Entries with tag united nations .

When it Comes to Racism, Start with the Person in the Mirror

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First, remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” Luke 6:42

Martin Luther King Jr. is the United States’ most famous civil rights leader, having advanced equality for racial minorities by using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.

That method of protest inspired countless others to join him in seeking equality for all in America, including numerous faith leaders. The movement, perhaps unlike the United States at the time, did not discriminate based on color or creed.

King was assassinated in 1968, but the many people he inspired during his ministry continued to espouse his message of peace and justice.

Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America, who was one of the faith leaders who joined King at the March on Selma, later reflected on how the civil rights movement was not over and how it continued to be a driving force in his own life.

“I know that civil rights and human rights continue to be the most thorny social issues in our nation,” he said. “But I will stand for both rights for as long as I live.”

Decades after Archbishop Iakovos’s remarks, civil rights and human rights are still at the forefront of a national conversation—and in many ways still are “the most thorny social issues in our nation.” 2016 was undoubtedly a year of racial tension in America.

Despite statistical evidence of discrimination against African Americans in law enforcement, in housing and in employment, many people refuse to listen to the people in our communities who face that discrimination every day.

In light of King’s inspiring legacy, it is perhaps even more unfortunate that people deride contemporary civil rights organizations for their work in bringing an end to said discrimination.

The criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement today, for example, eerily resemble those of Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement 50 years ago.

In a rebuke of the civil rights movement’s critique of white violence against blacks, one person in a 1966 telegram anonymously asked King, “what about the violence by blacks in these cities?”

“Hang your head in shame,” another wrote to King. “You are responsible for all of these riots and havoc in this country today.”

Still another wrote, “you don’t point out any faults at all of your own people, just the whites.”

Sound familiar?

Such an unwillingness to listen is in contradiction to the scriptures, in which God instructs us to “incline your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding” (Proverbs 2:2).

As Christians, we are called to look inward and to improve upon ourselves instead of pointing out the flaws in others. It is based in the act of repentance, the recurring stage of salvation in which we turn away from sin.

How might you discriminate in your life? At the very least, it’s worth some thought.

Do you subconsciously put your hands in your pockets when you pass a black person on the street? Did you not consider a babysitting applicant because her name sounded like she might be black or Hispanic?

These days, it’s easy to deny being racist and to generally support the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King Jr.’s era. After all, you’re probably not lynching people or forcing them to drink from a different water fountain.

But how might racism still manifest itself in your life? How can you bring an end to racism in yourself?

Martin Luther King Jr. and Archbishop Iakovos knew that, as icons of Christ in the world, they were called to challenge the institutional inequalities in our country that unnecessarily pitted one group of people against another. Many others feel that they are called to similar work today.

For us, perhaps we ought to start simply with the person in the mirror.

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the U.N. for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

Talking is Important: The Formation of the United Nations

The United Nations began operating 71 years ago today, following the second of two world wars that killed up to 100 million people around the globe.

As those conflicts dwindle further and further into the past and out of our collective memories, we forget the toll that kind of death had on humanity. While the number of Americans who died was relatively low, entire generations were lost in other parts of the world.

The Soviet Union lost almost 14 percent of its population, Poland 17 percent and Germany 8 percent, just to name a few.

The United Nations was established to prevent another such conflict, and was the successor to the post-World War I League of Nations that itself failed to do the same thing.

By most accounts, the UN has been rather successful. Despite high-profile conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Israel, the number of people killed in wars is close to its lowest point since 1946 (when World War II ended).

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker told the Wall Street Journal a few years ago that “we may be living in the peaceable era in the history of our species.”

But the United Nations doesn’t exist simply to prevent war. The 195 countries that are part of the UN also collaborate on other important issues.

In 2015, world leaders adopted 17 sustainable development goals that include ending poverty, eliminating hunger, providing quality education and ensuring gender equality, among other things.

Hundreds of other organizations—called “nongovernmental organizations”—also have roles at the UN, along with its 193 member states and 2 observer states.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has been an accredited NGO at the UN since 1985, and takes an active role in advocating on the behalf of refugees and migrants, against human trafficking, and in favor of the right to clean water worldwide.

The UN experiment of the last 71 years has shown just how effective open communication can be in resolving conflict.

The Charter of the United Nations took force on Oct. 24, 1945.

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the UN for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

Health and Literacy: An Often Overlooked Connection That Impacts Lives

 

2016 marks the celebration of two important milestones: the 50th anniversary of World Literacy Day and the implementation of a new United Nations agenda, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These targets converge on many issues, but one important one is often overlooked, namely, literacy. Broadly defined, literacy is the ability to read and write, and ultimately comprehend information. While these skills are important by themselves, they can be impactful on essential aspects of daily life, particularly health and wellness, and they can affect morbidity and mortality rates. Since the right to health has been declared by the UN since 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, this suggests that these issues are intertwined in such a way that when one improves, the other will consequently improve.

Literacy is a tool used to educate and empower individuals around the world. It is part of Sustainable Development Goal #4, which seeks to “ensure inclusive quality education and promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.” But literacy means far more than a person’s ability to read and write: it has a direct connection to a person’s quality of life and mortality. Studies have shown that limited literacy acts as an indicator of poor health. It leads to life-threatening errors when taking medication, poorer understanding of diseases and their root causes, as well limited access to preventative care measures. Barriers to literacy also limit people’s ability to address chronic conditions and various other health-related issues. These studies have shown that when a person’s literacy is poor, they face difficulties that others do not, including communicating with healthcare professionals about their health.

Imagine, for example, a scenario where a person has a condition that is not easily diagnosable through basic examination. If the patient lacks the cognitive ability to either describe his or her symptoms, or is incapable of comprehending the instructions given by the medical professional, they will suffer accordingly.

According to the 2015 figures articulated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 757 million adults presently lack literacy skills. This means that a significant portion of the world’s population has an increased mortality rate and a higher risk for health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that the majority of deaths are the result of chronic conditions. This includes physical ailments like diabetes and hypertension, but also various mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Here is where the two issues converge, creating an opportunity to improvements in both health and literacy.

Health Literacy describes a patient’s ability to process information related to their health. This means that the patient should be able to comprehend the information provided to them by medical professionals, thereby avoiding diagnosis and treatment problems. If a person is unable to obtain or lacks the skills to comprehend certain information, he or she will be unable to properly look out for him or herself, nor make appropriate health-conscious decisions. In order to combat the rise in these conditions, it has been argued that individuals need to engage in the practice of self-management, which outlines the skills and practices needed in order for a person to learn how to live with certain conditions, thus improving their daily lives while simultaneously reducing mortality.

With improved literacy, individuals will be able to self-manage a significant portion of their ailments. Due to the day-to-day nature of many chronic conditions, individuals must be able to understand health information, including instructions regarding a particular health regimen, or the ability to plan and execute any lifestyle changes that need to be made. In countries and particular populations with low literacy rates, the ability to self-manage is diminished. Thus, those individuals are at a higher risk for health problems. For example, an individual with poor literacy skills who suffers from diabetes may be unaware that they are presently living with the condition, or if they do know about it, they may be ignorant of treatment methods. Diabetes typically requires vigilant control over one’s diet and the constant checking of blood sugar, both of which, if done correctly, allow for a relatively normal life. Ignored, and that person may struggle to participate in daily activities. With increased literacy will come the recognition of self-management skills, namely that blood sugar needs to be maintained.

Recognizing the correlation between literacy and health will ultimately benefit both issues. After fifty years of acknowledging literacy as an essential issue, connected to many facets of life for the world, things have certainly improved. There are 50 million fewer illiterate people in the world today than fifteen years ago thanks to the work of governments, the private sector and various organizations dedicated to this issue. Despite this, however, work remains to be done.  According to the UNESCO, 250 million children are likely to enter adulthood without basic literacy skills. And these problems do not exist in isolation of other problems: many exist because of a particular population or country’s inability to escape from a cycle of poverty and illiteracy. By improving at least one of these issues, literacy, you will be potentially removing a burden to escaping that cycle, while simultaneously creating a healthier existence for many.

 

Anthony Balouris is a Fellow at the UN for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

 

 

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Archdiocesan Statement on the Protection of Women

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Salesian Missions, Inc. recently submitted a joint statement for the 59th Session of the Comssion on the Status of Women (CSW), which is scheduled for March 2015. CSW is a function comssion of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide. For more information about CSW please click here. 

OFFICIAL STATEMENT (Soon to be posted on the UN Website)

Introduction

As international faith-based organizations of the Christian tradition, and moreover as members of the human community, we regard the empowerment of women and gender equality as central components of the post-2015 development agenda. We acknowledge the progress made by Member States and Civil Society Organizations since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Millennium Development Goals advanced the empowerment of women. The proposed Sustainable Development Goals of the Open Working Group augment the issue of women’s empowerment and gender equality. We support the continued strengthening of the efforts made by the global community to ensure the rights of women and girls through decisive goals, targets, and indicators. However, much work still needs to be done. The full participation of women at every level in setting the next development agenda is essential.

We believe that the global community must address the issues that impede development for all, especially women and girls. These issues include, inter alia, equal access to education for girls, infant mortality, maternal health, access to clean water and sanitation, the feminization of extreme poverty, and the denial of participation in both the private and public arenas. The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women identifies the continued prevalence of violence against women and girls as the greatest threat to overcoming these obstacles and notes that such violence impairs and nullifies the realization of all human rights.

We reaffirm our shared interest in the empowerment of women and girls worldwide and the right of all people to peace, security, and freedom. All persons are entitled to live with dignity regardless of gender and/or sex. We insist that the pursuit of equality and recognition of this universal dignity must continue solely by peaceful means, while remembering and respecting the unique contributions of both women and men within various cultures, customs, and traditions.

Assessing the Problem of Violence Against Women

Violence against women, both physical and psychological, takes many forms, inter alia: domestic violence, violence in armed conflict, rape and sexual assault, violence during migration, in the trafficking of women and girls, and conditions of extreme poverty. All forms of violence result in the silencing of women, denying them the right of expression and full participation in the life of their families, communities, and governments. Violence of any form must be systematically addressed by all levels of society.

The physical, emotional, physiological, spiritual, and social consequences inflicted upon victims of violence cannot be fully communicated or understood through data collection. However, the study of violence against women does provide evidence that women and girls are disproportionately subjugated to many forms of brutality, some of which are culturally based. The statistics related to violence against women and girls have been noted:

·      According to the WHO, 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. In some national studies, 70% of women have experienced intimate partner violence.

·      The WHO global review of scientific data concluded that violence against women is a “global public health problem of epidemic proportions, requiring urgent action.”

·      The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has shown that nearly 1 in 5 women have reported experiencing rape in their lifetime. Over 42% of victims were first raped before age 18.

·      UNICEF reports that about 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives.

·      Data from the ILO shows that women and girls comprise 55% of the estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labour worldwide and 98% of the estimated 4.8 million victims forced into sexual exploitation.

·      According to the United States Department of State, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. Over 70% of trafficked persons are female and many are victims of physical or sexual assault.

·      The UNODC indicates that a disproportionate number of women are involved in human trafficking, both as victims and as culprits. Female offenders have a prominent role in human trafficking particularly where former victims become perpetrators as a means of escaping their own victimization.

·      The United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict has noted that the vast majority of casualties in modern conflicts and wars are civilian women and children. Systematic sexual violence against women and girls is regularly used as a means to achieve political and/or military objectives and as a weapon of war.

A transformative development agenda will only be realized when violence against women and girls is eradicated. Affected by a traumatic experience or the fear of imminent violence, women and girls cannot live their lives freely. The systemic use of violence inhibits the accomplishment of daily tasks. It is our shared responsibility as a human community to protect women and girls and cherish their profoundly indispensable contributions in and outside the home, both locally and globally.

In a spirit of love and humility, we condemn any and all forms of violence against women, including the silencing of women, the denial of full participation in society, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and assault, rape, and murder. Research shows that women and girls are disproportionately victims of such violence. It is our responsibility to help create a universal culture that denounces all forms of violence against women and girls and protects them against such cruelties. Such a culture preserves our humanity and universal human dignity.

Recommendations

We believe that a strong post-2015 development agenda must be committed to eliminating gender inequality and promoting the empowerment of women. Recognizing our common but differentiated responsibilities, we recommend that Member States and Civil Society partner to:

·      Eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and/or forced labour as well as in military and political conflicts.

·      Eliminate the increasing feminization of extreme poverty by achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all women with gender equity, providing equal pay for equal work.

·      Ensure the provision of public services and adopt fiscal, wage, and social protection policies to progressively achieve greater gender equity.

·      Ensure women’s full, inclusive, and effective participation, providing equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.

·      Undertake legislative reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources.

·      Move away from the soft law era through the adoption of legally binding instruments.

·      Enforce previously adopted legislative policies protecting women and girls from all forms of violence.

·      Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

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