UN Update: Two Global Initiatives to Watch

Last week, the eyes of the world were on New York City as some 150 world leaders converged for the first few days of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. This week, with far less media focus, and fewer security barricades surrounding the UN building, the work of this international body has begun in earnest.  José I. Ortiz, IRLA’s assistant UN liaison, is in New York and has sent this report. 

As most world leaders head home after making their remarks on the General Assembly floor, the work of the United Nations continues at its headquarters in New York. Many committees, working groups, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have already begun to tackle their packed agendas for the upcoming year.

One such initiative is the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC). The UNAOC was established in 2005 and has brought together panels of experts and member states with the goal of producing a more peaceful and socially inclusive world. One driving force behind this initiative was the escalating tensions between Western and Islamic societies in the aftermath of various terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe.

Last Thursday, October 1, the UNAOC held its first ministerial meeting of the 70th Session of the General Assembly. Representatives of both NGOs and member states heard remarks by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon as well as the current High Representative of the UNAOC, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar. Al Nasser took a moment to recognize the organization’s 10th anniversary, its working history and its future initiatives. He reminded those present that the UNAOC, like the UN itself, has the agenda of “peace and freedom” for all as its core objective, and that this mission “must include all people, especially young men and women, embracing cultural diversity and religious differences.”

The High Representative also highlighted key programs developed by the UNAOC over the last decade that include summer school programs for youth, a fellowship program at the university level, and a media-friendly glossary to aid journalists in covering migration issues.

In November, the UNAOC will launch a new initiative called the “Hate Speech Project.” This initiative will seek to “explore the reasons that hate speech remains a pervasive element that contributes to violent extremism.” The UNAOC will also hold a Focal Points meeting at UN Headquarters in New York next month and its 7th Global Forum will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan next April 25-27.

Another major initiative that will bring together NGOs and member states alike is the first ever World Humanitarian Summit. This event will gather expert reports on human suffering around the globe. The summit will seek to develop a strategy to combat humanitarian crises by linking global partners in the fight against disease, poverty, and violence. The upcoming World Humanitarian Summit will take place in Istanbul, Turkey in May 2016.

For more information on upcoming meetings, you can consult the UN Journal for daily schedules as well as the UNAOC directly.  [José I. Ortiz, JD]

Photo Attribution: DFID/Russell Watkins