links for 2007-08-30

Oxfam Youth Engagement Internship – Applications Open

If you’re passionate about youth engagement, and the arts, Oxfam has an amazing opportunity for you.

Oxfam is looking for 16 young people (18-30 years) to participate in a one-year internship program. As interns, they will participate in a 10-day program in Sydney in October 2007, followed by a one day a week commitment for a year. The internship will focus on engaging youth through the arts, such as setting up events and festivals.

More information is available on their website. Applications close 30th August 2007.

Links in Post

AYA Dream Malaysia Awards 2007: Vote For Me!

I’ve just been shortlisted for the AYA Dream Malaysia Awards 2007 in the Most Outstanding Youth category. Check out my profile, which includes a short interview with myself and my mother. I thought they played up the depression/anxiety angle a bit too much, but oh well – it is about overcoming adversity, after all.

To vote, send AYA Y 14 as a text message to 36828. Each text message costs 80 sen and I think you can vote more than once.

The other people shortlisted are:

Hmm…looks like a lot of doctors!

Check out their profiles and if you like, vote for them too! You may even win tickets to the Awards Ceremony if you’re lucky!

Links in Post:

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 3 – A Call For Action II

Ah, colour! Specifically the New Jersey Ghanian Seventh Adventist Youth Choir. Inspiring and so full of life. My favourite performance so far!

According to Dr Valdov, it’s the beginning of the closing. To start us off is Rwanda genocide survivor Jacqueline Murkete, who has transformed her experience to help others and to inspire others to fight for human rights and human dignity. She tells us the story of her and her grandmother being hunted down by the opposing tribe, how they were described as “cockroaches [that needed to be] exterminated”, how she felt like she wanted to die – all because she was a Tutsi. They found refuge in an orphanage owned by an Italian priest, but eventually they found adults too risky so her grandmother couldn’t come – the day Jacqueline went to the orphanage was the last day she ever saw her grandmother. However, the Hutus weren’t all that barbaric – one such neighbour sheltered her family. But when the government says that all Tutsi people had to die, no matter their age…things get scary. She started her initiative to share her stories, educate people about the realities, and get people to think about making peace no matter your age.

One of the members of the Ghanian Youth Choir, Afia, has a song to share…

After the singing is James Quilligan, Managing Director of the Centre for Global Negotiations. As Dr Valdov mentioned, just talking about the issues for ages would not get you anywhere. However, James is working on a practical economic solution to resolve poverty. Among the issues he talks about is poverty and how no one nation can take the lead currently; sovereignty versus global governance; global environmental concerns and the Kyoto protocol; sustainable development; bilateralism and multilaterism; trading of food on the global market; biosystems; and the concept that maximization of self-interest does not lead to the greater public good. His speech works fine as a university lecture; however, after 3 (or more) long days of work without rest, having all that talk in the middle of the afternoon with no interaction or visual aids is just too much information. Also, they didn’t consider the fact that many of the participants have English as a second-language, and even native English speakers may have trouble with all the jargon. What’s the difference between bilateralism and multilateralism? What is a biosystem? What are your sources? Too much information, too little brainpower to process. I’m having trouble summarizing him right now! Apparently there will be a wiki for NGOs to contribute to a Global Marshall Plan. Considering how wikis tend to work, and how many NGO people aren’t too familiar with the ways of the Internet (especially when it comes to Web 2.0 things like wikis – I had one person who was convinced Wiki = Evil), I honestly wish them luck.

Next up is 3 time Olympian Devon Harris, part of the Jamaican bobsled team. Yep, “Cool Runnings”! Fun movie that was. I didn’t actually think it was real! He’s also the ambassador for Right To Play, an organization who gives young people the opportunity to play sport in places where such opportunities didn’t exist before. His speech was essentially inspirational, telling us about our full potential, reminding us to follow our dreams, and sharing some anecdotes about being in the Jamaican bobsled team when there isn’t even any snow in Jamaica. He even cracked a joke about how Jamaica has never been invaded by the US…coconuts make good missiles!

In this midpoint, we have been given a new mission: to be an International Peace Ambassador. Our job is to work towards the MDGs within the next year, to be “the very best of humanity”. Passing our work on. Apparently we’re the first group ever. The goal is to make this world a better place for everyone to live in; we’ll get more information on that soon. There was a group here that started an International Youth Council (UN doesn’t have one currently; they used to some years ago) and that’s starting off soon. Having just spent the last few minutes reading up on front organizations*, I am a bit nervous at the prospect – I love the idea, I just don’t want to be forced to believe in something I don’t believe in. Yes, I strongly support the MDGs and the need for a better world; I’m just cautious about things like “you must believe in God!” or “you must have ‘morals’!” or subjective things like that. Oh well, we’ll see.

They are now giving our the Youth Achievement Awards to 5 young people that have made a significant difference in the world. Devon Harris is giving out the medals. Colin hosted a walk for celiac disease; Kaitlyn started Inspiring Youth For Change to put on a conference, write declarations for the Canadian Parliament, rally and protest for youth issues, and provide toolkits for young people; an Indian student (he didn’t give his name) is working to develop his “backwards” village into a model village for the MDGs through his school; Megan organized a fundraiser with some choirs to do Christmas Carols for the WHO to raise money for polio and built a room for people with disabilities; and Kacie has been working in a girl’s home in El Salvador to try to cheer up their lives by painting and brightening up their rooms. And all of them are in HIGH SCHOOL. Huzzah!

The young people from one of the earlier panels on the first day are back – turns out they had formed a youth initiative to work on the MDGs, and they helped Dr Valdov arrange speakers and set up events for the Youth Assembly! Samuel W. Strike, Mathew Wisniewski, Sarah Leavitt, Evangeline Taylor, and Rajiv Ramakrishnam have worked together to come up with a manifesto for youth. The idea was that young people all over the world have been working on initiatives, but there wasn’t a clear way for everyone to connect. With the Youth for Action Declaration, they (and us) declare that us youth will work together in unity to make a measurable difference, to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and to improve human life, using our strengths and diversity.

It would have been handy if we got to talk about this manifesto more, especially when it’s meant to include us. The group of us that went to the Leadership Seminar have also come up with a declaration to send to the UN, which focuses on fixing the issues in Darfur, Korea, sub-Saharan Africa, and Palestine and Israel. It was meant to be signed tonight but we never got enough time to put all our work together. Indeed, a common comment made during the Assembly was that there was too much of being “talked to” and not enough interaction. Samuel just said that without action, this would be more words. Will all this just be more words?

Ah! My wish is being granted!

Currently there is an open discussion about ideas young people here have for projects. One asked for Powerpoints of the presentation; I asked about starting a fund; another suggested global conferences that influence governments; a young person working with The ONE Campaign wants international partnerships; a Nigerian wants to pass on the knowledge to the young people in his country, and wants to encourage their government to have a special advisor for the MDGs; the International Youth Council folk have formally introduced their project. THIS is what I came here to do! THIS is what I’m here for! Now if only it lasted more than 15 minutes!

Another song, then Arun Gandhi speaks…

Dr Arun Gandhi is Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson and he has done a lot of peace work through the years. The lot of us from the Leadership Seminar actually got to have lunch with him at an exclusive UN banquet place – Indian food! Yum! We got to chat with him about his work and his thoughts on leadership. I asked him if he ever felt like he was in his grandfather’s shadow. He told me that when he was younger he used to feel that a lot; however, as he grew, he figured that such a legacy can either be taken as a burden or as a light – which do you choose? He is very soft-spoken, quiet and a bit shy, very wise. He’s honest and himself. I want a hug, haha. For the closing remarks, he told us many stories about how his grandfather would teach him life lessons through all sorts of things – a LSE doctorate who wanted to transform the world was asked to clean the toilets for a week to see if he had the same passion, and when Arun threw away a 3-inch pencil once, thinking his grandfather would get him a new one, he told him off by saying that throwing away a perfectly good resource is violence against nature, and overconsumption is violence against humanity. He said that when he hears people that say nonviolence doesn’t work anymore, he feels that they’re essentially denying love, respect, kindness, and compassion, because that is what nonviolence is. He was humble and sweet and funny, and seriously they should have put him far far EARLIER in the program.

Dr Valdov – GO VALDOV GO VALDOV – wished us well and blessed all of us in her own way for our journey, and then we now have a song to close this event.

Tonight there is a farewell dinner and party, and some folk (like me) are staying back for a NY tour. But this has marked the end of the 4th Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations. Thanks for hanging in there.

* Front organizations are companies or orgs that claim to have a nonpartisan/nonbiased approach to things, but are really formed or funded by a bigger organization to either achieve its own goals or to make more money. One student group here has a MASSIVE number of representatives, and they turned out to be a front for a religious group that has a bit of a sketchy history and leader. I’ve got some friends in this org, and some other friends in similarly “Strange” orgs, that haven’t brought me to harm and seem pretty decent so far. As long as I’m not forced to subscribe to something I don’t hold to, that’s fine. But their approaches kind of disturb me sometimes. Even more disturbing, though, is the thought that we may be supporting fronts for things whose principles we don’t follow on at all. Maybe the “front” is fine but the support org is really sketchy, or vice versa. How do you make the distinction?

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 3 – Our Commitment To Our House – Mother Earth – Ensuring Environmental Sustainability

We’ve got a former astronaut speaking on this panel. Woo!

This former astronaut is Dr. Brian O’ Leary, who is currently the Director of the Centre of Peace and Sustainability in Ecuador. His speech was basically basic polemics on the importance of good leadership in maintaining the environment, the roles young people have, and so on – but there were some points where he sounded very conspiracy-theory-ish, claiming that the media and the government are blacking out possible environmental solutions. That may be true, but I would have liked to know what those solutions were when we’re free of the blackout! It didn’t captivate me so I didn’t really pay much attention.

Next was Jon Beyer, founder of TerraCycle, a company that makes environmentally-friendly products using recycled packaging. The Aquafina bottle I’m drinking out of now will turn into a plant food spray in their factory. They also sell worm poop (yes, literally) as fertilizer – the worms eat through the waste and apparently it’s very good. It all started from writing a business plan for a college competition about the worm poop idea – while they didn’t succeed in the competition, they borrowed money to make a larger-scale device and got started. Apparently cafeteria waste is horrid to work it. THey started out as a waste-disposal company but decided to focus more on their end products, while still maintaining the environmental focus. They also had faced challenges trying to get their packaging (originally through custom molds) – when they saw that the bottle process was quite toxic, they figured they had to rethink it – and that’s how the recycling-bottles idea comes from. Other products they have include solid fertilizer (packaged in milk jugs), pots made from crushed car plastic that are uniquely graffitied, and some other ingenious ideas up their sleeve. Intriguing!

Lunch next!

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 3 – With All Our Strength, Hearts, and Minds – Combating HIV/AIDS

The session started with a moment of silence for independence, in honour of India’s Independence Day. The first speaker was Dr. Aleksandra Sasha Bodiroza, Technical Specialist for HIV/AIDS at the UNFPA. He describes the various approaches that UN bodies and NGOs have taken to combat and educate people on AIDS – and why they DON’T work. Turns out that efforts tend to so scattered and unconnected that there is hardly any impact. However, when efforts are linked and connect with each other, and when young people are given more power over decision-making, the impact made is far far greater and far more effective. 11 different campaigns for $468,000 was not as effect as one solid campaign that only cost about $70,000. I was surprised at the honesty – most other speakers have been “this is why we are great” and it was refreshing to see someone say “hey, what we’re doing doesn’t work”.

Next up is Brad Kerner of Save the Children. He shared stories of young people around the world making a difference in the world of HIV/AIDS. He also shared their strategy of SOS – Skills, Opportunities, and Services – to provide care and help to younf peoploe living through HIV/AIDS. It linked in quite well with the earlier presentation on how youth can be more involved in decision making and being powered to fight AIDS by providing plenty of real0life examples.

The next speaker was from UNICEF United For Children – I didn’t get his name. He also touches on the different strategies taken to combat HIV/AIDS, but also speaks of some challenges. The first is whether young people get the correct scientific information about HIV/AIDS, the second is the issue of gender equality (which he found important), and the last issue is the discrimination of people with HIV/AIDS.

Let me get on my soapbox here for a second. In this Youth Assembly I have met a few groups who promote abstinence as the main way to combat HIV/AIDS. You should not have sex at all until “lifetime partnership”, and if you do get HIV/AIDS from sex, you should remain abstinent so that you don’t pass it on to anyone else. I have a few issues with that approach. Firstly, it places virginity on too high a pedestal, and implies that anyone who’s had premarital sex is immoral, evil, and HIV-spreaders worthy of contempt. It’s not your virginity that makes you a good or bad person! Abstinence only doesn’t protect you wholly from HIV/AIDS – there’s also needles, and blood transfusions. The fastest growing group of people with HIV are straight married women. Are they to be blamed for not being “abstinent” when they got the disease from their husbands? It also ignores all the cultural implications that go with HIV/AIDS – how there are cultures with a high HIV/AIDS rate that encourage young marriages, polygamy, where a suggested cure is to have sex with a virgin. Being abstinent doesn’t help you. And has any of those young people ever heard of a CONDOM? Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s not possible to be extra HIV positive once you’ve been infected, so how does being abstinent then help? It doesn’t cure you. The issue is being faithful, not being abstinent. If they’re going to use abstinence as a way to protect others from spreading the disease, then why don’t they talk about blood donations? HIV+ blood, while rarely donated, still exists, and there have been people that have been affected recently through blood donations. What about people that were raped – are they to be blamed for not being “abstinent”? What about children born with HIV/AIDS – are they to stay abstinent forever, never to find a partner?

Even the way the medical aspects of the disease was portrayed was totally off – one youth group that did a skit had a story about a young girl who has sex with a guy once and gets sick. The doctor asks if she’s “been close with someone recently” and then tests her for HIV “just in case”. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS! Doctors tend to be a lot more direct with that, especially with STIs, and you need to specifically request for a HIV test mainly because the implications are so big. They could suggest it, but they won’t do it without your consent. Also, I highly doubt sharing EARRINGS counted as “needles”. Yes, it may not be a good idea to share things that have been close to your body to someone whose immune system is compromised, but it’s more complex with HIV/AIDS itself. There was all this rhetoric about how you are a “hero” if you wait and how you’re “worth the wait” – but not much actual education about protecting yourself and others, other modes of transmission, the medical process. It gives a false sense of security – “you’ll never suffer if you stay pure!”. That group performed at Culture Night last night and made me so md that I left soon after. Also, this speaker tried to link watching porn with HIV/AIDS. er. I’m not sure that’s always a good reason.

The last speaker is Dr. Bunmi Makinwa, Director of UNAIDS. He talked about the efforts of the UN and the Government in combatting AIDS (Senegal is apparently a great example) and asked us young people what we could do about it. I was busy writing blog entries so I didn’t catch a lot of it. We have question time – one asked what Senegal did that South Africa didn’t do with HIV/AIDS, and what South Africa does with all the money. The next question was about changing attitudes on apathy. Senegal took the issue of AIDS/HIV seriously and across all levels of government (including religious leaders who were skeptikal at first). South Africa, though, took too long – by the time they got around to tackling the issue, it was already in epidemic levels. People also aren’t taking pills because they feel they were going to die anyway, so why bother.

The last question was about the best way of preventing HIV/AIDS contamination, and the best educational method for addressing the issue. He brought up abstinence as the best way, but thought it was contradictory when condoms was being distributed. Dr. Sasha brought up a study that says abstinence makes no difference. It is a valid method, but when you promote abstinence ONLY, it doesn’t really help. There is no balance, and there’s no proof that abstinence-only programs actually work. He talked about visiting a Palestinian center where young people knew they were at risk, but didn’t know where to get a condom. In today’s environment, you HAVE to get a balance – talk about abstinence, sure, but also talk about being faithful and talk about condoms. There are people that have never had sex, those who have tried it but haven’t continued in a while, those who are sexually active. How do you preach abstinence ONLY when a lot of the people you’re talking to have gone past abstinence? I’m SO GLAD Dr Sasha brought up the study and his experiences – about 1/5th of the folk here are from a group that’s pro-abstinence-only and are quite vocal about it, and it’s necessary that they be aware of the impact of such programs. THANK YOU.

Next session is the environment. Be back in a few.

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 3 – Hip Hop MDG Campaign Part II

Charles Fisher, who founded the Hip Hop Youth Summit, came up to me a few minutes ago and told me he read this blog. Huh, I’m being read by celebrities (sort of). My sister thought I was skeptical of the Hip Hop MDGs Campaign, based on how I wrote the article about the first presentation. I actually thought it was a really cool idea – it’s about time that pop culture became more socially aware. There were some claims that seemed a bit out there (like how celebrities were going to come to our country to record PSAs with us – nice idea, not sure if it’ll ever happen) but overall it’s a great initiative. I’m just not a fan of hip-hop in general, though, so I wasn’t as engaged as I could have been. If it was the Darren Hayes MDGs Campaign on the other hand…

I’m really really tired today so I’ll keep all liveblogs today short.

Charles talked a LOT about their plans for the campaign – and seriously, there’s plenty planned. Raffles, competitions, training, scholarships, seminars…anything you can imagine really! In return, we would be representatives of the youths in our community, be marketing and promotional consultants, we would advise them on how the campaign can move forward, and we would hold them accountable. When I asked him about his plans and whether he can make them real (because seriously they sounded very lofty), he told me that I can use my blog to hold him accountable – if he doesn’t make any progress by next year I have every right to report on it! He’s even called me Blog Lady, haha! Someone else brought up how hip-hip music now tends to objectify women and how the values doesn’t match up. Charles replied that hip-hop is changing and it’s up to us to let them know what they want to see – Dr Valdov shared some support. He then showed off an upcoming fashion trend, Spinwear – basically turning your T-shirt around! Heh.

It will be interesting to see how this Hip Hop MDGs Campaign plays out. I suppose this isn’t the first time a subculture went all out to make a difference, but how many of them have been successful? Maybe this one can start a positive trend of its own.

One minute till the next panel…

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 2 – Saving Our Children And Their Mothers

One thing I found a bit odd about this whole MDG business is the constant linking between women as mothers and children. People keep bringing up the need to implement the MDGs “for the children”. Women are said to have power “because they take care of the children” (Charles Fisher’s words). Maternal health gets its own point in the MDGs. Now sure, there is quite a disproportionately high rate of women in distress from childbirth-related issues, but I’m also concerned that women are only being granted equality (another MDG) due to their ability to create life. What about child-free women? About women who can’t reproduce? About men who are the lead homemakers? Aren’t they to be considered too?

While we consider that question, the first person to speak is Jim Luce, President and Founder of…somewhere, the program didn’t actually say. He talks about how his mother inspired him to do animal rescue and help people. He went to an orphanage in Sulawesi and found the conditions absolutely appalling. (ah, I’ve worked out his organization. Orphans International! Fitting.) His speech is more about Orphans International than anything else, and I got a bit distracted so I didn’t pay much attention, ooops. He then passes it on to John Lee, the manager of their Sri Lanka project. The orphans aren’t treated very well; indeed, girls who reach the age of 16 and have not found a husband are kicked out onto the streets. Their orphanage is better maintained – it’s environmentally friendly, they’re taught tolerance (there’s a war happening), and everyone is shown patience and goodwill.

Next up is Donna Barry of Partners in Health, with an interestingly-titled presentation: “Simplicity: Not Always The Key To Saving Mothers & Their Children”. She shows us a whole set of statistics about neonatal and maternal health. There’s a major disparity between women in rural and urban areas – indeed, in America, there is a huge disparity between Caucasian and non-Caucasian women. The problem is that people have tried to make it simple – yet you can’t predict obsteric complications. What really helps? Socioeconomic development and access to highly qualified medical and surgical care. So that’s what Partners in Health does – set up clinics in developing countries to help with maternal health issues.

Now we have Robin, filling in for UNICEF’s Senior Adviser for Child Survivors. 42 countries (oddly enough all quite near the equator) have massive amounts of child death. A large chunk of that is neo-natal – death at birth. There has been considerable progress, though -with new technology, interventions, and successful implementation, success has been slow but steady. Some effective strategies have been clean water, cheap vaccines, and other interventions that are cheap and simple – however, the main issue has been to implement them WIDELY in places that need them more. It’s interesting that UNICEF is honest about not being able to have done their best work. They acknowledge that they can’t do it themselves, and that they need to set up partnerships to continue what they do.

Elaine points out that we hardly ever flinch when we hear that 9000+ children die every day…perhaps we need to think and act more deeply. Scott Sullivan, of The Corps of Communication, stands right up and tells us that we are full of greatness – but we have to act and inspire people NOW. Always stand up for what you believe in (maybe literally like he did). And that was it really – he kept it super brief! But it was effective and to the point, instead of rambly like many others were.

Culture Night tonight – I’m in my salwhar khameez, ready to rock out. See you tomorrow.

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 2 – Women’s Voice Be Heard

I came in a bit late and was greeted with a young girl telling a story about life, the universe, and the power of women. WOW. WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. If only more speakers had her passion, her grace, her power. Standing ovation. WOW.

She’s followed by Grandmother Sara Smith, an Indigenous Elder from the Mohawk tribe. She talks closely about our part in the world, our Earth Walk, and our responsibilities in the world. The power of women to create and manifest is still available, we just need to remember. It’s actually quite moving and not really something I can put into words, but suffice to say that for us to make change in the world, we have to remember who we are and where we come from.

Next up is Amelia Kinahoi-Siamomua, Acting Director at CARE. She starts of by saying we are POWERFUL – a theme that seems to be running in this panel. She runs a video for their “I Am Powerful” campaign, which features women around the world and the various roles and powers they have. The concept behind that campaign is that no matter what or where, every woman has the power to change their world – and CARE is there to help them do it. She relates stories of how women were at the periphery of HIV/AIDS and are now at the center; are now in peacekeeping forces even when they didn’t have full rights. The point is, women are no longer just bystanders in making change. They ARE change agents, and they need all the support they can get.

Next is Angela Mason, from World Vision, a former actress who now makes award-winning documentaries on women and children. She is also a speaker on “hope in impossible places”. WHOA she’s loud. And she got us to do a massage chain! Yay! Her speech was very compelling and fascinating – I didn’t actually type anything in between because I was quite taken by it. She told us stories of her trips with World Vision, about how people were so HAPPY because they had water, about this Ugandan woman who had a booming business making envelopes for people to keep medicines in (so much so that she couldn’t keep up), about people who were happy for the smallest things. Sure puts some things into perspective.

This panel ends off with another song. Stay tuned for more of the UN Youth Assembly.

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 2 – Model UN Day 2

The Model UN crew has thinned down considerably – I suppose a lot of people are either networking, signing up for things, or being interviewed for UN Radio.

Argentina suggests writing a resolution to solve corruption going through the grassroots level – if they don’t get the appropriate resources, they won’t be able to help as much as they can. Greece points out that different countries are poor for different reasons, so we need a committee to do extensive research to find specific ways of helping. Guatemala suggests focusing on national debt and on anti-corruption. Germany reiterates their stand on fighting poverty through aid, education, investments, and trade, as well as ensuring corruption is battled. Kuwait wanted to set a motion for unmoderated caucaus, but they can’t just yet until the moderated caucaus is over. Ireland agrees with Germany, and South Africa places importance on partnerships. Thailand agrees with Greece on looking on more than one solution, and The Netherlands (me) brings up the concept of sphere sovereignty, where every part of society works together and one isn’t better or worse than the other.

We’ve just come from two unmoderated caucuses, where we discussed with different countries about our own ideas on eradicating poverty. Saudi Arabia suggests volunteerism and promoting free press – interesting, considering that Saudi Arabia isn’t known for their free press! (That’s probably the only point of debate on this whole simulation…we need more debate.) France is willing to fund projects that help people help themselves. Italy pointed out that race hasn’t been brought up, and suggests that citizens need to face the issue with racism since a lot of issues with poverty relate to that. Mali liked France’s point about sending money, but the problem isn’t the money – it’s what you could do with it. South Africa suggests exchanging as a way to help solve some of the issues raised. Kuwait believes that the biggest problem with poverty is the class system while China brought up the health system. Thailand, on behalf of many other countries, resolves that one solution would not be enough, so subcommittees should be set up to do research. Guinea and some other countries encourages global partnerships to solve poverty.

The first working paper comes from Saudi Arabia. It consists of defining poverty, define a cause of poverty, and using projects with volunteerism, free press, corporate governance, setting up infrastructure to protect resource-rich countries from exploitation, and outlining MNCs to invest in developing nations.

We need to wrap up, but we’ll start tomorrow with the working papers and debate on them. Workshop next!

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 2 – Education = Peace and Development

The next panel is about education – huzzah! Obviously something I was looking forward to. The first speaker is Dr. Cream Wright, Chief of Education at UNICEF. He talks about how it is important to give children a basic education – that doesn’t necessarily mean building more nurseries, but giving children the opportunity to learn enough to function in life. Again it’s mostly factual and statistical, which I kind of blocked out of my head. (well I am tired…)

Next up is Esther Hyneman, part of Women for Afghan Women. While she sets up, one delegate asks about governments that don’t fully support educated people. That question gets put on hold while Esther starts. She describes her organization as one that helps empower Afghan women on claiming their human rights. Over 90% of Afghan women are illiterate. She groups everything into three ideas: think about women, go at the grassroots level, ans start strong. Again, I didn’t really pay much attention (it was mainly what their program does).

The final speaker is Andy Cunningham, cofounder of WISER, an initiative to build a girls’ boarding school in Muhuru Bay in Kenya. “Oyo orore!” He gets us to get up and DANCE. At least that’s gotten me a bit awake. In their tribal language, “Oyo orore” is hello, “iva nade” is how are you, “arimabear” is I’m fine. Or something like that. They even gave him a stool to stand on when making his speech…even though he’s over 6 foot tall. Heh.

WISER is 95% youth run. It’s been in Muhuru Bay 5 years, but only started fundraising 7 months ago – and already they have half a million dollars. Andy quotes Bono saying that the world lacks storytellers, and adds on that the world lacks people listening to storytellers. He notes that while Kenya is making strides to universal primary schooling, women do not get secondary education. They also become the “first harvest” – forced marriages for dowry. They’ve also been abused and molested, and no girl has graduated high school. The situation is really quite dire.

He shows us a young woman who is the first woman in Muhuru Bay to graduate from college (she went to a private school outside the area). She has shown great initiative by coming back and helping her people – none of the men who went on to college ever returned. The community and WISER have come together to help support young women like her to go on and get educated.

Andy gives a plan for how you want to make a difference in the world. First, you need a business plan. Not just a mission and vision, but also a good business plan with an executive summary. Next, make a website for your cause. Also use YouTube to put up a promotional video for your cause. If you’re still in university, get them to support you by having a class for your cause. Universities tend to be non-profit, so they can sponsor you and get tax help too. Also have innovative fundraising methods. Some of their campaigns are the WISER 100 Club and a Furnish A School campaign, and they concentrated on the top 5 places for grants – they got 4. Their priorities are students, teachers, curriculum, community center, health, utilities, architecture, intersession programming, recruitment, and volunteering. While not all of these tips are important or appropriate for every venture in every country (especially in Malaysia where not all universities are non-profit and non-profit status is tricky), it is still very useful to hear about how a fellow youth-related initiative got the ball rolling. It’s interesting to see that they are also going beyond books and now concentrating on movies and multimedia – I still feel books are crucially important (you don’t need as much technology to read) but we should also diversify our methods to reach out. When having sanitary pads can mean having access to education for a month and a half…every little bit counts.

They seem really organised and have sorted out all sorts of plans for people to get involved. It’s great to see a young person making a MASSIVE impact, in a world where young people don’t get enough respect. It’s certainly very inspiring and I’m already racing with ideas for my own projects!

Model UN is next!

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 2 – Eradicting Extreme Poverty & Hunger

The second session begins with Elaine talking about how some people think that if you don’t save one issue, there’s no point. Every issue is important, though, and to me there is no point alienating an issue just to promote your own. So it’s great that there are people with different issues here to talk about why their issue is important and how us young people can help.

First up is Bernard Amadai, Founding President of Engineers Without Borders, with a presentation on how engineers and scientists can make a difference. Being neither, I’m not sure how I could relate, but Bernard’s personal experiences and passion is quite compelling. He’s currently sharing his tales of being in San Paolo, Belize, and seeing the state of infrastructure in the world. He got an epiphany there and soon Engineers Without Borders was born. My dad is an engineer by education and my sister was educated as a scientist, and while neither really works in these fields anymore, this may be interesting.

Bernard is REALLY passionate about human living conditions and poverty. “Poverty is NOT an academic exercise.” He showed us statistics and pictures, and asked if we have seen the eyes of a child who is dying. Talk as much as we want, but we should walk the talk. EWB was founded to bring compassionate (not “nerdy”) engineers and scientists of the new generation to be PEACEMAKERS – bringing the Hutsi and Tsutsi people in Rwanda together, when previously they were hating each other. Palestinians and Israelis working together side by side. They all ask – WHY DO WE HAVE TO HATE EACH OTHER?

This guy’s talk is the best one I’ve seen so far. His passion for his work really shows. He has been personally affected (through his work in San Paolo) and he is closely engaged with his work. And best of all, he did something about it. He shows us a water filter system designed by his students, promising 700 liters of clean water a day, which only costs $800 and only $50 a month for maintenance. It only cost $100 a YEAR to support African children to get to school – and they don’t have any reason t start a war anymore.

Why can we get 5000 Harry Potter books a minutes but can’t do the same for water? Why do we spend $31000 a SECOND on WEAPONS when children are dying in the world from preventable diseases?

As he says, don’t be part of the status quo. Be part of the solution!

Next up is Deborah Saidy, director of the World Food Program. She talks about hunger about how there’s more and more people affected by hunger. Two thirds are in rural areas and most of them are children. Out of the main major countries facing hunger, only China is on target to reach the MDGs – and even then we have to consider those suffering hunger in smaller places. Chile, Thailand, India, Tanzania, and Brazil are on track. Other world issues are affecting poverty too – for instance, climate change has an effect on rain and agriculture, which obviously affects hunger. Right now it’s mainly factual and statistic – not passionate and personal like Bernard’s presentation. Also, my parents are trying to talk to me on Skype by video, so it’s a bit distracting…

School feeding is a good way of solving a few issues at once – hunger, education, and empowering women (as girls get more choices in education). It is a good example of how, in solving different world issues, we shouldn’t be separating them – we should be engaging them and thinking creatively of how to combine them.

Next up is Porter McConnell from The ONE Campaign, who asks us all to turn ON our phones. Mine’s dead, so I can’t help, but you can already here all the start-up tones and ringtones going around the room. The ONE Campaign was cofounded by Bono (of US) and various NGOs related to rescue, poverty, and world issues. Members from across America (and random internationals like me) lobby the US government to help with various world issues, at a cost of just one percent or so of the US budget – so it doesn’t really take a lot to make a big impact! Their various priority bills relate to education, child survival, fair trade, hunger, and so on. There is also a major effort called the One Vote ’08, which involves goals that they hope the future American president will tackle once he or she is elected into office. There’s more information about the people behind ONE, and how they run.

Now we work out why they wanted the phone on. Text ONE to 62523 and you’re meant to get a response back! Ah, someone just did! You can also get involved through blogging, being a member, buying merchandise, volunteering, and much more. There are also different national movements for those outside America.

A flute performance from Holly closes this section.

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 2 – MTV Youth Activist Program

Good morning! Here’s the second day of the Youth Assembly, and it’s bound to be just as busy as the first.

Starting off the day is Ian Rowe, VP of Public Affairs at MTV. MTV is passionate about young people and their possibilities for being a force of good – just like the UN. MTV mainly airs shows about pop culture, but they receive the most power from showing emotional human-interest stories of young people who have gone through a lot in their life and still keep on living.

MTV wants to use “our superpowers for good” – engaging their youth to make a difference. They reach nearly 1 billion people worldwide, and use that reach to reach out to young people worldwide through various programming and efforts. Their main efforts are in HIV/AIDS, education, and global warming.

We are shown a video of all the different campaigns and PSAs MTV has run over the years on various issues, with plans for future programs. They are especially strong on youth issues, youth voting (with various Choose to Lose campaigns), and HIV/AIDS. Ian talks about how young people weren’t aware of their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS in 1981, and when MTV started then, they decided to focus on that issue and educate young people about protecting themselves, with PSAs and toll-free numbers. They have also partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently to showcase the issue of teens dropping out from school. He reads out the words of winner of their Be The Voice competition, who talks about how it is important for every student to have the opportunity to graduate ready for life.

Another campaign they work on is climate change. Polar bears and melting ice never really connected the issue to young Americans, but MTV made this an opportunity to launch Break The Addiction, a 12-step environmental campaign to educate young people about steps they can take to take care of the environment, and internationally they have launched Switch too. The campaigns have had a major impact, as most youths have mentioned the environment as their top concern and priority for change.

Now they are embarking on a new phase: Think, a multimedia community around youth activism. More information will come out in the next few weeks. MTV strongly believes in the power of youth and will still continue various initiatives to get us involved.

One person asks about negative programming on MTV. Ian acknowledges that those images may not be positive, but the audience is able to discern between the two. They’re not fighting against each other. Youth have come to MTV for assistance with issues dear to them – they don’t have those resources close to them, so they go to MTV to help show those stories. Another person asks about “reality tv” that isn’t very real, and doesn’t really see those campaigns that often on MTV. Ian mentions that they have different strategies: one is to work with celebrities to develop PSAs, and the other is to integrate those messages into their usual programming. For instance, the 20th Anniversary of Real World will be set in an environmentally-friendly house and will involve topics of environmental concern. There was also a former Real World contestant, Pedro, who was the first gay HIV+ person on TV.

Elaine asks if there is an easy way to ask MTV of what they want. MTV decides year by year (based on research) what their issues would be, but they do face the risk of launching something that doesn’t engage the audience. That’s the basis for THINK – people with different issues and passions will get together with other young people to get mobilized and get together. They can’t realistically program for every issue but THINK would help. I asked whether it was possible to influence the artists to change their videos. Ian talked about how they once made a decision to not show videos with guns, since there was too many, and it had such a big impact as it trickled down to the record companies and artists. He thinks it is possible for such an impact to happen again, and it is up to us to really let MTV know that they don’t want that (right now the voices saying “We want that!” are louder). Another guy talks about how the issues we share and that divides us are both universal, and he asks if MTV plans to use the youth to break down barriers that exist. Ian says that it’s not so much that MTV uses youth for those aims, but that young people should use MTV to achieve the goals of understanding and peace. The more tools we have, the more we can do – and right now more tools are being open to us. The success of MTV depends on the success of engaging with their people.

Sophia talks about how she thought she shouldn’t let MTV know about what she thinks because she thought their values don’t match up, so it’s glad that Ian talked about how MTV allows young people to give their feedback. She did ask about how young people can get in touch. MTV is playing around with the idea of “getting famous for doing good” – emphasizing young people who do good instead of those that do stupid things. This would be a reward-based system, where young people making a difference would be rewarded, and those who are engaged with them can also elevate their status. The last question comes from Rico, who talks about marriage and family life, and how young people aren’t really into marriage and family anymore. He asks how MTV plans to approach family values. Ian doesn’t really know the answer, but feels that this is a good opportunity for MTV to learn from youth since this is an issue that is currently found important.

2 minute break!

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 1 – Youth Call To Action

After a somewhat nutty first half, the second half starts with a song! It’s a guy named Nick, who sounds a bit like a Disney singer crossed with Clay Aiken, and it’s about taking the moment to make a difference. This is followed by Dr Noel Brown, former director of UNIP and current president of Friends of the United Nations. Apparently the highest-growing population segment is people over 100, haha. He wishes that the UN would be a familiar place, somewhere we can come by and drop in and get involved. He was at International Youth Day last week and was impressed with their energy and innovation. If you want to engage young people, you need to use more than just text. He felt that it was time the UN had a permanent youth forum – there are various youth programs, but nothing truly genuine and permanent, a partnership between the UN and young people. You can’t escape the past but you must reinvent the future.

Right now the UN needs to make a strong stand and tell the world where it needs to go. Young people can help this. We are the first virtual generation, moving in and our of worlds easily. This panel will help work on documents that will affect the MDGs, by showing the youth’s view on issues. Speaking of which: things are too easily reduced to slogans. It’s not just the words, it’s abou the goals and the values behind them too. We need to take care of the environment, as it’s strongly in distress.

(Note: I’m actually half-sleepy at the moment so if whatever I type doesn’t make sense. Please go easy on me.)

The UN has launched a Day of Tolerance with all sorts of information on the topic. Apparently there are publications about that day too. There’s some talk about tolerance, equity, and responsibility, as well as partnerships. The UN has developed partnerships with non-profits and for-profits, and he hopes it will bring up an intergeneration assembly.

Next up is Amil Husain, who tests our honesty by asking how many have lied in the past. The quiet ones are obviously lying. Ha! Really, he’s in charge of the Youth campaign for the MDGs, and he helps implement campaigns to raise awareness and bring people closer to reaching their goal. He asks about reasons governments weren’t implementing the MDGs, and it’s largely because the governments don’t feel impelled to do so. So the UN Millennium Campaign exists to make people aware of the MDGs. We have enough resources – we just need to redistribute them!

He gives an example of how someone can change policy – by someone going up to their government and asking for a football game. Just one person doesn’t do much, but get a big group and you can make a major difference. Bono even got his fans to call up Tony Blair’s office – 2000+ calls to the office! They had to call back to say “hey, it’s cool that you are anti-poverty, but please stop calling because our secretaries are going crazy!”. He also cites The ONE Campaign as another example of this. Honestly, I’m not sure they realize that in many countries, just gathering people together for an issue can lead you to arrest…

It comes down to political will – politicians keeping their promise. The UN can’t do it alone. If we don’t do this, real people will suffer. It’s not revolutionary to ask that everyone gets education, that everyone can eat…it’s necessary. Possible, but necessary.

Next up is Mathew Wisniewski, talking about Freedom and Development. Another busy bee! Without freedom there is no development, and without development there is no freedom. Even freedom was differently defined in different parts of a country! THis one was kept short because everyone (including me) was getting tired, though there was a bit more than what I’ve typed out.

Now it’s Sarah Leavitt, who’s setting up an organization with young professionals. Her talk is about the environment and how we’re all super-connected. Once again I’m too tired to continue upon this so I’ll take a short rest here.

More talks! Sam Strike about equality and opportunity. Hmm. He’s also created the Youth Manifesto, interesting. Every human being has their own worth – empathy. Again, too tired to continue. This will be a loooooooooong day…

Last person is Evie Taylor, whom I’ve actually bumped into a few times around the UN. She’s talking about equity and solidarity, about how we’re all invested in the world in some way. That concludes the youth panel – might have been better if it wasn’t in the middle of the night, had more interesting presentations, and let us join in the discussions. Oh well.

End of the first day of meetings! There’s a Campaign Night on tonight. Not liveblogging that one, so see you tomorrow!

Liveblogging: UN Youth Assembly Day 1 – Call To Action

For some reason the 2nd workshop (Youth Venture) didn’t seem to happen (the speakers didn’t show up) so I went for lunch instead. Now we’re about to start the Call To Action, which basically describes campaigns and how we can get involved.

The first campaign: Hip Hop. Yes, no kidding. Charles Fisher, producer and founder of Def Jam Records, has set up the Hip-hop MDG Campaign, which aims to creative initiatives within the hip-hop music community to talk about the MDGs and how we can help. Charles believes that the hip-hop culture can be used constructively to help the world. There’s a lot of flattery about women, haha! Turns out that Charles believes that gender equality should be at the top of the MDG list, though his reasoning (because it’s the women that take care of the children) is a bit troubling. Oh well.

Charles explains the hip-hop culture – how it’s multi-creative and makes tons of money. It’s a multibillion industry and it’s about time it goes to some good. He talks about how very few young people know about the MDGs, or the Decade of Making a Culture of Peace for Young People, or International Youth Day – ironic! “What can you do about something you don’t know about?” He notes that we are a very good generation and we have the Internet at our disposal – we could live on the Internet if we wanted! (Hmm…)

He’s honoured that we’re not clubbing or chasing girls or playing golf right now…we’re here at the United Nations to CHANGE THE WORLD. Yeah! He’s generally been very optimistic and passionate about using hip-hop to make a difference with the MDGs, which is very innovative and timely. His plan is to get big celebrities in the music industry to do Public Service Announcements with us young people to talk about the MDGs. They also want to use MTV and BET and other media companies to pass those PSAs on, as well as related non-profits and corporations. Now it’s up to us to decide who we want to work with. Yes, we get to decide! We’re going to be a big part of this!

He wants us to get something out of this conference – a partnership with the FAF, the Hip Hop MDG Campaign, and with Dr Valdov. Not just an experience that stays in New York. We should go back to our countries and start a Hip-Hop Youth Summit chapter to discuss these issues amongst ourselves. And he doesn’t want to fail. Now I’m not a big fan of hip hop, but if anyone in MALAYSIA wants to start such a chapter, let me know and I’ll hook you up. He’s worked with massive artists and he’s geared to winning. He thinks we can do it though, because he felt the energy during orientation yesterday and thinks we can carry it on.

One resolution that was passed yesterday was to set up a timeline to get ten million members. Yes, MILLION. We’re going to be co-chair various committees with hip-hop artists (related to the MDGs), keep in touch with them, do concerts and PSAs, all sorts of things – so that the MDGs are going out there. What can we do with ten million members? Change the culture, change the world, make a difference, lobby Congress, change healthcare, change education, change the entertainment industry, change corporations…create a lot of INFLUENCE and CHANGE. (And now a joke about Michael Jackson. Oh dear.)

Hip hop is colourblind! We’re all one people! It’s not like we care who we’re dancing with…

Now we’re being enlisted in the Hip Hop Army, apparently. And when do we need ten million members by? End of the year. Oh yes.

Dr Valdov was talking about how it’s seen as amazing to have young people come together like this. She doesn’t think it’s amazing – she thinks it’s as it should be!

Next up is the Ambassador of Tanzania to the UN, H.E. Ambassador Augustine Mahiga. He feels that the future lies in us youth – to create the world as a safe place and avoid this culture of war. He asks us to uphold the values of the UN as it is a universal organization and it is something we’re inherited – without the UN, who would create another one? It’s imperfect, but it has survived many challenges is a testament to its ability to keep to the ideals of its founders. It is in us to carry on the banner, but also to look at its shortcomings as we have the motivation and energy to see the survival of the UN. Originally the UN was preoccupied with peace (having being set up right after World War 2). While there hasn’t been a world war since, there has been many localized wars, but we have managed to witness peace – especially since the number of wars are decreasing. We still shouldn’t diminish the significance of peace, but that’s not all we want to accomplish.

Is it adequate to explain peace as the absence of war? No. It includes other things, such as security, development (economic, social, cultural, moral), and bringing prosperity.

Our planet is rich with resources. Science is coming up with new discoveries all the time. Yet the activity of human beings are destroying this fragile planets. If we don’t change our actions in environment, then no matter what sort of work we do for peace and security, it would all go to waste. And now we are the custodians of this planet, caretakers and protectors.

If we via the UN wants to bring about peace, we need to partner with each other. We need to invest in each other and craft methods of living together beyond the UN – making it a partnership of human beings.

The new millennium has given us opportunity to develop the Millennium Development Goals. These are eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improve maternal health; combating dangerous diseases such as AIDS/HIV and TB; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing global partnerships for development. The goals are targeted for 2015 and we are already halfway. Can we make it? Some developed countries have made great success, but many developing countries are having problems.

Universal primary education is one major MDG, and in Africa 50% of countries are lagging behind. Two countries have reached that goal though – and one of them, with nearly 100% enrolment of boys and girls in school, in Tanzania. It comes not just from financial investment or debt forgiveness, but from political will to use the money and aid earned into education, particularly a pro-active investment into women in education. Now comes another political decision: to mobilize public resources to sustain such goals.

Achieving and sustaining this is doable. We will need to make a commitment to spread the message that we are all together and need to help each other, as members of a global civil society. Governments don’t just wake up and do things; they do things depending on the activity of the citizens. Keep leaders on their toes as you make them aware of the needs of the world.

OK, I popped out of the room for a second, and I come back to face a lone violinist. His name is Michael, he’s from the Youth Symphony, and he’s playing for the children. All right then. (Sorry, I missed the context when I was away.)

The representative of the Ambassador of Hungary (who couldn’t make it) sends the Ambassador’s message, about extreme poverty, lack of education, and disease outbreaks amongst school-age children in the world. So far, with the MDGs, there have been some gains, but more really needs to be done. He mentions Oliver Twist, who although hungry and poor, was still richer than most of Africa. Youth often aren’t respected or understood in their countries, but we are responsible for making a difference, and our potentials should be recognized. We can’t do it alone – we must work together if we want to reach that goal. There is also a listing of various initiatives launched by Hungary.

Next up is Swami Gi, an Indian spiritual leader (think Sai Baba) who came to give the Distinguished Service Award to Dr Valdov for her work with young people. Swami Gi told all of us that Dr Valdov was like our mother! It was a surprise for her; the red scarf suits her. When asked about how to achieve world peace, he said that he’s happy to talk about universal integration and peace. If man wished, he can do anything. If we team up, we can do anything. We shouldn’t just send emails, we should send e-smiles too! (Then he sang a song about it!) There’s only one world, one God, one model of beauty, one language. He wants to be young like us, hang out with us. He wants to take away all the bad things, and how? By being young! By building the heart with the Divine Love and Peace, like a candle lighting darkness.

We can bring peace! God wants a gift – not flowers or fruit, but peace.

First of all, we must make ourselves and our minds peaceful. “A doctor shouldn’t be a patient – otherwise he’d have to go to another doctor!” There are problems everywhere and nowhere. How? It’s a problem until we solve it – then it’s not a problem! We have to gain strength – physical, mental, financial, social. We are all humans, no matter what. If you have a problem in the family, come together around the dining table and discuss! Be a “new clear” scientist! And we have to give everyone food, clothing, shelter, education, and medication – everyone in the world. Your body is your home, it follows you everywhere you go.

He’s starting a Divine March between Seattle and (somewhere) on September 1st for peace, so if you want to go, do go. He’s quirky and funny (and now he’s got us SINGING about God – the nonreligious in the room are looking at him strangely) and very, very South Asian grandpa type, haha! At least he made us smile. I was offered to interview him but had to do Model UN.

Five minute stretch, then the next part of calls to action!