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Beautiful Spring Day at the United Nations

Reflection of the Empire State Building on the United Nations Secretariat

Reflection of the Empire State Building on the United Nations Secretariat

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Suzanne Arnold
Fordham University Impact Initiative Student Coordinator
Fordham University Youth Representative to the United Nations

Briefing: 3 April 2014

“Education for Global Citizenship”

On 3 April 2014 DPI/NGO hosted a briefing, “Education for Global Citizenship”. To begin the briefing, Mr. Jeffrey Brez, the Chief of NGO Relations and Advocacy, emphasized the importance of “Education for Global Citizenship” by stating that, according to the United Nations’ My World Global Survey, “more than 1.5 million people from 194 countries have voted for what they think is the most important to achieve a better world. Across every single category – male, female, age groups, income levels – the top priority is education”.

However, education is not only a top priority for Civil Society, but for the United Nations as well. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says: “Education is vital for fostering global citizenship and building peaceful societies”. Therefore, in 2012, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a five-year initiative called the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI). This Initiative has three main priorities: to get every child into school, to make sure every child can access quality learning, and to educate global citizens. This third priority of the Global Education First Initiative, to educate global citizens, is what this DPI/NGO briefing was focused on.

Ms. Ozioma Egwuonwu                                                              (Photo courtesy of Kui Li)

The briefing’s moderator, Ms. Ozioma Egwuonwu, an internationally recognized speaker, strategist and educator, emphasized all that the United Nations is doing to promote “Education for Global Citizenship”. She especially emphasized the importance of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace that was adopted by consensus in 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly. According to Ms. Egwuonwu, this Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace “sets out guidelines for how people and governments and the United Nations can work together towards the realization and the common goal of creating a culture which brings together, and brings into being, the best future civilization as possible. The Program of Action includes fostering a culture of peace through education”. This Program is what ultimately helped create the Global Education First Initiative and allowed the United Nations to focus on the concept of “Education for Global Citizenship”.

H.E. Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury and Ms. Vibeke Jensen, the Director of UNESCO’s New York Office and Director of the Secretary-General’s Global First Education First Initiative, helped to better explain this often-abstract concept of Global Citizenship, and how education plays a role.

H.E. Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury (Photo courtesy of Kui Li)

H.E. Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury                            (Photo courtesy of Kui Li)

H.E. Ambassador Chowdhury mentioned that Global Citizenship is dependant on four main components or concepts, all beginning with the letter “I”: individuals, inter-generational, inclusivity, and institutional. He believes that a great deal of Global Citizenship has to do with the self-transformation of individuals. He also believes that Global Citizenship is an inter-generational phenomenon that needs to include all demographics of the world. And, lastly, he believes that institutions need to play more of a role in promoting and fostering Global Citizenship. For example, there needs to be more institutions, other than the United Nations and UNESCO, that actively work to promote Global Citizenship, especially through education.

Ms. Vibeke Jensen (Photo courtesy of Kui Li)

Ms. Vibeke Jensen                                                                       (Photo courtesy of Kui Li)

Ms. Jenson, on the other hand, talked much more about the role of education in Global Citizenship and finally gave the audience a definition of Global Citizenship Education. She said that Global Citizenship Education is a “concept that really articulates the overall purpose of education. It recognizes the relevance of education in understanding and resolving social, political, cultural, and global issues. It stresses the interconnected world that we are living in and the real need for all of us to understand how that works and how we can help one another to move forward in a peaceful and sustainable manner. It recognizes the role of education in moving beyond the development of knowledge and skills to also facilitate the acquisition of values and attitudes in order to promote social transformation. And, importantly also, it empowers learners to engage and assume active roles both locally and globally to face and resolve global challenges and ultimately to become proactive co-contributors to promoting peace, tolerance, a culture of peace, and a secure and sustainable world”.

Ms. Jenson also talked about the politics of education and how difficult it is to fulfill the three core goals of the Global Education First Initiative. She told the audience that although the Initiative is officially a five-year initiative, it will take much longer than five years to ensure these goals are met.

Regardless, the United Nations will continue to work to meet these goals, but they need the help of Civil Society to promote Education for Global Citizenship. This blog post, and the fact that this briefing was held, are ways that Civil Society is already contributing to the idea and practice of Global Citizenship Education.

How can you help promote and foster Education for Global Citizenship?

To learn more about United Nation’s Global Education First Initiative, please visit: http://www.globaleducationfirst.org

To learn more about the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, please visit: http://www.un.org/en/ga/63/plenary/B_peace_culture.shtml

To take the My World Global Survey here: http://www.myworld2015.org

Members of the Fordham International Student Association from the Graduate School of Business Administration

Members of the Fordham International Student Association from the Graduate School of Business Administration       (Photo courtesy of Kui Li)

Fordham Youth Rep, Suzanne Arnold

Fordham Youth Rep, Suzanne Arnold

 

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Suzanne Arnold
Fordham University Impact Initiative Student Coordinator
Fordham University Youth Representative to the United Nations

 

Regional Commissions of the United Nations

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), also referred to as la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. The other regional commissions are: the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Africa (ESCWA).

Among other things, these regional commissions work on projects related to economic and social development, the MDGs, trade, migration, population, and sustainable development. To learn more about these various regional commissions, or about ECLAC specifically, please visit:

http://www.un.org/Depts/otherprgs.htm

http://www.cepal.org/default.asp?idioma=IN

 

Youth Rep, Suzanne, standing outside

Fordham Youth Rep, Suzanne, standing outside of the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean’s Headquarters in Santiago, Chile

 

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Suzanne Arnold
Fordham University Impact Initiative Student Coordinator
Fordham University Youth Representative to the United Nations

Briefing: 20 March 2014

“International Day of Happiness”

Thank you to Kui Li, one of Fordham University’s Youth Representatives to the United Nations, for this briefing summary:

Here comes the International Day of Happiness! Proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on July 12, 2012, the second International Day of Happiness is celebrated last Thursday. Three ambassadors, a professor, an author, a film director and a student have joined us to share about their experiences and thoughts about happiness. Jeffrey Brez, Chief of NGO Relations and Advocacy in the Department of Public Information, gave the opening remarks.

Mr. Jeff Brez, NGO Relations & Advocacy, DPI

Mr. Jeff Brez, NGO Relations & Advocacy, DPI

Further discussion was initiated when our moderator Christina Stevens, an award winning author and film director, mentioned that “nothing is developed without everyone being happy; nothing is done unless everyone is happy.” She also shared her experiences visiting the Kingdom of Bhutan, one of the happiest countries in the world. Gross National Happiness depends not only on economic growth but also on healthcare and freedom.

Ms. Christina Stevens, NGO Rep. & Advisor, IAAI

Ms. Christina Stevens, NGO Rep. & Advisor, IAAI

Dr. T. Hamid Al-Bayati, a professor at the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University and Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations, optimistically believed that “if the world fails to make everybody happy, we can teach them to be happy”, a point that led to a question later asked by a student from Tsinghua University, China, who claimed to be curious about how to teach people to be happy. Once gain, he stressed the importance of being happy. “We are human beings not because we eat, drink and sleep. Animals can do that, too. We are human beings because we have feelings and we can think. So many celebrities committed suicide when they have millions of dollars because they were not happy”. When he was in prison and tortured earlier in his life, as he claimed, he was still happy because he believes that being happy is not about what we possess but about what we believe and think.

H.E. Dr. Hamid Al-Bayati, Former Ambassador of Iraq to the UN

H.E. Dr. Hamid Al-Bayati, Former Ambassador of Iraq to the UN

Denmark has been long considered as the happiest country in the world. “But I wonder why because Denmark has terrible weather and high tax rates,” opened his speech, Mr. lb Petersen, Ambassador from Denmark. He showed us a street interview video where Danish people were asked what happiness is to them. Surprisingly simple answers were given. “Listening to rock music”, “sitting in the sun”, “being around with my friends”, etc. He then answered the question he used to open his speech by listing eight factors that have an impact on happiness.

They are trust, security, wealth, freedom, social relations, democracy, social work and work/life balance.

Unfortunately, Ms. Consolee Nishimwe, an author and survivor of 1994 Rwanda genocide, could no long enjoy her happy childhood when she reached 14. She didn’t know what happiness means in those old days when she and family were living in horror and pain. Yes, happiness can never been pursued without a peaceful world.

Ms. Consolee Nishimwe, Author

Ms. Consolee Nishimwe, Author

From a different perspective, Dr. Kaiping Peng, a psychological professor from Tsinghua University, China, has been practicing positive psychology to enhance people’s happiness in China. His organization, CPPA (Chinese Positive Psychology Association), conducts research on happiness and provides workshops to teach the skills of being happy. Interestingly, he has prepared a happiness map of China where cities are marked by different colors showing different levels of happiness. Fortunately, Chongqing, the city where I come from, was marked green, meaning people there are enjoying the highest level of happiness. His team has also developed smart phone apps to monitor happiness.

Dr. Kaiping Peng, Chair, Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, China

Dr. Kaiping Peng, Chair, Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, China

Ambassador Carlos Enrique García González from El Salvador also shared his experiences. His charming smile was good enough to bring the meeting great happiness.

H.E. Mr. Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez, Ambassador of El Salvador to the UN

H.E. Mr. Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez, Ambassador of El Salvador to the UN

Yes, as Christina pointed out in the beginning of the briefing, “happiness expresses differently in different countries”. But nobody can disagree that happiness can hardly, if not never, be reached without sufficient food, public safety, peaceful society, good health and personal freedom, which are still luxuries in some parts of the world. If you already have them, why not be happier?

Briefing: 13 March 2014

“Putting It Together: Bioenergy, Clean Cookstoves  and Sustainable Development”

Thank you to Kui Li, one of Fordham University’s Youth Representatives to the United Nations, for this briefing summary:

On March 13th 2014, the United Nations DPI/NGO hosted a briefing, “Putting It Together: Bioenergy, Clean Cookstoves and Sustainable Development”, at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium of UN Headquarter. Panelists from NGOs and bioenergy businesses have shared their experiences and thoughts on how the use of bioenergy can change people’s lives and the global environment.

Ms. Corinne Hart, a Program Manager for Gender and Markets at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, explained how her NGO help mobilize high-level national and donor commitments toward the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels. She pointed out that one of the challenges NGO workers face today is that there is no unified standard of clean and efficient, making their work more difficult. Also, she believes that women are the major users of cookstoves since most of cooking is done by women in many societies. This observation has reminded her colleagues in other organizations to pay more attention on women’s behavior of choosing cooking tools.  She announced that Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves would launch their new project in Gana soon.

Ms. Corinne Hart

Ms. Corinne Hart

Mr. Thomas Setchel, an Energy Conservation and Distillation Specialist from Sustainable Technology System, Inc. (STS), has talked about his experiences working at Haiti, helping farmers generate ethanol and alcohol from sugar cane and other mass pile. As a result, the farmers can sell the energy cans generated from these otherwise wastes to the market, making more money and in turn boosting the local economy. His expertise in energy efficiency and recycling impressed audience greatly.

An interesting question raised by a young listener is that as there is a big controversy over using food (i.e. corn and sugar) to generate fuel, an activity that might cause climbing food price the result of which is specifically severe in developing world, how could we persuade ourselves and friends to use energy generated from such resources?

Unfortunately, the answers from the panelists, though seemingly sound, cannot fully persuade the audience, at least me. Their responses were that at the time when they were working at Haiti, the price of the sugar cane was declining; that some food is, instead being consumed, in fact wasted; and that some food are grown for eating while some are not.

Thinking further into the detail and human history, using the bioenergy cookstoves to replace traditional ones is not profoundly justified. We human beings have adopted traditional high-carbon cooking style since the time when we were not evolved enough to call ourselves human beings. Why the carbon emission has never been so dangerously high until recent decades? Obviously, the traditional cooking tool or style is not the blame.

For more information on the organizations spoke at the briefing, go to:

http://www.jmconsultinginc.net/

http://www.cleancookstoves.org/

http://www.sustainabletechsys.com/.

Briefing: 27 February 2014

A Focus on Faith

“Discovering Mormonism and its Role in Humanitarian Assistance”

On 27 February 2014, the United Nations DPI/NGO hosted a briefing, “Discovering Mormonism and its Role in Humanitarian Assistance”, as part of the annual “Focus on Faith Series”, implemented in 2008. Moderator Felipe Queipo informed the audience that the  “series aims to provide a broader understanding of how different belief systems share common foundational principles such as tolerance, mutual respect for people different than ourselves, and a commitment to reconciliation and peaceful resolution of disputes. These principles are also shared and promoted by the United Nations: to engage in inter-faith dialogue provides an opportunity for greater understanding of religions, cultures, and civilizations”. Accordingly, the briefing certainly helped provide a broader and more educated understanding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their various humanitarian undertakings.

Interestingly, the UN conference room was completely filled, with guests pouring in throughout the entire briefing. The overwhelming attendance was continually noted by the speakers, and certainly acted as a testimony to both the appeal of faith-based humanitarian organizations, as well as the powerful member base of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Perhaps the latter is more accurate, in this specific case, for the majority of the attendees had some sort of affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church or LDS Church.

The briefing started with a short promotional video about the humanitarian efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, specifically the carried out by the LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As one would expect, the video provided carefully choreographed testimonials of affected populations, but also testimonials of LDS volunteers. The carefully crafted video obviously shed a positive light on the mission of LDS Charities and the scope of their humanitarian efforts, both domestically as well as internationally.

Following the video, Mr. Ahman Corbitt, Director of the New York Office of Public and International Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, began the discussion by giving the audience some background information on the Mormon Church, detailing its history and clarifying some typically false pre-conceived notions about the Church.  However, there were two common themes of his remarks, which ultimately proved to be common themes of the entire briefing: family and religious freedom.

Ms. Sharon Eubank, Director of LDS Charities, echoed many of the same sentiments as Mr. Corbitt, especially regarding family and religious freedom. She emphasized: “The primary purpose of LDS Charities is to relieve suffering, foster self-reliance, and provide opportunities for service for families of all nationalities and religions.” These goals, or these “purposes”, are incredibly similar to goals of the United Nations. So, although the United Nations is a secular organization, the goals and projects of faith-based organizations, like LDS Charities, often align with the goals and projects of the United Nations.

Mr. John Colton, a current volunteer who directs various affairs of LDS Charities internationally, specifically mentioned how and where the goals of LDS Charities align with those of the United Nations, specifically the MDGs. He emphasized that both parties are keen to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”, “to reduce child mortality rates”, and “to foster a global partnership for development”. Mr. Colton also talked about specific global initiatives of the LDS Charities, showing how multi-faceted the work of the LDS Charities is.

Ultimately, although the briefing left the audience with pertinent and interesting information about the humanitarian work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think there are some unanswered questions to think about regarding faith-based humanitarian organizations. These questions arise from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon quote that Ms. Eubank delivered during her remarks. In 2009, Mr. Ban Ki-moon said: “As a secular organization, the UN has no common religion, but like all major faiths, we too work on behalf of the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. I have long believed that when governments and civil societies work toward a common goal, transformational change is possible. Faiths and religions are an essential part of that equation.” I find it interesting that although Ms. Eubank gave abundant information and examples concerning the specific work and goals of LDS Charities, she never specifically elaborated on why “faiths and religions are an essential part” of “transformational change”. This, I think, is an important concept or question to think about.

Therefore, to conclude, think about these questions: Why do faith-based religious organizations provide such good humanitarian assistance? And, why do affected communities and populations receive such organizations so well? In other words, what is the power of being a faith-based organization?

If you would like more information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Charities, and their various humanitarian services, please visit:

https://www.lds.org/?lang=eng

http://ldscharities.org/?lang=eng

http://www.ldsphilanthropies.org

http://mormon.org

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org

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Suzanne Arnold
Fordham University Impact Initiative Student Coordinator
Fordham University Youth Representative to the United Nations

Town Hall Meeting: 20 February 2014

An Open Forum to Discuss the 65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference

Beautiful Day at the UN

Beautiful Day at the UN

On 20 February 2014, DPI/NGO hosted a Town Hall meeting where all UN DPI associated NGOs could gather and have their opinions heard. Unlike other Town Hall meetings, this particular one had a very specific agenda: the 65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference. The theme of this conference is The Role of Civil Society in the Post-2015 Development Agenda and will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on 27-29 August 2014.

The meeting was led by Jeffrey Brez, the Chief of NGO Relations and Advocacy; Jeff Huffines, Chair of the NGO/DPI Conference; and Ann-Marie Carlson, Chair of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee. The panel discussed logistics and specifics of the conference, and emphasized the importance of the conference due to the fact that it will be the last and largest civil society gathering at the United Nations ahead of the post-2015 General Assembly. However, the meeting was mainly concerned with discussing the goals and purposes of the conference, as well as getting input from the NGO community regarding the conference title, subtitle, and logo. The panel emphasized that the conference is an opportunity to advance the diverse messaging and advocacy of various topics and issues important to both the United Nations and civil society in the post-2015 agenda. Through the conference, the UN and civil society can work together to develop strategies and partnerships to promote this post-2015 agenda. In turn, the conference is aimed at “sparking sustained public demand for political action”. Among other things, the panel stressed the importance of civil society and civil society’s involvement, chiefly because “civil society helps build an accountability framework”. Unfortunately, this idea of civil society building and forming an accountability framework for the UN and its post-2015 agenda was not elaborated upon. However, it certainly is an important idea to think about and push forward.

Throughout the meeting, it was quite clear that the panel and DPI/NGO is attempting to make the conference details and planning aspects fully transparent and all-inclusive. In fact, Jeff Huffines, chair of the conference, continually emphasized that he wanted the planning process to be “open, inclusive, representative, transparent, and participatory”. In this vain, the panel opened the room to discussion and debate concerning possible conference titles, subtitles, and logos, all fitting into the already-established conference theme: The Role of Civil Society in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. As the room was filled with representatives from various NGOs, all representing a wide array of different causes and demographics, the suggestions were quite diverse.

Overall, the meeting provided a welcome give-and-take between the NGO community and the DPI/NGO officials. It was clear that the DPI/NGO officials and conference committee wants further participation, involvement, and input from the NGO community, and hopefully that will remain true throughout the planning process and conference itself.

Staying true to the theme of The Role of Civil Society in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, what would you title the 65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference?

Aileen Reynolds, Fordham University Student and VIVAT International Intern, and Suzanne Arnold

Aileen Reynolds, Fordham University Student and VIVAT International Intern, and Suzanne

After having a wonderful experience in Nicaragua with Fordham's IIHA Foreign Service class, Suzanne was excited to sit at Nicaragua's seat in the GA

After having a wonderful experience in Nicaragua with Fordham’s IIHA Foreign Service class, Suzanne was excited to sit at Nicaragua’s seat in the General Assembly

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Suzanne Arnold
Fordham University Impact Initiative Student Coordinator
Fordham University Youth Representative to the United Nations

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