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From child refugee in Mozambique to school principal in the United States

Growing up in Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Bertine Bahige was studying hard to become a doctor. At 13, he had his life figured out. Or so he thought.

Everything changed the day the Mai Mai rebel group stormed into his town in eastern DRC, going door to door to abduct new recruits.

“It was the hardest thing,” Bertine recalls with a broken voice. “Looking in your parents’ eyes and knowing that you’re about to be completely separated from everything you have ever known in your whole life.”

Bertine spent two years in captivity. He was horrified by how children were terrorizing each other. “You had to be ruthless to advance in the ranks,” Bertine recalls. “That is not who I am.” He could not stand the violence and decided to escape. “I knew this could be it, but I had to take my chance,” he says.

“I had been given a chance to live a new life and I wanted to get the best out of it.”

His flight took him thousands of kilometres away, crossing lake Tanganyika on a fisherman’s boat who kindly allowed him to board for free and hiding in the back of a truck full of dry salted fish. For three days, that was all Bertine ate. “It was my first gourmet meal in a long time,” Bertine says with his unbeatable optimism.

Exhausted and about to faint, Bertine collapsed by a tree. When he woke up, around him were people speaking a language he could not understand. He did not even know in what country he was. It turned out to be Mozambique. Bertine spent five years in Maputo refugee camp, managed by the UN Refugee Agency.

 

video : He knew little English when he arrived in the US. Now, he's a school principal in Wyoming

 

[ read the full story on UNHCR website ]

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2019 will be the Year of Indigenous Languages

Languages around the world continue to disappear at alarming rates. The large majority of the languages in danger are spoken by indigenous peoples, placing at risk the respective indigenous cultures and knowledge systems. To draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them at both national and international levels, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2019 as International Year of Indigenous Languages. The launch of the year will take place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 28 January. A UNHQ launch event is planned for 1 February.

It is through language that we communicate with the world, define our identity, express our history and culture, learn, defend our human rights and participate in all aspects of society, to name but a few. Through language, people preserve their community’s history, customs and traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking, meaning and expression.  They also use it to construct their future.

Language is pivotal in the areas of human rights protection, good governance, peace building, reconciliation, and sustainable development.

 IYIL2019 will promote indigenous languages in these five key areas

  1. Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation.
  2. Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices with regards to indigenous languages.
  3. Integration of indigenous languages into standard setting.
  4. Empowerment through capacity building.
  5. Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge.

    Learn more

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The costs of corruption: values, economic development under assault, trillions lost, says Guterres

Every year, trillions of dollars - equivalent to more than five percent of global GDP - are paid in bribes or stolen through corruption, the United Nations reported on the International Day which serves to highlight the pervasive crime, marked this Sunday.

Secretary-General António Guterres deemed corruption “an assault on the values of the United Nations,” in a message on International Anti-Corruption Day, which is marked each 9 December.

He said that "it robs societies of schools, hospitals and other vital services, drives away foreign investment and strips nations of their natural resources,” he said.

One trillion dollars are paid in bribes annually, while another 2.6 trillion are stolen; all due to corruption.

The United Nations is fighting the global scourge, which affects both rich and poor countries, through initiatives like the global campaign launched jointly by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The campaign recognizes corruption as one of the biggest impediments to achieving the SDGs, or 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agreed by all nations of the world in 2015, to advance the whole of humankind. 

newsicon [ full story on UN News ]

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Over 40 million people still victims of slavery

Slavery is still a very real and widespread phenomenon, affecting more than 40 million people worldwide, says the International Labour Organization (ILO), with children making up a quarter of the victims , despite the entry into force of the landmark Forced Labour protocol in 2016.

2 December is designated the UN International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, which marks the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, which entered into force in 1951.

The day is an opportunity to raise awareness of this global issue, and focus on the eradication of contemporary forms of slavery, such as human trafficking, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

Most child labour that occurs today is for economic exploitation, contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes “the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”

Human trafficking is also explicitly prohibited by the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, adopted by the General Assembly in 2000, which defines trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion for the purpose of exploitation.”

The ILO leads an ongoing campaign, along with its partners, to convince 50 countries to ratify the legally-binding Forced Labour Protocol, called 50 for freedom, where members of the public are encouraged to add their names to help reach the target: to date 27 countries have ratified the protocol.

 play  Video - ILO Director message on international day for the abolotion of slavery.

 

[ story originally posted on UN News ]

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Reggae listed in UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Having originated within a cultural space that was home to marginalized groups, mainly in Western Kingston, the Reggae music of Jamaica is an amalgam of numerous musical influences, including earlier Jamaican forms as well as Caribbean, North American and Latin strains. In time, Neo-African styles, soul and rhythm and blues from North America were incorporated into the element, gradually transforming Ska into Rock Steady and then into Reggae. While in its embryonic state Reggae music was the voice of the marginalized, the music is now played and embraced by a wide cross-section of society, including various genders, ethnic and religious groups. Its contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual. 

[ learn more ]

 

 

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Greenhouse gas levels in atmosphere break another record, UN report shows

Levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another record high, according to a report issued on Thursday by the United Nations weather agency, which reveals that there is no sign of reversal of this trend, responsible for climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather.

“The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that global concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide have been increasing steadily over the past years. In addition, the report notes a resurgence of a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance called CFC-11, which is regulated under an international agreement to protect the ozone layer.
 
The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports specifically on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which are what remains in the atmosphere, following a complex process of emissions and absorptions. 

Since 1990, there has been a 41 per cent increase in the warming effect by the various greenhouse gases on the climate – known as “radioactive forcing.” CO2 specifically accounts for about 82 per cent of the increase in radioactive forcing over the past decade, according to figures quoted in the WMO report. 
  
“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, when the temperature was 2 to 3°C warmer and sea level was 10 to 20 meters higher than now,” said Mr. Taalas.
 
The WMO report comes on top of the evidence presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on global warming issued in October, which sounded the alarm on the need to reach zero net emissions of CO2 by mid-century, in order to keep temperature increases to below 1.5°C. 

 [ read the full story on UN News ] 

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Coral reefs can’t wait for world to take action, urges UN, as Biodiversity Conference gets underway

Sounding the alarm about the urgent need to protect coral reefs from extinction within decades, a new coalition of organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was launched on Wednesday in Egypt during the UN Biodiversity Conference, to galvanize global leadership before it is too late.

 “It’s clear to anyone who puts their head below the waves that the fate of the world’s coral reefs is hanging in the balance,”. At the moment these undersea explosions of colour and life face an extremely bleak future.” 

 Erik Solheim, UNEP Chief

Coral reefs provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world, support more than a quarter of all marine life, and protect communities and coastlines from natural disasters — and if urgent action is not taken, they could be lost forever.  

Eight international organisations have joined forces to advocate for decisive action to protect these natural wonders: UNEP, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Vulcan Inc., the Ocean Agency, and the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“The expectations for this coalition could not be higher. Coral reef protection must become a global priority. Coral reefs need a better deal,” said Mr. Solheim, who unveiled the new partnership in the Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Dozens of ministers whose countries are party to the CBD are gathering there, together with experts and representatives of civil society organisations, to start a two-year process to adopt a global framework for protecting biodiversity, including coral reefs, around the world.

 [ full story on UN News ]

 

 

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On Kristallnacht anniversary, UN chief urges renewed fight against 'crime' of anti-Semitism

Political leaders have not yet taken up their responsibility to speak out loudly against neo-Nazism, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday, warning that anti-Semitism is on the rise.

Meeting Norbert Strauss on the 80th anniversary of the Nazi Kristallnacht attack on Germany's Jews, the Secretary-General said that testimony from Holocaust survivors needed to be heard anew, and fully understood as an ever-present reminder of what can happen if societies let down their guard. 

“Anti-Semitism is back and it needs to be fought as the crime it is,” Mr. Guterres said. He called on leaders and Governments to “clearly denounce and make evident the real risk of anti-Semitism in our societies today.”

In an intimate meeting in his office at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Guterres listened as Mr. Strauss recounted what it was like as an 11-year-old, to witness attacks and desecration of Jewish sites and monuments in Germany, and ultimately to flee the country.

Today’s meeting took place on the anniversary of Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass".

The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass found on streets after windows of Jewish-owned buildings and synagogues were smashed during that night of violence in 1938.

Mr. Guterres said that he was particularly touched by the imagery, since crystals had  been symbols of beauty,  horribly transformed since then, now coming to symbolize “the end of the age of denial about the Holocaust.”

Mr. Strauss was among a group meeting the UN chief, including members of non-profit organizations advocating for the Jewish community. They gifted Mr. Guterres books related to the Holocaust.  “Only the truth can allow humanity to progress,” Mr. Guterres said, encouraging young people to continue to learn about history. “If we hide the past, we will never be able to overcome it.”

The visit comes just days after an anti-Semitic gunman went on the rampage in the US city of Pittsburgh, killing 11 Jewish worshippers in a mostly-Jewish suburb, while they attended Shabat services at the Tree of Life Synagogue. The UN chief condemned the "horrendous act" noting that anti-Semitism is the "oldest and more permanent kind of hatred" to have endured "in the history of humankind". 

Also on Friday, the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) held an educators’ workshop titledPractical Tools for Celebrating Diversity and Antidiscrimination, in observance of  the Kristallnacht Pogrom and the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The event featured Facing History & Ourselves and a new online resource for teachers called Stories That Move – a  toolbox for antidiscrimination.

 

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IOM launches migration governance in the Caribbean 2018 report

IOM, under the PACTA project and funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration; launched the Regional Report on Migration Governance in the Island States of the Commonwealth Caribbean. The report aims to help policymakers improve migration management practices in the Caribbean region and is to be used as a starting point for identifying opportunities to develop regional interventions tailored to the realities of each country and to build government capacities. 

Learn more about the methodology of this report, the highlights and main actionable recommendations for the region, which consists of: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago; 

Background

In January of 2016 eight countries, in coordination with the IOM and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) met to discuss establishing a regional consultative process. The countries and territories of Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Turks and Caicos Islands identified priority themes to pursue, including:

  • Collection of data, information sharing, and analysis of migration related issues;
  • Systematic consultations on migration issues; and
  • Sharing of good practices in regards to refugees and vulnerable migrants.

In December of 2016, 15 countries and territories met for the first meeting on thematic issues: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti, Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos, and Tinidad and Tobago.

Learn more about the  report and the Caribbean Platform For Migration Governance

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Data experts gather to find solutions to world’s biggest challenges at UN Forum

International data sectors from national statistical offices, the private sector, NGOs, academia and international and regional organizations are gathering in Dubai from Monday to Wednesday, in a bid to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The experts will launch innovative solutions to improve data on migration, health, gender and many other key areas of sustainable development at the second annual Forum, which takes place at the Madinat Jumeirah Convention Center.

The 3-day conference is packed with over 80 sessions and parallel events, and is seen as a crucial opportunity for major producers and users of data and statistics to find ways to deliver better data for policy makers and citizens in all areas of sustainable development.

Speaking ahead of the opening session, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, underlined the critical importance of good data in order to achieve the SDGs: “It is essential to have accurate, reliable, timely and disaggregated data, tracking the unprecedented range of economic, social and environmental goals in the 2030 Agenda. At the UN World Data Forum, I expect new partnerships to be forged, commitments announced, and support boosted.”

The conference takes place two months before the expected adoption by Member States of the Global Compact for Migration, the first-ever UN global agreement on a common approach to international migration, and one of the high-level sessions will be on improving migration data to help set new strategies for how to better track the more than 258 million migrants around the world, including through real-time data sources such as call records: this will serve as a contribution to the December conference.

Financing for data and statistics, and ways to fill the funding deficit and data gaps that exists in many countries will be a focus topic of this year’s Forum, at a time when developing countries face a gap of $200 million per year and over 100 countries do not have comprehensive birth and death registration data: a lack of funding and capacity are serious constraints for many countries.

newsicon  [ read the full story on UN News ]


 Follow the discussion and learn more about the  World  Data Forum

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Contact

Email: unic.portofspain@unic.org 

Telephone: 1(868) 623 8438 or 623 4813

Fax: 1 (868) 623 4332 

Address: 

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Feature photos

  • ellaunfpa18
  • muntraining011
  • 20180920 161147
  • ccacademy
  • UNFPA staff Ella presents a gift to a visitor at the UN booth on International Women's Day 2018
  • MUN 2019 youth leaders and Lara Quantrall Thomas from Rotary
  • parent an students who attended in 2nd Climate Change workshop, with UNIC Director, Costa Rican Abassador, ASPnet Coordinator and guest presenter
  • Climate Change Academy students and organisers