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!

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

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

 

Colombia Peace Deal: The end of drug trade?

unacto1The following article is written by Luciana Prado, one of our new UNAC-Vancouver website writers.

On June 23rd, 2016, after four years of arduous negotiations, the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia/Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) have signed an accord on a bilateral cease-fire and the disarmament of rebels. These will be two of the last major obstacles needed to end 51 years of ongoing unrest, a conflict which is responsible for killing more than 220,000 lives.

The ceremony for the Colombian Ceasefire Agreement (or FARC-Government Ceasefire and Disarmament Accord) was held in Cuba and was attended by key figures from countries involved in the negotiations, which included Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, and Norway. The FARC and the Colombian government have been carrying out talks in Havana since 2012, towards an agreement that encompasses political participation, land rights, illicit drugs and victims’ rights, as well as transitional justice.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed admiration for the negotiating teams and their diplomatic skills, all of which represent the possibility to “achieve peace with dignity for all concerned”.

Although the peace deal is not entirely conclusive, it symbolizes an important development towards an accord to end to the fighting. The deal reflects the willingness of both sides to negotiate the disarmament of 7,000 FARC fighters, and start their transition to civilian life under the protection of Colombia’s security forces, their lifelong enemies. Currently, the government is also undergoing negotiations with the ELN (National Liberation Army/Ejército de Liberación Nacional), Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group.

Under the accord, monitoring and verification efforts have been outlined, overseen by members of the Colombia government, the FARC, in addition to a United Nations political mission in Colombia approved by the Security Council in January of the current year. This international element of monitoring and verification efforts is comprised of unarmed political observers, and for the most part member of the Community and Latin American States (CELAC). The political mission also manages mechanism’s units, and is responsible for publishing reports, settling disputes, and issuing recommendations on matters of implementing the peace deal.

A fascinating result of this deal will be that all FARC’s armaments are to be received by the UN Mission in assistance for build 3 monuments in the country symbolizing peace. Geographically, 23 “Temporary Hamlet Zones for Normalization” characterized by zones and encampments will be established as municipalities, where FARC guerrillas will gather, and as per the accord, the group will have its responsibility over. However, these jurisdictions may not be used “for demonstration of political character”. In addition to not allowing any civilians in the encampments, the government may provide services necessary for the reintegration of FARC’s soldiers into civilian life, such as issuing national identification cards, while FARC may be permitted to implement orientation and education to fighters within these zones.

But how will this impact the narcotics industry? And what does that mean for those who depend on this industry for their livelihood?

The Colombian government, along with the international community, agree that at the heart of this deal lies the end to the illicit drug trafficking of cocaine, which is used by FARC to finance its missions and also by locals of Putamayo as currency. However, in regions of the country such as Putamayo, in the south of Colombia, pickers rely on coca leaves harvesting as the main source of their livelihood as they are sold for 50 cents a gram but allowing them to make almost five times more (US$ 26) a day than if they were to harvest other crops (US$6). By risking arrest and criminal charges, they work at the very bottom of the multimillion industry of cocaine production, but make comparatively more profit from this industry to sustain their families, than alternatives. With the peace deal, this is expected to change dramatically, with many unemployed and other families financially crippled.

As a Marxist-Lenist rebel group and one of the eldest left-wing guerrilla armies, FARC claims that their struggle entails a fight in favour of peasants while addressing issues related to unemployment and alternative crop development. As per the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC), the group is responsible for raising between $500 and $600 million annually from illicit drug trade to fund its missions and means to fight the enemies of class, and was responsible for supplying 50% of the world’s cocaine and reaching more than 60% of American consumers. Therefore, the deal will make a relative negative impact on those working in the coca plants if social nets are not there to protect the livelihood of peasants.

As pointed out by the Brookings Institution, coca production is unlikely to be entirely ceased overnight however, after the peace deal was ruled in favour by the Colombian high court on July 18th and a referendum is held, the deal is likely to bring sustained efforts to promote a better quality of life and a range of options to Colombian peasants who now depend solely on the profitable coca plantations, as well as the families who fear for having their children recruited by the group. In order for this accord to be successful the Colombian government must make an absolute and substantial commitment to the lives of the peasants who rely on coca production to have their daily needs met. If the social investment necessary to develop ways to make alternative crops profitable and viable to provide peasants with an alternative and formal livelihood does not come through however, peasants are likely to go back to how things were thereby strengthening the illicit drug trade that has brought so many deaths over the last five decades.