Category Archives: Global Learning

Get educated, one issue at a time! Read about current issues that face the world today.

Akon Lighting Africa

In February of 2014, Grammy-nominated R&B/hip-hop singer/songwriter and rapper Akon, political activist Thione Niang and entrepreneur Samba Bathily launched Akon Light­ing Africa, an initiative that aims to develop an innovative solar-powered solution that will provide African villages with access to a clean and affordable source of electricity. Now, almost two years later, 100,000 street-lamps, 1,000 solar micro-generators and 200,000 household electric systems have been installed across 14 African countries.  The installation of these lights makes public spaces safer, allowing businesses to conduct sales longer, children to study and learn longer and provide jobs for many people who work to install and maintain the lights.


Akon, who is known for his suggestive club anthems, was born in St. Louis but spent most of childhood growing up in West African nation of Senegal. “I was one of those kids you see run­ning around with no shoes on liv­ing in straw huts,” Akon said in an interview with the National Journal. “I was blessed to be able to come to the U.S. with my dad and I’ve seen a bet­ter life, but it really hurts a lot know­ing that Africa has all these re­sources and we haven’t fully taken ad­vant­age of it.”


But Akon, who is also a successful business man and founder of two successful record labels, sees this as an economic opportunity as well.  “I get tired of hear­ing that Africa is a char­ity case,” Akon mentioned in the same interview.  “Africa is wide open for busi­ness, and we’ve found a good busi­ness mod­el. Africa will nev­er run out of sun.”

Learn more about the musical mogul’s work here.


Human Kindness in the Wake of Horror


An improvised Paris memorial

In the wake of this past week’s global tragedies, we at UNAGB would like to express our deepest sympathies and best wishes to the victims, families and friends of the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and the earthquakes in Mexico and Japan.

In a single day, November 13 2015, more than 115,000 lives were lost because of turmoil in the world, both socially and environmentally; leaving the global community in shock and heartbroken.


The family of Adel Tormous, who tacked a suicide bomber in Beruit

In the wake to such tragedy, we are frequently assailed by the horror and it becomes easy to forget the good. In Paris, with debris still flying, people opened their homes to strangers who needed a safe place to sleep. Taxi cabs took people home free of charge. In Beirut, Adel Tormous tackled the second suicide bomber, ending his own life but saving hundreds. These are the experiences that we should internalize from these horrors. In the darkest of times, human kindness will still triumph.

Malala and Emma: A Feminist Dream Team

November 4 marked the UK debut of “He Named Me Malala,” a biopic of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Ms. Yousafzai, 18, is best known for her work advocating for female education and for surviving a Taliban assassination attempt when armed men climbed on board her school bus and shot her in the head. She is co-founder of the Malala Fund along with her friend Shiza Shahid.


“There’s nothing wrong by calling yourself a feminist. So I’m a feminist and we all should be a feminist because feminism is another word for equality.” –Malala Yousafzai

After the screening at the Into Film Festival, UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson sat down for a Question and Answer session with Ms. Yousafzai. During the Q&A, which was broadcast to over 80 cinemas across the UK, Ms. Yousafzai disclosed that it was thanks to Ms. Watson that she became a feminist after viewing her passionate speech at the launch of UN HeForShe program.

The HeForShe campaign is a movement that encourages men to identify themselves as feminists and support for women’s rights because it will benefit their gender as well. This reflects an underlying theme of Malala’s life as she has been able to follow her educational dreams in part thanks to her father who allowed his daughter to follow her education and supported her through all her work.
Ms. Yousafzai finished her interview by taking questions from primary school children in England. She reminded the viewers that they are never to young to start making a difference. “Do the things that you want to do.  Don’t think that one day I’ll grow up and do things. Don’t wait for this day, it will be too late.”

Climate Change in the Arctic Circle: The Birth of a New Bear

A polar bear

A polar bear

As climate change continues to shift the dynamics of our steadily warming planet, it’s not just weather patterns that will be changing. In the wild, animals too are being forced to adapt, and while the image of a sad polar bears on ice flows has become heavily associated with climate change, Grizzly and Brown bears too have been adapting to their changing habitat. While the polar bears are making their way south in search of food, brown bears are heading north. Their meeting has resulted in a brand new bear.


A grizzly bear

This grizzly-polar hybrid, affectionately known as the pizzly, prizzly, polizzy, nanulak, Polar-Grizz or Grolar Bear, had its first recorded natural occurrence in 2006 in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The genetic make-up of these two bears (with brown bears referring to either the Kodiak, Alaskan brown or grizzly bear) differs, polar bears are the most recent split from the brown bear line, diverging between 350,000-6 million years ago, which is relatively recently in evolutionary time. While normally such interbreeding results in sterile offspring such as the liger and the mule, the majority of prizzlies appear to be fertile. Given how recent this research is and the extreme difficultly of tracking cold-weather bears, there is little to no data on whether prizzlies mate with other prizzlies or with purebred grizzlies or purebred polar bears, however genetic tests have suggested that one wild prizzly was a second generation hybrid.


A prizzly bear

The prizzly isn’t the only result of global warming. Lynx and bobcats, wolves and coyotes and other similar but unique species have begun to mate as well. While it could take several generations for this “new” bear to evolve into a completely different species, this kind of occurrence may become more common as the changing climate forces more and more animals to adapt to their new environment.

Boston Celebrates Newest Sister City!

On Friday, October 9, 2015 the City of Boston celebrated the signing of a new sister city agreement with Praia, Cabo Verde. Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Mayor Ulisses Correia e Silva have joined together in an agreement formalizing trade and collaboration between Boston and Praia, the capital of Cabo Verde.  “Boston has a strong Cape Verdean community,” said Mayor Walsh, “and our partnership with Praia is a fitting testament to our city’s diversity.” With some 40,000 Cabo Verdean immigrants living in the Boston area, this relationship is a wonderful new opportunity for the exchange of culture and ideas between the two cities. Already, trade between the two cities is well established with a cargo ship departing between the two about once a month and with Boston contractors working on housing projects on the island. There is also hope to increase a tourism exchange between the two countries. Cabo Verde Airlines used to run out of Logan Airport but has recently moved to Providence. The two city leaders also hope to collaborate on crime prevention plans as both cities experience similar types of criminal activity.


Praia is the newest addition to Boston’s extensive list of sister cities, which includes Kyoto, Japan; Strasbourg, France; Barcelona, Spain; Hangzhou, China; Padua, Italy; Melbourne, Australia; Taipei, Taiwan; Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana and Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Read more about Boston’s sister-City Program here!

A Step Towards Peace in Conflicted Myanmar (Burma)

President Thein Sein of Myanmar (Burma) has signed a ceasefire deal with eight armed rebel groups earlier today, including the Karen National Union, which has been battling the Myanmar government for sixty years. This is a step toward regional peace for Myanmar, which has been engaged in conflict with different ethnic groups since it achieved independence from Great Britain in 1948.


Representatives from the United Nations, China and the European Union were present at the signing

The Nationwide Cease-fire Agreement is the result of two years of negotiations, but unfortunately is a bit if a misnomer as it does not include the two largest rebel groups, the Kachin and the Wa. The ceasefire does not address major issues, such as how power will be balanced between the central government and the ethnic regions and only covers ethnic groups along the Thai border, ignoring the ethnic groups who live along the Chinese border.


Former combatants the Karen National Union were among the groups who signed the ceasefire

The government itself, which straddles a fine line between democracy and military governance, could be a potential threat to this ceasefire, as they have been involved in skirmishes as recently as Wednesday. Regardless, leaders of rebel groups have hailed this as a new page in history, exchanging hugs with army officers, their former enemies. Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu was not present at the signing ceremony, having stated last month she was a bit skeptic of the ceasefire.

General elections will be held November 8 in Myanmar (Burma) with the hopes that this ceasefire will lead to a large, democratic turnout. These elections will be the first time since 1990 that parties will freely challenge the military’s dominance. and the Globalization of Connectivity

In the wake of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations, internet connectivity has become a hot topic. Appearing in four out of seventeen goals, global connectivity to the internet is a massive step towards development in rural and impoverished areas. Leading this discussion is Facebook mogul and creator Mark Zuckerberg. In August 2013, Zuckerberg launched, “a Facebook-led initiative bringing together technology leaders, nonprofits and local communities to connect the two thirds of the world that doesn’t have internet access.”

In March, the unveiled a massive drone designed to provide broadband services to remote parts of the planet. The drone, which is built by Ascenta and has a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737, is only designed to stay in the air for months at a time, a potentially problematic design.


The drone in all its glory

On Monday, Facebook revealed that it’s taking measures to remedy this problem by launching a satellite to provide internet from orbit. Partnering with French satellite company Eutelsat, this satellite AMOS-6 will provide internet coverage to vast portions of Sub-Saharan Africa.


A projection of what the satellite may look like

Follow Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page to stay updated on the project.

Zuckerbug isn’t the only big player seeking to bring internet to the globe. Google’s “Project Loon,” is a similar attempt at global connectivity using balloons. While these efforts are clearly competitive and partially business driven, we are still thrilled at the thought of people all over the globe having access to the world wide web. With global internet connectivity comes the potential for shared ideas, not just in terms of creation and business, but for health care and education too. We wish both companies the best of luck.

Climate Change and the Catholic Church: Pope Francis in the U.S.

Pope Francis’s visit to the United States last week caused a hubbub of conversation. Whether discussing Black Lives Matter or his thoughts on abortion, there is one issue on which Pope Francis has made his opinion blatantly clear: climate change. In the wake of his second encyclical, Laudato si’, Pope Francis took to the U.S. Congress and the General Assembly of the United Nations to emphasize the utter importance of this issue. In Laudato si’, which is addressed to every person living on this planet, Pope Francis criticizes throwaway culture and emphasizes the global problem of climate change and the serious consequences it will cause for each of us as a result of our mistreatment of our “common home.”


Pope Francis with Vice President Joe Bidden and Former House Speaker John Boehner

Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress on the September, reminding U.S. lawmakers of their important role in pioneering climate change legislation. The Pope appealed to business interest as well by reminding business owners that the “creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good. This common good also includes the Earth.”


Pope Francis kissing a baby during his D.C. parade

At the United Nations, the Pope stated “any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.” The planet is the “creation of God and humans don’t have the authority to abuse or destroy it.”

His arguments for the reversal of our environmental damage span more than religious reasoning, he also notes the impact of climate change on the impoverished, saying “The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.”

Climate change is a hot topic at the United Nations this session. The U.N. Sustainability goals, which were adopted by the U.N. this past Friday, were endorsed by the Pontiff because of their environmental and human rights focus.  With an estimated 1.1 billion Catholics in the world as of 2010, this kind of environmental emphasis from their spiritual leader brings the issue to the attention of millions of people.  Now that the issue is known, we can take global steps to correct it.

Celebrating 70

Celebrate the birthday of the UN with UNAGB – Click here to learn more and get your tickets to the UN Day Luncheon!!

UN70-logoOn October 24, the world will celebrate United Nations Day and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN.  Founded in 1945 in the wake of World War II, the U.N. has had a full history, from supporting children’s rights to advocating for the end of colonialism and has been awarded a bevy of Nobel Peace Prizes for their effort.

Too often, people forget how much valuable work the UN has done, and continues to do – all with the mission to make the world a better place to live for all living things.

Click here to be reminded of what the UN has done for YOU!
Celebrate some of the UN’s greatest accomplishments

that have changed your life and the lives of those around you in the past 70 years (and see more here):

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a big supporter of the UN and helped draft the Declaration of Human Rights

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a big supporter of the UN and helped draft the Declaration of Human Rights

1948 – Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The most famous U.N. document, the Universal Declaration of Human rights was declared in the hopes of never recreating the atrocities of WWII.  It continues to be a driving force behind peacekeeping today.

1959 – Declaration of the Rights of Children
Much like the Declaration of Human rights, the U.N. declares that children must be allowed to “develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.”

1961 – World Food Programme
Established as an emergency relief program for the victims of natural disaster or civil conflict, the WFP now provides food to tens of millions of people every year.

The WHO declared Smallpox 'dead' in 1980 following a global immunization campaign. The last known natural case was in 1977.

The WHO declared Smallpox ‘dead’ in 1980 following a global immunization campaign. The last known natural case was in 1977.

1980 – The Eradication of Smallpox
A 13-year long effort by the World Health Organizations results in the eradication of the smallpox disease from the planet.

1987 – Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer
The United Nations acknowledges the weakening of the protective ozone layer encircling the earth and all 197 member states ratify the treaty, setting the groundwork for the Montreal Protocol.

1995 – Fourth World Conference on Women and the Beijing Platform
On the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, delegates launch the Declaration and Platform for Action, aimed at achieving greater equality and opportunity for women.

In response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, some UN efforts included: UN World Food Programme delivered rations in 20 days to over 1 million survivors; UNICEF provided more than 30,000 blankets, sleeping mats, water tanks, medical supplies, water purification pills and clothing; UNDP gave $10,000 each to Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Maldives and Thailand to help coordinate emergency needs; UN Population Fund gave $1,000,000 to ensure special health needs of pregnant and nursing women were met.

In response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, some UN efforts included: UN World Food Programme delivered rations in 20 days to over 1 million survivors; UNICEF provided blankets, sleeping mats, water tanks, medical supplies, water purification pills and clothing; UNDP gave a total of $50,000 to help coordinate emergency needs; UN Population Fund gave $1,000,000 to ensure special health needs of pregnant and nursing women were met.

2000 – Millennium Goals
To acknowledge the arrival of a new millennium, the U.N. passes an ambition set of goals to address poverty, disease, infant and maternal mortality, HIV, and an array of other global issues.

2004 – Indian Ocean Tsunami
The U.N. responds to catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami with relief fund that goes on to raise a record-breaking more than $6.25 billion.

2010 – U.N. Women
The general assembly creates UN Women, the UN agency for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

What will the UN do in the next 70 years??

The Syrian Refugee Crisis and Global Response

In recent days, all eyes have turned to the Syrian refugee crisis in the wake of toddler Aylan Kurdi’s body washing up on Turkish coast.  Although graphic, a photograph of Aylan’s body has been shared and printed thousands of times, making international impact as global citizens demand shelter for these fleeing refugees.  While it is tragic that it took the death of this child to draw international attention to this crisis, the results have forced administrators to address the refugee crisis.


Videos of German citizens cheering and applauding arriving refugees have circled the web, but unfortunately, these sentiments are not shared across Europe.  France has announced they will accept 24,000 migrants and Britain an even fewer 20,000.  Even Germany, the country that has arguably done the most to address the crisis, must cap their refugee admittance at 500,000 migrants annually.  These efforts hardly seem sufficient as in 2015 alone, 367,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean in hopes of reaching Europe’s safer shore.

Some countries have had an openly hostile response to the refugees flooding their shores.  In Hungary, government officials are refusing to deny asylum to refugees under the argument that they are simply fleeing bad economic conditions and not violence.  The Prime Minister is pushing for the completion of a 13-foot fence along the Hungarian-Serbian border and many nations have refused to acknowledge the refugees at all.

Syrian refugees attempt to cross the Hungarian-Serbian border

Syrian refugees attempt to cross the Hungarian-Serbian border

What does this mean for the U.S.?  Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict four years ago, the United States has accepted only 1,500 refugees.  The Obama administration has said it is “actively considering” more ways to help and an official White House petition has over 48,000 signatures from citizens urging the administration to allow refugees into the country.  The administration adds that the U.S. has provided over $4 billion in humanitarian assistance since the Syrian crisis began, and over $1 billion in assistance this year, making the U.S. “the single largest donor to the Syrian crisis.”  We eagerly await more information from the administration and hope that this crisis can be addresses swiftly and safely.