Women's Rights in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is one of the smallest countries in Europe. It is also the last country in Europe to grant women suffrage. On July 1, 1984, by a small majority (51.3%) at the all-male national referendum, women legally received the right to vote with the Constitution being amended to include women citizens older than the age of 20. More than 37 years later, women’s rights in Liechtenstein still need development in comparison to Liechtenstein’s neighboring European countries.

Lack of Women’s Rights

Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy that observes a hereditary line of succession. This means the first-born male inherits the throne, excluding all female descendants. Criticism of this tradition has echoed throughout the country. However, it is unlikely a change will occur with this long-standing practice of the country.

Conducted by the U.S. Department of State, a 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices found gender-based discrimination in the workplace for women in Liechtenstein. Immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQIA+ and women with disabilities have come forward with their experiences of harassment in the labor market. The report identified that there were 32 cases of domestic violence against women in 2019. In addition, the country has only one women’s shelter, Frauenhaus, which housed just 13 women that year.

The report continues to also disclose that women in Liechtenstein face a significant pay difference in comparison to men. On top of the pay gap, women in Liechtenstein, specifically in private sector upper-level management, face underrepresentation with little-to-no opportunity for promotion.

Making a Change

Research on wage inequality in Liechtenstein in both private and public sectors shows that there is an average 16.5% pay gap between men and women. Analytics show that one cannot explain almost 7% of this pay gap by “objective characteristics” including training, professional status and qualifications. Reporting wages to the National Administration is one possible way to combat the gender pay gap. However, this initiative faced dismissal.

Groups like the Women’s Network argue that Liechtenstein’s government delegates the responsibility of gender equality policies to NGOs. However, political and social action to improve women’s rights in Liechtenstein is progressing. While the change has been slow, growth has been evident over the last few years.

Raising Awareness

Founded in 1997, the Women’s Section of the Liechtenstein Employees Association advocates for gender pay equality. The association does this by creating awareness campaigns, increasing national wage transparency and promoting equal pay between men and women across Liechtenstein. The economic empowerment of women is crucial in reducing any level of poverty and fighting the gender equality women in Liechtenstein face.

At the 23rd session for the United Nations General Assembly, Liechtenstein endorsed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This progressive plan works to advance women’s rights for decades across 189 countries. The Platform for Action focuses on closing the gender pay gap while enabling access to decent work for women, creating an end to violence against women, lowering maternal mortality rates and increasing women’s ability to participate in places of power in various industries across each country.

In 2016, Liechtenstein, along with all other 46 members of the European Union, signed the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention, a treaty centered around the prevention and fight against violence and domestic abuse toward women. The Convention focuses on prevention, protection, prosecution and coordinated policies. Liechtenstein did not ratify the Convention until June 17, 2021, so it will not take effect until October 21, 2021. But, it is hopeful that progress regarding gender inequality will result from the enactment.

Seeing Results

In the country’s most recent election cycle, seven women will now serve in the parliament, setting a record of 28% female representation. During the government elections, Sabine Monauni set out to become Liechtenstein’s first female prime minister, but she will now serve as the Deputy Prime Minister. However, the totality of the newly sworn-in government is majority female with three women and two men.

As recently as a few months ago, a historic moment for women’s rights in Liechtenstein occurred. In April 2021, the Liechtenstein women’s football team competed in its first international match. While the team lost to Luxembourg, the match was a victory for the women of Liechtenstein.

The issue of women’s rights in Liechtenstein is an evolving topic and one that will hopefully continue to move in a forward motion over time. Liechtenstein is approaching four decades of women’s suffrage and systemic change is beginning to take real shape.

Annaclaire Acosta
Photo: Flickr

model organizations
College and high school are formative years in the lives of many people. The subjects students choose to study and organizations they chose to participate in can change their outlook on the world for years to come. Many in college will choose to join clubs attached to their majors, such as psychology majors in psych clubs or biology majors in bio clubs. However, the world of international politics often crosses the borders of all subjects.

International laws and treaties base objectives on studies carried out by various experts. So, oftentimes, students with an interest in their own corner of the world find themselves drawn into the world of international relations. With little time to cover two majors, or their high school not offering classes on the subject, students are introduced to the benefits of model organizations.

What Are Model Organizations?

For those unfamiliar with this term, model organizations are clubs dedicated to the study of international organizations. The two most popular are Model United Nations (MUN) and the Model Arab League (MAL). Both the MUN and MAL are usually clubs on college campuses and high schools that have branches around the world.

The goal of these organizations is to educate participants about the workings of large-scale international organizations. This endeavor is accomplished largely through online resources, but the best tool is the participation in simulations at conferences around the United States and the world. Students participate in weekend-long formal conferences, where they have the opportunity to take on the role of a representative of an assigned nation.

The participant must study his or her assigned country and represent its views accurately during the conference, an activity that serves as one the the greatest benefits of the model organizations.

New Perspectives

Students are often times unfamiliar with world governments; stances compared to those of their home country. For example, a student in the United States who is studying chemistry in college can be assigned as a representative of Tunisia for a Model Arab League conference — a nation most likely unfamiliar to both the student and the U.S.

In another scenario, a student may be interested in science, and so he or she may elect to participate in the Council of Arab Environmental Affairs Ministry.

One topic on the simulated ministry’s agenda is the “Evaluat[ion] and mitigat[ion of] the negative environmental impacts of water-related infrastructure and resource use, e.g., the construction of dams and canals, the overuse of aquifers, as well as the desalination industry.”

After studying Tunisia’s stance on the use of water, the student may find that that he or she supports a resolution mitigating the overuse of aquifers, but does not have strong feelings about dams. The student will then discuss this topic with other nation representatives, and may quickly learn the representatives of Iraq, Syria and Kuwait, for instance, have strong feelings about the construction and use of dams.

Even without participating in the simulation, students can benefit from the model organization because they most likely would have never learned about the depths of complexity behind water rights between two nations, and so now have an expanded knowledge and perspective on the world.

As a student of the sciences, he or she could now more effectively understand how to find a solution that benefits both the environment and the nations which share the water.

Model U.N.

Based in the United States, the National Model United Nations (MUN) organization is the largest host of conferences around the world. This year the National Models Organization will be hosting five major conferences, two of which will take place in the United States — one in Washington D.C. and another in New  York City.

The other three will be hosted in China, Germany and Ecuador. Students will be able to participate in the simulation of the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council, World Health Organization, UNESCO, FAO and others. Topics are planned to range from preventing terrorism and extremism in the Horn of Africa via the Security Council simulation, to improving response and coordination in addressing mental health in the WHO simulation.

Students benefit from the model organizations by learning to cooperate with people from other countries as they try to pass joint resolutions to fix major local and international issues.

Model Arab League

Although the Arab League is often considered ineffective and mostly a formality, the model organization is actually much more. As a college participant myself, my MAL club was invited to both the Turkish Embassy and the Palestinianian Mission in the United States, where we were given a formal but friendly lecture on the stances of Turkey and Palestine on a variety of important topics.

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is the largest host of conferences in the United States; its discussions are located in major cities across the country. In this case, a major benefit of the model organizations is educating participants about the various cultures and political ideologies of the Arab World, which oftentimes are clumped into one. Now, more than ever, it is important to treat the Arab World as separate nations rather than just the “Middle East.”

Global Citizens

At the end of the conferences, students come away more educated and mindful of international dynamics and complexities. One person may now know why it is not so easy to stop pollution in the developing world. Another might understand the complexities of switching solely to renewable energy.

The world benefits from the model organizations due to where these bright students will go after becoming a globally-minded citizen. Even if these students do not go directly into international politics, they will help shape their world in a better direction.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

How the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia Helps Protect Aboriginal and and Torres Strait Islander PeoplesIn 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a new declaration sourced from existing international human rights law. This time, though, the organization focused on a specific marginalized group: indigenous peoples. The strong support of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a major step toward increasing communication between indigenous peoples all over the world and the U.N. Member States.

Across the globe, indigenous peoples are often marginalized by the law and face harsh discrimination. A large contributor to the increased vulnerability of indigenous peoples to violence and human rights abuses comes from their displacement. Indigenous groups tend to share a common key value based on their land. When they are taken away from that land, many groups find it much more difficult to fully exercise their human rights.

The declaration, though legally nonbinding, is significant because of the participation of indigenous peoples in its drafting. The document recognizes that all of the human rights outlined in previous United Nations declarations apply to indigenous peoples. While the declaration was supported by most countries, Australia, New Zealand the United States and Canada voted against it.

However, two years later in 2009, Australia voiced its support for the law, signaling progression toward advancing human rights for all of its citizens, and closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The country has already been considering constitutional changes based on the document.

Following the formal endorsement of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia, the government took crucial steps in implementing the core values outlined in the document. In order to educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about their rights, the Australian government distributed a comprehensive guide to the U.N. document.

The guide to understanding the declaration in Australia specifically addresses rights to country, resources and knowledge, as well as self-governance and more. The document has received a large degree of legitimacy, due to support from not only the Australian government but also countries all across the world, making it an important tool for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to invoke when addressing the human rights violations and discrimination to which they may be subjected.

The adoption of the declaration, after its initial rejection, does not create legal obligations for the countries that support it. What it does do, however, is allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to use the language of human rights to influence government policies. The Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sends a clear message that governments cannot avoid international scrutiny for mistreatment of and violations against their indigenous groups.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

US Participation in 72nd UNGAThe annual General Debate of the 72nd Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was held at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City from September 19-25, 2017. This debate is a stage for world leaders to gather in discussion about the most vital global issues. The theme of the General Debate was “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet,” which is fitting for the state of our world today.

As the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the U.N., the General Assembly provides a unique forum for universal discussion on the full spectrum of international issues. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Mark Green met with bilateral and multinational partners at the 72nd UNGA General Debate to discuss U.S. priorities in a number of key areas.

As a major component of the U.S. approach to foreign affairs and national security strategy, development was a large focus of many of Administrator Green’s meetings at the 72nd UNGA. Representatives from all over the world met with Administrator Green to discuss the shared vision for increased efforts towards development assistance.

Specifically, Administrator Green met with European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica to discuss the importance of their cooperation in delivering development assistance that builds long-term resilience. The administrator and the commissioner discussed the possibility of financing future development projects through the new European Union External Investment Fund.

Administrator Green also met with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of the Kingdom of Sweden. The two agreed on the growing need to promote long-term development through building the capacity of national institutions and civil-society organizations to foster durable and self-reliant communities.

Global Health
Administrator Green announced that the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led by USAID and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will launch new programs in west and central Africa, including Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire, Niger, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso. More than 480 million people at risk of malaria have already benefited from existing PMI programs and this new expansion is estimated to benefit 90 million more.

Additionally, Administrator Green reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to global health programs at the World Health Organization and Stop TB Partnership reception at the 72nd UNGA. Green referred to eradicating tuberculosis as not a challenge of technology or intellect but rather a challenge of political will. The U.S. invests over $240 million each year through bilateral tuberculosis programs and partners with governments in 22 high-risk countries; however, Administrator Green highlighted the need for more partnerships and assistance in order to eradicate tuberculosis.

Humanitarian Aid
Administrator Green announced nearly $264 million in additional humanitarian aid for the people of Iraq. This new money brings the total of U.S. government humanitarian aid in Iraq to nearly $1.7 billion since 2014. The assistance will benefit the people of Iraq by providing food, water, hygiene kits, sanitation, shelter, basic health care and medicines.

Just one day later, the U.S. announced more than $575 million in additional humanitarian aid for those affected by famine and violence in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia. U.S. humanitarian aid in these four countries now totals $2.5 billion since the beginning of this year.

Although Administrator Green announced almost $1 billion in additional humanitarian aid in less than 48 hours, he noted that “humanitarian assistance, we all know, alone will not solve these crises.” Green reiterated the need for long-term political solutions that can only result from a common agenda for bilateral and multinational support.

Crisis Management
Administrator Green declared the U.S. commitment to pursuing political solutions to the massive displacement and victimization of people in the Rakhine State of Burma, the rampant violence in South Sudan, and the public health crises in Nigeria, Syria, and Yemen. With the world facing the greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945, Administrator Green met with many leaders to discuss paths to peace, stability and prosperity.

Canadian Minister for International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau and Administrator Green discussed tactics to combat corruption and promote transparency amid crisis resolution. Administrator Green also met with Secretary of State for the Department of International Development of the United Kingdom Priti Patel, where they noted the potential for much-needed increased bilateral cooperation in the wake of unprecedented crises.

In addition to the U.S. priorities above, Administrator Green addressed and discussed a variety of other priorities. The General Assembly is a unique platform for the discussion of issues that affect our world on a global scale, as it is the only one of the six principal organs of the United Nations in which all 193 member nations have equal representation. Although the world faces global challenges, each meeting and address at the 72nd UNGA alludes to global solutions.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

3 Points to Take Away from United Nations Week 2016
The following are three of the highlights during the United Nations Week 2016:

1. The United Nations bids its farewell to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

As the end of the year approaches, so does the second and final term for the current secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. The decorated diplomat began his political career following his graduation from John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University when he then entered the South Korean Foreign Service. Following a career of various diplomatic posts, Ban accepted the position after collecting 14 approval votes out of 15 voting members with a platform that emphasized ending violence against women.

Ten years later the secretary-general addresses the United Nation General Assembly for the last time. During his farewell speech at the United Nations Week 2016, Secretary-General Ki-moon reflected on accomplishments undertaken during his tenure (prioritizing the curbing of climate change), but also addressed issues still looming over the international community. “Gulfs of mistrust divide citizens from their leaders. Extremists push people into camps of “us” and “them”. The Earth assails us with rising seas, record heat and extreme storms. And danger defines the days of many.”

Change evokes excitement along with fresh ideas; however, departing with the compassion, intellect and efforts of the United Nations under Ki-moon brings a feeling of saudade. Mr. secretary-general, the international community will reflect fondly on your actions to support the impoverished.

2. The Paris Accord shows early signs of success.

December 2015 marked a fundamental pivot in the course of the world’s contribution to greenhouse gases. Efforts undertaken by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change eliminated the contrast of developed and developing nations in the fight to thwart the effects of climate change. The international community will now operate under a common framework: limit the global temperature increase beyond 2 degrees Celsius, increase nationally determined contributions and ensure regular reports of emission and implementation efforts.

The Paris Accord, however, is not fully implemented until “thirty days after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emission […]” have ratified the agreement. According to the Office of the Spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, over 60 countries have joined the agreement, but they only account for 47.5 percent of the global greenhouse gasses.

Secretary-General Ki-moon notes that the progress made thus far is laudable and he is confident the threshold will be surpassed as soon as significant contributors (Canada, the European Union and Australia) ratify the agreement.

3. What issues are on the docket for the next secretary-general?

As the search for the next secretary-general continues, member-states alike and the world more broadly are left with many daunting crises to combat.

The most arresting issue will be how the international community equitably and efficiently addresses the unprecedented number of refugees. Following a series of civil wars and acts of ethnic cleansing, member-states have yet to demonstrate its full commitment to offer a viable alternative for those fleeing a hostile environment.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights noted on Sep. 19, 2016 during his speech to the General Assembly, that “it is shameful that the victims of abominable crimes should be made to suffer further by our failures to give them protection.”

In addition to matters of human rights violations, the global community is projected to undergo a health crisis that undermines the ability for immune systems to defeat infections by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.

Antimicrobial resistance happens from the overexposure to treatment (antibiotics). As a result, the bacteria evolve into a “superbug” with the capacity to defeat current forms of medication.

Consequences of the proliferation of antimicrobial resistance could result in increased health care costs, in the inability to treat common infectious diseases, in the destruction of gains made with the millennium development goals, as well as in the inhibition of the aspirations of the sustainable development goals.

The United Nations has demonstrated, time and time again, that it is one of the most effective, existing, regulatory and cooperative international bodies. Regardless of the secretary-general, the United Nations will have to continue, if not increase, its presence and efforts as the resources to combating global poverty have never been so plentiful.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr


Ending Global Poverty

The race for the position of “top diplomat” is on. The role of the United Nations Secretary-General involves spearheading initiatives toward ending global poverty, presiding over thousands of staffers and agencies and establishing world peace.

For the first time ever, the candidates presented their vision of the U.N. to the General Assembly in New York. They took questions from the public, governments and journalists in a townhall format, breaking free from tradition.

A common theme at the General Assembly among candidates was finding political solutions to conflict and ending global poverty. Irina Bokova, head of UNESCO, said enhancing the prevention of conflict and violence through political solutions and diplomacy should be the core task of the U.N.

Vensa Pusic, former Foreign Minister of Croatia, also mentioned the inequality over scarce resources as drivers of conflict. “For all the progress that has been made, too many people have been left behind,” Pusic said, according to IRIN News. “This is morally wrong, but it is also a threat to peace and security.”

The candidates also discussed taking a U.N. approach that recognizes the links between sustainable development, peace and security, human rights and humanitarian relief.

Former Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman said that there needs to be enhanced coordination between humanitarian and development communities. Similarly, former U.N. Refugees Leader Antonio Guterres noted that the U.N. needs to “strengthen the nexus between peace and security, sustainable development and human rights policies,” IRIN news reports.

The impact of climate change was another theme among candidates. Macedonian economist Srgjan Kerim said the U.N. should be the driving force in addressing global warming. He also said developing countries are the most exposed to climate change impacts and that their special needs must be high on the Secretary-General’s agenda.

In addition, the question of funding setbacks for humanitarian assistance was addressed. Vuk Jeremic, former President of the U.N. General Assembly offered a solution. He called for a special envoy to mobilize resources to address shortfalls, with emphasis on Middle Eastern and African refugee crisis and disaster relief. Jeremic noted that this would improve coordination of humanitarian relief, support and assistance to refugees.

The U.N. Security Council will make a recommendation for the top position in the U.N. and commence informal straw polls in closed meetings. The winner will be selected in September, declared in October and begin their term January 1, 2017.

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr

UNAIDSUNAIDS and United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) collaborated with faith-based organizations (FBOs) in East Africa to launch a two-year initiative to strengthen their capacity to respond to HIV.

On Sep. 15, 2015, in the seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, it was revealed that the five focus areas of the U.S. $4 million program are: collecting, analyzing and disseminating data; challenging stigma and discrimination; increasing demand for HIV services and retaining people in care; improving HIV-related service provision; and strengthening leadership and advocacy.

This new program is the result of suggestions made by faith leaders at a deliberation in April 2015. The conference hosted over 50 faith leaders from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The faith leaders called for more access to data, heightened accountability and better collaboration between FBOs and international partners.

The report, Building on Firm Foundations, which was released by the United Nations General Assembly, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and Emory University last month, highlights the impact of faith-based responses to epidemics in the four East African countries.

FBOs provided a majority of health services and sustained collaborative communities which maintain a disease-free environment for future generations.

PEPFAR’s partnership with FBOs has allowed them to reach 7.7 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, and treat 14.2 million pregnant women, thus decreasing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The recently launched PEPFAR 3.0 – Controlling the Epidemic: Delivering on the Promise of an AIDS-free Generation set the ambitious goal of 90-90-90.

By 2020, PEPFAR aims to achieve: 90% of people living with HIV who know their status, 90 percent of people who know their status and are receiving treatment and 90% of people on HIV treatment who have a suppressed viral load.

Thus it is important to strengthen partnerships with FBOs, as they are primary health providers for many communities, and allow UNAIDS and PEPFAR to expand their impact.

Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, stated that “Faith-based organizations are essential partners, particularly in the areas of health service delivery and addressing stigma and discrimination. The partnership with faith-based organizations is critical to ending the AIDS epidemic and making sure that no one is left behind.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: UNAIDS, PEPFAR Report
Photo: Flickr

Purchasing votes, or ‘vote buying,’ as it is sometimes referred to, is a popular strategy used in politics. The practice is even found within the United Nations’ General Assembly. There are a number of ways to ‘purchase’ a vote, one of the ways is by providing or withholding foreign aid.

Since 1983, the U.S. Department of State, at the behest of Congress, has prepared an annual report detailing the frequency with which other members states vote with or against the United States on resolutions at the United Nations’ General Assembly. The report, called Voting Practices in the U.N., “includes tables listing the percentages of countries’ votes that coincided with the U.S. position on U.N. Security Council and UNGA resolutions, including consensus and non-consensus votes and votes deemed “important” by the State Department.”

While for the most part, the UNGA resolutions are adopted by consensus (no dissent), a significant portion of the resolutions are adopted with recorded dissent. These non-consensus votes are usually considered substantive matters and are the basis for determining support for a U.S. position.

What the reports have found is that, since 1983, voting coincidence with the U.S. on non-consensus votes has only been greater than 50 percent on two occasions, in 1995 and 2011. The picture is somewhat better for issues that Congress has deemed important, with 58.6 percent support rate in 2013, a marked improvement from 2012’s 35.4 percent.

Where the issue of support for the U.S. at the UNGA becomes sticky is when considering that “every U.N. voting report between 1999 and 2009 listed U.S. foreign assistance disbursements to each nation in addition to its voting coincidence with the U.S.” In other words, Congress wants to keep track of which foreign aid recipients are voting  in support of the U.S.

Between the periods of 2004 to 2013, the reports have found that voting coincidence (favorable votes) on important non-consensus votes was 41 percent. Furthermore, the year after receiving U.S. aid, almost 67 percent of development recipients voted unfavorably in at least half of important non-consensus votes.

What this means exactly is the subject of some debate.

It may seem the U.S. has been doling out foreign aid to the wrong governments and consequently should withhold aid to countries who do not support the U.S. at important non-consensus votes. However, some authors have argued that the U.S. maintains a seemingly negative balance of favorable votes because it is in its long-term interest to do so.

If the U.S. is to maximize its vote purchases at the UNGA, it does not do to selectively withhold development funding to dissenters. This will only further decrease coincidence voting by cementing dissension at the UNGA. Moreover, the U.S. must continue to provide foreign aid to governments who do vote favorably in order to block other powerful states who would also purchase votes to prevent potentially turning a coincidence vote to one of dissension.

In other words, there is no good reason to withhold foreign aid as a stick, but there are two good reasons to use it as a carrot.

Pedram Afshar

Sources: Heritage Foundation, University of Heidelberg
Photo: flickr

On January 23, 1946, the first session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was held.  Almost 68 years later, ECOSOC is still grappling with the world’s economic, social and environmental challenges.  The broad categorization is daunting, especially since the Council and its subsidiary bodies are responsible for about 70 percent of the entire U.N. human and financial resources.  The span of ECOSOC encompasses economic, social, cultural, educational and health concerns, according to the U.N. Charter.  The Council’s subsidiary bodies demonstrate the diversity under ECOSOC’s umbrella of responsibility: U.N. Forum on Forests, Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Commission for Social Development, and the various regional commissions.

The U.N. General Assembly elects the 54 member-governments, with each region allocated a certain number of seats.  The U.S.’ three year term began in 2012 and will end in 2015.  The Colombian representative is currently President, with four Vice-Presidents from Albania, Austria, Pakistan and Sudan.  The year 2013 has seen major reform efforts from the Council, aiming to make ECOSOC more effective, more issues-oriented, and more responsive.  For example, the Commission on Sustainable Development held its final session in September after it was slated to be dismantled due to lack of progress in its sector.  The chairperson acknowledged that though the Commission greatly influenced the 21st century environmental goals, it did not create the change sought out by the larger Council.

As a result of its extensive areas of focus, ECOSOC is one of the most important humanitarian bodies in the United Nations.  One of the early acts by ECOSOC was to adopt the Commission on Human Rights’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an early stepping-stone in the path to equality.  The current reforms mark an important return to an issue-centered approach that many hope will lead to greater progress in the subsidiary bodies’ foci.

Katey Baker-Smith

Sources: UN News Centre, UNISDR

On October 17, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was celebrated in honor of the goal to end world poverty by 2030. Declared by the UN General Assembly, this annual day serves as a reminder to promote the need to end poverty and destitution in all countries, specifically the developing nations.

In celebration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Interaction, the NGO alliance, highlighted global programs that are already making an impact. One of these programs, A World Vision program in Zambia, has made health care, education, and psycho-social support accessible for more than a quarter million children. The program has also trained nearly 40,000 volunteers to assist people living with HIV across the country. It is programs like these, indeed, that are helping us reach our goal.

In hope to get to zero percent by our lifetime, NGOs, like Interaction, are essential parts of the solution. “We cannot let over a billion people suffer in extreme poverty when we have the tools and the research to change their lives for the better. … We can do better. We have to do better,” said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

So far, the world has made significant progress in working toward this goal. While it is bold, it is undoubtedly achievable. Already, extreme poverty rates are half of what they were two decades ago. In 1990, nearly one in two people in the developing world lived in “extreme poverty” or on less than $1.25 a day. Today, this number is about one in five. Because of the help of many institutions, government and nongovernment organizations alike, we have been able to make immense developments. Still, it is not enough. The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty recognizes these groups that have made all the difference through these years and even further, motivates people to help take those next few steps forward.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: UN, Global Dimension, Devex
Photo: Times Square