Remembering Kofi Annan 1938 – 2018

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UNAC Vancouver acknowledges with sadness the death on Saturday 18th of August after a short illness, of the seventh UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. He was 80 years old.

Born in Ghana in 1938, Kofi Annan was educated in that country and in the US. He joined the United Nations, working in the New York mailroom, in the mid-sixties.

Kofi Annan served two 5-year terms as UN Secretary-General from January 1st, 1997 to December 31st, 2006. He was the UN’s first African Secretary-General and the first, and so far only, Secretary-General who rose through the ranks of the organization.

In a BBC interview on his 80th birthday in April 2018  Kofi Annan said that for him, his greatest success was the setting up of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, which for the first time set development targets, as well as evaluating and quantifying the development progress (or lack of it) of each of the UN’s 153 Member States.

For those of us who had the honour to serve in the UN under Secretary-General Annan, one of his greatest successes was in 2003 when a hopelessly divided Security Council was wrestling with the decision to endorse, or not, the American and British governments’ plans to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. After days of acrimonious public debate and behind the scenes diplomacy Kofi Annan ensured that the United Nations would not lend its diplomatic and moral support to what many people judged to be an illegal invasion.  The governments of George W Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq anyway but without UN diplomatic cover, and they never forgave Annan who continued to serve as UN S-G for another four years.

Kofi Annan was a realist who realized that the UN had very human faults. While acknowledging the failings of the organization – including some poor decisions taken by himself, he would always add that if the UN did not exist, the world would need to create something else like it.

For more information about Kofi Annan, visit the website of the Kofi Annan Foundation and the UN website. Kofi Annan’s autobiography, “Interventions,” was published in 2013.

 

George Somerwill

UNAC-Vancouver Board Member

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Ocean Plastic Pollution, A Global Crisis – What Can We Do?

turtle.jpgPhoto Credit: greenpeace.org

In September of last year, Kenya joined the growing list of countries to ban plastic bags. This recent ban bars the production, sale and use of all polythene plastic bags, with a fine of up to $40,000 or four years imprisonment for failure to act in accordance with the law (1). This ban was imposed by the government after identifying that the toxins from plastic bags were impeding the water sources within the country. Kenya isn’t the only country to realize the destructive effects of plastic bags, Bangladesh was one of the first countries to enforce a ban after their plastic bags started blocking drainage systems, causing serious flooding across the country. In 2008, China also joined in banning thin plastic bags and began charging more for thicker ones.

Through these very tangible experiences of plastic bags impeding society, global citizens have become more aware of a world that could be headed toward a plastic pollution nightmare. We see the pictures of plastic pileups on beaches and the islands of waste floating in oceans (the last episode of Planet Earth-Two was especially troubling), but what’s causing this catastrophe (2)? The popularized chants of, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and “Save the whales” inspire citizens to be more conscious waste consumers, but without knowing how our waste consumption is actually affecting the environment, how can we be motivated to make more permanent changes?

According to an article by Linda Nowlan, the Head of the Marine Program at West Coast Environmental Law in Vancouver, close to 90% of seabirds have plastics in their guts (3). This alarming statistic is merely a side effect of the main problem: up to 12 million tonnes of plastic is entering the ocean every year. To put that into perspective, that’s a garbage truck emptying out its contents into the ocean every minute Plastic accounts for more than 80% of marine litter, making it our primary debris in oceans (4). As more marine animals consume the plastics, the toxins are absorbed in their bodies and passed up the food chain– where humans will inevitably experience these detrimental health effects. While you may not be dumping your garbage straight into the ocean, you may be contributing to this pile up without even being aware of it.

Plastics are entering our ocean ecosystem through litter, drains, and landfills (5). When plastic bottles and plastic bags are littered on the streets or beaches, they are often blown into rivers or drains that flow into the ocean. In the case of drains, many people aren’t aware that the tiny microbeads in toothpaste and makeup products are made of plastic, and when they have washed down the sink they are being added to the plastic pile in the ocean. The industrial leakage in landfills is also one of the biggest problems for plastics. While we may believe that we are responsibly disposing of our plastics by putting them in the garbage, the reality is that many of our plastic bags and containers in landfills are blown away, and like the litter, end up in our oceans.

While global initiatives should continue to be pushed as they drastically help create a more sustainable, healthy environment, all Vancouver citizens are capable of helping by making practical contributions to the movement. A great place to start is by joining the 72,300 others who have signed the #CleanSeas pledge the UN launched in 2017. The pledge challenges citizens to reduce their use of plastic straws, water bottles, containers, bags and packaging by replacing them with reusable alternatives.

You can join the #CleanSeas pledge here: http://www.cleanseas.org/take-action

 

Another way to contribute to cleaner oceans is by responsibly disposing of your plastics. Instead of putting your plastic bags in the garbage where they’ll go to landfills and can take up to 1000 years to break down, you can recycle them at Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC) depots for free. There are two sites that help Vancouver citizens get clarity on what gets recycled, and where, that you can find in these links:

https://recyclebc.ca/what-can-i-recycle/#1489682007898-14c54374-fbb1

http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/what-goes-in-garbage-bins.aspx

 

UNAC-V, OceanWise, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Surfrider Vancouver and the City of Vancouver are organizing a World Oceans Day Cleanup and Celebration event on June 9th from 10:30am-2:00pm. Join us for a panel discussion addressing solutions to plastic pollution, an educational fair with like-minded organizations and a shoreline cleanup! You can find more information here: https://education.ocean.org/oceanmatters/calendar/event/36153

We hope to see you there!

 

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About Our Writer: 

Julianna Driedger

Julianna Driedger is currently a Media and Communications student at Trinity Western University (TWU). She is passionate about women’s advocacy and has been involved in the sexual misconduct policy reform for TWU. Julianna has led ideas for marketing campaigns in her University and is currently completing an internship in Communications at Lehigh Hanson. She looks forward to her semester as an intern in Parliament Hill, Ottawa in the Fall.

Dr. Patsy George

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UNAC Vancouver is pleased to announce that UNAC-V Past President and current Honorary Director of the branch, Ms. Patsy George, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws (LL.D) by the University of British Columbia.

Patsy George is an internationally recognized former social worker and ongoing activist who has devoted her long career to fighting for social justice both within Canada and internationally. She is a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia.

Please read and be inspired by Patsy’s acceptance speech, below.

Thank you to the Chancellor, President and Vice Chancellor, other distinguished guests on stage, Faculty, students, parents and friends. Let me express my deep appreciation to the original peoples of this land to have welcomed us all to their unceded territories.

Congratulations to each and every one of you graduating today and to your families and friends who are proud of you. I accept this honour with a great deal of emotion and gratitude and want to thank not only UBC but also Canada.

I arrived in Canada as an international student 58 years ago after a brief period in the US where I experienced a traumatic incident because of my colour. I am eternally grateful to the then president of that university in Texas who advised me to give Canada a chance, instead of packing my bags and returning to India which was my home at that time. She had a PhD from a Canadian University and convinced me that I would find like minded people in Canada who are progressive and who truly believe in equality and human rights .So today I thank her as well, a woman who had the wisdom to counsel a young 20 year old in tears, to move to Canada.

It is a Canada that embraced me and gave me opportunities to finish University, work as a public servant both at the Provincial and Federal levels, take on leading roles in the nongovernmental sector and contribute as a volunteer locally, nationally and globally. Canada gave me opportunities to build on the already existing good will in our communities in different parts of this great country. It offered me room to grow and fit in and offer my talents to bring people and resources together to work for an even better Canada where diversity is respected and celebrated. Where else would a young foreign student with average interest in music and reading become so passionately involved in listening to Western classical music and opera and later on get doors opened to serve as a Trustee of one of the largest public libraries in Canada! Cultural minorities and people in the margins of society are guaranteed rights in our Human Rights Codes, and in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, unlike the early 1960’s USA I left behind.

Canada gave me opportunities to represent her overseas at various UN conferences, Peace and Social Development Forums organized by the women’s community and my own profession of Social Work. I was able to share with the world the nature of Canadian Multiculturalism with pride and confidence. My colleagues and I, at the provincial government level were able to develop racism free structures in our bureaucracies and support community based anti racism programmes. I shall remain grateful to the Government of Canada for giving me the job as a Commissioner representing Canada to determine eligibility of refugee claimants and welcoming them from many parts of the world to this country. One can count on Canada to provide opportunities for such experiences whether you were born here or chose Canada as your home as I did.

Even though we  in Canada have reasons to feel proud of our Human Rights legislations, the Charter and various UN treaties we have adopted , we still have a lot of work to do to live up to the  expectations of the UN Declaration of Human Rights , which a Canadian helped to write, as we are proud to note. As yet we are a long way from the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples recommended to us by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

While Canada does provide opportunities and the environment, in which we have the potential to achieve the said goals, we need to remain committed to furthering the goals as stated in those declarations.  The idea of Canada can only sustain itself through a symbiosis between people and purpose, through resonance and resolve of its pluralistic fabric that continue to evolve through its respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples and the rest of us settlers from around the world . It is a challenge for this graduating class, together with our families, neighbours and friends. We must continue to work together for equality, peace and justice in Canada and around the world.

As human beings, we need to experience a sense of belonging which I have felt in this country and among my colleagues and friends working together to eliminate poverty, racism, sexism, violence against women and children and all other prejudices and ill conceived notions of gender , about people with varying abilities and about the aging populations in our communities. We are interdependent locally and globally. Let us prove to the world that Kipling was mistaken when he expressed the sentiments that “East is East and West is West and never the Twain shall meet”. We can and we have brought the world closer and smaller in Canada by bringing diverse people and a diversity of ideas together.

Let me emphasize. Seeking to be part of change –social change – means one must become that change. Social activism is not what others do. It gives you meaning in life .Belonging and valuing others, serving something beyond yourself helps you to connect to a higher reality. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “be the change you want to see in this world”

Whether you spend your future choosing a career in business, take on public service, become a politician or diplomat, create art and music or serve your fellow citizens as a teacher, a nurse, a social worker or a technician or working with others to keep the planet alive for the future generations, the key to feeling fulfilled is to recognize the urgent and persistent question in life. What are you doing for others? In other words recognize our common humanity and work towards strengthening those bonds. That is the ideal Canada is built on.

If it were possible for the president of my former US University to be here today, she would smile and remind me that it is a good idea to listen to your elders and teachers, at least sometimes, while you are seeking your own truths and finding your own way in this complicated world.

May each of you be blessed with opportunities to fulfill your life’s potential, seek the truth; and contribute to the betterment of humanity, no matter where or how you pursue your career goals. Follow the advice of Ferdinand Magellan, one of the Portuguese explorers, “the sea is dangerous, and its storms terrible but these obstacles have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore”.

All of you who are graduating today must thank this institution, the University of British Columbia for providing the tools, role models, inspiration and values to go out into the world and fulfill your dreams. It is my prayer that you will find yourselves as global citizens, dedicated to creating peaceful and just communities and toward creating ONE WORLD.

Martin Luther King told us the following: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”. Let that message ring in your ears whenever you are called upon to take on responsibilities. Congratulations to each and every one of you.

Patsy George, May 24, 2018

UNAC-V Sponsors DOXA Film: The Cleaners

THE_CLEANERS_photoUNA-Vancouver is pleased to be sponsoring the May 9th screening of The Cleaners, a documentary film about the unseen impact of outsourcing the ethics of social media on workers, democracy and the role of technology in our lives. The Wednesday, May 9th screening is part of the Justice Forum Series and will include a post-film discussion with a selected voice from the field.

Directed by Hans Block (Germany) and Mortiz Riesewieck (Brazil), their work starts with investigations and end up as striking, complex narrations. In The Cleaners, they have revealed the dark underbelly of our globalized social media culture and the people employed to determine what is unacceptable.

Tickets are on sale now: Buy Tickets.

Venues for screenings of this documentary include: Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 1.42.52 PM

 

 

 

To see other films included in DOXA’s 2018 program: See Festival Schedule. DOXA runs from May 3rd to May 13th. Watch the trailer below, and join us on May 9th.

Invitation to AGM 2018

 

AGM_poster_3The Vancouver Branch of the UN Association in Canada (UNAC-V) welcomes all members of the local branch to attend the Annual General Meeting taking place Monday, April 9th from 7pm until 8pm with refreshments at 7pm. The meeting will convene at the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSBC) building located at 2610 Victoria Drive in Vancouver near the Broadway Skytrain Station.

We believe that the work of UNAC-V is very important: ensuring Canadians understand and support the goals and ideals of the United Nations. Please continue to support our work in sharing UN goals and achievements with Canadians of all ages.

2018 Dr. Richard B. Splane Lecture in Social Policy

The Dr. Richard Splane Lecture on Social Policy is an annual free public lecture in celebration of the noted accomplishments of Dick Splane, former Director of the School of Social Work at UBC and UNA-Canada patron.

This year’s guest lecturer, Dr. David Piachaud, will speak on the topic of “Poverty, Basic Income, and Social Policy.” The talk will take place on Thursday, 15 March from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at The Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, located between the C.K. Choi building and Nitobe Gardens, a short walk from the Liu Institute. Please find a map here.

Event registration is required. Register here

About the talk:

Professor Piachaud’s lecture will review the causes, extent and evolution of poverty in advanced economies and the benefits and limitations of social security responses and, the growing interest in a basic income approach. Basic Income will then be described, as will confusions about its name, its objectives, its level, and its relation to other social services. Other consideration of basic income will include the justice of conditionality; individualized simplicity; redistributive efficiency; and, political feasibility. Finally, Professor Piachaud will conclude his lecture with consideration of the broader consequences of poverty and inequality for health, education and social stability – and the implications of these consequences for Basic Income and social policy generally.

Bio:

David Piachaud taught at the London School of Economics from 1970 to 2016 and was Professor of Social Policy 1988 to 2016. He is now Emeritus Professor of Social Policy and an Associate of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion and of the Indian Observatory. He was Social Policy Advisor in the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit (1974-79) and has been Consultant to the European Commission, the ILO, the OECD and the Chinese Government. He has lectured in 20 countries. He has written papers and books on children, poverty, social security, social exclusion and social policy. Publications include: Causes of Poverty, HMSO, 1978 (with Richard Layard and Mark Stewart); Understanding Social Exclusion. Oxford University Press, 2002, (editor with John Hills and Julian LeGrand); Poverty in Britain: The Impact of Government Policy since 1997, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2003 (with Holly Sutherland and Tom Sefton); One Hundred Years of Poverty and Policy. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2004 (with Howard Glennerster, John Hills and Jo Webb)’ Making Social Policy Work Policy Press, 2007 (editor with John Hills and Julian Le Grand); Colonialism and Welfare, Edward Elgar, 2011, and Social Protection, Economic Growth and Social Change: Goals, Issues and Trajectories in China, India, Brazil and South Africa, Edward Elgar, 2013, (editor with James Midgley).

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This event is co-hosted by the UBC School of Social Work, the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the United Nations Association of Greater Vancouver.

This event is now sold out. To be added to the waitlist, please email your name and any guest name(s) to lindsay.marsh@ubc.ca

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Inequality: A Danger to Public Health

At the time of this post, it has been revealed that only six people today have as much wealth as half of the global population. Inequality is getting worse in Western countries and is one of the leading concerns of public health as numerous studies over the past decade have concluded.

Work published by American Psychological Association (APA) shows that having low socioeconomic status increases the risk for mental illness. What this means is that poverty, housing unaffordability, and unemployment increases one’s chance of mental illness.

One of the greatest determinants of a person’s health is their income. Researchers Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson found that a 25-year gap exists in life expectancy between the rich and poor in the city of London. In 2014 in the UK, “the richest 10 percent [had] 850 times the wealth of the poorest 10 percent. As economic inequality has risen, so too has health inequality.”

Another study at the University of California, Davis shows that low socioeconomic status also increases the risk of heart disease.

Researchers at Washington University, St. Louis found out that poverty is linked to an increase in the risk of depression in children and also changes in brain connectivity. While another study based on 63 countries revealed that in the year 2009, around 46,000 suicides were related to unemployment. Therefore, regardless of one’s age group, inequality has shown to be linked to public health problems through one form or another.

What these works ultimately reveal is that rise in income and wealth inequality is a danger to public health and should be treated as such. From cardiovascular diseases to mental illnesses, inequality plays a vital role in a society in forming these health concerns.  

Canadian Inequality:

Canada is not immune to inequality and if you look at the data over the last 25 years, inequality is, in fact, rising in the country.

“In terms of inequality, Vancouver joins the club with Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal as cities where the gap between rich and poor is widening”. Toronto has seen an increase in poverty throughout many of its suburbs while there is a shrinkage of the middle class. According to Dr. Hulchanski, Vancouver has seen similar trends but the difference is because of inflow of foreign capital rather than high-paying jobs that are available in Toronto.

A recent article by Vancouver Sun noted that British Columbia, in fact, has “the second-highest poverty rate in Canada, with a large number of the poor working full-time.” Many of the jobs that the middle class depend on have either been completely eliminated or reduced through the rise of automation and instead, people have to settle for service sector jobs that pay lower than what they have been used to.

When we compare Canadian median total income before tax from 2005 to 2015, we see that there was only a 12.7% increase for the middle class whereas the top 10% had their income increase 16.4%.

Looking at the CEO incomes in Canada, it was revealed on January 2nd, 2018 that top executives are making 8% more than last year whereas the average Canadian is not even making 1% more. “Canada’s CEO pay broke a new record in 2016, with the 100 top-paid chief executives of publicly traded companies netting $10.4 million on average, or 209 times the average income” of Canadians.  

These statistics all point out to why there is an increasing inequality in Canada over the last two decades and ultimately a rise in public health risks.

Worker Co-operatives:

Inequality is a structural problem, meaning that a few policy changes or regulations will not change the trend on the whole. For example, more wealth transfer through welfare programs will help Canadians in the short term but it still will not tackle the problem of systematic inequality. Rather, it will only transfer funds from one group to another with the threat of public health risks still in the picture through uncertainties of whether or not these programs or policies will remain with future governments.

There needs to be an innovative approach to tackle inequality and one of those approaches could be through support of worker co-operatives in Canada. Worker cooperatives allow for people in a company to manage profits democratically. Instead of having CEOs who as stated before on average make 209 times more than the average Canadian worker or for example decide the employment of their works by moving the jobs overseas, the workers can manage the company themselves. This not only tackles inequality but has a positive impact on climate change, development of the local community and ultimately public health.

CWCF is an organization in Canada devoted to supporting and strengthening of worker co-operatives in Canada. For more information visit their website: http://canadianworker.coop

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have listed reduction of inequality and eradication of poverty as two of their goals. By the year 2030, the target set for SDGs intends to “progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average” while by the same year “reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions”.

These goals are certainly doable given the level of global technological advancement. However, implementation of policies to combat inequality and eliminate poverty requires an active voice and leadership from all members of the community including the business sector.

Worker co-operatives as mentioned are one way of making sure that companies are run democratically, thereby reducing inequality and poverty on the whole. Other potential policies would be to set up vertical farming in different parts of our community, which would allow for distribution of abundant levels of food for the members of that community.

 

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Vertical Gardens in Shanghai (Photo: Business Insider)

These are just a few examples of what possible policies can be implemented. Many other policies and progressive ideas can be thought of to combat inequality and poverty in order to significantly lower the dangers of public health in our society.

Written By UNA Vancouver blogger, Sasan Fouladirad.
Read more by Sasan

3rd December: Celebration of People with Diverse Abilities

3rd December: Celebration of People with Diverse Abilities

Today marks the worldwide celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly resolution 47/3 in 1992, to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life (1). Persons with Disabilities as defined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)  are those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments that, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (2). According to the World Health Organization, over one billion people about 15% of the worlds population have some form of disability. Their optimal level of functioning and development is dependent on the dynamic interaction between their health conditions and social factors such as attitudes, institutions, and laws (3).

The theme guiding this years celebration is Transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for all. The underlying principle of this theme is to leave no one behind and empowers people with disabilities to be active contributors to society. This is based on transformative changes enumerated in the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are meant to address all areas of development and equality, and include disability components in several of them aiming to strengthen the resilience of people with disability by providing full access to justice, health care services, infrastructure, inclusive education, accessible communities and sustainable economic growth through employment (4).

As we reflect on these goals, a question that comes to mind is, what is the contribution of our nation so far in achieving an inclusive and accessible society? As Canada’s first Minister dedicated to Persons with Disabilities, the Honorable Carla Qualtrough commented this year Our country is a leader on the world stage, with a very robust human rights system. Weve made great strides in fostering an inclusive society for people with disabilities. But there is still work to be done (5). Moreover, this year, April 3rd and 4th marked a historical moment for Canadians. For the first time, the UN CRPD committee reviewed Canadas implementation of the CRPD-an important tool for ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to economic, cultural and social opportunities. This opportunity allowed Canada to underline the countrys progress, as well as discuss areas for improvement in fostering an inclusive and accessible society.

Now, moving forward, as we think of attaining the highest levels of an inclusive society- one that defends the rights and dignity of all citizens and empowers every person with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of social, political, economic and cultural life- what can we do as responsible citizens? Well, as mentioned in the CRPD, individual citizens, the government, persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, academic institutions and the private sector need to work together to achieve the sustainable development goals but more importantly, the need of the hour is for all of us and not only the people in the disability community, to view issues through a disability lens, rather than observing specific issues as only issues for the people with disabilities. For example, the way we protect the rights of victims disabled by violence can improve how we take care of all citizens who are vulnerable to violence.  Furthermore, improving services to persons with disabilities, can improve institutional capacity for all citizens, both now and into the future. Thus, as responsible citizens, I ask that we all take initiatives- not only today, but a 365 day challenge- to listen to fellow citizens with disabilities, and work with them in advancing solutions towards an inclusive society. Ultimately, diversity is the strength of our nation and by increasing the participation of people with all abilities, we will create a stronger Canada.

  1. https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-3-december/idpd2017.html (accessed 11/27/17)
  2. http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf (accessed 11/27/17)
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/icd/icfoverview_finalforwho10sept.pdf (accessed 11/28/17)
  4. https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/about-us/sustainable-development-goals-sdgs-and-disability.html (accessed 11/28/17)
  5. http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/minister-qualtrough-on-canadas-appearance-before-the-un-committee-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-617862713.html (accessed 11/29/17)
  6. image citation: http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/(accessed 11/29/17)

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Post written by blog writter Michelle Chakraborti

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Michelle 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. Michelle’s 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. Michelle 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!

2017 John Gibbard Award Recap

A signing of the hymn, Love Will Guide Us, marked the beginning of the 2017 John Gibbard Award Ceremony, held on United Nations Day at the Unitarian Church in Vancouver. The United Nations Association of Canada, Vancouver branch (UNAC-V) awarded this year’s prize to Ms. Akanksha Thakur, an exeplary case of a young person living the values of the United Nations and making a positive contribution in the their community.

The John Gibbard Memorial Award is presented annually by the UNAC-V Canada in recognition and memory of John Gibbard who was a supporter of the League of Nations from its creation in 1919, in the wake of the First World War. When the league ceased to exist, John Gibbard continued to support the ideals upon which the league had been founded. After the formation of United Nations post war, John Gibbard became an active member of the UNAC and was dedicated to involving youth in the creation of a better world for all.

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L to R: George Somerwill (Co-President), Akanksha Thakur (John Gibbard Award Recipient), Rev. Epperson, Greg Neumann (Co-President)

United Nations Day occurs each year on October 24th, and is the ideal time to take a moment to reflect on the principles and documents that are central to the ideals United Nations, including the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the other core treaties, conventions, protocols and covenants that together work to protect and promote the life, dignity, safety and freedom for all human beings.

This year’s award recipient, Ms Thakur is a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University (SFU). Ms Thakur has been instrumental in helping to build an inclusive curriculum and increased intercultural competence in SFU’s English as an additional language and career support programs. Thakur has also taught in public schools in Indonesia and was recently chosen to be Youth Ambassador for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. She is on Board of Directors of Pratham Education Foundation, an NGO dedicated to educating underprivileged children in India. On receiving the award, Akanksha shared with the audience her story of moving to Vancouver from Mumbai, India 10 years earlier and how after expereriencing a racically motivated incident,  ultimately motivated  her to take action to stop racial injustices from occuring. Ms Thakur believes in being an agent of change (as her achievements suggests), and in the importance of living a passionate and non-judgemental life. She thanked UNAC for recognising her accomplishments.

It is with these principles in mind that the UN Association in Canada, Vancouver branch operates; much of what we see in the efforts of Akanksha Thakur reflect the UNAC-V and John Gibbard’s ideals. Congratulations to Ms.Thakur on all of her accomplishments to date!

The event concluded with the hymn, We, the Peoples of The United Nations:

We, The Peoples of The United Nations,

Determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,

To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, the the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small,

To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends to practice tolerance and to live together in peace as good neighbours,

To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security,

To insure that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest,

To employ international machinery in the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all people,

Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.

Thank you to the Unitarian Church and all those present at the event, and to Miss Thakur for her work in the Metro Vancouver area.


Post written by UNAC-V blog writer, Tania Arora.

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Tania holds a B.com (Honours), from the University of Delhi, India and is currently pursuing a PGD in Financial Analysis at Douglas College. She has international experience in Russia & Singapore and national experience working with private firms including the Hindustan Times, The Indian Economist, The National Book Trust of India, Ministry of HRD & Make A Difference NGO. She was also associated with AIESEC in Delhi IIT & The Placement Cell of her college. A leader in creativity & innovation with strong leadership, corporate & organizational and communication skills, she is ready to set her feet firmly in Canada and to work with United Nations Association of Canada, Vancouver Branch.

Gender Inequality in Canada – Lessons from Iceland

Where Does Canada Rank?

On September 19th, former Conservative MP and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, referred to the Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as a “climate Barbie” on Twitter (see the exchange here). McKenna responded by saying, “We need more women in politics [and] your sexist comments won’t stop us.” When a right-wing reporter used the same name-calling tactic, Mckenna again had to fight back (and she doesn’t regret it!) As these examples suggest, gender inequality still exists Canada, despite our reputation as one of the best countries in the world to live in. If you attended the UNA-V Day of the Girl Event last month in Burnaby, you will have already taken part in the important conversation that needs to be had on this topic.

When it comes to living standards, Canada ranks in the top ten globally based on the Human Development Index (HDI). In terms of seeing how progressive a country is socially, Canada ranks 6th in the world based on the Social Progress Index (SPI). According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), three of the top five cities in the world for livability are in Canada (Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary). However, when it comes to measuring and comparing gender inequality, Canada does not rank as high as it does in other categories. Comparing Iceland, the most “gender equal” country to Canada shows this.

For most of the last decade, Iceland has been ranked number one in Global Gender Gap Report, a report that the World Economic Forum publishes each year measuring gender equality of 144 countries based on combination of four categories (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment).

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 9.58.25 PMIn the 2016 report, Canada was ranked 35th globally with a score of 0.731 (0.000 meaning complete inequality and 1.000 meaning complete equality). In the new report for the year 2017, Canada moved up 19 places to rank 16th globally. The biggest improvement since last year was in the category of Political Empowerment (measures the gap between men and women in the parliamentary and ministry positions) where Canada moved up 29 places. However, if we consider all categories together and when we look at the data over the last twenty four years from wage gaps to promotions in the workplace, Canada has shown little improvement relative to other major industrialized countries. In fact, the highest ranking that Canada ever achieved since the publications of the report started in 2006, was in the same year where they ranked 14th globally. The Globe and Mail wrote an article regarding the persistent problem of gender inequality in Canada and it pointed out, “If the trend isn’t addressed, long-term drawbacks for our economy will be unavoidable”.

As we will see in the data presented in this article, much more has to be done in order to combat gender inequality and why a stronger progressive agenda needs to be put forward, similarly to what has happened in Iceland since 1975.

1975 Icelandic Women’s Strike

On October 24th, 1975 Icelandic women decided to go on strike and raise their concerns about unequal pay and labour rights for women in the country. They did not go to work that day and stopped all their normal daily activities. With ninety percent of women taking part in this protest, it meant that public services and industries such as the post offices, hospitals, schools, newspapers and more were either shut down or operated at reduced capacity. From facing relatively low wages to bias and discrimination in the workforce and in the political atmosphere, Icelandic women started a revolution that started a pathway for Iceland to become the most gender equal country in the world today. One of the very first examples of the success of the protests was when Vidís Finnbogadóttir became  the first female president to be elected to office just five years later in 1980.

Strike

 Icelandic women protesting in Reykjavík on October 24th, 1975, Photo: Loftur Ásgeirsson   Vidís Finnbogadóttir, became the first female president of Iceland

Vidís Finnbogadóttir

Comparing Iceland’s Gender Inequality to that of Canada

Child-Care Costs

Looking at the cost of child care in Iceland and Canada provides a better understanding of the differences between the two countries with regards to favourable policies for women. 

On October of 2016, Global News published a report that compared child care costs across different provinces in Canada. Due to unique universal child care system of Quebec, cities in the province had the least expensive child care costs with an average of $2088 per year. Whereas in Manitoba, the second least expensive city, the cost would rise substantially to $7812 per year. According to OECD, in Canada, families pay close to 25% of their total income on child care and for single parents it goes above 30%. These numbers rank amongst the highest in the industrial world. Consequently, there are families and single parents, most notably women, who have to stay home and look after the children. With the lack of incentive to stay in the workforce, there is less income available for families or single parents and less opportunities for their children to prosper and participate both in school and also after school activities.

By comparison, in Iceland, the cost for both parents and single parents is just around 5% of total income.

Labour Force and Workplace

We see tangible results of gender inequality when we look at the workplace itself. Women in Canada outnumber men when it comes to higher education with close to 60% of postsecondary students in the country being female. This number is also the highest in any OECD country. Nevertheless, when it comes to promotion in the workplace, it’s men who dominate. In a report 2017 report by McKinsey Global Institute, ‘The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada’, it was revealed that in Canada women are 30% less likely to be promoted from entry level to manager, 60% less likely to go from director to vice-president and only make 15% of CEO’s in the country.

In 2010 in Iceland, a law was passed that made it obligatory for companies to have at least 40% of either gender on their boards. This would not only allow for more women to enter and stay in the workforce but inspire the next generation of women to not limit their career choices and have an understanding that they deserve to be part of a work environment as much as any man.

Reykjavik

Reykjavík, Iceland

According to OECD, in the year 2015, gender wage gap in Canada was near 20% (difference between full-time male and female median wages and then dividing the number by the male median wages) and was high when compared to other OECD countries and also higher than the OECD average as well. In 2005, the gender wage gap in Canada was near 21%, which means that improvements in this area has remained stagnant for the last decade. Based on the rate of improvement in gender wage gap in Canada over the last two decades, it will take close to fifty years for Canada to reach Iceland’s 2015 rate. Even though Iceland is below the OECD average by around 5%, they are still continuing to improve gender wage gap due to their robust political and cultural foundations regarding importance of gender equality in their country.

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In early 2017, a legislature was put forward in Iceland’s parliament that will make it mandatory for companies, both private and public, to provide proof of unbiased wage pay practices to employees. Companies that are believed to show discrimination will ultimately be penalized.

When it comes to female participation rate in the workforce, Iceland leads the OECD countries with 80% females participating in the workforce. Canada has improved over the last few decades going from 45% in 1975 to around 60% today. This is actually a decent number for Canada since the OECD average is around 50%. Yet, the rate of improvement in gender inequality in Canada has unfortunately proven to be a slow one and over the last decade, Canada has continued to fall in the Global Gender Gap Index rankings, going from being 14th in the world in 2006 to 35th in 2016. Therefore, much work has to be done and still many unresolved matters need to be addressed including gender wage gaps, childcare costs, gender discrimination in the workplace, unpaid workers and more.

In 2015, Trudeau formed the first ever gender balanced cabinet in Canada with 15 out of 31 members being women (48%). This was a radical change since the cabinet of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, contained only 12 women out of 39 members (30%). The message here sent by the cabinet was simple. It was not about saying we need exactly 50% of each gender but rather about the fact that women are more than capable of holding positions that men have dominated in holding throughout the history of this country and that the cabinet is for all Canadians. In many cases it had been decades since a woman had been given the position. For example, since the position of chief of staff was created in 1987, 15 people have been given the position with 13 of them being men. This means that Katie Telford the current chief of staff, is only the second woman to have held the position of chief of staff.  

The balanced cabinet was a positive step forward for Canada but as seen with the statistics and comparisons to other major industrialized countries, evidently more needs to be done. We can look at countries such as Iceland and examine the successful policies that they have come up with over the years while also look for and create a stronger innovative vision in order to combat gender inequality in our country because not only is it economically beneficial but more importantly, morally just.

Written By UNA Vancouver blogger, Sasan Fouladirad

Sasan
Having recently received a Bachelor’s and a Masters in Economics from UBC and Queen’s University, two of the top three Economics departments in Canada, Sasan decided to spend one year outside of academia and be active in his community including writing for UNA Vancouver before returning to school for a third degree with a focus this time on Public Policy and International Affairs.

Having extensively followed the works of Economist Richard D. Wolff and Former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis since his time at UBC, Sasan started to realize how flawed the current global economic system is. As a result, economic injustice, global income and wealth inequality, global economic recessions and gender inequality are areas that Sasan has passion for and wants to continue learning more about. Sasan is currently a college instructor, teaching Mathematics and Business while also teaching students of Grades 1 to 12 at variety of other locations in Vancouver. Aside from his studies, Sasan has won three silver medals in Karate and three gold medals in Chess in the province of British Columbia and continues to train during his free time while also holding seminars throughout Vancouver for people who want to learn.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

From their cuisine to language to their sport, I love everything that Italy has to offer and one day hope to visit the country again.

 

Athletes as Agents of Resistance and Change – November 29th @ The Liu Institute

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“Khartoon” provided by Khalid Albaih. Follow @khalidalbaih and read more about the artist [HERE].
When professional NFL football player, Colin Kaepernick, began supporting the Black Lives Matter movement by refusing to stand during the national anthems before games, he slowly ignited a wave of athlete activism in the United States. That movement exploded this fall in response to criticism from President Donald Trump when he called the athletes who knelt during the anthem “sons of bitches.” Athlete activism is far from a new development, with Muhammad Ali and Tommie Smith serving as prominent examples; however, in today’s divisive political climate and with the advent of social media, athletes have been provided with an unprecedented platform to express their political views. As a result, UNA-Vancouver in partnership with the UBC School of Kinesiology, the Centre for Sport and SustainabilityBasketball BC, and ViaSport BC are proud to bring you, “Athletes as Agents of Resistance and Change: Where are the Canadian Colin Kaepernicks?

This panel event will explore questions in four main areas: (1) How have athletes historically participated in activism and resistance movements? (2) What are the implications of both participation and non-participation? (3) Where are the athlete activists in Canada? (4) How can coaches, parents, and athletes become more politically engaged if they choose to do so?

This is a FREE PUBLIC event; however, seating is limited so please RSVP via our Eventbrite page.

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

5:30-7:00 pm – Panel event

7:00-8:00 pm – Reception

Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC Point Grey Campus

Unceded and traditional Coast Salish territory of the Musqueam Peoples

Email questions to liv.yoon@ubc.ca

Watch the LIVESTREAM Re-cap [HERE]

Panelists

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Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_) is a writer, public speaker and sports activist who focuses on Muslim women, and the intersections of racism and misogyny in sports. Her work has been featured and discussed in various media outlets. She is part of the “Burn It All Down” feminist sports podcast team. When she isn’t watching soccer, she drinks coffee as tool of resistance. Shireen is currently working on her first book. She lives in Mississauga with her family and her cat.

Read Shireen’s Vice Sports critique about the Pittsburgh Penguin’s accepting the White House invitation  [HERE].

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Tracie Léost (@tracieleost) is a young Metis athlete and Indigenous activist. Now a scholarship student at the University of Regina, Tracie’s journey started when she took a stand and used her running shoes to give silence a voice. In August of 2015, Tracie ran 115 kilometres in just 4 days to raise money and awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada (MMIW). In 4 days, the MMIW Journey of Hope raised $6,101.00 for a local organization that helps the affected families and victims. Two years later, the MMIW Journey of Hope is a global conversation. Tracie is a role model to others as she travels the country sharing her story to end violence against women. Tracie is a We Day youth speaker and takes pride in her community. She is a coach and mentor for four hockey teams at Ehrlo Sport Venture. This program gives inner city and underprivileged youth with the opportunity to participate in sport at no cost. She spends her evenings at the outdoor hockey rink regardless of if it’s -40 or the middle of a blizzard. Tracie believes in the importance of providing youth with a safe place, and loves being a positive influence to those involved.

Tracie has been doubted most of her life enduring stereotypes as both Indigenous and female. Although she has been breaking barriers in her everyday life through sport and activism, Tracie wants to set an example for others. She wants to share her message with others so they know they are capable of anything and everything. As Tracie always says, “I’m just an ordinary kid who went out and chased my dreams regardless of what people said and believed I was capable of”.

Read more about Tracie’s activism [HERE].

cropped-PatriciaVertinskywebDr. Patricia Vertinsky is a Distinguished University Scholar and Professor of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia.  She is a social and cultural historian working across the fields of women’s and gender history with a special interest in physical culture, physical education and modern dance. Her work focuses on the study of normalizing disciplinary regimes in kinesiology, sport science and physical culture and the social, political, and scientific context in which they have been conceived and promoted. She is particularly interested in regimes of risk and the gendered body in relation to patterns of physical culture and globalization in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Dr. Vertinsky is an International Fellow of the American Academy of Kinesiology, Past-President of the North American Society of Sport History, and past Vice-President of the International Society for Physical Education and Sport History.

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Elisabeth Walker-Young (@elisabethwy) is currently Manager of Programs at Canucks Autism Network. Her philosophy is to demystify the barriers, and lived experiences of those marginalized in society and therefore in sport to educate and equip sport leaders with tools, desire and awareness to address issues and affect change.

A Paralympian with 13 years on the Canadian Paralympic Swim Team, Elisabeth retired in 2005 having represented Canada at 4 Summer Paralympic Games from Barcelona 1992 through to Athens 2004. Throughout her swimming career, she broke numerous Canadian and World records, bringing home 6 Paralympic medals (3 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze) and was team captain for more than half of her career.

Elisabeth Walker-Young was Canada’s Assistant Chef de Mission for the London 2012 Paralympic Games and is Chef de Mission for the Canadian Team for the Toronto 2015 ParaPanAm Games. Bringing an athlete-centred perspective to this core leadership role, contributing to the planning and delivery of operations in Toronto, proudly supporting all members of Team Canada both on and off the field of play.

Her contribution to promoting the Paralympic Movement was enormous. In London, Walker-Young did hundreds of media interviews and also served as CTV’s English language commentator for the broadcasts of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and acted as a liaison with the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s (CPC) corporate and government partners during the Games. As a result of her role for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Elisabeth Walker-Young’s was named to the

Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport (CAAWS) Most Influential Women List and was also a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, recognized as an athlete and builder.

Personally, Elisabeth, a newish mom, enjoys teaching spin classes and sharing her love and knowledge of an active healthy lifestyle with her class participants. Elisabeth loves to cook, read and be creative. A resident of North Vancouver, Elisabeth loves hiking, walking, running and snowshoeing in the trails with her husband Ian, her daughter and dog.

Moderator

Courtney Szto (@courtneyszto) is a PhD candidate at SFU in the School of Communication and the Past-President of UNA-Vancouver. Her doctoral research explores the intersections of “race”, citizenship, and sport in Canada.

In partnership with

 

 

 

 

Akanksha Thakur – 2017 Gibbard Award Recipient

Each year, UNA-Vancouver recognizes an outstanding youth or youth group dedicated to achieving the goals of the United Nations. We are pleased to announce 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.

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. Michelle 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

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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

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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

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.

Come to DOXA: ‘The Cleaners’

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 12.56.22 PMIn 1998, Vancouver gained DOXA, a non-profit society dedicated to presenting innovative documentaries to local audiences. The Vancouver branch of the UN Association in Canada (UNAC_V) is proud to have sponsored films for the Justice Forum category of this festival since 2012.

This year, UNAC-V has chosen, “The Cleaners” to support. A film about social media and its hidden secrets, it is especially relevant to global issues when considering recent news about the impact of disinformation and subsequent national, even international events. The film will be screened Wednesday, May 9th at 6pm. The location is 149 West Hastings Street in the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Please visit representatives of UNAC-V at their table located on the 3rd floor near the entrance of theatre! We would love to see you there. We are always looking for supporters to join which would assist us financially in supporting important local events such as DOXA.

Social media breathes life into democracy; Arab Spring and #BlackLivesMatter comes to mind. Unfortunately, more sinister forces are cultivated using social media, sometimes consciously and often inadvertently,  but seemingly unabated. A United Nations report has blamed social media for genocide in Myanmar, with concern about “high levels of hate speech…particularly on social media”. Facebook has declared it has clear rules against hate speech and the incitement of violence, and that efforts have been improved to keep it off the platform. It’s what makes up these efforts at cleaning up Facebook that is the subject of this DOXA film, “The Cleaners”.

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. In honour of this most important international document let us consider the ways that human rights are breached, and then support the UN in prevention and eradication efforts of these breaches. By supporting and joining the UN Association in Canada, you would be contributing to this important process of education and action. (Tip: Use the Google Chrome browser to see the online form.)