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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

Join UNA-GB’s 66 for 66 Campaign

As world leaders prepare to gather today for the United Nations General Assembly’s opening session, here at UNA-GB a brand new 66 for 66 Campaign has been launched.  In connection with the opening of the 66th session of the General Assembly and in honor of the 66th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, our campaign focuses on providing 66 Boston-area high school students the unique opportunity to step into the shoes of diplomats at the annual UN Day Model UN Simulation at the Massachusetts State House on October 24.

“Now more than ever we need to invest in and nurture the next generation of global leaders” says Jennifer Irizarry, Education Director at UNA-GB.  “Unfortunately, too many urban students do not have access to the life-changing resources offered through Model UN, so this campaign allows us to offer more students an opportunity to broaden their perspective, engage in international issues, and build skills that will be critical for college and workplace success.”

UNA-GB’s Model UN program is a college-preparatory program that exposes public school students to the work of the United Nations, the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and topics such as international economics, development and sustainability, while building leadership and negotiation skills, critical reading and writing ability, and public speaking prowess.

It only costs $50 to support one student’s participation in a Model UN, so the 66 for 66 Campaign’s total goal is to raise $3,300 to serve 66 students.  The campaign will run up through Monday, October 24, when dozens of Boston-area public school students will come together at the Massachusetts State House in honor of the 66th anniversary of the UN to solve a critical issue in international development. Students representing diverse nations such as Afghanistan, Paraguay, and South Africa will participate in a Model UN simulation to debate solutions to gender inequality and answer the question: Why do global inequalities for women in education and employment persist and what can be done about it?

Want to learn more about and to support the 66 for 66 Campaign? Visit http://ow.ly/6sdrB!  And invite your friends and family to join you today in investing in the global leaders of tomorrow!

-UNA-GB Education

The Rural Challenge

Another week has just begun and today we have our weekly blog post from our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series. This week learn about rural development in today’s world, including the benefits and challenges it introduces to areas around the world in rural areas with the need for development for a brighter future. Check out our other blog posts in the series, including: “Creating A Road To Democracy”, “A Historical Moment For Genocide”, “Two Sides To Invest”, “An Undefined Grasp Of Failure”, “A Necessary Priority” and “A Reform For The World”.  Check back next Monday for a new post on a whole new topic to ‘get educated’ on!

Approximately 1.7 billion people live in absolute poverty today. According to the World Bank, about 75% of the world’s poorest live in rural areas. Rural development is an important international step, not only to reduce poverty, but also to ensure food security and foster agricultural growth worldwide.

The World Bank defines rural development as “improving the living standards of the low-income population residing in rural areas and making the process of their development self-sustaining.” This definition is driven by concerns over the increasing of rural poverty and the increased focus on improving the socioeconomic well-being of the poor through sustainable improvements. However, rural development faces structural problems such as proper transportation of food, lack of physical and social infrastructure, and underemployment in the rural workforce. This impedes growth, development, and poverty reduction in rural areas.

In 1990, the World Bank adopted an economic strategy of “poverty reducing growth” that created opportunities to earn income and improve services for the poor. This leads to a diversity of local services that will in turn lead to “balanced and sustainable rural economic growth and food security.” There is also a need to promote equal opportunity for competition, by favoring small enterprise over large, urban-based enterprise and to concentrate on rural communities.

Rural women in many countries, like in Kenya, play a central role in managing natural resources.

Rural women and children are significantly affected by poverty. In developing countries, women make up about 43% of the agriculture labour force. They work as wage labourers, sell produce, and participate in small-scale trading. In developing countries such as Africa, Asia and the Pacific, women work an average of 12 more hours each week than men. However, women are held back by low education, unequal property right laws and limited access to resources. Rural children are affected by child labour. 70% of all child labour in the world, which is equal to about 150 million children, takes place in agriculture. Child labour is often difficult to track or underreported and there is no clear defined difference between child labour and children working to help their families. It is also difficult to directly challenge and eliminate when children make up about one-third of the agriculture work force. Thus, policies attempt to improve overall working conditions and reduce safety hazards, as well as improve access to education for children. Nevertheless, the main root of child labour lies in rural poverty.

Currently, changes in agricultural markets are providing new opportunities for smallholder farmers to improve their productivity, especially in developing countries. But, the 2011 Rural Poverty Report of the IFAD says that there still remains “an urgent need…to invest more and better in agriculture and rural areas.” International actions by the World Bank, the International Labour Organization and the UN Millennium Development Goals stress the challenges in rural development, but also provide frameworks to increase rural employment and smallholder agriculture and reiterate the goal of halving the number of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

-Yun-Hee

A Youthful Week: Week of 7/25 News Roundup

A lot of focus was on the global leaders of our future throughout this week as the week started with the UN high-level meeting dedicated to the development of youth. The theme of the meeting was “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”, just in time as the International Year of Youth is coming to an end this summer.

Along with the topic of youth, came a new report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at a side event of the UN high-level meeting, the report titled “Securing the Future Today“. This report and discussion focused on the youth’s actions to fight against the disease of AIDS. This will be a step in the right direction for our future, and the future goals in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals as goal #6 focuses on the global fight against the disease, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases including malaria.

Disease was also a big topic this week, as millions of children received the measles vaccination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The UN World Health Organization helped in coordinating this great achievement, as there has been a measles epidemic that many people have lost their lives to and the funding was needed to make this event a great success. In efforts to globally fight against more diseases, the UN marked July 27th World Hepatitis Day as a day to recognize the fight and prevention of the disease. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the soccer team FC Barcelona have joined this week in the fight against disease to create a campaign against polio, called “More than a Goal. End Polio”. With a said 1 percent left in the fight against the disease and its eradication, the organizations are determined to put an end to it.

Along with disease, comes the support of resources and nutrition throughout the world so that people can survive with access to basic needs and children can develop and prosper. The crisis in the Horn of Africa continued this week as the drought is causing a lack of water and therefore threat of nutrition to people throughout the continent’s nations. More support is needed, as there are also many children suffering from this crisis, causing malnutrition and this threatening their survival in the crisis for all, with a said $1.4 billion in funding appealed by the UN to support the cause.

Efforts continue to assist globally in the fights against disease, malnutrition, resources and overall the availability of safe living conditions around the world. Support and funding is needed to continue to allow for these wonderful projects to develop and you can get involved in the action! In time for August 2nd, you can contact Congress representatives to share your voice towards the budget cuts that will unfortunately help support programs like these, specifically programs that help support women and girls throughout the world have availability to resources.

Join in the support and action to help the people of today in any way you can and the global leaders of tomorrow in our youth today!

-Cara

Celebrate Mothers Worldwide

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

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

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

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

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

-Hanna