In 1962, the American Red Cross sponsored a public-service program called Operation VISTA. One hundred and twelve student leaders from 42 countries around the world were invited to tour the United States, live with host families, and volunteer with local Red Cross chapters. The formative month-long experience concluded with what the organization hoped would be a seminal moment for anyone interested in a public service career—a White House trip to meet President Kennedy in the Rose Garden. Sure enough, one of the participants in attendance was an 18-year-old Ban Ki-moon, who informed the president he wanted to grow up to be “a diplomat.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will preserve dialogue with Iran and express a litany of concerns from the international community when he travels to Tehran for the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). At a press conference on Wednesday, the Secretary-General’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said such concerns “include Iran's nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria.”
Perhaps the only thing more surreal than Beyoncé performing at the United Nations is the image of one billion people coming together to celebrate humanitarian efforts. But last Friday night, the 30-year-old pop superstar transformed General Assembly Hall into a music video set for a stirring rendition of "I Was Here," which also happens to be the theme for this year's World Humanitarian Day.
Twenty years after Brazil hosted the first international summit on sustainable development, the rising-star South American nation is playing host to the United Nation's conference once again. The so-called Rio+20 summit, which began on June 20, is the culmination of literally decades of environmental policy, projects, and new thinking about the way that humans exist on the planet. "It is...in everyone's interest that all countries, not just some or even most of them, advance towards sustainable development," summit Secretary General Sha Zukang reminded audiences in his opening remarks on Wednesday. "This is one planet—with one common future."
Syria and the world were shocked by news of a massacre in Houla, the largest scale violence since the UN deployed 300 monitors to the country. The monitors were sent to observe the implementation of UN-Arab League Joint Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, but so far their deployment has failed to stem the violence.
As the United States celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, preterm birth is a frequent and important global health problem that can no longer be neglected. Every day, scores of young children die after they are born too early - and many of those deaths are preventable. Most striking of all, this is truly a global problem, affecting rich and poor countries alike. In the United States, for example, nearly 12 out of every 100 babies born in 2010 were premature, and this rate has increased by 30 percent since 1981.
Over the weekend, the world welcomed a unanimous vote by the Security Council on resolution 2043, which authorizes the UN observer mission in Syria to expand its strength from 30 to 300. The UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, called it a “pivotal moment for the stabilization of the country.”
As we commemorate UN Earth Day this year, our planet is in something of a bind. Over the last century, the global population has, overall, grown vastly wealthier as our societies and technologies have developed at breakneck speed. But that development has come at a cost; we are beginning to onerously tax the environment in which we live. Meanwhile, the world has hardly reached a point where everyone is well off. An estimated 3 billion people—or just under half the world's population—live on less than $2.50 a day.
Early last week, the government of Bhutan hosted a high-level UN summit on a topic that isn’t often discussed in the usually serious halls of Turtle Bay: well-being and happiness. The South Asian country, nestled between India, China, and Bangladesh, has never been keen on measuring itself the way most countries do: the size of their economies. They prefer a different measure: Gross National Happiness.