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United Nations' Short Film On September 19, 2020, the United Nations broadcasted a 30-minute short film on its Youtube channel regarding global issues and extreme poverty. The film, entitled “Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times,” includes many big-name celebrities such as Beyoncé and Malala Yousafzai. Julia Roberts hosts a podcast version of the show. As global progress has been slowed down due to COVID-19, the United Nations’ short film sets outs the actions needed to address global issues like extreme poverty, gender equality, human rights and climate change.

Expanding Reach Using YouTube

Since YouTube’s audience includes a large number of young people, the United Nations’ YouTube channel will reach those who are not accustomed to reading articles and press statements. The channel has more than 900,000 subscribers and includes a live stream of the U.N. headquarters where viewers can stay up-to-date with current issues and events.

The UN Short Film: Nations United

The United Nations’ short film focuses on actions necessary to create change and marks the 75th anniversary of the U.N. as well as the fifth anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Writer, director and SDG advocate, Richard Curtis, produced the film. It features a multitude of activists and humanitarian celebrities.

The film’s four chapters address climate, poverty and inequality, justice and human rights as well as gender equality. Working to expose the fractures in society and ways to remedy them, this film attempts to layout valuable solutions to the problems at hand. First-hand recordings of global issues allow viewers to gain a visual understanding of the challenges plaguing the world and the consequences of not taking action.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals act as guideline of global progress, setting out key issues, targets and potential solutions. The transition to renewable energy, the taxation of carbon and the halt of deforestation are some viable solutions the film points out. Additive performances by musical artists like Beyoncé amplify the main messages of the film.

Derailed Goals Due to COVID-19

The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 involved the commitment of 193 world leaders to 17 objectives in order to “end extreme poverty and hunger, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030.” These goals have been completely derailed since the introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic threatens global progress, the United Nations’ short film hopes to set out the actions needed to find viable solutions to address global issues and alleviate global poverty. The United Nations states that the film “will take audiences on a dynamic exploration of the times we live in, the multiple tipping points our planet faces and the interventions that could transform our world over the next 10 years.”

Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

julia roberts
When people think of the needs of the hungry in the developing world, their supply of proper cookware is not always the first thing that comes to mind. More common are thoughts of the need for immediate food supplies and ways to promote agriculture. However, there is a definite need in the developing world for proper cookware. Estimates say three billion people around the world rely on open-air stoves, an inefficient and sometimes dangerous way of cooking food.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was organized in 2010 by then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and the United Nations Foundation to raise awareness about the challenges that so many face in cooking their food from open-air flames. In 2011, Julia Roberts joined the Alliance as a global ambassador and became a key spokesperson for the group. In a statement soon after her decision, she said, “I was inspired to join the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves because its core mission is saving lives – especially children’s lives.”

It is believed that two million people a year are killed due to the smoke coming from the cooking done on unclean cookstoves. Up to a million of those killed are children. In the necessity for parents to provide for their children they inadvertently put them at risk. This shows the necessity for governments in the developed world to step in, and shows the necessity of groups like the Borgen Project to encourage this type of support.

Fires cooked over open-air flames take the terrible human toll that have resulted in the millions of deaths around the world. They also take a toll on the environment, raising concerns about the future of humans on this planet. In order to supply these open-air flames, the people using them are contributing to the global deforestation problem. The flames from the stoves, just as they release carcinogens that can harm the cooks, can also release dangerous greenhouse gases that harm the environment. Studies have shown that fires contribute to emissions of methane, carbon monoxide and black carbon.

The goal of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is to change the landscape of cooking in the developing world by 2020. Goals have been set to establish 100 million clean stoves by that year. Julia Roberts describes the “effective solutions, which can save lives, improve livelihoods… and combat climate change.”

This is a fight worth taking up, one that could have large impacts on the global stage. With more efficient stoves, the health costs spent combating smoke-related diseases could be used towards the upkeep of a productive family. As more families have these funds freed up, a significant impact on the global economy could follow.

Human lives being lost in the search for a good meal should not be the case anywhere in the world. The meals people cook everyday at home are an unheralded luxury we enjoy. If citizens take the time at every meal to think of how they can make it easier for those abroad to healthily enjoy their meals, it may contribute to a global effort to save lives.

Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Kiva, Clean Cookstoves, Guardian, PBS
Photo: TV Guide

Clean Cookstoves CampaignHunger is not the only food-related problem faced by people in the poorest parts of the world. Even if people have access to nourishing foods, the methods they use to prepare meals can pose significant health risks in the form of in-home pollution.

According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, nearly 3 billion people globally cook food and heat their homes using open fires or traditional cookstoves. Smoke exposure from these methods poses a significant global health threat that is responsible for 4 million premature deaths every year, according to Radha Muthiah, executive director of the Alliance. Those figures, Muthiah noted, make “the simple act of cooking a meal the fourth greatest health risk in the world.” Women and children are particularly vulnerable.

The Alliance is a large partnership-based organization that was launched by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative. It started with just 19 founding partners. Three years later the organization is significantly larger; currently, it is working with 700 partners around the world.

The success of the Alliance lies in an early effort to outline clear goals and methods of achieving those goals. The ultimate vision is to achieve universal clean cookstove adoption by 2030, but the organization is taking a step-by-step approach. First, the organization is working to get 100 million households globally to adopt clean cookstoves and fuel by 2020. To reach that goal, the organization will work with its partners on six continents.

According to the Alliance’s website, the organization uses a three-pronged strategy: enhance demand, foster an enabling environment and strengthen supply. Enhancing demand involves everything from raising consumer awareness to providing access to financing and developing better technologies. Strengthening supply means making sure there are enough cookstoves available for consumers at prices they can afford. Fostering an enabling environment involves promoting international standards and documenting new research about the benefits of clean cookstoves.

The Alliance has had a number of famous champions in addition to Clinton. They include actor Julia Roberts, Chef Jose Andres, and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

There have been some questions about the long-term health effects of the clean cookstove movement since it started gathering steam. In 2012, a study by a group of Harvard University and MIT professors looked at one specific city, Orissa, India, where the alliance had worked. The study found that there was a meaningful reduction in smoke inhalation during the first year a household used a clean cookstove, but the benefits diminished as time went on because the stoves were often abandoned if they were damaged. The results provided a note on how the movement could be improved.

– Liza Casabona

Sources: Devex, Clean Cookstoves, Bloomberg
Photo: US Embassy