Post-2015 Global Policy Agenda: What you need to know

unacto1Establishing a Post 2015 Global Policy Agenda: Prospects & Challenges

·   The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- which will be coming to an end this year, were significant in bringing international leaders together to address the numerous dimensions of extreme poverty.
·   To be successful, a post-2015 global policy framework must move beyond the MDGs, incorporating the lessons learned (positive and negative).
·   Opinions through various forums emphasize “people centered, planet sensitive development” (United Nations, Generally Assembly)
·   The Sustainable Development Goals are the most likely outcome of the post-2015 process.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 12.26.59 PMBackground: The Millennium Development Goals
In 2000 the United Nations established eight goals which would serve as the global focal point for human development efforts for the next fifteen years. They are: 1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, 2) achieve universal primary education, 3)promote gender equality and empower women, 4) reduce child mortality, 5) improve maternal health, 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, 7)ensure environmental sustainability and 8) develop a global partnership for development. Based on evidence formed decision-making, the goals were accompanied with 21 targets and 60 indicators, which sought to quantifiably determine their progress (MDG Report, 2014). Some of these targets have been met. Globally, we have witnessed a 50% reduction in poverty, greater access to drinking water, decreased tuberculosis and malaria, increased political participation amongst women and greater primary school attendance for girls (MDG Report 2014, 4). However, many have come up short, especially efforts to reduce child and maternal mortality, decrease developing country debt burdens, and lower co2 emissions (MDG Report, 2014).

Positive lessons from the MDGs
The Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda regarded the MGDs as a remarkable success. The MD’s highlighted the importance of addressing poverty and human well being, and were able to bring a diverse range of actors to the table, resulting in increased financial commitments (Caliari in Fukoda Parr & Yamin, 2013). Aid swelled from $51 to $132 billion between 2000 and 2012 (Pritchett, 2014). Additionally, the use of quantitative targets were important, in order to measure the progress of the goals.

Shortcomings of the MDGs
Many criticisms have been brought forward against the MDGs. Quantification has been challenged as being a major flaw of the MDGs, suggesting that numerical targets are deficient for the complexity of the issues at hand. By favouring quantification, difficult to measure ambitions were often ignored (such as democracy, migrant rights, violence against women, etc.) (North-South Institute, 2014). Second, the low standard of the goals has been challenged. These critics claim that the standards of which the goals are based, wrongfully assume that there is threshold of which one can cross to improve one’s well- being, i.e from extreme poverty (less than $1.25) a day, to poverty (Pritchett, 2014). Third, MGDs have been accused of being elite-driven, and favouring Western interests. For instance, some have noted that Africa was set up for failure by the MDGs, as several of the targets were much more difficult for the continent to achieve (Easterly, 2009, p. 34). Lastly, it has been suggested that the MDGs did not accelerate development, but rather results were consistent with projections based on initiatives established prior to the MDGS, perhaps the MDGs only helped sustain these improvements (Steven, 2013).

Policy-Making Timetable & Stakeholders
Both the successes and failures of the MDGs have had a significant impact on the prospects for a post-2015 development agenda. The call for an inclusive approach has resulted in outreach by the United Nations and civil-society. In addition to collecting citizen input through My World, an online vote taking mechanism established by the UN, numerous conferences and initiatives including the 2010 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, the Rio+20 conference, the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals and the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda have occurred. Notably, a “people centred, planet-sensitive” coherent policy approach has been emphasized across all platforms. Based on all of this input, the intergovernmental negotiation will occur in July this year, followed by The United Nations Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda in September.

The most plausible outcome of a post-2015 development agenda are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGS have been proposed by the United Nations Working Group – the result of thirteen sessions between 70 country representatives and government feedback. The SDGs stress – but are not limited to – the environment, employment, inclusive growth, education and health.  Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs emphasize an actor-orientated, universal outlook.  In order to ensure the success of these goals, “six essential elements are outlined (people, dignity, prosperity, justice, partnership, planet) for their success, which include 17 Goals and 169 targets. It is possible that these goals may be rearranged for greater concision – as has been advocated by British Prime Minster David Cameron and others (Kharas and Zhang, 2014, p. 30). However, the large input of the various stakeholders suggests that there will be greater pressure to ensure these themes remain.

The world has changed drastically since 2000. The population has increased, with more people living in urban centres then ever before. We now have a greater understanding of climate change, and are witnessing a changing distribution of poverty alongside the rise of new actors in the international arena. Significantly, the world is increasingly interdependent – the international financial crisis being an example of this (High-Level Panel, 2014). The High-Level Panel outlines 5 transformative shifts that must occur in response to such changes. First, “Leaving no one behind – means ensuring that within country inequality is addressed including gender, rural/urban and ethnic disparities, which the MDGs did not consider efficiently (Kharas and Zhang, 2014) Second, sustainability must be the foundation for the entire agenda. Third, the economy matters: one major lesson taken from the MDGs has been that the future cannot be about poor country intervention. Rather, it is about changing the whole structure, including establishing better terms of trade for the developing countries (High Level Panel). Fourth: transparent, capable institutions are critical for sustainable development. And fifth, a partnership for this project must all actors: civil society, business, local governance, academia, etc (High Level Panel, 2014).

Overcoming the costs of such a grand project will be challenging. Few have considered the economic costs of the proposals. Money matters, and therefore engaging the private business sector will be critical in overcoming financial obstacles (Kharas and Zhang, 2014). Additionally, in order to successfully implement and monitor future targets, a ‘data revolution’ is critical (High-Level Panel, 2015). Inadequate and inconsistent data is problematic because data drives policy-making decisions. Correct data is critical in order to monitor success (MDG Report, 6). Although the MDGS have improved collection globally, there remains a need for recent, standardized data at the national and international levels in order to fill current gaps: “Sustainable data for sustainable development” is crucial (UN General Assembly).

Many lessons have been learned from the MDGs. Despite the challenges of a post-2015 global policy agenda, the large amount of enthusiasm, inquisition and input demonstrates the commitment to a sustainable future.

Have your say at:

Post submitted by UNAC-website writer Brittney Potvin.


FUKODA-PARR, S., and YAMIN, A. (2013) The power of numbers: A critical review of MDG targets for human development and human rights. FXB Working Paper. Available From: [Feb 5]

KHARAS, H and ZANG, C. (2014) New agenda, new narrative: What happens after 2015? SAIS Review of International Affairs, 34 (2) Summer-Fall 2014, p. 25-35.

PRITCHETT, L. (2014) Saturday night live satirizes kinky development.
Centre for Global Development. Available from: [Feb 6]

UNITED NATIONS (2014) The millennium development goals report. New York: United Nations. Available from: [Feb 9]

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY (2014). The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet: Synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. Available from: [Feb 6]

NORTH-SOUTH INSTITUTE (2014). Measuring progress post-2015: an assessment of proposals. Research Report. Available from:

FRIEDMAN, H. (2013) Causal inference and the Millennium Development Goals: Assessing whether there was acceleration in MDG development indicators following the MDG Declaration. Columbia University: School of International and Public Affairs Available from:

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

unacto127th of January is the day designated by the General Assembly of the United Nations as the annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp and its purpose is to instil the memory of the tragedy in future generations to prevent genocide from occurring again. Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations General Assembly reaffirms that ‘the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one-third of the Jewish people along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice“.

Since the Holocaust, genocide prevention has become central to human rights discourse.  The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, signed in Paris, 9 December 1948 defines “Genocide” as:
Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (

Berlin Holocaust Memorial
Berlin Holocaust Memorial

“Never Again,” first proclaimed following the Holocaust – has become both a uniting slogan and an embarrassing lie. The massacres in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur have all occurred since the Holocaust, preventable atrocities that have occurred as a result of the international community’s failure to act. Human Rights, rather than bureaucratic red tape or national interest ought to be the central focus moving forward. United to End Genocide outlines six countries currently at risk: Burma, the DRC, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria. The endurance of these conflicts is demonstrative of their complexities; however, this warning emphasizes the critical urgency required in reducing tensions, encouraging peace and fostering stability.

After Genocide: The Significance of Transitional Justice &  the Nuremberg Trials

In order to heal and prevent the likelihood of conflict and gross human rights violations in the future, transitional justice mechanisms emphasizing justice, truth, reconciliation and reconstruction are critical.

The Nuremberg trials, an ad-hoc tribunal established in order to prosecute Nazi war criminals played a defining role in the establishment of future judicial measures addressing gross human rights abuses, such as the International Criminal Court. However, court proceedings alone are not sufficient to redress the atrocities that occur in times of genocide. The complexities of post-conflict settings require a holistic, multifaceted approach addressing the social, cultural, historical and economic and international factors that lead to violence. Accordingly, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, reparations and other projects,  alongside judicial measures must be pursued. Not a “one-size fits all” approach, but rather a specific, nationally focused process, transitional justice measures are critical to avoiding relapses of violence, and most importantly, in helping to redress the factors that led to conflict in the first place. Victim recognition and support is crucial to this process.
(Film Recommendation: Judgement at Nuremberg)

Holocaust Remembrance Events, at the United Nations and in Vancouver

On Tuesday, January 27 2015, there were several ceremonies all around the world in observance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau.

In particular, the 2015 observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust coincides with two milestone events: the anniversary of the Second World War’s end and the founding of the United Nations.

The Organization’s establishment seven decades ago in 1945 reflects how deeply it was shaped by the experience of the Holocaust. This year’s events include the annual ceremony, exhibits, a film screening, discussions and a special exhibit that recognizes the work of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme since its creation 10 years ago by the United Nations General Assembly.

The United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony was held at the UN Headquarters in New York and included remarks from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, H.E. Mr. Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, and H. E. Ms. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations.

The memorial ceremony also recognized the 10th Anniversary of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 7.55.31 PMIf you want to commemorate this day in Vancouver, you can visit the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.

The centre is currently hosting a new teaching exhibit “Carl Lutz and the Legendary Glass House in Budapest”, that illustrates a little-known story of diplomatic rescue and moral courage during the Holocaust in Hungary.

On Sunday, January 25, 2015, at 7 PM, the centre screened Numbered, a documentary film by Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai.
It was followed by candle lighting in memory of those who perished.

For more information, visit the United to End Genocide Page:


Post by UNAC-Vancouver website writers Brittney Potvin and Sabrina Miso.

International Migrants Day

unacto11.jpgOn International Migrants Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to shape diverse and open societies that provide opportunities and lives of dignity for all migrants.”      Ban Ki-moon message for International Migrants Day 18 December 2014

Migrant worker : a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national (Convention).

We live in a world of unprecedented mobility; the globalization of people, culture, and capital is a characteristic of the modern world. Working and living abroad has become a luxury enjoyed by many. At the same time, working outside one’s country has become increasingly necessary for citizens of the developing world. This coincides with extraordinary control over mobility; restrictions on where one can work, how long one can travel a given country, and where one can establish permanently is a feature of the Westphalian model of the nation-state, of which humanity’s existence is organized. Today, no country in the world allows open access to immigrants (Moses 54).  Yet despite the web of laws regulating immigration, labor and citizenship, movement flourishes.

In response to this phenomenon in order to protect those outside of the protection of their home country, The International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families was adopted on December 18th, 1990, 24 years ago. Since then, economic, social and political inequalities, curiosity and ambition continually lead over 232 million people to emigrate (double the number in 1990); most of which is pursued in order to secure an income through improved employment opportunities abroad.

Today every region hosts migrant workers; Europe (France and Germany) and Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia) and the United Arab Emirates host voluminous numbers. International migrants are both men and women respectively, often between the working ages of 20 and 64 (UN). Remittances sent home from workers abroad totaled $440 billion in 2010, of which $325 billion was sent to the developing world (World Bank 2011). It has been regarded that remittances can help decrease poverty, providing a “dependable, short-term economic lifeline for many” (Moses 129). For a long time, high fees were charged per transaction, a large economic burden however, after concentrated efforts transaction costs have decreased this year, now sitting at an average of 7.98%. This decline occurred in almost all regions of the World, with the exception of Latin America and the Caribbean (World Bank Sept 2014). Despite the benefits afforded by working abroad, the drawbacks can be much more severe than high banking fees.

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The greatest issues concerning migrant workers include: wages, social security and workplace safety. A recently example of job insecurity is evident in the Middle East, where deportation of illegal workers is common. Over 7,000 were deported from Bahrain in 2013 (Migrant Rights). Beyond the risk of working illegally, is the lack of oversight that can occur in an international private setting. For instance, in Saudi Arabia domestic workers clock an average of 63.7 hours per week (Migrant Rights).

At the same time in the West, migration has been met with growing securitization and a rise in domestic hostility to foreign immigrants and workers. This fact is evident everywhere: In the harsh criticism by Republicans against Obama’s efforts to seek legal status for millions of Mexican and Central Americans living in the country (the United States/Mexico route is the most populated in the world – witnessing an increase of 23 million migrants in the 24 years since the Convention’s establishment) and in the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric in Europe, where right-wing parties have recently gained influence.

Both the Middle Easter and European examples demonstrate the need for an international body monitoring the increasingly large number of migrants around the globe. Join us in raising awareness on this day of observance.

For more information on migration issues, see:

Moses, Jonathon Wayne. International Migration Globalization’s Last Frontier. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus ; 2006. Print.

Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer Brittney Potvin.

Think Local Link Global: Peace Geeks & the Mobile App for Refugees

unacto1Empowering refugee’s must be at the centre of the global strategy of addressing the current crisis. The importance of this has been reemphasized by those at the international level and is underway in local-projects such as Peace Geeks based here in Vancouver. Together, international and grass-roots initiatives have sought to both raise awareness and improve the lives of refugee’s worldwide.

At the end of 2013 there were over 50 million refugees, the highest since WWII. This number does not take into account internally displaced persons, the stateless or asylum seekers. Refugees spend an average of 17 years in exile, which is often a time of limbo and uncertainty. The psychological and social distress of displacement is incomparable and can undermine the ability of an individual to live a secure and meaningful life. The refugee crisis is one of the greatest obstacles to peace and security and the universal enjoyment of human rights today.

refugee is someone, “who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” This definition is derived from The1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the primary document outlining the rights of refugees and the legal obligations of state parties to the Convention.

Refugee rights, which ought to be considered in conjunction with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, seek to protect those in vulnerable situations outside of their home country. Rights outlined in the 1951 Convention include: the right to housing, the right to education, the right to work, the right to be issued identity and travel cards, amongst many others. The UNHCR acts as the primary ‘guardian” over this document. However, states play a major large role in service provision and rights guarantees. Presently 86% of refugees are located in the developing world. This, coupled with the immense number of refugees, means that camps often suffer from a severe lack of resources. Accordingly, both the quality of these services may not be sufficient presenting a major obstacle to the enjoyment of the basic rights outlined above.

Last month, TED featured Chief Communications & Spokesperson Melissa Fleming of the UNHCR, who expressed this dilemma in “Let’s help refugees thrive, not just survive,” a video which has since been watched by close to 500,000 viewers(link). Fleming addresses the core challenges that face the UNHCR: ensuring that not only the basic necessities for survival are met, but that those in camps (and elsewhere) are able pursue the life path of which they desire. Continued education, adequate health care facilities, social services, communication technologies, all impact this capability. Exile can undermine such ambitions.

Canada’s current refugee resettlement admission target is 13,900 for 2014. However, resettlement represents only a fraction of the world’s refugee population and is not always desirable. Yet, beyond the economic, geographic and political obstacles of providing a safe space for refugees, Canadians are currently providing support in innovative ways.

In conjunction Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 7.39.32 PMwith the UNHCR, Vancouver NGO Peace Geeks has created a mobile application, which provides refugees with the most up-to date information on camp services. There are currently over 60 service providers in 420 spaces across Jordan. As such, navigating this terrain has proven both time consuming and frustrating. Since the Syrian crisis erupted, the number of refugees in the region has skyrocketed. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and partners are currently assisting over 3 million people as a result of the violence in Syria ( Jordan is currently hosting many Syrian refugees, with an estimated 641, 915 people under UNHCR assistance. The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan aids 81, 321 people of concern, of which the majority again are Syrians.

Ensuring that camp residents are aware of, and able to access services is critical to ensuring their rights are protected, and can have substantial implications for well-being. Reproductive and mental health support, education, gender-based violence services, amongst others are offered by many different providers. However, access due to knowledge limitations can mean that refugees may not be able to utilize what is available. Recognizing that a phone is often one of the few items refugees choose to take when fleeing, the new mobile application is both a practical and an especially innovative method to tackle this obstacle. Currently, Peace Geeks is working on incorporating a user input function into the app in order to respond to decisions that have occurred within the communities, such as service delivery. This empowerment method is an important tool to ensure that services replicate the needs of those living in the communities.

Volunteer based non-profit NGO, Peace Geeks “builds the technological, communications and management capacities of grassroots organizations working on the promotion of peace, accountability and human rights.” Since the organization’s founding three years ago, Peace Geeks has helped peace, accountability and human rights organization in countries across South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia establish themselves on the web in order to support their advocacy goals. Peace Geeks is an outstanding example of the potential of Vancouver to contribute to international issues, such as the refugee crisis. UNA looks forward to working with this organization in the future.

For more information on the application, see the Digital Humanitarian Network website:


Breaking down the binary: the John Gibbard Award 2014

unacto1On Sunday, the United Nations Association of Vancouver proudly presented Ta’Kaiya Blaney with the 2014 John Gibbard Award. In celebration of World United Nations Day and in memory of John Gibbard, an activist with the UN from its inception, the award commemorates youth activism in the Vancouver area. This year’s winner exemplifies both the values, and ambitions of both the organization and of Mr Gibbard.

Our setting for the ceremony could not have been more appropriate, or rather, symbolic.  Held at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, a place of worship welcoming all denominations, it represented the very values that the UN has sought to encourage: cooperation, acceptance, and the recognition of the dignity of all people.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 9.36.51 AMTa’Kaiya complemented the setting, with her embodiment of the environment, another issue at the top of the UN agenda. Ta’Kaiya’s is renowned for her activism for environmental protection which is driven by her knowledge and cultural heritage as an indigenous person. Several themes can be drawn from the young lady’s acceptance speech: which were especially insightful to viewers of the award ceremony.

Recognizing the disconnect between the stories of her ancestors and the lives of those around her, Ta’Kaiya encourages us to ask not only, “what land will we leave for our children?” but “what children will we leave for our land?” Inspiring both youth activism, and a greater connection to the Earth, Ta’Kaiya also seeks to dismantle the “us vs. them” binary, present both within and across communities. Her speech highlighted the struggles facing indigenous youth; torn between their ancestral heritage and identities, and the lives of the West. Such struggles can prove very difficult to balance.

There also remains a distance between Indigenous and non-indigenous people within Canadian society.

Yet, these binaries are superfluous; as Ta’Kaiya emphasized: we all breathe the same air and drink the same water. Therefore we are all brothers and sisters, and should protect our earth together.

From left to right: Tanya Smith, George Somerwill, Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Tazul Ali, Karen Truscott, Greg Neumann.

Ta’kaiya pursues such protection especially through her activism against the Embridge pipeline, which is particularly threatening to the Heiltsuk, in the Great Bear Rainforest.

“It takes a community, a culture to raise a child.” Evidently the values instilled in Ta’Kaiya through her family and community have proved not only meaningful in her own personal development, but also in continually inspiring those around her. By seeking to ensure our future children are also ambassadors of the Earth, Ta’Kaiya Blaney is an inspiration to all ages.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 9.46.58 AMEnvironmental sustainability was not the only theme of the occasion; Sunday’s mass also included words by Vangelis Nikias, an activist with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities In his work with the Council, Nikias seeks to ensure that the articles outline in the The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) are being upheld across Canada.

In 2006 CRPD was established in order to ensure that article #1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was being realized: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  However, the Convention’s protocol informs that, “in practice certain groups, such as women, children and refugees have fared far worse than other groups and international conventions are in place to protect and promote the human rights of these group” (CRPD).

Through the framework of CRPD, Nikias’ seeks to overcome the “invisibility of those with disabilities” by bringing to light their marginalization and exclusion. He too emphasized the need to break down the us vs. them binary, pointing out that there is much more that unites us, than keeps us apart.

Evidently, these activists are both “thinking global, and linking local” through their focus on human rights issues that effect both the collective, and the particular both in Vancouver and worldwide. UNA Vancouver both supports and continues to look forward to the work of these individuals.

To listen to Ta’Kaiya’s acceptance speech click below: