Category Archives: Global Learning

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

2015 Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of objectives that provide a framework commonly agreed upon by United Nations member states towards the betterment of the international community. In the year 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals, in which the 193 United Nation member states and 23 international organizations signed off of on working to achieve specific goals, targeting issues to further the development of the social and economic well-being of people across the world. There are eight goals in total and each focuses on an important global issue and their effects that can be felt across the globe.


The first Millennium Development Goal is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty. The combined efforts of member states within the United Nations have led to a significant decrease in extreme poverty. According to the World Bank more than half of the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day in 1981. This figure has sharply decreased as of 2010, when the statistic decreased to 21%. However, in 2010 alone there were still 1.2 billion people living in poverty.  Therefore, the international community still has many strides to take towards fulfilling the first millennium goal.


The second Millennium Development Goal focuses on achieving universal primary education. This particular goal entails the insurance that all boys and girls will complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015. Another aspect of this goal is the promotion of the concept that educating girls will advance development for all. There has been great success in the quest to reach this particular MDG as the percentage of enrollment in primary education in developing regions has increased from 82% in 1999 to 90% by 2010. However, there is still work to be done as currently 123 million youth, ages 15 -24, lack basic reading and writing skills around the globe.


The third Millennium Development Goal seeks to promote gender equality and empower women. Since 1990 there has been great improvement in gender equality. According to the United Nations, on a global scale women are moving out of the agricultural sector and into the non-agricultural sector as they hold 40 out of every 100 wage earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector. This increase is significant, yet there is still much to do in order to eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education and empower women across the globe, as only 2 out of 130 countries have the goal at all levels of education.


The fourth Millennium Development Goal focuses on the reduction of child morality and seeks to reduce the under-five morality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 13 children under the age of five die each minute of everyday mainly from preventable causes. However, there has been hope for this MDG as the under-five morality rate has declined from 12.4 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. Also the utilization of measles vaccines since 2000 has prevented 10 million deaths.


The fifth Millennium Development Goal aims to improve maternal health by reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters and achieve universal access to reproductive health. The efforts of UN member states have decreased the maternal mortality ratio by 47% since 1990.  States cannot rest on this success as nearly 50 million babies are delivered worldwide without skilled care and the maternal morality ratio in developing regions is 15 times higher than that of developed regions.



The sixth Millennium Development Goal seeks to combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other disease by halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, achieving universal access to HIV treatment by 2010 for those who need it, and halting and beginning to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases by 2015. According to the UN, new HIV infections continue to decline in most regions. However, the goal of universal access to treatment was missed by 2011. A positive aspect of this particular MDG is that the fight against malaria has seen great success as the global estimated instance of malaria has decreased by 17% and malaria specific morality rates have decreased by 25% as reported by the UN.


The Millennium Development Goal is centered towards ensuring environmental stability. There have been many successes towards reaching this MDG such as the reduction of over 98% in the consumption of ozone depleting substances since the adoption of the Montreal protocol. But countries are still struggling with combining their efforts to create a comprehensive treaty that focuses on a key factor affecting the environment, global climate change, as can be seen from the increase in emissions of carbon dioxide by over 46 percent since 1990, as reported by the UN.


The eight and final Millennium Development Goal is geared towards the creation of a global partnership for development. This particular goal focuses on the following points:

  • Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system
  • Address the special needs of least developed countries
  • Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States
  • Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries
  • In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
  • In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

The eighth Millennium Development Goal has proven to be an intricate and difficult process with states taking small steps towards fulfilling the requirements of the goal due to issues that conflict with their own interest.

With 2015 approaching, Secretary General Bank Ki Moon, and the United Nations continue to push to achieve some of the mandated targets that still call for action. This year, 2014, is the call to action to focus on the Issues that still need attention, focusing on world hunger, with one in eight people still suffering from world hunger.  A demand for more medical attention is needed for women and children, as maternal mortality and child mortality still remaining high. This is certainly something that deserves more focus, as the advancements in science and technology have made the medicine available to potentially save these lives. Furthermore, sustainable development and sanitation infrastructure also need more attention, as our finite resource base continues to decline, while 2.5 billion people still lack proper sanitation resources, also posing a major hazard to both public health and the ecosystem.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon speaks at a press conference to launch the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report. (Photo by People’s Daily Online)

Furthermore, while it may not be indubitable that all eight target goals will be met in 2015, it will certainly provide for an opportunity to refocus the priorities of the Millennium Summit, and ensure the post-2015 Goals are not only built off the base of the first set of Millennium Development Goals, but accomplished with higher efficiency, to provide for a more balanced rate of progress across all Global Issues. With Post-2015 bringing in a new set of goals, the issues placed at the forefront of the agenda will focus on sustainable development and will heavily involve the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in its implementation process.

The Millennium Development Goals have given States the opportunity to work together in order to create a brighter future for all of mankind. Although some objectives within the mandates may not be achieved by 2015, the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals have lead to a breakthrough in moving in the right direction towards solving  the global issues through a more unified approach, bringing issues such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty, world hunger, and environmental pollution to the attention of people all around the world.

Inspiring Change through Education: Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB celebrates International Women’s Day early with a screening of Graceland Girls!

This past Monday, March 3, UNA-GB members and friends learned about the power of education through a film screening of Graceland Girls and panel discussion with global education activists and experts! Following a lively reception and the screening, the Women’s Forum hosted panelists Jordan Salvatoriello, director of Graceland Girls; Monte Allen, Senior Director of CARE; and Richard Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Open Learning Exchange (OLE). Some of the questions posed by Women’s Forum members and the audience centered around Ms. Salvatoriello’s experience in Kenya while filming the documentary, ways in which organizations like CARE and OLE are partnering with local communities in the developing world to provide education, and how members of the greater-Boston community can become global education advocates.

Graceland Girls tells the story of high school students at the Graceland Girls School in central Kenya, an educational environment available to girls who were “fortunate and bright enough to receive sponsorship.” Many of the girls come from remote areas in Kenya, where their parents struggle to provide for themselves and their families. At various points in the film, the girls express the responsibility and pressure they feel to succeed in school and their future lives so that they can support their families. “Seen as their last chance for a better fate than that of their parents,” the girls’ stories reflect an awareness about the importance of their hard work. When asked what they want to pursue after going to university, many of the girls confidently list occupations such as “lawyer” and “neurosurgeon.” Faced with difficult circumstances and seemingly unsurpassable obstacles, the Graceland girls exhibit undying determination and hope, knowing that they “could create a ripple effect so powerful, it could end the cycle of poverty there.” (Learn more about the film here).

But what about girls (and boys) who are not lucky enough to go to the Graceland school? Monte Allen from CARE and Richard Rowe from OLE are involved in the struggle to address this need.


Mr. Allen shared in the panel discussion that one of CARE’s main goals is to empower communities to help themselves, a strategy that hopes to enable long-term and sustainable solutions. By providing resources and training to communities that want their guidance, CARE strives not only to reach young generations of under-served girls and boys, but also their elders – who become their teachers, mentors, and partners in education. You can read more about CARE’s work in girls’ education in Afghanistan, where they support over 300 schools!

OLE Logo

Richard Rowe’s comments added to the theme of sustainability by presenting OLE’s philosophy on the necessity of activity-based learning and educational content that is available through Open Education Resources (OERs). This aspect of OLE’s work puts it at the forefront of initiatives that seek to provide affordable and sustainable education solutions to the developing world. You can read more about OLE’s work here.

Jordan Salvatoriello further elaborated on her experience in Kenya while making the film, noting that she wanted the girls to feel comfortable sharing their stories in full, and that she didn’t want her own experience or bias to take over their narratives. She also shared that the project was an incredible learning experience: she learned as much from the students as they learned from her. Parts of the film portray small workshops and field trips centered on photography and filming skills that Jordan led the girls in. These activities involved the girls reflections on their work, illuminating how they see the world, relate to one another and perceive themselves. Ms. Salvatoriello emphasized that there are many ways her film can be used to create change, encouraging a young audience member to share and discuss it with her local school group. If you, too, are inspired by Jordan’s work, find out how you can become involved! Also, watch the entire panel discussion here!!

Finally, we rounded off our evening with an incredible a capella performance by Women of the World!

Now that you know how we celebrated International Women’s Day this year (even if it was 5 days early!), we invite you to share your stories! What IWD events are you going to? How will you celebrate the achievements of the world’s women and girls?

A special thank-you to our co-sponsors for this special event: African Community Health Initiatives, Boston Glow, Boston Network for International Development, Care, Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights at Suffolk University, Girl Up, Tufts University School of Medicine: Public Health Programs and Center for Global Public Health, Open Learning Exchange, Our Bodies Ourselves, Women and Health Initiative at Harvard University, and Women of the World

The Global Community Brought Together: What the Olympics is supposed to be about

The start of the 2014 Sochi Olympics have been plagued by bad press; from discriminatory restrictions, poor conditions, and huge spending. Unfortunately politics seem to be all people can talk about when discussing the games. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded the world, however, during a visit to the Olympic village, of what the Olympics is really supposed to be about: that the “athletes send a unified message that people and nations can put aside their differences…the power of sport (is) to promote human rights and unite people regardless of their age, race, class, religion, ability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”


On Friday, 3.5 billion people worldwide tuned in to see how Russia would leave its mark on Olympic history through an ambitious performance at Opening Ceremonies in the recently developed Fisht Olympic stadium. The Fish Olympic stadium stands at a height of 85m, roughly 25 stories, and has the capacity to hold 40,000 attendees. The ceremony lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes and featured three thousand performers, two thousand volunteers, and six thousand costumes. Viewers ‘traveled’ through Russia’s history, with ballet, breath-taking sets, and with 22.5 tons of fireworks set off, it is no wonder that the evening was a spectacular show!

imagesAnother festive feature of the Sochi Olympic winter games comes in the form of five adorable mascots. Three of the Mascots take the form of woodland creatures: the hare, the leopard, and the polar bear. The polar bear, although he loves speed-skating, skiing and curling, is the biggest fan of the bobsledding sporting events. The hare loves to sing and dance and she represents a universal love for the Olympic games. The leopard loves to snowboard, but is a rescuer at heart, representing the idea of a global commitment to help others. 


The final two mascots come in the form of a pair and rarely separate themselves from one another. They are The Ray of Light and The Snowflake. According to the official Sochi 2014 Olympic games description, both the ray of light and the snowflake faced discrimination when they appeared on earth because they were different than human beings. However, quickly people came to see how genuine and kind both the ray of light and snowflake were and as a result grew to love them. Both mascots connected with human beings through skiing related events and represent the true personification of harmony as well as the need for an absence of discrimination around the globe.

As the games kick off there is a sense of pride all throughout Massachusetts as the state sending the 10th most athletes to the games (a total of 230 USA athletes will be competing). Athletes from MA can be seen throughout various sporting events such as bobsledding and figure skating. Six out of the ten athletes representing Massachusetts are a part of The US Hockey team competing in the games! Wow!

ImageNow that you know more about the Sochi Winter Olympic games, we here at UNA-GB hope that you are just as excited as we are to experience the coming together of cultures from all over the world for two weeks! We look forward to celebrating another successful winter Olympics filled with friendly competition and an underlying theme of teamwork on a global scale to combat issues that effect us all. As Ban Ki-moon said in this address “The Olympics (and Paralympics) have served to break down negative stereotypes and build positive attitudes;” let’s all celebrate what the Olympics is supposed to be: the global community brought together by the games and revel in the power of sport to unify people.

Keep up with Sochi news, medals, etc here.

Journey Through the Past: Remembering the Holocaust

On November 1, 2005, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 60/7, declaring the 27th of January to be the annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. While the atrocities committed will forever be remembered as a dark period in global history, the resolution itself uses the 27th of January to reaffirm the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the proclamation that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms  regardless of race, religion, or any status.

Each year, the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is observed through a different theme, highlighting the struggles and deeply evoked emotions from the dark period. Through these themes, the UN is able to recall the tragedies  and violations of human rights that occurred during the Holocaust, explicitly demonstrating how detrimental hatred, bigotry, racism, and prejudice can be. Furthermore, the event serves as an opportunity to encourage global awareness and education, taking away lessons for future generations to learn about the Holocaust with the goal of preventing future travesties from occurring.


Dachau was the first Concentration Camp in Germany, opened in 1935

This year’s theme, “Journeys through the Holocaust”, reflects on the different passages of the Holocaust, revisiting the process of losing individual rights and freedom through incarceration within the concentration camps, where victims were held in contempt up until the moment of liberation, when the concentration camps were closed by Allied Forces. This journey captures the rollercoaster emotions Holocaust victims faced through their morose experience within the camps, only to be reinvigorated with new life once they were rescued. The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme look to use this years theme as a ‘guiding force’ for future generations to better understand the struggles of genocide, and to emphasize the fact that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and security of person.

The key note speaker for this years Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in NYC will be Academy Award winning Director and USC Shoah Foundation founder, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg, well-known for his contributions to the film industry, is also highly regarded for his contributions to human activism. The Shoah Institute for Visual History and Education was founded in 1994, after directing Schindler’s List, Spielberg was inspired to capture video testimonies from Holocaust survivors before they would be lost forever. This years ceremony will mark the 20th anniversary of the partnership between the USC Shoah Foundation, and The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme.


A memorial honoring the victims of the Holocaust at Dachau Concentration Camp

Why Should you learn more about the Holocaust?

The Holocaust was one of the greatest tragedies in the history of mankind, with the result of the murder of one third of the Jewish people, alongside countless members of minority groups. The aftermath of the tragedy truly puts into perspective how dangerous hatred, racism, and bigotry can be. Therefore, It is important to raise awareness about the Holocaust, to further prevent future acts of genocide from occurring as much as possible.

 “My hope is that our generation, and those to come, will summon that same sense of collective purpose to prevent such horror from happening again anywhere, to anyone or any group,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks at the Park East Synagogue Memorial Service in honour of the victims of the Holocaust.”

-Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon

Learn More about the Holocaust

To become better informed and promote global awareness of the Holocaust, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme is partnering with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to make a new film resource and educational package available to educators around the world in all United Nations official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

In addition, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum offer more information on the Holocaust on the link below:

– Shivam, UNA-GB intern

Human Rights Day 2013: “Twenty years working for your rights

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.

UN human Rights Day 2013

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.

UN Declaration of Human Rights Drafters

Drafters of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, representing Lebanon, the USSR, China, France, the US, the UK, Australia, Chile, and Canada.

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.

Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt and The UNDHR

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.


Newa masked dance

Newa Art

Newa Art

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?

Dalit bonded laborer

Dalit bonded laborer

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:

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 :

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!

Happy World Refugee Day!

The Guardian, An Afghan Refugee Girl in Pakistan                                                     World Refugee Day is a day to honor the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence

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.

Where Afghan refugees go to

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

Inside Climate              Environmentally displaced people may also be refugees and require aid as they are forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters or the effects of climate change

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.                                                                                              The average refugee spends 12 years in camps

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.

  • Donate!

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!

Water, Water, Everywhere… But For How Long?


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%.

Sustainable development, water and biodiversity should be forefront in the international community’s mind, says Ban

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.

“I Feel Happy Too” by Fairuz Othman, Creative Commons License.

“I Feel Happy Too” by Fairuz Othman, Creative Commons License.

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

Desertification is a real threat in today’s world

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?

Child Soldiers: A disheartening reality

ImageThe disheartening practice of using children as child soldiers is widely practiced in sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of Asia and South America. Currently, there are about 300,000 children involved in conflicts around the world.  Most of these boys and girls are forced while others join to escape poverty and abuse or to seek revenge. Those that are forced are often stolen, maimed, drugged, raped, and used as sex slaves.

ImageChild soldiers are often used to serve government forces and opposition groups. Not only do these children work in the front lines but they also work as messengers and spies. Some even participate in suicide missions. UNICEF defines a child soldier as “any child-boy or girl- under 18 years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, including, but not limited to: cooks, porters, messengers, and anyone accompanying such groups other than family members. It includes girls and boys recruited for forced sexual purposes and/or forced marriage. The definition, therefore, does not only refer to a child who is carrying, or has carried, weapons.”

ImageTo try to put an end to the recruitment of child soldiers, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered and was put into force in 2002. This convention “outlaws the involvement of children under age 18 in hostilities” and requires States “to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment beyond the current minimum of 15.” Other efforts include those made by the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which makes it a war crime to enlist children under the age of 15 in hostilities by national armed forces or armed groups.

ImageMany other efforts have been made by organizations such as UNICEF and The Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative to help put an end to this appalling practice. UNICEF, for example, partners with other NGOS to provide care, technical guidance, and financial support for the implementation of programs for DDR (disarmament, demobilization, reintegration).  UNICEF works in places such as the Great Lakes region of Africa, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, to name a few. The Romeo Daillaire Initiative, on the other hand, provides research, advocacy, and security sector training. It works directly with military, police, and peacekeeping forces to break the recruitment of child soldiers.

ImageEnding the use of child soldiers is not an easy task but with such efforts it can eventually be eliminated. Want to learn more about child soldiers? We were inspired to write this blog after hearing a former child solider, Ishmael Beah speak about his experiences. We encourage everyone to read his book “A long way gone: Memoirs of a boy solider” and to check out this website to see how you can get involved:

Inauguration Day 2013

ImageToday is an exciting day for all Americans as this year’s inauguration marks the 57th quadrennial Presidential Inauguration. President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden will be sworn-in for their second term in office.  The swearing-in ceremony at our nation’s capitol “represents both national renewal and continuity of leadership.”

The theme for this year’s inauguration is “Faith in America’s Future.” It was chosen to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the placement of the Statue of Freedom atop the new Capitol Dome in 1863. Moreover, it celebrates the perseverance and unity of the United States. The theme will be widely used for the official Inaugural Program, Luncheon, to name a few.

ImageInauguration Day not only includes the swearing-in ceremonies but it also includes other events. Some events that will be taking place on this day include: Morning Worship Service, Procession to the Capitol, Swearing-in Ceremonies, Inaugural Address, Inaugural Ball, Inaugural Parade, among others.


To read more on Inauguration Day check out this link to the official website:

*To see more pictures check out this link:

Japan: A major player in global affairs

japan 2Japan is an island nation with a peaceful nature and large economy. As such, it plays an important role in international affairs.

Japan first joined the United Nations in 1956, and up until the present, it continues to support the UN in bringing about peace and stability throughout the world.  Its commitment to the UN shows through its participation in peacekeeping operations. For example, in 1999, Japan contributed refugee relief materials to displaced Kosavar and Timorese people, and it has done the same for Iraqi and Sudanese refugees in more recent years. It is also involved with the Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations. Nonetheless, Japan’s involvement with the UN is extensive.

JapanFurthermore, Japan is currently the third largest economy in the world and thus plays an important role in the world economy. Its major exports include technology-related products ranging from cars to cameras to video games. Popular Japanese brands include Toyota, Honda, Canon, Nikon, Nintendo, to name a few.  Japan is also an exporter of pop culture. Anime and manga comics are among those pop culture exports.
japan flag

Nevertheless, Japan is a country with a grand presence in the world stage. There is no
doubt that it will continue to play out this role in the years to come.

Want to continue learning more about Japan while enjoying exquisite food and good company? Then, join us in our first “Taste of” event of the year!

Taste of Japan will be held at Itadaki Boston on Wednesday, January 23 at 7pm. Come join us and don’t miss out on the fun! We hope to see many of you there!

Tickets are available here: