by Mikhail Shklyarevsky
UNA-SNY Young Professionals Social and Humanitarian Affairs Committee (YP-SHAC)
On December 31, 2016, Ban Ki-moon was succeeded by Antonio Guterres as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leaves Guterres an organization that has seen great progress during his tenure in the areas of women's rights and climate change. He has created women's rights initiatives, such as the Agenda for Humanity, that make United Nations member states responsible for the empowerment and safety of women and girls. In addition, Ban Ki-moon appointed Major General Kristin Lund of Norway as the first female Force Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. He also created the Climate Neutral Now initiative, in partnership with multinational corporations, like Sony, and convinced Edward Norton, the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, to encourage people worldwide to mitigate the impact of climate change. This article will commemorate Secretary-General Ban's achievements on gender equality and climate change, as well as explain their importance in regard to the United Nations.
By Natasha Louis
Dr. Farah’s demeanor was surprisingly reserved when he sat down with me in his gray, loose-fitting suit. Just arriving from a conference at the United Nations, he was quiet and calm, possibly also exhausted from his hectic schedule. While Dr. Farah speaks modestly, it should not mislead on his ability to be remarkably succinct and articulate. During our discussion, he never faltered or had to search for words; the conflict in Somalia was a matter he knew well. Talking so logically about such an arduous conflict almost gave me the impression that I was conversing with someone very intelligent but far removed from the issue. However, upon making eye contact, I could see something deep within him and witnessed that this was a man who has seen and experienced copious tribulations, yet contests it with such an unremitting spirit. To state Dr. Farah is courageous is an understatement. His unwavering commitment to peace and his country even after the loss of his arm and surviving three attacks, carried out by the very people he tries to disengage and rehabilitate, is incredibly commendable.
by Joanna Blaz
Shaking hands with a United Nations leader last week was no regular greeting. Dr. Abdiqafar Yasin Farah, who lost one his right arm in an attack in Somalia on September 18, 2006, remained hopeful and optimistic as he visited the United Nations Foundation and talked about surviving two explosions, his work with the United Nations and the future of his country.
Farah got his start in 2006 as an advisor to the Somali government, because of his background in Economics, Defense and Security. Within two months of starting work, the first suicide bomber in Somailia struck his small unit and he lost his arm that day.
But Farah continued working to eliminate the same violence that he experienced. Farah is now the National Officer of DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) at the United Nations Mission in Somalia. Through their disarmament efforts, Farah’s team stripped more than 2,000 members of the militia of their weapons and sent them back into the community. Every three months, the government follows up. They usually find that the former Al-Shabab fighters are now new business owners, active in their town.
“Help these guys so they can come out and be good citizens, that is the goal,” Farah said.
Farah’s commitment to peace was tested again in July 2016, when he was caught in another attack by a suicide bomber at the Mogadishu International Airport, adjacent to the Somalia UN compound. He reported to the UN security officer who took him to the hospital. The attack made international headlines, with 13 people killed.
Despite witnessing the terror attacks, Farah said he has seen a lot of progress in his country. He said the Somalian government is now functioning, with former warlords and militia integrated into the security forces. The political environment is also improving: although Somalians still elect leaders based on a clan system, they now have an outgoing president and parliament that Farah points out were not there two decades ago.
Farah’s hope is unwavering. After losing friends in the attacks and losing his own arm, Farah’s goal for the future remains the same: “to make some peace.”
The United Nations Association is leading a fundraiser to get Farah a more functional prosthetic arm. So far the group has raised $1,500 of the $8,000 needed. To donate please visit: https://www.crowdrise.com/support-a-un-peacekeeper.
* The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.
By Jeanne "Ginger" Betstock Stillman, UNA-SNY Vice President of Chapter Development and Former UNA-SNY Division President
On August 17, 2016, the UNA-USA Southern New York State Division held its third consultation on Race, Criminal Justice and Human Rights. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, former NYS Senator and now Special Advisor to Governor Cuomo for Policy and Community Affairs at Homes and Community Relations, joined in planning this program and gave remarks on the importance of our work together. Jeanne Betsock Stillman, organizer of the event, described interactions in 2016 between the United Nations and the U.S. related to race, criminal justice and human rights. These included visits to the U.S. and statements by the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, and a letter from the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. All spoke to the positive elements they observed in U.S. policy and actions and their recommendations for change. Also important to the framing of the discussion was the Report of the President’s Task Force on Community Policing (2015). Troy Wolfe, UNA Education Director, introduced the small group discussions.
The event was held in the office of the UN Foundation in New York City. The 38 participants included clergy members, police officers and consultants, legislative staff, university faculty members and other educators, attorneys, staff of agencies assisting prisoners or those released from prison, experts in human trafficking and violence against women, public health specialists, Human Rights specialists, NGO representatives, UNA-USA chapter and Division leaders and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members, and included several people who were formerly incarcerated.
After introductions Ms. Hassell-Thompson offered remarks on several topics she thought important for our meeting:
Troy Wolfe announced the small group topics and methods. The participants chose from: (1) the school to prison pipeline and related education issues; (2) housing for youth aging out of foster care and sick adults leaving prison; and (3) race and justice issues including community policing and courts and reintegration into the community. In a plenary session the each group reported on its discussions. Next steps are to spread widely the final report through the networks of participants and to send it to Ms. Hassell-Thompson with the aim that key ideas might be included in the Governor’s State of the State address and budget.
by Joanna Blaz
As UNA-SNY Young Professionals took their seats in Colors Restaurant on Thursday night, one simple item tied the room together: a chalkboard with a Cesar Chavez quote scribbled in blue and pink.
“We don’t need perfect political systems; we need perfect participation.”
The reasons for participation in UNA’s “At The Intersection of Business and Development” panel and networking event were as diverse as the audience itself, which included international entrepreneurs, college students and a sustainability event planner.
Exploring Corporate Social Responsibility with the UNA-SNY Young Professionals Sustainability and Economic Development Committee (YP-SEDC)
By Joanna Blaz
Placing social issues as a priority in the workplace is not an easy task. But can proximity to the world’s largest humanitarian organization offer some inspiration? With the United Nations right in their backyard, New York City corporations and organizations are taking advantage and applying their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts on a larger scale.
Nielsen, a global independent measurement and data company with operations in New York City, has partnered with the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) as an opportunity to use its data and expertise for social good.
In 2015, a team of Nielsen data scientists volunteered their skills to help WFP revolutionize its mobile data collection process. This pro bono project enabled WFP to survey people in remote areas and gather data on their needs during times of crisis when sending workers into the field would be too dangerous, including during the Ebola epidemic.
by David Stillman, Board Member UNA-SNY
David and Ginger Stillman led a roundtable on Goal 16 (Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies) at the UNA-USA Leadership Summit in Washington, DC on June 12th.
Participants included members from chapters in Northern Colorado, Beverly Hills, Tampa, National Capital Area, Seton Hall University, Georgetown University, UCLA, Pomona Valley, Nebraska, Wisconsin, New York and the Southern NY State Division. Individual knowledge ranged from little familiarity with the goal to a person who teaches about the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights at Georgetown University to a peace activist from Wisconsin to a woman who worked for the United Nations in the 1950s. A member of each group acted as rapporteur, using the questions from the goal description page as a guide.
The participants broke off into three groups to discuss Goals 16 and its 2030 targets. The groups had the following recommendations based on work their chapter or division has done:
Ultimately, the groups concluded that UN Association chapters and divisions can work together and in their local communities to specifically address Goal 16. This can be achieved through a Refugee Task Force of the chapter and its partners focused on regugee welcoming and assisting in integration as well as working with the local Health Department on refugees in the community. Through organization and raising awareness UNA chapters and divisions can help promote just, peaceful, and inclusive communities - and it starts right in each of our communties.
Peace and justice start in your community and at the grassroots level. It begins with us and if we start here we can continue to fight for peace in other countries.
by Gemma Tate, UNA-SNY YP Social and Humanitarian Affairs Committee
Water is a human right. So why were residents of Flint, Michigan, forced to drink dangerously contaminated water for so long? One word: greed.
In Flint, government officials believed that cutting costs was worth putting the people's health in danger. An unthinkable betrayal of public trust, the emergency has drawn widespread condemnation and sparked nationwide dialogue. In March, a group of women change-makers gathered at the United Nations Foundation to voice their opinions on the matter.
by Peg Shannon, UNA-SNY Vice President, Advocacy
The Southern NYS Division along with chapters and divisions throughout the country completed a survey of their priorities for effective advocacy for the UN over the next two years. We were asked to consider a wide range of issues including those raised by UN actions taken last year - approving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and concluding the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
by Melinda Richardson, Chair UNA-SNY Young Professionals
Mothers walked down mountains for miles, took the only car in town on a three-hour journey, and there were countless other stories of mothers doing all they can to protect their children. We saw how much of an impact UNICEF and partnerships with governments has there with the vaccination rate now at nearly 90%. We can help and our support makes a big difference.The end of April marks World Immunization Week. Globally this is a week to raise awareness for life-saving immunizations, progress made, and the work yet to be completed. Around the world, every 20 seconds a child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease and one in five children lacks access to basic vaccines for diseases such as measles, pneumonia and diarrhea.
The United Nations Foundation's Shot@Life campaign engages Americans to advocate and raise funds to ensure vaccines reach children in developing countries. These are countries where mothers do not have the luxury of choice. They will walk for miles to access vaccines for their children.