Category Archives: United Nations

Australia: Conference Calls for Mainstreaming Human Rights Education


An article by Neena Bhandari from InDepth News

More investment is needed in human rights education and strengthening of civil society to address inequality and sustainability – the main objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This was the key message from the Ninth International Conference on Human Rights Education (ICHRE) held in Sydney, Australia.

A glimpse of the exhibition on human rights education. (Photo credit: NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning)

Drawing inspiration from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which marks its 70th Anniversary this year, the ICHRE 2018  (November 26-29) recommended all stakeholders to mainstream human rights education as a tool for social cohesion towards peaceful coexistence; and strive to bridge the significant gap between integrating human rights education in the curricula and its implementation.

“Beyond human rights education, people have to be enabled and empowered to exercise their inalienable rights, to live by those rights, and to uphold their rights and the rights of others,” said Dr Mmantsetsa Marope, Director of UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, in her opening address.

She highlighted: “Three core factors – good governance, good health, and quality and relevant education – converge to enable and empower people to create and live a culture of human rights. These three factors are paramount, because they determine other factors that can facilitate or impede the realization of human rights.”

The sixth consultation of the implementation of UNESCO’s 1974 Recommendation  in 2016 reported that more effort was required to strengthening teachers’ capacity to implement human rights education.

Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education, which provides tools and training to teachers and people working with children to integrate human rights values and approaches in the work that they do, reaches out to 100,000 young people across 50 communities in Canada each year.

Equitas Executive Director Ian Hamilton told IDN, “Currently our programme is focused on helping to educate primary school children aged between 6 and 12 years and adolescent youth between 13 and 18 years.

“Through our program, Play It Fair  we use a series of games and activities to introduce human rights to children and encourage them to think critically about what is happening around them and how they can promote human rights values – equality, respect, inclusion and exclusion.

“For example, we ask children to play musical chairs the traditional way and then play a cooperative version and use that as an entry point to talk about inclusion and exclusion.”

Hamilton added: “We have seen that these tools also transform the people, who are working with children. They learn the content about the same time as the children, but it also makes them feel empowered, being equipped to deal with these issues.” 

Equitas also works with young adults using similar participatory approaches and results, and through its virtual forum:

Youth is the focus of the fourth phase  (2020-2024) of the UN World Programme for Human Rights Education launched in September 2018.

Elisa Gazzotti, Programme Coordinator and Co-chair NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning, Soka Gakkai International Office for UN Affairs in Geneva, told IDN, “We use the technique of storytelling to engage young people to share how through human rights education they were able to steer their lives in a positive direction and become fully engaged actors in their communities.”

“We organised a workshop here around Transforming Lives – the power of human rights education exhibition, which was co-organised by SGI together with global coalition for human rights education HRE2020, the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning and others in 2017 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training. It shows how human rights education has transformed the lives of people in Burkina Faso, Peru, Portugal, Turkey and Australia,” Gazzotti added.

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Questions for this article:

How can we promote a human rights, peace based education?

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Arash Bordbar, a third-year engineering student at the Western Sydney University and Chair of the UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council had fled Iran at the age of 15 years and stayed in Malaysia for five years before being resettled in Australia in 2015. He is now a youth worker at the Community Migrant Resource Centre, where he is supporting newly arrived migrants get education and find employment.

Similarly Apajok Biar, 23, who was born in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and came to Australia in 1997 with her family under a Humanitarian visa, is chairperson and co-founder of South Sudan Voices of Salvation Inc, a not-for-profit youth run and led organisation. As youth participation officer at Cumberland Council in Sydney, she has been working to ensure that young people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to have a say in decisions that affect them at all levels – local, state, international.

“Knowledge of these rights can both improve relations between people of different ethnicity and belief, and nourish civil society,” said Dr Sev Ozdowski, Conference Convener and Director of Equity and Diversity at Western Sydney University.

Over 300 representatives from international human rights organisations, civil society, educational institutions, media and citizens participated in the ICHRE 2018, a series initiated by Dr Sev Ozdowski, to advance human rights education for the role it plays in furthering democracy, the rule of law, social harmony and justice.

While UDHR has been reinforced by several legal instruments, including conventions, charters, declarations, and national legislation, and the global discourse has broadened to include gender equality, people living with disabilities and LGBTIQ communities, the biggest challenge is the threat facing human rights organisations and defenders.

“That is the most dangerous threat because if we silence those voices then our capacity to educate and mobilise the public reduces and we will end up excluding most people,” Equitas Executive Director Hamilton told IDN.

In many countries, human rights are still not a priority. Tsering Tsomo, Executive Director of Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, an NGO based in Dharamsala (India) said: “In Tibet, the Chinese authoritarian regime has criminalised the UDHR itself by punishing people who translated the UDHR in Tibetan language and disseminated it amongst Tibetans.

“This happened in 1989 when 10 Tibetan monks were sent to jail for propagating the UDHR, just a year after the Chinese government publicly acknowledged the existence of Human Rights Day. Along with celebrating the 70th anniversary, we also observe the 30th anniversary of the imprisonment of the 10 Tibetan monks.”

UDHR holds the Guinness Book World Record as the most translated document. It is now available in more than 500 languages and dialects.

“In Tibet, there is a lot of rhetoric about human rights, but no implementation. Instead there is total impunity for the crimes committed by security forces and an upsurge in government spending on domestic security, which has long surpassed defence spending. This has resulted in a series of human rights violations.

“The challenge for the UN and human rights organisations is to counter the economic and political pressure exerted by powerful countries in reframing the international human rights discourse and in silencing critical civil society voices,” Tsomo told IDN.

Speaking on the path from UDHR to the World Programme for Human Rights Education, Cynthia Veliko, South-East Asia Regional Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bangkok said: “The shocking retrenchment in leadership on human rights in many States across the globe over the past few years poses a real threat to the historic progress made, often painstakingly, over the decades that followed the 1948 adoption of the UDHR.”

“The continued realisation of the principles set out in the UDHR ultimately cannot be achieved without human rights education. It is an essential investment that is required to shape future world leaders with the principles of humanity and integrity that are required to build and sustain a humane world,” Veliko added.

The ICHRE 2018 Declaration  also raised concerns on the human rights implications of insufficient progress in climate change mitigation and adaptation, increasing food and water insecurity, rising sea levels, inter-state and internal conflict leading to increased migration, escalating new arms race among major powers, and rising levels of violence – particularly violence against women and children.

The Declaration called for greater awareness of the opportunities and risks of new forms of communication and media opportunities, which will help engage and reach more children and young adults, but also pose the threat of human rights abuse online.

(Thank you to the Global Campaign for Peace Education for calling our attention to this article.)

UNESCO and Angola to establish Biennale of Luanda, a Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace


An article from UNESCO

Carolina Cerqueira, Minister of Culture of Angola, and Firmin Edouard Matoko, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relation, today [December 18] signed an agreement for the creation of the Biennale of Luanda – Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace, whose first edition will take place in September 2019.

Carolina Cerqueira, center, and Firmin Edouard Matoko, right

The Luanda Biennale, organized through a partnership between the Government of Angola, UNESCO and the African Union, is designed to promote the prevention of violence and the resolution of conflicts by facilitating cultural exchanges in Africa, inter-generational dialogue and gender equality. The Forum is to nurture reflection and facilitate the dissemination of artistic works, ideas and knowledge pertaining to the culture of peace. It will bring together representatives of governments, civil society, the arts, sciences and international organizations.

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(Click here for a French version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

Will UNESCO once again play a role in the culture of peace?

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“It is very gratifying for Angola to host the Biennale because my country knows the value of peace. With the help of the African Union and of civil society organizations, we will be in a position to establish strong links of solidarity and brotherhood between the old and the young so that they may dream of a prosperous and peaceful Africa, which will only come to be if we work together,” the Minister declared at the signing ceremony. On that occasion, he also thanked all who made this agreement possible, notably UNESCO.

“The agreement is very important for UNESCO as it will allow us to carry out a project we initiated a few years ago to organize a culture of peace festival, notably with the support of the African Union,” declared UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relation. “We believe in the future of this project and its ability to contribute to the transformation of the African continent,” he added.

The Biennale is part of UNESCO’s operational strategy for Priority Africa (2014-2021) which aims to provide “explicitly African responses to the changes at work in African economies and societies.”

The first Biennale of Luanda, in 2019, will be four-pronged: It will serve as a space for reflexion, or intellectual forum, on the future of Africa, as a Festival of Cultures to showcase the cultural diversity of African countries and the African diaspora enabling them to demonstrate their resilience in the face of conflict and violence. It will also feature international cultural and sport events; and encourage the mobilization of partners to support projects throughout the continent.

UN General Assembly adopts Bangladesh’s resolution on a culture of peace


An article from the Dhaka Tribune

Like every year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has unanimously adopted Bangladesh’s flagship resolution on a “Culture of Peace”.

The main theme of the resolution is to ensure lasting peace in the world by ridding society of intolerance and hatred, according to a press release forwarded by the Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the UN in New York on Thursday.

Chargé d’ Affaires and Deputy Permanent Representative (DPR) of Bangladesh’s Permanent Mission to the UN Tareq Md Ariful Islam floated the proposal on Wednesday. The proposal was cosponsored by 101 countries from various regions of the globe.

In his statement, Tareq said: “Over the years, Bangladesh has remained committed to the values and principles enshrined in the UN Charter and worked alongside the international community in promoting and protecting peace.

“The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina remains committed to the issue, and underscores the importance of a ‘whole-of-society’ approach in our national context for promoting a culture of peace,” he said.

The concept of “Culture of Peace” on UNGA’s agenda was first mooted by Bangladesh in 1999.

The whole world celebrated a “Decade of Culture of Peace” following adoption of a resolution at the UNGA.

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Question(s) related to this article:

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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The Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN has been taking this follow-up resolution to the General Assembly every year since 2000, and each year it has been unanimously adopted, said the Bangladesh Mission.

This year the resolution recognized the contribution of a culture of peace to combating terrorism as well as peacebuilding and sustaining peace; it also highlighted the role of children and youth by engaging them more in promoting a culture of peace in the society inculcating values such as: peace, tolerance, openness, inclusion, and mutual respect.

Everyone has pledged to work together to implement this important resolution.

Despite various tensions across the globe, the continued support for this year’s resolution comes as a testimony to the confidence of international community in Bangladesh.

It also endorses the importance of a culture of peace involving all people in global development efforts.

Tareq also said they will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace on September 13, 2019.

“To this end, the draft Resolution requests the President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly to give special attention to its appropriate and befitting observance by holding the High-Level Forum on that date next year, which will be an opportunity for renewing our shared commitment to further strengthen the global movement for the culture of peace,” he added.

The DPR also mentioned that a culture of peace is an aspiration of all humankind. “Promoting and inculcating a mindset of a culture of peace is at the core of the creative management of differences and divisions”.

[Click here for the full resolution.]

The Elders challenge leaders to confront migration lies and make UN deal a success


An article by The Elders

The Elders today [December 11] welcomed the signing of the United Nations Global Compact for Migration in Marrakesh as a means of strengthening nation states’ ability to manage migratory flows by emphasising coordination and solidarity.

UNSG António Guterres and Special Representative of the SG for International Migration Louise Arbour in Marrakesh in December 2018. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

They noted that migration pressures are set to be exacerbated by the impact of climate change and conflict, making it all the more imperative that a robust international framework is put in place that can prioritise order, respect for human rights and equal burden-sharing between host countries.
They congratulated UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and Louise Arbour, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Migration, for their careful stewardship of the Compact process and the inclusive and respectful way the negotiations have been handled.

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Question for this article

The refugee crisis, Who is responsible?

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Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, said:
“This Global Compact offers a way to manage migration that recognises the realities of our globalised world and respects the human rights of people on the move. As we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, political leaders now need to show equal clarity of vision and purpose to implement the Compact.”
The Elders noted that the Compact is a non-binding, voluntary process rather than an attack on national sovereignty. They urged party leaders and parliamentarians in countries where the Compact is still under debate to reflect this in their interventions.
Recognising that migration is a contentious and sensitive topic in many countries, The Elders called on politicians, media and civil society to conduct their deliberations in a level-headed manner that is cognisant of global realities while sensitive to local opinion and specificities.
Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, said:
“As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I was proud to launch the process to develop the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration in 2016. Today, I am encouraged by the result of the Marrakesh summit. I hope leaders will now act in the long-term interests of their people by implementing the Compact to protect the rights of migrants worldwide.”

For media inquiries, please contact William French, Head of Communications at The Elders (+44 7795 693 903) or email:

‘We Have Not Come Here to Beg World Leaders to Care,’ 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Tells COP24. ‘We Have Come to Let Them Know Change Is Coming’


An article by Jon Queally for Common Dreams (reprinted according to a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License)

Striking her mark at the COP24 climate talks taking place this week and next in Poland, fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden issued a stern rebuke on behalf of the world’s youth climate movement to the adult diplomats, executives, and elected leaders gathered by telling them she was not there asking for help or demanding they comply with demands but to let them know that new political realities and a renewable energy transformation are coming whether they like it or not.

Greta Thunberg speech to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres
“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” said Thunberg, who has garnered international notoriety for weekly climate strikes outside her school in Sweden, during a speech on Monday.
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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Thunberg said that she was not asking anything of the gathered leaders—even as she sat next to UN Secretary General António Guterres—but only asking the people of the world “to realize that our political leaders have failed us, because we are facing an existential threat and there’s no time to continue down this road of madness.”

Thunberg explained that while the world consumes an estimated 100 million barrels of oil each day, “there are no politics to change that. There are no politics to keep that oil in the ground. So we can no longer save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.”

“So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future,” she declared. “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge.”

The climate crisis, she said, “is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. First we have to realize this and then as fast as possible do something to stop the emissions and try to save what we can save.”

“On climate change,” said Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, the teenage Thunberg “demonstrates more clarity and leadership in one speech than a quarter of a century of the combined contributions of so called world leaders. Wilful ignorance and lies have overseen a 65 percent rise in CO2 since 1990. Time to hand over the baton.”

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

UNESCO proposes concrete projects to implement inter-Korean reconciliation


An article from UNESCO

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, today met Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea, for the first time, and expressed the Organization’s determination to bolster cooperation with the Korean Peninsula.

“UNESCO wishes to commit its support to inter-Korean reconciliation through concrete projects,” declared the Director-General. “We can help restore the links between peoples through shared heritage, educational programmes and cooperation in natural resources management. Facilitating, even accelerating, the construction of durable peace in the Korean Peninsula through culture, education and the sciences is both the ambition and core mandate of UNESCO.”

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Question for this article:

Can Korea be reunified in peace?

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To that end, UNESCO intends to focus on projects that are at once concrete and symbolic. In her talk with the President of the Republic of Korea, the Director-General spoke of her will to reinforce cooperation in the three area of cultural heritage, education and science. These proposals will be discussed with the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

With regard to cultural heritage, discussions are expected to concern cooperation with a view to identifying shared nominations for inscription on the World Heritage List and on UNESCO’s lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Work will also be undertaken to publish a first dictionary of Korean etymology.

In education, UNESCO will lend its support to teachers by reinforcing global citizenship education. Educational programmes to be implemented across the Peninsula could also be developed.

Finally, Ms Azoulay and President Moon Jae-in also envisaged scientific cooperation with regard to water and environmental preservation. Discussions notably focused on initiatives that could be implemented to facilitate joint access, sharing and management of transboundary water resources, and the preservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use for the benefit of local communities.

A divided UN General Assembly votes on nuclear disarmament resolutions


Article by Unfold Zero sent to their email mailing list

Last week (Oct 24-30) was UN Disarmament Week, when member states vote on a range of disarmament decisions and resolutions. Decisions are binding on the United Nations. Resolutions are indications of governments’ positions and intent – they are not binding but can be very authoritative and influential if supported by key countries.

The deliberations and votes took place in an environment of increasing tensions between nuclear armed States, and also an increasing divide between non-nuclear countries and those countries which rely on nuclear weapons for their security.

Here is a short summary:

Nuclear risk-reduction:

A resolution Reducing nuclear danger submitted by India received 127 votes in favour (mostly non-aligned countries). It failed to get support of nuclear-armed or European countries, primarily because it only calls for nuclear risk reduction measures by China, France, Russia, UK and USA – leaving out the other nuclear armed States – India, Pakistan, DPRK and Israel.

A resolution Decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems submitted by a group of non-nuclear countries, was much more successful receiving 173 votes in favour, including from most of the NATO countries and from four nuclear armed States (China, DPRK, India, Pakistan).

Nuclear prohibition:

A resolution on the Treaty on the Prohibition Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was supported by 122 countries. This is more than the number who have signed the Treaty (which is 50). The vote indicates that more signatures are likely. However, the resolution was not supported by any of the nuclear-armed countries, nor any of the countries under nuclear deterrence relationships, i.e. NATO, Australia, Japan, South Korea. The opposition of nuclear-armed and allied States to the resolution is another indication that they do not intend to join the new treaty nor be bound by it.

A resolution on the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons submitted by India received 120 votes in favour, including from themselves and another three nuclear-armed States (China, DPK and Pakistan). Oddly enough, opposition to this resolution came not only from the other nuclear-armed States (who wish to maintain the option of using nuclear weapons), but also from some of the States supporting the TPNW. Why would these non-nuclear countries not want the nuclear-armed States to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons? UNFOLD ZERO will explore this question in a future update.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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UN Conferences:

A resolution affirming a previous decision to hold a UN High-Level Conference (Summit) on Nuclear Disarmament was supported by 143 countries. The resolution, entitled Follow-up to the 2013 high-level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament, also promotes negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention – a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons that includes nuclear-armed States (unlike the TPNW which does not include them). Despite getting a strong vote in favour, including from some nuclear armed states, the proposed conference does not yet appear to have enough political traction to be held. The resolution did not set a date for the conference.

The UNGA adopted a Decision to convene a conference no later than 2019 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Despite the objective of a Middle East Zone being supported by most UN members in a separate resolution (supported by 174 countries), the decision to convene a conference in 2019 to ‘elaborate a legally binding treaty’ was supported by only 103 countries. The hesitation by many countries to support the resolution was due to the fact that they believed that concrete preparations and negotiations for a Middle East Zone Treaty would require the participation of all countries in the region, and currently there is at least one country (Israel) that is not ready to work on such a regional treaty.

Humanitarian consequences and the law

A resolution on the Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, was supported by 143 countries, including one nuclear armed State (India) and one of the nuclear allied States (Japan). Most other nuclear-armed and allied States abstained or opposed because the resolution states that ‘awareness of the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons must underpin all approaches and efforts towards nuclear disarmament.’ The nuclear armed and allied States accept that humanitarian impact shoud be considered, but they argue that security reasons for nuclear deterrence must also be addressed in order to relinquish nuclear weapons and achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.

A resolution on the legal requirement to achieve nuclear disarmament through multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations was supported by 131 countries. In previous years the resolution, which draws upon the 1996 International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion, found greater support (137 countries in favour), including from some of the nuclear armed States. Previously, the primary call of the resolution had been for negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons convention which would include the nuclear armed and allied States. However, the resolution has been amended to call instead for nuclear disarmament through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which none of the nuclear-armed or allied countries support. This has led to a drop in support for the resolution.

Other discussions and resolutions

There were other disarmament discussions at the UN General Assembly last week – included a heated discussion between Russia and the United States over the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Both US and Russia claim that the other party is in violation of the treaty, and last week President Trump announced that the US was initiating procedures to withdraw from the treaty.

In addition there were a number of other disarmament resolutions that were introduced, some of which were adopted and some of which will be actioned this coming week.

For more information see UNGA First Committee

Press releases: Nov 1 and Nov 2.

Reaching Critical Will UN First Committee

Executive Director remarks at the UN Security Council open debate on women, peace and security

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article from UN Women

Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka presented the Secretary-General’s report on women, peace and security to the UN Security Council on 25 October, in New York.

Date: Thursday, October 25, 2018
(As delivered)

It is an honour to address the Security Council and to present the Secretary-General’s report on women and peace and security. I thank Bolivia for all the support they have given us in preparing for this debate

This report is a loud alarm bell on systemic failures to bring women into peacemaking in a meaningful manner.

The trend is, women are being excluded from the peace processes. The ones who do not wage war seem to be disqualified from making peace, while those who may be implicated in making war, seem to find it easier to be at the peace tables. 

I together with DPKO, have just come back from a joint UN/AU mission to South Sudan. The women we met there told us how they long for peace and to resume their lives, after nearly five years of suffering from a civil war that they are not responsible for waging. They said, “we are here because we want to reconcile even though we have never quarreled.”

While they still fear for the future, they appreciated the ‘Revitalized Agreement’ on the resolution of the conflict, which offers new hope for the country and an unmissable opportunity to build peace, with a 35 per cent quota for the representation of women. 

Their fears are however bolstered by the fact that, in these early days of the revitalized agreement, in the National Pre-Transitional Committee – there is just one woman among the ten persons nominated to be members of the committee, this is not the agreed 35 per cent. 

The report today details inescapably how this is not an exception but the rule. How there is at the same time hope for progress, and how we are failing to make it a reality.

But hope is something that we cannot and must never lose.
It shows us undeniable possibilities with undeniable failures, which are costing the lives of women and girls.

They do not wage war, but they die and suffer from it.
A year ago in this chamber, I raised the alarm at the numbers shown by the indicators we track yearly on peace processes and mediation.

Today I want to raise the alarm once more with the hope to jolt us into greater action, as indicators show numbers have stagnated or dropped again. 

For that reason, we focused this year’s report on the need for women’s meaningful contribution to peace, and we call on you to take the much-needed concrete actions. 

We need you to be vigilant about ending superficial efforts to include women that do not genuinely extend the opportunity to influence outcomes. 

We wanted to show that the extreme political marginalization at peace tables is often worse in the institutions set up to implement those agreements. 

And we wanted to spotlight the many ways in which women are keep on being active and resilient. They are active in negotiating ceasefires, civilian safe zones, demobilization of fighters, or humanitarian access at the local level, or drawing up protection plans at the community level, like in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan or the Central African Republic. 

We want the UN membership to pay due attention to these dynamics, make them visible in forums like this one, and use them to support the women’s political agency, provide financial resources and enable women to do even more.

The continued tolerance for the limited recognition of women’s expertise and lived experience is a setback for all of us. Statistics on women’s involvement speak for themselves.

Between 1990 and 2017, under our watch, women constituted only two per cent of mediators, eight per cent of negotiators, and five per cent of witnesses and signatories in major peace processes. Only three out of 11 agreements signed in 2017 contained provisions on gender equality, continuing last year’s worrisome downward trend. Of 1,500 agreements signed between 2000 and 2016, only 25 raise the role of women’s engagement in the implementation phase.

In Yemen, current efforts at resuming dialogue do not include women, beyond setting up observer bodies to advise the UN Special Envoy. Even in a consultative meeting in London this summer organized by the UN, convening 22 prominent Yemeni leaders to discuss the peace talks, there were only 3 Yemeni women invited.

In Mali, women average a dismal three per cent of the membership of the multiple national committees set up to monitor and implement the peace agreement.

In the Central African Republic, mediation efforts are focused on the presidency and the 14 armed groups and exclude women altogether.

In Afghanistan, the government and its international partners invest efforts in including women in the High Peace Council and provincial peace councils, but when it comes to actual talks with the Taliban, women’s absence is noticeable.

Undeniably, there are possibilities, but also undeniably there are failures and determined women.

In 23 rounds of Afghanistan-Taliban peace talks between 2005 and 2014, women were at the table just twice. Now that there are offers to resume peace talks without pre-conditions, Afghan women peacebuilders want to be at the table and want to make a difference.

Finally, here is a number that is more positive. Security Council decisions about country-specific or regional situations that contained language on women, peace and security increased from 50 to 75 per cent. This must lead to increased action on the front lines. 

The number of women leaders and civil society representatives who briefed the Security Council also increased significantly. 

I thank Council members for these efforts and their continued participation in the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security, currently co-chaired by Sweden and Peru, in collaboration with the United Kingdom. 

But we need to use all available diplomatic channels and political influence to ensure that these decisions in New York are making a difference on the ground. This is simply not happening in the most meaningful way.

The bigger picture of gender inequality in conflict and post conflict countries is something we need to continue to watch.

Today’s report gives us a broad picture of the many remaining areas of challenge to reach equal representation of women in the vital processes of our nations.

For example, only 16 per cent of parliamentarians in conflict and post-conflict countries are women – same as last year, and the year before that. 

There is 20 per cent representation of women in countries that use quotas and just 12 per cent in countries that do not use quotas. It is for that reason that we appreciate the leading from the front demonstrated by our Secretary-General and call for special measures in the manner in which he is driving the parity process within the United Nations.

This Council just visited the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of crucial elections. Only 12 per cent of registered candidates are women, just like in the previous elections seven years ago. And women are suffering intimidation.

Of the 17 countries that have elected a woman head of state or government, none are post-conflict countries at this point.

I ask again, as I did last year, we need to heed the call and address the patterns these numbers show us. On our part we will continue to follow up with you on to address this situation with vigilance and make a significant difference.

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Question for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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It is not only women whose opportunities are being limited. In many conflict settings, girls are one and a half times more likely to be out of primary school and whole communities are set back. The numbers of children lacking education in conflict areas calls for a concrete response and solution, with schools and second chance education.

Child marriage rates are also affected by war. In Yemen, the rate of child marriage was 66 per cent in 2017. It was 52 per cent last year. And 32 per cent before the recent conflict erupted.

Unsurprisingly, but tragically, maternal mortality rates are almost twice the global ratio in conflict and post-conflict countries. Of the 830 women and adolescent girls who die every day from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, 507 die in countries that are considered fragile because of conflict and disaster.

To address these issues and support the regeneration of families and communities, we need strong and targeted investments in women in conflict areas.

This is just not happening enough, despite undeniable goodwill towards the women peace and security agenda in countries that are affected.

The clear gender inequality in women’s access to resources is not simply caused by the presence of conflict. It is also a reflection of non-prioritization of women’s needs and the relegation of women to small-scale and local peripheral initiatives. 

In the Sahel, where we visited with Deputy Secretary-General, the African Union and Minister Wallstrom, we saw the dire poverty of women and communities in the Lake Chad basin. 

We saw households with no electricity in a part of the world which has the highest penetration of the sun on earth and is more suitable than anywhere else in the world for sustainable energy generation from solar power.

Yet clinics lack power. Women have no cold storage for their fish and the fresh produce needed for food security—which contributes in some cases even more to peace than the military.

In conflict-affected countries, only 11.5 per cent of landholders are women.

Although bilateral aid to promote gender equality in fragile country situations rose by 17 per cent compared to the previous year, it still only amounts to five per cent of total bilateral aid spent on programmes with gender equality as the primary objective.

In the DRC, for example, aid from OECD-DAC to gender equality was only 8 USD per capita last year. The same year, the UN documented a 56 per cent increase in sexual violence.

The share of the aid channeled through non-governmental women’s organizations has stagnated.

Our financial commitments do not match the extent to which we rely on these groups.

Yes, there has been undeniable progress, because the actions undertaken with civil society continue to be favoured as a way to operate. This must turn into concrete action and better investment in these groups.

Civil society and women’s organizations have been failed in the midst of record-breaking numbers of side events at intergovernmental meetings. Our plea is to refocus our energies and resources. I believe there is goodwill and we all want what is best for women and girls.

While we have disappointing indicators on women and girls, global military spending has reached 1.74 trillionUSD, a 57 per cent increase since 2000. Some countries allocate more public money to the military than to education or health.

Ninety per cent of grassroots women’s organizations working in areas directly impacted by terrorism and violent extremism state that current counterterrorism measures have an adverse impact on work for peace, women’s rights and gender equality.

We must respond to the many violations against the human rights of women and girls within these groups, and to the social stigma, economic hardship and discrimination women and girls experience when returning to their homes and communities when they have been part of violent groups.

These challenges are best addressed by actions that protect and promote the rights of victims and are fundamentally based in human rights law.

Women human rights defenders, who are on the front lines, are fighting a lonely battle. Many die a lonely death from weapons that are meant to protect them.

Let us look ahead with hope, and the knowledge of what we are capable of together.

This includes what we can do with women such as the African Women Leaders Network, which has been given a boost by the support of Germany and has focal points already in more 30 African countries.

We are already gearing up for the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325, which will be an opportunity to shape the agenda for the next decade with new commitments and priorities.

We have to start now to gear up towards better results.

We need more positive signs such as those I saw in Somalia where we need to help accelerate positive change.

There will be opportunities for everyone to weigh in, including at next year’s meeting of the Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network in Windhoek, Namibia, which will carry a special symbolism for those that have been in this movement for a while. 

For now, I want to share three priorities for 2020.

This August, the world mourned the loss of Kofi Annan. Part of his legacy was that the UN debated and decided to stop supporting peace agreements that included blanket amnesties. I think that, two decades later, it is time for the UN to have a similar conversation about supporting, brokering and paying for peace negotiations that exclude women. This is in your hands. This was raised by women from civil society at the forum this Council was invited to earlier this week, at the initiative of Sweden.

Secondly, one of the many positive examples in the report is the UN Peacebuilding Fund’s steadily growing support to projects advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Finding ways to make the 15 per cent minimum target a reality across all relevant entities and other peace and security funds is a point we can all focus on. Joint programming on rule of law in conflict and post-conflict countries, and addressing educational and Economic resilience, or multi-partner trust funds in fragile settings, should be at the start of all conversations about financing.

And finally, we need to do much more to protect women activists, peacebuilders and human rights defenders in conflict-affected countries. We applaud the historic participation of a Palestinian woman representing civil society in addressing this Security Council for the first time. 

We commend the Nobel Committee’s recognition to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their advocacy on behalf of victims of wartime sexual violence. It is an example of the importance of this issue, to which my esteemed colleague SRSG Pramila Patten devotes all her time and energy. 

I met many exceptionally courageous women in my recent travels to Somalia, South Sudan, the Sahel and the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Many of them are here today. But many could not be here. 

In 2017, half of the women honoured in the annual tribute of the Association for Women in Development were murdered in conflict affected countries. 

But the list is much longer when we include women political leaders, journalists, justice actors and security sector personnel, and those perceived to be LGBTI or who challenge traditional gender roles simply by their involvement in public life. 

It is my strong wish that we will find the political will to do much more about this epidemic of killings of women over the next decade than we have in this past one.

Change is within our hands. Let us work for positive indicators for the next report and let us make sure that next Secretary-General’s report will be able to show that we are turning the corner.

Thank you.

GAPMIL gives Global Media and Information Literacy Awards 2018


An article from UNESCO

he UNESCO-linked network called the Global Alliance for Partnership on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL) presented the third edition of its Global Media and Information Literacy Awards this week.

The network recognised Ms Jane Tallim and Ms Cathy Wing of MediaSmarts in Canada, Jordan Media Institute in Jordan, Mr Hemmo Bruinenberg in the Netherlands, and the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos, Mexico.

The network recognised Ms Jane Tallim and Ms Cathy Wing of MediaSmarts in Canada, Jordan Media Institute in Jordan, Mr Hemmo Bruinenberg in the Netherlands, and the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos, Mexico.

The Awards ceremony was held at the Opening Session of the Global MIL Week 2018 Feature Conference in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Jane Tallim and Cathy Wing of MediaSmarts received the top prize. They have been central to MIL in Canada since they joined MediaSmarts in 1995. They both served as co-executive directors from 2008-2018. During that time, they were responsible for Young Canadians in a Wired World, one of the world’s largest and longest-running research projects on youth and the Internet. They also developed the resource, Use, Understand and Create: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools.

Under Jane and Cathy’s leadership, MediaSmarts has also contributed to the adoption of media and information literacy in Canada by advising on curriculum and by training teachers, both personally and through the creation of self-directed professional development materials.

There was a tie for the second place of the GAPMIL Global MIL Award 2018 between the Jordan Media Institute and Hemmo Bruinenberg from the Netherlands.

In partnership with UNESCO and the European Commission, Jordan Media Institute launched a project to integrate MIL into Jordan’s schools and universities and raise awareness among the public in 2016, and has been actively engaging decision makers in advocating for MIL and succeeded in including MIL in national strategies on youth and combating extremism and violence at universities.

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Question related to this article.

Is Internet freedom a basic human right?

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Through this partnership, JMI trained 74 teachers and professors and 390 students from eight public schools and two universities. Some of the teachers and students have set up MIL Clubs for students in grades 7-9.  The JMI team drafted six documents that were based on UNESCO MIL literature including a policy paper and syllabus for schools and textbook for universities. They also succeeded in encouraging the University Al Al-Bayt to introduce MIL course this fall.
The other winner of the second prize, Hemmo Bruinenberg introduced a visual literacy project called Ithaka Film Festival led by his organization the Video Bakery and the Ithaka International Transition Classes. Over a three-day period, immigrant and refugee students make their own film with professional equipment from extensive research to the media creation and production.

Students not only work on media and information literacy skills, but also as social skills, empowerment, Dutch language and therefore facilitating their integration in Dutch society. The Ithaka Film Festival shows how a media and information literacy project can contribute to the development of skills among a vulnerable group of young students, and how MIL can be integrated in secondary school education in a sustainable way. The project promotes tolerance and cultural equality a better representation in Dutch society.

According to Alton Grizzle, the UNESCO Programme Specialist with responsibility for UNESCO global actions on MIL, “recognition by GAPMIL motivates, stimulates, and appropriates the sharing of MIL experiences and knowledge.” He continued: “When the hard work and innovation of actors in the MIL is celebrated by the community, this creates new MIL champions.”

The third place for the GAPMIL Global MIL Awards goes to the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos (UAEM), Mexico. UAEM initiated a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) aimed at promoting information literacy to fight disinformation. The University is using e-learning and ICT to meet not only the needs of its students and educators, but also of the wider society in Mexico and in the Spanish Speaking part of the world.

A total of 2,775 participants registered in the first edition of this MOOC and it has potential for future editions. It educated people to develop competences as critic and reflective news consumers, and to promote harmonic interactions in social media. All content for the MOOC is originally produced by e-UAEM, and this course is part of the university’s Digital Culture Programme.

The UNESCO-led GAPMIL is a network of networks that promotes international cooperation to ensure that all citizens have access to media and information competencies. It currently has over 500 member organizations (including other networks) from over 110 countries.


Education for girls projects in Jamaica and Egypt win UNESCO prize

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article from Their World

Kemoshia Gibbs was only 13 when she found out she was pregnant. She cried every day – and so did her mother. “I was so ashamed, depressed, stressed, confused, frustrated, sad and had anger issues,” she said. “I faced a mix of feelings, all bundled up in one. I was afraid to go outside. It was as if I was confined to the bedroom.”

Kemoshia left her high school and moved into the Women’s Centre of Jamaica programme. It helps to provide continuing education, health services and other assistance for girls who drop out during pregnancy – and then assists their reintegration into school.

After having a son, and with the organisation’s help, she moved back into the regular school system in 2014. Determined to succeed, she juggled with the demands but graduated as the top female student at Godfrey Stewart High.

Kemoshia – who hopes to have a career in humanities or food science and technology – said: “I am forever grateful for the contribution of the Women’s Centre in my life. They were there when my life was a mess.”

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Question for this article

Gender equality in education, Is it advancing?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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That work has seen the Women’s Centre of Jamaica named as one of two winners of this year’s UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education. The other is the Misr El-Kheir Foundation from Egypt, for providing community-focused educational opportunities to children aged from six to 14 in remote areas.

They received their $50,000 prizes at a ceremony in Paris. Zoe Simpson, Executive Director of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica, told Their News: “The UNESCO prize will be used to further enhance and expand the virtual delivery of special preparatory classes to the rural centres.  

“The classes prepare the older adolescent mothers to sit the external examinations that enable them to matriculate to tertiary-level studies.”

The Misr El-Kheir Foundation  won for a project called Educational Opportunities for Children in Underserved Villages through Community Schools.

This provides community-focused educational opportunities to children aged from six to 14 in remote areas. It particularly focuses on girls who are not enrolled in primary education or who have dropped out due to early marriage or other obstacles. 

Mohamed Abdel Rahman, Deputy Managing Director of Misr El Kheir Foundation, said: “We build schools inside the communities. We get the teachers from within the same communities. So the girls have the right to education and easy access to schools.”

The UNESCO prize – funded by the Chinese government – was launched in 2016 to recognise the Sustainable Development Goals on education and gender equality. 

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)