UN flags
“We the Peoples of the United Nations determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of the men and women and of nations large and small,” the UN Charter.

Over 60 years ago an organization with a mission to bring peace to the world was born. Rightfully called the United Nations, this organization started with just a handful of nations, though now well over one hundred countries have signed up to accept the pledge of peace.

Here are some quick facts about the UN, present and past:

  1. 51 countries founded the UN in 1945.
  2. The UN’s mission is to maintain peace, security, develop friendly relations with other nations, promote social growth and advocate for human rights.
  3. New York City houses the UN’s headquarters. Three other main offices reside in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna.
  4. The UN is comprised of six main sections: The General Assembly, The Security Council, The Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat and the United Nations Trustee Council.
  5. The original members of the UN were Russia, USA, France and the UK. These four along with the Republic of China hold five permanent seats on the Security Council.
  6. A few agencies established by the UN are the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization (WHO), The World Food Program, UNESCO and UNICEF.
  7. The current leaders of the UN are :
    • Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (South Korea)
    • Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson (Sweden)
    • General Assembly President John William Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda)
    • Secretary Council President Gerald Araud (France)
  8. Each nation must sign the UN charter in order to join the United Nations. The Charter consists of two preambles and a series of articles.
  9. When war breaks out in a country, the UN sends peace keeping soldiers to help resolve the conflict. These soldiers are also called “Blue Helmets.”
  10. There are, currently, 183 member nations in the UN.
  11. The UN was initially established to prevent a repeat of World War II.
  12. The UN’s motto: It’s your world.
  13. Over 120,00 peacekeepers from the UN maintain civility on 4 continents.

– Amy Robinson

Sources: Wikipedia, Fun Trivia, United Nations, UNFPA
Photo: Flickr

The U.S. relationship with UNESCO is taking a turn for the worse as the U.S. loses voting rights in the organization. UNESCO voted in Palestine as a member state in 2011 despite U.S. threats of halting funding to the UN organization.

The U.S. boycott resulted in inactivity for two years. As stated in UNESCO’s constitution, two years of member inactivity results in a loss of voting ability.

Formerly, the U.S. provided 22% of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s budget, approximately $80 million a year.  Under U.S. law, organizations that recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as a member state will be denied financial support.

A two-thirds approval vote for membership resulted in 107 to 14 with 15 abstentions, effectively passing Palestine to be the 195th full member. This is differentiated from Palestine’s membership with the United Nations, a bid that Palestine failed to accomplish.

Previously in 2011, shortfall of the $65 million originally pledged by the U.S., UNESCO began emergency fundraising efforts for its 2012-2013 budget. As reported by CNN, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova reevaluated every aspect of the organization from projects to contractual commitments. Currently, the 2014 budget is reduced by $150 million.

Bokova met with legislators in an attempt to change the language of U.S. law, to no avail. Bokova has stated that a second emergency fundraiser from contributing nations is not possible for the following year.

UNESCO establishes heritage sites and propels initiatives that push for education, culture and science worldwide. From education reform, particularly women’s education, to clean water access and tsunami research, UNESCO oversees a wide set of programs.

For its part, the U.S. not only loses soft-power influence through its relationship with UNESCO but misses an opportunity in creating two separate UNESCO sites in the U.S.: Spanish missions in San Antonio and an ancient civilization site in Poverty Point, Louisiana. The ensuing established heritage sites would have increased tourism and established jobs.

U.S. influence and interests are overlooked through inactivity in UNESCO. The U.S.’ relationship with UNESCO began in 1945 through support and funding. A boycott by the U.S. against UNESCO lasted between 1984 to 2003, the former disagreeing with the latter’s supposed anti-Western policies.  Since the U.S. readmission in 2003, the country pushed for greater Holocaust and genocide education.  A mission utilized in Africa to promote ethnic tolerance and educate about nondiscrimination and nonviolence.

In addition to the U.S., Israel has pulled its 3% contribution off the UNESCO budget and equally lost voting privilege. The U.S. criticizes Palestine’s bid for recognition via the UN as a chief hindrance for improving negotiations between Palestine and Israel.

As an organization known for spreading freedom of expression, among others, UNESCO loses a mutually-beneficial donor with its current relation with the U.S.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: CNN, NY Times, NY Times, Al Jazeera, Reuters

dubai cares_opt
Dubai Cares, a nonprofit working to improve children’s access to education in developing countries, recently launched a new campaign called “End Poverty. Educate Now” to raise awareness about the link between education and eradicating poverty.

The “End Poverty. Educate Now” campaign will run through the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to raise funds to assist children worldwide by improving their access to primary education. Dubai Cares is currently reaching more than 8 million children in 31 developing countries worldwide. The campaign is building and renovating classrooms, providing clean water wells and latrines, distributing nutritious meals, and providing treatment for intestinal worms. Additionally, teachers are receiving training and millions of books are being distributed.

CEO of Dubai Cares, Tariq Al Gurg, stresses that education is one of the most important investments in breaking the cycle of poverty. Education leads to in increases in income levels and reductions in social inequalities caused by poverty.

Gurg states that this campaign seeks the support of the United Arab Emirates community in order to reduce the number of underprivileged children globally who do not have access to education, which is currently estimated to be 57 million according to UNESCO. UNESCO affirms that education is one of the best tools to combat poverty by stating that if all children in developing countries could read, global poverty rates would fall by at least 12 percent.

Dubai Cares is running this campaign by setting up an interactive stand at the Dubai Mall’s Star Atrium. The campaign is also raising funds through donations via SMS and the Internet. Visitors of the Dubai Mall will be able to make contributions while shopping or through donations boxes throughout the mall. In the atrium, there are black and white posters on tiles which show children living in destitute conditions. These images will gradually transform into a positive colored images as more people donate. These colored images represents the lives of children who are receiving the opportunity for an education.

This symbolic transformation represents the dramatic change that education can make in the lives of children and the fight against poverty.

– Rahul Shah 

Sources: The Gulf Today, Emirates Today, Gulf News
Sources: Sunny Varkey

As international development continues in the 21st century, a renewed emphasis on female education has risen to the spotlight. Here are five facts elucidating the immeasurable value of female education:

1. Nearly 78 million girls are currently not receiving a primary or secondary education. Half of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa, while another quarter lives in South Asia.

2. According to UNESCO, a child with a literate mother has a 50% higher chance of survival than a child with an illiterate mother.

3. On average, a girl with a basic education will earn 20% more than her non-educated counterparts.

4. A girl with a basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV. Additionally, she is 50 percent more likely to obtain the proper immunizations for her children.

5. For every ten percent of girls enrolled in school, a country’s GDP rises three percent.

Anna Purcell

Sources: Girl Rising, Take Part
Photo: USAID-Blog

Although poverty is an international issue, there is no internationally agreed-upon definition of poverty.

The most common definition of poverty is the World Bank’s threshold:  living at $2 a day, and its definition of extreme poverty at $1.25 a day. This figure that was created by averaging the poverty line in the world’s 15 poorest countries. These are definitions of absolute poverty, in which a certain amount of income is set, and anyone making below that income is considered poor. Under these definitions, around 3 billion people live in poverty, and 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty.

However, poverty can also be defined in relative terms. In many countries, poverty is simply defined by the threshold of income for the bottom 10 percent of the population, or taking into account cost of living into account when setting a poverty line.

Both of these definitions, however, deal almost exclusively with income and consumption, and ignore the social and political aspects of poverty. The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) contends that there are three perspectives which need to be taken into account when conceptualizing poverty: the income perspective indicates that a person is poor only if his or her income is below the country’s poverty line; the basic needs includes the need for the provision by a community of the basic social services necessary to prevent individuals from falling into poverty; and finally, the empowerment perspective suggests that poverty signify a lack of some basic capability to function.

Something to consider is that although the global definition of extreme poverty is $1.25 dollars a day, the US sets its poverty line at $11,490 of income per year, which comes out to roughly $30 a day. If we held the whole world to that standard, almost everyone would be in poverty; 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day.

Poverty undermines basic political, economic, social, and cultural rights. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” As a country with the economic capabilities to lift everyone in the world out of extreme poverty (it would cost around $30 billion), the United States should be the leaders in poverty eradication efforts. Not only this, but it is important to remember how much lower the standard o poverty is set for the rest of the world, and how most in the developed world could never consider living on $1.25 a day.

– Martin Drake

Sources: UNESCO,, The Economist
Photo: WordPress

Slight Drop in World’s Children Without Primary Education
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the figure for the number of the world’s children with no access to schools has dropped from 61 million in 2010 to an estimated 57 million. Unfortunately, the improvement is unlikely to reach the millennium goal for primary education for all by 2015.

“We are at a critical juncture,” stated Irinia Bokova, UNESCO’s director-general. Every year UNESCO releases a report measuring the world’s progress towards the goal of universal primary education. Recent years have shown stagnation after early gains. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of children at the primary age who were out of school fell by only 3 million.

The most recent numbers provide a more up-to-date picture, and also show that aid for primary education has fallen by 6% because most major donors have decreased their funding in the past year. UNESCO ranked the U.K. the largest direct donor to basic education. The US was previously the largest donor, but budget cuts in 2011 put the U.K. at the top. Germany, Australia, and Norway also increased their donations while budgets were cut in France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and Canada.

The pledge for universal primary education made by UN-leaders in 2000 is looking likely to be missed, and there have already been discussions to push up the 2015 target. There was a previous target set in 1990 to achieve this goal by 2000. After this was missed the goal was moved forward to 2015.

The latest mid-year figures do reflect some progress, but partly due to previous estimates being revised. According to UNESCO, the most recent numbers show about 2 million fewer children missing school. Over half of the children missing school are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The last annual report showed that in some countries the problem is actually getting worse rather than better. In Nigeria, 40% of children ages 6-11 do not attend primary school. Despite significant increases in enrollment in recent years, UNICEF estimates about 4.7 million Nigerian children of primary school age are still not in school.

But there is some good news: southern and western Asia has seen considerable gains, cutting their numbers of children not in school by two-thirds in two decades.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, UN

The Biggest New Campaign in Dubai

Dubai has an unusual international reputation. Known for its wealth, the city has made a name for itself as the playground of the wealthy. Yet through his foundation, Dubai Cares, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the U.A.E, and Dubai’s leader has shown the world a different use for Dubai’s explosive wealth: philanthropy.

Dubai Cares was created in September 2007. Despite its relative youth, the organization has lofty goals. Recently, it launched its “End Poverty. Educate Now” awareness campaign in Dubai hopes that it will lead to a better understanding of the vital role education plays in poverty eradication, especially in creating more gender-egalitarian societies for women and girls to work and live in. The campaign also aims to raise money to fund primary school education for children in developing countries.

Education improves not only an individual’s opportunities but their family’s and even their community’s quality of life. UNESCO has released stunning statistics regarding the far-reaching impact education can make. For example, and an educated person’s wages increase by around 10% and a child with a literate mother has a 50% greater chance of living past age 5.

The U.A.E as a whole has embraced the campaign, with huge outlets like Dubai Mall adding 5 AED or more to their prices to increase donations. The city is also hosting the “Education Makes a Difference” stand to generate funds, and running Ramadan promotions for fundraisers and with mobile companies offering the ability to donate via text.

The foundation has seen extraordinary success in past efforts. It is active in over 31 developing countries, assisting in the construction and improvement of over 1500 classrooms, building more than 1000 wells and 3,000 latrines, training over 23,000 teachers, and providing books and nutritious food to schoolchildren.

To get involved in Dubai Cares’ work, click here:

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Albawaba Business, Dubai Cares
Photo: Flickr

Is water a commodity or a human right? Too many people, governments, and institutions see water as something merely to be bought and sold, and not as something every person on earth needs for survival. Like food, health care, educational and economic opportunities, and many of the other things we write about on the blog, safe water is a human right and necessity. Since 1993, the UN has designated March 22 as World Water Day. This serves to bring attention to, advocate for sustainable management of, and celebrate clean, fresh water.

2013 has also been designated the International Year of Water Cooperation, so this year’s World Water Day holds special significance. Events will be held across the globe to foster international cooperation around water. Because of the organization’s interdisciplinary approach to worldwide problems, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will coordinate the Day on behalf of UN-Water.

This day serves many purposes, including raising public awareness of water issues facing the globe and advocating for improvements in water management. Access to clean, safe drinking water is a major health concern among the world’s poorest populations. 88 percent of cases of diarrhea, the number one cause of death and illness in the world, are due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Almost a billion people do not have access to improved water sources, while 2.5 billion live without adequate sanitation facilities.

While the statistics are disturbing, we can do something to improve these conditions. World Water Day is an opportunity to learn about water issues and take action on behalf of those whose basic water needs are not being met. To learn more about World Water Day 2013 and the International Year of Water Cooperation, visit the UN’s World Water Day page.

– Kat Henrichs
Source: UN-Water


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

UN Declares 2013 The International Year On WaterThe U.N. has declared 2013 to be the International Year on Water Cooperation, and the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO) was appointed to lead preparations. The UN-Economic Commission for Europe, (UNECE) and the UN-Departments of Economic and Social Affairs, (UNDESA) will cooperate with UNESCO. The UN-Water Decade Program on Capacity Development, (UNW-DPC) and the UN-Water Decade Program on Advocacy and Communication, (UNW-DPAC) have offered support.

The U.N. first established World Water Day (WWD) in 1993 on March 22nd as a means to highlight the importance of fresh water, and to emphasize the need for its sustainable management.

Each year WWD focuses on a different aspect of freshwater. In 2013, UNESCO will educate the public about the need for international water cooperation.

Demand for freshwater resources is ever rising. Access to water is linked to poverty reduction as well as economic improvement. Preservation of water benefits the environment as well.

Most importantly, UNESCO aims to start a conversation about water cooperation in order to find innovative means to ensure the sustainability and availability of freshwater resources.

The International Year on Water Cooperation will serve to remind people throughout the world that they are stakeholders in water, and that we must begin to work together to ensure the sustainability of freshwater resources.

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: UNESCO
Photo: LGC News