prince zeid
Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan has unanimously been approved by consensus in the General Assembly as new High Commissioner for Human Rights. Zeid was nominated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month to replace former Ms. Pillay, whose term ends in August. Prince Zeid is an experienced diplomat and an avid campaigner for international justice. Zeid is currently Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Zeid is highly qualified for the position from his experience serving as an officer in the Jordanian desert police and serving on the U.N. protection force in former Yugoslavia. He has been the ambassador to the United Nations twice as well as ambassador to the United States from 2007-2010.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is mandated to promote and protect the enjoyment and realization of rights for all people codified in international human rights law and treaties. It prevents human rights violations, promoting human rights and coordinating activities throughout the U.N. The Office leads an effort to integrate human rights in all U.N. agencies.

Zeid will be the first Human Rights Chief from the Asian continent and the first from the Muslim and Arab worlds. This is an enormous step forward for the international community.

“Needless to say this reflects the commitment of the international community towards this important dossier and its commitment to push it forward in this continent as well as in other regions of the world,” said Zeid.

Zeid stressed his commitment to the job and recognizes that it takes wisdom and high levels of coordination with different governments, civil society and all U.N. agencies. He has been a strong supporter of the International Criminal court and has spoken out against sexual violence.

Catherine Ulrich

Sources: UN, ABC News
Photo: Alarab Alyawm

In a recent address, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President John Ashe stated that a framework of accountability is essential in the development of post-2015 goals and their success. President Ashe expressed that such a mechanism “must be inclusive, transparent and based on mutual respect; it must promote mutual learning; it will need to contain feedback and/or inputs from the national to the regional and global levels; and it must fully utilize the new potential of data and technology.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also recognized the possibility of failure if a system of accountability is not put into place, or if it is not implemented properly. “Any framework for accountability must apply to all, taking into account their different capacities and responsibilities. Accountability mechanisms and platforms should be nimble and decentralized.”

Established by the UN in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals were an attempt to increase development and meet the needs of a global community. The goals include:

1. Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger

2. Attaining universal primary education

3. Promoting gender equality

4. Reducing child mortality

5. Improving maternal health

6. Combating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria

7. Ensuring environmental sustainability

8. Establishing a global partnership for development

The target date for the completion of these goals was set for 2015, and with less than two years left until the deadline, the UN and other global partners have begun discussing a post-2015 development agenda.

The Secretary General also stated in a report that four fundamentals must form the foundation of the post-2015 agenda: a far-reaching vision of the future firmly anchored in human rights and universally accepted values and principles, a set of concise goals and targets aimed at realizing the priorities of the agenda, a global partnership for development to mobilize means of implementation and a participatory monitoring framework for tracking progress and mutual accountability mechanisms for all stakeholders.

UNESCO released a document summarizing their own concerns of the future of the Education for All (EFA) goals after 2015. Their stated “thematic priorities” include:

1. Establishing early childhood care and education as the foundation of learning

2. Enhancing youth and adult literacy

3. Recognizing the central role of teachers for delivering quality education

4. Increasing emphasis on skills for life and for work

5. Strengthening of education for sustainable development and global citizenship

In their statement on the operationalization of a post-2015 agenda, UNESCO also recognized the need for an accountability framework that is flexible enough to account for different educational priorities across countries and adapt to changing global situations.

As development of the agenda has progressed, it has become clear that the intention is not to abandon the Millennium goals in favor of more easily attainable markers, but to continue their pursuit through more effective means.

– Kristen Bezner

Sources: UNESCO, UN General Assembly Report, UN News Centre
Photo: UN News Centre

This week in an interview with PBS, reporter Judy Woodruff, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown stated that $6 billion is what it would take to put 57 million children in primary school. This is the goal established by the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), launched in 2012 by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It is part of a larger goal to achieve universal primary education by December 2015, one of the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN in 2010.

In addition to the 57 million children this $6 billion would help, 71 million do not receive any education after this point. Those who do may be taught by ill-equipped teachers without the necessary books and supplies. This $6 billion would pay for teachers, classrooms, textbooks and other supplies necessary to provide education to children around the world. There are also other barriers preventing universal access to quality education, however. Child labor, denied access to education for women and the arranged marriages of girls as young as 12 are all challenges that must be met and overcome before any kind of permanent solution can take hold.

But Brown points out in his interview that in several countries, citizens are already fighting these issues. He cites campaigns against child labor, anti-rape protests and women fighting for their education and against child marriages in Bangladesh. The social climate is transitioning to one in which movements for universal education can flourish, which is proof to donor countries like the United States that this money will create positive change.

In order to make universal primary education a reality GEFI has cited three priorities: (1) putting every child in school, (2) improving the quality of learning and (3) fostering global citizenship. In a statement made in 2012 about GEFI and its goals, Ki-moon states that “education empowers people with the knowledge, skills and values they need to build a better world.” Education is necessary for creating a global community and eradicating poverty around the world.

In 2013, HR 2780, also known as the Education for All Act, was introduced and referred to committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, this bill would enact a chosen strategy for developing global education and allow the President to allot funds to foreign countries for this purpose. Each year, the United States spends $30 billion on foreign aid, less than 1 percent of the national budget. It only takes $6 billion, a relatively small amount, to expand the opportunity of education to every child in the world.

So how much is $6 billion?

  • The cost of the 2012 presidential campaign.
  • 1/3 the amount Americans paid in credit card late fees last year.
  • 1/10th the amount Americans are estimated to spend on pets this year.
  • 1/16th the amount Americans spent on beer last year.
  • The net worth of S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chik-fil-a.

What can be done with $6 billion instead?

  • Build primary schools around the world.
  • Hire educators who are passionate about teaching.
  • Purchase supplies to ensure the success of students.
  • Grant millions of children the chance for education.

The gains that have been made in global education in the past few decades are monumental. In the past 25 years, worldwide literacy rates have increased by 33 percent, and primary school enrollment has tripled. In the past 15 years, Botswana doubled school enrollment rates. Today, more children are in school than ever, and the world is only $6 billion away from including every child in that statistic. This may seem like a lot of money to the average citizen, but for a country like the United States it is minimal. By supporting the Education for All Act and increasing the foreign aid budget by a small amount, we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn, grow and escape the cycle of poverty.

– Kristen Bezner

Sources: GovTrack, PBS News Hour, Global Education First Initiative, LA Times, Forbes, The Seattle Times, Mental Floss, The Borgen Project
Photo: United Nations

Although countries offered more than $2.4 billion to help Syrian civilians who are struggling due to the civil conflict, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this amount is simply not enough.

According to Ki-moon, “$6.5 billion was needed to provide medical care, food, water and shelter for Syrian refugees and civilians inside the country this year.”

On behalf of the United States, Secretary of State John Kerry pledged $380 million in new assistance. It is true that other countries have offered more than what the U.S. is willing to give this time around. However, the U.S. has provided $1.7 billion since the conflict emerged, making it Syria’s top donor.

Even if enough assistance is generated, there are barriers that reduce or prevent the flow of aid offered to Syrian civilians from reaching their hands. According to Kerry, no aid would be enough in the first place until the Syrian president discontinues “using starvation as a weapon of war.”

Another problem is in the past, not all donor nations actually provided the amount they originally promised. In 2013, only 70 percent of the aid offered by nations actually made it to Syrians. The remaining amount was not given.

Despite the efforts of providing humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians, more money is being spent to destroy the chemical weapons of Syria. According to an article published in The Atlantic, “The U.S. Army’s Chemical Materials Agency oversaw the destruction of just over 28,364 tons of chemical weapons – nearly 90 percent of the U.S. stockpile – for an estimated cost of $28 billion”.

The authors argue this strategy is worth the money and it will eliminate the possibility that terrorists would acquire the chemical weapons of Syria.

All of this is to suggest that the case of Syria is undoubtedly complicated. On one hand, not funding the destruction of chemical weapons may haunt the U.S. in the long run; on the other hand, according to the New York Times article, “the situation in Syria is worsening so rapidly that the humanitarian needs seems to outpace the resources promised.” Moreover, the article claims that roughly 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced and over 2.3 million became refugees in other countries.

Dealing with the political situation in Syria requires careful planning by the U.S. due to the polarized nature of the state. Perhaps the only solution to this mess is if more donors are willing to pledge a generous amount of money for humanitarian aid. In the meantime, there is no way to tell when the civil war in Syria will end.

– Juan Campos

Sources: New York Times, The Atlantic
Photo: VOA News

“Millions of children are victims of violence and exploitation. They are physically and emotionally vulnerable and they can be scarred for life by mental or emotional abuse. That is why children should always have the first claim on our attention and resources. They must be at the heart of our thinking on challenges we are addressing on a daily basis. We know what to do, and we know how to do it. The means are at hand, it is up to us to seize the opportunity and build a world that is fit for children,” remarked Ban Ki-moon, Secretarty-General of the United Nations on November 20, 2009, on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Just as Ban Ki-moon mentioned, children are not physically or mentally ready to enter the labor force. With the lack of physical abilities, the safety of the workplace cannot be ensured, for both the children and other employees. In fact, children are more likely to be abused and mistreated in an environment centering around child labor.

“Few human rights abuses are so widely condemned, yet so widely practiced. Let us make (child labor) a priority. Because a child in danger is a child that cannot wait,” stated Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General. Around the world, more than 211 million children between the age of 5 and 14 are being forced to work. Among these children, 120 million children are working full time.

To eradicate child labor, people should first understand what leads to such situations. For example, poverty is the first and foremost reason of child labor.  Since many parents do not have the capability to support their household, children end up working to help support the family’s daily lives. Another reason for child labor is a poor education system.

When education is expensive or not readily available, impoverished parents do not see the benefit of learning and think that working is a better alternative. In the United States, there are many laws that prohibit child labor, however, in some countries, child labor laws exist, but are not enforced. Companies can thus take advantage of the cheap labor and further exploit it.

On the other hand, many organizations have been striving to put a stop to child labor by various programs. For example, the United Nations has been running campaigns to raise the awareness of child labor across various nations and airing them in global events such as the World Cup. Moreover, in order to raise the level of education in poverty stricken areas, the Red Cross and governments of third world countries have been recruiting teachers to volunteer in remote areas.

Phong Pham

Sources: Child Labor Public Education Project, UN: Agencies Urge Greater Action, International Labor Rights Forum, UN: Child Labor
Photo: Addicting Info


Facts about Child Labor

MDG Youth Conference
The UN Headquarters welcomed hundreds of young people from all corners of the globe to bring their ideas to the table. The focus of the conference was to figure out ways to achieve the Millennium Development Goals ahead of the 2015 deadline and to continue with poverty reducing measures beyond the expiration date. The conference lasted four days.

The eight Millennium Development Goals were set in 2000, when leaders of the world’s most powerful nations met at a UN summit to discuss the most pressing issues facing humanity. There they agreed on a time-table for achieving their goals and ending global poverty. The goals focused on alleviating poverty and hunger, expanding access to education and health care, and fighting gender inequality, among other things.

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN, addressed the youth of the world via video. “The clock is ticking on the MDGs and much remains to be done,” he said. He emphasized the importance of young people around the world demanding accountability from their leaders and sharing their ideas. The Secretary-General noted that this generation of young people is the largest the world has ever known and that they are able to utilize technology to communicate like never before. But he also noted that the current generation of youth faces unique challenges like dwindling resources, lack of opportunities, and climate change. “It is important to recognize the importance of harnessing the passion and drive of this generation of young adults to propel us into a future of international peace, development and cooperation,” said the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser.

Jennifer Bills

Sources: UN News, The Borgen Project

July 6, 2013 marked the International Day of Co-operatives, a type of organization that is integral to development and one of the most common institutions at village level in Africa. The International Day of Co-operatives was created to “increase awareness of co-operatives and promote the movement’s successes and ideals of international solidarity, economic efficiency, equality, and world peace,” according to the International Co-operative Alliance’s website.

Co-operatives are membership-based organizations owned by the people who benefit directly from the co-operative’s goods and services. The International Co-operative Alliance defines a co-operative as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.” In essence, co-operatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the very members that they serve.

Co-operatives come in all forms, ranging from consumer to producer organizations, and they help promote ethics and values in business and economics as they are run directly by those using their services. Snake-charmers in Ethiopia or village credit co-operatives are two diverse examples of co-operative organizations.

Self-help projects are often pursued through co-ops, enabling small farmers or labor groups to pool resources to gain a strong bargaining power and lower the prices of goods and services. There are over 1 billion members of co-operatives around the world. Given the power that co-operatives yield to consumers and producers alike, they are crucial for development and empowering the poor.

This is why the UN created the International Day of Co-operatives, and why last year was also the International Year of Co-operatives. Co-operative organizations help organize the informal economy in the developing world and, like labor unions, unite members of the developing world in a way that gives them more bargaining and purchasing power. As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.”

– Martin Drake

Sources: The Guardian, ICA, UN
Photo: IFAD

Malala Yousafzai rose to international recognition when she and her classmates were shot by the Taliban when they attempted to go to school in Pakistan. She has been voted one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine and now she is going to visit the UN on Friday, July 12th to tell her story and raise awareness of global education.

Yousafzai was only 15 when members of the Taliban shot her and her friends while they were taking the bus to school after all schools for girls were shut down in Pakistan. They wanted to teach her a lesson and show everyone else what would happen if they dared to stand up for themselves. The gunmen targeterd her because she was not just a school girl, she was also the voice of her generation as a blogger about the injustices they suffered under the hand of the Taliban.

Since the incident, Yousafzai has returned to school and has even been reunited with some of her old friends. She was the first to sign the UN Special Envoy for Education petition urging immediate action to make sure every child receives an education, and for her actions she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.  November 10th is known as Malala Day and it is clear that she is not only one of the most well-known students in the world, but one of the most potent as well.

The United Nations will be holding a youth assembly dubbed Malala Day this Friday, giving young people the chance to run the UN for the day. Yousafzai will be joined by hundreds of other students from over 80 countries for this event. Each one will tell their story and try to bring international attention to the pressing need of education. There are around 57 million children missing out on a primary education, as well as over 120 million teens and young adults without basic reading and writing skills. Without an education, these children will be incapable of getting jobs into today’s changing world market when they become adults. Therefore they will continue to live in poverty and feed the cycle of poverty.

The Secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, has started the Global Education First Initiative. The main goals of the initiative are to get every child in school, provide a safe learning environment for students, and improve the quality of education. In a op-ed piece about Malala’s impending visit with Huffington Post he stated, “We must do all we can to ensure that schools are safe and secure learning spaces. Nowhere in the world should it be an act of bravery for an adult to teach or a girl to go to school.” He believes that in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals and prepare for their deadline in 2015, we must focus on the importance of a good education.

The youth assembly will hopefully bring attention to the fact that education is a fundamental right that should be awarded to everyone. Opportunity and lifestyle will only begin to be equal once every woman, man, and child has the same access to learning, and therefore the same access to jobs.

– Chelsea Evans

Source: Huffington Post, UN News Center, Time Magazine, Global Education First Initiative
Photo: SCMP

Malala Yousafzai is a young education rights campaigner from Pakistan. Malala will soon be celebrating her 16th birthday, a miracle after she was shot by extremists for her outspoken beliefs on education. Malala will celebrate her birthday by traveling to the United Nations where students from more than 80 countries will join her.

Malala and the other young activists will be assembled to call for global education for everyone in the world. She and the other young diplomats believe that education is a right for all – one of the Millennium Development Goals, and a vital component of the path to global citizenship. This belief is well founded in the fact that universal compulsory education represents a future that the world wants. Malala was the first person to sign on to a new worldwide petition calling for urgent action to ensure the right of every child to safely attend school. The petition serves as an initial step in focusing the UN agenda on education.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon supports Malala’s mission to bring education to the world. He states that education is an essential step in a world without poverty, violence, discrimination, and disease. He also recognizes that in order to achieve these objectives, the global society needs to continue pushing forward. The secretary general recognizes that we, as a global society, have made progress on this issue, however, there is much more work to be done. Ban expresses that no child or woman should have to consider going to school as an act of bravery.

Ban states that too many girls around the world are subjected to extremist threats for trying to obtain an education. The benefits of educating women in developing countries have been proven time and time again. Ban explains that when women and girls are educated, a society develops at a more rapid pace than without their education. Additionally, education increases future earnings for women, allowing them to provide their families with additional resources, over time, lifting them out of poverty.

If education is key to empowerment as the path to economic stability and development, why is it so widely contested in many developing countries? The answer lies in fear. If we as a global community continue to fear education for all, we will fail to grow as a global economy. More steps must be taken to ensure each child has access to education.

-Caitlin Zusy
Source: Huffington Post, UN News Center
Photo: Stanford Bookhaven

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) kicked off its annual forum at the start of this month, focusing on the importance of science and innovation to achieve development goals. The top UN officials, who were in attendance at the forum, stressed that technology and science are crucial for tackling todays global challenges, from reducing poverty to ensuring sustainable development. Some of the key speakers on the first day of this forum were ECOSOC president, Ambassador Nestor Osorio of Columbia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and President of the UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic.

“The steadily increasing pace of technological innovation makes ours an era of a long profound change…So many fields of human endeavor – medicine, energy, agriculture – have made significant, even drastic, improvements in just a few generations. Yet in the field of development, despite our progress, there are still over one billion people living in extreme poverty. And tonight many, if not most, will go to bed hungry,” said Osorio.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of science and innovation as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) come to a close in 2015. While some of the MDGs have already been met, there are several that need extra attention if the international community wishes to achieve them by 2015. “We must intensify out efforts, particularly to tackle the disparities across regions and between social groups…the future we want is within reach. Let us innovate together to achieve it,” stated Ki-moon.

Finally, Vuk Jeremic, President of the UN General Assembly, spoke about the need for a renewed commitment from Member States to face these development challenges together. He urged for a revitalized General Assembly and a renewed ECOSOC to lead the UN in setting the world on a more equitable, prosperous and environmentally sound path.

The ECOSOC forum will last for 26 days, but this assembly on innovation and science will last for four, including several more speeches from world leaders as well as collaboration meetings between several international institutions.

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: UN News, UNOG
Photo: Ventures