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A new report launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, celebrates the success of achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but acknowledges that others need to be addressed in order for them to be realized. The MDGs, established at a UN summit in 2000, identify eight areas of focus: poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental protection, HIV/AIDS and malaria reduction, and a global partnership for development. The report demonstrates how the combined effort of the government, civil society, and the private sector have made significant progress in meeting many of these goals.

Already, millions of lives have been improved – global poverty rates have been cut in half, access to safe water has increased and gender equality in primary schools has improved substantially. Advances in global healthcare are particularly notable; malaria fell by more than 25% globally between 2000 and 2010, saving 1.1 million lives. In addition, between 1995 and 2011, 51 million TB patients were successfully treated, saving another estimated 20 million lives.

However, the report also urges more action to be taken with regard to maternal healthcare and universal access to education. In particular, environmental sustainability is under threat, as global emissions of carbon dioxide continue to increase, with 46% more CO2 being emitted today compared to 1990. The report also notes that there has been uneven progress; there is disparity not only between regions and countries, but also among population groups within countries. In particular, people living in rural areas remain at a disadvantage – 83% of those without access to an improved drinking water source live in rural communities.

“Redoubled efforts are urgently needed, particularly in regions most behind to jump-start advancement and achieve maximum gains”, the MDG report says. While the global community should be proud of its efforts and accomplishments, the report encourages governments, organizations, and individuals to continue “building on existing momentum to reach as many goals as possible by 2015 and to realize gains for all”.

– Chloe Isacke
Source: All Africa, UNDP

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The necessity for global education has always been present, but what many may not know is that worldwide, 61 million primary-aged children are out of school, of which more than half are girls. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seeks to remedy this with the Global Education First Initiative – a program that works to raise awareness of the necessity of education as well as to provide better access to education, as well as to improve the quality of learning for every child the program puts into school.

In order to put every child in school, some major goals for development include eliminating cost barriers to attending school, identifying and aiding those that need nutrition and health support, eliminating the gender disparity, and building millions of new classrooms around the world, especially in rural and crisis-affected areas. The second focus of the initiative, to improve quality of learning, is going to be met by training of teachers and improving learning materials. These measures will insure that children are more ready for further education as well as for life outside of school – with proper education come far more opportunities for success in life.

The last major focus of the initiative is to foster global citizenship, or in other words, promote peace, community, and innovation throughout the world through education. In the words of Ban Ki-moon, “The world faces global challenges that require global solutions. Education must cultivate an active care for the world and for those with whom we share it”. Ki-moon sees education as a driving force for human development that will drive down inequalities and improve health while fostering solidarity around the globe.

This push for education has been heartily embraced by education rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who has volunteered with the UN to speak on July 12 in favor of the right to education for girls, and for all those who may desire it. As a survivor of extreme violence because of her advocacy, Malala’s message is clear: “…that all students should be given the chance to attend school with adequate safety. Obtaining education is every man and woman’s birth right and no one is allowed to take away this right from them”.

In honor of Malala’s efforts, and in part encouraged and inspired by the Global Education First Initiative, the UN will be launching a global petition called A World at School – Stand With Malala as an effort to establish universal primary education by December 2015. It is the hope of the United Nations that someday universal education will be achieved and that because of this the world will become a more stable, healthier, and happier place.

– Sarah Rybak

Sources: Global Education First, Women News Network
Photo: Global Education First

UN_clean_waterWithin two generations, the majority of the world’s people could find it difficult to access clean water. That was the warning issued at an international conference on water held last month in Bonn, Germany. The conference, entitled “Water in the Anthropocene: Challenges for Science and Governance: Indicators, Thresholds and Uncertainties of the Global Water System,” sought to “address the global dimensions of water system changes” brought on by human and natural influences.

Water experts warned that in addition to climate change, inefficient extraction methods and pollution from the runoff of agricultural fertilizers will combine to compromise the world’s freshwater sources. Without more concerted efforts to change this situation, they warn, a global majority with soon face water shortage on a regular basis.

Already nearly a billion people do not have access to clean water. Four and a half billion people live within 50km (31 miles) of an “impaired” water source, one that is either polluted or running dry. People in the 1st world are also vulnerable as pollutants like endocrine disrupters, which have spread into rivers and other freshwater bodies in many parts of the developed world, and have been shown to cause fish to change gender.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed these calls to attend to the global water crisis. In a speech at the United Nations International Day of Biological Diversity, Ban said, “We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards.” He warned that current trends will make shortages all but inevitable.

Along with the scientists and officials meeting at the Bonn water conference, Secretary Ban called for the next set of Millennium Development Goals to include goals related to water sustainability. As one official at the Bonn conference stated, “There is no citizen of the world who can be complacent about this.”

Délice Williams

Sources: Water in the Anthropocene, The Guardian
Photo: Shale Shock Media

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim have concluded a historic 3-day trip to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. While there, the leaders promoted peace, security and economic development in the countries of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda. These leaders pledged that their organizations would help and encourage these countries to achieve stability and economic development. These talks came after a historic agreement was reached in the DRC that ended the conflict in the region that had been going on for decades.

President Kim praised the three countries on their leadership emphasizing the opportunity for the leaders of the Great Lakes region to utilize the UN’s and World Bank’s commitment to ending poverty and building prosperity. President Kim further showed the World Bank Group’s commitment on their first stop in DRC pledging $1 billion to further improve health, education, nutrition, job training and other essential services in the DRC and Great Lakes region.

In Rwanda, the leaders visited the memorial of the 800,000 killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. While in Rwanda, they also laid the foundation stone for a new center to help women and girls victimized by violence. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni welcomed and thanked the leaders for their help in securing peace in Uganda. In the past 5 years, Uganda has seen immense growth and a 14% drop in the poverty rate.

This visit shows a new cooperation between the UN and the World Bank Group as well as a new support for African leaders from the international community. President Kim and Secretary-General Ban are hopeful for the future of this region.

President Kim summed up their hopes saying, “We hope that Africa’s Great Lakes become a global symbol for what is possible when countries work together to lift themselves out of conflict and succeed in boosting economic growth and shared prosperity.”

– Catherine Ulrich
Source: World Bank
Photo: Australian Climate Madness

Using Migration as an Advantage

As the world deals with the movement of millions of people as refugees, illegal immigrants, or simple shifts of communities, it is important for countries experiencing these changes in large numbers to recognize that whether they choose to identify it as an issue, for better or worse, it is not going to disappear. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led the first day of the 46th Commission on Population and Development in New York whose 5 days conference will address how countries should deal with migration, both internal and external.

It is at a point when halting the movements of people takes more energy and wastes more time than finding solutions that will harness their skills and help them assimilate into their new home. Ban Ki-moon brought up the reality of the situation that “It is not a question of whether to halt the movement of people across borders. The question is how we plan for such movements and make the most of them.” The same 5 goals should be taken into consideration in a variety of situations: whether it is for Syrian refugees fleeing across borders to Jordan or Iraq or Sudanese fleeing Darfur for another region in their country.

  • Ensuring the safety of migrants and a legal passage

  • Creating a direct connection between the policies on migration and the job market

  • Recognizing the presence of illegals and addressing their concerns

  • Facilitating societal integration for the migrants into their new communities

  • Allowing for a timely return to home countries if necessary

While these goals are clearly easier said than done, following this path would ensure that migration is not a win-lose situation but more of a win-win. For countries experiencing such population patterns, we must hope that they understand how important working with migrants is to not only better their lives, but perhaps better the lives of their country’s long time citizens, economy, and general fit into the global arena.

Deena Dulgerian

Source: UN News Centre

IWD-2013

In 1947, it was just a small council of 45 governmental representatives. By 1975,  it became a World Conference, hosting thousands of delegates and opening up the dialogue on gender equality. Now, in 2013,  International Women’s Day has become a full blown event, creating massive amounts of social media and political attention around the entire world.

International Women’s Day has brought awareness to issues such as equal pay and voting rights. Through press releases and meetings with country leaders they have established programs and laws that protect women in many different aspects. More recently, the UN has focused on eliminating violence against women in both developed and developing countries. In 2008, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign which sought to actively go into countries where violence against women was not a punishable crime, including eliminating FGM, or female genital mutilation.

This past year was marked by some of the most publicized attacks on young girls and women. Malala Yousufzai, the young Pakistani shot in the head outside her school, the death of the young Indian woman who was raped on a bus, and the suicide in January of a young girl in New Delhi who was silenced by shame over her rape. Why it has taken the world so long to recognize the reality of these happenings can no longer be lingered over. As Ban Ki-moon stated in his 2013 IWD’s message we must “convert outrage into action”.

The official UN observance of International Women’s Day 2013 will be held in New York at its Headquarters from 10am to 2pm EST and can be watched live here. The UN is also releasing a beautiful collaboration between 25 singers from 20 countries with the song “One Woman”. The song speaks of an underlying connection all women have with each other.

International Women’s Day is not about enforcing feminism or any related theory; its about men and women recognizing that there are unspoken atrocities occurring in their communities and in those unknown to them.

There are millions of women who require the encouragement and education to become influential parts of their local governments and economic circles. Reports have been endless on the importance of the presence of females as entrepreneurs and leaders. Their natural passion and ability to multitask has gone unnoticed if not punished in communities around the world.

Progress has been made however: with the Ayara women in Bolivia, where any physical, psychological, or sexual aggression towards women holding office is now a punishable crime, with that Abu Shouk IDP camp in North Darfur, Sudan, that provides much needed education to mothers. All these initiatives are helping women find their power and explore their abilities without the fear of humiliation or death.

International Women’s Day 2013 is branching itself out in every outlet possible to get the theme of this year’s observance across, “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”. Show your support for the strides being made and the continual efforts of the UN and other organizations and the many women they reach by tweeting #IWD2013 or re-posting the song.

Getting the world to understand that this is not just a female issue, but a human one, is the best way to bring an end to all cases of violence and inequality.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source:UN

World Day Of Social JusticeIn an annual message marking the World Day of Social Justice celebrated every February 20, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of the need to address increasing inequality and limited access to education, healthcare and opportunities all around the world. Secretary-General Ban said, “Growing inequality undermines the international community’s progress in lifting millions out of poverty and building a more just world.”

In 2007, the General Assembly proclaimed February 20 as the World Day of Social Justice, dedicating the day to the promotion of national activities that furthered the cause of the World Summit of Social Development. These include the end of poverty and the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity, access to social well-being and justice for all. Along with advocating for policies that promote inclusive development, the Secretary-General called on countries to increase efforts to reach the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals which will expire in 2015. He also stressed the need to look beyond 2015 to set new goals for sustainable development.

“As we seek to build the world we want, let us intensify our efforts to achieve a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable development path built on dialogue, transparency and social justice,” Secretary-General Ban said.

– Rafael Panlilio 

Source: UN

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February 13 was World Radio Day. Started in 2011 by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Radio Day is meant to commemorate the establishment of United Nations Radio in 1946. Since then, there have been unbelievable strides in mass-media and communication. According to UNESCO however, the radio still manages to reach 95 percent of the world, a feat neither television or the internet can claim to have achieved.

But what is it about the radio that has enabled it to be such a helpful tool for developing countries in times of war and general disconnect? Wave frequencies can be produced with the simplest transmitters. The actual radio itself, being portable and in many cases, battery-operated, makes it much more available than television and computers in villages and other rural areas where electrical outlets are hard to come by, let alone a stable flow of electricity.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the use of radio “as a channel for life-saving information”. Discussing his life growing up in a Korean village, Ban Ki-moon stresses the importance of the radio for emergency instructions in times of war as well as the main source of information and knowledge for many. Whether it delivers breaking news or issues warnings to those living far from civilization, radios save lives.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova gave a speech on World Radio Day that focused on the wide-spread use of radios not just on a global scale but in smaller communities. Even though the areas the waves reach may not be extensive, it gives the younger generation an opportunity to learn and experiment with technology. Community radio, Bokova says, helps address poverty and social exclusion as well as empowers marginalized rural groups, young people, and women.

As UENSCO optimistically revives the meaning and purpose of the radio, evidence of its pricelessness can be found everywhere. In November of last year, the non-profit THNKR, which is a Youtube channel that showcases people doing amazing things around the world that have the potential to change the way we think and view each others’ and our own potential, posted a video of Kelvin Doe. Kelvin, better known from his radio name as DJ Focus, comes from Sierra Leone. He has become quite famous over the past year for his talent and gift of being a self-taught engineer. By scraping together whatever metals he could, he built his own FM transmitter and generator. With his own radio station, DJ Focus broadcasts music, has an open forum and enjoys entertaining over the radio like any other 16-year-old would, taking full advantage of everything his small radio has to offer.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source:UN News Centre