Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

World Refugee Day, Angelina Jolie, and Taking Action

Angelina Jolie was just displaced (by Kristen Stewart) from the number one spot on the list of the highest grossing female entertainers…but her position there has afforded her to address, in a huge way, displacement that actually means something. Jolie has long had a vocal presence in the fight for support and recognition of refugees of war, and yesterday, on World Refugee Day as recognized by the United Nations and UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), the activist/actress donated $100,000 to help Syrian refugees.

Around the world, every minute, another eight people are displaced from their homes, families, villages, cities, nations…no one chooses to be displaced. From a press release, Jolie is quoted:

“We risk forgetting the individual when we speak in numbers, but the numbers tell an important story. In the past year 4.3 million people have become displaced. There are still 2.7 million refugees from Afghanistan. 12 million people are stateless. And for the fifth consecutive year the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide exceeded 42 million.

“Sadly, a person who becomes a refugee is likely to remain one for many years – often stuck in a camp or living precariously in the city of a developing nation. 70 per cent of refugees under UNHCR’s protection have been in this situation for more than five years. Their safety and well-being depend on the continued generosity of those countries who have kept their borders open to refugees, and on the vital efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance wherever and whenever it is necessary.

“Unfortunately, the world is producing displaced people faster than it is producing solutions to displacement. And the solutions are not exclusively humanitarian – they are also political. The international community should rededicate itself to preventing conflict, addressing it when it erupts, and solving it more quickly, for that is the only way to create durable solutions for the refugees whose strength inspires us on this World Refugee Day.”

How, and where, do you put your money where your mouth is, supporting the things that inspire or defeating the things that horrify you? Give me some ideas of movements that matter to you in the comments section below–I’m sure we all want to know more.

Happy World Tourism Day

Today, September 27, is the United Nations World Tourism Day…so where are you going next? The United Nations and the powers-that-be of most destinations, the business world, the philanthropic and charity hemispheres, and hopefully each of us know, from personal experience, the veracity of that terrific Mark Twain quote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Travel brings economic growth to regions that suffer without it, cultural awareness for both visitor and visited, and it more tightly knits our global community. Of course, travel must be done with respect and care, a keen focus on sustainability and cultural awareness, and a wide open heart. What you experience away from home is simply never going to be available to you if you remain close to your own hearth.

For the U.N. events, this year’s theme is: “Tourism—Linking Cultures.” Think about the ways you are an ambassador for your home (town/city/state/nation) when you travel. It is easy to feel, as tourists, going to all the official sites and eating at the touristy restaurants, that we are simply consumers when we travel, absorbing. In addition to being a sponge and trying to fit as many memories onto your camera’s memory card and into your brain, you are also a source of so much knowledge and information about the wider world, for the people you encounter (and it must be said, a source of super-important dollars being spent in the communities you visit as well). How will you show up the next time you travel? If you’ve had an itinerary on hold or vaguely planned, go back and get it onto your calendar. Commit to getting out into the wider arena of life.

The world is an amazing place—you should go there.

Clooney Can Afford Malaria–Nothing But Nets for the Rest

In just a couple of days I’ll start popping Malarone pills–a prophylactic anti-malaria medicine–for my trip to South Africa. Fortunately, I can afford the preventative medicine. George Clooney contracted malaria, for the second time, when he was in Sudan recently for the elections that we hope will lead to a free and seceded Southern Sudan. Malaria is a pretty brutal, flu-like disease, easily gotten over by those with access to medicine and who are strong and well-nourished before they get sick…like George. For so many others, it can be fatal. A mosquito-borne illness, the best passive resistance to malaria is a simple bug net for the bed, keeping mosquitoes at bay through the night. Nothing But Nets campaigns to send bed nets to malaria zones around the world. A simple $10 donation buys a net that can literally save the lives of several members of every family (in many targeted nations, several people crowd into/share a bed or mat). The United Nations facilitates distribution to the countries in Africa so nets get from airports to rural villages, in conjunction with their visits for their measles vaccination programs. Consider getting involved, and saving lives. You can do it from home, and make a significant difference in every single home to which you help bring a net.

Happy International Volunteer Day–How Are You Celebrating?

Today, December 5, is International Volunteer Day. In addition to rallies, free medical care events, celebrations, and community gatherings, today is especially poignant in the volunteer world, because it marks the tenth anniversary of the 2001 International Year of the Volunteer (so the United Nations is calling today, IYV +10). It also corresponds with the European Year of the Volunteer, so the ripples in the pond are global…ripples that come from YOU making a difference at home or when you travel (or both).

If you’re looking for a new volunteer gig, here is a list of international organizations partnering with the U.N. to further the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Or go out your front door. Just find a way, today especially, to be larger than your own skin. And celebrate the hard work you’ve already been doing. And by the way–thank you for doing that, and thank you for what you’re about to take on.

UN at 65—the Operative Word is United

This weekend marks the 65th anniversary of the United Nations. The work of the UN is unique in creating alliances between nations, and the work that isn’t just on a political level, but on the ground changing lives. UN Peacekeeping Forces are, right now, making it safe for 200 million people in areas of conflict. 190 countries are banded together to address climate change via the UN. Hundreds of millions of girls are having doors to education opened due to UN work, and millions of children have been inoculated against polio through the United Nations.

And it was fifty years ago that presidential candidate John F. Kennedy called on young Americans to offer their talents and energy to the world in service. That collaborative worldwide effort would eventually be called the Peace Corps, celebrating its 50-year anniversary next year.

What will you collaborate on this weekend? It’s all about doing it together.

Learn/Take Action—Congo Week, Oct 17-23

The Congo is the greatest humanitarian crisis on the planet–an average of 1,500 people die as a result of the conflict in the Congo EVERY DAY.


Since 1996, nearly 6 million dead–and how often do you hear about it on the news? Half of that 6 million killed, have been children. According to the United Nations, it is the deadliest conflict since World War II. Our level of awareness is deplorable and we simply don’t know enough to be outraged, though outrage is the only humane reaction possible.

BREAK THE SILENCE CONGO WEEK is meant to raise awareness and raise our voices in solidarity with the people of the Congo. Please find out more this week. I know next to nothing about Congo, but I promise, by the time you read this, I will know more. Do the same, and talk about it. It costs nothing to be an advocate. Take action here.

International Day of Peace

Each year on this date, the United Nations, individuals, organizations, spiritual groups, and corporations around the world recognize the International Day of Peace. In 2001, the 192 member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted September 21 as an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on the UN International Day of Peace. Millions of people are active and engaged in what positive steps can be taken if everyone lays down their weapons for 24 hours. It is, perhaps, difficult, with this morning’s news report of 9 NATO troops being killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan–and the Taliban taking “credit” for the action (though there seems to be doubt if it was an accident or an action)…but isn’t that an even greater argument FOR such a renewal of our dedication to worldwide peace?

In Afghanistan, for the past three years, 2007, 2008, and 2009, the organization Peace One Day has spearheaded a campaign that has resulted in the immunization against polio of over 4 million children as a result of Peace Day agreements by all parties.If there was no cease fire, that work could not have been done.

On Peace Day 2008 in Afghanistan the United Nations Department for Safety and Security, which monitors security related incidents, recorded a 70 per cent reduction in violent incidents on the day itself. This year we could, with global agreement, make that number 100 percent, not just in nations with active wars, but everywhere.

Find a way today to talk about peace–with your kids, parents, your loved ones, family, friends, in line at the grocery store or with the other soccer parents while waiting for practice to end; on the subway or bus, with the cab driver and gas station attendant; everywhere. Isn’t that a more pleasant topic to discuss than traffic or weather?

HERE are some ideas from Peace One Day about how to take action today, and HERE is a list of global events from the United Nations Peace Day pages.