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Fill teacher training gaps to tackle trauma, psychosocial challenges, urges UN cultural agency on World Refugee Day

  • 20 June 2019 |

On World Refugee Day, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is calling for more support to fill the gaps in training for teachers on trauma and psychosocial assistance for migrant and refugee students.

A news policy paper launched on Thursday by the agency’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report tackles the educational challenge of trauma, a condition experience by some school-age migrant and refugee children, whose overall number has grown by 26 per cent since 2000. 

“Teachers are not, and should never be regarded as mental health specialists, but they can be a crucial source of support for children suffering from trauma if they’re given the right training,” said Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report.

Many of these children have had traumatic experiences before leaving their homes, during the journey or while settling in a new community or country, which manifests in toxic stress with negative consequences that also affect their learning ability.

Living through trauma

Eight years since the outbreak of conflict in Syria, the paper calls for better teacher training to provide psychosocial support to children who have lived through traumatic events.

In Germany, one-fifth of refugee children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and unaccompanied minors are particularly vulnerable.

Meanwhile, one-third of the160 unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Norway – from Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia – suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and of the 166 unaccompanied refugee children and adolescents in Belgium, 37-47 per cent had severe symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

“Conflicts and displacement are not going away,” Mr. Antoninis said. “They call for considerable changes in teaching practice that countries must work into their plans”.

The report outlines that trauma is also high among the displaced in low- and middle-income countries, citing that 75 per cent of the 331 internally displaced children in camps in southern Darfur in Sudan met diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, and 38 per cent suffered from depression.

In the absence of health centres, schools often play a key role in restoring a sense of stability, but teachers must know and how to help affected students.

Key recommendations
  • Learning environments must be safe, nurturing and responsive.
  • Teachers working with migrants and refugees who have suffered trauma need training to cope with classroom challenges.
  • Psychosocial interventions require cooperation between education, health and social protection services.
  • Social and emotional learning interventions must be culturally sensitive, context adapted, and also include extra-curricular activities.
  • Community and parental involvement should not be neglected

Unfortunately, they face challenges, particularly in emergency settings. While non-governmental organizations, including the International Rescue Committee, are training teachers, their reach is insufficient.

In Germany, most teachers and day-care workers said that they did not feel adequately prepared to address the needs of refugee children.

And in the Netherlands, 20 per cent of teachers with more than 18 years of mainstream school experience reported a high degree of difficulty dealing with trauma-affected students.

Some 98 per cent of teachers admitted to having encountered at least one traumatized student with in their work.

A review of early childhood care and education facilities for refugees in Europe and North America found that, although many programmes recognized the importance of providing trauma-informed care, training and resources were ‘almost universally lacking’.

“Shifting teachers’ approaches towards these children, helping them build confidence and self-expression through role playing and group discussions can hand them a life-line”, Mr. Antoninis underscored.

 


learn more about the World Refugee Day 2019

video of Trindad and Tobago fotballers #stepwithrefugees

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Secretary-General launches the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech

  • 18 June 2019 |

New York, 18 June, The Secretary-General today launched a United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech at an informal briefing to Member States.  The purpose of the Strategy is to deepen understanding on the part of all United Nations entities about the insidious impact of hate speech and how they can more effectively address it in their work. It calls for stronger support to Member States as well as stronger engagement with private companies, civil society and media.

The Strategy provides ideas on how to address the root causes and drivers of hate speech and how to reduce its impact on societies.

“Hate speech is in itself an attack on tolerance, inclusion, diversity and the very essence of our human rights norms and principles. More broadly, it undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values, and can lay the foundation for violence, setting back the cause of peace, stability, sustainable development and the fulfillment of human rights for all” stated Secretary-General Antonio Guterres while briefing Member States.

Over the past 75 years, we have seen hate speech as a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide, from Rwanda to Bosnia to Cambodia. More recently, it has been strongly linked with violence resulting in mass killings in several parts of the world, including in Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the United States. Governments and technology companies alike are struggling to prevent and respond to orchestrated online hate.

“As new channels for hate speech are reaching wider audiences than ever before and at lightning speed, we all – the United Nations, governments, technology companies, educational institutions – need to step up our responses” said Guterres.

Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide added: “In line with the United Nations longstanding commitment to the protection, promotion and implementation of all international human rights standards, the strategy and plan of action never calls for restrictions of freedom of expression and opinion to address hate speech.  By contrast, it adopts a holistic approach that aims at tackling the whole life cycle of hate speech, from its roots causes to its impact on societies.  It also considers more speech - alternative, positive and counter-narratives – to be the answer to hate speech”.

To strengthen UN support to Member States, the Secretary General announced that he intends to convene a conference on the role of education in addressing and building resilience against hate speech. He also designated the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide as the UN Focal Point for the implementation of the Strategy and Plan of Action. In this capacity, the Special Adviser will oversee and facilitate the development of more specific guidance on the implementation.  

 

For questions on the launch of the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech please contact Simona Cruciani, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 917 367 5430.

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Regional conference of women begins in Port of Spain

  • 17 June 2019 |

The Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean is a subsidiary body of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The Conference is convened every three years in order to identify the status of women’s autonomy and rights at the regional and subregional levels, present recommendations regarding public policies on gender equality, and undertake periodic assessments of the activities carried out in fulfilment of regional and international agreements on the subject.

The Caribbean preparatory meeting is the forum to discuss progress made, and challenges faced in the implementation of the Montevideo Strategy in synergy with the Beijing+25 review. It will also identify new priority areas that need to be addressed to strengthen women’s autonomy in changing economic scenarios in the Caribbean. In addition, the preparations for the XIV session Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean will be discussed.

In order to facilitate the exchange of experiences on critical issues of concern to the Caribbean, the programme includes, on Monday, 17 June, a Workshop on Gender Mainstreaming in National Sustainable Development Planning for the representatives attending the subregional preparatory meeting.  This Workshop will serve as a platform to address the importance of including a gender perspective in sustainable development planning in the subregion, especially in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

More informaton will be provided on this story as it develops.

 photo album of the events on 17 June 2019

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Record number of Venezuelans arrive in Peru: UN steps up response

  • 17 June 2019 |

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has sent extra teams this week to the border between Peru and Ecuador to support the authorities, as an unprecedent number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants – over 15,000 – have entered Peru this week..

On Friday, over 8,000 Venezuelans crossed the border at Tumbes, the largest number ever recorded on a single day. Of them, 4,700 requested asylum in Peru, also an unprecedented number in one single day. 

“People are arriving in a more and more vulnerable situation,” said Federico Agusti, head of UNHCR in Peru.

“Some have been walking for 30 or 40 days through various countries in the region. We see people suffering from malnutrition or dehydration and people with medical problems. There are more and more families with children,” Federico Agusti
UNHCR

The Peruvian authorities have issued a statement that same day explaining that, due to this massive influx of refugees and migrants, a special contingency plan would be put in place, and Venezuelan refugees are now required to have a passport and a visa in order to enter the country. Until now, each Venezuelan was asked only for a basic document, such as an ID or an Andean Card to be allowed entry into Peru.

The total number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the country now stands at about 800,000. In total, to date, Peru has received over 280,000 asylum applications by Venezuelan citizens and given temporary residence permits to over 390,000.  

Peruvian authorities, UNHCR and its partners, including over a dozen NGOs at the border are working around the clock on the ground, to process the arrivals, providing humanitarian assistance, medical care, information, legal support to refugees and migrants on both sides of the border.

According to the UN refugee agency, Peru’s new visa requirements for Venezuelans are having an impact on Ecuador’s northern border with Colombia, through which 8,380 Venezuelans entered on Friday, according to the authorities.

The UN and its partners are also present there providing much needed humanitarian assistance, protection services, to save lives and alleviate suffering in support of the Ecuadorian Government and civil society groups.   

Give the scale of the crisis and the levels of need recorded, the UN calls on the international community to step up its support to countries like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, that have been receiving the vast majority of the 4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela, most of whom are in need of life-saving assistance. 

To date, the Regional Response Plan for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela, remains severely under-funded, with close to 79 per cent of funding requirements (US$ 580 million) still unmet.

This week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will be visiting Venezuela, from Wednesday to Friday, at the invitation of the Government. During her visit to the capital, Caracas, she will meet with President Nicolás Maduro Moros and several Government officials, will hold discussions with the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, and will engage with victims of human rights violations and abuses and  civil society representatives.

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The future of work ‘with social justice for all’ tops agenda of centenary UN Labour conference

  • 11 June 2019 |

The Centenary International Labour Conference got underway on Monday at the UN in Geneva, with ILO chief Guy Ryder, calling on hundreds of delegates from around the world to help “construct a future of work, with social justice for all”.

The Director-General of the International Labour Organization said that with the possible adoption of a landmark declaration looking to the future, at a time of transformative change, it was time “to tell the world that we have the confidence, the common purpose, the will and the means”, to continue making social justice a top priority.

“We will do so because labour is not a commodity. We will do so, because labour conditions with injustice, hardship and privation, imperil the peace of the world”, he told the more than 5,000 delegates and dozens of world leaders in attendance.

Although this is the 108th International Labour Conference, often dubbed the ‘world parliament’ of the labour movement, it comes in the ILO’s centenary year.

“The defining challenge of this conference comes from the fact that the ILO’s Centenary coincides with the most profound and transformative process of the change in the world of work that it has ever seen,” said Mr. Ryder.

“There is nothing in these changes which questions the relevance of the ILO’s mandate or detracts from its importance. If anything, the reverse is true,” he added.

In a meeting at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the event in April, UN chief António Guterres noted that the ILO had played “a central role in the struggle for social progress”, throughout its history, as the oldest family member of the entire UN system.

Since the digital economy operates in a world without border, he stressed that “more than ever”, international institutions overall “must play a vital role in shaping the future of work we want”.

Mr Ryder said that a declaration focussed on social justice going forward was necessary because “freedom of association and expression are essential to sustained progress.”

“We will do this together because poverty anywhere is a danger to prosperity everywhere”, added the ILO chief, “and we will do it because the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of work obstructs other nations which wish to do so.”

#ILO100

 

 

read the full story on UN News

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Amid Venezuela exodus, UN refugee envoy Angelina Jolie visits camps on Colombian border, appeals for humanity, more support

  • 10 June 2019 |

As the United Nations announced four million Venezuelans have fled their country, Angelina Jolie, a special envoy for the world body’s refugee agency, visited camps along the Colombian-Venezuelan border, where on Saturday she appealed for more leadership, more humanity and more support to countries bearing the brunt of the crisis.

“This is a life and death situation for millions of Venezuelans,” UNHCR Special Envoy Angelia Jolie told journalists at a press conference in Maicao, Colombia, wrapping up a two-day visit during which she met with refugees, returnees and Government officials to assess the human impact of a mounting exodus.

Saying it was not possible to put a value on the support that Colombia and Peru and Ecuador are giving to the people of Venezuela, “because it is the core of what it is to be human,” the Academy Award-winning actress said that in the world today, “we need that humanity more than ever, and rational thinking from people who are unafraid to take responsibility and show leadership.”

Ms. Jolie spoke to journalists less than ten kilometres from the border, at the Integrated Assistance Centre, which is hosting Venezuelans for stays of up to 30 days. It was opened in March by UNHCR and the Colombian Government and currently provides 350 highly vulnerable people with shelter and food as well as legal assistance, activities for children, medical assessments and psychosocial support.

Plans to expand the centre’s capacity to 1,400 people have stalled due to a 79 per cent funding shortfall that has slowed the humanitarian response throughout the entire region, putting millions at risk, according to UNHCR.

At the centre, Ms. Jolie met one young family who crossed the border in April. Maria, a 41-year-old single mother with six children, spoke of how she sold the metal roof over her family’s heads back in Venezuela and spent the money to clothe her children and put shoes on their feet for the journey to Colombia.

“Your children will think back on this time as the time that you really saved them,” the UNHCR Special Envoy told her.

Ms. Jolie also visited Brisas del Norte, an informal settlement that is home to hundreds of Colombian and Venezuelan families. UNHCR says the Colombians are former refugees who returned to their country to escape the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, the same conditions that forced the Venezuelans to seek refuge here.

Linda Lopez, a 60-year-old Venezuelan woman who arrived one month ago, approached Jolie as she walked through the community and described the dangers she faced back home. “People are dying of hunger,” Ms. Lopez said, breaking into tears. “My whole family fled.”

Earlier on Saturday, the Special Envoy met with Colombian President Iván Duque in Cartagena. She expressed her gratitude to the government and people of Colombia for responding to the Venezuela crisis with what she called “truly remarkable generosity” – particularly as it works to implement a peace plan following five decades of bloodshed within its borders.

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines breaks a record, as smallest ever Security Council seat holder

  • 07 June 2019 |

Following a secret ballot held on Friday, the UN General Assembly elected five countries to the Security Council, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the smallest nation ever to secure a seat. Also elected were Estonia, Niger, Tunisia, Viet Nam.

The five States will take up their seats as non-permanent members of the Security Council in January 2020, replacing Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland.

Every year, five countries are elected to the 15-member Council (10 of whom are non-permanent) for a two-year term, according to a geographical rotation set by the Assembly in 1963, to ensure fair regional representation: five from African and Asian and Pacific States; one from Eastern Europe; two from Latin American States; and two from Western European and Other States (WEOG).

Whilst Niger, Tunisia and Viet Nam were elected unopposed, two of the five seats were contested: El Salvador competed with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to represent the Latin American and Caribbean group; and Romania lost out to Estonia in the East European group.

Speaking to the press outside the General Assembly Hall, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, described the election of his multi-island nation of around 110,000 people, as a “historic occasion”.

Mr. Gonsalves added that the country is committed to the principle of sustainable development and, as a Small Island Developing State in danger of inundation by rising seas, is very concerned about the consequences of adverse climate change and intends to work very closely with the other members of the Security Council. The UN, he added, has limitations, but it also has “profound strengths.”

Following a 2014 General Assembly resolution, elections to the non-permanent Security Council seats were moved from October to June, to give incoming countries more time to prepare for their terms, before assuming their responsibilities.

Watch Mr. Gonsalves's remarks to reporters below, following the Security Council vote at UN Headquarters in New York.

[ story originally posted on UN News ]

 

Video - Prime Minister of St. Vincent and Grenadines addresses the press.

 

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UN ramps up aid to children who remain as four million have now fled Venezuela,

  • 07 June 2019 |

The number of people who have left Venezuela to escape the country’s ongoing political and economic crisis, has reached some four million, the UN announced on Friday.

In a joint statement, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), described the scale of the exodus as “staggering”, with the number of displaced people jumping by a million over a seven-month period, from November 2018.

“These alarming figures highlight the urgent need to support host communities in the receiving countries”, said Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. “Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis, but they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help.”

Most of the Venezuelans who have fled, are being hosted in Latin America: more than half are in Colombia and Peru, followed by Chile, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil.

Caracas, Venezuela, a UNICEF representative speaks to a mother who brought her young daughter for nutrition screening. (3 June 2019) photo credit: UNICEF/Valescuez

Child health ‘grim’ and getting worse: UNICEF

For many of those who have remained in Venezuela, the situation is dire, and around a third of children in the country need help accessing basic nutrition, health and education services, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Friday.

The UN agency announced that it has ramped up aid since the beginning of the year, in the form of 55 tons of health supplies distributed to 25 hospitals in the most affected states of Caracas, Miranda, Zulia, Bolivar and Táchira. They include midwifery kits, antibiotics and malaria treatment.

“As the country grapples with the impact of a devastating economic and political crisis, we will continue to provide its most vulnerable children, wherever they are, with the humanitarian support they need”, said Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication. “Children’s needs must always remain above politics.”

On her return from a recent visit, Ms. Escudero said that people in Venezuela had told her the health situation was “grim”, adding that, because of a shortage of medicine, and an exodus of many doctors and nurses, medical centres are running at minimum capacity.

Many mobile health units and ambulances are grounded due to a lack of spare parts, she said, and, with worsening fuel shortages, some pregnant women cannot even make it to health centres. “For a country that made remarkable progress for decades on the quality of its health care, this is quite dramatic.”

The UN agencies operating in Venezuela have urged donors to increase funding, so that they can scale up their response to the crisis. IOM said that the humanitarian Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) launched last December is only 21 percent funded. UNICEF said that flexible funding is needed to allow the agency to reach children in need with quality support.

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On World Environment Day, Caribbean librarians and archivists stand up to beat air pollution and champion for SDGs

  • 05 June 2019 |

Aruba, 5 June 2019. The annual meeting of library and archive professionals from around the Caribbean Area known as ACURIL was hosted this year in the Dutch speaking state of Aruba. The theme for this year focused on the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG's 4 - quality education, 

SDG5 - gender equality and SDG10 - reduced inequalities were the main focus from the seventeen strategic goals that have 2030 as its target date. Acuril programme of activities included papers presented by library professionals and others, exhibits and displays. One of the main messages coming out was the role and functions of libraries and their staff in helping Member States to acheive the sustainable development goals. Libraries and information hubs are central to the dissemination of all forms of information. The have the potential to become multipliers and reposits of data, reports and other forms of information that can be useful to everyone whose lives are affected by the Sustainable Development Goals.

IMG 20190605 WA0002United Nations Depository Libraries are also key sources for finding not just SDG information but much more information about the work of United Nations and its entities of programmes and agencies. They hold limited collections of official UN documents, reports and are working to help researchers connect digitally with UN sources of data and full text. UNIC works with these libraries on different initiatives including promoting international observances and hosting joint exhibits on thematic issues.

On World Environment Day, participants of the event were encouraged by the UNIC to join with UN in supporting the initiative to bead air pollution; the theme for this years observance. Air pollution is a growing concern especially in highly industrialised countries like China and India. They are not the only ones that struggle with the issue though; even in Caribbean countries air pollution is a growing concern as countries like Trinidad and Tobago are faced with the challenge of dealing with hundreds of thousands of vehicles all running off fossil fuels and that have high levels of carbon emissions.Other sources of air pollution in the region include smoke and dust. This year come Caribbean states had to issue warnings for people to protect themselves fro high Sahara dust and smoke levels.

photo: participants at ACURIL, support Beat Air Pollution theme for World Environment Day 2019

 

Conference exhibitors used the ACURIL forum to launch new digital research tools. Academic publisher Emerald Publishing provided UNIC with insight to it new open access online platform that features research content align with the SDGs.

Acuril continues until 6 June the next SDG goals that will be focused on are Responsible Consumption (11), Climate Action (12) Peace Justice and Strong Institutions (13) and Partnerships (16).

 

UNIC photo album

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National Emergency Preparedness and Response in Focus for the Caribbean

  • 30 May 2019 |

An effective response plan to a radiological incident or emergency establishes control of the situation quickly and mitigates its harmful effects. Without the appropriate resources, training and exercises, these efforts may be compromised. The IAEA organized a regional training course from 13 to 17 May on the development of national radiological emergency plans in line with the IAEA safety standards, to support Caribbean countries in preparing for emergencies.

Organized under an ongoing, regional technical cooperation (TC) project[1], eighteen decision-makers and experts from nine countries, working in the fields of public safety, environmental health and disaster management, attended the course. The course began by exploring the key elements of an emergency response plan. Lecturers guided trainees on the development of emergency preparedness and response (EPR) arrangements in their respective countries. The students completed practical exercises on existing EPR digital platforms and studied historical examples of radiological emergency responses.  

“Belize has a legislative framework for emergency preparedness and has an established National Coordinating Mechanism, the National Emergency Management Organization. However, while Belize is very effective and experienced in addressing natural disaster emergencies, such as hurricanes, there is no emergency plan at the national level to address radiological emergencies,” said Jorge Franco, Environmental Officer at the Department of Environment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development. “It is envisioned that the Department of the Environment will spearhead the development of Belize’s National Radiological Emergency Plan in collaboration with key stakeholders.”

Saul Perez Pijuan, Section Head in the Technical Cooperation Division of Latin American and the Caribbean, noted the high level of commitment in the region to prepare for radiological emergencies. “In 2017 the IAEA developed and signed a Practical Arrangement with the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency,” Mr Pijuan said. “Subsequently, the IAEA sponsored two very successful activities: a Regional Training Course for First Responders to a Radiological Emergencies in Barbados and the first IAEA School of Radiation Emergency Management for the Caribbean, held in partnership with Texas A&M University, both held in 2018.” This latest course builds on these activities and is specifically aimed at strengthening capacities among English-speaking countries in the Caribbean.  

full story on IAEA website

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