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Volume 14, No.9 - September 2010

Feature articles


“Historic Opportunity” for the future of development

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Following on a proposal by the UN Secretary-General, the General Assembly decided to convene the MDG Summit (High-level Plenary Meeting) on 20-22 September 2010, with the primary objective to accelerate progress towards all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

The 2010 MDG Summit will see world leaders gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to examine what needs to be done to meet each of the eight MDGs by 2015.

“Our world possesses the knowledge and the resources to achieve the MDGs,” states the Secretary-General in his report preparing for the September summit. However, achieving the MDGs remains a complex global challenge, especially for equal progress to be made across each of the eight goals.

Great progress has been made, but as the 2010 MDG Report indicates, it is not even. The report specifically points out concern for the slow progress in improving maternal health conditions and the development of women and children. These issues will be more thoroughly explored during the summit.

Making it happen by 2015

The September High-level Meeting will consist of six plenary meetings and six interactive round-table sessions which will be held in concurrence with the plenary meetings. The six roundtable sessions will convene within the framework of “Making it happen by 2015”, with at least fifty seats in each meeting, and co-chaired by two Heads of State or Government.

The six roundtables will specifically address development goals and have been divided into the discussions of the challenge of poverty, hunger and gender equality, meeting the goals of health and education, promoting sustainable development, addressing emerging issues and evolving approaches, addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and finally, widening and strengthening partnerships.

Actors and their roles

According to the Report of the Secretary-General Keeping the promise: a forward-looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the MDGs by 2015, the “MDGs represent a pact, not just among governments, but among all development stakeholders. Each actor must focus on the best use of its assets, acting efficiently, effectively and collectively to fulfil specific roles”.

More specifically, these roles include the need for developing countries to establish policies and institutions to accelerate progress, the importance of civil society actors to ensure government accountability, the help of private business to create work to support the goals as well as private philanthropists to foster innovation. The roles of developed countries are to fulfil commitments and finally, the multilateral system, and especially the UN, needs to improve coherence and effectiveness.

The MDGs are an eight-point road map with measurable targets and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.

The MDGs also embody basic human rights — the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter and security. The Goals are ambitious but understood to be achievable and, together with the comprehensive United Nations development agenda, the world’s efforts to eradicate poverty are feasible.

Only five years remaining

Five years remain before the 2015 deadline for the achievement of the MDGs, and as the Director of DESA’s ECOSOC Support and Coordination Division Nikhil Seth explains, “The Summit provides us with a critically-important occasion to address major and interconnected development challenges and to give the MDGs a final push,” noting the event a “historic opportunity”.

Coming amid mixed progress and new crises that threaten the global effort to halve extreme poverty, “the summit will be a crucially important opportunity to redouble our efforts to meet the Goals,” he said, referring to the targets adopted at the UN Millennium Summit of 2000, aimed at slashing poverty, hunger, disease, maternal and child deaths and other world issues by a 2015 deadline.

“Our challenge today is to agree on an action agenda to achieve the MDGs” Mr. Ban added on the importance to efficiently and effectively utilize the time remaining.

The high-level summit coincides with the launch of the MDG Gap Task Force Report, which again, highlights the year’s gaps and trends in MDG progress and provides leaders with areas of focus. The report will be released on 17 September.

It is anticipated that this summit will bring about one of the most significant opportunities yet to ensure development success worldwide with the expectation that world leaders will recommit to promises and accelerate progress. As the Secretary-General urges, “Time is short. We must seize this historic moment to act responsibly and decisively for the common good.”

For more information: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

Indigenous filmmakers call for greater protection of their people

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“The world’s indigenous peoples have preserved a vast amount of humanity’s cultural history. Indigenous peoples speak a majority of the world’s languages, and have inherited and passed on a wealth of knowledge, artistic forms and religious and cultural traditions. On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we reaffirm our commitment to their well-being”, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on 9 August during the observation of the Day.

This year’s observance at UN Headquarters in New York marked the midpoint of the Second International Decade for the World’s Indigenous People and focused on indigenous filmmaking. It was organized by the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in cooperation with the NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People. The event featured four short films by indigenous film makers from Sweden, Alaska, Russia and the Caribbean.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People was first pronounced by the General Assembly in December 1994, to be celebrated every year during the first International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (1995 – 2004). In 2004, the Assembly proclaimed a Second International Decade, from 2005 – 2015, with the theme of “A Decade for Action and Dignity”.

A main achievement of the Second Decade was the adoption by the General Assembly in 2007 of the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People. This and the Second International Decade has also provided impetus for some governments, such as Japan, Canada and Australia, to recognize the existence and rights of indigenous people and even offer apologies to them for past injustices. Other recent achievements include the creation of consultative institutions for indigenous people and the formation of their own political parties, like in Russia, Nepal and Ecuador.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stressed that “the landmark UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples lays out a framework for Governments to use in strengthening relationships with indigenous peoples and protecting their human rights”. Since then, more Governments worked to redress social and economic injustices, through legislation and other means, and indigenous peoples’ issues have become more prominent on the international agenda than ever before, he explained.

However Mr. Ban noted that “indigenous peoples – more than 370 million in the world – still experience racism, poor health and disproportionate poverty. In many societies, their languages, religions and cultural traditions are stigmatized and shunned”. He added that in some countries indigenous peoples are 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis than the general population. In others, an indigenous child can expect to die 20 years before his or her non-indigenous compatriots.

The need for recognition

Under-Secretary-General and coordinator of the decade Mr. Sha Zukang voiced that “the promotion of films, along with other indigenous art forms, is also encouraged and supported by the Declaration and the Second Decade. “These initiatives not only address the social, political and economic rights of indigenous communities. They also draw attention to the need to protect cultural manifestations – in technological, visual and performing art forms”, he said.

Mr. Sha added that “these signs of progress are promising. But we must recognize that many objectives of the Second Decade are in danger of going unfulfilled. Most countries have yet to recognize their indigenous communities. International financial institutions and development organizations need to meet with indigenous groups more frequently and more formally”. Nevertheless, he noted that in places where indigenous people do have recognition, their level of direct political participation, particularly for women, is very low.

Mr. Sha announced that an upcoming report of the Secretary-General will present more information about progress and gaps toward fulfilling the goals and objectives of the Declaration and the Second International Decade. The report will be launched this year in time for the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly.

Revitalizing traditions and customs

In a statement read by Assistant-Secretary-General Jomo Kwame Sundaram for the Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Carlos Mamari Condori indicates that there are several articles in the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples that confirm their right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. “Films and especially films written, produced and directed by indigenous peoples are perhaps the most expressive medium for communicating messages about who indigenous peoples were, who indigenous peoples are and who indigenous peoples are striving to become”, he said.

Mr. Mamari highlighted the greater demand for indigenous stories from international audiences and explained that “the motivation behind the involvement of indigenous film makers throughout the world in filmmaking, video production and television transmission can be seen as basic issues of self determination and cultural maintenance” and the right to revitalize their traditions and customs.

“Indigenous filmmakers need a lot of encouragement and support… Filmmaking is a very technical process and therefore it is crucial to cultivate indigenous peoples’ talents in areas of development and production around the world,” said the Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He called on governments, intergovernmental organizations, the industry and other relevant actors to strongly support indigenous filmmakers around the world.

For more information: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/index.html

Young talents launched the International Year of Youth

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Under the theme “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding” the International Year of Youth was kicked off at UN Headquarters on 12 August – the International Day of Youth – and counted with the presence of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and a wide range of performances, videos and exhibitions produced by youth.

“The energy of youth can spark economies….The idealism and creativity of youth are some of the most important resources any country has”, said Mr. Ban. “I urge young people everywhere to look beyond the borders of your own country. Engage with the world. Be a global citizen. Exchange visits and communications across cultures are all building blocks of world peace and mutual understanding”, he added.

Video: http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/ondemand/specialevents/2010/se100812am-orig.rm?start=00:10:00&end=00:17:36 (7 minutes)

Full coverage: http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/ondemand/specialevents/2010/se100812am-orig.rm (2 hours 18 minutes)

Secretary-General’s message: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2010/sgsm13042.doc.htm

International Year of Youth website: http://social.un.org/youthyear/