Blog Archives

International Impact of the Debt Ceiling

One of the most publicized issues this summer has been the arguments on Capitol Hill over the debt ceiling. The political stalemates have been so much on the forefront of the public agenda that other dire issues, such as the famine in the Horn of Africa have been somewhat overshadowed. However, the two issues are linked more than one might initially think.

As most are aware at the end of the day on August 2nd, Congress finally came to an agreement on the debt ceiling debate which avoided the detrimental U.S. default. What is known about the agreement is that it cuts almost $1 trillion, however, what hasn’t been made immediately visible is the precise details of such cuts. We do know that important programs for the poor – throughout the globe – are at serious risk. It is also important to be aware of the appropriations bill that was passed by the House for the State Department and Foreign Assistance. Within this bill were cuts to the UN’s regular budget and UN peacekeeping. The simple truth is that if the bill is passed by Congress and signed into law, the UN will return to its previous state of cycles of debtCuts to the UN’s budget detrimentally impede the organization’s ability to aid in foreign catastrophes such as the current humanitarian crisis in the Eastern Horn of Africa – with Somalia suffering the most from the drought-induced famine.

In his op-ed, U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia writes: ” “from terrorism to the threat of pandemics, the United States faces challenges that are beyond the power and financial means for any single nation, no matter how powerful, to address alone. Our contributions to the UN enhance our national security and our foreign policy priorities, save dollars while growing jobs and our economy and strengthen our leadership in the international community.”  And as Massachusetts’ own US Senator, and ardent foreign relations advocate, John Kerry so eloquently put it, “We can either pay now to help brave people build a better, democratic future for themselves or we will certainly pay later with increased threats to our own national security…This is not time for America to pull back from the world. This is a time to step forward.”

The UN and the U.S. are currently making substantial efforts to help the about 11 million people directly affected by the famine. Efforts include:

  •  UNICEF is working to help over 250,000 children from Somalia who are suffering from acute malnutrition. They have already provided 8,300 bags of nutritional supplies to 2,800 children. The goal is to reach 70,000 children within the next six months and to provide them with nutrition and water.
  • As of late, World Food Programme is reaching 1.5 million people in Somalia and is scaling up to reach an additional 2.2. million in the previously inaccessible south of the country. Airlifts to Mogadishu began earlier in the month to bring special nutritious foods to malnourished children.
  • UNHCR – through its partners – has delivered emergency assistance packages to benefit 15,000 internally displaced persons in Somali camps. The organization plans to distribute 7.500 additional packages in the upcoming weeks.

The U.S. is currently the largest donor to the UN and to the relief in the Horn of Africa – what will happen if important funds are cut from such initiatives? It’s important that we stay engaged and involved in the coming months in order to demonstrate to our representatives in Capitol Hill just how important our international commitments are.

That is why we hope you will join UNA-GB and our fellow chapters around the country in engaging in dialogue with our elected officials this fall.  We will be in touch with ways to take action and specific asks that will be good to make, especially when your representatives are on fall recess. Email us at info@unagb.org if you’d like to be involved more in depth on these advocacy efforts.

Also, if you want to learn more about the crisis in the Horn of Africa and what we can do to make a difference, on September 12th UNA-GB is co-sponsoring the DocYard’s screening of Rain in a Dry Land, a film which provides an eye-opening look at what it means to be a refugee in today’s “global village.” Purchasing tickets to view the film, which chronicles the lives of two Somali Bantu families, is a great way to get educated more on what refugees face in the transition process.  There will also be information shared about how you can help end the famine crisis in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

-Alexandra

Generations Away: Week of 8/8 News Roundup

The week started with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on August 9th with the theme “Indigenous designs: Celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future”.

The focus this year was on preserving the future considering the struggle in obtaining resources for survival of indigenous people around the world. The focus on preserving and being educated on history of the past for our future on different levels continued throughout the week in a variety of different UN supported events.

At a conference this week at a UN forum in the Republic of Korea UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged youth in the conference and around the globe to take into consideration the different obstacles that the world faces and realize that the youth today will be the global leaders in the near future. The theme of the conference as it continues is “Sustainable Development: Advancing Human Progress in Harmony with Nature” and focuses on the development in today’s generation for the future.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy ended his post this week and stressed the need for the people of the future to continue to stay engaged in the world’s development as well as there is specifically a constant need for the work of peacekeeping. He mentioned how the need may not seem vivid at all times, but there are always situations that arise where peacekeeping support is needed in nations throughout the world. On the same day, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss spoke during both a visit to Argentina and a seminar in Chile ‘The United Nations in Global Governance’ about the importance of the UN’s role in adjusting to improve its global governance in the 21st century as it branches all of the nations it supports together, starting with organizations including the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ESOSOC).

Efforts were made this week by young global students as students in Japan spoke with UN Security-General Ban Ki-moon during his visit following the natural disaster earlier this year. They discussed the future of Japan and their dedication as students to help the country during its recovery and the UN Secretary-General initiated plans for an international high-level meeting next month to discuss the issue. Along with education, comes the important support of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of Academic Impact which focuses on the research and development of learning so that world challenges have the potential to be solved in our future and communities can come together similar to international communities reaching out in conferences.

Along with highlighting how education can help solve global obstacles and the efforts to help the recovery of Japan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon mentioned the importance this week of international support for Somalia who is still currently struggling with the development of its nation and government along with the challenges of the famine that continues to affect its country and others in the Horn of Africa. This continues to be an incredible global tragedy for the continent of Africa, and offers an urgent opportunity for organizations supported by the United Nations and the entire international community to support.

Involvement in global impact starts young! Players of the Spanish soccer team FC Barcelona met with youth in Dallas, Texas this week to encourage participation in the sport of soccer and to send the message to the children that passion is the key to success. Both UNICEF, who has been a major contributor to the providing resources to the crisis in the Horn of Africa recently, and FC Barcelona have worked together in the past and continue to do so in encouraging youth participation in sports and the education behind the skills learned from being active on an educational, environmental and social level so that future generations that are struggling today can develop in the future.

Are you looking to get involved and have an impact on helping the world? Do you have an idea you think the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should hear? You’re in luck! A Citizen Ambassador’s contest in time for World Humanitarian Day 2011 coming up later this month just started this week giving those that participate the potential to have the opportunity to share your idea with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself. Check it out, here!

-Cara

A Week Calling For Action: Week of 8/1 News Roundup

It’s August! This week was a week full of opportunity to educate and help those in need around the globe as we welcome a new month. The UN Security Council welcomed both a new month and president, as India was given the position of Presidency for the month. India seems to have some plans for going about its time as president including a peacekeeping debate and creating a strong image of itself within the UN community.Monday also brought along the start of World Breastfeeding Week, as the theme this year was “Talk to me! Breastfeeding – a 3D Experience”. The theme suggested the idea of using communication tools through technology to better educate the world about the benefits of breastfeeding. Along the topic of communication tools comes a new tool introduced this week focused on giving access to resources that are propelled by technology for those that don’t have the financial support to access these resources now. The use of technology will focus on access to women in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in creating “mobile identities” that they will be able to access from any mobile phone that will allow them to have phone access through the device as well as resources to be able to educate themselves about health topics and find jobs.

Assistance is still needed throughout the world this week, as the UN declared that the famine in Somalia has spread to three other areas of the nation this week and the crisis in the Horn of Africa is in need of major support in its fight for resources.


There are many ways that you can get involved too through a variety of different organizations to help nations in the Horn of Africa recover from this crisis. UNICEF this week proposed an idea for other organizations to get involved as well, as it asked airlines to generously give less-costly space for resources to be flown to the nations in need in the Horn of Africa, and some airlines have already agreed to either free transportation of resources or discounts. It also continues to stay involved in helping as it supports those that come to refugee camps with basic resources and child protection as a majority of those coming to the camp are women and children. The World Food Programme is getting involved with the refugee camps as it has assisted with providing food and other resources to those that arrive to the camps as well, as malnutrition is a major concern for those that arrive. As nations continue to develop and get past crisis and people come together to help in whatever way they can, Sudan which had a recent development as Southern Sudan declared its independence weeks ago faced an unfortunate tragedy this week. Four Ethiopian UN Peacekeepers lost their lives from a the effects of a landmine this week and seven other Ethiopian UN Peacekeepers were injured during a mission in Sudan.

Starting the lead for assistance in the world the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continues to stay dedicated to helping those in need around the globe. This weekend he will be traveling to Japan to support the post-earthquake development of the nation. We look forward to hearing more about his trip and the development of assistance to those in need around the world as next week progresses.

-Cara

Global Obstacles: Week of 7/18 News Roundup

For those of you in the area, hope you’re staying cool indoors or out in the incredible heat today. If you’re indoors, sitting by your computer, this is the perfect opportunity for to you learn about the news this week. To start, the climate in itself was an important issue. The effects of extreme climate around the world was discussed by the Security Council and the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supported the concern as peace, security and economies around the world have been and have the potential of being effected.

Along with the concern of world climate, some nations of the world faced major obstacles this week. The week started with a famine that was announced in Somalia. With this announcement, the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also pushes towards international support of this crisis as assistance is needed from the global community. Are you looking for a way to get involved and help out? There are many ways to get involved through a variety of different organizations and commitments you can make, including 10 suggestions organized through the World Food Programme. An unfortunate crisis was also brought to Norway today, as people were both killed and injured due to a bombing and shooting in the area of the nation’s capital Oslo.

In our own nation this week, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the FY 2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act. Better World Campaign Executive Director Peter Yeo expressed his concern that the act passed doesn’t reflect the importance of working together with other countries around the world and will lead to debt owed to the UN when the original focus is to support the US and UN connection. The bill passed will economically effect the plans of the Obama Administration and the international support that the US is able to offer to other nations. However, there is a side that argues that this change in funding may also allow for some focus on our global involvement. We look to see how this decision will effect our future involvement.

-Cara

An Undefined Grasp Of Failure

Check out our newest blog post from our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series! This week, get educated about the meaning behind a failed state and its connection with recent news. Also, check out our last three posts in the series: “Creating A Road To Democracy”, “A Historical Moment For Genocide” and “Two Sides To Invest”. Check back each Monday for another post!

Failed states have become a growing source of concern for the international community as breeding grounds for terrorist and crime syndicates as well as representing whole regions which are utterly devoid of law and order, living hells for those suffering in them. Foreign Policy Magazine has begun annually publishing the Failed States Index, listing the world’s countries from most failed to least.

Essentially, a failed state is a country whose government is unable to perform the basic functions required of a sovereign authority. In most cases, the governments of failed states are too weak to exert any control over their countries and so they cannot provide security or meet fundamental human needs. Somalia is the classic example of a failed state, where thecentral government controls a few blocks of the capital city and is powerless to prevent lawlessness, militant Islamic terrorism, piracy, or the current famine gripping the nation.

Human rights violations are rampant in failed states as well. Not only are living conditions atrocious in many of these countries, but the absence of legitimate judicial power often results in horrendous crimes. A recent report, for example, found that every hour, forty-eight women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are raped. With little or no development, failed states truly are anarchic nightmares.

Although there is continuing debate about the extent of the dangers posed by failed and failing states, they have been recognized as obstacles to US foreign policy. The US is currently involved in two states which are considered to be failed, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the US State Department has established an office specifically addressing state failure and reconstruction, the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

But the truth is, failed states are political quagmires which are too expensive for any one power to “solve.” Even the US, with all the wealth and might of superpower status, has been frustrated in its attempts to tame Afghanistan. Recognizing the need for international cooperation over failed states, the UN established the Peacebuilding Commission in 2005. Unfortunately, the Commission has been met with only limited success, in part due to its small budget and the fact that countries must invite it to operate within their borders. The Peacebuilding Commission’s activities have so far been restricted to cooperative, geographically small nations and failed states like the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to remain open questions.

-James