Nelson Mandela Day

unacto1Nelson Mandela’s recent passing late last year brought an end to a lifetime of unyielding courage and commitment to social justice, peace and equality.  Adopted in 2009 by the United Nations, Nelson Mandela Day enters its fifth year this week on July 18th.

Nelson Mandela’s work is so intertwined with the Human Rights movement over the past century, that it is impossible to speak about “freedom, justice and democracy” without recognizing his contributions.  The effects of his work in South Africa were not only a catalyst for change nationally, but also globally inspired  generations to come.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.01.07 PMMandela famously stated, “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.” What will your legacy be? How can you become involved today, in order to improve the livelihood of those in the future?  As we come to the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and approach a new development era, we are provided with a fresh opportunity for renewed commitment, insight and especially, participation.

The MDGs set out in 2000  have achieved considerable success in many sectors. Importantly, they have laid the foundations for our work in years to come. Drawing on the inspiration of Mandela, the importance of belief and especially ongoing dedication, cannot be overstated. 

The MDGs include:

1.    To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2.    To achieve universal primary education
3.    To promote gender equality and empower women
4.    To reduce child mortality
5.    To improve maternal health
6.    To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7.    To ensure environmental sustainability
8.    To develop a global partnership for development

These goals are still especially relevant to our existence here in Canada. Some issues of particular importance that come to mind include the Enbridge Pipeline proposal and its potential harmful effects on Canada’s environment and our Aboriginal Communities (#7), the insufficient efforts to find our missing Aboriginal women as reported by the United Nations (#3) and specifically, the continuation of poverty and homelessness in Vancouver’s downtown core (#1). 

Although the context for the MDGs are broad in scope, their application can be applied to our local circumstances.  Once we can recognize this applicability our immediate potential for contributing towards their achievement becomes tangible.

With the inspiration of Nelson Mandela in mind, we encourage readers to reflect upon these goals and to remain committed and optimistic for the 2015 agenda. 
Further information on the upcoming Development agenda will be featured in upcoming blogs this summer/fall.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.02.22 PMPlease see the United Nations page for  a timeline of Mandela’s life and further information about the day:

Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer, Brittney Potvin.

Without peace there can be no development

unacto1The end of May saw the long-anticipated arrival of the UN’s high level report[1] into life post the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). For this important project, Ban Ki-Moon enlisted ‘eminent persons’, the likes of Yudhoyono of Indonesia, Sirleaf of Liberia and Cameron of the UK. Their task was to pool their collective energy and foresight to provide us with a blueprint for where we should aim to be by 2030.

‘Peace’, and all that goes with that most powerful of goals, has been placed in its rightful position as a cornerstone of the agenda for developing our global society. The report vociferously backed the concepts of peace-building, in order to afford the “fundamental human entitlements” of freedom from conflict and access to justice and legitimate governance. One of the shortfalls of the MDG’s, according to Graça Machel, who was involved in drafting the report, was they “failed to address the way conflict and insecurity undermine efforts to improve health, education and prosperity”. This was proven by Machel’s revelation that “no conflict-affected low-income country has achieved a single MDG”[2].

The timing of this positive support for peace as a key player in the agenda, as opposed to a utopian ideal, could not have been better. Outrageous crimes against humanity, most alarmingly against women and children, being carried out by both sides in Syria including now the use of chemical weapons, should be alerting the global community that the UN’s mandate to promote international peace and security needs to be strengthened at every conceivable level.

un_implementationEconomic growth is and should be a key objective of the international community and a driver of development but it will not solve many of the issues facing our society today. Of course, livelihoods improve as economies grow, but so many areas of our society are fundamentally broken, we need to stop expanding for growths’ sake and get serious about growing sustainably and equitably as one community. We must, over the next 15 years, focus our efforts on peace building, on open dialogue and frank discussions about human security. We must concentrate on ethnic minorities, food security, corruption, proliferation, energy resources, trafficking, to name a few of the varied and complex issues which need our complete attention.

The report although it has faults, is a strong start. The authors call for “a fundamental shift”. They want to “recognize peace and good governance as a core element of wellbeing, not an optional extra”.  Today, it is a folder full of targets and ideas with the real work yet to start. Implementation and continued enthusiasm that there is a better way of dealing with our differences, will be the real test. We need to merge our goals to strive for peaceful development. There will never be a time when our ideals and cultures are the same, heaven forbid that would ever be the case. This however, does not rid us of the responsibility to ensure that every human being, at the very least, lives in safety. To finish with a line from the report,

Development is impossible without peace, just as peace is impossible without development.