Akanksha Thakur – 2017 Gibbard Award Recipient

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Each year, UNA-Vancouver recognizes an outstanding youth or youth group dedicated to achieving the goals of the United Nations. We are pleased to announced that the 2017 John Gibbard Memorial Award for Youth will be awarded to Akanksha Thakur.

Miss Thakur is a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University and was nominated by her supervisor Heather Williams, Language and Culture Curriculum Coordinator, from SFU’s Co-Operative Education department. Williams explains:

Akanksha demonstrates her passion for equity in many ways. She has taught internationally – at a public school in Indonesia; she was recently chosen to be a Youth Ambassador for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation; and is also on the Board of Directors of an NGO named Pratham that is dedicated to educating children in the slums in India.

The Gibbard Award presentation will take place Sunday October 22nd, 2017 at the Unitarian Church (949 49th Ave. W) at 11am (no RSVP needed). We invite the public to come celebrate United Nations Day and honour Miss Thakur for endeavouring to make the world a better and more peaceful place.

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The International Day of the Girl: Keys for Achieving Equality

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*Guest Post by UBC Student Ambassador, Karina Hsaio*

The Sustainable Development Agenda was created in 2016. This agenda introduced 17 different goals which are used as directives to eradicate global poverty. One of the crucial goals included is the need to achieve gender equality. International Day of the Girl is an important annual event that acknowledges the issue of gender inequality, promotes the empowerment of both women and men, and most importantly brings communities together.

Currently no country has successfully achieved gender equality; without the proper framework and policy implementations, women are made vulnerable to violence and discrimination. Countries also lack the relevant policies to prevent discrimination in the workplace, therefore women are still being treated unequally. Women worldwide earn less than men, for every dollar earned by men women earn 23 cents less. In politics, women represent a minority in national parliaments. When women’s contributions in the workplace are not valued equally, they are discouraged from entering the labour market or pursuing professional careers. Moreover, politics has long been viewed as a male profession; thus, without the participation of women, not only will this sector remain male dominated, policies related to the rights women will also lack the nuance necessary to achieve genuine equality.

BzmjOzbIIAAzJgY.png_large-500x500Education is one tool we can use to eradicate poverty and the problem of sexual violence. Women easily fall into the cycle of poverty due to lack of education qualifications. Without the equivalent skillsets required by the labour market, these women have limited choices when it comes to employment, and usually end up in temporary jobs. Not only are temporary jobs unstable, they also pay lower wages. Allowing women to participate in the market through stable employment will increase labour efficiency in companies; it allows the economy of a country to grow faster and stronger. Most importantly, a high percentage of women will be lifted from poverty.

The inability to secure permanent employment is one of the main reasons that women continue to rely on their husbands for financial support. Additionally, if the wife is also a victim of domestic abuse she may decide to remain silent for fear of financial insecurity. Educated women are employable women, and employable women are independent women.

But the empowerment of women and girls is insufficient for socio-cultural change – men and boys also need to be part of the conversation. Communities need to acknowledge the fact that gender equality is a fundamental human right. Men and boys are important actors in process of achieving gender equality because gender equality affects everyone.

When men and women are viewed as equal, the labour market will have a greater chance of achieving equal pay. Healthy relationships between both genders can only be achieved if mutual respect is developed. It is important to remember that the push towards societal change in gender equality does not mean pinpointing a specific culprit. Numerous factors contribute to creation of gender inequality, and it is the responsibility of the whole community to correct gender stereotypes and unfair behavior.

Other than promoting gender equality through the discussions in UN general assembly and hosting annual events like International Day of the Girl, the United Nations also promotes gender equality at the local level. To enable relevant skill development, UN Women supports computer training programs in South Sudan and India. Economic empowerment is promoted by encouraging women to start their own businesses. For example, in a Guatemalan village, women who were part of the indigenous community were encouraged to participate in an all-female entrepreneurship project. Through education empowerment women were given the relevant skillsets needed to participate in local elections, thus enabling them to participate in decision making.

The issue of gender equality has received high levels of attention internationally, and the United Nations serves as a vital platform for leaders and organizations to continue this work. However, changes can only be achieved if local and international entities improve and work alongside each other. On the international level, countries need to recognize gender equality as a basic human right and promote changes within their own administrations. Individuals and local organizations need to work together and ensure durable changes at the local level. Communities need to embrace the values of gender equality by improving access to education and through policy implementations. 

October 10th is Mental Health Day 

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.15.54 PMDid you know that mental health is included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

“Promoting mental health and well-being, and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, are integral parts of the Sustainable Development Agenda to transform our world by 2030 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015.” Learn more about the World Health Organization 

One in five Canadians experience a mental health condition. Bmy the age of 40, 1 in 2 Canadians have or previously had a mental health condition.1 Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 2 The mental health of a person fluctuates and at any point of time is affected by multiple stressors that may be social, psychological, and biological in nature. Mental health refers to striking a balance in all aspects of life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. Reaching a balance is a learning process, it is not a one size fits all approach, instead it is unique for every individual. Our challenge is staying mentally healthy by maintaining the balance, which is easier said than done. While physical health is easy to measure and discussed openly, mental health is under the surface and often not discussed.. Every year on October 10, the WHO celebrates World Mental Health Day. This day is an opportunity for us to reflect on our own mental health and think about ways we can contribute towards supporting people in our community who are living with mental illnesses, as well as call attention to a timely mental health issue. The theme for this year’s issue is “Mental Health in the Workplace” 3

During our lives, we spend a significant amount of time at our workplace. Our experience at our there is one of the aspects that affects our mental well-being. Unemployment is a recognized risk factor while employment or returning to work is a protective factor against mental health problems. Conversely, employment in a negative working environment such as a workplace where individuals face bullying or psychosocial harassment adversely affect the employee’s’ mental health, which may be accountable for depression and anxiety, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism, lost productivity and a high turnover rate. In fact, mental health is seldomly considered as a key aspect of an employee’s’ health, yet, the WHO highlights depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. A study by WHO researchers estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Many of these illnesses can be treated, but access to treatment is often difficult, and stigma may prevent people from obtaining services even when they are available.4

As a healthy workplace benefits both workers and employers, therefore, the question arises, how do we create a healthy workplace? The answer is easier said than done, that is, the onus lies on both the workplace management team and its employees’ in being proactive and leading by example. However, it seems that this is seldom the case. Consequently, in July this year, an utterly empathetic response from a chief executive to his employee who was taking a break to cope with mental health issues took social media by storm. “It prompted thousands of retweets, garnered dozens of headlines when an employee who had written that she suffers from anxiety and depression, wrote an email to her colleagues saying she’d be out for a couple of days to “focus on my mental health.” Her chief executive replied by thanking her, saying every time she sends an email like that “I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health” and “you are an example to us all, and help us cut through the stigma.” 5 This sets a strong example of the meaning of a healthy workplace, illustrating the willingness of the employee to be open about her mental health as well as the employer positively acknowledging his employee’s needs and reminding his colleagues to do the same. This teaches us that we need to be open and acknowledge each other’s mental health needs in order to foster mental well-being in the workplace, which will help to decrease negative attitudes and discrimination and empower individuals to promote mental health and dignity for all.

The writer:
Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.07.16 PMMichelle Chakraborti is a a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Experimental Medicine graduate program at the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about policy issues around child and family health. My dissertation is grounded on the World Health Organization’s framework on functioning and disability (ICF-CY) that highlights family as the most salient environmental factor affecting child development. For her dissertation, Michelle evaluate’s BC-based physical activity programs for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as an avenue to support and strengthen families’ health. Michell is also a volunteer with the Let’s Talk Science program at UBC, a national program geared towards engaging children in science. As a part of the UNA Vancouver content writing team, she writes about issues/policies on health related to the mandate of the World Health Organization. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why? France! I’ve always wanted to visit France ever since I learned the language as a child. I admire the culture, architecture and love the food as well as I would be able to test my language skills!

Sources

(1) Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.

(2) http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/ (accessed October 3, 2017)

(3) http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2017/en/

(4) Report by the World Mental Health Federation on World Mental Health Day 2017 (https://www.wfmh.global/wmh-day/wmhd-theme-2017/; accessed October 5, 2017)

(5) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/07/14/the-mental-health-email-shared-round-the-world/?utm_term=.4917f75de3db (accessed October 5, 2017)

Image citation:

https://workplaceleeds.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/top-tips-for-celebrating-world-mental-health-day-at-your-workplace/; (accessed October 5, 2017)

Disability Justice: The Call to Action

By: Naomi Shi (bio below), UNA blog writer

 

Disability, the theme of the upcoming Rosemary Brown Conference this year, is experienced by more than 19% of the world population. In Canada alone, more than 5.3 million people are affected by some form disability. Discrimination towards persons with disabilities is ingrained in our culture and is still immensely relevant to the international community. Ableism conceptualizes the belief that people with disabilities are inferior, and that having a disability is a defect rather than a dimension of difference. The interpretation of difference as a defect is the root of ableist acts, as it fosters the culture of discrimination in society.

However, ableism is more blatantly and commonly integrated into our culture, albeit the great anti-discrimination progress that is repeatedly depicted. Many nowadays fail to even recognize ableism as legitimate and predominant discrimination. Accessibility, or the lack thereof, is one of the most obvious forms of discrimination people with disabilities face. Disabled people are still to access places and services only open to their able-bodied counterparts. How often have you seen wheelchair ramps at the back of a building? Is that something you even notice? Ableist terms have also become naturalized in the English language, with many people carelessly using pejoratives (and often without knowing the harmful connotation behind these words) in casual conversations, harmfully promoting the prejudicial treatment of people with disabilities in daily life.

Although ableism is a significant and universal detriment, it is consistently marginalized and disregarded as a pressing and relevant social justice concern. Framed as lacking, undesirable, and laced with pity and stigma, the wrongful perception of people who have disabilities and the blind integration of ableist acts in society contributes to the widespread assumption that disability does not constitute a serious category of oppression. While indignation with issues such as racism and sexism is heavily circulated and publicized by social justice activists, it contrasts their chronic disregard and indifference towards ableism. This normalizes the marginalization of disability, and it further undervalues the weight of ableism when compared to other forms of discrimination.

The winner of the Rosemary Brown Award for Women this year has helped change how society views people with mental disabilities. Dr Dana Brynelsen is a stalwart advocate for the rights of children with learning disorders. Pioneering the Infant Development Programs of BC since their founding from 1975 to 2009, Brynelsen has dedicated her efforts to promote inclusion at a time when isolation of children with developmental disabilities was common. The program she fronted has ensured over 100,000 families had the support they needed to help these children realize their full potential. As the recipient of numerous awards for her work in the areas of early childhood intervention, Dr. Brynelsen has been recognized for her unyielding commitment to the well-being of infants and families across BC. She received the Order of British Columbia – the province’s most prestigious honour – in 2014.

The call for disability justice is urgent and pressing. Dr. Dana Brynelsen’s persistent work in the domain of early childhood intervention exhibits how the fostering of a culture based on inclusion, rather than segregation, has positively altered society’s perception of disability. Through her achievements in her field, she shows how disability justice has the power to not only change the way how people perceive their culture and its regards to diversity and difference but also to fundamentally change the way social change is enacted. It is vital that disability, and ableism, be considered equally amongst other issues of social justice.

The fourth annual Rosemary Brown Conference will be held on September 23rd at Asia Pacific Hall at the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University and will include discussions on gender, sexuality, and disability.

Naomi Shi

Naomi Shi
Volunteer Blog Writer, UNA Vancouver
Naomi is an avid and eager student who is driven by curiosity. She is a student newspaper editor, a youth parliamentarian, and is currently approaching her senior year at Little Flower Academy. She strives to learn more about past events that shaped the world around her and understand its correlation to current events that continue to dominate and influence the world today. Having been an active participant in Model United Nations for three years – through attempting to rectify simulated international conflicts, she has become a more conscientious student. Model UN has increased her knowledge in world matter and allowed her to better comprehend different mindsets and perspectives through attempting to rectify international conflicts. In 2016, Naomi volunteered with Canada Global Culture and Education Association along with 70 other British Columbians as Canadian ambassadors, leading a cultural exchange camp in Guangzhou, China. She was able to teach and supervise workshops on English, Canadian history, and social justice for five weeks to underprivileged youth in China. She is excited to complete her final year of secondary education, as she hopes to pursue her interest in sociology and post-colonialism in the future.
If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I would love to go to Israel, as it is an epicentre of history and religion. Visiting Jerusalem and its bountiful landmarks of cultural, historical, and religious significance is something that I wish to do within my lifetime.

 

Meet the 2017 Rosemary Brown award recipient and keynote speaker, Dr. Dana Brynelsen

Annual Rosemary Brown Award for Women, 2017 Recipient, Dr. Dana Brynelson

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Dana Brynelsen is the former Provincial Advisor for the Infant Development Program of BC and worked in that capacity from 1975 until 2009. In that role she supported the development of 53 Infant Programs in communities across BC and encouraged the development of a parallel network of Aboriginal Infant Development Programs. Since their inception Infant Development Programs in BC have served over 100,000 families. She has advised on the development, operation and evaluation of early childhood intervention services in BC, Canada, England and New Zealand.  Dana has a particular interest in Family Centred Care and has presented on this topic at many conferences. She worked with colleagues and faculty at UBC to establish the Certificate and Diploma in Infant Development at UBC a first in Canada, and was successful in having the York Certificate in Infant Mental Health offered through UBC.  She collaborated in developing the course work on disability for the Family Resource Program Certificate. Dana has published in the field, served on the editorial board of Infants and Young Children and is past president of Parent Child Mother Goose, a national organization that provides training and sets the policies for this attachment based program. She is a founding member of the BCFASD Resource Society and a former Director of the Society of Children and Youth. She was involved in the development of the Early Hearing Program in BC, which provides universal newborn hearing screening and leads to early language intervention for all infants identified with hearing loss. Dana worked with colleagues to establish the Early Years Conference through UBC and the International FASD Conference. She is the recipient of many awards for her work in the areas of early childhood intervention.  These include; Year of the Child and Family Award (1979) BCACL Partnership Award (1984), Winston Churchill Fellowship Award (1987), YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (1997), UBC Doctor of Laws (2004), Federation of Community Services Award for Excellence (2009) , BC Family Resource Programs Outstanding Achievement Award (2009), BC Council for Families Distinguished Service to Families Award (2010), Order of BC (2014). Vancouver Island University Doctor of Laws (2016).  Although retired, she continues to work in a voluntary capacity.  Her current project involves advocating for changes to the court system to ensure better outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens, infants and young children in care or at risk for out of home care and their families.

Working Abroad for UN-Habitat in the Vibrant City of Nairobi

Author: Stephanie Ortiz

Doug

I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Lau over the phone as I overlooked Vancouver’s smoky skyline following the BC Day long weekend. We chatted about his recent experience in Nairobi working as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) through the United Nations Association of Canada. Doug was hired as a JPC by UN-Habitat, an agency that promotes sustainable urban and human development as well as adequate shelter for all. Doug expressed that the opportunities felt endless in this lively East African city as he made his way to work every day. Something that struck Doug about Nairobi was the city’s vibrancy and the optimism that people had about the future. We discussed what it was like working at the UN office in Nairobi, his responsibilities as a JPC with UN-Habitat, and the challenges of working abroad.

During his six-month contract term, Doug discovered that the UN office in Nairobi -which has roughly 5,000 employees from all over the world- was “quite an exciting place to work.” Doug’s office was located in a zero emissions building on campus and the UN Nairobi campus was recounted as being a forward thinking place, with an open-space concept, and indoor gardens –features that align with the UN-habitat mandate. The overall campus was illustrated as having preserved gardens, lined with elegant trees, and manicured grass and described as an incredible and lively place.”You could feel that people around you were very capable and motivated,” Doug recalled.

As a JPC, Doug carried two major responsibilities. The first being monitoring and evaluating programs. He developed systems to track performance, assessed the progress of those involved, gave feedback, and then provided and guided the necessary adaptations. His second responsibility comprised of reporting essential information to stakeholders and donors. “One of the coolest parts of working with the UN is working with diverse partners.” This experience gave Doug the opportunity to collaborate with other different units and external agencies based in Nairobi. This allowed him to work with other local governments, delegations from foreign diplomatic missions, community groups, women’s groups, youth groups, and more.

However, relocating and working somewhere unfamiliar often brings along a string of challenges. Doug confessed, “it’s always difficult to adjust to working in a new city. Not only do you need to learn the new office, practices, and procedures,” you inevitably have to combine it with figuring out the transportation system, where to get groceries, and so on. Doug added, “but it becomes very rewarding as the months go on.”

When asked whether he would recommend this type of work experience to others, he responded, “Absolutely. This has been an incredibly formative experience, not just in my professional career but for my personal development. It’s an incredible opportunity and privilege to work in this field. Development work hasn’t been around long enough but it’s a great field to work in and very rewarding. It’s Important to understand how competitive this field is and how important the work you’re doing is. You’re competing from a pool of candidates from all corners of the world and it should be approached as such. It’s tough, something that needs to be taken seriously. Work hard and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in right away. It can take time. And just remember that not all citizens of all countries have the same opportunities.”

If you’re considering a career in development, the  2017 Hiring Trends Report: The Jobseeker’s Guide to Development Recruiting is well worth a read. If you’d like to participate in the UNA Canada’s International Development and Diplomacy Internship Program, you can visit the Facebook page for more information. The deadline to apply is September 5th, 2017.

 

DOXA Event Recap

The United Nations Association in Canada (Vancouver Branch) was pleased to sponsor a film at the 2017 DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

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Photo of UNA Vancouver taken by Tara Flynn Development Manager, Doxa Documentary Film Festival

The screening of “Complicit” was held at VIFF’s VanCity Theatre on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. The screening was well-attended, and the audience was clearly engaged in the issues presented in the film.

One of the highlights of the 2017 edition of the DOXA Festival is the Spotlight on Troublemakers, which celebrates courageous dissent in difficult circumstances. Our sponsored film provides an incredible first-hand look at the frontlines of China’s labour movement. It shines a light on the global electronic manufacturing industry in China, where 90% of the world’s consumer electronics are produced.

The featured activists are committed to taking on some of the world’s largest corporations, and they speak openly about abysmal working conditions. Young people work in buildings with poor ventilation, and handle chemicals which have been banned in industrialized Western countries for more than 40 years. Corruption and obstruction run deep, as workers struggle to deal with diagnosis and treatment of occupational diseases, many leading to serious illness or death

Complicit” was also included in the festival’s Justice Forum, so it was followed by a thought-provoking question and answer session led by two guest speakers. Cathy Walker is the former National Health and Safety Director of the CAW (Canadian Auto Workers Union) now UNIFOR. She has worked on China-related projects for the Canadian Labour Congress, the Vancouver & District Labour Council, and the BC Federation of Labour. Fiona Koza is a Business and Human Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada. She works to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses and to ensure access to remedies for people who have been harmed.

The afternoon concluded with informal discussions with audience members who visited the UNAC information table in the lobby of the theatre.

We extend our thanks to our two guest speakers, and to all DOXA staff and volunteers for making this year’s festival such a success. We look forward to working together again next year!

DOXA Film Screening: Complicit

UNA-Vancouver is sponsoring the May 6th screening of Complicit, a documentary film about the detrimental health effects involved in the global electronics manufacturing industry in China.  Complicit is part of the festival’s Justice Forum; thus, it will host a Q&A after the screening. Directed by Heather White and Lynn Zhang, they aim:

to shine a light on what it’s really like for Foxconn factory workers, who produce devices for Apple and other companies.

The film, which was mostly shot undercover, follows Yi Yeting, a former Foxconn employee who was diagnosed with leukemia at the young age of 24. The cause? Benzene poisoning from a cleaning agent that was used while making the iPhone and iPad. Apple banned the substance, along with n-hexane, from its assembly lines back in 2014, following reports that it was leading to leukemia among factory workers. But Yeting is still fighting for Foxconn and other companies to acknowledge benzene poisoning and other issues.

Complicit debuted this past March at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.

Tickets for the May 6th, 2017 screening at VanCity Theatre @ 2pm are on sale through DOXA. Ticket prices range from $11-$15.

To see other films included in DOXA’s 2017 program click here. DOXA runs from May 4th to May 14th.

Canada Green Corps: Call for Applicants

UNSustainableDevelopmentGoals_w_logo-e1442391056454*Notice from Ottawa head office*

Canada Green Corps (CGC) is UNA-Canada’s innovative new youth employment programme designed to bridge talented, yet un-and underemployed, Canadian youth to meaningful employment to ignite Canada’s green economy. CGC participants will undertake four or six-month work-integrated learning placements with various companies, governments, associations, universities and civil society organizations in our cities of focus: Vancouver, Whitehorse, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. CGC participants may assist their employer organizations and communities in reducing their environmental footprint and increasing overall sustainability. Additionally, CGC participants may engage their communities over the course of their placements to identify and address environmental “quick wins” in their communities and workplaces.

Green Corps will officially be extended until Sept 30th, 2017.

UNAC is delighted to be able to provide more opportunities for talented, yet un- or underemployed youth across Canada to gain valuable professional experience through Green Corps. We are also identifying new employer organizations, so please feel free to share this information with potential employers, and youth, in your network.

Click the hyperlinks to find the Checklist for Securing Placements and Finalizing Partnership and the Green Corps flyer.

The search for new Employer partners is ongoing but note that the deadline for youth applications is Monday, March 27th.

Potential youth participants can apply through: https://unpp.wufoo.com/forms/w1vish6y1w0cgf1/

Interested employer organizations should contact Green Corps’ Project Officers, Kanchan Muti (for placements west of Ontario and the Yukon) or Julie-Pier Nadeau (placements in Ontario and east), who are cc’d here. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call Scott Bohachyk at (613) 232-5751 ext 253.

2017 AGM with Marcia Kran

marcia-kran
Marcia Kran. Photo from North Shore News.

We are proud to be welcoming a high-profile UN official as a speaker who will open our Annual General Meeting. Joining our membership for this unique and relevant event will be members of the public and officials, parents and students of the Burnaby School District.

Marcia Kran’s background includes a 35-year career as an international lawyer, senior manager roles in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Development Programme, and work as a professor of human rights law at UBC. Ms. Kran was elected Canada’s First UN Human Rights Committee member in over a decade. Committee members are independent experts who monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a key UN treaty. The committee is the place where contentious human rights issues are brought forward, and recommendations are made in order to meet the international standards put in place by the UN.

 

Please join us on April 3rd, 2017 at:
Byrne Creek Community School’s Centre for Dialogue
7777-18th Street, Burnaby (8-minute walk south from Edmonds Skytrain Station)

Agenda

6:30 – 6:45 UNAC Annual General Meeting
7:00 – 8:00 Marcia Kran keynote and Q&A
8:00 – 8:30 Reception – Coffee/tea and refreshments provided

Communications Coordinator – Open Call

 

UNA-Vancouver is looking for a Communications Coordinator! We need someone who has experience in graphic design, editing, and volunteer management. This volunteer position comes with a $1000 stipend for a 12 month term. Please see the PDF for more details on the position and how to apply. This call will remain open until we have filled the position.

CMNS Coordinator Description

The Role of ASEAN in 2017

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Photo from International Pharmaceutical Quality.

This post was written by website writer, Denea Bascombe.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. It was founded on August 8th, 1967 to promote regional economic, political, and security cooperation by the founding fathers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Today, it is comprised of ten members, with the original five plus Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. The role of ASEAN has changed over the fifty years of its existence, but its adherence to the belief in regionalism has maintained consistent. A 1992 article by S. Rajaratnam in Singapore (written when the North America Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) were still new regional approaches) highlighted that the counter-pressures of globalism had made regionalism more difficult to maintain, but optimism existed in that ASEAN was beginning to reflect some of the successes of the more developed European Community (EC). ASEAN is working towards increased security in the region, and maintains the reputation of managing cohesive internal relations and positive international operations.

Today, ASEAN holds regional ground, especially where the participation of the United States in international trade and its affected political influence creates increased uncertainty towards globalism. The uncertainty of the United States’ commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) under a Trump administration may further develop existing sentiments regarding the benefits of Asia-Pacific foreign policy that is less reliant on the United States. This may only be increased by the fact that the Philippines holds the position of 2017 ASEAN Chair; President Rodrigo Duterte has been distancing his country from the United States, including its military cooperation. With the Philippines’ lost position as the United States’ closest ally in the ASEAN region, the role of the United States in Southeast Asian policy, especially over the long term, is increasingly uncertain. This is made only the more complex by the United States’ unclear foreign policy position towards China in early 2017.

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Though Duterte may be unpredictable in some aspects of his leadership, including some activities that call in to question the existence of human rights violations, in other aspects, his policies have provided stability for the region. This includes the surging economic growth in the Philippines, which he strives to expand throughout ASEAN due to his conviction in regionalism, and bettering relations with China, even with the existence of the South China/ West Philippine Sea dispute. Prior to Duterte, ASEAN had not seen such a clear pivot away from the United States, a country providing military and other support, and towards China. However, this could be for the betterment of ASEAN’s ability to produce a clear consensus on issues affecting ASEAN and China. A potential conflict to be aware of, though one that is out of the scope of this editorial, is the potential for some of Duterte’s controversial national policies, especially his insistent drug policies, to cause rifts among ASEAN member states. Still, keeping issues separated, this is unlikely to affect ASEAN’s external relations.

Unfortunately, Duterte’s turn away from the United States is one that the Asia Foundation would highly advise against based on its 2016 report titled Asian Views on America’s Role in Asia: The Future of the Rebalance. The report highlights, among other recommendations, that the United States must “maintain a robust, sustained, and consistent American presence in the Asia-Pacific”; “revive the TPP”; “continue to play a leading role in non-traditional security” and “continue to project American ‘soft power’”. This poses questions as to whether the Philippines’ perception of a United States presence reflects the opinions of other ASEAN member states.

ASEAN’s role in 2017 will largely dictate the extent to which the United States maintains leadership in Asia and internationally. It will also maintain a large influence over ASEAN cooperation with China, and the prospective of heightened or minimized tensions in the South China/West Philippine Sea. Both relationships may be considered of equal importance to ASEAN due to the economic, political, and security implications. However, with the Philippines holding the 2017 ASEAN Chair and its recent statements against United States involvement, it is unlikely that both relationships will be equally pursued. Perhaps part of ASEAN success in this area will depend on whether the United States maintains a balanced relationship with China, and whether there is any reason why ASEAN would be unable to separately and equally pursue their bilateral relationships with the United States and China.

Inspired by the UN: Kaidie Williams

kaidie-williams_headshotKaidie Williams is an International Relations and Economics student at UBC, hailing from the small island state of Dominica. Her interests include public speaking, connecting with people and reading economics-related magazines. Kaidie is deeply involved in many aspects of campus. She is President of the Model United Nations Student Association (MUNSA), Vice Chair of the UBC Vancouver Senate, Senior Advisor for Residence Life, and Student Coordinator of the Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation. As part of UBC’s International Service Learning program, she recently completed an internship where she worked on implementing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a development organization. Verna Yam (in bold) interviewed Kaidie Williams on behalf of UNAC-V.

How did you learn about MUN and start getting involved?

During high school, I went to an event promoting UBC, where they encouraged us to join MUN. I thought that it sounded pretty cool.

But when I entered university and started doing MUN, I was so confused. There were people who had done conferences before and who knew everything. I felt like this was way out of my league. Honestly, there were a few moments where I thought, “This isn’t for me.”

That was all until I went to my first conference in Seattle, where I was blown away. With so many people, great ideas and potential all in one place, you can solve an incredible number of issues in just three days at one conference. That’s what drew me to MUN. I cried on the bus back home because it was such a surreal experience for me: realizing that even if you are from a tiny island, you still have a way of making an impact. Your ideas can be presented and understood, and then intertwined into a bigger picture. That’s when I felt, “Yeah, this is my thing.”

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from MUN?

That every country has a voice, no matter how small or big you are. I’m really interested in small island states, so I appreciate the idea of coalitions where countries come together to present a voice that is just as valuable as the voice of large powers. It’s recognized that you don’t have to be powerful to have influence. You just have to have a voice, and that voice will be heard. Continue reading

Inspired by the UN: Amrit Toor

amrit-toor_headshotAmrit Toor is a fourth-year History Honours student at UBC. With a focus on Canadian feminism in the twentieth century, Amrit is writing his honours thesis on feminist movements at UBC in the 1970s. His extracurricular involvement on campus includes serving as Vice-President External of the Model United Nations Student Association (MUNSA), second term as Co-President of Oxfam UBC, and Editor-in-Chief of the Atlas Undergraduate Journal of World History. Amrit has volunteered for numerous organizations locally, including Surrey Food Bank, Greater Vancouver Food Bank, Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières. Verna Yam (in bold) interviewed Amrit on behalf of UNAC-V.

How did you learn about MUN and start getting involved?

In high school, one of my teachers asked me if I could host and chair a MUN conference because he had heard about my background in public speaking. I had no idea what he meant by that – I had never heard about MUN before, I had never been a delegate before; so I got a very quick run through of MUN procedure and what it was all about before I was just dropped in to chair two conferences.

 Did you eventually try being a delegate?

Once I entered university, I heard about MUNSA, the MUN club at UBC, and started delegating. I got into conversing with people about international issues and used my past experiences with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to inform the arguments I was making. That’s where my interest in being a delegate and involved in MUN stems from – my background in NGO work.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from MUN?

The most valuable thing that I’ve learned is an understanding of the very real and tangible aspect of the discussion we have in MUN. MUN provides this unique opportunity in which students can become directly engaged in international issues, without necessarily being an expert or having a job that would enable them to go directly into those fields.

Furthermore, it’s a really good awareness opportunity. For those working with NGOs, it’s an opportunity to promote what certain movements there are in the world. It’s also a great chance to learn other people’s perspectives on the failures and successes of the international community, and to develop a more comprehensive understanding of what’s really happening out there. Continue reading

Inspired by the UN: Elena Ganacheva

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Elena Ganacheva is an International Relations student (Commerce minor) at UBC. Actively involved in the Model United Nations (MUN) community there, Elena’s biggest commitment is leading a team as Secretary-General to organize UBCMUN, a conference that attracts over 300 delegates across North America each year. Elena’s past leadership positions include Vice-President Internal of the MUN Students Association at UBC and director for committees at various MUN conferences. Verna Yam (questions in bold) interviewed Elena on behalf of UNAC-V.

Can you tell us more about your interests?

I’m really passionate about international issues and learning about them, as well as helping others learn more about them too. I really enjoy MUN as a means to do that.

How did you learn about MUN and what moved you to try it out?

I learned about MUN at Clubs Days, where all student clubs set up booths to promote their activities in September. My friend and I were looking for opportunities and found the MUN Student Association (MUNSA). I really liked the idea of MUN, especially since I used to do debate, and realize there is no collaboration in debate, there is only argument. So, I was attracted to the idea of MUN since I get to use my debate skills but also collaborate with other delegates to find solutions to world issues.

So how exactly did you start getting involved?

I bit the bullet and signed up to go with MUNSA to Northwest MUN-Seattle right away. I represented Bolivia in the General Assembly, which was really interesting because we talked about sustainable development, and Bolivia advocates for the rights of Mother Earth. If I had not represented Bolivia in that committee, I would never have learned about the initiatives that Bolivia is working on.

What’s the most valuable thing that you’ve learned from MUN?

Simulating the UN and pretending to be a diplomat within that framework really opened my eyes to how international relations actually works in the UN, and what the challenges are to implementing changes that we want in the world. I also learned about the limitations of the UN framework and how the UN can actually effect change within their limitations. Continue reading

Youth for Human Rights Day – Event Re-Cap

The Youth for Human Rights Foundation (B.C. chapter) and Ubuntu for Human Rights International Society co-organized an event dedicated to celebrating the International Day for Human Rights this past December 10th at The Metro (759 Carnarvon Street, New Westminster). One of the keynote speakers was Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer (who is also an Honorary Patron of UNA-Vancouver). Several human rights groups such as UNA-Vancouver, the Global Peace Alliance, and Child Aid International were invited to host tables at the event. Each table had a representative talk about their group for a couple minutes so participants were able to learn about each organization.

The event began with a demonstration of 30 short videos dedicated to each human right listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted two years after the establishment of the United Nations Association of Canada in 1946. You can find these informative videos at http://www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights.html

After a First Nations welcoming ceremony, Senator Jaffer highlighted the importance of human rights advocacy and, in particular , the rights of homeless people in Vancouver.

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Akmal Bazarov speaking on behalf of UNA-Vancouver.

In his capacity as Director-at-Large in UNA-Vancouver, Akmal Bazarov shared information about the UNA in Canada and assured participants that the UNA of Canada continues to promote UN values indicated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN Conventions on human rights within its mandates in order to achieve the UN`s Sustainable Development Goals.

dsc_0024For example, in addition to supporting the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Canada has ratified seven principal UN human rights conventions and covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR – accession by Canada in 1976), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR – ratified by Canada in 1976), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT – ratified by Canada in 1987), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC – ratified by Canada in 1991), the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD – accession by Canada in 1970), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW – ratified by Canada in 1981), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD – ratified by Canada in 2010). As a ratifier, Canada must submit reports on how it implements each of these treaties.

We hope that this event contributed to raising awareness among Canadians on UN values and human rights, especially in the rapidly changing political situation in the world.

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Upcoming Series “Inspired by the UN”

Stay tuned for the upcoming 3-part series, “Inspired by the UN”, to be published here starting in January 2017.

Verna Yam, an International Relations Major and Asian Area Studies Minor at the University of British Columbia, will share her interviews with student leaders from around Vancouver who are involved with Model United Nations (MUN). MUN is an extra-curricular activity where students simulate the workings of the UN. These students, who are currently enacting real change in their communities, share not only how they got involved with MUN, but what they learned from their experiences and how the UN continues to shape their work and life today.

Although it may be hard to see that the United Nations (UN) has a widespread and far-reaching impact on a daily basis, MUN is one way students are inspired by the work of the UN in the world. MUN is a growing phenomenon throughout the world, and especially in Vancouver. vernayamphoto

 

2016 Renate Shearer Award for Human Rights: MOSAIC

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December 10th marks the annual observance of the UN-mandated International Human Rights Day. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights defines human rights as “rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination.

Each year, International Human Rights Day is celebrated by the local branch of the UN Association of Canada, with its partner Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) with an award to a local organization or individual who is active in the field of human rights. The award is named after the late Renate Shearer who was a social planner and human rights activist in the City of Vancouver in the 1970s.

This year the award is being given to MOSAIC – the Multilingual Orientation Services Association for Immigrant Communities. Established in Vancouver exactly 40 years ago in 1976 MOSAIC, whose goal is to serve and support immigrant and refugee communities, has now expanded into other Lower Mainland communities including Burnaby and Surrey.

MOSAIC has demonstrated its support for new arrivals in BC in many unique ways. It was the first immigrant service organization to provide a weekly legal clinic on immigration and poverty law which was otherwise not available to its clients. Early in its existence, MOSAIC also took the initiative to help immigrant communities deal with an epidemic of domestic violence. The programme specifically provided targeted counseling and therapeutic intervention for violent husbands as well as the women and children who lived with them.

In addition MOSAIC provides settlement services, job training and mentoring, interpretation services, prenatal classes and child care as well as a variety of other services to support newcomers – men women and young people – to our community.

MOSAIC was at the forefront in welcoming refugees from Central and South America during its early years – long before regular federal or provincial government intervention. Today it is in the forefront of welcoming to BC refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

UNAC Vancouver, with its partner the Community Legal Assistance Society, is proud to honour MOSAIC, as well as to celebrate Renate Shearer, in whose name this Human Rights Award is given. MOSAIC and Ms. Shearer reflect the finest values of our community.

Date: Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Time: 5:30-8pm

Location: JJ’s Restaurant, Vancouver Community College (250 W. Pender)

Cost: Dinner by donation

2016 Splane Lecture: How Disability figures in progressive Social Policy

unacto1UNAC Vancouver, the World Federalists Movement in Canada, UBC School of Social Work, and the Liu Institute for Global Affairs will host the annual Richard B. Splane lecture on November 28, at 5:30 pm at the Liu Institute at UBC. The theme for this year is the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international human rights treaty and is intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

The public lecture this year will be given by Catherine Frazee O.C., who is a professor of Distinction in the Disabilities program at the Ryerson University. Frazee is a member of DAWN (Disabled Women’s Network Canada), has served on the Board of Directors of Canadian Abilities Foundation, and the Canadian Association of Community Living, chairing that organization’s Task force on Values and Ethics. She served as the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission from 1989 to 1992. In addition to several honorary degrees, she is an Officer of the Order of Canada for her advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities and as an advocate for social justice.

This year, the lecture will be co-sponsored with UBC Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship. This is a free public event but please RSVP here.

Day of the Girl Panel: Hosted at Byrne Creek

Making sense of an interconnected world. Together.

Parents and students of the Burnaby School District and general members of the public are invited to attend a panel event geared to build awareness about International Day of the Girl Child and all of its implications.

The free panel event will be held at Byrne Creek Community School at 7777 18th Street in Burnaby, BC on Wednesday, October 11th from 7pm until 9pm in the Centre for Dialogue. Pre-registration is recommended at globallearning@sd41.bc.ca in order to receive updates and reminders; please email the number of people in your party, with names and the school affiliation (if in Burnaby).

Confirmed panelists include Ariana Barer from WAVAW and Rosio Godomar from Educate Girls Network. Both are women with extensive experience and opinions on effective strategies to empower women and girls to not only become economically self-sufficient, but to be contributors to their community and challenge society to achieve gender…

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