completely satisfied! This blog post will be introduce you to the wonderful food form and throw in a few fun facts about Poland along the way.
What, exactly are perogies you may ask? They are an age-old Eastern/Central European delicacy that serves brilliantly both as an appetizer as well as the main course of a meal. Perogies are basically dumplings of unleavened dough – first boiled, then baked or fried with butter and onions. The best part is – perogies are super diverse and can be stuffed with anything, from potato filling and cheese to ground meat and sour cream, or even your choice of fruit. You can have all sorts of fun with cooking them too! Perogies can be semicircular, triangular, rectangular or any shape you want if you’re feeling creative!
Traditionally considered ‘peasant food’, the exquisite taste of perogies quickly spread across Poland throughout all social classes including nobles. Outside Poland, they are very popular in other European countries such as Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine. Many cookbooks from the 17th Century describe perogies as a staple of the Polish diet, and each traditional holiday had its own special kind of perogi. Different kinds of fillings and shapes are observed for occasions such as Christmas and Easter, and important events (such as weddings) have their own special kind of perogies – ‘kirniki’ – filled with delicious chicken meat. There are also ones made especially for mourning/wakes, and even some for caroling season in January!
Surely, a country that gave birth to this wonderful cuisine must be pretty amazing itself. Here are some fun facts you may not have known about the Republic of Poland to ‘chew’ over before Taste of Poland:
- Poland is the 69th largest country in the world, 9th largest in Europe.
- Poland boasts 17 Nobel Prize winners, including four Peace Prizes and five in Literature
- Polish born astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was the first person to propose that the Earth was not the center of the universe
- Saint John’s Kupala is a popular holiday in which people jump over fires, a tradition that predates Christianity
- In Wroclaw there is an annual citywide medieval festival, including jousts, horse archery, medieval dances and other activities
- Pizza in Poland does not contain tomato sauce. The waiters bring sauce to the table in a pitcher, and you pour it on top. Sometimes, the sauce is just ketchup.
- There is a ‘Pope Channel’ on TV. Anytime one wishes to see the pope, they can tune him in
- In popular Polish culture, bananas are peeled from the blossom end, not the stem end
- The most popular name for a dog in Poland is Burek which translates directly to ‘brownish-grey color’
- In Poland, the name day is considered more important than the birthday
- Around 90% of Poles have completed at least secondary education
We hope all this information has you excited for YP ‘Taste of Poland’. Tickets are $15.00 only, and June 13th is quickly approaching. Be sure to mark your calendars, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to learn how to make perogies from local Polish experts, enjoy eating your delicious creations, and meet with other globally minded Bostonians. Get tickets in advance please so we can buy the right amount of ingredients, details can be found here! We hope to see you all there!
Happy Biodiversity Day!
That’s right, it’s that time of year again when we remind ourselves about the importance of conserving our biodiversity on this great planet. This year the focus is on water and the vital role it plays in biodiversity. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in an address yesterday ”Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides are central to achieving the vision of a water secure world. [...] Where once the focus was on trade-offs between water use and biodiversity, today we are coming to understand how biodiversity and water security are mutually reinforcing.”
As I am sure most of you are asking yourselves what is biodiversity and why is it so important to us as individuals and as a planet? The basic answer is that biodiversity is the variety of life and the patterns they form. Areas like the rainforest or coral reefs have high biodiversity because there are so many different species all living in the same place, and these animals are different than those who live in the desert or the arctic. Each species plays a vital role in the life of all the other species they interact with. The age-old term, and famous song, that relates to biodiversity is the Circle of Life; what effects one organism will have a ripple effect on the others and thus will impact biodiversity.
Another way of looking at the term biodiversity it is the fruit of billions of years of evolution shaped by natural process and influenced by humans.
What really is the value of having such a large amount of biodiversity in the world? Well, our own self-interest is to protect and conserve resources since we need it to survive. These biological resources are the pillars of which civilizations are formed. Its loss would threaten our food supply and industries such as agriculture and the cosmetic industry. Some facts about biodiversity and the effects it has on people:
· 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend directly on strong biodiversity for their survival and wellbeing
· The average abundance of species is declining — there has been a reported 40% loss between 1970 and 2000.
· Unsustainable consumption continues as demand for resources worldwide exceeds the biological capacity of the Earth by about 20%.
This year’s theme for Biodiversity Day is Water, which correlates with 2013 being the Year of Water Cooperation. After all nearly 2/3 of the planet is covered in water. That being said, there is only three percent that is freshwater and only one percent of that is in liquid form suitable for drinking. Water is becoming scarcer as demands outstrips supply, and most of what little water is left fails to meet the minimum requirements for quality. In Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address for today, he noted that “we live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards. Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met.”
At the World Economic Forum 2013, Global Risk reported that water supply is second only to major financial failure. Water is so important that without it food production is unimaginable. Accounting for approximately 70% of global water usage, agriculture remains the greatest single demand on water and the biggest polluter of watercourses. Water demands for agriculture and the impacts agriculture can have on water quality are key management issues in maintaining both food and water security.
With such an important resource being threatened, the question is – what are people doing to combat the threat? One convention that has been formed to deal with this issue was the Convention on Biological Diversity, a legally binding treaty with three goals, conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of biodiversity, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. The 193 members feel that the ecosystem, species and genetic resources should be used for the benefit of humans, but in a way that does not lead to a decline in biodiversity.
Ways we can help preserve this vital resource can be very simple – as simple as just making sure we’re not dumping anything harmful into large water bodies, or cutting back on consumption in order to conserve water locally. The key water management philosophy should be: reduce, recycle and treat before disposal.
Examples of significant opportunities to use ecosystems to manage water include:
- improving the health of soils and land cover in farming landscapes to simultaneously achieve water security for food security and reduce off-farm impacts, including reducing water use, pollution, erosion and landslides;
- integrating natural infrastructure approaches into urban water management to achieve sustainable and secure cities, wetlands, floodplains, coastal marshes and estuaries, to increase resilience to natural disasters;
- managed landscapes, such as forests, to sustain drinking water supplies;
- reducing the risks from, and severity of, floods and drought
Conserving or restoring ecosystems to manage water also delivers significant co-benefits. For example: wetlands can help regulate water but can also support a significant amount of fishery practices; restoring soils can help achieve more productive agriculture and sustainable food security; forests provide timber and non-timber resources and habitat for pollinators and wildlife; improved landscapes provide significant recreational and cultural values. These benefits should be added to water-related benefits when considering returns on investments in water related infrastructure.
Now that we have discussed the importance of biodiversity and the role played by water, we all can do our part in trying to conserve it – not only for us but for future generations so that they get to enjoy the benefits of having a diverse ecosystem.
Now, what are you doing to support water conservation? How about biodiversity? What are you motivated to do?