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Showing posts with label peace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peace. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Getting Ready for Global Citizenship

U.N. Puts Global Citizenship at Center of Agenda

By Thalif Deen

A peace sign formed by people in Croatia. Credit: Teophil/cc by 3.0

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 12 2015 (IPS) - When Denmark hosted the World Summit on Social Development (WSSD) in March 1995, one of the conclusions of that international gathering in Copenhagen was to create a new social contract with “people at the centre of development.”

But notwithstanding the shortcomings in its implementation over the last 20 years, the United Nations is now pursuing an identical goal with a new political twist: “global citizenship.”


“Our world needs more solar power and wind power.  But I believe in an even stronger source of energy: People power.” -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Reaffirming the opening line of the U.N. Charter, which says “We the Peoples”, the United Nations is adding the finishing touches to its post-2015 development agenda – even as there are increasing demands from civil society organisations (CSOs) to focus on issues relating to people, including poverty, hunger, unemployment, urbanisation, education, nuclear disarmament, gender empowerment, population, human rights and the global environment.

Addressing a star-studded Global Citizen Festival in New York City’s Central Park last September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared: “Our world needs more solar power and wind power. But I believe in an even stronger source of energy: People power.”

Speaking at the 20th anniversary of WSSD, Ambassador Oh Joon of the Republic of Korea and Vice President of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said while one of the three major objectives of the Copenhagen Social Summit – poverty eradication – was incorporated into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000, the other two – productive employment and social integration – were not.

“An integrated approach advocated at the Social Summit to simultaneously pursue the three key objectives was left behind,” he told an ECOSOC meeting last week.

“There was a need to re-examine where the new United Nations development agendas would come from,” the Korean envoy said.

Economic growth in itself, while necessary, was not sufficient to reduce poverty and inequality, he said, stressing the need for strong social policies, as well as inclusive and sustainable development.

Similarly, there were many links among social, economic and environmental fields that must be effectively addressed, he added.

Meanwhile, the concept of global citizenship has taken on added importance, particularly on the eve of the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda which is expected to be approved at a summit meeting of world leaders in September.

Asked how relevant the concept was in the post-2015 context, Roberto Bissio, executive director of the Third World Institute, a non-profit research and advocacy organisation based in Uruguay, told IPS: “If by citizenship we mean rights, and in particular the right to bring governments to account, and decide how taxes are used, we are very far from global citizenship.”

In fact, he said, there is little talk of citizenship in the current discussions around the Financing for Development (FfD) conference in Addis Ababa in July and the September summit of world leaders on a new development agenda.

Instead, he said, there is a lot of attention being given to “multistakeholderism”.

The notion of “stakeholder”, as opposed to “shareholder,” was originally a way to make corporations more accountable to the people affected by their actions.

Now “multistakeholder governance” in the Internet or in “partnerships” with the United Nations means that corporations will have a role in global governance, without necessarily becoming more accountable in the process, he pointed out.

“This means less rights for citizens, not more,” said Bissio, who also coordinates the secretariat of Social Watch, an international network of citizen organisations worldwide.

On the other hand, he said, if the FfD conference approves a U.N. mechanism for tax collaboration between countries to counter widespread tax evasion by multinational corporations, citizenship (including the elusive ‘global citizenship’ concept) may emerge strengthened.

Pointing out the successes of people-oriented policies, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, former president of Chile, said when he was the leading his country in 1995 he had supported several initiatives to promote democracy and social justice.

Over the last 25 years, he said, Chile had succeeded in drastically reducing poverty to 7.8 per cent from 38.6 per cent, with extreme poverty reduced to 2.5 per cent from 13 per cent.

The WSSD, he said, was the largest meeting of heads of state that resulted in shaping a new model of development that would create progressive social equity that addressed imbalances around the world.

“The human being was placed at the centre of development, as reflected in the World Summit action plan,” he said.

Highlighting achievements resulting from implementing the plan, he said Chile had increased investments in social development and was, under current President Michelle Bachelet, continuing to do so in order to address inequality.

While Latin America had reduced poverty, it remained “more unequal” than other regions and currently, 28 per cent of its population of 167 million lived in poverty, with 71 million living in extreme poverty, he said.

But some of the pressing tasks, he said, included thinking about a new fiscal pact and tax reform that would improve income distribution in order to avoid “false” development. Corruption and institutional reform also needed to be addressed.

“As such, the World Social Summit remained as valid today as in 1995,” he said.

Going forward, combatting poverty and inequalities required an ethical foundation and a sustained effort. At this crossroad, it was time that governments gave more impetus to that “moral movement”, the former Chilean president said.

Juan Somavia, a former director-general of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and ex-Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations, told the ECOSOC meeting the yet-to-be-finalised “zero” draft of the new post-2015 agenda recovered the spirit and dynamism of the 1990s and was a good basis for negotiations.

“The document reflected a supremely ambitious vision, with its 17 goals and 69 indicators focused on a people-centred poverty-eradication sustainable development concept,” he noted.

With regard to challenges, he said, policy support from the United Nations would be critical.

Since the world had discussed the three elements of sustainable development but had not yet implemented them, the basic challenge ahead was to ensure integrated thinking and to shape methods for using it to clearly explain the types of interactions between the agenda’s three pillars that were needed to fulfill commitments, he declared.

That difficult task required an initiative from the U.N. secretariats in New York and Geneva, its Funds and Programmes and the multiple networks in regions in which the organisation operated, he said.

Unless that process began immediately after the new agenda was adopted, the “goods” would not be delivered, Somavia warned.

That initiative would also require the recognition of the balance between markets, the State, society and individuals. “In recent years, people’s confidence in the United Nations had dropped.”

The manner in which the United Nations presented the new agenda was essential in addressing that issue.

As the Social Summit’s Programme of Action had recognized the importance of public trust, he emphasized that the new development agenda must acknowledge and address that current lack of confidence, Somavia declared.

Edited by Kitty Stapp, The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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U.N. Chief Backs New Int’l Decade for Water for Sustainable Development
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Friday, April 17, 2015

Interview with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mark Levengood

The Work of a Goodwill Ambassador

We must stop thinking nation states. We must stop mixing religion with politics.

There are today around 30 international UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors and 200 national UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors from different countries in the world.

Sweden has six UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors: Lill Lindfors, Liza Marklund, Kajsa Bergqvist, David Hellenius, Eva Röse and Mark Levengood. Their job as Goodwill Ambassadors is to speak for the children in various contexts and to spread awareness of UNICEF's work for the world's children.

Mark Levengood, UNICEF Goodwill
Ambassador,
Photo: Stellan Herner 


Mark Levengood, born 1964 in a military base in North Carolina, USA, is a Swedish-speaking Finn who grew up in Helsinki, Finland. He is a journalist, writer and very popular TV personality. He is married to Jonas Gardell and they have two children. Mark Levengood is every year a host of the Victoria Day (the Birthday celebration of the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria) in Öland, Sweden.

I recently had the great honor to interview Mark Levengood, one of Sweden's six UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors. Here is that interview.

Interview with Mark Levengood, UNICEF Sweden

Why did you become a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and how did it happen?
It was a very long process that started when I went to school in Finland and sold Christmas cards for UNICEF. Then I was 8-9 years old. Since then I have always been involved in various ways. Eventually, when I became a journalist, I began to travel. I went to El Salvador in 1995, for example, and began making reports. I became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2008.
What is the best thing about being a goodwill ambassador?
The best part is that we get so much done. We are very effective. In crisis situations we are very quickly on the spot. But also to be involved in building the future for the children of the Earth. You never need to ask yourself ”why” regarding that kind of thing, because you know it will be a good thing.

On Children in Gaza

You visited Gaza in 2013, is that correct? Yes.

What is your strongest memory from there?
It's the kids. I remember we visited a youth center in Gaza City with the help of UNICEF. They showed us around there and there were a lot of activities. Then I heard a small tape recorder. I asked what it was, but they said it was ”not important”. Then I saw a tiny, tiny backyard where there was a ballet lesson for girls between five and eight years. The teacher was wearing a completely covering burqa. And that is not so good when you are a ballet teacher. But this showed that also in Gaza girls can dance ballet. All the kids are dreaming of a future there as well as in other places. Those were some of my thoughts.

This is of course an extremely difficult question, but how do you think we can best help Palestinian children today?
Today we can best help them by going through major recognized organizations such as UNICEF or Save the Children or the Red Cross. I think the established channels have the knowledge and contacts to help on the spot. If you start to collect stuff that you send yourself, it does not reach the children. Many people underestimate the difficulty of reaching crisis areas. But if you really want to help, so go ahead to raise money. We promise it will help.
What do you think are the most important prerequisites for peace?
We must stop thinking nation states. We must stop mixing religion with politics. There I think we have two very good prerequisites for peace.

A Blind boy in Ethiopia

What has Astrid Lindgren's children's books meant for you?
A lot, of course. I grew up with Astrid Lindgren. I work a lot now with Ilon Wikland, who was also Astrid's illustrator. We came out with a book in October 2014, called "Peter and the Wolf". I'm very proud to work with Ilon, who many people associate with Astrid. Astrid was somehow a "pillar" throughout my childhood.
Do you have any favorite book by Astrid Lindgren? The Brothers Lionheart.

You have been in Ethiopia with UNICEF? Yes, I have been in Ethiopia twice.
Ethiopia was magical. It is an absolutely amazing country despite having much trouble. Also problems with the government. And human rights is a difficult thing in Ethiopia. 
But it is an amazing country. I remember I met a boy who was blind. He lived in northern Ethiopia and he was abandoned by his family when he was four years old.
I asked him about his thoughts about the future, which of course is really tough.
I asked: ”What do you want to be?” He said: ”I'll become a lawyer.” Then I asked: ”But, are you able to become a lawyer?” Then he said: ”I am able to do all things because I am smart.”

Horrible, but terribly instructive

I read that you have been in Paraguay and met street children and children in prison. Can you tell anything about that?
We can conclude that children do not belong neither in orphanages nor in prisons. Both are evil places to educate future generations on.
Which was your first trip as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador?
The trip that was perhaps my life's most important trip was to El Salvador, but then I was not yet an Ambassador. But it was a terrible trip. It was the first time that I seriously got in touch with the reality that many children today live in, i.e. the total poverty. It was a very, very educational journey. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador my first trip was to Paraguay.
Did you have a mission as a journalist when you went to El Salvador?
The war had just ended, and UNICEF was working at high pressure, so I went there to document the work that UNICEF was doing. It was an incredibly torn country and it was an extremely violent country. I remember that everything was very dangerous. The worst that could happen was that the police stopped a person. For ”ordinary” people it was enough to rob a person. But police officers robbed a person and then shot the person. Everything was just horrible, but terribly instructive. I think that El Salvador is better today, when 20 years have passed. There always become very deep wounds in a nation where the war is raging.

Children want to play

What is your happiest memory so far, as a Goodwill Ambassador?
I have so many happy memories. Despite being exposed to a lot of poverty and misery, you become so incredibly happy when you see how much that is actually happening. Children who are almost dying of starvation get liquid because they need fluid in the body and then they can start to eat something. Often they already the second day start to play. It is so obvious that children want to play and with the help of playing explore the world and become great and good. You see how everyone wants to survive and everyone wants to live. It makes me so incredibly happy.
Do you have any special project going on right now with UNICEF?
We are working hard with children's rights principles, where we try to get the big organizations to get into their organization that they are prohibited to have operations which exploits children or put vulnerable children into danger. This is very important.

by Maria Veneke Ylikomi, Globcal International Goodwill Ambassador
Ambassador Maria Veneke is a global advocate for human rights and the environment. She specializes in scheduling International Observances and promotes global citizenship. Maria has been a Globcal International Goodwill Ambassador since 2013 in Sweden, in 2015 she has begun traveling to third-world and underdeveloped states as a global citizen.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ambassador Sean Penn wins the 2012 Nobel Peace Summit Award

Sean Penn gets Peace Prize

(AP) 26 April 2012 - Sean Penn gave an emotional speech Wednesday as he accepted an award from a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates for his humanitarian work in Haiti, urging the world community to help the earthquake-ravaged country.

Photo: Reuters
"It's an overused phrase I know, but I trust you know its genuine today, I am humbled. I'm trembling and I like it," Penn said after accepting the 2012 Peace Summit Award from former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was joined on stage by the Dalai Lama and former Polish President Lech Walesa.

He used his speech at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to urge the world community to remember Haiti and invest in the country's future and President Michel Martelly, who took office in May 2011.

"We have a very short window to support this team of the Haitian people's choosing," Penn said.

Papers in Penn's hands shook and he became emotional at times during his speech as he described conditions in Haitian refugee camps or told the story of a Haitian police officer who lost his family in the earthquake. Penn also warned that if Haiti fails it could become a harbor for narcotics trafficking and terrorism near the United States.

Penn has become a major player in efforts to rebuild Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation. Penn spends at least half his time in Haiti.

"He actually exchanged his home in Malibu for a tent," Udo Janz, United Nations high Commissioner for Refugees, said when he introduced Penn to accept the award. "Think of it as the Oscar for your humanitarian commitment Sean." - Associated Press

See photos of Sean Penn and other Nobel prize laureates present at the summit.

Sean Penn urges more aid for Haiti

CHICAGO — (AFP) Actor and activist Sean Penn urged more aid for Haiti as it struggles with the "enormous task" of recovering from the devastating 2010 quake.

"It would take a poet laureate to describe for you the courage and the dignity of (Haiti's) people," Penn said on Wednesday, after accepting an award at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates for his humanitarian work in Haiti.

"There are no people on earth more willing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps," Penn said.

"But as Dr. Martin Luther King said, it's fine to tell a man to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, but evil to tell a man to do so without boots."

The situation for many Haitians remains horrific more than two years after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake that flattened large parts of Port-au-Prince and damaged much of the south of the country, Penn said.

"Take a look at Cite Soleil some time, where 240,000 Haitians -- men, women and children -- following every light rain, sleep in a black water solution of sewage and toxins, garbage and pigs," Penn said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"Where rape and gun violence are a daily occurrence."

The magnitude 7.0 quake killed 250,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. According to UN figures, the quake killed, injured or displaced one in six of the Caribbean nation's entire population of almost 10 million.

Penn, who has been named Ambassador at Large for Haiti, expressed confidence in Haitian President Michel Martelly, who is trying to ramp up stalled reconstruction efforts.

"We have four years to solidify the seeding of institutions that can create sustainable democratic solutions. Four years that without a reinvigorated surge of support will leave the people's will up for grabs," Penn said.

"It's quite a task, but a doable one with investments in agriculture education, health care, housing, clean water and recognizing it's a country of nine million people, but it's also only nine million people."

Designated prime minister Laurent Lamothe told AFP last month that his country was seeking another $12 billion in aid.

But the head of the UN mission to Haiti has said that the political situation there remains "fragile" and that delays in forming a new government are hindering the recovery and economic development.

"Every time that Haiti is without a government, a prime minister and cabinet... violence and the feeling of lack of security grow," Mariano Fernandez, head of the MINUSTAH peacekeeping force, said in March.

Even before the earthquake Haiti was the poorest country in the Americas.

Penn insisted that failure is not an option and that the United States has a vested interest in Haiti's success.

"There is the human cost of poverty," Penn said.

"But if that on its own is not compelling, note that increased instability that attrition may bring to a Caribbean island (nation) an hour and half off our shores would be an open invitation to a new explosion of narco-trafficking, terrorist influences and paramilitaries." Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Read more stories about Ambassador Sean Penn receiving the Nobel Summit Award..