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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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Water, Water, Everywhere… But For How Long?

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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 rttc.org

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. un.org

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

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.

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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 britannica.com

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?

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

Resolution 2012!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate the 63rd Birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!!

Tomorrow, December 10th 2011, global citizens around the world will celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10th, 1948. We have come a long way since 1948 in regards to human rights and this year we have a new player in the game to thanks: social media!

In the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “many of the people seeking their legitimate aspirations were linked through social media. Gone are the days when repressive governments could totally control the flow of information. Today, within their existing obligation to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and expression, governments must not block access to the internet and various forms of social media as a way to prevent criticism and public debate”.

From Tunis to Madrid, from Cairo to New York, citizens across the globe have been standing up for their rights as humans through peaceful protest movements using social media tools. Even the High Commissioner for Human Rights hosted a global conversation on human rights this morning, December 9th, through social media. Missed the conversation or interested in learning more? Click here!

Continuing with the celebrations, the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to three amazing women, all leaders in the worldwide struggle for women’s rights. Liberian
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Leymah Gbowee, a social worker and peace campaigner from the same country, will share the prize with Tawakkul Karman, an activist and journalist who this year played a key opposition role in Yemen. These three inspiring women, who were chosen “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work,” will be honored with a weekend full of festivities in Oslo, Norway. Click here to learn more about the laureates and the weekend’s events!

In the Boston community, the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Harvard Kennedy School held a celebration on December 1 to celebrate not only Human Rights Day but also the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International. For more information on this event, click here!

Want to get involved?! With social media being a crucial tool in this year’s accomplishments, you can participate in this years celebrations by utilizing your favorite social media. Click here to learn more about your rights and spread the word by making a wish for universal human rights!

Help us celebrate universal human rights and the brave global citizens who stand up for them!

Check out other Human Rights Day celebrations happening around the world!

Fun Fact: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is THE most universal document in the world! The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been awarded the Guinness World Record for having collected, translated and disseminated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into more than 380 languages and dialects: from Abkhaz to Zulu. The Universal Declaration is thus the most translated document – indeed, the most “universal” one in the world.

-Jen Jones

2011 Annual Member Meeting: The Success of the Past Meets the Potential of the Future!

Fall has officially kicked off here at UNA-GB. Over the past few weeks, UNA-GB was hard at work planning our Annual Member Meeting and Kimball Lecture, held Wednesday, September 28, and boy, was it a success!

Every year, we hold an Annual Meeting to communicate all that we’re doing with our members and friends. In addition this year, UNA-GB’s annual Kimball Lecture was held after the meeting. This year, not only did we showcase all that we have accomplished so far, but we presented our exciting plans for the rest of the year!

Newly elected Board Member Hakan Satiroglu (second from left) with UNA-GB Board and Advisory Council members.

The evening started off with our Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors, which was open to the public, during which Officers, Board Members, and Advisory Council Members were elected. Among the newly elected were Nate Tassinari, Hakan Satiroglu and Roger Berry. We look forward to seeing what these new faces can bring to our already fantastic Board of Directors!

With an ambitious agenda, the Annual Meeting of Members began almost immediately following the Board of Directors Meeting. The program began with opening remarks from UNA-GB’s Executive Director, Lena Granberg, who played the role of Sec-Gen throughout the night, complete with a gavel and all.  President Richard Golob gave a very inspiring speech laying out the success of UNA-GB during 2010 and the first half of 2011. From the Women’s Forum, to the Young Professionals Network, to our Signature Events including the annual Consuls Ball, Richard presented our enormous impact on the greater Boston community – in the past year alone, more than 5,000 people have been served with UNA-GB’s classroom and community based programming!

The expectations for the upcoming months were only raised higher after the next part of the evening.

Nate Tassinari sharing our Young Professionals upcoming events!

A panel of our staff and volunteers took the stage to detail our various groups, our upcoming events, and easy ways for UNA-GB members to get involved. Among speakers were Rebecca Corcoran for our Model UN Program, Natalie Prolman for our Campus Ambassadors, Nate Tassinari for our Young Professionals Group, Elizabeth Grealy for our Women’s Forum, and Kaitlin Hasseler for our Signature Events and Advocacy/Communications.  It wasn’t just pure presentation though – audience members had a chance to win big by answering trivia questions like “the world’s population will hit _____ billion in October 2011” and “what do ABC’s “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Seacrest and Supreme Court Justice Breyer have in common?”  (Answers??  Seven and Model UN, respectively!)

For those who weren’t at the Meeting, click here to learn more about our upcoming events, and also find out how YOU can get involved with our programs and events here!  2 easy ways to get involved right now? Become a member today! Also, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep updated with our latest news and upcoming events!

Ambassador Walter Carrington

Following our panel of speakers, attendees had the chance to hear Ambassador Walter Carrington give the Kimball Lecture keynote address, focused on Africa and the War on Terrorism. Carrington served as US Ambassador to Nigeria and Senegal, and is currently an Associate of Harvard’s DuBois Institute while working on a book on Nigeria and another on Islam in Africa. And during his introduction given by Richard Golob, UNA-GB President, we even learned that Carrington was Martin Luther King Jr.’s big brother in their Fraternity at Harvard University!

The Kimball Lecture is given annually in memory of Professors Chase and Mary Lee Evans Kimball. Chase and Mary Lee were lifelong supporters and promoters of United States participation and responsible leadership in international organizations, starting with fervent advocacy of the United States entry in the League of Nations. Chase, a lawyer and professor of international relations, and Mary Lee, a professor of French, were enthusiastic and loyal supporters and generous donors to UNA-GB and the UN Council of the South Shore.

The evening ended with a Wine and Cheese Around the World ReceptionThe Robert F. Meagher Wine & Cheese Around the World Reception was started this year as an annual event to recognize the contributions and legacy of long-time UNA-GB Board Member Bob Meagher who passed away in 2007 at the age of 80. Our reception included cheese from all over the world including Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, and France, and our wine selection spanned from Chile, to New Zealand, and California to Hungary!

We even had a few famous faces join us at the Meeting this year, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Goodwill Ambassador (and Boston darling) Giselle Bündchen.  New to this year’s Annual Member Meeting was a photo-booth with key United Nations individuals, which provided a great form of entertainment during registration.

Overall, 2011 Annual Member Meeting was a HUGE success! From the interactive photo-booth, to our panel of speakers, and our Kimball Lecture to the Wine and Cheese Around the World Reception, our guests felt engaged, informed, and excited about the upcoming months!

Weren’t able to attend this event? Click here to check out photos from the evening!  And join us at our upcoming events!

-Jennifer J.

A Year of New Horizons: Review of 66th UN General Assembly Opening

It’s been a busy couple of weeks as the United Nations welcomed the opening of its 66th General Assembly. The General Assembly opened its 66th session formally this week at its Headquarters in New York. Former permanent representative of Qatar to the UN, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, was elected as General Assembly president in June and gave the opening speech.

In his opening speech Al-Nasser stressed that the General Assembly is an opportunity for the international community to “define our place in this decisive moment in history,” and to “prove that we have the courage, wisdom and tenacity to seek creative and visionary solutions.” He also said that he was “deeply committed” to working with each member state to “build bridges for a united global partnership.”

On Wednesday Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff became the first woman to ever open a round of UN General Assembly speeches. In her speech President Rousseff touched on a wide range of topics including social inclusion and human rights guarantees. She also spoke about the need to reform the UN Security Council and supporting sustainable development – with a reminder that in June 2012 Rio de Janeiro will be hosting the next world conference on climate change.

On Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability held its fourth meeting in New York. The Panel was established in 2010 to examine how the globe can reduce poverty and increase sustainability development while protecting our planet.

On Wednesday President Obama spoke at the UN Security Council saying that although he believes there can be peace between Israel and Palestine, there is no shortcut to that peace. He also commented on the US’ opposition to the Palestinian’s bid. “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN,” President Obama declared. “If it were that easy it would have been accomplished by now.” Rather, President Obama suggested that the international community should keep pushing Israelis and Palestinians toward talks on the four impassable issues that have presented problems since 1979.

Despite President Obama’s speech, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, submitted an application for Palestine to become a United Nations Member State today. Mr. Abbas submitted the application to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN Headquarters in New York this morning.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the release of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal from an Iranian prison on Wednesday. Bauer and Fattal had been hiking near the Iranian-Iraqi border and a month later were convicted and jailed for spying allegations more than two years ago.

On Thursday, UNICEF welcomed a new agreement between the Republic of the Congo and Benin to protect children from child trafficking which has been a large problem in the region in recent years.

“With the signing of the agreement, a framework is now in place to assist the two countries to prevent, identify and assist child trafficking victims as well as to prosecute offenders,” Marianne Flach, UNICEF Country Representative in the Republic of the Congo said.

It is hard for UNICEF to come up with an exact number of children trafficked, but in 2007 the organization roughly estimated the number to be 1,800. Experts today say that the figure is actually much higher.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all remaining States today to “seize the moment” and sign and ratify the global treaty banning nuclear tests – with the goal of bringing it into force by 2012. Of the total 195 states, 182 have so far signed the treaty and 155 have ratified it. For the treaty to enter into force, ratification is required from the “Annex 2 States.” Of these States, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the U.S. have yet to ratify it.

“My message is clear: Do not wait for others to move first. Take the initiative. Lead. The time for waiting has passed,” Ban Ki-moon said. “We must make the most of existing – and potentially short-lived – opportunities,” he added.

As demonstrated throughout this week, the UN is an extremely important organization to global security and equity across the board. As a result it is important for us to continue supporting the organization in any way we can. Don’t forget to visit Let US Lead and tell Congress to oppose bill H.R. 2829 which threatens to cut U.S. funding to the UN. Want to go a step beyond signing a petition? Schedule an appointment to meet with your local representative over the Columbus Day recess!

Here at UNA-GB we are celebrating the opening of the 66th General Assembly as well with our 66 for 66 Campaign! Help us raise $3,300 to fund 66 students in honor of this anniversary of the UN. Only $50 provides food and materials for one child to change their perspective, engage in international issues, and build skills that will be relevant in college and their future career path. Help us nurture the next generation of global leaders! Donate today!

-Alexandra

Round Two For Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon?

Just a few days ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon officially requested his consideration for a second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations by the UN Security Council and was decided by the UN General Assembly as a candidate.

Ban Ki-moon started his position on January 1, 2007, after having a variety of different government roles and international roles as a Republic of Korea national.  Ki-moon began working at the United Nations in 1975, as a member of the Foreign Ministry’s United Nations Division, followed by many different roles over the years within the organization, before attaining the top position.

Today as Secretary-General to the UN, Ban Ki-moon’s role is to represent the United Nations at a global level and to serve as the “chief administrative officer”. He serves as a global representative, focusing specifically on those in need and the missions to assist through the services of the United Nations. The role of Secretary-General of the United Nations is the top position of the United Nations that focuses on administration of the services, hiring of employees, and overseeing peacekeeping missions and mediation whenever there is conflict. Currently there is no limit to how many terms a Secretary-General can have – however, no Secretary-General has served for more than two terms so far, so his bid is well-placed and was to be expected.

Many are in support of his re-election, including European Commission President Barroso, the US, Britain, China, KoreaFrance, and Nigeria, just to name a few.  In fact, with the support of Russia, he has the support of the five permanent and veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council (US, Great Britain, Russia, China and France). His term so far has been full of determination- he has led with drastic and successful efforts in educating nations about issues of climate control and change specifically in developing countries. These efforts have been shown through the UN Climate Change Conferences, with the most recent one in Cancun in 2010. This conference worked towards gaining support from nations around climate control and also created the ‘Green Bank’ to fund the discussed possible changes at the Copenhagen conference the year before that had resulted in the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund. Of particular note was his success at gaining the support of the US and China in the climate talks, where they weren’t as active before.  Ban also said this week that he was proud that the UN under his guidance had saved many lives and had sown “the seeds of peace” in conflicts ranging from Sudan and Somalia to Congo and Cote d’Ivoire.

Considering his success so far, he has also been criticized for not being direct in what he looks to get done and is known to stay within his comfort zone or “inner circle” of employees within the United Nations Headquarters.  It has been suggested that his intentions are good as a leader, but his strategies may need to change in order to have outcome.  Looking ahead to the future and likelihood of his second-term bid, there are questions about his laid-back leadership personality and positive outlook on achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline. The UN is concerned about the suffering global economy’s effects on the potential for each goal to be met. Also, with the 30th Anniversary of the AIDS disease just honored, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes another future goal to end AIDS by 2020, a goal that is said to be realistic but will require a lot of effort.

For now, the question remains could Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon be caught singing “Ban Ki-moon is Coming to Town” in front of UN correspondents, for a second time?  Time will tell.  We look forward in anticipation as the inspirational global leader with a pinch of humor hopes for a second term.

-Cara

This Day’s For Africa!

On May 25, 2011, the world celebrated Africa Day. This year marked the 48th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963. On July 9, 2002, OAU was succeeded by the African Union, whose aim is to promote economic, social, and political integration, and democracy on the continent. Even though the Organisation of African Unity no longer exists, May 25th continues to be commemorated as Africa Day.

This year’s Africa Day came at a time of momentous political change on the continent, as evidenced by the recent events in North Africa and Côte d’Ivoire.  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon celebrated the Day in Ethiopia, where the African Union is headquartered. Emphasizing this year’s Africa Day theme, “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development,” Secretary-General Ban remarked that despite substantial progress in education and economic growth, inequalities are prevalent in Africa, and that the youth of Africa continues to face challenges when it comes to finding decent jobs and participating in the decision-making processes. The Secretary-General also emphasized that sustainable economic growth and the judicious management of the earth’s resources can only be achieved through the empowerment of young people.

In addition to S-G Ban Ki-moon, those present in the commemorative event at the African Union Headquarters included the Chairperson of the African Union, Mr. Teodoro Mbasogo, and the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. In celebration of Africa, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be offering a number of events, including film screenings, art exhibitions and debates, with special attention paid to the role of women and young people.

—Smriti

A Day to be Mindful of Land Mines

Today is an opportunity to revitalize international support for mine action, as we celebrate International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The day emphasizes that clearing land of explosive remnants of war saves lives and protects livelihoods, and that landmines and other unexploded devices – known as unexploded ordnance, or UXO – are unique because their destructiveness is indiscriminate and long outlasts the conflicts in which they are used. They are particularly dangerous for children. Furthermore, landmines violate nearly all the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They severely disrupt economic activity, halt rebuilding after conflict and lead to increased food security because farming and irrigation are prevented.

Landmines and explosive remnants of war continue to kill or injure thousands of people a year. With high level interest in the Convention on Cluster Munitions (54 member states have already ratified it) and the innovative Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (98 member states have already ratified it) worldwide efforts to remove landmines and explosive remnants of war are at the top of the United Nations agenda.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for “universal adherence to these important treaties, increased support for mine awareness and mine action, and greater global solidarity in support of this crucial element in our drive to build a safer and more prosperous world for all.”

UNICEF, for example, is planning to mark the day through a number of activities in Lao PDR – the most bombed country per capita in history. UXO survivors are attending workshops on advocacy in Vientiane Capital and will be given the opportunity to speak at a special event today, to be held at the National University of Laos stadium.

In the past, close to twenty-one countries have hosted special events to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on or around April 4th. This day has drawn attention to the plight of survivors and the gradual reduction in new casualties since the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty entered into force in 1999.

Action on land mines was a big focus of UNA-USA up through 2 years ago, when they successfully concluded their Adopt-a-Minefield campaign. UNA-USA raised over $25 million for mine action, cleared over 1,000 minefields, and assisted thousands of survivors. Globally, now there are only 6,000 new casualties each year—as opposed to the 25,000 annual rate recorded in the late 1990’s. There are 156 signatories to the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT)—that’s 80% of the world’s nations! Only two countries used landmines last in 2008—rather than the previously widespread use in over 80 countries.  This shows progress can be made.

But more progress is still needed.

Most of the current events around the world are hosted jointly by governments of mine-affected countries and the United Nations agencies that support their mine action efforts and ranged from official events with statements by top governmental and United Nations officials, to mine risk education theater performances, concerts, fund-raisers and photographic exhibitions.

Despite its many well-documented successes, however, mine action remains underfunded. The 2011 portfolio of projects has secured only about a quarter of the needed resources, leaving a funding gap of $367 million.

So there are ways in which YOU can help. The easiest way to get involved is to join the movement to raise awareness about the continued danger of landmines among your family and friends and around the world.  Stay connected to what UNICEF is doing, and help work towards a more peaceful and just future for all.

-Hanna