In early November, two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were kidnapped and killed near the city of Kidal in northern Mali by armed gunmen. Dupont and Verlon were on assignment for Radio France International (RFI), for which they had been working for 25 and 30 years, respectively. Their murders prompted condemnation from Irina Bokova, the director-general for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
From the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, from Ha Long Bay in Vietnam to the banks of the Seine in Paris to the Matobo Hills in Zimbabwe, UNESCO’s World Heritage List includes 981 extraordinary corners of the earth and places of outstanding cultural and natural heritage. Sites newly added to the list in 2013 include the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station in Canada, Honghe Hani Rice Terraces in China, Fujisan in Japan and the Hill Forts of Rajastan in India. The list is growing, and by 2014, will most likely exceed 1,000 sites.
The #2030NOW Twitter hashtag of this year’s Social Good Summit, held in New York during the UN General Assembly week, was meant to be a rallying cry for the international community. It succinctly raised the critical question of how current technology can create lasting societal impact. And it reflected the UN’s priorities of generating momentum for achieving the remaining Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while simultaneously emphasizing the post-2015 development agenda.
It’s the second day of school, and the excitement is palpable. The girls in School No. Three in Za'atari—the main Syrian refugee camp in Jordan—are begging to know when the books will arrive. They don’t have much longer to wait. A pickup truck stacked high with bright blue backpacks filled with books rolls in. Young men in neon yellow vests begin pulling the bags out of the truck bed and carrying them to classrooms.
“So here I stand. So here I stand, one girl, among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard,” Malala Yousafzai told the UN Youth Assembly last week, which was packed with nearly 1,000 youth delegates. She added, “Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.”
Last Friday, in a highly anticipated appearance, Malala Yousafzai, the global girl leader from Pakistan spoke at the United Nations. In doing so, she commemorated her 16th birthday, her first trip to the United States, and perhaps most significantly, Malala Day. As youth converged on the General Assembly in an unprecedented call for action, Malala spoke to bring attention to the global education emergency of 57 million girls and boys who do not have access to education. Malala was shot by the Taliban last fall for attending school.
In a world in which one billion of the total population is comprised of youth ages 15-24, the United Nations recognizes the importance of engaging this age group in finding solutions for global problems. The increasing global connection through social media platforms places youth at a critical advantage for mobilizing change to diverse challenges around the world.
At a recent event hosted by the U.S. State Department titled “The Next Level of Diplomacy: Youth and Global Engagement,” the discussion revolved around the promise and peril of the world’s burgeoning youth population. In particular, the panel of Farah Pandith, the department’s special representative to Muslim communities, Zeenat Rahman, special adviser on global youth issues, and Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, focused on the urgent need to engage young people in global affairs.
UNICEF is planning a “high-level road map” assessment of the education system in Libya that will improve teaching methods and ultimately bring a higher standard of education to schools, according to an announcement made by the organization in early April.
The release of UNESCO’s 10th annual Education for All Global Monitoring Report comes at a pivotal moment in which the topic of education—particularly girls’ access to education in developing nations—features prominently in global headlines. The remarkable story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education, has brought much-needed attention to an issue that is sure to have serious social and economic repercussions for generations to come.