A Day At The UN Conference Can Make A Difference

This past Monday marked an interesting and inspiring day because I was invited to attend a forum at the UN by the UNA (United Nations Association). The purpose of this event was to discuss future initiatives that will impact UN’s Millenium Development Goals (MDG’s) when the current ones expire in 2015. I received this invitation to hear panels discuss initiatives regarding education, youth and women’s issues after attending the Social Good Summit this past September. While excited to be invited, I was apprehensive about going since this was a monumental step for me as a blogger. I have been writing about women’s issues, education and youth while referencing them to articles I have read. To be able to attend a forum at the UN and hear about policies that were being proposed and implemented regarding these issues was quite amazing.

In the keynote address by Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary General, he cited that MDG’s still have work to do regarding human rights violations, including sexual rights of women. All the panelists were wonderful and each one spoke about initiatives that would further their works regarding poverty, education, human rights and health reform. A few panelists in particular resonated with me.

The idea of sustainability was a crucial point for Dr. Eban Goodstein (Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy). He spoke about supporting sustainable businesses that could impact climate change. One such company, Ecovative, is replacing styrofoam with blocks of mushrooms or “Mushroom Packaging”, which are renewable and biodegradable.

With regard to education, Brenda Haiplik (Senior Education Advisor – Emergencies, UNICEF), spoke about providing education in conflict-ridden countries like Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka. According to Haiplik, 42% of out-of-school age children live in these areas. With the help of Education in Emergencies (EiE), these children would not be deprived of education because, “education cannot wait”. EiE provides safe spaces for children, especially girls, to learn if their classrooms have been destroyed by violence. EiE also provides teacher training and back-to-school initiatives, ensuring that education doesn’t become another casualty of war. In Haiplik’s words, “Education can sustain whole communities, not just children and classrooms”. It was inspiring to see that these initiatives had solutions at hand, not just theories.

Another speaker who spoke about maternal health empowering women and girls was UN Foundation President, Kathy Calvin. Calvin stressed the importance of continuing and developing initiatives that will enable women and girls to provide for their families and communities. She cited that 220 million girls don’t have access to contraceptive information and the leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15-19 is maternal health. Calvin stressed the importance of giving women and girls the resources and information essential for their health and well-being. For Calvin, the greatest investment is in women and girls because “once you’ve invested in a girl, you’ve invested in her family and her community”.

One of the most inspiring speakers was Brooke Loughrin, the first US Youth Observer. Her involvement started at the age of 18 when she decided to join her local UNA chapter in Seattle. In her story, she cited how she met other young people from different countries and chapters, when she was invited to attend a UN event. Back in Seattle, she was the youngest member of her chapter and when Loughrin inquired why that was, she was asked by Peter Madden (Exec Director, UNA-USA) to become the first US Youth Observer. Loughrin impressed upon the young people that were at the UNA event that it’s never too early to be involved and see how they can make a difference in their communities or other countries. Now at 21 years old, she has not wavered from her commitment to the UNA as well as inspiring other young people to get involved, locally and globally.

I left the UNA event feeling empowered to be of service and humbled to have been asked to attend. To hear these amazing panelists speak about initiatives that are currently implemented and changing the scope of our interactions as a global community was inspiring. I learned that every person can be a global citizen by addressing the issues of education, poverty and women’s issues in the developing countries. To quote Selim Jahan (Director, Poverty Reduction Practice), “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something” and I, for one, agree with him. That’s my view on this, what’s yours?

To find out more about this event, click below.

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