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.
Check out this week’s blog post from our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series. This week, learn about the modernization of international relations through history and reform of the UN Security Council in preparation for a MUN simulation coming up on UN Day . Also, check out our last five blog posts from the series: “Creating A Road To Democracy”, “A Historical Moment For Genocide”, “Two Sides To Invest”, “An Undefined Grasp Of Failure” and “A Necessary Priority”.
If there is one thing that international relations experts agree on unanimously, it is that the modern international system has changed drastically since its origins in the aftermath of World War II. The shadow of fascism no longer hangs over Europe and Asia; the “Iron Curtain” has been pulled back; and, perhaps most importantly, large developing countries are beginning to emerge on the “world stage”. Despite these major shifts in world politics in the past half-century, much of the international system’s critical infrastructure remains exactly as it has always been. Recently, calls for reform have grown louder as rising powers are eager to take to the helm of the international system. In particular, many nations are calling for reform of the UN Security Council to better reflect the current dynamics of world politics.
The Charter of the United Nations charges the Security Council – the most powerful and important organ of the UN – with “the maintenance of international peace and security”. The founders of the UN gave five victors of World War II – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China – permanent seats on the Council with the power to veto any of the Council’s resolutions. The General Assembly (GA) of the UN elects the remaining 10 non-permanent members on the Council (none of whom holds veto power) for two-year terms. Although frequently criticized, this structure has barely changed since the founding of the UN, with the notable exception of an expansion of the Council from 11 to 15 members in 1965.
The most controversial characteristic of the Security Council is the “veto power” afforded to the five “permanent members” (aka. the “P-5”). Initially developed as an incentive to develop consensus and to maintain the absolute sovereignty of the world’s leading powers, the veto is sometimes criticized as a relic of a bygone era and an impediment to the Council’s effectiveness. Notably, the veto power effectively prevents the Security Council from resolving conflicts between its permanent members. For example, during the Cold War, the Security Council held a much less important role in maintaining international peace and security than it does today due to the competing vetoes of the United States and the Soviet Union. More recently, the veto power prevented the Security Council from addressing the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. Some also argue that countries abuse their veto power for political gain. For example, China sometimes vetoes resolutions that send aid to nations that recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation. While criticism of the veto power is widespread, it is unlikely to disappear any time soon, as its elimination would require the approval of the very nations that possess it.
A more likely scenario for Security Council reform would be further expansion of its membership. Many criticize the fact that the Council has two permanent European members (UK & France), yet no permanent members from Africa, Latin America, or South Asia/Middle East. While most nations agree that a larger Council would be more representative of the international community, there is little consensus on how to expand or who would receive the new seats. One proposal would expand the number of permanent members but not the veto power. New permanent seats could go to resurgent and/or emergent world powers such as Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria or Mexico. Other proposals involve expanding the number of non-permanent seats, or some combination of the two. However, as the current permanent members must approve any reforms, there are many roadblocks to these proposals. Today, we know more about which nations the “P-5” would refuse to allow permanent seats than we do about which nations they could support. For example, China fiercely opposes a permanent seat for rival Japan and all permanent members fear diluting their significant clout on the Council. However, US President Barack Obama has notably endorsed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the Council. Although potential expansion of the Council appears to be gaining steam, it remains to be seen if the international community can overcome the necessary challenges.
Reform of the Security Council appears necessary and inevitable in order for the international system to retain its legitimacy and successfully prevent conflict. However, many critics argue that reform would make the Council more representative, but not more effective. For now, the dominant viewpoint is that emerging and resurgent powers must mature before they can take to the helm of maintaining international peace and security.
However reform unfolds, this issue is clearly among the most complex debates taking place at the UN today! We invite you to debate the issue with us at this year’s United Nations Day celebrations on October 24, 2011!
– Nicholas Blake, Education Intern
A cozy back room in one of Boston’s oldest gathering places was the perfect setting for the most recent event held by the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. On the evening of Friday January 14, 2011 guests bundled up and braved the elements to attend the networking meet and greet with Edward Elmendorf, President of UNA-USA.
The event, held at the Union Oyster House, was a successful gathering of voices from many corners of the globe. There was a warm excitement in the air that encouraged connections. Among the wide array of attendees were members of the UNA-GB Board and Advisory Council, community members and students. As a guest I could not help but feel humbly nostalgic as we gathered to share ideas and hopes for a more peaceful global community in the heart of the city that hatched a revolution for freedom.
During the second half of the event Elmendorf called on his 40+ years of experience in foreign affairs to provide guidance and inspiration to listeners. He spoke to the group about the role of the UN, the United States and each individual as we shape the 21st century. He called attention to the mission of the UNA and the many influences affecting global policies today. He especially emphasized the importance of each person and the power of a united cause. One direct way for us to get involved on a local level is to become advocates for a stronger UN and stronger foreign affairs policies. Elmendorf shared UNA-USA’s advocacy agenda for 2011, which included the 4 core issues of securing US-UN funding, advancing human rights through the UN, encouraging US ratification of international treaties; and supporting the Millennium Development Goals. These are issues that we all can take on and work to gain support for among our friends, family, and elected officials.
Following his speech Elmendorf addressed many thought-provoking issues raised by event goers during a question and answer session. He responded to both criticism and praise for the UN. One suggested book he recommended was Thomas Weiss’ “What’s Wrong with the UN and How to Fix It”, as well as UNA-USA’s official publication “A Global Agenda: Issues Before the UN.” In closing he provided advice to those interested in increased involvement on the local, national and international levels.
Overall the meet and greet was a great kick-off to the 2011 year! We are excited for what’s in store this year and hope you’ll join us, and join the conversation on how we all can engage on issues of international significance today, tomorrow and in the future!
Though yesterday was a warm, gorgeous day, a large turnout took time out of the sun to join us for our annual UN Day Ceremony at the State House. As sweet harmonies of Women of the World flowed through the air, the room surrounding the Grand Staircase quickly filled with people and buzzed with friendly networking and conversation. The ceremony began with a wonderful welcome and introduction from Alma Morrison, the clerk of our Board of Directors, and Lena Granberg, our Executive Director. Then, our lovely student ambassadors, Ricky Hanzich of Harvard University and Natalie Prolman of Northeastern University read the governor’s UN Day Proclamation and a message from our Secretary-General (read it here!).
This year, we gathered to celebrate 65 years of the United Nations’ service to the international community. We had the honor of having the Permanent Judge of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as the keynote speaker. Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, also known as Judge T, shared his experiences as a judge in prosecuting war criminals responsible for the genocide and other crimes against humanity that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. He expressed compelling thoughts on justice and reconciliation for these war criminals and their victims sparking fascinating discussion and Q&A.
The ceremony closed with an amazing musical performance by Berklee’s Women of the World. This ensemble of women from Japan, India, US, Greece and Brazil combined their incredible voices and music to perform two touching African songs which left the entire room in awe and united with hope for world peace.
It was truly a beautiful day to conclude our 2010 UN Day Celebrations! Check out the pictures here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=92231&id=1438526316&fbid=1656940670230!
Thank you to our partner organizations and all our attendees! We hope to see you again at our future events!
The UNA-GB will be hosting several events in Boston this year around United Nations Day, which commemorates the day the UN Charter came into effect – help us celebrate 65 years of service to the global community! We’ll kick off our events with a brief flag-raising ceremony in front of City Hall at Government Center on Friday, October 22nd at 11:45 AM. The UN Flag will be flying through Monday so if you are in the area, stop by and check it out!
The UN Day Luncheon will be held on Tuesday October 26th at the Boston Harbor Hotel, and there will be a UN Day Ceremony at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, October 28th. Check out more details below.
Corresponding with our events, our Student Ambassadors will be holding events on their campuses throughout the Boston Area at Harvard, Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, UMass Lowell, and Brandeis. Find out more about each school’s Ambassadors and events on the UNA-GB Student Ambassadors Wiki Page!
Tuesday, October 26TH, 2010
Join us on Tuesday, October 26th at the Boston Harbor Hotel! We are very excited to welcome Ambassador Anne Anderson, Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She has a very distinguished career in the diplomatic service and was the first female ambassador to the European Union. We are looking forward to Ambassador Anderson’s remark, which focus on “Our Collective Challenge: Restoring the Authority of the United Nations.”
This event brings together internationally focused business, government, and academic professionals in the Greater Boston, and recognizes the historic connection between Boston and Ireland. By coming to the luncheon, you are helping to sustain and expand the UNA-GB’s educational programs and forums on critical global issues. Reserve your seat here!
Thursday, October 28TH, 2010
The State House Ceremony will feature a keynote address from Professor Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, Permanent Judge of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Judge Tuzmukhamedov was nominated to the post by the Russian Government and appointed to the position by the UN Secretary General in August 2009. The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was created in November 1994 and prosecutes the crimes of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. This is an excellent opportunity to hear from a high-ranking member of the Tribunal about his experiences and reflections on international criminal justice. RSVP now!
The ceremony will also display the UN Day Proclamations of Massachusetts cities and towns, along with musical entertainment provided by Berklee’s Women of the World.
The ensemble consists of women from around the world, who together create rich tapestries of culture and sound as they perform both original and traditional songs.
We hope you can make it out this year to celebrate 65 years of global cooperation and advocacy with us!!
On August 10, Young Professionals for International Cooperation (YPIC), held its annual meeting for 2010. The meeting started off with members and prospective members discussing their personal backgrounds, international experiences and interests over pizza and drinks. With the onset of the meeting, Dan Sullivan, YPIC Chair, gave a brief history of the United Nations and YPIC. He also explained that the goal of YPIC to promote increased awareness of social issues and of the United Nations among those between the ages of 18 and 40.
Other leadership committee members including Nate Tassinari spoke about recent events YPIC has held (the Spring Panel Discussion on Fair Trade) and its next event, Taste of Russia, a dinner at a Russian restaurant in Brookline in mid-September to discuss Russia-related topics and to enjoy great food with YPIC members. Lastly, questions were answered and ideas for next year were discussed.
YPIC welcomes you to become a member, attend events, and apply to join the leadership committee.
For more information on how to get involved with YPIC, check out YPIC’s website, blog and Facebook page! Or just send an e-mail to YPIC@unagb.org with your contact information to receive YPIC event announcements and updates.
The UNA-GB hosts many fantastic events for its members throughout the greater Boston Area. In addition to this, it also reaches out to area public and charter schools to provide young middle and high school students a chance to participate in Model UN. Our Education interns in the office help run these programs by writing topic guides (on Clean Water, for instance) and teaching the students how to act as if they were Ambassadors to the United Nations debating an issue before the General Assembly or another UN body. I recently sat in on a Model UN simulation at Northeastern University, and it was a great experience!
Two Education interns, Deenah and Allison, acted as moderators while the middle school students debated the issue of “animal trafficking.” When the debate became rowdy, Deenah and Ali simply had to quietly murmur “Decorum” or tap a wooden gavel on the plastic table, and the students immediately quieted down.
Students represented various countries that included India, France, Mexico, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Italy, and a slew of others. Animal trafficking really seemed to strike a chord with the students as they passionately debated different solutions to the issue such as taxation or extended jail time. It was amazing to see how far they extended their thinking, including how to deal with corrupt law enforcement, the possibility of creating an animal sanctuary, and even organizing charity walks to promote awareness of the issue.
I think the best part of this experience was seeing the kids work through their differences and come to common solutions. I will admit it seemed to get heated at times as everyone had their own opinion and wanted to be heard. Although the students attended different schools, to some extent they were able to break through that initial awkwardness and work together. They embraced the fun and comfortable setting, immersing themselves in the language of the UN in every aspect of life–even when requesting ‘a point of personal privilege’ to use the bathroom.
The simulation will help them out later in life with public speaking abilities, conflict resolution in their daily lives, and even prospective interviews for future employment. Although I only witnessed the last few hours of the simulation (it had been going on all week), it seemed to me that these students were much more confident than I or any other of my peers had been at that age.
At the end of the assembly, they were given the opportunity to give feedback–what they thought went well and what they should work on if they chose to participate in the future.
I was impressed by how spot-on the kids were with their strengths and weaknesses, how they could diplomatically express weaknesses while also modestly congratulate their strengths.
It made me wish that I had had the opportunity to participate in Model UN when I was younger.
More to come!
“We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women. We do not finish breakfast without being dependent on more than half of the world. When we arise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge which is provided for us by a Pacific Islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a Frenchman. The towel is provided by a Turk. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are beholden to more than half the world.”
These are the words of Martin Luther King Jr in his book Strength to Love and were reiterated last week at the Fair Trade Panel for Young Professionals hosted by UNA-GB’s Young Professionals for International Cooperation (YPIC) and co-sponsored by Boston Faith and Justice Network. The panel included speakers from Boston Faith and Justice Network, Proxy Apparel, a sweatshop free apparel company and Autonomie Project, a fair trade apparel and footwear company.
Even more so than in Dr. King’s time, we are exposed to global products and processes in our everyday lives. Whether it is the food that travels thousands of miles to arrive at the local grocery store or the garments that are cut, sewed, dyed, embroidered, and packaged around the world before arriving at the nearest shopping mall, the everyday products we buy have global connections and can significantly affect producers’ lives.
Last week, the YPIC panel discussed how audience members can make more informed decisions as consumers that will improve the lives of the producers: buying sweatshop-free items and Fair Trade certified items, which may guarantee consumers that fair wages and labor conditions were involved with the production process.
In essence, your simple everyday purchases can help or discourage trade justice in the world and can mean food on the table for a farm worker’s family. The panelists made it clear that our purchases do have global consequences and it is up to us to demand Fair Trade products in the supermarket and in our shopping malls. One way to care is to provide only Fair Trade items in your place of work. This is a part of a greater movement by Fair Trade Boston to declare Boston a Fair Trade City in 2010.
A simple way I personally plan to be more proactive about my purchases by asking store managers where products are made, if the products are Fair Trade and whether the products were made in non-sweatshop conditions. Only if we take action can we make a difference to more just production practices.
My name is Patrick and I am a Programs and Membership intern this summer at the UNA-GB. A Boston native, I am currently an undergraduate studying History and International Relations at Tufts University.
On Monday, July 12, the International Criminal Court made international and judicial history when it officially charged current Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide.
Based in the Dutch city of the Hague, the ICC had previously issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes in May 2009, but the announcement of yesterday’s arrest warrant is the first to specifically reference “genocide” and is a dramatic change from the Court’s assertion of just over a year ago that there was no sufficient evidence to support such a charge. He is the first sitting head of state to ever have been indicted by the ICC and the first charged with genocide.
The conflict in Darfur, controversially and contentiously categorized as state-sponsored genocide, has been raging since February 2003 and continues despite a peace treaty signed in February earlier this year. Ethnic conflict between the North’s Afro-Arabs and the South’s black Africans, who have claimed to be systematically oppressed by the Sudanese government, has led to a UN-estimate of over 300,000 deaths and close to 3 million displaced in the western-most region of Darfur. As the violence has increased and the number of refugees has grown, neighboring countries such as Chad and Eritrea become implicated as well, allegedly throwing their support behind the many black African factions. Reports of murder and rape coming out of the region have been widespread over the past half-decade, despite the involvement of the African Union, the United Nations, and numerous international human rights groups.
President al-Bashir is accused of fostering traditional North-South ethnic tensions to enable his Arab-led government to successfully carry out genocide against Sudan’s black community under the veil of domestic strife and civil war. The new ICC warrant claims, “There are reasonable grounds to believe that (Omar al-Bashir) acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups” in Darfur, which includes “genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction.”
Whereas the International Court of Justice, the principal judiciary arm of the United Nations, handles cases involving states and national governments, the ICC, legally independent but financially and politically affiliated with the UN, claims individuals jurisdiction over individuals. A comparison of the two organizations can be found here.
The ICC came to fruition with the ratification of the Rome Treaty in 2002 (which the United States both voted against and has since stated it does not intend on becoming a member – see our affiliate USA for the International Criminal Court). While the ICC includes all of Europe and most of Latin American and Africa as its members, it does not have the support of most of the Middle East, nor four of the world’s largest and most influential states – India, China, Russia, and the United States. As Sudan having never ratified the Rome Treaty, Al-Bashir does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC and refuses to stand trial.
A lecture on war crimes and international justice sponsored by the UNA-GB is being planned for the late fall, and we are extremely interesting in engaging with the international community and the people of Boston on the issue.
Be sure to stay informed and check back soon for more information.