8 September 2006
Ecological Sustainability, Responsibility to Protect Among Issues, As DPI/NGO Conference Holds Series of Roundtable Discussions
NEW YORK, 7 September (UN Headquarters) -- The fifty-ninth DPI/NGO Conference, entitled "Unfinished Business: Effective Partnerships for Human Security and Sustainable Development" met today to continue its three-day session with a series of roundtable discussions on a broad range of critical issues, including ecological sustainability, HIV/AIDS, science and technology in education and the responsibility to protect.
The annual event, organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI) in cooperation with associated non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has brought together more than 2,500 NGO representatives and other civil society partners to discuss collaboration between local communities and global institutions and to highlight work in the field to achieve the millennium targets.
During the morning session, at a panel on "Achieving Financial and Ecological Sustainability," speakers highlighted effective partnerships for natural disaster management and financing natural disaster risk; providing affordable financing for small-scale, community-based environmental conservation and economic development, particularly for poor farmers and rural, women-owned businesses; corporate social responsibility; and water-quality monitoring to improve health and control disease.
The afternoon featured three roundtable sessions. The first roundtable, entitled "Emerging Approaches to Health Care, including Gender-based HIV and AIDS," focused on the correlation between violence against women and girls, the feminization of poverty and higher HIV/AIDS infection rates among women and girls than men and boys in some countries. Speakers stressed the need to: expand programmes to end violence against women and girls by men they knew, and as a act of warfare; encourage more women to disclose their HIV/AIDS status and seek treatment; harness all forms of information technology for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment messaging; and set-up a United Nations watchdog entity to ensure gender mainstreaming and a gender perspective in all of the Organization's agencies.
The moderator of the second roundtable discussion, entitled "Science and Technology for Education" noted the importance of improving widespread access to and of education. Five panellists then spoke on: using television programming to reach remote areas; engaging in experiential learning through direct observation of nature; promoting the better use of data in education; and using the Internet in the classroom. One panellist said that parents and teachers must become aware of the damage produced by new technologies, such as inappropriate television programmes and war-like cyber games, sparking a debate during the question-and-answer session on the pros and cons of using the Internet as a learning tool. More than ever, people needed to learn how to learn and know how to use technology as a tool to that end.
During the third roundtable entitled "Human Security: Responsibility to Protect and the Peacebuilding Commission", NGOs were invited to be the partners of States, and sometimes their critics, in ensuring adherence to the concept of the responsibility to protect, especially in terms of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Civil society must put the concept up front and centre, said one speaker. Another speaker added that NGOs from the North were increasingly recognizing that empowering local organizations, rather than trying to dictate to them, was the key to problem solving. The new Peacebuilding Commission was seeking ways to develop a good working relationship between its members and civil society, who could be seen positively by Governments as a means to facilitate access to the population. It was not merely a matter of how to deal with civil society, but a realization that, as a whole sector of society, it could not be ignored. By doing so, the Commission would be able to build the most inclusive and sustainable strategic approach to peacebuilding.
The Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m., Friday, 8 September.
The fifty-ninth DPI/NGO Conference, entitled "Unfinished Business: Effective Partnerships for Human Security and Sustainable Development", met today to continue its three-day session.
The gathering, organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI) in cooperation with associated non-governmental organizations (NGOs), brings together more than 2,500 NGO representatives and other civil society partners worldwide to discuss ways to strengthen collaboration between local communities and global institutions, and to highlight work on the ground to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
For more background information, please see Press Release NGO/602-PI/1734 of 6 September.
Morning Panel Discussion
The topic for the day's first panel was "Achieving Financial and Ecological Sustainability".
Moderated by Jane Pratt, President, panel "United in Diversity Forum", United States; other participants included: Sálvano Briceño, Director, Secretariat, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR); William Foote, Founder and Executive Director, Ecologic Finance; Håkon Fottland, Managing Director, Centre for Environmental and Development Studies, University of Tromso; Rachel Kyte, Director, Environment and Social Development Department, International Finance Corporation (IFC); and Vanessa Tobin, Deputy Director, Programmes, Programme Division of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Leading off the discussion, SÁLVANO BRICEÑO, Director of UN/ISDR, said his organization, which came into being after the United Nations dedicated a decade to the subject, sought to shift the world's thinking from merely preparing for disasters to actively reducing the risk of them. An important component of that was to understand that disasters were caused by vulnerability to natural hazards, he said. While such hazards were natural, disasters were not; thus, referring to disasters as "natural" was a "convenient lie".
He went on to say, however, that only 1 per cent of the $6 billion in humanitarian assistance went towards risk reduction, meaning that much higher investments were needed. To that end, he lauded the United Kingdom's Department for International Development for launching a policy to dedicate 10 per cent of its humanitarian aid to risk reduction, and he praised Japan and Germany for similar efforts.
Yet, such action was not enough, he continued. Explicit, systematic approaches for emergency preparedness were needed in the development policy of a country. Indeed, activities undertaken during the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction in the 1990s had resulted in enhanced knowledge about natural hazards. The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2005 also provided a window of opportunity to advance efforts in risk reduction, and indeed, Government cooperation during that period had increased. Three weeks after the event, the Hyogo Framework of Action (2005-2015) was created with three goals: supporting the integration of disaster reduction in development policy; helping countries with capacity-building; and helping develop systematic approaches for emergency preparedness.
WILLIAM FOOTE, Founder and Executive Director of EcoLogic Finance, a non-profit lender serving rural, community-based businesses active in environmental conservation and grass-roots economic development in Latin America, Africa and Asia, said massive human poverty was one of the greatest threats to sustainable development. Poverty led to illegal logging, the slashing of agricultural lands and irreparable damage to local natural resources. His organization provided loan capital to small-and medium-sized enterprises, particularly poor, small-scale farmers that lacked access to the kind of affordable financing needed to expand their businesses and serve export markets. It targeted groups involved in agro-forestry, wild-harvested products, certified wood logging, sustainable fishing, ecotourism and crafts manufacturing.
Founded in 1999, EcoLogic Finance managed a portfolio of $25,000 to $500,000 in loans and had raised $15 million in lending capital, mainly from American companies such as Starbucks, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, he continued. The organization made some 250 loans in 19 countries to over 100 small-and mid-sized businesses representing 100,000 people. It enjoyed a loan repayment rate of more than 90 per cent. Mr. Foote noted a rise in the number of "compassionate" quality-driven consumers willing to pay more for products developed in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. A new kind of trade was emerging, whereby importers were buying directly from farmers and then reselling that purchased product. In many cases, small-scale women-owned and family-run farms were making profits for the first time in generations. Such an approach had the potential to change the trade and stop pushing small-scale businesses to the low end of the supply chain and profit margins.
The rapid growth of development agencies in recent years aimed to end, through cost-effective partnerships, the financial no-man's land for small scale farmers, such as cocoa growers in Ghana, he said. The idea was to look for values- driven buyers in the United States, Japan and Europe. Fronting cash to farmers at harvest time in the developing world prevented those farmers from selling products too soon and enabled them to meet local demand and more effectively manage risk. For example, Starbucks had $6 million in EcoLogic Finance's fund.
HǺKON FOTTLAND, Managing Director of the University of Tromso's Centre for Environment and Development Studies, noted that the Millennium Development Goals had not targeted research and higher education as a means to achieve those goals, with the exception of the Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation. Nevertheless, the University of Tromso sought to play its part in building the capacity of developing countries to use knowledge for development.
For example, he said the University held a conference in 2000 centred on promoting a culture of peace, stimulated by the 1989 Yamoussoukro Declaration on Peace in the Minds of Men, where the concept of a "cultural peace" was first formed. In addition, a 1998 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference of higher education focused on what universities could do to advance peace, leading to the establishment of a Centre for Peace Studies at the University of Tromso in 2002.
In the meantime, the University had continued its activities with the Norwegian Programme for Development, Research and Higher Education, formed in 1991, to support the development of sustainable capacity and competence for research-based higher education in developing countries. Those included projects on: women's welfare in Tanzania; competence building among the Maya in Guatemala; promoting access to education among the San (or Bushmen) in Botswana; and on supporting cultural revitalization, environment and sustainable productive systems of indigenous peoples in the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. The Programme's next endeavour was to promote gender equality among its portfolio of 40 universities, 29 of which were in developing countries.
He said that in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, actors must localize their efforts and contribute according to their own capacity. "Identity, history and culture are important issues raised by partner institutions", he said.
RACHEL KYTE, Director of the Environment and Social Development Department of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), said her department managed the social risks of all investments and worked to develop financial tools that put value on long-term sustainability. Agenda 21 launched in 1992 brought together multi-stakeholders and put a price tag on sustainable development. It placed responsibility at the State level. However, common and differential responsibility should also be at the local and individual level. Private financial flows into emerging markets outstripped aid flows by 5 to 1 and that gap was growing. Most of that private-sector financing was going into India, China, Brazil, the Russian Federation and Turkey. Most of the poor in those countries were women. Those countries also lacked sustainable jobs for young people. For 20 years, the focus was on a rights and development agenda. However, companies with good approaches to environmental risk management performed better in the long-term than those without. Sound environmental risk management benefited the bottom line.
Financing institutions now understood this, she continued, noting that some $2.1 trillion had been invested in socially responsible projects. Managers of mainstream assets knew that the returns on investment would come. That new emphasis on environmentally and socially responsible issues could have a huge transforming effect in the short-term. Access to affordable finance improved a women's health, the well-being of her children and employment opportunities for other women. The IFC conducted growth assessments to see what legislative and regulatory changes were needed to promote it. For example, it calculated that three to five interventions in Uganda could increase the annual gross domestic product growth rate from 2 per cent to 3 per cent. It took the women-owned business model to African bankers, selling it as a "win-win" situation enabling both the women and the bankers to grow their businesses. That approach was gaining ground as African bankers increasingly embraced it.
While lauding the efforts of the socially and environmentally "enlightened" consumer, Ms. Kyte warned that time was of the essence to slow environmental degradation. Buying organic beef and certified lumber was a positive step, but certification costs money. It was necessary to have responsible money managers who invested in responsible producers. Capacity must be managed from both the demand and supply side. During the session, she also urged participants to become financially literate, demanding and informed. The dialogue on the subject among non-governmental organizations, private firms and the public sector was still too far apart. There were ideological differences between corporate social responsibility in North America and Europe versus the intentions of bankers and businesses in China. She warned that there was no one right way to develop the marketplace and that much care must be taken in crafting sustainable solutions.
Focusing her discussion on water, sanitation and the environment, VANESSA TOBIN, Deputy Director of Programmes, UNICEF Programme Division, explained that the Organization was the lead agency in responding to problems of water supply and sanitation. Indeed, some 11 million children around the world did not live beyond the age of 5 because of illnesses caused by unsafe drinking water. In addition, half of the developing world had no access to basic sanitation, which in turn had a negative impact on AIDS prevention in places such as Africa.
She said that more investment was needed in health education and in children's health in general. Promoting gender equity was also extremely important, so that women could better understand how to care for their own health and those of their children. Supporting the development of local technologies was also needed. For example, she could see the usefulness in developing cost-effective solutions to water scarcity in sub-Saharan Africa, where 1 in 4 children lived in conflict-ridden areas. She also noted that 6 out of 10 children lived in urban areas that were not properly equipped with sanitation systems.
She went on to say that not only were additional resources needed to deal with such problems, the method in which those resources were allocated to the poorest communities also needed improvement. Also, it was important to support activities driven by non-governmental organizations and local Governments. Projects implemented hastily often led to local ownership being overlooked; a real sense of local responsibility was needed for those projects to succeed.
During the ensuing question-and-answer period, participants asked about the impact of Chinese bank policies on other poor countries. Ms. Kyte said Chinese entrepreneurs were already part of the global supply chain and understood the pressures in terms of quality production, labour standards and environmental demands. Many in China had made great efforts to promote environmentally and socially responsible approaches. The Chinese Central Bank did not want to be seen as the source of dirty financing, but as a provider of benevolent and clean capital. They had set very strict environmental and social criteria. China would not be the least costly production point in the global market forever. Labour could choose to go elsewhere.
In terms of concerns over Chinese investment into Africa with no environmental strings attached, she said it was not appropriate to dictate investment terms for Africa, since others could and did come in with a different approach to financing. A three-way conversation on the matter among partners in Africa, China and the developed world was necessary.
As to whether studies had been conducted on the impact on human consumption on disasters, Mr. Briceño said he was not aware of a specific study. Consumers had to be aware of the potential impact of natural hazards on their homes and businesses. But, very few people were in fact doing that.
As to how to ensure that companies receiving financing responsibly produced their products, Mr. Foote said the arrival of traceability and transparency to global supply chains was a great step forward. For example, United States companies were increasingly interested in whether child labour in Africa was used to manufacture goods sold in the United Stats. EcoLogic Finance provided credit and literacy training. More and more products required third-party certifications to audit how and where products were made. Most products and businesses financed by EcoLogic had third-party certifications.
In terms of the role of transnational corporations in financing small-scale businesses involved in agriculture commodities, he said the activist community had made great efforts in that regard. Slowly, large corporations, such as Kraft and Hershey, were recognizing that transparency and traceability were not solely for risk mitigation, but also led to better profits. Kraft was looking at purchasing rainforest supplied cocoa. In doing so, the purchasing power of sustainable cocoa growers would skyrocket.
Concerning financing programmes for women, Ms. Tobin stressed the need to not just give money to women, but to empower women farmers to be involved in results-based planning and to encourage girls to go to and stay in school. For example, the Grameen Bank had devised several good, sustainable programmes in Bangladesh.
In terms of barriers for women to credit in Africa and Central America, Ms. Kyte said she referred participants to the gender growth assessment on the IFC web site. She noted that administrative barriers -- such as long wait times for setting up businesses and the requirement that a woman get her husband's signature to legalize her assets -- still existed in parts of Latin America, making it difficult for women's entrepreneurship to advance.
In her concluding remarks, moderator JANE PRATT, President, United in Diversity Forum, United States, said "never to underestimate the power of a small group of people to affect change". Indeed, she said, among the pertinent lessons from the morning's discussion was the importance of empowering rural communities to participate in the market for sustainable products, for which new kinds of value-driven brokers and consumers were needed. Also, achieving even the most basic Millennium Development Goals, such as improving access to water and sanitation, required the adoption of self-motivating behaviours at the local level based on equitable partnerships.
In carrying out such efforts, it was not only important to consider the quantity of resources needed, but also to whom it should flow, she added. Higher education, meanwhile, conferred the skills and status needed to empower marginalized groups -- such as women and indigenous people - but, those people must be patient with results. They, in turn, must encourage their own empowerment by demanding the relevant education. Finally, all consumers of financial services, including ordinary individuals, must recognize that "it's not about the money, but what you do with the money", and that investments must bring equitable results.
Afternoon Roundtable #1
Richard Berman, President of Manhattanville College, moderated an afternoon roundtable session on science and technology for education, where speakers included: Rina Lopez Bautista, President, Knowledge Channel Foundation, Inc.; William Bohnett, Partner, Fulbright and Jaworski and Board Member, Island School; Sandra Rivero Borrell, President, Fundación Cultural Baur; Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and Creator of GapMinder; and Franziska Seel, Advisor, Millennium Development Goals Programme of Taking IT Global.
In his introductory remarks to the roundtable, Mr. Berman said that, in terms of the Millennium Development Goals, achieving universal primary education and promoting gender equality remained its unfinished business. In pursuing those two goals, it was essential to consider three elements: availability, quality and cost. Barriers could be economic, cultural or physical -- for example, natural barriers such as valleys or bodies of water. As for quality, he said attention must be paid not only to content, but also to the skill of practitioners in the educational community, as well as in the values they embody. The cost of training teachers, and practical elements such as electricity in schools, too, must be considered.
The first speaker, RINA LOPEZ BAUTISTA, President of Knowledge Channel Foundation, spoke about a television channel in the Philippines, called the Knowledge Channel, which had successfully reached 1,650 public schools in that country. Established by her company in 1999, the Knowledge Channel aired programmes on elementary and high school subjects such as mathematics, science, English and civics, resulting in a 25 per cent increase in retention and comprehension levels overall and increased test-scores in some cases.
Ms. Bautista credited the company's partnership with the Department of Education, the local school boards, public and private organizations, individuals as well as the international donor community for contributing to its success. The Knowledge Channel was notable for having reached children in the poorest areas in the Philippines, as well as conflict-ridden areas such as the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The Knowledge Channel Foundation had also delivered television sets and satellite dishes to remote areas by boat or carabaos to increase its reach.
WILLIAM BOHNETT, Partner, Fulbright and Jaworski, spoke on the value of the "placed-based" or experiential learning, using The Island School in south Eleuthera, The Bahamas, as an example, and where he was currently a Board Member. At that school, education resulted from students' direct observations of the tropical environment within South Eleuthera, as well as in seeing technology in action, in the form of solar panels, windmills, and the school's waste recycling garden. Deep Creek Middle School, also in south Eleuthera and modelled on The Island School, was formed four years later in 2001, serving children of the local settlement. In 2005, results of a required ninth grade test placed Deep Creek in the top 15 schools in the country, and six of its students currently attended secondary school in the United States on full scholarship.
Deep Creek students had also become teachers for their parents, he said. For example, the collapse of local fisheries had caused the local population to turn its back to the sea, but it was its students that had rediscovered the joys of swimming. In a similar way, the conch -- a local delicacy -- was in danger of being over-harvested, but, students learned how to protect and enhance that resource as part of their science classes and helped to spread that knowledge.
SANDRA RIVERO BORRELL, President of Fundación Cultural Baur, said that the educational environment must strive to keep abreast of advances in science, technology and human development. However, with the multitude of technological developments in education, especially in multimedia, educators must not confuse technological development with educational evolution. Indeed, young children still lack the ability to discriminate right from wrong, and there was a danger of producing well informed teenagers, but without references to values.
She said freedom might well be a gift, but it was a precarious one easily defaced by injustice. Indeed, the communication media had played a role in heightening the risks brought about by globalization, such as drug trafficking and transnational organized crime, thus presenting challenges to communities worldwide. Parents and teachers must become aware of the damage produced by the mistaken use of technology, such as the creation of violent television programmes, pornography and cyber games.
Speaking to the audience through a pre-recorded video, HANS ROSLING, Professor of International Health at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet and Creator of GapMinder, stressed the importance of data-driven learning. He said that, as a result of teaching Swedish undergraduates, he had come to the realization that people tended to know little about the world. Yet, the problem was not ignorance, but the pervasiveness of preconceived notions. For example, contrary to popular belief, there were more similarities than differences between developed and developing countries. Indeed, according to United Nations statistical indicators from 1962 onward -- such as family size, life expectancy and others -- developing and developed countries had continuously bridged the gap between them, such that the United States and Vietnam shared the same life expectancy and family size today, which was a stark opposite of conditions in 1964.
He went on to describe social and economic changes in other parts of the world leading to a more even distribution of income between rich and poor. Currently, 60 per cent of the world's population who were of mid-level income (neither rich nor poor) included both Africans and populations from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, despite the common wisdom that "all of Africa" was poor. However, there were, indeed, tremendous variations within the individual continents, such as in Africa, Asia as well as among Arab States. Therefore, goals such as universal access to AIDS prevention, for example, must be calculated on a regional level, and in a contextualized way.
FRANZISKA SEEL, Advisor, Millennium Development Goals Programme of Taking IT Global, said technology and education were often viewed as subjects to be studied rather than tools to be used. Yet, more than ever, the complex relationship of an interconnected world called for the ability to "learn how to learn", necessitating the ability to use technology as a tool. A programme run by her organization, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, focused on five skills: academic skills, such as mathematics and English; "twenty-first century content", such as business and civil literacy; thinking skills; literacy in information communications technology; and life skills, such as leadership, ethics and personal and social responsibility.
According to research, Ms. Seel said that students learned more when they were meaningfully engaged, and that a study by the Melinda Gates Foundation showed that 69 per cent of students were not motivated to work hard in school. Schools must, therefore, begin introducing real-world projects into the classroom, where young people were presented with opportunities to impact both the local and global community. Enabling interactive learning with other students through the Internet, by giving students a place to compare artwork, poetry and so on, should also be encouraged. Ms. Seel ended by providing participants an overview of virtual classrooms created in conjunction with the University of Toronto, which enabled teachers to educate students about policy issues. Such classrooms were examples of Taking IT Global's three objectives: increasing global connections; using information communications technology meaningfully; and producing learning material of interest to students.
In the question and answer session, one member of the roundtable asked the panellists to discuss any disagreements they might have. A debate arose over the use of games in education and whether the harm they might bring overrode the good. One panellist noted that a one-size-fits-all approach in education may not often work, and neither did one-size-fits-all criticism; indeed, every practitioner had a different market to serve with different needs. But, in terms of giving recipients a lesson on right and wrong, there was a danger that cultural stereotypes might get in the way, including in judging the propriety of games in education. Indeed, educating through play could help children explore their reality and help exercise their imagination.
A discussion then ensued on how to share best practices, with some saying that there was a need for a central mechanism for NGOs for doing so, whether it be through an Internet website or a guidebook, such as that produced by the Millennium Task Force on innovation technology. Others said that a central dissemination-point was not necessary with the advent of the Internet, whose "viral" quality made it possible for information to spread even through a loosely-bound network. One participant noted, however, that even with the Internet and the ability to conduct independent research, it was still necessary for "someone to grab our hand and lead us".
Indeed, NGOs themselves needed nurturing, the group said. The ability for like-minded people to conduct a continuous dialogue was necessary to pursue their values-based goals. To that end, the United Nations website, itself, should be upgraded, one participant said, to function as a global place of discussion and resources -- not only for children but for adults.
The group also touched upon the need to act with passion and curiosity. Rather than waiting for an external solution from places such as the Government, practitioners need only to look within themselves and to each other for guidance and "the riches of knowledge".
Also, youth and teenagers, and not just children, should be the target of technology in education, since that group was often interested in "everything modern". Indeed, young people were currently being targeted by universities in Mexico, participants learned. Also, organizations such as Taking IT Global had created a large database for young activists, and that network had inspired the creation of blogs. But, even with their enthusiasm for such technology, the group expressed concerns over educators who over-relied on technology, saying they preferred learning the old-fashioned way -- by looking at one's surroundings and learning from them -- which was also valid.
Ending the roundtable discussion, Mr. Berman said that, although there were differences in the outlook and approach of practitioners worldwide, the glue for holding them together was a commitment to make the world a better place. To keep the spirit alive, it was necessary to continue inspiring, mentoring and working with others in the community. Hopefully, science and technology would help make that community smarter in how it approached its work, including that of reaching the Millennium Development Goals.
Afternoon Roundtable #2
The afternoon roundtable entitled, "Emerging Approaches to Health Care, including Gender-based HIV and AIDS," was moderated by Kitty Pilgrim, an anchor of Cable News Network. Other participants included: Carmen Barroso, Director of International Planned Parenthood; Adrienne Germain, President of the International Women's Health Coalition; Frederica Perera, Centre Director and Principal Investigator of the Department of Environmental Sciences of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University; and Timothy Thomas, Executive Director of the Staying Alive Foundation of MTV Networks International.
ADRIENNE GERMAIN, President of the International Women's Health Coalition, said the glass of the rights of women's and girl's health was only one-quarter full. One third of women were physically or sexually abused, usually by men they knew. More than 250,000 women would die due to such abuse this year. Girls and women's health and rights were neglected and violated as a means of war in many conflict-ridden countries. HIV/AIDS rates were rising faster among women than men in many countries. Girls and young women accounted for three quarters of all new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. More programmes were needed to promote and protect girls' and women's rights. The Girls Power Initiative in Nigeria educated and mobilized thousands of girls across four Nigerian states. Girls participating in the initiative received an education instead of getting married young. They were also changing the ways their communities viewed children. Member States should select an incoming Secretary-General that made women's rights and gender equality a clear top priority.
CARMEN BARROSO, Director of International Planned Parenthood, said HIV/AIDS was devastating the lives and health of women and entire societies. The epidemic was growing fast among married women whose husbands were unfaithful. Rapists didn't use condoms. Fear of violence by a partner prevented many women from choosing when to have sex and to use condoms. The fact that unfaithful men often accused their partners of transmitting the disease discouraged women from disclosing their HIV status and receiving adequate treatment. Healthcare providers were ideally positioned to identify women suffering from HIV and gender-based violence, and thus, help improve the quality of care and change societal attitudes. Her organization's Dominican Republic affiliate, ProFamilia, provided treatment for HIV-positive women and had specialists trained to detect gender-based violence. She called for a strong, new United Nations commitment to combat women's rights violations, not just at the policy and standards level, but, also through implementation. Representatives from 114 women's organizations worldwide had submitted a detailed proposal for the United Nations to set up a new entity that would hold all the Organization's agencies accountable for introducing the gender dimension in their work. United Nations agencies currently lacked sufficient resources and authority to do what needed to be done.
TIMOTHY THOMAS, Executive Director of the Staying Alive Foundation of MTV Networks International, said AIDS would likely consume at least one more generation. In 1998, MTV launched the Staying Alive Campaign, free to broadcasters and NGOs worldwide, on HIV/AIDS awareness education and prevention. Its non-traditional approach involved fighting violent and sexually explicit messaging on television with graphic depictions of safe and unsafe sexual behaviour and violence. After viewing the ads, 77 per cent of all viewers said they were more likely to use condoms and more than 40 per cent said the ads prompted them to get tested for the disease. All information technology must be harnessed for HIV prevention in order to change attitudes and behaviour. NGOS and donors needed to rethink HIV/AIDS prevention messaging and to move beyond traditional technologies. Telling girls and women that they could say "no" to unwanted sex was only part of the solution. Changing the way men treat women in all aspects of rights was equally as important.
FREDERICA PERERA, Centre Director and Principal Investigator of the Department of Environmental Sciences of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, discussed the effects of environmental pollutants on women's reproductive health and child health and development. She noted that such pollutants particularly affected women in poor communities. Among them were combustion by-products of fossil fuel energy, smoking and second-hand smoke, indoor cooking fuel in poorly ventilated areas and without ventilation, and pesticides. Her department had conducted studies in the United States, Poland and China on the health impact of environmental pollutants. Multilateral action and partnerships were needed to prevent such exposure.
Responding to a question concerning the gap between women's health-care policies in the United Nations and how women were treated on the ground, Ms. Germain said the United Nations provided certain leadership standards for countries to follow. However, the actual work was done from the ground-up and took a long time to implement locally. The challenge ahead was to spread a conscience understanding, so that HIV/AIDS policies were better for women. Ms. Barroso said in the past few decades, many new NGOs had been formed to empower women, but, they continued to struggle with a lack of resources.
Concerning ways to change the views of men who saw sex as a woman's marital duty and to convince youth in particular that unprotected sex, even in a committed relationship, was risky, Ms. Barroso said sex education programmes were severely under-funded. Consistent and reinforced messaging was crucial to changing such attitudes. Mr. Thomas agreed, saying there was an imbedded mythology that must be contradicted with facts and, active, accessible and attractive information.
As to efforts to address the psychological and emotional impact of HIV/AIDS and to prevent people infected with the disease from intentionally spreading it to others as a way to express their anger and emotions, Ms. Barroso said only a few scattered projects addressed such concerns and that many more were needed. Ms. Germain said HIV/AIDS treatment and support programmes were disease oriented and geared mainly toward giving patients access to anti-retroviral treatment. Mr. Thomas added that groups such as the International HIV/AIDS Alliance were working on "Positive Prevention" or preventing HIV-positive people from transmitting the virus.
Afternoon Roundtable #3
The third roundtable was entitled "Human Security: Responsibility to Protect and the Peacebuilding Commission". Panellists for the session, moderated by Sarah Sewall, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government included: Augustine Mahiga, Permanent Representative of the United Republic of Tanzania; Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, United Nations Peacebuilding Commission; Juan Mendez, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide; Eugenie Mukeshimana, a Rwanda genocide survivor; and Edward Jombla, National Network Coordinator for the Network on Collaborative Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone.
Mr. MAHIGA said the responsibility to protect must be exercised collectively and NGOs were invited to be the partners of States, and sometimes their critics in that task, especially in terms of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Much like the evolution of the partnership between the United Nations and NGOs, the concept of human security was evolving in a way that should have happened long ago. Security had long been associated with States, territories and Governments, but, the realization had finally dawned that people must be at its heart. While Governments were ultimately responsible for protecting citizens and livelihoods, they could fail, sometimes because they were unwilling to provide protection and sometimes because they were themselves responsible for their respective people's suffering and deprivation. It was the responsibility of NGOs to fearlessly point out the shortcomings of Governments, because they did not want to hear. At the United Nations, the responsibility to protect had been debated heatedly and the Organization had been accused of propagating humanitarian intervention at the expense of so called sacrosanct sovereignty, which had become a shield and alibi.
Ms. MCASKIE recalled that by ridding the world of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the United Republic of Tanzania had been among the first countries to apply the concept of responsibility to protect in the modern era. The concept had developed from the controversial notion of humanitarian intervention, an idea from which the controversy had been eliminated by cleverly turning the question around so that it no longer involved "intervention", but "responsibility"; it was about protection rather than invasion. The overall concept of responsibility to protect was designed to help States in post-conflict situations to meet challenges with a view to avoiding a relapse into conflict, which happened in almost half the number of such cases.
She said the United Nations had developed increasingly useful tools for peacebuilding. However, once the peacekeepers left, the risk of relapse increased. The Peacebuilding Commission must develop itself into a critical tool for helping Governments to protect their people as countries emerging from conflict often lacked both the necessary tools and the wherewithal. It was easy for the international community to harangue and criticize, but hopefully, the Commission would be able to go behind the scenes and find out why. It was seeking ways to develop a good working relationship between its members and civil society actors, who could be seen positively by Governments as a means to facilitate access to the population. It was not merely a matter of how to deal with civil society, but a realization that, as a whole sector of society, it could not be ignored. By doing so, the Commission would be able to build the most inclusive and sustainable strategic approach to peacebuilding.
Mr. MENDEZ said it was gratifying that in the Security Council, the United Republic of Tanzania and Ghana had never allowed debate on Darfur to drift away from the need for the protection and the very survival of its people. The legal, philosophical basis of the Special Adviser's mandate was the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which had been authoritatively used to include the prevention of genocide, including by those who had not signed the instrument. Now, emerging on the horizon of international law was a responsibility that went far beyond the actual crime, which had created a sometimes sterile discussion of what constituted genocide. If a Government was willing to exercise its duty to protect, the international community must help it and, if it was unwilling or unable, then the international community must intervene.
He said his mandate entailed four aspects: collecting information on massive violations with an ethnic, racial or religious origin ,which could result in genocide; warning the Secretary-General and through him the Security Council; advising on what action to take; and liaising within the United Nations system in order to relay and manage information with a view to preventing genocide. The Special Adviser could not act on the basis of hearsay, but must corroborate the facts and ensure an accurate political analysis. He was specifically asked not to make the determination as to whether the facts constituted genocide, which was not a way to duck the question, but rather, essential to facilitating the mandate. It would be worse to determine that a situation constituted genocide and then fail to take action.
Ms. MUKESHIMANA brought participants to their feet in a standing ovation by recounting her experiences as an eight-months-pregnant young woman in 1994 Rwanda. Those in hiding, dealing with a Government that was supposed to be protecting its own people, had lived on rumours, including one that that soldiers from the United Nations and the United States were in neighbouring Uganda and were coming to the rescue. Of course the militias had been the source of the rumour, which had been aimed at inciting the killers to work faster before the phantom soldiers could arrive and prevent them from completing their task.
She said she did not believe the genocide would have happened the way it did, if people had cared enough about their fellow human beings. It should not be simply a matter of going into a country to protect people before the outbreak of conflict even when it became clear that it could not be prevented, but also dealing with the aftermath. Some people had gone to Rwanda not to seek and help survivors, but to make sure there were no revenge killings against the perpetrators. Today, everyone knew what was going on in Sudan, but not enough was being done. The international community was still talking and people were forced to beg for the resources to end the killing. No efforts were being made to understand the nature of the conflict and why those with money and power simply did not care. Who was speaking out for the victims and why had they no voice? Did they have the means to come to the United Nations and speak for themselves?
Mr. JOMBLA noted that when people were poor they could be used by anybody to perpetrate evil. Poverty loomed large in Sierra Leone even now, halfway towards the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Civil society must be involved in whatever policies were developed to protect the people, so as to ensure they were in the best interests of ordinary citizens. Human security should not exclusively concern the security of the State but, should include freedom from fear and want. Programmes must be implemented to halt violent conflicts like that which had occurred in Sierra Leone, which had been described as one of the most brutal in human history.
Noting that Governments, particularly those in Africa, did not like to be questioned and wished to do whatever they liked, he said they must be held accountable for all their policies and actions. The various international human rights instruments were pointers to what people expected of their Governments. Sierra Leone's youth had no jobs and they would almost certainly be used in violent ways for political purposes, especially, since the dates for the elections in 2007 had already been announced. The competition for jobs was high and there was no point in training young people for various occupations when they had no employment opportunities. They would definitely find mischievous things to do. Tied up with poverty was food security, including the availability and affordability of food. In Sierra Leone, even well-off civil servants could not afford a bag of rice, a commodity that was still largely imported.
In the ensuing discussion, participants raised questions about how Governments wanted NGOs to help them; the rhetoric of denial with respect to Darfur and Rwanda; and even the attacks of 11 September 2001.
One participant asked, what could be done to energize youths in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and elsewhere to channel their grievances properly. What could be done in a place like Haiti, where there was so much cynicism and negative energy because people had tried various solutions and nothing had worked, asked another. Haiti was a chronic conflict situation, rather than a post-conflict one.
Mr. Mendez said much more contact was needed with NGOs, adding that there were many situations of which he might not be aware and that only they could help him learn about. Regarding the rhetoric of denial, a clear warning sign was when a State authority refused to recognize what had happened even in the recent past. Recognition by those responsible was the most important thing.
Mr. Mahiga stressed the necessity of collectively creating awareness of the various issues. The new century had seen such advances in information technology that there were tools to generate and reinforce awareness as a network. NGOs must identify each other and network among themselves.
He pointed out that, until recently, HIV/AIDS had been denied by Governments and entire societies, but persistent advocacy, knowledge, awareness and exposure had overcome denial and permitted movement towards action. Governments must be made accountable as they and lawmakers were "scared stiff" of civil society. If NGOs could find a way to present the issues to Governments, they would have the most powerful leverage in making them move or not. There was no better place than the United Nations for taking collective action. The Organization should have taken the lead in Rwanda, but it had failed, and only the United Nations could lead any action in Darfur.
Ms. McAskie emphasized the difficulty of coming to grips with a common understanding of what was required in conflict and post-conflict situations. Too often there were varying analyses of the nature of the actual problem and all too often they revealed only that nobody understood that problem. For example, to characterize conflicts in strictly ethnic terms was to miss the point, as they were more often caused by questions of power and control over resources. In addition, northern NGOs were increasingly recognizing that empowering local organizations, rather than trying to dictate to them was the key to solving problems. That was the key in Haiti; there were no intractable conflicts, only intractable people.
Regarding denial, she said some people knew what was happening and still would do nothing. Member States in the Security Council were assessed billions of dollars to pay for a peacekeeping operation, but mere millions to care for victims. Why was it possible to fund armies, but not to feed children in conflict situations?
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