September at the UN

Viviana Garcia-Blanco, DVUSA

Arrival of New Dominican Volunteer

By Margaret Mayce, OP (NGO Representative)

Once again, I am blessed with the assistance of a Dominican Volunteer. Viviana Garcia-Blanco is a graduate of Dominican University, River Forest, IL, where she majored in Political Science with a concentration in International Affairs.

Viviana will be engaged with the Working Group on Girls and the NGO Committees on the Status of Women, Migration and Trafficking in Persons.

What follows is her reflection on the importance of engaging young people in the work of policy development. Welcome Viviana!!

Participation for the Sake of the Future

By Viviana Garcia-Blanco (DVUSA)

A recurring theme which this year’s UN NGO (non-governmental) groups will be focusing on revolves around the role young people play in policy change. Several side events taking place during the opening of the General Assembly addressed this theme when exploring issues related to migration, refugees, and women and girls’ empowerment.

Since young people are at the intersection of all global issues, it makes sense to give them a space at the table to talk about best practices in handling conflict, both regionally and globally. For example, there are nearly 22.5 million refugees in the world today; over half of this number is made up of people under the age of 18.(1) An unstable environment for any young person evolves into an unstable adulthood in later years. Youth participation and leadership is essential if we want to understand the growing needs and concerns this group faces during times of humanitarian crises.

I come from a community-based volunteering background, so it is not a surprise to hear that the rest of the world has finally caught up in realizing the significant impact young people make in this world. In 2015, over 16 million volunteers in the United States alone were millennials.(2) The rise of social justice movements in this country has sparked an even greater turn out of young volunteers who want to make their political voices heard. In my experience, it has always been young people who have been at the forefront of social justice issues and advocacy. The work young volunteers are doing right now is real and important. They challenge the current ideology and bring to light fresh perspectives and new methods of creating change. Unfortunately, when there is an international spotlight on humanitarian crises young people are frequently treated like tokens and are showcased in front of an audience instead of being taken seriously and engaged with in dialogue. Political participation from all groups of people is essential for peace keeping before and during conflict. We need to start investing more in young people in the present because they are paving the path for themselves as well as for future generations.



Opening of General Assembly

The 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on September 12th. Its theme this year will be Focusing on People – Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on A Sustainable Planet.”  Miroslav Lajzak of Slovakia, the President of the 72nd Session, reminded the heads of state that “The UN was created for people. Its job is to help people who are striving for peace and a decent life on a sustainable planet. The people who need the UN the most are not sitting in this hall…It is one of tasks of the General Assembly to make sure that their voices can still be heard.”

Mr. Lajzak went on to describe the coming year as one of both “firsts,” as well as of “follow-up.” Some of the “firsts” include the first intergovernmental compact on migration; the high-level event on Sustaining Peace; the agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons; and the international compact to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peacekeeping. However, as significant as these events may be, the “follow-up” issues may be of even greater importance – maintaining momentum in the implementation and financing of the Sustainable Development Goals; and the integration of the Paris Climate Agreement into national, regional and international frameworks. You will be hearing more about these issues as the year unfolds.

High-Level Meeting on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

In the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, “We are here to take bold, urgent and much-needed action to root out sexual exploitation and abuse once and for all in the United Nations. And we are here in solidarity to specifically focus on the behaviour of individuals who exploit their authority to mistreat those who look to the United Nations for protection.” Ms. Jane Connors of Australia has been appointed the first Victims’ Rights Advocate for the United Nations.

Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking In Persons

Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for greater cooperation among Member States in their efforts to deal with this epidemic. He also pointed to the importance of the pending Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, as well as Agenda 2030: The Sustainable Development Goals as a way to address the root causes that make people vulnerable to trafficking. He reminded those gathered that “Fighting trafficking and advancing sustainable, inclusive development go hand in hand.”

And so far, October looks like this:

International Day of the Girl Child – October 11

This year’s theme is EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises. It will mark the beginning of a year-long effort to mobilize global attention and action to the challenges and opportunities faced by girls worldwide at times of crisis.

International Day of Rural Women – October 15

World Food Day – October 16

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – October 17

United Nations Day – October 24

More to follow in the next update!!