“The Fordham Ram” covers Impact Initiative

A big thanks to Amina Bhatti, a staff writer for the The Fordham Ram, for taking the time to research and write about the Impact Initiative. Please let it be known to all Fordham students that there are many ways to get involved at the United Nations. After all, Fordham’s very own mission statements stresses the importance of preparing students “for leadership in a global society”.

To find Amina’s article, follow this link:

http://fordhamram.com/2014/10/22/initiative-spreads-un-knowledge/

The NGO Committee on Education

By Theresa Carthy

The NGO Committee on Education brings NGOs together to discuss how the topic relates to the UN agenda.  The Committee eventually consults the United Nations and the larger NGO community on a variety of topics related to education and the mission of the UN—including increasing access to both primary and higher education in developing countries, maintaining education infrastructure in times of crises, and the intersection between education and public health.

At this past Committee meeting on Thursday October 16th, one key issue discussed was the connection between education and the rise of the Ebola virus.  The crisis demonstrates the costs of non-action.  Part of the reason why the virus was able to spread almost unchecked throughout West Africa was lack of healthcare infrastructure and lack of healthcare education infrastructure.  If governments had been proactive in developing institutions for higher education such as medical schools and building hospitals, West Africa would have been much better prepared to deal with the outbreak.  Lack of native doctors and other healthcare workers at the onset of the crisis is an unfortunate reason as to why it spread so quickly.

The need for education never stops; this crisis not only stems from a failure to educate but furthers lack of education.  Many West African schools have closed as a result of the outbreak.  It is critical that these children are not left behind in their education during their formative years due to the Ebola outbreak.  It is important to develop both formal and informal educational infrastructures that can continue to educate children during times of crisis.

The NGO Committee on Education explores international education issues such as these and brings them to the attention of other NGOs and the UN.  Other NGOs can provide further research and expertise, and can work on the ground globally to correct injustices related to education as well as help to create infrastructure which further promotes it.  By consulting with the United Nations, the Committee hopes to influence national and international government policies related to education.

The Role of Nonprofits in a Time of War

By Miranda Morton

On the morning of 16 October 2014, the Fordham University Center for Nonprofit Leaders hosted a very special event as part of their “Coffee, Conversation, and Connecting” series. Ambassador Hamid al-Bayati, the former permanent representative of the Iraqi mission to the United Nations and author of the book, “From Dictatorship to Democracy: An Insider’s Account of the Iraqi Opposition to Saddam”, spoke about the role of domestic and international nonprofit organizations in a time of war.

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Mr. al-Bayati (far right in photo above) opened with the straightforward comment that “NGOs are the first to arrive and the last to leave”, immediately conveying his attitude towards the importance of NGOs. He explained how NGOs respond more quickly to crises and are not bound to state whims. However, NGOs often lack the wherewithal in terms of capital and resources to fulfill their missions—for this reason, Mr. al-Bayati called upon the general public to support NGOs through participation. As far as funding goes, Mr. al-Bayati highlighted the absolute necessity of nonprofits to partner, partner, partner—he recommended NGOs strive for a large network including corporations and governments.

Mr. al-Bayati’s lecture was especially unique because of his own personal experiences. For years, Mr. al-Bayati fought in opposition to Saddam Hussein’s reign in hopes of a one-day democratic and pluralistic Iraq. With ISIS presently casting a cold shadow on his utopian hope (and the international community’s meager response), Mr. al-Bayati has summoned local NGOs to partner with Iraqi NGOs.

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Above: Myself (Miranda), Ambassador al-Bayati, and Theresa.

Integrating Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice into the Wider United Nations Agenda

By Miranda Morton

On the afternoon of 9 October 2014, Theresa and I attended a briefing entitled “Integrating Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice into the Wider United Nations Agenda”, hosted by the Qatar Mission. The purpose of this promotional event was to give a preview of The Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which will be held in Doha, Qatar, from 12 to 19 April 2015.

The 2015 Doha Congress will address how to integrate “crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda to address social and economic challenges and to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and public participation”. The tentative agenda items include identifying the following: previous successes and challenges in implementing policies meant to promote the rule of law, international cooperation to counter organized crime, comprehensive approaches to prevent emerging forms of organized crime, and national approaches to increase public participation in strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice.

To learn more about the coming 2015 Doha Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, check out these links:

http://www.moi.gov.qa/unccpcjdoha/english/

https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/crime-congress/13-crime-congress.html

International Day of Older Persons

By Theresa Carthy

On Thursday October 9, Miranda and I celebrated the International Day of Older Persons at the United Nations. The objectives of the event were two-fold: to highlight concerns specific to older persons and integrate them into the post-2015 development agenda, and to draw attention to examples of groups dealing successfully with aging.

The first half of the event featured speakers who discussed the intersection between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the rights of elder persons. The narrative of the Millennium Development Goals is about improving people’s lives, but so far they have tended to disregard the lives of older persons. The goals, as well as the processes taken to achieve them, are blind to the needs, concerns and well-being of the elderly. For example, a series of interviews revealed that elderly folks in Burkina Faso lament the lack of healthcare geared towards their demographic, that in Costa Rica older persons complain that they feel scared trying to go pick up their pensions, and that in the Philippines they are disappointed in their lack of employment opportunities. It is crucial that the post-2015 development agenda work to fight these injustices, and instead promote generations of active, engaged and socially secure older persons.

The panel speakers gave different perspectives on means to successfully integrated aging populations. The leaders of the Intergenerational Alliance in El Salvador stressed the importance of everyone—youth, elderly and anyone on the margins—working together. They believe that the mechanisms for change should be organic; they should occur at the grassroots level. They should come from the bottom-up, not just top-down. The MDGs are insufficient for change if they exclude the voices of the people who need to be helped.

Vladimir Cuk spoke on behalf of the International Disability Alliance about the increasing overlap between the elderly and the disabled due to the increasing number of disabilities amongst the elderly and the disabled population’s longer lifespan. Akiko Ito, the Chief Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities/DSPD/DESA at the United Nations, presented examples of elder persons who are thriving in different aspects of life. For example, Ali Amanbayer, a 66-year old with a serious spinal injury, rose to become the leader of Kazakhstani Union for the Organization of People with Disabilities. He then pursued his political interests and became the Advisor to the Minister for Labor and Social Protection—the first disabled man to hold a position that high. The point of her presentation was to highlight the value which elder and disabled perspectives contribute to society.

David Ryan from Intel discussed the intersection of well-being of older persons and technology. Technological innovation can provide the elderly with new social outlets, better healthcare which brings them greater self-sufficiency, and daily living assistance. Finally, Stephen Johnson, the co-founder of Aging 2.0, talks about bringing excitement, innovation and diversity to products for older persons. He stresses the importance of social connection and joy in any care, program or technology directed at the elderly.

The Pros and Cons of Partnership and the Private Sector’s Growing Role in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

By Theresa Carthy

This week, Miranda and I attended a board meeting at the Baha’i International Community United Nations Office. The Baha’i International Community is an International NGO which strives to further UN dialogues and efforts in the areas of development, human rights and gender equality while employing the insights of the Baha’i faith. This global faith, established around the time of the UN, is based in the ideas of the oneness of all things, the importance of peace and equality for all people, and the harmony of science and religion.

The Baha’i meeting featured a presentation from Barbara Adams, the Board Chair of the Global Policy Forum, on “The Pros and Cons of Partnership and the Private Sector’s Growing Role in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.” Adams encourages and critiques the involvement of the private sector in the United Nations. Partnerships with the private sector—currently including companies such as Coca Cola, Hairdressers Against Aids, Citi and Visa—are important ways of obtaining further resources for the UN to finance development projects. However, it is important that the UN establish accountability measures for the companies with which it partners. At the moment, there are close to no rules or criteria governing private sector involvement with the UN including no rules for dismissal, no criteria for reporting basic financial statements, and no principles determining how to act regarding conflicts of interest. Just as civil society actors must undergo an in-depth accreditation process to become affiliated with the United Nations, private sectors actors ought to undergo similar processes. This is important from the standpoint of adhering to UN goals and principles—such as the basic one to do no harm—and for the sake of upholding the UN’s reputation. As much as the private sector has to offer the UN in terms of resources and as much as this should be encouraged, it should never be occurring at a cost to the UN’s greater mission or reputation.

Although the bulk of Barbara Adams’ research and presentation was on private sector involvement in the UN, she also stressed the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships—such as those between civil society, the private sector, the public sector and the media. This form of collaboration values the diverse views, resources and knowledge which different sectors can provide in the interests of achieving collective goals of world peace and global development.

International Day of Non-Violence

By Miranda Morton

On 2 October 2014, the Permanent Mission of India hosted a unique celebration commemorating Mahatma Gandhi. By no coincidence this day also marks the International Day of Non-Violence, which the United Nations General Assembly instituted in 2007.

The Trusteeship Council room was charged with a reverence for Gandhi, the man who practiced non-violent civil disobedience and led the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. The Mission of India honored each guest with a stole (a long shawl worn around the neck reaching almost to the knees) fringed with the Indian national colors of saffron and green, and embroidered with a powerful message from Gandhi: “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

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An opening audio-visual presentation depicted Gandhi’s life and was followed by remarks from two representatives of India to the UN, Asoke Mukerji and Sushma Swaraj. The chief guests in attendance were Sam Kutesa, President of the 69th UN General Assembly, and Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN. Mr. Kutesa and Mr. Eliasson both addressed the audience and expressed their deepest admiration for Gandhi’s life and his enduring legacy. The special event concluded with a rendition of Gandhi’s presumed favorite hymns by students of Carman Moore’s Ensemble.

Several times throughout the celebration, the term satyagraha was mentioned. In global peace and justice studies, this is a vital piece of language to know and understand. Satyagraha literally means “truth-force”, but its significance goes much deeper than that. Gandhi’s application of satyagraha implies the method of working ceaselessly towards the discovery of truth, while converting opponents into friends in the process. Gandhi did not simply want to change the outward behavior of his opponents—he wanted to change their inward values, which could then lead to a lasting outward change in behavior.

Coming off of the momentous events at the UN last week and the week before (the Climate March being a prime example), this occasion conveyed ideals inherent in Article 33 of the UN charter: “The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.” Though language and discourse is naturally interpreted differently by all, and thus disputed by most, I do believe that Article 33 is touching upon Gandhi’s creed of steadily working towards peace (or in other terminology, the discovery of truth) with someone rather than against someone.

Spread the word! Satyagraha. International Day of Non-Violence. Millennium Development Goals. The World We Want.

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