An FYI to those interested in some of the global issues that the UN is trying to address….
Tomorrow the UNHCR will be discussing the situation in Myanmar.
Half a million Rohingya refugees have fled from violence in Myanmar. The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. The vast majority of Rohingya refugees reaching Bangladesh are women and children, including newborn babies. Many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection. They have nothing and need everything. This is where the UN and NGOs can get involved to help.
At the NGO Orientation today we heard from many different UN bodies and the NGOs that work with them.
The main themes were “Working Together” and “Making a Difference”. The two go hand-in-hand; you can’t make a difference if you don’t work together, especially in the world we live in today.
With the SDGs 2030 agenda in full swing each of us need to work together if we want to meet these goals. The panelists reminded us that every government in the world has agreed to try and help meet these goals, and we need to speak up when we don’t see that happening.
We heard from Claudia Díaz from the Human Rights Council, Dalita Balassanian from the UNDP and the different NGOs that work with them.
NGO rep Scott Carlin from Long Island University focused on climate change. He stated that “we’re far behind meeting our goals” and “we don’t have enough funding, and 2030 is right around the corner.”
Discussing solutions was also discussed. Getting involved in NGO committees, taking to social media (in a positive way), making ECOSOC aware of changes that need to be made, and being involved with DPI are just some of the avenues we can take in “working together to make a difference.”
Last week the DPINGO held a briefing on YOUnited, a youth led discussion on how to affect change through policy and action.
Topics addressed were how the youth are marginalized in the decision-making process of policy change, but need to play a critical roll in it. The average age of parliamentarians is 53-years old, with only 5% under the age of 35. This can easily be seen as a form of age discrimination.
Giving the advice on how to fight youth discrimination, Omar Almutawa, Youth Representative of the UAE stated, “Have a thick skin, and reply with action.” Getting involved and staying involved is the key.
With the 17 SDGs that the UN has put forth, we are all responsible for meeting them, and that includes the youth. Without the having the youth as an intricate part of meeting the SDGs, they will be very difficult to achieve.
My name is Derrek Schwartz and I am the new representative at the United Nations for the CCNY NGO. I am currently attending open session meetings on a regular basis at the UN to actively work with other NGO representatives and ambassadors focusing on sustainable development from different parts of the world.
As Africa Week at the UN came to a close last week, I attended two important and informative meetings. The first, the Africa Sustainable Development Report, and the second, hosted by the African Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which focused on Regional and economic integration in Africa.
Both meetings touched on income inequality trends and human development in Africa, but the second, more extensive meeting focused primarily on the future of Africa and that investing in the youth is the key to sustainable development in the regions. They spoke about how the majority of the countries in Africa live on less than a dollar per day, well below the global poverty line.
The presenters made a call to build infrastructure by helping the youth to receive more education and give the opportunity to form more advanced skillsets within their region. Currently, people are leaving to go where there are opportunities, causing an essential “brain drain.” If nothing is done, the youth, especially young girls find themselves easy prey to terrorist groups.
Gender equality at a young age was also a focus. Giving opportunities to both boys and girls will also give way to more sustained economic growth and help social progress to be formed.
Both meetings were very informative and gave a fresh perspective on the opportunity for success from a global standpoint.
While being tortured by finals and an endless to-do list, a political controversy “close-to-home” plauged my Chinese social media feeds. Netizens argued back and forth, missing each other’s point in cross fire. I watched closely, in silence, and shuddered at the power of speech to spread anger, division, and even hatred.
It all started with a speech, a speech that may have faded into history like the hundreds of thousands of speeches delivered every year. But people were too offended to let it go.
Instead, offended audience members protested over social media, organizing campaigns to denounce the content of the speech. The video and transcript of the speech spread. More people got angry and joined the fight. The media picked up the news. All the Weibo and Weixin media accounts took it to be a hot issue and reposted the contents.
Even more anger spread. The comments turned vicious. Both sides escalated offenses. One side decried the speech for lying and sacrificing one’s homeland for personal gain. The other side praised the speech for its “bravery” and supported its message promoting free speech. One side turned to ad hominem attacks and publicize the “perpetrator’s” personal information. The other side escalated the matter to national politics and claimed the incident to be realtime proof that freedom of speech is threatened.
The person who delivered the speech cleared out all social media accounts and posted a public apology. Neither side, however, seemd satisfied. One side called for more investigation into the matter. The other side portrayed the person as a victim of internet violence.
For a time, the discussion was only a debate within the Chinese cyberspace. But soon, the controversy spilled over to English media. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, NPR, one by one the major news outlets reported on the story. Great. Now everyone knew.
Throughout the back-and-forths between the two camps, it was striking to me how easily people were prompted to vehement attacks. Why is it that people could deliver such nasty attacks toward one another? Does free speech protect the expression of such sentiments, if they are sincerely felt? Should sensitivity to internet violence curtail such commentary? Should one not be responsible for the results of one’s public speech?
More dangerously, I noticed that both sides were literally talking past one another, not addressing the points the other side brought up and instead twisting the discussion to fit their own needs. This is not a real discussion. This is an incident hijacked by two camps with preconceived opinions. All they needed was a flicker to burst into a consuming flame.
Throughout all these debates and growingly pointless battles of insults, some key points were lost.
First, the main contention against the speech was its contested factuality. People were angry because they believed it to be spreading false stereotypes. Did the person really feel that way? Or were the vignettes simply fabrications that suited the general expectation? Should lies be protected under free speech? The other side, including the official statement issued on this matter, supported the speech on the level of principle. However, no one seems to be challenging the right to free speech in the first place.
Second is a question of national pride. If one were to love one’s country, would one use its weaknesses (let’s assume these are real for now) to contrast another country’s strength? Would one propagate negative propaganda against one’s homeland and confirm others’ skewed assumptions? If one were to protect one’s motherland and edits one’s speech, would that be considered censorship and suppression of the right to free speech? What kind of responsibility does one owe to one’s country? What would it mean nowadays to be “un-American”? What about one’s loyalty to one’s institution? The speech’s main function was, after all, to praise the institution.
Third is a issue of political incitement. If the content of the speech genuinely reflects the writer’s thoughts, what is the objective? It seems to say: not everyone can enjoy freedom, democracy, and fresh air, don’t take it for granted. Is it trying to encourage action? What type of action? If Americans are all so used to freedom and democracy already, would the point to incite them to promote such principles to countries that cannot enjoy such “luxuries”? Would its point be to draw attention to the “suppression” back home? If the premisde is that there are also threats to freedom and democracy in America, would it be encouraging more incidents like the LA riots? 60 people died during those violent confrontations. With the institution-in-question’s recent encounters with hate speech and hate crimes, is the timing intentional? Would the speechwriter be willing to take on that kind of responsibility?
But no matter how debates pan out, China has lost another P.R. battle. Both inside and outside the country, the incident is being framed as an example of internet violence, intolerance, and extreme nationalism. The portrayal of China in the speech is sinking even deeper into the mass consciousness. Given this result, I wonder if it was wise to protest against it publicly in the first place?
In truth, I am fearful to take sides on controversial political matters like this. Especially when I have access to such visible platforms as forums at the United Nations. Every word I utter can reflect upon my school, my countries, my people. I hope individuals will not be frightened to take the spotlight in the future because of fear of repurcussions. Speech can carry a lot of power; we just have to wield it carefully and purposefully.
However much the speech gets lambasted, one line rings true: Our voices do matter.
This is a very exciting opportunity for you to participate and have the chance to win this Photo Contest without the need to write any essays! You just need to have a camera with you and capture moments to raise awareness on the SDGs!
UNIC Tokyo will be organizing the Student Photo Contest along with Sophia University and also special cooperation from Getty Images Japan.
Following the success of last year’s contest, which amassed a total of 624 entries from 47 countries as far and wide as Afghanistan and Brazil, UNIC is running the photo contest once again to promote awareness of SDGs among students worldwide; we are encouraging participants to choose one or more of the 17 SDGs that interests them most, and express what it means to them through a photograph.
This year, we have added new awards such as the TOGETHER Award and the Concept Award. We would truly appreciate the cooperation and support of other UNICs and UN-related offices to spread our ongoing project.
❖ Deadline: Wednesday 30 August 2017
[ Announcement of Results & Awards Ceremony: 24 October 2017/UN Day ]
❖ Qualifications: College and undergraduate students, graduate students, vocational school students (Applicants can be of any nationality)
❖ Awards (subject to change depending on content and number of applications):
・Grand Prize (Foreign Minister’s Award) 1 Prize
・Award of Excellence 3 Prize
・Special Award (TOGETHER Award) 1 Prize
・Special Award (Concept Award) 1 Prize
・Award of Recognition
Leslie Kee, Photographer
Akira Ono, Photo and Multimedia Editor, The Asahi Shimbun
Yuichi Kimura, Comedian, YOSHIMOTO CREATIVE AGENCY CO., LTD.
Hiroaki Mizushima, Professor, Department of Journalism, Sophia University
Mark Garten, Chief of the UN Photo Unit, Audio-Visual Services Section, DPI
❖ Judging Panel for the TOGETHER Award:
Representatives from the ILO, IOM, UNHCR, UNIC Tokyo, UNICEF and UNU
❖ Judge for the Concept Award:
Getty Images Japan
❖ Prize Money and Goods: presented by organizers, special cooperating partner, other
SDGs Student Photo Contest 2017 (Official Site):
UNIC Tokyo – SDGs Student Photo Contest 2017 Press Release:
❖ Organizers: UNIC Tokyo, Sophia University
❖ Special Cooperation: Getty Images Japan
❖ Endorsed by: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Global Compact Network Japan (GC-
NJ), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan Civil Society Network on SDGs
❖Cooperating Partners: Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., Nikon Corporation, SIGMA Corporation
❖ Media Partner: The Asahi Shimbun
For further queries, please contact Ms. Yasuko Senoo (email@example.com)
Fanny Shum Chan
The spring semester is ending soon. I hope you guys are preparing for finals. I found this opportunity for Young Leaders like you, who can promote the Sustainable Development Goals.
Last September, the United Nations announced the inaugural class of the Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals – 17 young change-makers whose leadership is catalyzing the achievement of the Goals. From food to fashion to finance, the Young Leaders come from many different backgrounds, represent every region in the world and help activate young people in support of the Goals.
Convened by the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, these Young Leaders are recognized for their leadership and contribution to a more sustainable world. The Young Leaders come together as a community to support efforts to engage young people in the realization of the SDGs both through strategic opportunities with the UN and through their existing initiatives, platforms and networks. Young Leaders will be expected to actively support one or more of the following objectives:
- Advocate for the Goals, in ways most accessible and relatable to young people across different contexts;
- Promote innovative ways of engaging their audiences and peers in the advocacy and realization of the Goals;
- Contribute to a brain trust of young leaders supporting the UN and partners for key moments and initiatives related to the Goals.
Each year, a new “Class” will be nominated through an open call for nominations and assessed according to robust selection criteria by a diverse selection committee.
The Young Leaders Initiative is powered by the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, in collaboration with our amazing partners. The Initiative is part of the Global Youth Partnership for Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015 and housed in the Envoy’s Office.
What are the eligibility requirements to be a Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals?
Nominees must be between 18 and 30 years old (as of August 12, 2016).
Successful candidates will be selected based on:
• Their demonstrated achievements in promoting and advancing sustainable development;
• The ability to command an audience, influence their contemporaries and inspire their constituents;
• Their personal influence within their respective fields and reputation for inclusive and innovative leadership;
•Their demonstrated integrity, commitment to the SDGs and core values of the UN.
Click here to sign up for their mailing list!
Good luck with finals!
Fanny Shum Chan