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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.ushmm.org/learn/introduction-to-the-holocaust/path-to-nazi-genocide

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:

http://www.un.org/en/holocaustremembrance/PDF/Introduction%20to%20the%20Holocaust.pdf

– Shivam, UNA-GB intern

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?

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.
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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: http://yptoj.eventbrite.com

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

Motion to Reflect: 2012 Model UN Summer Institute Session 1 Recap

As temperatures rose in New England last week, 44 middle and high school students convened in the air conditioned classrooms of the Harvard Business School for a week of intensive global diplomacy training at the UNA-GB’s Model United Nations Summer Institute.  These budding global leaders chose to trade in traditional camp activities like archery, swimming and horse-back riding in order to debate, negotiate, and create resolutions to the world’s most pressing issues, honing the skills they will need as global citizens and leaders in the 21st century.

The students kicked off the week with ice breakers and activities geared towards understanding the UN and learning about the complexities of human rights law.  These activities taught the students effective debate skills, such as listening to each other and learning to respect and draw attention from the other delegates during the simulations. Throughout the week, students were introduced to international relations and critical 21st century skills like negotiation, public speaking and problem-solving through the lens of Model United Nations curriculum and simulations focused on terrorism and Human Rights. They had the unique opportunity to learn about the UN’s parliamentary procedure, formal debate vocabulary and how to complete high-level research through actual simulated debate and role play.

For the full simulation on Friday, the students teamed up in pairs to represent a UN member state in the General Assembly, allowing them the unique opportunity to step into the shoes of UN delegates and present their country’s position on conflict diamonds.  This involved significant group work and alliance building among countries in order to come up with possible solutions. These solutions were translated into UN resolutions that were then debated and voted on by all countries. 

In order to create a resolution, the students had to recognize and understand the complexity of each global issue and they had to take into account the various economic and political implications a resolution would have on different countries. They also had to reach a compromise amid widely conflicting country interests, from Zimbabwe to the UK to China.

The dedication, seriousness and excitement exhibited by the students throughout the week was impressive and inspiring to all staff and adults in attendance.  It was a real treat to see how realistic and impressive the debates were, and how the youth, no matter their age, were cooperative, motivated and committed to crafting feasible resolutions to modern day global challenges of terrorism and conflict diamonds.

We want to thank all of these future global leaders for giving up a week of their summer vacation to tackle the world’s pressing global challenges and to learn critical 21st century skills, all while having fun and building valuable friendships.  We hope to see some familiar faces next summer and at the Model UN programs during the year!

Stay tuned for student testimonies and additional feedback from the second session, to be held from July 9-July 13, serving 45 more young global advocates!

– Julia Kuperminc and Catherine Schrage

What Future Do You Want?: Rio+20 Kicks-Off in Brazil

Today thousands of participants, including world leaders, CEOs, and global citizens alike are convening in Rio de Janeiro for Rio +20, also known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the conference in Brazil and is an opportunity for us to reflect on the strides we have made in supporting our environment as well as what lies ahead in the future of sustainable development. In 1992, Earth Summit in Rio concluded with an adoption of Agenda 21, a framework for rethinking economic development; this year the UN hopes to take it further by bringing together institutions to agree on measures that promote development and help to alleviate poverty in the most sustainable ways.

The emphasis of the conference, which takes place from June 20 through 22, is “the future we want”; not only are we urging corporations, NGOs, and the everyday citizen to be more conscious of our environment today but we also need to look forward to future generations. “The Future We Want” taps into two main focuses of the Conference on Sustainable Development: green economies and international coordination. Rio+20 is also focusing on 7 key global environmental issues: jobs, energy, cities, food, oceans, water, disasters.

Essentially, how can we act together to establish a greener path for development, today, tomorrow, and in the long-run? UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement on YouTube last week expressing the future he wants? The Secretary-General’s statement promotes us to ask ourselves, “What is the future we want?”, and more importantly “How does Rio+20 factor into that?”

In a recent Guardian article, a UN official stated, “We want there to be more ambition so that it actually leads to sustainable development. At the moment, there is a risk that instead of the future we want, we will go back to the past we had.” Rio+20 serves as a forum for leaders from diverse backgrounds and sectors to come together and discuss ways in which we can move forward rather than backward.

Texts and documents have already been drafted through which corporations and groups pledge to make efforts to protect the environment. Yesterday 190 delegates drafted an agreement for approval on Friday, Rio+20’s last day, which addressed fossil fuel use, ocean protection, and support for renewable energy. The draft text is fittingly titled “The Future We Want” and delegates hope for it to act as a road map for businesses and policy makers in all areas.

Today the conference opens up with statements from Ban Ki-moon as well as Secretary-General of the conference both establishing their hopes for Rio+20 over the next few days and beyond.  High level round table discussions will take place in addition to countless side events throughout Rio de Janeiro. For forum and event schedules check out the take a look at the conference page.

Although Rio is nearly 5,000 miles from Boston, you don’t have to feel far away from the action.  Rio+20’s website has constant updates, and the Guardian’s Jo Confino and Adam Vaughan are detailing their experiences through daily diaries and live blogs. Rio+20’s webpage has an entire section dedicated to how you can be engaged and Rio+Social continues to be an easy way to be vocal.  Rio+Social, a social media conference and live stream which took place on June 19 let global citizens voice their opinions and express what they hope Rio+20 will accomplish. Although the live stream has passed, social media fans can still be involved by tweeting about sustainability using hash tags such as #rioplussocial or #rioplusfood, or going to Rio+Social on Twitter and Facebook. Liking and following UNA-GB on both Twitter and Facebook is also a great way to stay looped in!

Stay tuned for our post-conference reflection and analysis.  Additionally, we are continuing to answer the question about what is the future we want and are working towards here at UNA-GB, beyond Rio+20, and we hope you continue to join us.  While there’s a lot of ways to get involved, one exciting area we are growing here in Boston is our engagement around sustainable and responsible efforts of Boston and Massachusetts corporations.  Earlier this month, we teamed up with John Hancock Financial as they received their LEED Platinum certification for environmentally conscious design and joined some of their staff on a beach clean-up for World Environment Day. Additionally, at our annual United Nations Day Luncheon in October, we acknowledge several companies and universities that are signed onto the United Nations Global CompactPrinciples for Responsible Investment, and and the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) with our corporate honor roll. Not only do we gladly shine a light on the valuable efforts these institutions are making but we also hope to inspire other local companies to follow suit.  Stay tuned on ways to engage more in these efforts!

-Jessica P

Celebrating World Environment Day with a Boston Corporate LEEDer

Tomorrow, June 5, UNA-GB is teaming up with John Hancock Financial to celebrate the 40th anniversary of United Nations World Environment Day and its theme, “Green Economy: Does it include you?”

The annual World Environment Day was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972 as a way to raise awareness about environmental issues. UNEP focuses on several areas ranging from environmental governance to disasters, conflicts, and climate change, and encourages global citizens to care for our environment in order to improve our quality of life. World Environment Day serves to personalize environmental issues and urge civil society to realize that it is our responsibility to take action. Not only is WED a celebration but it is also an opportunity to come together and initiate change in support of sustainable lifestyles and development.

More specifically, this year WED will hone in on issues of green economies– economies that are low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. UNEP suggests that because  a green economy is socially inclusive that means that we as global citizens are integral in making a change, that it is not only up to businesses and policy-makers; this is where the bulk of this year’s theme comes into play.

These questions arise just as the UN is gearing up for the Rio+20 conference, taking place June 20-22. The conference marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon acknowledges World Environment Day as the perfect opportunity to prepare for Rio+20 and to reflect on how we fit into green economies (read his official statement here).  World leaders and thousands of participants from governments, NGOs, and the private sector will convene  to discuss “priority areas” including green economy and its role in poverty eradication. For more information on this topic, check out Rio+20’s green economy resource and this Guardian article on green jobs and how they can help lift workers out of poverty. And to get involved take a look at Rio’s page on engagement.

UNA-USA has sprung into action by responding to efforts to ban UN’s Agenda 21 and encouraging members to let their voices be heard and write letters to editors. Additionally, the UN Foundation has established Rio+Social and the 6 Minute Speech project as a way to connect to the event through social media- an easy way to get involved! Both organizations are hosting a live web conference on June 22 @ 1 PM EST to get an insider’s look at Rio+20’s sessions (RSVP here).

With all of those options there are still more opportunities to help! UNEP challenges us all to join in the WED  and Rio+20 action by not only asking ourselves how we can be included in promoting sustainable development but also by simply organizing a neighborhood clean-up, planting a tree, or even walking to work.  More than 8,400 WED activities, including Tuesday’s program at John Hancock, have been registered at UNEP’s global 2012 WED website.

This year John Hancock Financial’s headquarter offices at 601 Congress Street in downtown Boston became the first existing building in New England to become LEED certified at the platinum level by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) At UNA-GB’s event, John Hancock Financial will be recognized for its environmental commitment and leadership. Our hope is to encourage other corporations in the Boston area and beyond to take similar steps such as striving for the greener rankings as John Hancock did or by supporting environmental efforts elsewhere in their company or surrounding communities.

Although the event focuses on corporate action, we must not forget this year’s WED theme; does the green economy include you? We should ask ourselves what we can do to be more involved in environmental issues. UNA-GB will be volunteering with the Boston Harbor Association on Tuesday by cleaning a park near John Hancock at 12:30pm.

UNA-GB is also deeply committed to educating the next generation of global citizens about environmental sustainability beyond just World Environment Day – through our Model UN program this past year, more than 600 students have debated environmental topics, including clean water, green building and sustainable development.

What will you do to celebrate World Environment Day? What actions will you take to support the environment on June 5? And on June 6th and beyond? A great first step is to join us for World Environment Day on Tuesday. Hope to see you there! You can also check out how else you can support the planet with 50 Ways to Help.

Boston Event details recap:
Tuesday, June 5
Event at John Hancock Financial, 601 Congress Street
10:15-10:45 AM- Tour of John Hancock’s new LEED certified building
11:00-11:30 AM- Brief speaking engagement with UNA-GB Board President Richard Golob and State/city environmental officials.
12:00 pm- John Hancock vendor fair
12:30-1:30 PM- Park clean-up with Boston Harbor Association (To participate in the clean-up, email info@unagb.org your name!).

-Jessica P

Child Marriage Call & Response: An Afternoon of Action for Africa

ImageYesterday afternoon, May 21, the Women’s Forum@UNA-GB welcomed many guests to celebrate Africa Day with a delicious lunch and inspiring conversation. 50 community members and leaders joined us to raise awareness about the issue of early child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa. At noon the room was buzzing with lively conversation as guests enjoyed Kenyan dishes from Taste of Kilimanjaro Catering and delicious fresh fruit juices from Teranga Senegalese Restaurant.

UNA-GB Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships & Development, Kaitlin Hasseler, opened up the forum, framing how one goal of the Luncheon was to celebrate how far Africa has come – she shared hopeful statistics including that between 2000 and 2010 six of the ten fastest growing economies were African, the poverty rate has been on the decline by about 1% every year, educational opportunities have expanded and more girls are in school, and in 2010 Africa achieved a major global milestone when South Africa hosted the World Cup.  She then introduced Wamburu Mitaru, a Berklee student originally from Kenya, to start off the celebration with a powerful song dedicated to the children of Africa.

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Despite the encouraging progress in Africa, there are also significant challenges the region faces, including the 2nd highest rate of child marriage globally, which the panelists were then tasked with expanding upon.  The focus was not only on engaging in a dialogue about child marriage but also shining a light on those whom have already begun making a difference in their communities to combat the practice.  Blessing Rogers of Hope for Children International, Inc., Josephine Kulea of the Sambura Girls Foundation, and Amanda Grant-Rose of Lift Up Africa, offered different perspectives on the issue of child marriage. Ms. Rogers provided more information about the historical and cultural context surrounding the topic, explaining where the practice originated from and what kept communities tied to the practice.  Josephine spoke more about her organization and shared her personal experiences, including detailing a particular marriage intervention that she led in her home community of Samburu, Kenya.   Amanda Grant-Rose followed by highlighting Lift Up Africa’s work supporting the organization HELGA and their bride rescue project – this work is led by Priscilla, a Maasai woman who has earned the trust of her community and spent the past 2 decades rescuing girls and educating them (when Kaitlin visited this program in November 2011, she had rescued 706 girls at that point!).

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Our panelists- Blessing, Josephine, and Amanda

To close, our panelists offered simple action plans encouraging guests to share what they’ve learned and make small steps towards change:

  • Blessing shared that while we can’t all travel to Africa,  we can get engaged in advocacy efforts by voicing our opinions and communicating with state and federal bodies directly.  She  specifically mentioned organizations such as USAID.
  • Josephine asked for support to build a dorm/rescue center for her girls, underscoring the importance of concrete solutions that directly help the community (you can learn how to support these efforts here). She also invited attendees to sponsor a girl. 
  • Amanda encouraged everyone to go home and share what they learned with least 5 people about the broader issue of child marriage and what they can do, again stressing the importance of the impact that education and small actions can make.
  • Kaitlin emphasized the importance of educating the next generation, sharing information about UNA-GB’s partner, UN Foundation’s Girl Up Campaign, geared towards adolescent American girls, as well as UNA-GB’s Model UN program, which educates 6th-12th graders in Boston about critical global issues including child marriage.

Wamburu Mitaru ended the luncheon with another beautiful song that was a call and response with the audience – a fitting end to an event focused on how we as a community can answer the call to action on ending child marriage!

Thank you to everyone who attended and helped to make it a wonderful afternoon!  See more photos here from the Luncheon and stay tuned for upcoming events with our Women’s Forum on our event calendar.

-Jessica Pires

Introducing International Women’s Day 2012

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s when it was originally celebrated as International Working Women’s Day. It is recognized on March 8th every year and honors women’s economic, political, and social achievements.

Gender equality is a huge focus for the UN community, with Millennium Development Goal #3 specifically designed to empower women and girls, and dozens of the agencies and entities focused on gender-based initiatives.  In fact, this year honors the official one year anniversary of the creation of UN Women, a more powerful UN entity designed to help spread gender equality and women’s rights empowerment.

International Women’s Day is near and dear to UNA-GB, as we have celebrated it with an annual film screening and panel for the past few years.  This screening is the biggest event of our Women’s Forum, which was created in 2006 to raise awareness about women’s issues in developing countries and engage men and women in Boston on solutions.  You can learn more about this year’s screening below, and make sure to check out last year’s blog post on our screening event.

We hope you can join us at some (or all!) of the events listed below.  We will continue to update the blog as we learn of more events, so check back!  It’s important that we continue to work together towards eliminating discrimination and improving the lives of women all across the world.

International Women’s Day Film Screening and Panel

War Redefined with Series Producer Abigail E. Disney

When: Monday, March 5; 5:30 – 8:30 PM
Where:
MCLE Auditorium, 10 Winter Pl, Boston

Don’t miss UNA-GB’s annual International Women’s Day Celebration, featuring a film screening of War Redefined, the last of the Women, War & Peace series, produced by series executive producer Abigail E. Disney.  A panel discussion on the role of women in peace building and war will follow the film, featuring Abigail E. Disney, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Dr. Amani El Jack and Sahana Dharmapuri.  This is an incredibly timely topic, with 3 women peace-builders winning the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the Obama Administration’s December announcement of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and Secretary Clinton’s recent comments on the lack of women at high-level security talks.

War Redefined reframes our understanding of modern warfare through probing conversations with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright; Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee; Bosnian war crimes investigator Fadila Memisevic; Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International; globalization expert Moisés Naím; and Cynthia Enloe of Clark University, among others.

RSVP at http://iwd2012warredefined.eventbrite.com/

Along with hosting our annual International Women’s Day film screening and celebration, UNA-GB is also co-sponsoring some incredible International Women’s Day Events in Boston:

Ending Violence Against Women: Pathways to Power, Resilience and Leadership
International Women’s Day Breakfast

When: Thursday, March 8; 7:30-9:30 AM
Where: 
Simmons College, Linda K. Paresky Conference Center, Boston

Join UNA-GB and dozens of organizations around Boston in celebrating the city’s 15th Annual International Women’s Day Breakfast. Panel will include Purnima Mane, CEO and President of Pathfinder International, Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley, Audrey Porter of My Life My Choice and Ann Fleck Henderson from Simmons College.
RSVP at http://iwd2012.eventbrite.com/

Women for Women International’s Boston “Join Us at the Bridge” Event

When: March 8, 10am-12pm
Where:
Massachusetts Avenue Bridge Boston

Stand up with women around the world, honoring the strength of women working for equality, justice, and peace.

RSVP at http://joinmeonthebridge.org/events/massachusetts-ave-bridge

 Feeding Boston, Changing the World:  International Women’s Day 2012

When:  Saturday, March 10, 2012, 6-9pm
Where: 
Ballroom, Curry Student Center, Northeastern University
What
:  Panel discussion followed by a dinner celebration
Free and open to the public.  Spaces limited.  RSVP here.  

This International Women’s Day, Boston’s Oxfam Action Corps invites you to honor women who work the land, feed their families, and plow the way forward to more sustainable agricultural economies here and abroad.

 

Additional International Women’s Day Events around Boston:

End Impunity for Sexual Violence against Women and Girls

When: Thursday, March 8, 2012 5:00PM-7:30PM

Where: Old South Meeting House

In recognition of Int’l Women’s Day, this conference will take a critical look at international impunity for sexual violence and issue a resounding call to end it.

Latina Women’s Conference
Extraordinary Women fighting for Migration Justice

Where: MA State House
When:
Friday, March 9th, 2012 9:30- am- 3:00pm

Hosted by: Women in Solidarity Committee, whose network of Women in Solidarity is growing. 300 Latina women participated in 2011. Latina women advocated last year to opposed secure community program and create a community forum to reflect on violence and immigration issues.  Their goal is to create space for Latinas por el Cambio and expanded their reach to other places.  They founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers.
http://reddemujeres12.eventbrite.com/

Celebrate International Women’s Day Event at Gallery Kayafas

When: Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 7pm – 8:30pm

Where: Gallery Kayafas, 37 Thayer St. @450 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02118

Learn about AI’s work defending women’s rights featuring Zainab Abdullah, a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan who has recently returned from researching honor killings in Pakistan. She will be joined by Beena Sarwar, a leading Pakistani journalist and democracy, human rights, and peace advocate. Hosted by the Back Bay Amnesty Group. RSVP to Alexandra Prim by 3/5/12. Space is limited. Learn more.

Celebrate International Women’s Day at the Eritrean Community Center

Where: 590 Shawmut Ave, Boston
When:
Saturday, March 10th, 8-10pm

The Eritrean Community Center of Greater Boston works to promote social and cultural interactions among Eritrean-Americans as well as area residents and friends for mutual understanding and awareness, integration, economic self-sufficiency, Eritrean heritage, and youth leadership.

Click here

2012 International Women’s Day:

Rally & March

When: March 10, 12 PM

Where: Meet at the Boston Common at the Gazebo

Meet to kick of the rally and then we’ll take it to the streets with guest speakers at Court Street, State Street MBTA, and State House. All individuals and groups are encouraged to bring a banner or signs, instruments, and other creative forms of expression and march together in struggle for living wage jobs, universal healthcare and childcare for all.

Benefit Show

Where: Midway Café 3496 Washington St, Jamaica Plain 02130

When: March 10, 7 PM

Benefiting The Prison Birth Project & Girls Rock Campaign Boston  $5 at the door, 21+ event

To register email InternationalWomensDayBoston@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/events/245509598867806/

Harvard Kennedy School’s International Women’s Day Celebration 

When: March 8, 2012

Where: HKS campus, various locations

8:30 – 10:00am, Breakfast for faculty, students and staff

Allison Dining Room, Taubman building, 5th floor

The Women and Public Policy Program is hosting a breakfast with HKS Academic Dean, Iris Bohnet, women faculty from across Harvard, students, staff and other members of our community. All are welcome!

11:40am – 1:00pm, WAPPP Seminar: Women’s Health and Health System Reform: The Route to Transformational Development?

WAPPP Cason Seminar Room, Taubman Building, 102

Health system reform in the United States and globally holds the promise of improving the health and well-being of women and a major opportunity for development, particularlyin the developing world. Dr. Johnson will explore the intersection of health system reform and the opportunities for transformational development through improvements in women’s health status, workforce development, and advancing women’s rights.

6:00 – 8:00pm, Film Screening: Iron Jawed Angels

WAPPP Cason Seminar Room, Taubman Building, 102

“Iron Jawed Angels” tells the remarkable and little-known story of a group of passionate and dynamic young women who put their lives on the line to fight for American women’s right to vote.

http://hvrd.me/AuzJ1b

To learn more about even more events happening in your area, check out the International Women’s Day websiteLet us know if you find any other events in the Boston area to celebrate International Women’s Day, so that we can update this blog to help people stay connected and aware of how to get involved locally!

-Alyson R.