Daily Archives: March 1, 2013

An Afternoon with Dr. Brimmer

photoYesterday, UNA-GB held a teatime discussion with Dr. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations. In her role as Assistant Secretary, Dr. Brimmer leads the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which strives to advance U.S. interests through international organizations in areas including human rights, peacekeeping, food security, humanitarian relief, and climate change.

photo copy 6During the discussion, Dr. Brimmer spoke about the role of the U.S. in conflicts such as Libya, Mali, and Syria, to name a few. She also spoke about the changing nature of women and conflict. For example, there has been an increase in the number of women involved in peacekeeping operations. She also spoke about the creation of UN Women, which strives for gender equality. UN Women also deals with issues of human trafficking, human rights, humanitarian action, and peace and security.

photo copy 4Dr. Brimmer also offered insight on her personal experience working in her current position. She said that her most rewarding experience was in September 2009 when she spoke at the Human Rights Council on behalf of the U.S.  It was at this session that the U.S. pledged to advance human rights and strengthen the Human Rights Council.

We would like to thank Dr. Brimmer for giving her time to talk to UNA-GB members. We are very lucky to have had her give her insight on her current role. Thank you, Dr. Brimmer!

Our next event is in a few days! Join Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB on Monday, March 4 for International Women’s Day. For more details, check out this link: http://wfiwd2013.eventbrite.com

A Warm Welcome to the Fall 2012 interns!

As the leaves are changing in New England, so are the UNA-GB interns! We would like to give a warm welcome to our new, wonderful fall semester interns and to congratulate those returning for more. We have a colorful array of new and old faces gracing the office with varied backgrounds, interests and strengths; each bringing a little something special to the office.

Programs:

ImageMarcela Aguirre

I am a second-year international affairs graduate student at Boston University. My specific concentrations are theory and policy with a regional focus on Europe. I hold an undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in communication studies with a minor in French from University of Texas at El Paso. This past summer I studied abroad in Europe for an international conflict resolution program with BU. I spent the first month in Geneva learning theories and concepts of conflict resolution while visiting international organizations such as the United Nations. I spent the second month in London learning case studies in conflict resolution. After I complete my master’s degree in May 2013, I hope to find a job in the field of public diplomacy.

YeJin Kim

I am YeJin Kim, a second-year international relations and international communication graduate student at Boston University. I was born and raised in South Korea up until high school, when I moved to the United States and attended high school in North Carolina. I received my bachelor’s degree in public relations from Indiana University Bloomington. I love meeting new people, traveling, taking photos, and learning about different cultures. In the future, I hope to work in the communications sector of an international organization. I’m excited to be working with the United Nations Association of Greater Boston this Fall because I’m eager to learn skills from the experienced UNA-GB team.

Devin Denny

I am Devin Denny and a graduate student at Harvard University earning a M.T.S. in Religion, Ethics, & Politics, specializing in women’s rights within Islam and Hinduism. I graduated from University of Rochester with a B.A. in European History and Comparative Religion with Honors. I am particularly interested in human trafficking, international human rights public policy, and educational equity. After spending my summer in Morocco, I am determined to perfect my Arabic verb conjugations! When I’m not studying, I love crossword puzzles, ballet, and planning trips to all corners of the world.

Valeria Vidal

My name is Valeria Vidal and I am a junior at Northeastern University pursuing a dual degree in international affairs and language, literature and culture .I have two minors, one in law and public policy and the other in sustainable business practices. I am originally from Peru but I have grown up in many different places around the world such as the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Argentina, Dominican Republic, and France to name a few. I am passionate in my support of the UNA-GB’s mission to work with students in the Boston area by keeping them informed, engaged, and inspired in the work of the United Nations.

Education:

ImageNathalie Van Der Elst

Hi! I am Nathalie Van Der Elst, a recent graduate of Boston University with a major in international relations. I come from Belgium, from my father’s side, and my mother is South Korean. However, I have never lived in either of the two countries. Instead, my father’s work took me to places such as Turkey, where I lived for 14 years, and China. My parents have very different backgrounds but it is their international mindset that gave them the courage to pursue life across the world, an attitude that has inspired me. I believe the UNA-GB has the same mindset. One that teaches us to understand, learn, and experience different cultures, and become immersed in a global, giving community. I hope to further my studies through international law to continue promoting internationalism; and perhaps someday I can inspire others too.

Anna Avetissian

My name is Anna Avetissian and I am currently a graduate student at Harvard University. In 2008, I founded a fundraiser to raise awareness and funds for the underprivileged youth in Armenia. This experience inspired me to pursue a degree in international relations. I believe strongly in the phrase: “It takes a village to raise a child” and the necessity of positive relationships in a child’s life. This philosophy is mainly inspired by ten years of my professional life working for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and LA’s BEST After School Enrichment Program as an educator.

ImageNaa Aku Shika Addo

I am a senior at Emmanuel College with a double major in global studies & international relations and sociology with a concentration in social justice. I live in Vermont but am originally from Ghana, the country of birth of the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Last spring, I studied abroad in Brussels where I had the opportunity of interning with the Mission of Montenegro to the European Union. Over the summer, I also interned with the ECOSOC committee of the United Nations in New York. My passion for global studies spurred from having the opportunity to travel along with the experiences that she has had. I would love to get my master’s degree in diplomacy. But for now, I plan to take a year off after graduation to study for the LSAT.

Miranda MacKinnon

Hi, I am Miranda MacKinnon. I graduated from Gordon College (Wenham, MA) in May 2012 where I studied Sociology, Development, and Global Health. I have been working with UNA-GB since June 2012. During the Spring of 2011, I studied abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, for a Global Health and Developmental Policy program and conducted research at the United Nations and the World Health Organization. To further my research, I co-designed a community development project (Summer 2011) called “The Learn Africa Project” focused on preventing disease and promoting education in Togo, West Africa. I currently live in Boston, MA, working a variety of jobs while searching for a job in nonprofit, development, or public health. I hope to attend graduate school for public health and international development. I enjoy meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, exploring the outdoors, painting, traveling, and learning.

ImageJiwon Ma

I am Jiwon Ma, and I am a junior at Lesley University majoring in global studies and minoring in psychology. I am a Community Advisor (CA), or commonly known as an RA in other universities. Over the summer, I studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea at Yonsei University. It was really interesting to experience Korea as an adult.  I learned about International Organizations and Globalization, focusing on the United Nations and its purpose and function. I was born in South Korea. I lived in South Korea when I was a child and immigrated to Fiji. I have lived in the United States the majority of my life.

ImageGrace Holley

Hi, my name is Grace Holley and I am a student of International Relations at Boston University. I am from Malden, MA and graduated from Malden High School, so I am glad to be working at the UNA-GB which has close ties to my hometown and other local cities and schools. At age eighteen, after working for much of the year, I was able to backpack independently through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Spain, and Morocco. The inequality I was exposed to in these countries drives me to work toward a sustainable solution global injustices and extreme porverty. I am excited to be starting my career in global development and hope to help make the world a better place!

We look forward to a productive and exciting semester with all of these wonderful new interns! Welcome! And for those interested in joining our stellar internship team next spring and beyond, check out more info here!

Resolution 2012!

Our work here at UNA-GB is rooted in the founding principles of the United Nations – universal peace, international security, and respect for human rights, to name a few, and as we enter 2012, we are filled with hope and anticipation in this season of new beginnings.  Last year, we kicked off 2011 by sharing the top UN Resolutions of the previous year as a connection to the new year and theme of resolution making, and we thought it was a tradition worth continuing!  This is our New Year’s Resolution, or Resolution 2012!

It is our sincere wish that this coming year be filled with stories of health, equality, and opportunities for positive development, and we will continue to do all that we can to inform, inspire and mobilize the greater Boston community around critical global issues. 

Check out our list of key 2011 UN resolutions below and post in the comments section what issues you hope to see the UN address in 2012!

Resolution 1999 (adopted July 13, 2011) welcomed the membership of the newly formed South Sudan.

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan declared its independence from Sudan and became its own country.  It was then admitted into the UN as the 193rd member state.  In support of South Sudan’s formation, the UN announced its new mission, the UNMISS UN Mission in Southern Sudan that will specifically focus on the development of the new country.  The Security Council voted unanimously to set up a new United Nations mission to help Africa’s newest nation consolidate peace and lay the foundation for longer-term state-building, conflict prevention and economic development.

Resolution 2009 (adopted Sept 16, 2011) created a United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

One of the more violent clashes and uprisings amid the Arab Spring this year was in Libya, and with an unanimous vote to adopt resolution 2009, the Security Council affirmed a leadership role for the United Nations in international efforts to support a nationally led process aimed at building a democratic, independent and united Libya.  The Council decided that the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) would be to assist Libyan national efforts to restore public security, promote the rule of law, foster inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, and embark on constitution-making and electoral processes.  Learn more here.

UNESCO approved a Resolution allowing the member state bid from Palestine at the end of October, sparking a wide controversy that led to the removal of US support for UNESCO.

On Monday, October 31, the full United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) membership voted 107 to 14 with 52 abstentions to accept the Palestinian Authority as a full member of UNESCO.  Due to an existing U.S. law dating back to the 1990s, the U.S. is prohibited from funding any UN entity that gives full membership to Palestine. UNESCO’s vote led the U.S. to cut all funding to UNESCO, which amounts to approximately 22% of the total UNESCO budget.  Discussions are on-going as to how to navigate the impact of the US’ defunding, and sets the stage for continued debate, as Palestine promises to renew its bid for membership in the General Assembly and Security Council.

Resolution 66/137 (adopted December 19, 2011) affirmed the power and necessity of human rights education (something we at UNA-GB are DEEPLY committed to!).

On a busy day in the General Assembly, with over 60 resolutions being adopted, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training was passed. This declaration was originally adopted by the Human Rights Council by resolution 16/1 earlier this year in March.  Reaffirming the call of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, which was held in Vienna, for all States and institutions to include human rights, humanitarian law, democracy and rule of law in the curricula of all learning institutions, the Declaration says that everyone has the right to know, seek and receive information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Declaration specifies not simply what one should learn about human rights, but also how (“through human rights, which includes learning and teaching in a way that respects the rights of both educators and learners”) and also why (“for human rights, which includes empowering persons to enjoy and exercise their rights and to respect and uphold the rights of others”).

The adoption of this new Declaration also offers educators and policy makers an occasion to reassess national policies and priorities in the light of international standards.  It affirms the belief that human rights education is not only the entitlement of every human being, but also a necessity for responsible global citizenship.  Since building a strong network of global citizens is our mission at UNA-GB, we are very excited about this Resolution!  One of our flagship programs is our human rights education program for youth, our comprehensive Model UN program, serving more than 3,000 6th-12th graders in the Boston area each year.  We look forward to strengthening ties with other human rights educators as this resolution gains momentum.

Resolution 1987 (adopted June 17, 2011) recommended the appointment of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to his second term in office.

Adopted by acclamation at a closed meeting, the Council recommended to the General Assembly that Mr. Ban Ki-moon be appointed for a second term of office from January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2016.  Ban’s election was uncontested and nations had approved of his decision immediately.    His appointment was subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly.

Ki-moon is the world body’s eighth secretary-general and the first from Asia since U Thant, from what is now Myanmar, who served from 1961 to 1971.  Upon his election, Ban indicated that ending violence in the Sudanese region of Darfur and tackling climate change were among his top priorities. There has been progress on both fronts, including a recent vote to create an independent state in southern Sudan and evolving negotiated frameworks to address global warming, though significant challenges remain.

Ban has also found himself and the United Nations at the forefront of many crises that few anticipated in 2006. The past year, especially, has been tumultuous given the massive earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan; the wave of popular unrest in the Arab world; and the continued fallout from the ongoing global economic crisis.  As Ki-moon’s 2nd term begins today, one major agenda item is sustaining the effects of the Arab Spring.

And the National Action Plan (NAP) for Women, Peace and Security, complete with an accompanying fact sheet and Executive Order, was introduced by Secretary Hilary Clinton on December 15, 2011, in support of the landmark Resolution 1325.

The NAP is the outcome of a process that began over a decade ago with the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which encouraged the UN and its member states to integrate a gender perspective in all aspects of peace and security. In October 2004, a subsequent Security Council Presidential Statement called on the “development of national action plans” to further implement Resolution 1325. Before the US’s NAP, thirty-two other countries had already released their own NAPs.

The document makes the compelling case for why it is in U.S. national interest to integrate a gender-based perspective in foreign policy decisionmaking. In countries where women and girls have equal rights and opportunities, there is a strong correlation with economic prosperity and peace. The NAP also includes a workplan for all relevant U.S. government agencies, as well as the creation of an interagency review mechanism to track progress through 2015.  This development is particularly exciting, as we have a strong commitment to gender equity issues and have a robust Women’s Forum program throughout the year.  We hope to focus more on these issues in 2012, so stay tuned!

This list is only a sampling of the hundreds of resolutions adopted in 2011.  See the full list of Resolutions from the 65th and 66th General Assembly sessions and the Security Council.  As both the President of the GA and SG Ban Ki-moon have expressed, 2011 was a year of remarkable advances and improvements, and emphasizes the importance of a global governing body like the UN, which is able to respond to natural disasters, support democracy, and uphold the universal principles of human rights and peace-building.

What Resolution would YOU write in 2012 if you had the chance??

Thank you for all you’ve done to support our work this year and we look forward to all that 2012 has in store!  We’ll do our best to keep you informed and engaged as the UN’s 2012 agenda unfolds.

Happy New Year from the UNA-GB team –Lena, Kaitlin, Jennifer, Rebecca, Ann and our awesome interns!

UN Day Luncheon 2011: Celebrating 66 Years of UN Success!


Planning and executing an event worthy enough to celebrate the 66 years of the UN‘s critical work promoting peace and prosperity for all is a daunting challenge, but once again, UNA-GB rose to the challenge with this year’s 12th annual UN Day Luncheon, held on Friday, October 28 at the Boston Harbor Hotel.  The Luncheon was a wonderful gathering of Boston’s global citizens celebrating the UN and its mission and the ways we bring that mission to fruition in our community, corporate offices and classrooms!

Honorary Committee member Toni Wolfman, UNAGB Board Member Gillian Kellogg and keynote speaker Gillian Sorensen, all Smith College alumna.

The day started off with a Private Reception at 11:30 am, in the Rotunda on the 9th floor of the Boston Harbor Hotel, overlooking the gorgeous Boston harbor on a crisp but sunny fall day.  The reception provided networking time for the Luncheon’s sponsors, honorary committee and special invited guests with Gillian Sorensen, the keynote speaker, as well as light refreshments before the main luncheon, which started at 12:30 pm. After the reception, guests were escorted downstairs to the Boston Harbor Hotel’s Wharf Room, where all attendees began their meal, which included a special UN-inspired dessert of chocolate espresso cake with a sugar dove.  The program began with opening remarks and a birthday toast to the UN from UNA-GB President Richard Golob.

UNAGB Executive Director Lena Granberg presenting the UN Peace Bowl to Larry Finkelstein.

Executive Director Lena Granberg then introduced UNA-GB’s 2011 Leadership Awards and two worthy recipients. The Leadership Award is given every year to recognize outstanding contributions by Boston leaders to the local and international community that reflect the principles of the United Nations. This year’s recipients at the UN Day Luncheon were Daniel Cheever, chairman emeritus of UNA-GB, and Lawrence Finkelstein, UNA-GB Advisory Council member, both longtime supporters of UNA-GB and the UN.  In fact, both were present during the founding of the UN 66 years ago, so it was a fitting recognition of their significant support and accomplishments.   We raised our glasses to salute Dan and Larry for their leadership and commitment as Lena presented Larry with the traditional UN Peace Bowl.

Following the Leadership Award presentation, Carol Fulp, Massachusetts UN Day Chair and UN Day Luncheon Honorary Chair (and fellow 2011 Leadership Award recipient), introduced our Keynote speaker, Gillian Sorensen. Gillian Sorensen is a seasoned UN expert having served under two Secretaries-General,  Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. She is currently a Senior Advisor at the United Nations Foundation and is a national advocate on matters relating to the UN and UN-US relations.  Gillian addressed the luncheon with grace and wisdom on the topic of “The US and the UN: Facing the Crises of Our Time,” shedding light on the important work of the UN and the critical issues we face both as a nation and as global citizens.  Gillian closed her remarks by answering a few thoughtful, intelligent questions from the audience, including conversation around the pending legislation in the House regarding defunding the UN.

The luncheon closed with UNA-GB’s first ever Global Corporate Citizenship Honor Roll, an annual tradition in the making. With this Honor Roll, UNA-GB recognized the Massachusetts-based companies who have signed on to key UN business principles. These key business principles are the UN Global Compact, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME).

More than 20 companies and academic institutions were on hand to be recognized at the Luncheon; there are currently more than 30 signatories in Massachusetts.  For a complete list of the Massachusetts-based companies and academic institutions who are signatories, click here.  We hope to see the list grow over the next years, as more companies in our community take a leadership role on sustainability and human rights!

At the end of the day, the global community of Boston had a great time celebrating the 66 years of the United Nations and UNA-GB’s work locally, and inspired the nearly 200 participants to continue to support UNA-GB’s core mission: building a grassroots network of global citizens.  Businesses, individuals, students, middle schoolers – all are necessary to make a difference now and for generations to come!

UNA-GB would like to thank our sponsors and partners for all of their support: the British School of Boston, Clark University Graduate School of Management, GGA Software Services, LLC, Ocean Spray, and the New England College of Business and Finance.

Also, a BIG thank you to these local businesses for their generous in-kind donations for our UN Day 2011 activities: Sweet Cupcakes, Dean’s Beans, and Compassed!

Missed the event? Want to view more photos from the Luncheon? Click here!

-Jen Jones

A Reform For The World

Check out this week’s blog post from our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series. This week, learn about the modernization of international relations through history and reform of the UN Security Council in preparation for a MUN simulation coming up on UN Day . Also, check out our last five blog posts from the series: “Creating A Road To Democracy”, “A Historical Moment For Genocide”, “Two Sides To Invest”, “An Undefined Grasp Of Failure” and “A Necessary Priority”.

If there is one thing that international relations experts agree on unanimously, it is that the modern international system has changed drastically since its origins in the aftermath of World War II. The shadow of fascism no longer hangs over Europe and Asia; the “Iron Curtain” has been pulled back; and, perhaps most importantly, large developing countries are beginning to emerge on the “world stage”. Despite these major shifts in world politics in the past half-century, much of the international system’s critical infrastructure remains exactly as it has always been. Recently, calls for reform have grown louder as rising powers are eager to take to the helm of the international system. In particular, many nations are calling for reform of the UN Security Council to better reflect the current dynamics of world politics.


The Charter of the United Nations charges the Security Council – the most powerful and important organ of the UN – with “the maintenance of international peace and security”. The founders of the UN gave five victors of World War II – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China – permanent seats on the Council with the power to veto any of the Council’s resolutions. The General Assembly (GA) of the UN elects the remaining 10 non-permanent members on the Council (none of whom holds veto power) for two-year terms. Although frequently criticized, this structure has barely changed since the founding of the UN, with the notable exception of an expansion of the Council from 11 to 15 members in 1965.

Number of resolutions vetoed by each of the five permanent members of the Security Council between 1946 and 2007.

The most controversial characteristic of the Security Council is the “veto power” afforded to the five “permanent members” (aka. the “P-5”). Initially developed as an incentive to develop consensus and to maintain the absolute sovereignty of the world’s leading powers, the veto is sometimes criticized as a relic of a bygone era and an impediment to the Council’s effectiveness. Notably, the veto power effectively prevents the Security Council from resolving conflicts between its permanent members. For example, during the Cold War, the Security Council held a much less important role in maintaining international peace and security than it does today due to the competing vetoes of the United States and the Soviet Union. More recently, the veto power prevented the Security Council from addressing the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. Some also argue that countries abuse their veto power for political gain. For example, China sometimes vetoes resolutions that send aid to nations that recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation. While criticism of the veto power is widespread, it is unlikely to disappear any time soon, as its elimination would require the approval of the very nations that possess it.

A more likely scenario for Security Council reform would be further expansion of its membership. Many criticize the fact that the Council has two permanent European members (UK & France), yet no permanent members from Africa, Latin America, or South Asia/Middle East. While most nations agree that a larger Council would be more representative of the international community, there is little consensus on how to expand or who would receive the new seats. One proposal would expand the number of permanent members but not the veto power. New permanent seats could go to resurgent and/or emergent world powers such as Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria or Mexico. Other proposals involve expanding the number of non-permanent seats, or some combination of the two. However, as the current permanent members must approve any reforms, there are many roadblocks to these proposals. Today, we know more about which nations the “P-5” would refuse to allow permanent seats than we do about which nations they could support. For example, China fiercely opposes a permanent seat for rival Japan and all permanent members fear diluting their significant clout on the Council. However, US President Barack Obama has notably endorsed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the Council. Although potential expansion of the Council appears to be gaining steam, it remains to be seen if the international community can overcome the necessary challenges.

Reform of the Security Council appears necessary and inevitable in order for the international system to retain its legitimacy and successfully prevent conflict. However, many critics argue that reform would make the Council more representative, but not more effective. For now, the dominant viewpoint is that emerging and resurgent powers must mature before they can take to the helm of maintaining international peace and security.

However reform unfolds, this issue is clearly among the most complex debates taking place at the UN today! We invite you to debate the issue with us at this year’s United Nations Day celebrations on October 24, 2011!

– Nicholas Blake, Education Intern

Focus On Our Future: Week of 6/27 News Roundup

A lot of focus was put on the future of the world and a push for youth empowerment this week, as events and concerns of the UN meshed in sculpting hope. The week started with the official announcement of the eradication of rinderpest, marking the end of a disease that has been around for centuries. With this huge leap over an obstacle of the past, UNDP  looks towards the success of the Millennium Development Goals for the future. MDG #6 gives hope for the eradication of other diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria. This week unfortunately brought about a new challenge, as the HIV/AIDS funding in Massachusetts has been cut by $1.5 million dollars for the 2012 year by the state legislature. However, there is still a lot of hope for MDG #6, as organizations like AIDS  Action Committee are working hard on local advocacy efforts and students just this week introduced a new app that can determine whether a person has malaria from a smartphone. This app is said to have the potential to be used as an incredible tool in saving lives.  Campaigns like the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets also have very tangible impacts on ending malaria.

Going along with the incredible advances that can be made with technology, this week on June 30th the world celebrated Social Media Day 2011The impact that social media has these days on international issues has been undeniable, especially in relation to coordinating massive riots and exposing human rights abuses from Egypt to Libya to Iran.

As we look towards a future sure to be filled with further developments in social media, the world and the UN this week recognized the development of children (and future Facebookers and Tweeters). The UNRWA supported children in the Summer Games in Gaza this week to give these children the opportunity to impact change of Palestine’s relationship with Israel as they flew kites to make a stand and also break the world record for kite flying, giving them the inspiration to always strive. In Africa, the UN encouraged the involvement of children in society through education and the work force at the annual State of the African Union (AU) summit, which is being held in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, and whose theme is youth empowerment for sustainable development.  With a focus on young women, the UN supported the start of the Women’s World Cup 2011 this week in Germany with a push for women to have more roles in our global society.  Education is the key to a stronger future for our youth, and this is projected to be a top priority at the UN Economic and Social Council‘s meeting next week, as Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon discussed his concern of children in dangerous environments in the world this week.  It’s no doubt that a focus on youth is important, as youth today will be the leaders, researchers, educators and world citizens of our future.  We look forward to the world of changes that is to come, and hope to see continued developments in the coming days, weeks and months.

Stay tuned next Friday for the next weekly roundup!

-Cara

Memorializing Peace

This past weekend was not only a weekend for family barbecues, beach, fun and the sun but was a weekend for recognizing those that both defend our country, as well as those that defend the peacekeeping mission of the United Nations.

The weekend started with the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Sunday May 29th, recognizing the efforts of the peacekeepers that work to spread peace throughout countries, as well as enforce and make adaptations to already existing regulations within countries in order to have an overall more peaceful society.   This is done through the actions of the UN Police, where in some situations they are given the task of being the main force of regulation for countries in need.  Currently, there are 120,000 brave men and women from 115 countries serving as UN peacekeepers in 14 of the most difficult regions in the world!  The 29th is intended to recognize both peacekeepers that have and continue to spread peace throughout the world, as well as those that have in the past, including those who tragically lost their lives doing so.

In fact, the danger associated with being a UN Peacekeeper was displayed this past week with an attack on Friday in Lebanon (May 27th) that injured six UN Peacekeepers from Italy as well as two Lebanese civilians.   The UN Peacekeepers were members of the UNIFIL the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, whose missions are related to helping the Lebanese military and enforcing peace within the country.  Despite the attack, the United Nations has continued to enforce their mission of peacekeeping and helping civilians in Lebanon that are in need.

This day of recognition is closely linked to Memorial Day, a U.S. national holiday which occurs at the end of each May, meant for recognizing those that fought and defended our country and lost their lives, as well as the “unofficial” start of the summer. Originally referred to as Decoration Day starting in 1888, it is a national holiday that was started in New York in 1866 after the Civil War to recognize those that had lost their lives fighting in the war as it continues to recognize those that fought and lost their lives in war after.

We look to recognize and appreciate the efforts of both the UN Peacekeepers and the national military, both who defend important missions and risk their lives to protect and defend those around the world.

You can do something right now to support the UN Peacekeepers and their mission of spreading peace throughout the world, by visiting the “UN Peacekeepers” link above (or Click Here), which gives you the opportunity to write a letter to a UN Peacekeeper and thank them for their efforts in spreading peace worldwide.  We can also continue to do our part every day to work to make this world more peaceful and just!

-Cara

Egypt’s Unrest and the Impact of Social Media

Photo: Alex Teague 2009

On January 25th, protests in Egypt began after a call for a “Day of Rage” was generated on Facebook to coincide with the national holiday of Police Day throughout Egypt.  The ousting of  Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and following unrest in Tunisia is credited to have helped spark the protests in Egypt.  Egypt has been under the authoritarian rule of President Hosni Mubarak for the past thirty years.  Since the day that Mubarak became President, Egypt has been under a constant state of emergency that suspended the civil liberties of Egyptian citizens.

The Egyptian Emergency Law is a significant law that the state uses to control and manage opposition demonstrations and protests.  The law suspends the constitutional rights of citizens and grants wider powers of arrest, allowing protesters to be imprisoned for any period of time without reason.  Human rights groups have been after the Egyptian government to repeal this law for years, most recently in May 2010.  Political parties exist within the Egyptian parliament, however their freedoms of expression have historically been very limited under the Mubarak regime.  Although demonstrations and protests have continued to occur in spite of the emergency law, it has still contributed to widespread fear of police brutality and public apathy.  On January 28th, the UN Human Rights Chief Commisioner Navi Pillary again called for the end of the emergency law.

Social media is not new to the protesting game in Egypt.  It was used for the first time in a major way in the April 6th Youth Movement in 2008 when they organized activities using Facebook that supported a general strike north of Cairo, in Mahalla, that shutdown daily activity in Cairo and other parts of Egypt.  In 2009, the group attempted to plan a follow-up strike, however the state cracked down on demonstrators and organizers in such a fierce way that the follow-up attempt failed.  Only a small percentage of people own their own computers, and the government tightened regulations of internet cafes.  Despite the failure of the follow-up strike, the attempt was significant because it demonstrated a new and substantial tool that could be used to disrupt the regime.

Egypt protests: the country's internet has been offline since last night. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

Initially, the regime made a move to shutdown access to Facebook and Twitter.  Although it was successful at first, Google and Twitter joined together to enable Egyptians to tweet using the phone.   Now, the internet has been shut down in its entirety.  You can view Bill Gates’ remarks to Katie Couric about the move here.

Stay tuned for more protest updates!

-Alex.

World AIDS Day – spread the word to stop the spread of the disease!

The statistics are daunting: there are over thirty four million people living with HIV world wide, thirty million of which that live in developing countries, and over one thousand children are infected with HIV per day, with even more adult infections on the rise.

Today we commemorate World AIDS Day to raise HIV awareness and tackle the prejudice that it is associated with HIV/AIDS.   This year’s theme of Universal Access and human rights ties into that of the Sixteen Days of Activism and the International Human Rights Day. Recognizing the human rights aspect is a fundamental part of the process of changing the perception of HIV/AIDS and increasing the accessibility of treatment for people that are infected.  As Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon said in June, “Universal access means more than ensuring that those who need treatment or prevention services receive them. It implies an extra effort to reach those who are marginalized, criminalized, or disenfranchised.”

World AIDS Day is one of the most recognized international health days and remembers those that have passed from the disease, in addition to celebrating the tremendous strides that have been made in HIV/AIDS research.

The Zakim Bridge here in Boston will be one of several landmarks in the world that will be lit red this evening to recognize the global health community’s commitment to honor World AIDS Day.  There are over fifteen community events this year in Boston which have been compiled by the AIDS Action Committee that range from health screenings to films.

There is also a rally being held at the Boston Common at the Parkman Bandstand from 7-9 pm tonight, hosted by the Jubilee Project. The rally will include speeches, a concert, and a candlelight vigil to remember the lives lost to the AIDS epidemic.

For those of you not in Boston, you can find out an event near you at http://www.takeanumber.org.

If you are unable to attend any of the events, you can change your Facebook profile picture to the one provided on the AIDS Action Committee fan page at www.facebook.com/AIDSActionCommittee.

Do what you can today, and every day, to help achieve Millennium Development Goal #6’s aim to eradicate HIV/AIDs!

-Alex.

Reflections on the UN Day Luncheon 2010

The morning of October 26th greeted us with unexpected warmth and sunshine that carried through to the inside of the Boston Harbor Hotel at the UN Day Luncheon where we gathered to celebrate the sixty five years of service the UN has provided to the international community.

Boston Latin Academy sophomore Bianca Diaz (and UNA-GB intern)

Guests were serenaded as they walked into the Wharf Room with traditional Irish tunes from accordion player Dan Gurney, and flutist Jimmy Noonan. The luncheon began with a welcome introduction from UNA-GB President, Richard Golob, followed by Bianca Diaz, a Boston Latin Academy Sophomore who shared her experience with Model UN.

At this year’s luncheon, we had the honor of hosting Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Anne Anderson. Ambassador Anderson’s address, “Our Collective Challenge: Restoring the Authority of the United Nations,” emphasized the collective responsibility of member States and their civil societies have in maintaining and improving the United Nations and its role and relevance in the international community.

From L-R: Ambassador Anderson; Dan Gurney, Accordian; Jimmy Noonan, Flute; Michael Lonergan, Consul General of Ireland in Boston.

Ambassador Anderson said that despite criticism of the UN over recent years, successful gains of the Millennium Development Goals highlighted at September’s Millennium Development Summit, the establishment of UN Women, and the recent elections to the Security Council are all ways that the UN has already begun to reclaim its authority. Although the UN has started to make great strides in Anderson’s opinion, she acknowledged that there is still much more to do, and it will not happen overnight. Her challenge to the audience was to find ways to participate in that change and forward movement of strengthening and rebuilding the UN. The address concluded with a brief question and answer period.

Ambassador Anderson meets with MUN students.

Following the Luncheon, Ambassador Anderson met with local students from Dorchester that are representing Ireland in UNA-GB’s upcoming Fall Middle School Model UN Conference. The students had the unique opportunity to get direct answers about Ireland’s position on migrant workers and the environment before their simulation takes place. It was a once in the lifetime chance for these students, and represents everything we try to uplift and support here at the UNA-GB. In fact, money raised at the Luncheon goes to support the critical global education work of the UNA-GB, with a particular focus on the Model UN program implemented throughout Boston schools, giving opportunities like this to students in and around Boston.

All in all, the Luncheon was a great success!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

See more photos here.
Photos courtesy of Dan Watkins

-Alex.