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10 Aug, 2011

Millions Of Poor To Have Mobile Phones Under UN Scheme

1. Erroneous Linking Of Norwegian Attacks To Islam Was ‘Revealing’ – UN Rights Expert

2. UN-Backed Scheme Enables Colombian Indigenous Groups To Sell Crafts

3. UN Urges Greater Appreciation Of Culture And Creativity Of Indigenous Peoples

4. Reykjavik Earns UN Distinction As A City Of Literature

5. Millions Of Poor To Have Mobile Phone Numbers Under UN-Backed Scheme


All the following items are sourced from the UN News and Information Service

1. Erroneous Linking of Norwegian Attacks to Islam Was ‘Revealing’ – UN Rights Expert

26 July 2011 – A United Nations human rights expert on freedom of religion said today that initial media reports on the 22 July mass murder in Norway which implied a possible connection with Islamist terrorism were “revealing” and “embarrassing” examples of prejudice.

Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said: “The way in which some public commentators immediately associated the horrifying mass murder in Norway last Friday with Islamist terrorism is revealing and indeed an embarrassing example of the powerful impact of prejudices and their capacity to enshrine stereotypes.

“Proper respect for the victims and their families should have precluded the drawing of conclusions based on pure conjecture.”

At least 75 people died as a result of twin attacks – an explosion in the centre of the capital, Oslo, and a shooting at a nearby island where a youth camp was taking place.

Many initial media reports focused on Norway’s contribution of troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and implied that may be connected to the bombing and shooting. Yet the suspect in the massacre is a non-Muslim.

Mr. Bielefeldt is an independent, unpaid expert who reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

2. UN-backed Scheme Enables Colombian Indigenous Groups to Sell Crafts

Aug 9 2011 — Sixty indigenous families in Colombia are selling handicrafts in the capital, Bogotá, to cater to an influx of fans attending the ongoing youth soccer World Cup tournament as part of a United Nations-backed initiative to alleviate poverty.

The initiative resulted from a UN Development Programme (UNDP) partnership with Bogotá City Hall, the Colombian Government and the Indigenous Council Mesa Indígena, a civil organization of forcibly displaced indigenous peoples living in Bogotá, according to a press release issued today by UNDP.

The indigenous peoples from 19 ethnic groups have been living in extreme poverty in Bogotá after being displaced from their ancestral lands by armed conflict.

Many were trained in sales and marketing techniques in recent months, enabling them to better market their handicrafts in hotels and malls in Bogotá during the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, held in several cities across Colombia between 29 July and 20 August.

The World Cup has brought an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 foreign tourists to Colombia and they are expected to spend some $100 million in the country, according to the Government.

“We are taking advantage of the influx of tourists to boost market entry opportunities for indigenous peoples within the private sector’s inclusive business and corporate social responsibility initiatives,” said Xavier Hernandez, an official with UNDP’s poverty reduction and sustainable development programme.

The sale also coincides with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which is being marked globally today.

Hotels and malls in Bogotá will continue selling indigenous crafts a couple of months after the World Cup as part of UNDP’s Inclusive Economic Development Project. Businesses are also supporting the initiative by buying the materials required to make handicrafts, promoting products in shop windows and providing transport and food.

Evelio Rodríguez Martínez, a member of the indigenous Kankuamo people and leader of 19 communities, said the initiative will enable them to earn an income in a dignified way, working with their hands and using the knowledge passed on between generations.

3. UN Urges Greater Appreciation of Culture and Creativity of Indigenous Peoples

Aug 9 2011 — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the world to recognize the right of indigenous peoples to control their intellectual property, saying they needed help to protect, develop and receive fair compensation for their cultural heritage and traditional knowledge.

“Indigenous peoples face many challenges in maintaining their identity, traditions and customs, and their cultural contributions are at times exploited and commercialized, with little or no recognition,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

“I encourage all Member States to take concrete steps to address the challenges facing indigenous peoples – including marginalization, extreme poverty and loss of lands, territories and resources. Countries should also commit to ending the grave human rights abuses that indigenous peoples encounter in many parts of the world,” he said.

He noted that there were 5,000 distinct groups of indigenous peoples in some 90 countries, who make up more than five per cent of the world’s population – some 370 million people in total. They are custodians of valuable and often fast-disappearing cultural heritage, the Secretary-General said.

“We see their creativity and innovations in the arts, literature and the sciences,” said Mr. Ban, noting that those contributions were highlighted by the theme of this year’s observance of the Day, which is “Indigenous designs: Celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future.”

“As we look forward to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014, I urge all Member States to work in full partnership with indigenous people to identify practical ideas and proposals for action at this important gathering,” he said, calling for concerted efforts to strengthen their rights and support their aspirations.

In her statement to mark the Day, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that indigenous peoples around the world have lost, or are under imminent threat of losing, their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources as a result of unfair exploitation for the sake of “development.”

She said natural resource extraction projects such as mining are land-intensive and water-intensive and often directly affect the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and territories.

“All too often we see conflict between corporations, indigenous peoples and the State over development projects which are initiated without consultation or consent of the very people who are dispossessed of their land,” said Ms. Pillay.

“The right to development is a human right for all, and indigenous peoples have the right to define and determine their own development. On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, let us ensure that development for some is not to the detriment of the human rights of others,” she said.

Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), said the agency was partnering with indigenous peoples in various places – including the Arctic, Africa and so-called small island developing States – to highlight the fact that more than two-thirds of the Earth’s biological resources are also the traditional territories of most indigenous peoples.

The Director of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, said indigenous peoples hold some of the solutions to global challenges. They speak the majority of humanity’s languages and have crafted livelihoods that combine cultural and biological diversity. “They have developed knowledge systems with unique insight to sustainable development,” she said.

Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), called for concerted efforts to overcome barriers that prevent the children of indigenous communities from access to services they need to survive and thrive. He pointed out that indigenous children have lower school enrolment rates, higher drop-out rates and lower educational attainment than non-indigenous children.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) reaffirmed its commitment to working with indigenous peoples and other partners to advancing those communities’ right to health, while Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, stressed the need to end gender-based violence and improve the economic status of all women, including the most marginalized in indigenous communities.

Francis Gurry, the Director-General of UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in his message said traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions hold potential economic value which can form the basis for community enterprises and cultural industries and contribute to economic development and poverty reduction.

The Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, and Jan McAlpine, the Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, also highlighted the important role that indigenous communities play in global conservation efforts.

Patricia Velasquez, an indigenous model and actress from Venezuela, will today address a special event at UN Headquarters via video message, highlighting the work of her own Wayuu Taya Foundation to help improve the lives of Latin American indigenous communities, while maintaining and respecting their traditions, culture and beliefs.

“In every indigenous design there is a story representing the heritage, traditions and the spirituality of an individual or a community. Protecting these works, the artists who create them and the knowledge behind them from misuse or exploitation is essential to preserving indigenous cultures.

“At Wayuu Taya we have seen how indigenous crafts can be developed into a sustainable business that celebrates as well as preserves the traditions of the community. The full participation of indigenous peoples in decisions that affect them and their communities is key,” said Ms. Velasquez.

4. Reykjavik Earns UN Distinction as a City of Literature

Aug 5 2011 — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, as a “City of Literature” in recognition of its efforts to preserve, disseminate and promote its rich literary heritage.

It is the fifth City of Literature, joining Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City and Dublin in enriching UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network with its best literary practices, the agency stated in a news release.

Reykjavik – with a population of about 200,000 – boasts an outstanding literary history with its invaluable heritage of ancient mediaeval literature, the Sagas, the Edda and the Íslendingabók, Libellus Islandorum (Book of Icelanders), according to the Paris-based UNESCO.

“This long-standing tradition has naturally cultivated the city’s strength in literature education, preservation, dissemination and promotion,” it  stated.

UNESCO added that Reykjavik is especially appreciated for demonstrating the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape, the contemporary society and the daily life of the citizens.

“The city’s collaborative approach through cooperation between various actors involved in literature, such as in publishing, in libraries, etc, in addition to the strong presence of writers, poets and children’s book authors is also noted to give the city a unique position in the world of literature,” said the agency.

UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network connects cities that want to share experiences, ideas and best practices for cultural, social and economic development. It now has 29 members, covering the areas of literature, film, music, crafts and folk art, design, media arts and gastronomy.

5. Millions of Poor To Have Mobile Phones Numbers Under UN-backed Scheme

Aug 4 2011 — Three million poor people in Africa and South Asia, the majority of them women, will gain access to low-cost mobile phone numbers as part of technology firm Movirtu’s partnership with the United Nations-backed initiative that enlists the private sector in efforts to fight poverty.

Instead of sharing a phone number with family members or neighbours, those provided with a Movirtu cloud phone number will be able to use any mobile phone to log in with their own unique number to make and receive individual calls and access critical information and services such as banking or agriculture support.

The new effort is part of the Business Call to Action (BCtA), a global initiative supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the corporate responsibility scheme known as the UN Global Compact and several other organizations and governments.

“Evidence shows that access to mobile communications is a way of improving lives and expanding the earning potential of one billion people living on $1-2 a day,” said Amanda Gardiner, BCtA Acting Programme Manager.

“By providing low-income communities with access to secure mobile accounts and identities, Movirtu is helping to bridge the divide between those that have easy access to mobile phones and those that rely on community phones or paying a borrower’s premium to friends to meet their communication needs,” she added.

The United Kingdom-based company plans to bring the phone technology to at least 12 markets in Africa and South Asia by early 2013, giving at least 50 million people in both continents access to the technology, with a target of 3 million using it on a regular basis.

A unique personal mobile identity will allow users to access network applications that provide information about employment opportunities, promote access to mobile payment systems or banking services, and help keep users up-to-date on a variety of health and market topics.

The main beneficiaries of Movirtu’s investment will be women in rural communities in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to a news release issued by the company and BCtA.

“It is a basic fact not everyone in the world can afford their own mobile phone,” said Ramona Liberoff, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Strategy and Planning at Movirtu. “Our goal is to increase the earning potential of those on $1-2 a day by saving money and allowing them to access the economic benefits of a full mobile identity today.”

Movirtu has been piloting the phones in Africa, with Madagascar the first market entry point. Additional country launches will be announced later this year.