Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged today, adding that the United Nations was increasing its focus on global youth action to support this cause.26 February 2013 – The world’s youth must take the helm in steering the international community through its turbulent period of economic and political transition and towards a more “prosperous, equitable and peaceful future,”
Speaking at a youth event at the Fifth Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, in Vienna, Austria, Mr. Ban told delegates representing “the largest generation of young people the world has ever known” that the world was waiting for their contribution on a host of urgent issues.
“I am here today to ask you to help show us the way. The world is going through a period of transition – economic, demographic, political and environmental,” Mr. Ban said in hisremarks, stating that although the challenges are profound, “so are the opportunities.”
Mr. Ban underscored the UN agenda for “deepening” its youth focus in programmes related to employment and entrepreneurship, political inclusion and human rights, and education and reproductive health, noting that the world body’s “top priority” was to work with young people “to enhance your lives, the well-being of your communities, and the state of the world.”
“You have already demonstrated that you are willing and able to take on the responsibility of leadership. The world will rely on you to speak the language of tolerance and respect. Your voices need to drown out those that preach division and hatred,” continued Mr. Ban.
“The world will rely on your courage and principled actions to lead us on the path of harmony and sustainable development.”
The Secretary-General drew particular attention to a $1.5 million contribution announced by the Government of Germany to support a trust fund set up by UN Volunteers and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to boost youth volunteerism and “harness the energy of young people around the world to bring about transformational change in their communities.”
“I hope your presence at this Forum will inspire other countries to follow suit and invest in the future by investing in young people today,” he said.
Launched in 2005 through the initiative of Spain and Turkey, and under the auspices of the UN, the Alliance seeks to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide. The Fifth Global Forum officially opens tomorrow and brings together decision-makers, experts, and a variety of stakeholders in the field of intercultural and interreligious dialogue from all over the world. The two-day forum will focus on the theme “Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue.”
Also today in Vienna, Mr. Ban held a meeting with Austrian President Heinz Fischer. They discussed a range of issues, including the situations in Syria, Mali, and the Sahel, and the Secretary-General expressed his gratitude for Austria’s contribution to the UN, notably to its peacekeeping operations, including in the Middle East.
He also spoke by telephone with the President-elect of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, and wished him every success in addressing the significant economic challenges facing his country. Mr. Ban also expressed the hope that full-fledged negotiations to achieve a comprehensive settlement for the reunification of Cyprus would resume as quickly as possible and reiterated the UN’s readiness to support the process, according to the Secretary-General’s spokesperson.
The (Tangled) Road Map to September's U.N. General Assembly Meeting on the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Preliminary results from a global survey asking people to choose the most important issues for a better world reveals education is at the very top of the list. While the survey’s online response to date has been dominated by respondents from high Human Development Index (HDI) countries, people from over 183 countries – including both low and medium HDI countries – ranked “a good education” as the highest priority, above other issues such as better healthcare, access to clean water and sanitation or better job opportunities. A summary of the findings was presented to the U.N. secretary-general’s High Level Panel last month during their meeting in Monrovia, Liberia. This global My World survey is ongoing, and a second summary of the results will be presented at the next High Level Panel meeting in Bali at the end of March. Ultimately the results will be shared with world leaders in setting the next global development agenda.
But does this global prioritization among citizens guarantee a strong focus on education within the post-2015 development agenda? Not necessarily, since the roadmap to a debate on the agenda in the United Nations General Assembly this September – and beyond that to the eventual agreement on what the agenda will actually include in September 2015 – is much less clear. The United Nations Foundation has produced a useful graphic about this multilayered process:
Looking at this graphic, it becomes apparent that the education community must take a two-track strategy for influencing the post-2015 process:
1) Influencing the education thematic consultations and country consultations around an equitable learning agenda.
The current discussions within the United Nation’s global thematic consultations on educationare an important consensus and community-building process for the education community around an equitable learning agenda. From the position papers released by Save the Children,the Basic Education Coalition, The Global Campaign for Education U.S. Chapter, among others, to the consultative discussions and outputs of the Learning Metrics Task Force, it appears that there is broad agreement that, while there has been significant progress over the last decade in getting more children into school, learning levels remain unacceptably low. Too often children leave both primary and secondary levels without acquiring the basic knowledge, skills and competencies they need to lead productive, healthy lives. It is the acquisition of knowledge and skills that promotes employability, productivity and growth, as well as the noneconomic benefits of education. Therefore there is broad support for a post-2015 education goal that focuses on equitable learning for all children and youth.
This week the last of the four education e-discussions on governance and financing within the consultation process was launched, giving education stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in on the following questions:
- What kind of strategies, policies and interventions will improve governance in the education sector at the subnational, national, regional and global levels?
- Who should be held accountable for ensuring that children receive a good quality education and how?
- What are the key challenges in financing education and what are the contributing factors to these challenges?
Recent research into possible post-2015 frameworks by Anda Adams indicates that it is also vital to ensure the importance of an equitable learning agenda is raised in the more than 50national and 10 thematic consultations being conducted this year on environmental sustainability, growth and employment, governance, health, inequalities, hunger, food and nutrition security, population dynamics, energy, water, and conflict and fragility. While these consultations cannot perfectly include all voices, the use of social media and web portals are part of a concerted United Nations’ strategy to ensure greater inclusivity, open interaction and information exchange across a wide range of stakeholders, which is a major improvement from the consultation process that preceded the Millennium Development Goals in 2000.
In addition to the online thematic and in-person national consultations, from March 18-19 there will be a Global Leadership Meeting on Education on the post-2015 agenda in Dakar. Convened by UNICEF and UNESCO, the agenda and invitation list for this meeting are not yet public. However, there will be at least 50 high-level participants from governments, major civil society and NGO coalitions and networks, U.N. partners and members of the secretary-general’s High Level Panel (HLP) invited to review development priorities emerging from the HLP and implications for education as well as outcomes of the thematic education consultation. Participants will discuss regional priorities and cross-cutting issues in education and develop recommendations around an education goal, including how progress will be measured. Those who do participate should widely consult with their partners to ensure a multitude of voices are heard and are reflected in the meeting’s outcome document. This document will feed into a final summary report of the education consultations and will eventually influence the High Level Panel’s report and the debate on the post-2015 development agenda at U.N. General Assembly meeting.
2) Cultivating equitable learning champions within the high level processes
As is clear from the United Nations Foundation graphic above, the second track that will be important, and more difficult, to influence is the higher-level, less inclusive processes helmed by member states and eminent persons: the secretary-general’s High Level Panel on the post-2015 development process and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals(OWG on SDGs, listed as SDG Working Group in the visual above). Furthermore as the ultimate framework for the post-2015 development agenda will not only emerge from the HLP and OWG, but also from the foreign ministers and heads of state taking part in the discussions at the U.N. General Assembly, these high-level politicians are also strategic targets. The education sector doesn’t yet have enough vocal high-level champions of the equitable learning agenda, and this area should be a focus in the coming months. As HLP members prepare to meet in Bali (March 24-27) and in New York (May, dates TBC), and OWG members begin their deliberations, education and development stakeholders should make a concerted effort to utilize connections to high-level decisions-makers within these bodies to brief them on the importance of an equitable learning agenda to poverty eradication and sustainable development.
The importance of education has been made clear throughout numerous post-2015 entry points thus far, from the High Level Panel meeting in Monrovia last month to the global My World survey. But as the consultation process concludes and the High Level Panel hones its recommendations, the urgency to ensure the right education goal is included becomes paramount. The next few months will mark a turning point in the global community’s engagement in the post-2015 process and the outcomes have the potential to make a cataclysmic difference in the lives on hundreds of millions of children.
DUBLIN, Feb 19 (IPS) - There is no city or country in the world where women and girls live free of the fear of violence. No leader can claim: This is not happening in my backyard.
In 2012, two high-profile cases ignited public outrage in their nations, which spread around the world: the shooting of Pakistani schoolgirl and girls’ education activist Malala, and the gang-rape on a bus and tragic death of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi. In every region around the world, countless other cases occurred that did not make global headlines.
Whether walking city streets, riding public transportation, going to school, or selling goods at the marketplace, women and girls are subject to the threat of sexual harassment and violence. This reality of daily life limits women’s freedom to get an education, to work, to participate in politics – or to simply enjoy their own neighbourhoods.
Yet despite its prevalence, violence and harassment against women and girls in public spaces remains a largely neglected issue, with few laws or policies in place to address it.
This week in Dublin, some 600 delegates – from mayors to leaders from the private sector and civil society – are gathered for the 8th Forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty. They have come from all over the world to discuss innovative approaches to make cities smart, safe and sustainable.
One innovative approach is the Safe Cities Global initiative. This partnership of municipal governments, local communities and organisations, and the United Nations, is working to make urban environments safer for women and girls.
Initially launched by UN Women and Habitat with five pilot cities – Cairo, Egypt; Kigali, Rwanda; New Delhi, India, Quito, Ecuador, and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, the initiative has expanded to more than 20 cities and continues to grow.
One of the most important lessons we have learned is that each city is unique and requires a local response. This can only be achieved by conducting a diagnostic study with data and evidence, and engaging community members. Cities have taken actions to improving the lighting and design of streets and buildings, training and sensitizing police, and hiring more women police officers. These practical responses can make a world of difference.
A diagnostic study in New Delhi, for instance, revealed that a common strategy against harassment was to simply keep girls and women at home.
One girl explained: “If we tell our parents about boys harassing us, they would blame us only and say that it is our fault…Our parents might even stop us going out of the house.”
Findings like this spur action since keeping women and girls home is not a solution. Residents organised community collectives to build awareness, report crimes, and work with authorities to improve public safety and justice.
In Quito, women were encouraged to break the silence about their experiences through the Cartas de Mujeres (“Letters from Women”) campaign and a study was undertaken. The city government amended the ordinance on eliminating violence against women to include violence in public spaces. The government received some 10,000 letters.
In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 55 percent of women market vendors reported experiencing violence in the previous year. In response, local authorities are working with a women’s market vendors association to take cooperative action.
In Cairo, the national government adopted women’s safety audits whereby local women identify safety and security conditions in their neighbourhoods, which are incorporated into urban planning.
In Rio de Janeiro, communities are identifying safety risks in 10 of the cities’ high-risk slums, or favelas. Trained women and adolescent girls used their smartphones to map safety risks such as faulty infrastructure or services, obscured walking routes, and lack of lighting. These initial findings were presented to local authorities, and are currently being used to develop solutions.
UN Women is partnering with Microsoft to find ways to use mobile technology to stop sexual harassment and violence in public spaces.
Further efforts are expected to develop through a partnership between UN Women and the United Cities and Local Governments. Efforts will focus on collecting local data on female political participation, and expanding successful Safe Cities activities.
Here in Dublin, I am pleased to hear that Lord Mayor Naoise O Muiri has expressed interest in partnering with the Safe City Initiative, and Dublin will be the first city in Western Europe to join us.
As more and more women, men and young people raise their voices and become active in local government, and more local leaders take action for the safety of women and girls, change happens.
The meeting this week recognises that making cities smarter, safer and more sustainable requires partnership and collaboration – between residents, government, the private sector and civil society. By including women in decision-making, city governments will be in a better position to fulfill their responsibility to ensure the safety of their residents, especially women and girls.
*Michelle Bachelet is the Executive Director of UN Women and former President of Chile.
YANGON, Myanmar, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The release of 24 child soldiers from Myanmar's military should help the country reach its vow to end child rights violations sooner, the United Nations said.
The two dozen children were officially discharged Monday at a ceremony in Yangon, attended by senior officials of the armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, and government and U.N. officials, UNICEF said in a release.
"This release of 24 children is a welcome step in the implementation of the action plan by the government and reflects its commitment that children should not -- and will no longer -- be recruited and used for military purposes," U.N. Resident Coordinator in Myanmar Ashok Nigam said. "I call for the acceleration of the release of all children from the Tatmadaw and for the non-state armed groups to also do the same."
In June, the United Nations and the Myanmar government signed an action plan establishing a timetable and measurable activities for the release and reintegration of children associated with armed forces, as well as the prevention of similar recruitment in the future.
Myanmar is one of 14 countries with armed forces or armed groups identified as committing grave child rights violations that is working with the United Nations to end grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.
"A series of discharges just like this must accelerate in the coming months in order for the Tatmadaw to quickly achieve the double objective of zero under-age recruitment and full discharge of those that are under 18 in the armed forces," Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF's representative in Myanmar, said.
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