Social Positive Impact in Kenya and the Beyond Zero Initiatives in Kiambu county, Kenya!

Picture was taken when the Security Council met in Nairobi to discuss the situation in Sudan. Photo credit: Denis Muchiri

On my trip to Kenya during the holidays, I received the opportunity to visit the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi. While visiting, I was taken on a tour, where I was informed about the history of the headquarters in Nairobi, and also about the relationship between Kenya and the United Nations.  Continue reading

Youth as Partners for the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

On Sunday, 13th November 2016 The United Nations Youth Associations Network (UNYANET) organized its first series of interactive webinars on “Internet Governance and Youth: achieving SDGs” to answer fundamental questions on what Internet governance is and why it is important for youth in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The session included a 15 minutes presentation, a 15 minutes interactive discussion where worldwide participants had the opportunity to exchange questions with experts in the field and finally 5 minutes for closing remarks.

I was invited in my capacity as the policy analyst lead of the Internet Governance in the Middle East and North African region Igmena program and kicked off the webinar by evoking the definition of Internet governance which is the development and application of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. Internet governance should not be confused with the centralized government usage or control of the Internet or E-Governance, which refers to governments’ use of technology to carry out their governing duties.

Why is the governance of the Internet such an important topic to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015, represents a ‘normative incentive’ for the Internet governance multistakeholder community which is represented by the government, the private sector, academia, civil society, and the end user. It draws attention to today’s most pressing global development challenges and will guide our development priorities for an entire generation.

Young people in the MENA region and beyond should play a key role in shaping this agenda and the future of the Internet not only as normal ‘end users’ but as active ‘manpower’ for the social, economic and political stability by using the Internet as an empowering engine to participate in the policy discussion on how the Internet should be governed in the future and to better understand the stakes. The grassroots Internet communities that are at the receiving end of Internet governance policies at the national level should experience first-hand many of the issues it seeks to address and are its torchbearers.

The young generation’s ‘interconnectedness ‘should aim to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. Explicitly or implicitly, young people are deeply woven into and embedded within the Internet fabric because simply they are connected to the Internet everyday for the ‘bad’ or for the ‘good’, ‘passively’ or ‘actively’.Their knowledge, reach and innovative solutions are essential for sustainable development goals of the UN to be realized. This Number of Internet users worldwide 2005-2016 provides information on the total index of Internet users from 2005 to 2016. As of the most recent reported period, the number of users worldwide was 3.5 billion, up from 2.21 billion in the previous year. We need to fight for a globally connected world. This will not be an easy milestone to achieve!

In the same vein, and to give a concrete example, access to the Internet is a basic component of civil life that some developed countries aim to guarantee for their citizens through ‘Mobile Internet’ which is often considered important for social security reasons. Health, criminal, and other types of emergencies might indeed be handled better if the end users in trouble have access to the Internet via Wi-Fi or broadband connection. Why shouldn’t it be the case in the developing nations in a global interconnected world shaped by one technology, one Internet and on one planet?

Another important fact seems to be that much vital information, knowledge and data for research and innovation for people’s career, civic life, safety, etc. are increasingly provided via the Internet. Even social welfare services are sometimes administered and offered electronically. Yet, this is not the case in the Mena region or the global south. As a policy analyst, I think that governments need an integrated approach of development where ICT or computer and computer networks will play an increasingly important role in learning and careers for youth so that education should include computing and use of the Internet. Without such offerings and policies, the existing ‘digital divide’ works unfairly to the children in the lower socio-economic status.

From the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, what should change?

On September 24th, 2015, the world adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, as part of new 17 goals. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. Every country is committing to working tirelessly on the full implementation of this Agenda by 2030.

For example Goal number 4 of the SDGs tackles the issues of quality education which needs to be tagged into the heart of Internet governance. It shows that quality education is part of the infrastructure and standards, and socio-cultural baskets where connecting schools to the Internet depends on a good infrastructure, but not only schools connected to the Internet will provide a high quality of education. Goal number 9 focuses on building a resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation that mainly deals with sustainable industry development, economic GDP incomes and infrastructure and innovation.

Another example is Goal 17 on Peace, Justice and strong institutions: attaining this goal is basically through excelling on Internet governance’s legal basket where most critical issues are listed, analyzed and studied. Effective use of ICTs will require cross-sectorial collaboration and a multi-stakeholder approach, based on open data and open innovation.

Unfortunately, in the world there are still 757 million adults including 115 million youths who cannot read or write a simple sentence. The interactive literacy data shows which countries are most affected. The policy of accessibility of rural areas to the Internet is a test of the digital divide. But nowadays there are different ways to eliminate the digital divide in rural areas. Use of Power lines (PLT and PLC) and satellite communications offer new possibilities of universal access to the Internet, and lack of telephone lines will not limit access. Lower access prices are required to bridge the ICT divide.

How can we give youth more incentive to participate in the SDGs policy process?

Many young people across the globe are still experiencing interlocked forms of discrimination, limited political inclusion, high levels of poverty, and limited access to health systems, educational opportunities, and decent jobs. We need to ‘pragmatically govern’ the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda which are interconnected by a decentralized approached of ICT and technology integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. New graduates should be the focal engine of innovative solutions and they are essential if sustainable development is to be realized.

Why don’t we convert ‘the youth bulge’ to a massive ‘human capital’ which, if used productively, can usher in growth and prosperity? Here comes the new mandate of the UN to be more effective in helping countries to take advantage of the confluence of these two historic gifts: demography and growth. They can create a virtuous cycle of higher growth, higher incomes and savings. Failure to do so will result in a double jeopardy: the economic and social exclusion of youth drains growth and creates social strife. But the time for securing this double dividend is now. The window of opportunity where countries have fewer dependents to the North will close in the next ten to fifteen years.

Governments need to seize the opportunity of growing economies as many Asian countries have done. Despite good economic growth, prospects for young people are not improving significantly or rapidly. This has been a central pre-occupation of the Middle East Youth Initiative to understand why young people continue to be excluded. To have more people connected, we need to have open and free Internet.


This article is an except of a paper which was cross-posted on the IGMENA on 22nd November 2016. 

Do Young People Have a Voice in the UN?


The follow up process to the implementation of the UN’s Global Goals (the SDGs); the signing of the Paris Agreement; Sweden being elected to the Security Council. These were some of the highlights from my eventful internship at the Swedish Mission to the United Nations in the New York Headquarters earlier this year. A place where World leaders, diplomats, activists and celebrities gather to take collective actions for Peace and Security, Sustainable Development and Human Rights. A career dream that came true.

During my internship I participated in some meetings and conferences that focused on Youth and Development – and I was positively surprised to see that young people’s importance is becoming more recognized in the UN-system. As the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated at some of these meetings:

– Youth are more than victims of poverty and economic downturn. They can be agents of change. Young people are the leaders of today.

Thus, young people are key actors for achieving Agenda 2030 and the Global Goals. In recent years, some initiatives have been taken in the UN, which aims to include youth. Since 2013, Ahmad Alhendawi has been appointed as an UN Youth Envoy. His role is to emphasize the needs and the rights of young people as well as giving advices to the Secretary General on youth issues.

But although the UN is making progress and has begun to understand the significance of youth inclusion, one could ask to what extent there is real representation of youth in the UN system? And who is (and who is not) able to participate? During my internship I noted three concerns that I would like to put forward.

Firstly, at the UN High-level Forum for Sustainable Development in July 2016, only six youth delegates from six of the UN’s 193 member states participated, meaning that the majority of the world’s countries did not have young representatives.

Secondly, at the majority of UN meetings youth delegates are not present. The young people who may be participating in these meetings are mostly interns – who are representing a country or an organization, thus, having the task to report back to their mission or organization on what have been said in the meeting. They do not have a voice. Furthermore, there are very few people who have the possibility to do an internship at the UN. The interns rarely receive financial support, meaning that only those people who are able to finance their own internship, can apply for it. Unfortunately, this excludes those people who are generally most marginalized, namely the poor.

Thirdly, a “popular form” of inclusion and participation (not only in the UN, but in general terms) is to add for instance youth-participation as a separate event. This could mean inviting young people to separate youth events, in which the majority of the participants are young people – but in which the influence over the outcomes, the decision making power and the ability to contribute to progressive actions on the issue, might be limited.

This is not to say that experienced experts with years of knowledge are not important, but simply suggesting that more diversity of perspectives and representation could benefit all and result in sustainable development.

To end with a positive note, at some of the UN meetings I participated in, there were young people invited as speakers – telling us interesting and heartbreaking stories about their struggles for Human Rights. I particularly remember a young woman who had become a victim of an acid attack, and had her whole body burned with acid. She proudly stood in front of us in the General Assembly hall and she told us about her struggle to survive the acid attack – and how she later had found the strength to continue working for Women’s Rights. A young heroine.

To conclude, half of the world’s population today is under 30 years old. We, the young peoples, play a crucial role in tackling Global Challenges and achieving Sustainable Development.

Thus, more positive actions and initiatives need to be taken to truly include us and give us a voice that is heard. We are not only the leaders of tomorrow; we are the leaders of today. We need to be invited, listened to, and included in these processes – and be motivated to really be the first generation that can eradicate poverty and tackle climate change.

What Textiles, Wars and Earthquakes Have in Common

labores-patchworkOver 30.000 people displaced between August and October in the Centre of Italy due to several earthquakes, whose tremors are still threatening the life of its inhabitants. Experts asserted October 30th quake has been the strongest in 35 years, registering a 6.6 on the Richter scale.

One is man-made, the other is an uncontrollable – although predictable – phenomenon; both wars and earthquakes provoke victims and/or people’s displacements and do urge a quick and effective response. Not only at emergency level though. Continue reading

Youth Candidate to UN Secretary-General

article 1 UNSG youth candidateThe UNYANET team has been following the debates of UN Secretary-General candidates. We find them very interesting but somehow they tend to forget about youth issues despite the fact that young people account for more than half of the world’s population. Thus, we strongly believe that youth issues should be addressed by the next UNSG. That’s why we launch this campaign to propose a young candidate for UNSG to raise awareness about youth and Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Are you a young person passionate about international relations, dreaming to make a better world and willing to contribute to raise global awareness about youth issues and SDGs? This is for you! All young people who have the interest to run for UN Secretary-General, please, start the application process here: http://goo.gl/forms/HGUVFzYTXbRQQdzO2

 

The application will further require:

  1. CV
  2. motivation letter with picture of the candidate (400 words maximum)
  3. vision statement including challenges of the UN, solutions, linkages between Sustainable Development Goals and youth, and why we need a young candidate for UN-Secretary General (maximum 6000 words)

Vision statements as well as selected articles by youth candidates  discussing youth and SDGs will be published in the blog.

Selection process will followed by an interview. Selected candidates will be asked to write a vision statement on youth and Sustainable Development Goals. Applications close on 20th August 2016 12am GMT. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

 

Looking forward to meet the future candidates.

 

A short description of our project:

After discussing the main challenges of global governance during the UNYANET General Assembly in September 2015, the proposal for a young candidate to run for UNSG was emerged to give a younger energy, more vibrant voice and renewed image of the United Nations.

The “Youth to UN-Secretary General Online Campaign” is run by student leaders, most of whom are from the universities located in the 18 countries where UNYANET is present.

 

Mission Statement:

We believe by promoting a younger candidate to run for UN Secretary-General (UNSG) will incorporate the demands of the youth and seek for possible solutions.
Objectives:

  1. To empower youth with knowledge and skills for UN work contribution
  2. To create awareness and inform about the current state of the world is a top priority for youth to solve the issues behind global governance

Selection Criteria:

  1. The priorities of the youth candidate are thoroughly selected after examining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), My World 2015 survey and the Global Governance and Youth Workshop organized by the UN Youth Network.
  2. Such online participatory selection process of youth candidates will be followed by an online public debate which organise between different candidates to UNSG and some representatives of the 15 Member States that will vote.

Target Audience:

  1. Youth
  2. Students
  3. Academics
  4. Relevant public figures
  5. Other candidates to UNSG, to all UN Member States especially to the 15 of the UN Security Council and other interested parties

Activities:

Online promotion of the SDGs, the results of MyWorld2015 and other youth priorities

Useful link:

UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service, “In 2016, the UN will appoint a new Secretary-General” ask the http://www.unngls.world/home

 

UNYANET does not charge any fees in the application process. UNYANET has no liability for any consequences of the campaign.

Nationality: Global Citizen

Source: GlobalGiving

Source: GlobalGiving

No matter what global problem you are dreading, whether it’s the elimination of poverty, whether it’s the creation of peace, whether its solving environmental energy problems, the solution- whatever it is- multiple solutions, the solutions always include education, never is it without an education component and sometimes cannot be done without education.

– Nicholas Negroponte

Growing up, my parents constantly affirmed, “Education is the passport to the world of opportunities.” I believed them, and I still do. As a teacher today, I tell my students the same thing.

In a privileged country like Singapore, education is a determined right of all citizens. The moment we step into Primary One, an EduSave account is set up in the student’s name by the government. Every year thereafter until the students reaches the age of sixteen, SGD 200 is credited into the account annually. The fund can be used by the student to pay for tuition fees and any other government-approved co-curricular activities and school trips. As of 2015, according to Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development, Singapore tops the global school ranking.

This is all well and good for the small city-state. My bigger concern today is, how do we get this world-recognised education to every student on the planet, especially when we constantly demand that education is a basic human right. How is it possible that in today’s globalised and technologically advanced world, that the right to education is based on a handful of pre-determined factors? Factors that include; where the child was born, their ethnic affiliations and even what their last name is.

Currently, more than 124 million children and adolescents are out of school. UNESCO predicts that this number is on the rise. This is a clear indication that the system we have in place, is not working and must be changed.

It is time to rethink the system because obviously, the global education system we have set for ourselves no longer serves today’s world. If we continue to demand from governments whose priority is not their citizen’s education, then, we must acknowledge that a clear violation of a right has occurred and must be amended.

It is time to hand out those passports in order that all children, regardless of their race, nationality, place of birth, or social creed, get access to a basic primary education. We, as the youths and adults, have the obligation to at least do one thing right – to provide our children, the future of the world, with opportunities to make this planet a better place.

Project Inspire 2015: Progress for Women is Progress for All

Project Inspire 2015

Project Inspire 2015

“A new economic agenda will not only make the economy work for women, but also benefit the majority of men. Progress for women is progress for all.”

– UN Women Flagship Report “Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016”

As the international community is poised to agree on the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a strong and growing global consensus on the need to achieve gender equality. While we have to acknowledge the significant strides made towards this goal, we have to also focus on where we need to redouble our efforts to achieve substantive equality and the realization of human rights for all women and girls.

To educate girls is to reduce poverty.

Now in its fifth edition, Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World seeks to highlight the efforts of entrepreneurial women in the less advantaged global regions and celebrates five years of supporting social entrepreneurs around the world. This is done in the hopes of emphasizing the right of all women and girls to a good job with equal pay and safe working conditions, which in the medium to long run should be brought into consideration during economic policymaking. Through Project Inspire, we hope that the increased support would enable these women to provide enough income to support a decent, sustainable standard of living for themselves and their families.

Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Previous notable projects have been those such as the 2014 Runner-up, Riverkids Project, which provides counselling, healthcare and vocational training for Cambodian sex workers, so they can transition out of the sex industry, and run their own small business; and the 2014 People’s Choice, Sinag Store Project, where financially disadvantaged girl students will gain marketable design skills and experience first-hand how to use those skills to launch a social enterprise project.

Launched in 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and the 25th anniversary of MasterCard in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, “Project Inspire: 5 minutes to Change the World” is a global challenge that presents 18-35 year olds with a 5-minute platform to pitch their inspired idea to the world.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world.

With a US$25,000 Grand Prize and US$10,000 Runner-Up Prize on offer to make their idea a reality, Project Inspire 2015 will take on the theme of ‘Technology or Design for Economic Empowerment’. Applicants will be asked to demonstrate how they use design or technology as a tool in the work they are doing to enable and empower women economically throughout Asia, the Pacific, Middle East & Africa.

As part of the youth community, let us take a stand and continue to support these youth initiatives and the projects and women that they support during the crowdfunding period. The Grand Finals will be held in Singapore on November 13, 2015. For more information, please go to http://www.ProjInspire.com.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies

Goal-16BY IREH KINGSLEY

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are new, universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states expect to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years. During the break from past, the High-Level Panel Report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has made a strong plea for effective institutions, calling a “fundamental shift” to recognize theirsignificant role in contributing to citizens’ well-being. The Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has followed suit by putting forward a goal to “promote peaceful andinclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all andbuild effective,accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Continue reading