Initial Briefing on United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA)

Today, Mr. Harris began the meeting by introducing its agenda, which entailed briefing member states on the upcoming Second Session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-2), which will be held at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya from May 23, 2016 to May 27, 2016.  He mentioned that the theme of the forum will be discussing ways to deliver on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the event will center on calling ministers from UN member states to form resolutions that address critical global environmental challenges.  He stated that the event will also involve inter-governmental and non-governmental actors to add to the discussions on addressing critical issues related to air quality, healthy ecosystems, chemicals, wastes, etc.

Mr. Harris also mentioned that numerous side events, as well as, a “Science and Policy Forum,” which aims to bring people from the science and policy communities to strengthen dialogue and collaboration on achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), would lead up to the UNEA-2.  Lastly, he stated that a debriefing would be held on June 8, 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to share with member states all the resolutions and developments from the UNEA-2 and other side events and meetings.  Mr. Ahmad added that countries that do not have accredited permanent representatives in Nairobi, Kenya could send delegates who can contribute to the discussions of the CPR to UNEP.

Meeting: A Briefing by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to Member States on the Second Session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-2)

Date/Time/Location: Tuesday, May 3, 2016; 10:00 – 12:00; Conference Room 1

Speakers: Mr. Elliot Harris, Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) and Head of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) New York Office (NYO); Mr. Jamil Ahmad, Secretary for the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment (GC/GMEF) and the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Written By: WIT Representative Shubhangi Shukla

 

Points of Ukraine: Putin’s Widening Grip

Vitaly Klitschko talks with pro-European integration protesters at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev.

Today, Ms. Holland began the panel discussion by introducing the agenda of the event, which concerned examining different perspectives on the continuing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.  Then, Mr. Karatnycky provided an overview of the history of the conflict and the potential obstacles that may impede a negotiated settlement to it.  He elaborated that though President Vladimir Putin is using hard tactics to maintain control over Crimea, he has triggered the latent sentiments of a large contingent of Russians and elites that never wanted Ukraine and Crimea to separate from Russia.  Additionally, he mentioned that the main problem regarding using diplomacy to end the conflict stems from Russia’s unwillingness to reach an agreement with Ukraine.

Next, Dr. Nikolayenko spoke of the effect of the conflict on the civil society and citizens of Ukraine.  She stated that with over 8,000 Russian soldiers present in Ukraine and 9,100 human casualties that have resulted in death, the conflict has led to a growing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country and a slowdown of Ukraine’s economy.  Additionally, she mentioned that the Russian government’s influence over the Russian media has led to misrepresentations on the reporting of the conflict and swayed public support in President Putin’s favor.  Lastly, Ms. Arno talked about fleeing Russia after protesting President Putin’s inauguration in 2012 and the punishments other pro-democracy Russians face in the country due to their political views.  She also reinforced the idea that President Putin’s control over Russian media outlets have helped to build support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Additionally, she mentioned that the Free Russia Foundation that she founded seeks to give a voice to pro-democracy Russians and Ukrainians embroiled in the conflict.

Meeting: The Panel Discussion on “The Continuing Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine”

Date/Time/Location: Monday, April 18, 2016; 18:00 – 20:00; New York University (NYU) School of Law, Vanderbilt Hall, Room 210

Speakers: Ms. Mary Holland, Moderator and Director of the Graduate Lawyering Program at New York University (NYU) School of Law; Mr. Adrian Karatnycky, Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Ukraine in Europe Program at the Atlantic Council; Dr. Olena Nikolayenko, Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University; Ms. Natalia Arno, President and Founder of the Free Russia Foundation (FRF)  

Written By: WIT Representative Shubhangi Shukla

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo: Reuters

Taboos, Sanitation, and Women’s Rights

The meeting convened on the impact of sanitation and water supply to the empowerment of women. Sanitation, in toilets or menstrual hygiene management, has been defined by the General Assembly as an essential human right. Evidenced through the creation of SDG 6, achieving gender equality through WASH has become a priority.

H.E. Ms. Lamilla stated that 2.5 billion people still lack suitable spaces to take care of their personal hygiene. According to the WSSCC, one billion people still resort to open defecation. H.E. contended that adequate sanitation is the minimum standard for a life of dignity. Access to water supply is also paramount.  According to WHO recommendations, an individual should intake a minimum of 5 liters of water/day, accessible to them within 1 km from home. In developing countries, women are oftentimes responsible for collecting water. When water access is far from home, women need to walk long distances to collect it. Consequently, this takes time away from their education and renders them prone to exhaustion and sexual abuse.  It is the obligation of the state to ensure public access to water; otherwise it is the poor who will suffer the most.

Panelists further discussed the importance of breaking social taboos around menstrual hygiene. As Ms. Agrawal noted, “The thing that we cannot speak of, is the thing that creates all human life.” Ms. Shrestha stressed that it is crucial to determine the root cause of such taboos. In western Nepal, menstruating girls practice “chaupadi” and remain secluded in sheds for fear of spreading illness and offending the gods. Taboos are often rooted in traditional beliefs.

Ms. Fry recommended forming partnerships with men, and educating girls on menstrual hygiene management before the onset of their periods which will help them avoid early pregnancies and marriages and keep them in school.

Meeting: “Achieving Gender Equality through WASH.”

Date/Location: Friday, March 18, 2016; 10:00 AM-1:00 PM; Conference Room E

Speakers: H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative, Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN; H.E. Ms. Anne Lammila, Ambassador for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland; Ms. Inga Winkler, Independent Expert on Human Rights, WSSCC; Ms. Liesl Gerntholtz, Human Rights Watch; Ms. Miki Agrawal, THINX; Ms. Cecile Shrestha, WaterAid America; Ms. Mbarou Gassama, UN Women and South Asia: “Leave No One Behind” WSSCC/FANSA; Ms. Ramatoulaye Dieng, Senegal Ministry of the Environment; Ms. Absa Wade, Ministry of Gender, Senegal; Ms. Sarah Fry, FHI360/USAID WASH Plus

Written By: WIT Representative Emilie Broek

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Cracking Down on Gender-Related Violence

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Today there was a meeting held by the Mission of Qatar and UN Women about the importance of documenting conflict-related sexual and gender based violence as a first step toward accountability.

Recently, there have been mass displacements and increases in violence around the world. Rape, forced marriage, and sexual slavery continue to occur in the ongoing battle against sexual and gender-based crimes. In order to efficiently investigate and document these crimes, the need for accountability is fulfilled by the Justice Rapid Response (JRR)-UN Women SGBV Justice Experts Roster.

The speakers discussed specific investigations that enabled the prosecution to raise awareness about these crimes, including those in North Korea, Iraq, and Syria. Ms. Davidian led the meeting and gave a background on how JRR was founded. On September 28th, 2009, there was a massive crackdown in Guinea against a protest for democracy that led to 150 deaths. The Secretary-General established a Commission of Inquiry, and UN Women found that 109 acts of sexual violence had occurred that day. Seeing the need to bring attention to these crimes, the JRR partnership and institute started. Qualified experts from all over the world are trained for 7-10 days, specifically on sexual, gender-based violence, and placed on a roster. Today, approximately 170 professionals are available to assist inquiry and investigations and document to ensure accountability. They ensure linguistic and cultural diversity on the roster to aid victims all around the world.

Ms. Ahmed ensured Arabic speaking professionals on the roster as Qatar’s contribution and stressed the necessity to work harder to prevent such crimes protecting women and girls in armed conflict. Mr. Wenaweser and Mr. Garcia presented Liechtenstein and Argentina’s firm support towards the JRR initiative respectively. Ms. Madenga led a discussion about finding patterns of Boko Haram violence against people.

Meeting: Securing Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual and Gender Based Crimes

Date/Location: Wednesday, March 16th, 2016; 10:00-13:00; Conference Room 9

Speakers: H.E. Ms. Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN; H.E. Mr. Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN; H.E. Mr. Martín Garcia Moritán, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Argentina to the UN; Mr. Tim Mawe, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN; Ms. Federica Tronchin, SGBV and MENA Region Programme Manager, Justice Rapid Response; Ms. Alison Davidian, Transitional Justice Policy Specialist, UN Women; Ms. Renifa Madenga, SGBV investigator deployed to the Boko Haram Fact Finding Mission

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Francois Guillot / AFP / Getty Images

Connecting Young Women Toward a Sustainable Africa

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The Ghana Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa hosted today’s meeting. Established in 2004 as a Women’s Initiative for Empowerment and Leadership Development (WIELD) Foundation, it is a non-profit organization that pursues proactive strategies to develop and empower young women to take on leadership roles in their communities. Despite the increasing potential in Africa, the majority of women still lack access to equal opportunities and resources for leadership development. Ms.Adwoa Bame, the program director and founding member of Moremi Initiative, spoke briefly about the organization’s goals in the future. She stated that the investment in young women’s leadership will provide double dividends to make the world a better place for all, and that the strategies that seek to improve the lives of young women significantly affect the population. In 2009, Moremi Initiative started the process of having young women across the continent come together and meet, to become young women leaders and discuss pertinent issues. This program is known as the Milead fellowship.

After Ms. Bame spoke about the organization, she introduced various young members of Milead Fellowship, who spoke about their passions, goals, and experiences in their countries. The first member was Ms. Hadeye Maiga from Mali, and she discussed her experience as an engineer, and the need for more women engineers. She explained that although engineering work does take a lot of time, she has a strong passion for the field. Another member was Ms. Baba Jackson from Ghana, and she mentioned the importance of support, and encouraging more programs like Milead Fellowship where young women can meet. She noted that the only way we can richer definition of feminism is when we meet new people and experience different perspectives. After various members of the fellowship spoke about their experiences, Ms. Bame gave a closing statement.

Meeting: Enhancing Young Women’s Voices for Women’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development: A Multi-generational Dialogue with Emerging African Women Leaders

Date/Location: Wednesday March 16, 2016, 10:00 –11:15; Conference Room 1

Speakers: Ms. Adwoa Bame, Program Director and Founding Member of Ghana Moremi Initiative; Ms. Hadeye Maiga, Milead Fellowship member from Mali; Ms. Baba Jackson, Milead fellowship member from Ghana; Milead Fellowship member from Botswana; Milead Fellowship member from Kenya; Milead Fellowship member from Uganda; Milead Fellowship from Benin

Written By: WIT Representative Kangho (Paul) Jung

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Youth Independent

Celebrating World Wildlife Day

World's Most Beautiful Fish

On March 3, UN member states and civil societies gathered in the ECOSOC Chamber to celebrate World Wildlife Day 2016. Under the theme “The future of wildlife is in our hands,” wildlife conservation was a recurring topic of discussion. Ms. Gallach opened the conference with statements in support of protection for African and Asian elephants. She also called for stronger law enforcement and government participation to fight wildlife crime. Following, Mr. Harris emphasized the need for outreach and communication, which are essential to inspiring people to engage in activity to end illegal trade. As poaching is reaching unprecedented proportions, the continuation of raising awareness particularly to consumers of wildlife products is important.

Ms. Monasebian introduced a stricter tone and pointed out weak international law enforcements and under-equipped agencies. She then listed ways that the UNODC is combatting wildlife crime, including working with law enforcement to build judicial capacity and providing alternative livelihoods. A video statement from Mr. Vella continued this sentiment and highlighted the need for cooperation and collaboration.

Later, Mr. Sekhran gave a powerful statement on how there is no economy without nature, and humans depend upon the planet for our existence. He underscored how protecting nature is crucial as the population will grow by another one billion people prior to 2030, and statisticians have said that the world will not stabilize until population hits 11.2 billion.

Finally, Ms. Paratian wrapped up the presentations with examples of awareness in regards to wildlife protection. She cited the Chi Campaign in Vietnam, which is directed towards businessmen purchasing rhino horns as status symbols. Although it is difficult to be fully knowledgeable on the true impacts of these campaigns, she advocated for further involvement in these endeavors for wildlife conservation.

Meeting: Celebration of World Wildlife Day 2016

Date/Location: Thursday, March 3, 2016; ECOSOC Chamber; UN Headquarters; NYC

Speakers: John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General; Cristina Gallach, Under-Secretary-General on behalf of UN Deputy Secretary-General; Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of Thailand; Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of NY Office of UNEP; Simone Monasebian, Director of NY Office of UNODC on behalf of UNODC Executive Director; Karmenu Vella, EC Commissioner of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; Heiko Thoms, Ambassador of Charge d’Affaires of Germany to UN; Robert Dreher, Associate Director of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Nik Sekhran, Chief of Practice & Director, Sustainable Development Cluster, Bureau of Policy and Programme Support, UNDP; John Robinson, Executive Vice President, Conservation and Science, WCS; Tania Paratian, Manager Intergovernmental Relations, WWF International

Written by: WIT Representatives Julianne Jeon and Olivia Gong

Edited by: WIT Representative Alex Margolick