On the second floor of a concrete building washed with faded pink paint, several Syrian boys arrange a set of nine cubes, the faces of which are covered with different stickers. Occasional squabbles arise over who is holding which block and which way it should go, but those disputes are mild and tend to end quickly. Each time they complete one arrangement, they proudly present it to the adults watching over them, and then feverishly tear it apart to reassemble the blocks into something new.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on November 14, which is World Diabetes Day, that diabetes now affects 382 million people globally, killing one person every six seconds. It is one of the four noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), along with cancer, heart and lung disease that account for two-thirds of all deaths globally. That’s why advocates want NCDs embedded in the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.
According to Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of The World Food Prize Foundation, “The greatest challenge that humans face is whether we can sustainably feed the nine billion people who will be on planet by 2050.” With food security a central focus of both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda, it is no wonder that the winner of this year’s Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application was Dr. Charity Mutegi.
In early November, two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were kidnapped and killed near the city of Kidal in northern Mali by armed gunmen. Dupont and Verlon were on assignment for Radio France International (RFI), for which they had been working for 25 and 30 years, respectively. Their murders prompted condemnation from Irina Bokova, the director-general for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The brutal legacy of mass murder in the 20th century gave birth to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle in the hope that an ounce of prevention could end the need for a pound of cure. Countries around the world vowed they shared obligation to protect the defenseless. Despite misperceptions over its nature, R2P is about preventing harm to people, not using force. Since its adoption at the United Nations World Summit in 2005, the doctrine has gained wide international acceptance.
From the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, from Ha Long Bay in Vietnam to the banks of the Seine in Paris to the Matobo Hills in Zimbabwe, UNESCO’s World Heritage List includes 981 extraordinary corners of the earth and places of outstanding cultural and natural heritage. Sites newly added to the list in 2013 include the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station in Canada, Honghe Hani Rice Terraces in China, Fujisan in Japan and the Hill Forts of Rajastan in India. The list is growing, and by 2014, will most likely exceed 1,000 sites.
In the days since the U.S. federal government shutdown, we’ve begun to learn just how far the ramifications have stretched beyond Washington D.C. Among its global impacts, the shutdown breached the gates of the Palais Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland. There, the U.S. was expecting to undergo its quadrennial review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN human rights treaty that the U.S. ratified in 1992. However, on October 10, the U.S. State Department, citing the shutdown, formally requested a postponement of the review.
On World Polio Day, children in some of Africa’s most troubled regions continue to be impacted by this infectious disease despite decades of global progress, with dozens of new cases reported in the Horn of Africa so far this year.
On UN Day, the international community looks inward, celebrating the anniversary of when the United Nations Charter first took effect in 1945. Indeed it is a chance to reflect upon what the charter represents in terms of promoting social and economic progress, fundamental human rights and tolerance, and peace and security throughout the world. Yet more and more, the UN appears to be focusing outward as it tackles the world’s most pressing development issues.
The recent Social Good Summit, presented by Mashable and the United Nations Foundation, conveyed a technological call to action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) and create the post-2015 development agenda. To that end, the conference utilized the tagline and Twitter handle #2030NOW. The conference was streamed live worldwide, creating a widespread audience able to contribute to the dialogue, with forums readily available for expressing views and ideas.