The disheartening practice of using children as child soldiers is widely practiced in sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of Asia and South America. Currently, there are about 300,000 children involved in conflicts around the world. Most of these boys and girls are forced while others join to escape poverty and abuse or to seek revenge. Those that are forced are often stolen, maimed, drugged, raped, and used as sex slaves.
Child soldiers are often used to serve government forces and opposition groups. Not only do these children work in the front lines but they also work as messengers and spies. Some even participate in suicide missions. UNICEF defines a child soldier as “any child-boy or girl- under 18 years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, including, but not limited to: cooks, porters, messengers, and anyone accompanying such groups other than family members. It includes girls and boys recruited for forced sexual purposes and/or forced marriage. The definition, therefore, does not only refer to a child who is carrying, or has carried, weapons.”
To try to put an end to the recruitment of child soldiers, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered and was put into force in 2002. This convention “outlaws the involvement of children under age 18 in hostilities” and requires States “to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment beyond the current minimum of 15.” Other efforts include those made by the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which makes it a war crime to enlist children under the age of 15 in hostilities by national armed forces or armed groups.
Many other efforts have been made by organizations such as UNICEF and The Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative to help put an end to this appalling practice. UNICEF, for example, partners with other NGOS to provide care, technical guidance, and financial support for the implementation of programs for DDR (disarmament, demobilization, reintegration). UNICEF works in places such as the Great Lakes region of Africa, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, to name a few. The Romeo Daillaire Initiative, on the other hand, provides research, advocacy, and security sector training. It works directly with military, police, and peacekeeping forces to break the recruitment of child soldiers.
Ending the use of child soldiers is not an easy task but with such efforts it can eventually be eliminated. Want to learn more about child soldiers? We were inspired to write this blog after hearing a former child solider, Ishmael Beah speak about his experiences. We encourage everyone to read his book “A long way gone: Memoirs of a boy solider” and to check out this website to see how you can get involved: http://www.child-soldiers.org
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.
“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!
“At a time when the U.S. and United Nations are working together to address the world’s most pressing challenges — from humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa and Haiti, to political crises and violence in Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Afghanistan — it’s more important than ever that America maintain its longstanding commitment to global leadership and engagement.” This quote comes from The Better World Campaign’s “Let US Lead” petition. The petition is a place where individuals can go to show their support for the United Nations and their feelings on a new bill (H.R. 2829), recently introduced in Congress, that threatens to cut U.S. funding of the UN.
The bill, introduced by the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and 57 co-sponsors, is being called a “Bad bill for everyone,” by the Economist, while CNN has referred to it as a “temper tantrum,”. To put it simply, the bill threatens to make substantial cuts to UN funding as well as all funding to agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme.
The piece of legislation, or “United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act,” puts much of the good that the UN does throughout the world – such as feeding children impacted by famine and disease, and taking care of refugees – in serious jeopardy. Likewise, the bill would devastate US leadership within the UN, damage critical US national interests, alienate US allies, and put heavier costs on US taxpayers. If passed this new legislation wouldn’t just be harmful to US interests, but it would cause serious detriment within the UN. Such damage would mostly be due to the fact that since its founding the UN’s biggest contributor has been the US. Currently, the US funds 22% of the UN’s regular budget and more than 27% of its peacekeeping budget. Of the UN’s $22.3 billion budget, the US paid $6.4 billion. Because of the US’s continued high involvement and investment into the UN, its withdrawal of support would severely inhibit the organization’s ability to follow through on its commitments.
So why was this bill even introduced if it has the ability to be so harmful to the UN? First, Ros-Lentinen has been a critic of the UN for a long time. She believes the UN has been continuously plagued by scandal, mismanagement and inaction. Thus, her legislation, if passed, would withhold US funds to the UN if the organization does not change its funding systems so that dues are paid on a voluntary basis rather than an assessed one as it stands now. Specifically, as proposed by the bill the UN would have two years to phase in funding reform before the US withholds funds. After those two years the US would begin by withholding half of its contributions to the UN regular budget if less than 80% of the UN’s budget is not funded voluntarily at that time.
The second issue that Ros-Lehtinen has with the UN is its potential to support a Palestinian statehood proposal. She explained to her colleagues that the purpose of her bill is to also avoid a Palestinian self-declared state which she believes would “short-circuit the negotiating process, and would severely undermine opportunities for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” As a result her bill includes funding cuts to UNRWA, the agency that administers Palestinian refugee camps in the occupied territories and neighboring Arab countries. UNRWA’s budget for the fiscal year 2011 is currently set at $230 million. In this portion of the bill there is currently no condition attached to the cuts, Ros-Lehtinen simply wants to cut off funding to UNRWA.
As the Economist reported, the reality of the situation is that threats of funding cuts will most likely not be a deciding factor as to whether or not Palestinian statehood will be recognized. Rather, a Palestinian statehood proposal will be voted on in the UN’s General Assembly where, as it stands now, the 2/3rds vote in favor of recognition is likely to be met. However, Ghana, India, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Eritrea, France and the Dominican Republic are likely to not change their votes because of the US’s threat to cut off funding to UNICEF – a huge supporter of their states.
In an interview with The Cable on Wednesday, September 7th Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) said that Ros-Lehtinen’s bill was “ill-advised” and “probably dead on arrival.” Berman said he can never see this bill becoming an actual law.
“I think there are some radical proposals here,” Berman said. “I understand the frustration with a number of the U.N.’s actions and I share her frustration and anger at many of them. But the U.N. does tremendous amounts of good work. If you wipe out the funding base of the U.N., as her proposal does, you get the bad stuff but you will eviscerate the good things they are doing.”
Likewise, the White House has openly spoken negatively about the bill, saying that President Obama and his administration opposes the legislation, and although it is believed within the administration that the UN does need reform, this is not the correct way to go about it. Instead the White House suggests that the U.S. work with the UN to continue to make it stronger and more flexible.
Now more than ever is a grassroots movement supporting the good work of the UN important! Visit Let US Lead today and tell Congress to oppose H.R. 2829 by signing the petition. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. You can also schedule an in-person meeting with your member of Congress during the Columbus Day recess (Oct. 13-30). To receive more information on these issues, contact Roger Nokes at UNA-USA for talking points and meeting materials. This is a great way to really ensure that your voice is being heard during this crucial time for the both the UN and America.
If you want to get more involved on advocacy in the Boston area, UNA-GB invites you to join us at our Annual Meeting (September 28) where our programs and priorities for the year will be discussed in depth. It is a fantastic opportunity to get connected on these issues and network with other like minded global citizens in the area – register here today!
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 debt. Cuts 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 email@example.com 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.
Here’s another post for our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series! This week you can learn about Child Poverty throughout the world and the efforts being made to help the fight against child poverty and child labor so that future generations can develop. You can also check out our past blog posts to learn about more global topics: “A Historical Moment For Genocide”, “Two Sides To Invest”, “An Undefined Grasp Of Failure”, “A Necessary Priority”, “A Reform For The World” and “The Rural Challenge”. Check back next Monday for another blog post!
About 45 % of children in Latin America and the Caribbean live in a state of poverty.
his means that child poverty affects nearly 81 million children and adolescents in these regions of the world! As defined by the UN General Assembly in 2007, child poverty is “the deprivation of nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation, and protection”. Nutrition is immensely important in a child’s life for lack of it can cause damage in early childhood and have harmful long-term effects on the child’s health. Despite this, about 30 million children are born each year with impaired growth due to poor nutrition. Possible solutions to unhealthy diets include proper education on healthy eating habits and income support (healthy food tends to cost more than unhealthy substitutes).
Education, including that learned in school and from one’s social interactions and environment, can be a means of escaping poverty because it improves the chances that the child will have a good income and be able to afford the necessities denied him/her by poverty. Unfortunately, a child’s ability to receive a quality education is largely based on the family’s finances, seeing as how an education costs money. Sadly, a family’s low financial status increases the chances of the child being forced into child labor so as to help support the family and himself/herself. While working as a child can make school for the individual possible (working for the money that will fund their education), child labor can also be a means of a child getting stuck in poverty by hurting the child’s health or keeping him/her tied down by low-skilled work. However, child labor that offers the child the ability of a formal education or out of poverty and is not dangerous to the child is not the worst option. As a country, it is important to determine the nature of the child labor before completely banning what may, in fact, be helping.
A range of factors contributes to child poverty. An example of such are the natural disasters that constantly plague the Caribbean, leaving the countries in disrepair and economic strife. The fact that children are not represented in policies to the same extent as adults also allows child poverty to prevail because they are not being protected by laws or governments. Despite the various contributors to child poverty, one theory remains quite evident: the failure to effectively end child poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean produces a cycle of hardship that passes on to generations while further limiting the future opportunities for these children.
United Nations milestones such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted in 1989) and the establishment of the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1946 have made great strides to dealing with and eventually ending child poverty. Defined by UNICEF, the Convention is “an international treaty that recognizes the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of 18 years old”. The Committee on the Rights of the Child ensures that countries are working towards “ensuring that all children have access to education and healthcare, the ability to reach their potential and abilities, grow up in a positive environment of love and happiness, and benefit from protection and assistance”. UNICEF has participated in much humanitarian work aimed at child poverty and works through TACRO (UNICEF’s regional office for the Americas and the Caribbean) to support and work with other organizations like the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization in order to advocate for good nutrition practices in Latin America and the Caribbean. Overall, although child poverty remains an issue of international affairs, the UN and its organizations continue to work towards the cease of this epidemic.
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!
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.
Influential moves were made with the decisions of UN Headquarters this week, as the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was re-elected for a second term.
Celebrities were also spotted around the globe supporting the missions and goals of the organization. The week started off strong, with the Vienna Energy Forum 2011 in Vienna, Austria as celebrity and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger made the opening keynote speech in his homeland, proud to be given the opportunity to speak at the event. Actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie also visited refugees in Turkey and Italy in support of World Refugees Day 2011. Later in the week, singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira visited children in Israel inspiring them to reach towards the world of education.
Following in the footsteps of Shakira, the UN is encouraging involvement in the development of education specifically in Southern Sudan. The region will be officially independent of the country of Sudan itself early next month and is in looking for a developed start to educate its future. The UN also urges the need for midwifery services in the world to give children a future from the second they are born, with the potential of saving 3.6 million lives a year. Not only helping the children, but also saving the mothers, as the first ever UN International Widows’ Day was also recognized this week.
Beyond youth and education, great concern is discussed this week of drug use and violence in the world and its effect on global security. The global environment is also being effected, as rainforests in Honduras and Indonesia and previously a Wildlife Sanctuary in India earlier in the week are being effected.
Here in the US this week, as the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supports US President Obama’s decision to begin withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan, in hopes that the country’s leadership will begin to develop on its own. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also encouraged the importance of our national involvement in climate control with the development of our cities. With support of our cities’ progress, he pushes towards environmentally-friendly considerations to be made for the future. Along with the his encouragement of these environmentally-friendly considerations, a new goal has been made for 2015, as the importance of sanitation needs be available to half of those in need today.
The week has finished with purpose, as we look forward to new beginnings and developing changes and ended the week with the UN Public Service Day. Join another celebrity and learn about more global affairs over the weekend. Tune into “Nepal’s Stolen Children” documentary with actress Demi Moore about trafficking and what can be done to help the future.
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.
Five days after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan’s north-east coast at 2:46 p.m. local time, the official death toll is now more than 4,300. More than 8,000 people are still missing, and half a million are homeless. Hundreds of national and international rescue teams are leading the relief effort.
Friday’s earthquake in Japan was the country’s strongest recorded quake. It hit north-east of the main island of Honshu; its epicenter was undersea, about 400 kilometers northeast of the Japanese capital, Tokyo. The quake triggered a powerful subsequent tsunami that inundated towns, villages and farmlands along the coast and devastated dozens of coastal communities. The devastation is of such magnitude that it is hard to imagine some of the communities ever being rebuilt. Town after town has been wiped away.
Now, Japan is facing another frightening reality — the possibility of a radioactive leak stemming from a second reactor at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. Since the earthquake knocked out the plant’s cooling systems over the weekend, the crisis at the Fukushima plant has mounted. The first three reactors have already exploded due to build up of hydrogen gases. The repeated releases of different amounts of radiation — some large, some small — are cause for concern. (For the latest news and updates, check here).
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his sorrow on Friday: “I want to express my deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people and Government, and most especially to those who lost family and friends in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami…” Mr. Ban said the UN would do all it could to mobilize humanitarian assistance and disaster risk reduction teams as soon as possible.
A United Nations disaster team arrived in Japan two days ago, and local officials have asked the world body to dispatch a team of nuclear safety experts as emergency operations continue in the wake of Friday’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. The United Nations has also called an emergency meeting to discuss possible solutions to Japan’s deepening nuclear crisis.
According to the UN, a seven-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team will set up an on-site operations center to help Japanese authorities disseminate accurate and timely information on the disaster and the emergency efforts. The team of specialists will travel to affected areas in the days ahead to assess the humanitarian needs, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). They will also assist the Japanese Government in providing advice on incoming international relief goods and services.
Even though Boston is close to 7,000 miles away from Japan, there are ways for YOU to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Please consider making a donation through UNICEF, The World Food Programme, or The UN Foundation. Every contribution can help make a difference. Consider donating today and please stay tuned for additional ways to get involved as the relief efforts develop!