Daily Archives: August 7, 2012

Bon Mange: A Night Out with UNAGB’s Young Professionals

August 1st was quite a night for the Young Professionals. UNA-GB’s bi-monthly “Taste of” series continued this past Wednesday with a focus on Haiti. ImageUNA-GB’s Young Professionals enjoyed a Haitian dinner with 25 other young professionals, coming from as far as Providence, RI, while discussing the rich culture (and delicious food!) of Haiti. The night took place at Highland Creole Cuisine in Somerville, where there is a large Haitian population. The guests enjoyed an authentic three-course meal. The night started with salad and bread, and continued to the main course. Options ranged from fish and beef to chicken and creole goat, a common Haitian dish.

In attendance were several people who had visited Haiti, Haitian immigrants, and a variety of people who have volunteered in Haiti, including many returned Peace Corps volunteers who had spent time in Haiti. They worked in areas ranging from education, environment, and public health.

YP Chair Nate Tassinari led the group in a game of trivia, with the winner winning a $25 gift certificate. Everyone learned lots of fun facts. For example, Haiti has had many different flags, but only 4 national flags since its independence in 1804 and Haitian currency is named after the gourd. Haiti’s democratic government system is relatively young, only electing their first president in 1990. Their most recent election was especially important because Haiti was attempting to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake, and trying to cope with a cholera epidemic that followed the earthquake. At that time, the UN donated about $10 million for aid relief.

Image

Check out more photos from the evening here and make sure to join us at our upcoming events. Next month, the Young Professionals will be co-hosting a film series at Emerson College. The series will begin in September and will hopefully offer screenings quarterly!  The next “Taste Of” will also be in October – country and restaurant still in the works.  Stay tuned for more information and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

-Leah B.

The Olympic Ideal: Upholding the Dream Which Built the UN

The Olympic spirit has been high over the past 2 weeks, both locally here in Boston and throughout the nation and globe.  It is truly a worldwide shared experience (not only are 204 countries represented, this year all countries participating sent women athletes, leading to the unofficial designation as the Year of the Woman!).  The Olympics, in a small (and large way, since 3.2 billion people are tuning in!), represents much of the mission of the UN – as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in remarks leading up to the London games, “today, sports and events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games break down barriers by bringing together people from all around the world and all walks of life….The Olympic Truce – and more broadly the Olympic ideal — carries a powerful message: that people and nations can set aside their differences and live and work together in harmony.  And if they can do it for one day, or for one event, they can do it forever.  This is the dream on which the United Nations is built, and the goal of our daily work.”

Bringing forth this mission, the UN has helped the Olympics get off to a fiery start late last month. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon took part in the Olympic torch relay in London, setting the flame and the stage for the world’s biggest athletics meet. Dressed in a white tracksuit, he cited the experience as a great honor and congratulated the UK on their preparations for the events which will continue into September.  He then participated in the opening ceremony, carrying the Olympic flag with fellow peace makers and global heavyweights Daniel Barenboim, Sally Becker, Shami Chakrabati, Leymah Gbowee, Haile Gebrselassie, Doreen Lawrence, Marina Silva, and Muhammad Ali.

Ban also addressed the UN’s Olympics truce resolution. The resolution calls on Member States cooperate with Olympic committees to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation. The truce is based on the Greek Olympic tradition of ensuring that athletes return to safe villages once the games concluded; the UN’s modern version has been in place at every Olympiad since 1993.


The UN hoped that this year’s resolution would be signed unanimously by all 193 member-states to observe peaceful activity until from the opening ceremony, July 27, to the closing ceremony of the Paralympics, September 9. The news comes as concern grows surrounding unrest in Syria– Moon thought this was a good opportunity to urge the Syrian government to halt their offense.

A Nairobi teen and his homemade soccer ball

Furthermore, the Secretary-General advised us to be considerate of those around the globe who do not have access to sport, encouraging governments to provide opportunities to their citizens, not as a luxury but as a path to healthier living, cooperation, and mutual tolerance and respect. He added, “When you see the magic that a ball can create among children in a shantytown or refugee camp, you see potential that we must harness.” Mr. Ban said, “If people and nations can set aside their differences, if they can place harmony over hostility, if they can do it for one day, or for one event, they can do it forever.”

Other UN agencies raising awareness at the games include UNEP (Environment), UNHCR, (Refugees), and UNAIDS (HIV/AIDS). UNEP is working with the International Olympic Committee to ensure that the games are sustainable while UNICEF, UNESCO, and the World Health Organization will be holding side events over the next few weeks. Let us not forget about all of the UN Goodwill Ambassadors who are also participating in the games. High-profile athletes from all over the world are competing in soccer/football, swimming, tennis and more. For example, representing the US and UNICEF is Serena Williams, while Maria Sharapova, Lee Chong Wei, and Ana Ivanovic are representing Russia, Malaysia, and Serbia respectively.

Aly Raisman, Needham, on the beam during the individual finals.

Locally the Olympics are also making quite the splash here. Massachusetts has a few athletes competing, such as Stuart McNay, a sailor from Newton, Karen O’Connor, an equestrian from Bolton. Boston’s brightest star during the games has been Aly Raisman, a Team USA captain and Needham teen, who won gold along with her USA teammates in Women’s Team Gymnastics, came in fourth for the all-around competition, and will be competing today in the beam and floor exercise finals. It’s not just Massachusetts natives we’re cheering for; there are many athletes competing who are Mass. college and university students or alumni. Massachusetts students are making an impact on the games, and Harvard and BU are topping the all-time medal count when it comes to local institutions. Harvard grads have earned 91 medals since the first Olympiad, and this year’s stars are from the Crimson’s crew team.

To keep the local spirit going, join UNA-GB in rooting for our athletes in addition to championing the Olympics as an example of how sports can bring people together not only competitively but also in a peaceful manner.  As Ban Ki-moon says, “One day of peace can lead to a week of peace … a month of peace … and eventually an end to war.  The United Nations was founded on this dream. Every day we work to make peace a reality. May the torch of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London unite the world for harmony and peace.”

-Jessica Pires

Green your community, change the world! Reflections on UN World Environment Day 2012

The UNA-GB team celebrated UN World Environment Day in full force on Tuesday! We spent the morning at John Hancock Financial’s 601 Congress St. offices recognizing them on their LEED platinum certification and spreading the word about the UN Environment Programme’s transformative work locally and globally.  We then headed to Carson Beach and Dorchester Shores Reservation for a spirited beach clean-up. Our event began at John Hancock’s atrium where Jim Boyle, President, kicked off the speaking program. He shared how the 40th anniversary of WED fittingly coincided with the 150th anniversary of John Hancock and acknowledged this year’s WED theme, “Green Economy: Does It Include You?”  He presented how John Hancock has long recognized the important role they must play in establishing a green economy by having not only respect for our planet but also concern for future generations. They have implemented many environmental initiatives, use resources wisely, and engage in sustainable investing. Jim Boyle saluted the work that the UN has undertaken globally in addressing this critical issue and further recognized UNA-GB for translating global causes into local action.  He then passed the microphone to Richard Golob, the President of the Board at UNA-GB and a committed member of the corporate environmental community. Richard remarked that although Tuesday marked four decades of the important work that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has done, there is much more progress to be made. The UN understands that establishing a green economy is the pathway to a healthier environment and Richard hoped that our event would encourage other corporations and all of us as global citizens to engage collectively in tackling environmental issues. Richard also echoed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s call for “governments, businesses and all members of society to make the holistic choices that will ensure a sustainable future”. As an example of UNA-GB’s holistic approach, Richard talked about our Model UN programs through which middle to high school students come together to discuss and learn about world issues including clean water, sustainable development, and environmental stewardship.  He noted that Model UN is a viable solution to fill an educational gap. MUN reaches 3,000 students in greater Boston.


Although Tuesday’s event had a corporate emphasis, Richard and the UNA-GB underscored the importance of a collective effort from corporations, government, and citizens to take concrete steps towards real change. Bobbi Kates-Garnick, State Undersecretary for Energy, spoke on behalf of the Patrick administration and Richard K. Sullivan about environmental leadership in Boston. We learned that Massachusetts is the #1 state in energy efficiency and that the state hopes to claim 100 green communities by the end of the summer. She stressed Massachusetts’ commitment to a green economy, through clean energy advancements, and environmental education, such as Model UN programming.

 Next, Brian Glascock, Director of the Environment Department, City of Boston added to Bobbi’s comments recognizing 100 LEED buildings in Boston and explaining green initiatives that Menino’s and his administration have taken on. Boston’s growing tree canopy is an example. He celebrated Boston as an international city and cited this as even more reason to take action and step up to our environmental responsibilities.

Finally, Jennifer Taranto of U.S. Green Building Council’s Massachusetts Chapter presented John Hancock Financial with a plaque officiating their platinum achievement and mentioned their 3 other gold-certified buildings in Back Bay. Afterwards guests were welcome to peruse the green expo that John Hancock Financial hosted which included vendors who focused on recycling, composting, energy, and organic food.

UNA-GB Executive Director Lena is getting in on the action!

After a quick wardrobe change into rain-gear, UNA-GB staff and John Hancock employees along with Vivian from the Boston Harbor Association ventured to Carson Beach in South Boston to clean garbage alongside the beach and walkway. In an hour we made quite an impact, reaching all the way to Dorchester Shores Reservation and returning with 10 bags filled with litter.

How did you celebrate World Environment Day yesterday? What steps will you take to support sustainability at global and local levels? WED may be just one day but supporting our environment is a daily commitment. Not only was it a fantastic way to strengthen our relationships with John Hancock and the BHA but also created opportunities of bonding among our staff and interns. And of course, we brightened up the beach area and helped our environment with a simple, concrete step.  Changing the world really is up to each of us!

-Jessica P

Celebrate Mothers Worldwide

Tomorrow people all over the world will celebrate Mother’s Day with gifts, namely roses, fine chocolates and lavish dinners.  But Mother’s Day does not just have to be about honoring your mother with presents or participating in the commercial aspect of this holiday – it can be so much richer than that; it can be about making the world a healthier and safer place for all mothers.  It’s makes a world of difference of us all!

Some Americans, for example, are going beyond the traditional Mother’s Day celebrations and commemorating motherhood by saving the lives of mothers around the world.  Alongside an inspirational woman named Edna Adan, they are changing the lives of women in an impoverished nook of Somaliland in the horn of Africa by making childbirth safer there, offering family planning services and trying to put an end to female genital mutilation.

Another group of women took up the challenge of helping to save mothers’ lives around the world by starting their own “Mothers’ Day Campaign.”   They hope that Americans will consecrate the mother in their lives not only with presents, but also by helping impoverished women and girls through a particular charity.

Furthermore, you can take action this Mother’s Day by supporting the efforts of Every Mother Counts, an advocacy and mobilization campaign to increase education and support for maternal and child health.  Consider hosting a watch party with friends and loved ones for their documentary film, “No Woman, No Cry,” which is premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on Saturday, May 7 at 9:30pm and 12:30am EST & PST and 8:30pm & 11:30pm CST; and on Sunday, May 8 at 1pm EST & PST and noon CST.  In her documentary, Christy Turlington Burns shares the powerful stories of at-risk pregnant women in four parts of the world, including a remote Maasai tribe in Tanzania, a slum of Bangladesh, a post-abortion care ward in Guatemala, and a prenatal clinic in the United States.  Check out the trailer here!

So this Sunday, make Mother’s Day more meaningful than ever before and consider not only honoring your own mom, but someone else’s mom as well!

-Hanna

Come out to celebrate World Health Day today!

Calling all Bostonians! Come commemorate World Health Day, as the World Health Organization in partnership with Tufts University School of Medicine and UNA-GB present: Guinea Worm Disease: The Impending Eradication World Health Day Celebration. The event which will be held from 12pm-2pm today at the Jaharis Behrakis will feature a keynote address by Dr. Albis Francesco Gabrielli of the World Health Organization and also additional speakers from Tufts University, Rotary International and the Carter Center.  

According to the Carter Center “Guinea worm disease is set to become the second disease in human history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. It will be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated and the first disease to be eradicated without the use of a vaccine or medical treatment.”

Guinea Worm Disease is a debilitating infection that has plagued people of Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations since the early 1900’s. Its widespread reach is largely in part to contaminated drinking water and lack of education in rural communities. Often the disease is so painful that afflicted individuals are unable to work or provide for their families for extended periods of time.

Today we celebrate that thanks to a concentrated effort by partners worldwide and also the countries themselves, the disease has been reduced by over 99 percent! This drastic reduction has been made possible through interception of the disease by educational programs teaching communities about clean water and simple prevention methods such as how sieve water through cloth before drinking. Speakers during the event will address these methods as well as the worldwide public health implications of the eradication of this disease.

Today’s event will also recognize that although the world has taken great strides toward eradication this disease still continues to affect individuals in 6 African countries. Which is why political and organizational support for eradication programs and the individuals who execute them is important now more than ever. Without their enormous dedication and attention to detail gaining both the understanding and cooperation of the remaining affected communities will not be possible.

Please join us on the Tufts campus or watch the live online broadcast and show your support for the future of World Health!

-Katie

Be Heard at the UN Security Council!

Have you ever wanted to make your voice heard at the United Nations? Are you between the ages of thirteen and twenty one? Now is your chance to make a difference!

From December 2nd-14th, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations is accepting videos and written submissions from students around the world who respond to the following question:

“What is the most vital challenge to international peace and security facing your generation? Tell the UN Security Council what issue you believe deserves more attention, and explain why it is important.”

Selected submissions will be incorporated into the agenda of the Security Council event on December 21st which will be broadcast live via the internet.  Entries will be accepted in any of the six official languages of the United Nations and will be accepted via e-mail, Facebook, or mail at the following address:

ATTN: Voices of a New Generation
U.S. Mission to the UN, PPD
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017

Embrace the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism and take the opportunity raise awareness about the issues you feel should be a part of the dialogue in the Security Council!

-Alex.

The Women’s Forum on Political Participation: Lesotho

Hello everyone!

Just as a little introduction, my name is Hannah, and I’m a Programs and Membership intern for the summer at the UNA-GB. I’m originally from a small town in Pennsylvania and am currently studying International Studies and Middle Eastern studies at Boston College.

The UNA-GB recently co-sponsored a Women’s Forum on Political Participation with World Boston. For those of you who may not know, the Women’s Forum was launched in June 2006 and has become a vibrant community where women and men can participate in discussion on improving women’s issues around the globe. It often hosts events highlighting local and international organizations, such as this particular panel on political participation.

At this most recent event, there was a panel of four women from four different countries: The Palestinian Territories, the Ukraine, Lesotho, and Nigeria. In this post, I will specifically speak about the commentary of Ms. Thandiwe Solwandle, a freelance journalist from the country of Lesotho in Africa.

According to Ms. Solwandle, women in the Kingdom of Lesotho have had the legal right to vote since the 1960s. However, they have not taken full advantage of this opportunity. Although they have the choice to vote for a woman, they still continue to vote for men. Ms. Solwandle spoke of a cultural belief among men and women alike in Lesotho that women do not have the physical or mental capabilities to be leaders. As a result, men continue to dominate the political spectrum.

Further, Ms. Solwandle argued that some women who decide to participate are not prepared for the positions that they would hold in Parliament. There is a failure to address issues related to women and children. Instead, women make decisions based on what their male colleagues place emphasis on.

One of the problems that hinder women from gaining the confidence and ability to win these positions in Parliament is their general lack of training. Women grow up performing ‘traditional’ female duties such as housework and cooking. They are unlikely to have the opportunity to receive public speaking training or education on resource mobilization to keep a campaign running. Most of the time women are only elected based on their party affiliation.

Lesotho has made small steps in trying to support women in political participation, such as creating a quota system at the local level that reserves one-third of the electoral divisions for women candidates. These measures have proven successful, as by 2005, approximately 53% of the victorious candidates elected were women.

The election of the National Assembly, however, does not involve legal quotas for women. Women still struggle to gain a foothold in this arena to represent their most basic rights.

Ms. Solwandle concluded her comments by saying that she appreciates the strides that have been made since women were allowed to vote, but that she does not believe the ingrained attitudes towards women’s role in politics will change anytime soon. Before men realize the importance of women in politics, women must believe in themselves and express that confidence.


New Summer Posts

Hello!

My name is Christina and I’m a Programs and Membership intern this summer at the UNA-GB. I am from NY and currently attend Boston College as an undergraduate student studying International Studies and Hispanic Studies.

In the remaining summer months other UNA-GB interns  and myself will be creating new blog posts about UNA-GB’s events and other issues on the UN agenda. In the past few weeks we have had numerous events including an Annual Meeting, a Women’s Forum Panel on Political Participation and this Thursday (July 8th) we will be having a Fair Trade Panel for Young Professionals (more details are on the homepage of the UNA-GB website).

Please continue to check this blog for new posts and updates on the latest UNA-GB events and UN issues.

I will write back soon!

Christina