the eldersIn 2007, Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel discussed an idea: what if former leaders of the world used their previous experience and influence to establish a non-profit tackling pressing modern issues? The Elders, an independent organization led by global leaders who no longer hold public office and are independent of any government affiliation, was born.

Who Are The Elders?

The first and founding member of the organization was Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, who dedicated his life to ending apartheid. Like Mandela, peace makers, peace builders, social revolutionaries, and pioneering women comprise this group of influential individuals. The current Chair of the Elders is Mary Robinson, the first female Prime Minister of Ireland. Former Presidents of Mexico, Chile, and Liberia are also among the elite group. Currently, 11 individuals comprise the organization, while there are an additional five leaders considered “Elder Emeritus,” including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Focuses of The Elders

The Elders focus on six programming areas. Firstly, the organization works to support international cooperation in solving issues that threaten all global citizens. For example, The Elders believe that nuclear weapons are a threat to all humans on Earth and are working on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The organization believes that the only way to achieve this, and many other overarching goals, is through practical steps and global cooperation. The Elders also use their experience in peace making and building to aid in securing peaceful solutions to conflicts throughout the world. Specific priorities of the Elders include tension and conflict in the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East, and Zimbabwe.

Through global and country-level lobbying and activity, the Elders aim to build support for the importance of universal health coverage. Through keynote speeches and visits to countries in need of healthcare, the Elders are committed to achieving universal health coverage. The organization also believes that global complacency in climate change is one of the largest injustices in human history. To combat climate change, the organization is seeking to ease the transition to a low carbon economy and encourage creative solutions to keeping the planet sustainable.

In response to the number of migrants and refugees, The Elders works to keep struggles of these individuals at the forefront of the news and the minds of the public. Lastly, the group works with governments and countries to ensure that access to justice remains an important human right.

This esteemed group of individuals has massive impacts in unstable regions of the world, from Israel and Palestine to Sudan and South Sudan. Using its six programming focuses, the organization tackles a massive variety of issues, challenging injustice and praising and supporting strong governments and ethical leadership.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

presidents who experienced povertyGrowing up poor can place hindrances and obstacles on the path to one’s success and achievements in life. It can hurt education opportunities, employment opportunities and recreational activities such as hobbies and skills. However, there have been American presidents who experienced poverty at some point in their lives. Despite this, each managed to climb the political ladder to the top.

Here are five American presidents who experienced poverty:

  1. Harry S. Truman – Preceded by Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was the 33rd President of the United States. His presidential term last from April 1945 through January 1953. He is well-known globally for the establishment of the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine and NATO. Although Truman had a humble upbringing, he often had a chaotic financial situation due to his poor investment choices. He also had unsuccessful business ventures such as a men’s clothing store and a mining and oil company.
  2. Ulysses S. Grant – The 18th president from 1869 to 1877. Unlike Truman, he never had the opportunity to turn around his financial situation. He eventually became bankrupt after he lost $100,000 due to the fraudulent behavior of his son’s business partner. Grant was well-known for being a national hero following the Civil War after President Abraham Lincoln made Grant a brigadier general. It was only after his death that he was able to provide finances to his family, leaving them with around half a million dollars, sourced from his Civil War memoirs.
  3. William Henry Harrison – He was a farm owner so he was quite dependent on agricultural factors for his wealth. Unfortunately, while he was serving as the Ambassador to Colombia, the harsh weather destroyed his crops. This naturally steered to his failure to accumulate much wealth. Harrison was the ninth president for 31 days in 1841 before he died of natural diseases. While he may not have had much time in office to prove his capabilities, he had military experiences that stood out.
  4. Thomas Jefferson – One of the founding fathers, he was the third president of the U.S. between 1801-1809. He was the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Additionally, he served as the second vice president from 1797 to 1801. Although he started with affluence, he accumulated a lot of debt throughout his life. He was not able to take care of his debts as he could not find buyers for his land. As a result, his daughter did not inherit much and had to live off charity.
  5. James A. Garfield – He served as the 20th president of the United States in 1881 for around six months until he was assassinated. He had served as a general during the American Civil War and attempted to fight off corruption in the post office. Garfield was born into poverty and worked many jobs such as being a carpenter or a janitor so that he can get through college. Since he was dedicated to being a public servant, he did not have much room to be able to accumulate much wealth. By the time of his assassination, he was penniless.

These American presidents who experienced poverty shed light on the fact that even the brightest or the most capable among us who can lead a nation like the United States can be living in poverty. Economic empowerment and education opportunities can be presented to all talented potentials, thus eradicating global poverty and reducing global inequality in all spheres.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Google Images

Kofi Annan QuotesBorn into an aristocratic family in Ghana in 1939, Kofi Annan’s experience with advocacy began at a young age. His education taught him early that suffering anywhere was an issue of global concern. By the time he graduated in 1957, Ghana had achieved independence from Britain, igniting his passion for international relations. That would follow him into a lifetime of civil service, beginning at the United Nations in 1962. He served in a number of capacities during his time at the U.N., including Peacekeeping Operations during the Rwandan genocide. He eventually filled the role of Secretary-General of the United Nations Security Council in 1997. Kofi Annan was a gifted speaker who left an impression on many people worldwide.

Top 12 Kofi Annan Quotes

  1. “We are not only all responsible for each other’s security. We are also, in some measure, responsible for each other’s welfare. Global solidarity is both necessary and possible. It is necessary because without a measure of solidarity no society can be truly stable, and no one’s prosperity truly secure.”
  2. Education is, quite simply, peace-building by another name. It is the most effective form of defense spending there is.”
  3. “What governments and people don’t realize is that sometimes the collective interest – the international interest – is also the national interest.”
  4. “Today’s real borders are not between nations, but between powerful and powerless, free and fettered, privileged and humiliated. Today, no walls can separate humanitarian or human rights crises in one part of the world from national security crises in another.”
  5. “I have always believed that on important issues, the leaders must lead. Where the leaders fail to lead, and people are really concerned about it, the people will take the lead and make the leaders follow.”
  6. Open markets offer the only realistic hope of pulling billions of people in developing countries out of abject poverty, while sustaining prosperity in the industrialized world.”
  7. “We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.”
  8. “We have the means and the capacity to deal with our problems, if only we can find the political will.”
  9. “If one is going to err, one should err on the side of liberty and freedom.”
  10. “You are never too young to lead and you should never doubt your capacity to triumph where others have not.”
  11. “In the 21st century, I believe the mission of the United Nations will be defined by a new, more profound awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion.”
  12. “The world is not ours to keep. We hold it in trust for future generations.”

Themes of Kofi Annan Quotes

These top 12 quotes by Kofi Annan focus on themes of peace, global stability, leadership and advocacy. These are themes that defined Annan’s career and legacy. In December of 2001, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside the United Nations, for his work towards ending the HIV/AIDS crisis. This was a landmark achievement in his career and a massive step in combating the epidemic.

Kofi Annan’s Legacy

His retirement from the United Nations by no means signaled an end to his commitment to civil service and advocacy. Annan went on to continue promoting a more peaceful and stable world through work with multiple organizations in his home country, even contributing to peace efforts in Syria’s civil war.

On August 18, 2018, the world lost Kofi Annan to illness. But his legacy lives on, not only in these top Kofi Annan quotes, but in the continued impact of his actions and words on the world of advocacy and peace.

Photo: Flickr

Senator Cory Booker
With people looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is in the spotlight for many Americans. Advocacy for foreign aid and establishing good relations with other countries have been prioritized in his campaign and throughout his congressional leadership. This advocacy is reflected in his speech, campaigning and most importantly, his sponsorship and co-sponsorship of several bills.

AGOA & MCA Modernization Act

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennium Challenge Act (MCA) have already gone into effect and have been successful in sub-Saharan African countries. Senator Booker supports updating these acts, which will enhance the successes the U.S. is seeing from the original laws. Modernizing these programs will benefit the U.S. by increasing transportation, communication and energy networks, and will open the U.S. market to these sub-Saharan African countries.

READ Act

As a Rhodes Scholar recipient, it is not surprising that Senator Booker cares deeply about education. Booker co-sponsored the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act (READ Act) to support the right to basic education in developing nations. The READ Act partners with impoverished nations to develop a quality curriculum, stabilize the education system and help children become successful in literacy and numeracy. Achieving these goals will increase the number of skilled workers in the future, which will benefit the nation’s development.

Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2018

Another example of Senator Booker’s interest in humanitarian and foreign aid is his co-signing of the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2018. This bill calls for U.S. action and aid regarding the thousands of displaced Rohingya people of Burma. Booker agrees that the U.S. should invest $104 million of foreign aid in Burma to help the victims of the Burmese civil war, restore the nation’s economy and establish democracy in the nation. It will also call for those responsible for crimes against humanity to be held accountable.

Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017

Senator Booker and several other senators, both Republican and Democrat, co-signed the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017. This bill would hold Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad accountable for his war crimes and brutalities against Syrian people over the last seven years. As stated on his official website, Booker sees the issue of violent extremism, whether foreign or domestic, as a priority issue for Congress.

Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017

The Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017 aims to decrease corruption in designated countries. Many countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, struggle with government corruption and very little is being done about it. Senator Booker has already expressed his concern for the ongoing political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so it comes as no surprise that he co-signed this bill to alleviate global corruption.

As a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Booker supports several foreign policy and aid bills that The Borgen Project advocates for. His hard work, advocacy and relentless fight for humanitarian aid and foreign relations for the U.S. make Senator Cory Booker one of the most popular junior senators America has seen.

– Courtney Hambrecht

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Top Civil Rights Leaders
During the earlier years of U.S. history, slavery and oppression created some of America’s oldest top civil rights leaders. Susan B. Anthony, Chief Joseph, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are only a few of the many people who fought back in the face of adversity.

Paving the Way

1851: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are two big names in women’s civil rights. Together, they worked toward social and political advances for women. They established the American Equal Rights Association, which aimed to earn women and African American men voting rights. Other accomplishments were forming the Women’s Loyal National League, which gave women a political platform, and writing an amendment that was proposed to the Senate every year for 40 years. These two women are responsible for some of the rights American women have today.

1853: Harriet Tubman is one of the most well known civil rights leaders associated with U.S. slavery. Tubman helped more than 300 slaves reach freedom with the well-known Underground Railroad. Tubman saved her own money, and supporters donated funds to help her continue her mission to free enslaved African Americans. While Tubman is most famous for her work with the Underground Railroad, she also provided invaluable services during the Civil War.

1877: In an effort to avoid the slaughter and oppression of his tribe, Chief Joseph led the Nez Perce people on a 1,400-mile journey from the Wallowa Valley (now Oregon) toward Canada. This four-month long venture was treacherous for the Nez people. Many of the original 700 had lost their lives and the remaining could not continue, which forced Chief Joseph to surrender just 40 miles from the Canadian border. Although he admitted defeat in the end, Chief Joseph is one of the top civil rights leaders because he stood up to fight for what he believed in while facing an oppressive government.

These inspirational people carved the road for the next civil rights leaders to come a century later.

Civil Rights Movement

1955: Rosa Parks faced discrimination on a bus ride, where she was asked to give up her seat to a white man. She refused, which led to her arrest and her rise to civil rights leadership. Her wrongful arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest by 17,000 African American citizens. This caused a substantial drop in revenue and a Supreme Court ruling to desegregate the Montgomery buses, because the law was deemed unconstitutional. Parks received severe backlash after the boycott and even lost her job as a tailor, but she still persevered. Parks is one of America’s top civil rights leaders because she continued the fight for African Americans and created change.

1963: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is maybe the most famous champion of human rights. He led peaceful marches and demonstrations protesting the discrimination African Americans faced in the U.S. His movement inspired the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and his words are often the inspiration of equality speeches today. Dr. King was faced with arrest, hate and violence from the people of Birmingham, Alabama. Yet he stood tall in the face of controversy and remained peaceful throughout his civil rights leadership. He preached of a world in which people were no longer divided by race, a message which still resonates with many today.

1965: Malcolm X faced racism all his life and channeled it through anger for a significant portion of his activism. He was known for a radicalized activism during the Civil Rights Movement and was viewed as a black nationalist who had an alternative approach to change. It was widely known that his delivery of the message of change contrasted Dr. King’s peaceful message. However, toward the end of his civil rights leadership, he had an apparent ideological change. Unfortunately, like many other civil rights trailblazers, he was assassinated before he could see a significant change in America.

The Fight Continues

The effortless work of past civil rights leaders has not ended; they merely passed the torch on to activists fighting today. Some of the current top civil rights leaders are:

Tarana Burke: Burke fights for the rights of victims of sexual assault and abuse. She is also the creator of the Me Too movement.

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi: Creators of the Black Lives Matter group, which protests police brutality and institutional racism.

Chad Griffin: President of Human Rights Campaign, which is one of America’s largest gender and sexual minorities civil rights organization.

Nihad Awad: The leader of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic advocacy organization that monitors hate crimes, profiling and discrimination against Muslim Americans.

Benjamin Crump: A civil rights attorney who speaks and represents cases for minorities who have experienced police brutality.

Michelle Alexander: Alexander is a civil rights lawyer who works against the systematic racial oppression of the African American men that disproportionately fill the nation’s prisons.

Throughout history, people have fought for their own civil rights around the world. Whether it was Nelson Mandela creating a national strike against the South African government, Malala Yousafzai journaling girl’s right to education, or Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi refusing to get out of his first-class seat on a train—activism is everywhere and has a ripple effect. Through protesting and standing up for their own rights, these former and current activists have made the top civil rights leaders list.

– Courtney Hambrecht

 

Young African Leaders Initiative

President Obama launched the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in 2010 in an effort to invest in the next generation of African change-makers. Through regional training centers, student exchange programs and follow-up resources, YALI empowers young African leaders to “spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Despite its short tenure, YALI is already establishing itself as a force for good. Here are three success stories from the Young African Leaders Initiative: 

Food For All Africa

Elijah Amoo Addo, a former chef at a restaurant in Accra, Ghana, used the leadership and business skills he learned from YALI to help launch Food For All Africa (FFAA), the first community food bank in Ghana. In 2011, Elijah noticed a homeless man rummaging through a dumpster for leftovers to feed his friends on the street. Moved by the encounter, Elijah began eliminating waste at his restaurant, saving the surplus food to feed the needier members of his community.

Three years later, Elijah applied to YALI’s s West Africa Regional Leadership Center to amplify his vision of feeding the hungry. Today, FFAA saves and redistributes up to $5,700 worth of food each month. Elijah, who hopes to expand services to other African regions within the next five years, is one of the true success stories from the Young African Leaders Initiative. 

Lead Oak Foundation

While working at the primary health center of Benin City, Nigeria, primary care doctor Ajimegor Ikuenobe was disturbed by the scale of the malnutrition problem among the children in the community. After researching solutions to the crisis, Dr. Ikuenobe discovered a formula of maize, soya bean and groundnut that was high in the essential nutrients developing children need. Dr. Ikuenobe started Lead Oak Foundation to distribute the formula to vulnerable communities and to provide clothing, health consultations and cooking demonstrations to mothers and caregivers.

In 2017, Dr. Ikuenobe was selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, YALI’s flagship program. The fellowship empowers leaders through academic coursework, leadership training and networking opportunities. The Fellows are selected between the ages of 25 and 35, and “have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries.”

YALI Network

In addition to the Mandela Washington Fellowship and the regional training centers, another success story from the Young African Leaders Initiative comes in the form of the YALI Network, an online platform where members can connect with other leaders in their community and learn from experts in their field. The YALI Network also offers a range of training, blogs and other toolkits to help amplify impacts.

Whether its members are hoping to solve specific problems like Elijah and Ikuenobe, promote human rights, start a small business or simply improve their public speaking skills, YALI is empowering the next generation of African change-makers.

– Whiting Tennis

Photo: Flickr

current dictators
The definition of “dictator” can be subjective and interpreted differently in different contexts. Definitions can range from “a person with unlimited governmental power” to “a ruler who has complete power in a country obtained by force and uses it unfairly or cruelly.”

However, it is evident that dictator-led countries are generally associated with severe poverty, repression and human rights abuses among the general population. Countries suffering under the rule of a dictatorship often experience rising mental illness rates, decreased health and life expectancy, famine, poor education and other problems.

Although the number of dictatorships have been decreasing, there are several dictators still in power today. This list details eight of the world’s current dictators and the poverty rates associated with each country.

Current Dictators

  1. Kim Jong-un
    Kim Jong-un is North Korea’s current dictator and the third generation Kim to rule the country, following the death of his father Kim Jong-il in 2011. As Supreme Leader (many dictators do not call themselves dictators), he follows the political regimen of the Workers’ Party of Korea and has heavily focused on the country’s nuclear weapons program over the wellbeing of North Korean citizens. Forty percent of the nation, which is about 24 million people, lives below the poverty line.
  2. Pierre Nkurunziza
    One of the most violent dictatorships has occurred in Burundi under the rule of Pierre Nkurunziza, a former rebel turned president. Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005 and was re-elected for a third term in 2015, has changed the country’s constitution to allow unlimited presidential terms. In May 2018, Burundi is headed for a constitutional referendum, which would extend Nkurunziza’s rule to 2034.Throughout Nkurunziza’s dictatorial regime, he has been known for purging ethnic Tutsi army officers, suppressing opposition and media and ordering murderous brutality committed against protesters of his extended rule. Additionally, Burundi has some of the highest rates of malnutrition among children under five anywhere in the world, seven million reported malaria cases in 2017 and a 64.6 percent poverty rate overall.
  3. Nicolás Maduro
    Following Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s death, socialist Nicolás Maduro came to power in 2013. Maduro has continued “chavismo,” the corrupt ideology of Chávez, which has destroyed the economy of Venezuela, causing drastic inflation, food and medicine shortages, high unemployment and economic reliance on oil. Venezuela’s poverty rate has spiked to 82 percent.
  4. Bashar Al-Assad
    Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, has been in power since his father, President Hafez Assad, died in 2000. The Syrian people were hopeful that he would bring about the economic and political reforms that Syrians had been calling for, but it never happened and Syrian’s economy has plummeted due to a civil war that broke out in 2011.Bashar al-Assad is responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths since the Arab Spring, and more than 82 percent of Syrians are living below the poverty line.
  5. Idriss Déby
    Idriss Déby came to power in a military coup and has been ruling Chad since 1990. Déby has accelerated a bloody proxy war between Chad and Sudan throughout the 2000s and has been known to suppress opposition and the press. Chad has a 46.7 percent poverty rate, despite a surplus of oil, uranium and gold.
  6. Paul Kagame
    Since coming to power as president of Rwanda in 2000, Kagame has actually reduced poverty. He has introduced free basic education, boosted trade and lowered maternal and child mortality by more than 50 percent.However, Kagame’s rule still comes with great restrictions on freedoms and widespread oppression, particularly regarding the government-appointed media and their efforts to shut down independent newspapers and radio stations. Rwanda’s poverty rate is currently at 39.1 percent.
  7. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
    Erdoğan was the prime minister of Turkey from 2003-2014 until he became president in 2014. Erdoğan has suppressed opposition by closing universities and firing civil servants, and has urged the citizens of Turkey to conceive more children, while child and adolescent malnutrition, extreme lack of healthcare and inflation due to monthly increases in food prices have been greater concerns. Turkey’s poverty rate is at 21.9 percent.
  8. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
    In Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been ruling an authoritarian government since 1979. Freedom of association and assembly are harshly restricted under Mbasogo’s violent and oppressive rule, and essential healthcare and primary education improvements have been ignored. Mbasogo profits from billions of dollars of oil exports, but 76.8 percent of Equatorial Guinea’s population lives in poverty.

Although dictatorships are not as common now as they were in the past, the regimes of the world’s current dictators are still brutal, tyrannical, violent and repressive. The world’s most oppressed countries suffer under the autocratic rule of these current dictators, and there is still much progress to be made.

– Natalie Shaw

Photo: Flickr


In February, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting leadership and governance across Africa, dispenses the $5 million honor to former African heads of state that “have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people.”

Mo Ibrahim Prize

Johnson Sirleaf is the fifth recipient of this honor, which is reserved for democratically elected leaders who, in the previous three years, have demonstrated leadership and left office following legally mandated terms. Previous winners include the former presidents of Mozambique, Botswana, Cape Verde and Namibia.

The selection committee, which chose not to issue the award in 2015 and 2016, selected Johnson Sirleaf for having “led a process of reconciliation” in Liberia in the aftermath of the nation’s civil war. The first female recipient of the Ibrahim Prize, Johnson Sirleaf became the first democratically elected African head of state when she was inaugurated as President of Liberia in 2006.

In many ways, Johnson Sirleaf’s journey mirrors that of her country — both have weathered significant tumult and overcome controversy in their search for stability.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born and raised in Liberia, and eventually came to the United States to study, earning an MBA from Harvard in 1972. She was back in Liberia working as a finance official, when, in 1980, a staff sergeant led a coup which ousted its president. The coup, which resulted from tensions between the indigenous people and the Americo-Liberians – descendants of settlers who came to the nation as part of a program of the American Colonization Society – commenced the nation’s descent into chaos.

Johnson Sirleaf managed to escape to the United States. Following an interlude working in international finance, she returned to Liberia and ran for the Senate, but was arrested and sentenced to work in a labor camp. Mounting international pressure culminated in her release after less than a year of her ten-year sentence.

Tensions between competing militias intensified, thrusting the nation into further violence and civil war. Forced to flee once more, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took a job at the United Nations.

Development and Women’s Rights

She returned to Liberia in 1997, and lost her presidential bid before being elected in 2005. During her tenure, she leveraged her ties with international organizations to bring development assistance to Liberia. She also prioritized women’s rights and stopping “gender-based violence, building ‘capacity’ and furthering reconciliation among former combatants” to stabilize the country.

Helped by her financial expertise, Liberia succeeded in having much of its international debt forgiven, and also managed to secure significant foreign direct investment to a nation whose infrastructure had been decimated by its civil wars.

Johnson Sirleaf’s presidency was punctuated by the Ebola crisis; under her leadership, Liberia became the first of three nations to stop the outbreak.

Faults and Success

Despite her successes, Johnson Sirleaf’s presidency was not without controversy. She faced substantial criticism for her brief support of the warlord Charles Taylor in 1990 and she also weathered charges of nepotism for her appointment of her sons to government posts. Critics consider this behavior a regrettable irony for a leader who made combating corruption a hallmark of her campaign.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation recognized these “shortcomings” but chose to issue the award because Liberia was the only nation in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance which improved its scores in each category during Johnson Sirleaf’s tenure.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Flickr

Advocates for Refugees
Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to world leaders to make a greater effort to become advocates for refugees. The secretary-general called helping refugees a “moral obligation.”

His comments came after the conclusion of the Sept. 19 U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants.

U.N. member states unanimously adopted the New York Declaration, which expresses the “political will” of world leaders to protect the rights and dignity of refugees, hence becoming advocates for refugees.

U.N. leaders urged world leaders to ensure all refugee children receive education within months of arrival in Europe. The declaration also called for an expansion of economic opportunities for refugees.

The declaration also petitioned leaders to support countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants. Turkey, Greece, Germany and France have taken in large numbers of refugees, while other European nations and the U.S. have resisted relocation efforts.

Civil unrest and Islamic extremism in the Middle East drove 1.3 million from their homes, most of these people have found political asylum in Europe. However, asylum does not always entail adequate living conditions.

Around 60,000 Middle Eastern refugees are currently stranded in Greece awaiting processing and relocation in Europe. The refugees are held in a massive tent city under appalling inhumane conditions.

In France over 1,000 unaccompanied minors live in squatter camps in and around the coastal town of Calais. The camp, which is called “The Jungle” by locals, is home to thousands of refugees hoping for a better life in the United Kingdom.

The U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants addressed the question of refugee food security. Ki-moon urged leaders to make policy decisions which would empower immigrants to seek and hold employment. To become sustainable, migrants need to have access to land, banking services and freedom of movement.

World leaders at the U.N. summit did more than just craft a paper promise. Under the U.N. directive, more children will be able to attend school and get an education. More immigrants will be able to seek safe, sustainable employment. By making poverty alleviation a top priority, the U.N. has opened a door to opportunity for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Peter Nilson

Photo: Flickr

Possible Female Leadership at the United Nations
Recently, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was time for women to lead the United Nations. As elections are approaching the end of the year, there are eleven candidates among which six are women. This could be a historic first time for female leadership at the United Nations since the organization was created 70 years ago.

Ki-moon said that it was high time now for a female leader. He further elaborated: “We have many distinguished and eminent women leaders in national governments or other organizations or even business communities, political communities, and cultural and every aspect of our life. […] There’s no reason why not in the United Nations.”

Generally, there are strong voices that call for a woman leader. There is an impatient demand, which is higher than ever, for women to lead the United Nations. The female candidates definitely have their chances and it’s now their time to shine.

People are excited to see how a female leader would continue using soft power and coalition tactics to pursue U.N. goals. The new leader will set the tone and vision of the organization for the next decade. A female leader could definitely bring a much-needed change.

Furthermore, the women aspiring to a leadership role in the United Nations demonstrate interesting qualifications and well-experienced cadres. Many have worked in their respective governments but also in handling many projects related to the United Nations. Each woman candidate can bring a whole lot of shift in the U.N. with their diverse practical experience.

Women have been underrepresented in the United Nations. A new female chief will certainly address this critical issue. This is part of achieving gender equality on a global, leadership level. A female U.N. chief will also shed the light on women groups and issues related to feminism, education and equality that would otherwise be overshadowed by superpowers in favor of other issues.

Another interesting fact is that women make up almost half of the population of the world. However, they only hold 25 percent of the U.N. highest positions. Thus, having female leadership at the United Nations would significantly change the view of women worldwide. The world would see women leaders as equally capable of handling international crises with high qualifications and potential.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr