Writing as a United Nations Association Blogger Fellow

This post was updated on 10/16/2015 with a link to my new post for UNA on representation of women in the media (below).

Oct. 7 2015 — Last month I had the exciting privilege to attend the 2015 Social Good Summit in New York during the UN General Assembly. Then I got to write about what inspired me there for the United Nations Association as a Blogger Fellow. I’m still reeling from the experience and will be writing more about the ideas shared there soon.

In the meantime, you can access what we’ve already written on UNA’s website at the links below:

Click to learn about the 2015 UN Association Blogger Fellows

Click to learn about who the 2015 UN Association Blogger Fellows are

Click for the feed of Blogger Fellow posts about the Social Good Summit

Click for the ongoing feed of Blogger Fellow posts about the Social Good Summit

Click to read my post on crazy celeb sightings on the UN Association's website

Click to read my post for the UN Association on crazy celeb sightings at the Social Good Summit

Click to read my post for the UN Association on how young people can help refugees

Click to read my post for the UN Association on how young people can help refugees

NEW (10/16/2015):

Click to read my newest post for the UN Association on women in the media

Click to read my newest post for the UN Association on women in the media

And finally, if you aren’t convinced of why the UN and it’s newly-adopted “Global Goals” have been so hyped up recently, read this New York Times article that explains:

NYT article

Thanks for following along this exciting journey with me!

New German Language App for Refugee Kids

Photo: BKA/Andy Wenzel, TheLocal.at

Photo: BKA/Andy Wenzel, TheLocal.at

It was so inspiring to open my Politico Brussels Playbook email today and find that Austria’s government has created an app to help refugee children (and soon adults) learn German, so they can begin to integrate into society more easily. This is exactly the kind of creative solution I was calling for in my recent post, ‘I’m Young and Broke. How Am I Supposed to Help Refugees?

It’s especially important that the app, “hallo App Deutsch,” contains pictures and sound in addition to everyday words, because many refugees come from Arabic-speaking countries, and will never have used the Roman alphabet before. As I described in the post mentioned above, it’s much harder for refugees, who have endured unimaginable trauma, to then learn a language from scratch that uses an entirely different alphabet and numbering system than their own.

According to TheLocal.at, an English-language Austrian news site,

“The app, co-funded with corporate sponsorship, is also set to be launched in Germany – the main destination for refugees in recent months – and a version for adults is also planned. The kid’s version will be available for free download from the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store from the end of October.”

Many other creative solutions for aiding refugees have emerged over the last few days. The UN’s Refugee Agency recently announced partnerships with Kickstarter, Instacart, and AirBnB that allow you to help to whatever degree you can. Widespread participation and inspiring innovations like these programs will help end the horrors that refugees face.

How Blogging Got Me a Trip to New York

Cultivate your interests banner

I’ve always felt a little uneasy about the self-promotion required to maintain a blog: Posting links on social media asking my friends to read my work, assuming I have anything interesting enough to say to hold it up on the internet, let alone expecting people to like it. But this month, I learned what doors blogging can open. Not the kind of doors where advertisers pay you to talk about a product on your blog. My passionate rants about various social issues lent me to a slightly nerdier purpose – I was selected to attend a Social Good Summit as a United Nations Association Blogger Fellow in New York next weekend.

The Summit is a two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. The summit’s theme, #2030NOW, asks, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” In addition to the event I’m attending in New York City, people “convene around the world to take part in the global discussion about how communities are using the digital tools of today to build a brighter future.”

Event Cover Photo

The timing of the Social Good Summit is especially important this year, as it will coincide with the 70th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at its headquarters in New York, and the adoption of the United Nations’ new “Global Goals,” that replace its expiring “Millennium Development Goals.” (read more on these below).

My role at the Summit will be to amplify the message of thought-leaders, global experts, and “social good” advocates who will discuss issues ranging from resettlement of refugees, to using sports for social good, to using social media as a first-responder in cases of emergencies (like many of us experienced when Facebook notified us that our friends near the recent earthquake in Chile were okay).
Agenda_smallSpeakers_SmallI will share the discussions and ideas I hear throughout the weekend on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and this blog, and encourage you to follow the conversation using the hashtags #2030Now and #SocialGood.

It will be quite the honor to attend this event. If I hadn’t started this blog after graduating college more than a year ago, I wouldn’t have had any material with which to apply for such an exciting blogging opportunity in the career field I love and want to work in someday. Now, instead of grimacing at what I thought was self-promotion, I am so happy that I have used this medium to keep my writing skills sharp about issues that I truly care about. A seemingly-pointless blog has turned into my first networking opportunity with real UN leaders (that I’m fan-girling about hardcore). Moral of my story – While you might not work in your dream job or ideal career yet – continuing to cultivate your interests in your spare time can open big doors in the future.

To learn more about the #SocialGoodSummit and what I’ll be doing there, click here. To learn more about the Global Goals the UN will adopt this week on September 25th, read below.

The Goals

Millennium Development Goals Background:

In 2000, countries came together to put in place the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that the world would use as a plan for ending extreme poverty. They focused on eradicating extreme hunger, and poverty; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment; reducing the under-five child mortality rate; reducing the maternal mortality rate; combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development.

Sustainable Development Goals or “Global Goals” Background:

As the MDG’s expire in 2015, the new global goals the UN will adopt this week are built on their successful framework, but represent a better understanding of the connections between poverty, governance, health, gender, climate, and education.

Striking Anti-FIFA Graffiti in Brazil – Do large scale international sporting events need to change?

Source: Huffington Post

Source: Huffington Post

The image at left, and the rest featured by this Huffington Post article are a sign that indigenous and under-privileged peoples and underpaid stadium workers of World Cup and Olympics host countries are fed up with being evicted from their homes, having government money spent on flashy stadiums, and being far from financially able to purchase tickets to these local games themselves.

Brazil is getting a lot of attention for its protests by people who think their government should be using funds for more valuable and long-lasting projects such as education and healthcare reform. Qatar is getting attention for its stadium construction workers who are DYING on the job because many of them were recruited illegally and can’t legally request more humane working conditions, leaving them to labor hard for long hours in Qatar’s desert heat. This isn’t normally what we think of when we visualize the grand World Cup.

Why are these issues gaining notice now, and casting a shadow on FIFA’s parade? Well, while most of us will be able to enjoy the excitement of the World Cup from the comfort of our couches and TV screens or at a pub (myself included), and some (millions) even have the means to attend the games in Brazil, there are many people who won’t be able to watch the games. They were “asked” to move out of their homes to make way for a new stadium, or they live in poverty and have to watch as millions of rich tourists flood their towns, benefiting from their government’s spending on this luxurious tournament. They’re not happy about this and they want people to know.

In South Africa 4 years ago, residents were promised that “legacy” would accompany the shiny stadiums in their towns, to help them develop, but they were misled:

They lied to us and betrayed us,” said Imaan Milanzi, a community liaison officer, pointing to a muddy hole in the ground surrounded by rubbish, bushes and banana plants.  Half a dozen people, holding battered old plastic paint tubs, had formed a casual queue, waiting for their turn to access the borehole – their one, trickling water supply.  “Things didn’t go as planned,” said Mr Milanzi, of the local government’s redevelopment plans. “They first promised to supply water, upgrade houses and roads. But they just built the stadium and disappeared.”

It should make us feel squeamish that our enjoyment of this event comes at the expense of the inhabitants of the host country. Why is so much money spent for our enjoyment, and not for the improvement of these inhabitants’ lives? Because events like the World Cup attract money, are glamorous, and in high-demand for funders, while combatting poverty is a difficult, less-glamorous task left to ardent non-profit organizations with limited resources.

Does this mean we shouldn’t still enjoy watching this World Cup that has been purchased for our enjoyment? I’m not sure. I know I will feel a little uncomfortable looking at the stadiums and advertisements for expensive athletic clothing, knowing that they are built and made on the backs of Brazil’s poor.

But I also believe that these world-stage tournaments are important arenas for nations to come together for a common purpose. I have never felt like more of a global citizen than while watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. So then, if so many people are unhappy with how these events are funded and constructed, but we as a global society want to continue enjoying them, the only possible solution is to reform how these events are produced.

Maybe, in order for a city to receive a bid, they must pledge to dedicate a (substantial) portion of the revenue they receive to immediate healthcare/education/infrastructure development, and show concrete plans to follow through. They could be required to ensure that the tournament has no negative infrastructure effects on the host city’s people (like so many Olympic/World Cup stadiums that remain unused after the games and become ruins rather than benefiting anyone).

It could also be a requirement that host countries hire their own local workers that they pay adequately and for whom they provide comfortable working conditions, prohibiting the importation of illegal foreign workers that are underpaid and put in danger. Will this lower FIFA’s and the host government’s profits? Probably. Will this make tournaments more morally acceptable to people affected negatively by them and bolster FIFA and the government’s credibility? I’d like to think so.

These are all only suggestions, and they are more complicated than I have described, but they are the direction I think international events like the Cup and Olympics need to seriously consider taking in order to avoid building anger and resentment and remain celebrated and enjoyed by all.