Hi! My name is Anita and I'm from Denmark and working as an intern at the BIC office with a focus on peace and conflict resolution. But I'm also a videographer and I'm starting a project to interview some of my fellow BIC interns. This is my first interview. Stay tuned for others...
Carmel is from South Africa and a graduate of the University of Cape Town. She has been interning since January, 2013 and in the video she discusses her reasons for coming such a long distance to intern here in New York City.
My name is Nisha Patel and I consider myself a globe trekker—passionate about languages, cuisines and cultures. I started my research internship with the BIC in fall of 2012. I moved to New York City after graduating from Arizona State University in May 2012 with a B.A. in Global Studies and a certificate in Religion and Conflict Studies with an emphasis on the Middle East. Although I have not decided what my end-game is, I aspire to work in/with the United Nations and am currently in the process of applying to public policy graduate programs in NY.
Structure of CSocD
The Commission on Social Development (CSocD) is tasked to advise the Economic and Social Council as well as various governments on a wide range of social policy issues. Every two years, the Commission takes on key social development themes as part of its follow-up to the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit. The first year of this two-year cycle is a “Review Year”. The 2nd is the “Policy Year”. The 51st CSocD convened the “Review Year” meetings in New York City in February 2013. The priority theme was “promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all” and the emerging theme is “the social dimension in the global development agenda beyond 2015”.
BIC delegates to the Commission for Social Development.
More than a month has passed since Ban Ki-moon appointed Ahmad Alhindawi as the U.N.’s Envoy on Youth, but what has been done to enable increased youth participation at the U.N. level, and what more can we realistically expect?
In the buildup to the Commission on Social Development (51st CsocD) civil society and member state statements alike mentioned the emergence of a ‘youth bulge’. Given that youth are far more likely than adults to be unemployed, this rapid growth in the global population of youth caused a great deal of worry, particularly in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The Envoy on Youth has been tasked with addressing the needs of the largest generation of youth the world has ever known. But at a Commission aimed at empowering youth and creating an ‘enabling environment’ for their participation, youth delegates felt largely sidelined and disappointed at the lack of opportunities to contribute to the discourse and voice their needs.
Some of the Commission’s side events, however, were highly interactive and an encouraging step towards increasing opportunities for youth participation. At one such event, hosted by Mr. Ravi Karkara on behalf of the Sri Lankan government, Joao Scarpellini of the Youth 21 movement noted that youth participation has always been desirable, dating back to the League of Nations considering the creation of a Youth League in 1936. So why are we still mulling over it and deciding how it should be created? Why do we keep calling youth the leaders of the future and talking about their...
Representatives of the world's religions offering prayers for peace on stage in the General Assembly hall
Valentine ’s Day 2013 proved to be a historic occasion in New York as World Interfaith Harmony day was celebrated in the General Assembly hall. To people of many religions the idea of interfaith harmony is far from revolutionary, but for those religious leaders and NGO representatives whose work it is to negotiate what many see as a chasm between religion and international politics, it was an important victory. For years it was thought that prayers would never be said in the General Assembly. ‘It’s simply too controversial’ religious representatives were told time and again.
Mrs. Masami Saoinji
Refusing to allow her imagination to be constrained by such negativities, Mrs. Masami Saionji of the World Peace Prayer Society dreamt of a day on which all of the world’s major religions would be united in prayer for world peace. And so the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations set about to make this a reality. Indeed, on World Interfaith Harmony Day, prayers for peace were offered by representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Sikh, Jane, Hindu, Buddhist, Humanist, and...
Moral governance -- Perhaps not such an oxymoron after all…
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay’s remarks to the forum held in South Africa
We are in the midst, it seems, of a worldwide crisis of authority, stemming largely from the lack of good governance and good leadership. Although the acknowledgement of the need for good leadership as essential to mankind’s progress is nothing new, it has become a particularly pertinent issue of late. Last week diplomats, politicians, experts form many fields and representatives of civil society alike gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa. The purpose of this forum
was to discuss concepts surrounding governance in order to establish what the current reality is, and what must be done to improve it so that the post-2015 agenda can outline a plan of action. The importance of this theme was reiterated by Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (a cross-civilization effort to counter polarization and extremism) who stated that “responsible leadership is the key in addressing all the challenges which we are now having”, adding that “the politics of division, hatred and misperceptions, particularly the language of hatred tear the fabric of our society”. The problem seems simple enough: governance needs to be improved. But how?
Various diagnoses of this societal ill have been put forward, none of which has gained more clout than the UNDP’s campaign to equate good governance with democracy. But is a commitment to regular free and fair elections alone...
I am a new intern at the Baha'i International Community’s United Nations Office and am pursuing my Masters Degree in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences at Columbia University. Several weeks ago, the Baha’i International Community (BIC) brought together a group of graduate students from Columbia University to explore the vision and the values that should guide the emerging post-2015 development agenda. It was a very thought-provoking process, especially with the participation of such a diverse group of people.
The opening remarks delivered by Mr. Ravi Karkara, Expert Advisor on Children and Youth from UN Habitat, were very encouraging. By introducing the “bottom-up” approach instead of the “top-down” one used in developing the Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Karkara noted that the UN is doing tremendous work to invite the opinions and voices of youth about the post-2015...
In my research on the relationship between social rights and economic growth, I discovered that certain findings about this relationship are neither straightforward nor intuitive.
For instance, I found that there is little evidence of a positive impact of women’s secondary education on economic growth (e.g. Barro 2001 “Human Capital and Growth”). As universal compulsory education – particularly for women – is a fundamental principle of the Bahá’í Faith, my moral and intuitive understanding of the significant role of education was confronted by metrics that make the opposite case.
I sought to resolve this cognitive dissonance. I reminded myself that although economics is the current dominant language in the field of development, and although it is important that, as actors on the international stage, we learn to speak and understand it, we ought to remain critical of its assumptions, definitions, and conceptual frameworks.
In the study I mention above, the researcher’s definition of economic growth is simply the growth rate of a nation’s per capita GDP (as is often the case in economic studies). The conclusion that might be immediately drawn from the study’s results, therefore, is that in certain parts of the world, the provision of secondary schooling for women has no direct impact on the rate of GDP growth and thus, makes no significant contribution to development.
A more thorough reflection, however, might lead to different conclusions. For instance, these results may reflect the unfortunate reality that in many countries, women face different forms of discrimination including discrimination in the workforce, with the result that women are not effectively incorporated into the...
With the January 2015 expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) fast approaching, the United Nations and other key international actors have focused their attention on designing a succeeding set of post-2015 targets. Discussions towards this end have provided an important opportunity to assess and evaluate the content of these development goals, and a multitude of actors have joined the global discourse. Commonly raised concerns include the MDGs’ inadequate focus on the underlying causes of poverty and social injustices, their neglect of rising inequalities, and the striking absence of human rights in the goals. Recent crises within the economic, political, and environmental arenas have only highlighted the shortcomings of the MDGs in addressing the challenges faced by humanity. Correspondingly, there appears to be a growing appreciation of the need to integrate issues of human rights, equity, and sustainability into the new goals.
As an intern, I was first assigned to collect research on current discussions about human rights in the post-2015 development agenda. As I mention above, the MDGs have been heavily criticized for ignoring the incorporation human rights standards into their framework. While the separation of human rights and development agendas in the UN system might appear convenient, treating these agendas in isolation from one another tends to lead to a harmful bias in the development discourse. If development is to be regarded as a human-centered phenomenon rather than simply a country’s ability to produce and consume goods and services, then inclusion of the whole spectrum of human concerns is essential. Human rights – such as rights to education, housing, and freedom from discrimination – are therefore fundamental ingredients of development.
Here is a brief list of common human rights recommendations for the post-2015 development agenda:
What happens when over 50,000 people from all around the world, representing virtually every community, come together to discuss the future we want? I get dizzy when I start to contemplate the scope of facilitating such a discussion among a wide diversity of perspectives. And having come all the way to Rio de Janeiro does not make it any easier to describe the dynamics that exist when so many minds converge in one place, as a single wave, to discuss a common theme. It reminds me of a famous song (1966) “Et moi, et moi, et moi” [And I, and I, and I], by French singer Jacques Dutronc who, with lots of humour, depicts the life of a man lost in a world with millions of people different from him. Here, it illustrates the struggle to have one's voice heard.
A youth from Earthasking a question during the side-event organized by BIC
I would like to explore one aspect of international conferences on the environment that often seems overlooked, namely the extraordinary influx of people and insights from civil society that accompanies these conferences. On the 6th day of the pre-conference gatherings, a quick review of major western newspapers like The New York Times, El País, Der Spiegel, The Guardian and Le Monde, revealed that only two of them consider the conference from civil society's perspective, and only one does so on its home page. It is true that the responsibility to adopt an implementable agreement rests on the shoulders of the heads of state gathered at the high-level segment of the conference. However, to...
Hello again, I’m Miles Hanks, writing from Rio+20 as a youth delegate of the Baha’i International Community.
Thus far, most of my involvement has consisted of attending side events, as opposed to following the negotiations. Most of the side events that I attended have been on the subject of children and youth, as well as education. At these events and at some of the meetings of the Major Group for Children and Youth I have had plenty of opportunities to meet with other youth and youth organizations, and learn about the kinds of events and actions taking place at the conference.
UN CSD Major Group for Children and Youth delegate. Credit: MGCY
The negotiations have been moving slowly. Certain topics important to youth have been removed from the text, such as the text concerning the ‘Ombudsperson,’ or ‘High Commissioner for Future Generations,’ which I briefly mentioned in my previous post. This has moved the youth to organize demonstrations and to lobby governments to reconsider certain aspects of the text in order to ensure a role for the youth and future generations in the United Nations system, and in new sustainable development projects.
Anger or hope?
I had an interesting experience involving the youth movement. I attended an event titled, “Get Mad and Do Something About it: Youth as Initiators for Change.” As the title would indicate, this was an action-oriented event. Yet it was very different from what one might expect based on the title alone. At the event, youth from many different parts of the world including, Portugal, India and France shared their experiences as youth involved with grassroots...