Invest in girls’ education to break cycle of poverty: UNICEF

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NEW DELHI: Investing in education of girls, especially the most marginalized, is required to make progress on most social indicators in India, according to UNICEF.

To mark the second International Day of the Girl Child, UNICEF on Friday organized a meeting with top Urdu editors in the capital.

Speaking at the event, Urmila Sarkar, chief of education UNICEF, said, “Innovation in girls education will be instrumental to female empowerment and breaking the cycle of poverty and deprivation.”

The focus of the meeting was on the crucial role that media can play to create a sustained discourse and highlight innovations that get more girls to school, keep them in school and improve the quality of learning for all children.

In India, the number of out-of-school children stands at 8.1 million, of which 4.5 million are girls. For every 100 boys enrolled, 88 girls are enrolled in secondary school. The main causes of school dropout among girls are child marriage and child labour, the UNICEF said.

Giving examples of how communities have arranged for safe school transport for girls in hard-to-reach areas from Udaipur, Rajasthan, Sarkar stressed on innovation in girls education and highlighted the importance of gender sensitization.

“Teachers who have undergone gender sensitization training have made a significant difference for adolescent girls in schools,” she said.

The conference was chaired by the vice-chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University Mohammed Miyan and director general, Doordarshan News, S M Khan.

The participants shared examples of how technology coupled with media outreach, has increased access to education for out-of-school girls and improved the quality of learning for every child.

They urged Urdu media to dedicate media space and build capacities of reporters to highlight issues and innovations in education, especially of girls.

Civil society representatives from Shikhar, Prof Rihan Khan Suri and Ambarish Rai of the RTE Forum spoke on how civil society efforts can build on the momentum created by a conducive educational policy framework and ensure that girls have access to quality learning environments.

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States, civil society embarking on new partnership, says UN Assembly President

561031-johnasheJohn Ashe, President of the 68th General Assembly, addresses the opening of the General Debate. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN News Centre- Oct 3, 2013

The General Assembly is embarking on a new partnership between Member States and civil society, the President of the 68th body, John Ashe, today said highlighting the role of non-governmental organizations and other partners in shaping a new global development agenda.

“I believe we are embarking on an openness now,” Mr. Ashe told journalists in New York in his first press conference since the Assembly’s annual General Debate wrapped up on Tuesday. “As we begin to move along, we will begin to see more of this, moving towards a new norm.”

The current dialogues have achieved a “happy medium” between the kind of participation that civil society desire and the type with which Member States are comfortable, he said.

“It’s not possible without civil society,” the Assembly President continued, adding: “Civil society should help to define what we hope to be a universal global development agenda.”

Mr. Ashe had chosen the theme for this year’s General Assembly, “The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!,” which would begin in the period after the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Calling it “remarkable,” Mr. Ashe noted that despite situations in Syria and the Middle East which featured prominently over the seven days of the Debate, the majority of Member States commended the choice of theme and pledged their support.

“Despite wars, trials and tribulations, and famine, floods, virtually all the Member States that spoke did address the theme in one way or another, welcomed the choice and pledged their support and cooperation to advancing the theme,” he noted.

On the eve of the high-level debate, which opened on 24 September, Mr. Ashe and UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson took part in a special event in which regional civil society networks presented their recommendations in Arabic, English, French and Spanish for a post-2015 agenda.

The event – ‘Advancing Regional Recommendations on Post-2015: A Dialogue between Civil Society, Governments and UN Representatives’ – brought together more than 1,100 civil society representatives, along with Member States and UN officials.

UN hearings offer civil society opportunity to help shape global debate on migration

556273-jeremicGeneral Assembly President Vuk Jeremić (right) addresses informal interactive hearings. UN Photo

15 July 2013 – The President of the General Assembly today urged representatives of civil society to help shape the debate on migration and development, especially how to harness the benefits of this phenomenon for the common good and for the prosperity of all nations, rich and poor.

“If current trends continue, migration may enhance current inequalities between various categories of States,” Vuk Jeremić said in remarks to the informal interactive hearings on international migration and development held at UN Headquarters in New York.

“It could even result in what some demographers have called the ‘spectre of ghost countries – of nations that will simply become devoid of necessary human resources to carry on in the longer term’,” he added.

Globalization has resulted in the advent of a new era of mobility, said the President. Over the last decade, the total number of international migrants has increased from 150 million to 214 million, creating both challenges and opportunities for societies throughout the world.

In this context, the Assembly will hold, on 3 and 4 October, the second High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in New York, following the first one held in 2006.

“I would therefore strongly encourage you to discuss not only how you can shape preparations for the forthcoming High-level Dialogue, but also how to influence the way Member States could incorporate the issue of migration into their debate on how to bridge the gap between overall rich and poor countries,” Mr. Jeremić stated.

He noted that the UN has created agencies to address many pressing global issues – from arms trafficking, nuclear power, and human rights, to telecommunications, intellectual property, and climate change.

“But there is no international mechanism that seeks to regulate migration flows,” he continued. “No accepted criteria have been established; no universal guidelines endorsed. There is literally no global governance on an issue that will fundamentally affect the future of virtually every nation on Earth.

“I believe that in the time ahead, Member States should begin their work on creating a basis for coordination on a topic that stands at the crux of sustainable development, as to ensure that migration does not turn into a zero-sum game, where the progress of any nation is held back by that of another.”

He also noted that migration is one of the few constants of human history. “All of us trace our roots to somewhere else – some have to go back just one or two generations; others, further rearward. But virtually everyone’s forbearers, at some point over the course of millennia, took the courageous and difficult decision to give up everything that was familiar, in order to seek greater opportunity in territories unknown.”

The subject of migration has stirred passionate debates, because for all the good it can bring, it also generates social tensions, the President stated, adding that recent arguments about how to integrate newcomers in a number of Member States have proven especially controversial.

In his remarks to the meeting, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the benefits of migration can only be fully harnessed, and the situation of migrants tangibly improved, with “sustained and strong partnerships as well as strategic cooperation between different actors.”

The role of civil society is fundamental, he added. Labour unions and employers’ organizations play a critical role in immigration reform; advocacy groups ensure that the voices of migrants are heard and heeded; diaspora organizations highlight the diversity of many contributions which migrants can make to societies; and the academic community has greatly contributed to refuting long-held myths and prejudices by grounding the migration debate in evidence.

“The challenge is to share this evidence with the public at large to dispel negative perceptions and often-stated stereotypes,” said Mr. Eliasson. “We need to engage the media to make the public and policy makers aware of the vital and positive role migrants can play in helping build and invigorate nations, economies and cultures.”

The deputy UN chief highlighted the need to: improve engagement within and cooperation between States; ensure that migration policies are based on facts; and promote the integration of migrants into societies and economies.

Additional priorities are to coordinate national migration policies to ensure that labour market and development considerations are taken into account when planning future migration, and to develop a framework for managing migration from countries and regions affected by crisis and violence.

‘People must be educated on tackling natural calamities’

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New Delhi: Places that are prone to natural disasters must have a proper warning system in place and their residents should be educated on how to deal with crisis situations, experts said on Wednesday.
Experts, representatives of governments and the civil society from eight South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan and Bhutan, participated in a three-day workshop on ‘Regional Priorities for Knowledge Management and Strategy for Action: South Asia on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction’ organised by Unesco.

Speaking to a news agency on the sidelines of the event which ended Wednesday, SAARC Disaster Management Centre director Santosh Kumar said it was of utmost importance that a proper early warning system was in place for areas that were prone to natural calamities and residents were educated and informed about tackling a crisis.
“Early warnings need to be more quantified and people should be educated about the impact of such a damage…local level communities have to be educated and informed,” he said.
Agreed Lam Dorji, executive director of Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Bhutan, who said that when it comes to natural disasters, people at the village level have no education on how to tackle the situation.
“Changes have to be made at the ground level,” he said.
Kumar said it was difficult to say whether climate change was behind the cloudburst and incessant rains which subsequently led to flash floods and landslides, killing hundreds in the hill state of Uttarakhand.

THREATS TO CIVIL SOCIETY SPACE: A JOINT STATEMENT FROM THE G20 CIVIL SUMMIT IN RUSSIA

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The G20 Civil Summit is an excellent opportunity for G20 governments to interact with representatives of global civil society who are working on issues related to G20 priorities. As participants in this summit, we welcome this forum and commend the government of the Russian Federation for organising it.

At the same time, though, the G20 Civil Summit is not occurring in a vacuum.
In Russia, severe restrictions are being placed on civil society organisations’ freedom to operate as new laws require organisations that have received funding or other support from overseas to register as ‘foreign agents’ or risk being shut down. People across the Russian Federation stand to lose the most from the termination of the work undertaken by these organisations, which ironically is often undertaken at the request of the government itself. It is crucial that governments differentiate direct services, advocacy and policy work from political activity, which is completely different.
We underscore that Russia’s treatment of civil society organisations is part of a wider trend – both in other G20 countries and across the globe – in which the space for civil society activity is shrinking. People in the non-profit and civil society sectors IN MANY COUNTRIES are harassed, imprisoned, threatened and even kidnapped or killed. We strongly condemn all such harassment, including actions that affect the independence, funding and scope of civil society work.  Tolerance of diversity and respect for human rights should be the hallmark of all societies.
An active, independent civil society forms an integral part of a healthy, democratic society. Civil society organisations play an essential role to identify problems and work constructively and in partnership towards solving them.  This work requires a legislative environment which allows this work to be undertaken without undue interference.  In addition, in an increasingly globalised world – in which governments acknowledge the need for collaboration through forum like the G20 – it is legitimate for civil society organisations to work together across boundaries, including the provision and sharing of resources.
The Civil 20 process must not be a substitute – or perceived to be a substitute – for genuine and committed engagement with civil society.
Signed by:

  • Asia Development Alliance (ADA) Working Group on G20
  • Bellona (Murmansk)
  • Carlos A. Tornel Curzio, Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, A.C.
  • CIVICUS
  • Cui Shoujun, Renmin University of China
  • Dignity International
  • Feminist Task Force
  • FONGTIL Timor-Leste
  • GCAP CHINA
  • Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)
  • Green World (Sosnovy Bor – St. Petersburg)
  • Greenpeace International
  • Greenpeace Russia
  • Heinrich Boell Foundation
  • International Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
  • Kola Environmental Center (Murmansk)
  • Korea Civil Society Forum on International Development Cooperation (KoFID)
  • Korea NGO Council for Overseas Development Cooperation (KCOC)
  • Luis Guzman, CODISE A.C. Mexico
  • Nature and Youth (Murmansk)
  • Olga Pitsunova, Association Partnership for Development, Russia
  • Pacific Environment
  • Pax Romana ICMICA Asia
  • Siberian Ecological Centre (Novosibirsk)
  • Tengri School of Soul ecology (Altay)
  • Transparency International
  • Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (GCAP India)
  • World Economy, Ecology & Devlopment – WEED

Engagement of civil society critical to shaping the G20 agenda

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“This is a historic event in the context of the G20. Never before has civil society been officially invited and empowered to prepare recommendations for the G20.”

-UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

As part of its role as President of the G20—the group of the 20 major economies—Russia has this week hosted the G20 Civil Summit. The two-day event featured a bold dialogue among global civil society and decision-makers and culminated in the development of a ‘Civil Communique’––recommendations which will be presented to the G20 to be put onto the agenda of the G20 Leaders’ Summit which is being held in St. Petersburg in September 2013.

“This unprecedented Summit was preceded by intensive preparatory work, engaging experts representing NGOs and research institutes from different G20 countries,” said Ksenia Yudaeva, Russian G20 Sherpa, and Chief of Presidential Experts Directorate who officially opened the Summit.

Ksenia Yudaeva also read the address of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, to participants where he stressed that “civil society organizations’ practical experience will help leaders of the “Group of Twenty” to find the most optimal balance in the global development strategy and to take a consolidated decision on the complex challenges faced by the world.”

“This is a historic event in the context of the G20. Never before has civil society been officially invited and empowered to prepare recommendations for the G20,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé at the opening. “You have earned this role and this space. If you protect this space for the future, your role and influence as a full partner in the G20 will continue to have a pivotal positive impact on global governance.”

Highlighting the historical role of civil society in the global HIV response, he stressed that it was the civil movement which broke the conspiracy of silence about AIDS and continue to campaign for issues of human rights, trade and access to health, stigma and discrimination.

The Summit attracted more than 350 representatives of civil society, international organizations, private sector and government to Moscow to engage in discussions on issues they would like to see addressed by the leaders of the G20. Russia is the first country to hold the Civil 20 Summit in this important format.

UNICEF calls for child labour free India

New Delhi, June 13: Drawing attention towards the plight of children employed in various sectors, United Nations Children’s Fund Wednesday called for reforms to make the country free of child labour.

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In a joint statement issued along with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and International Labour Organisation on the occasion of ‘World Day Against Child Labour’, UNICEF said poverty was the cause and effect of child labour.

It said that children in domestic work were very vulnerable to exploitation as their work is often hidden from the public eye and they often work far away from home.

“Children migrating alone and with their families are also at increased risks, including child trafficking,” the statement said.

“Taking advantage of their vulnerability, the children are trafficked from their villages in rural or tribal areas and taken to the metro cities for work. Stories of the abuse of children in domestic work are too common.”

Elimination of child labour is essential for promoting children’s right to education, preventing exploitation and ensuring their all-round growth, the statement said.

It is the responsibility of the government, civil society and parents to ensure that children are in schools and not at work.

The statement welcomed the introduction of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012.

There must be a roadmap for achieving the ultimate goal of making the country child labour free through progressive legislative and policy reforms as well as program interventions, it added.

The revised National Policy for Children {2013} adopted by the government heralds a policy shift from a welfare-based approach to a rights-based approach towards children, which is in line with India’s commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), it said.

PTI