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16 Aug, 2011

UN Hails “Youth-Quakes” Which Ousted Dictators

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1. Trees ‘Speak Out’ In UN Writing Competition To Save Forests

2. UN Invites Budding Creators To Enter Competition On Technology Innovation

3. UN Chief Retraces His Roots, Tells Hometown ‘Global Is Local And Local Is Global’

4. On World Youth Day, UN Hails “Youth-Quakes” Which Ousted Dictators

5. UN-Backed Tsunami Warning System For The Mediterranean Passes First Test


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

1. Trees ‘Speak Out’ In UN Writing Competition To Save Forests

Aug 12 2011 — Two teenagers’ powerful pleas from the imagined standpoint of a tree to save the world’s forests beat out two million competitors to win gold medals today in the United Nations International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People.

Charlée Gittens from Barbados, writing as a great oak in Guyana’s Windsor Forest, and 13-year-old Wang Sa from China, in the voice of an observant small tree ‘prepared to care for humanity,’ were declared victors in the 40th UN Universal Postal Union competition, which this year marked the International Year of Forests by asking young people to imagine themselves as a tree writing a letter to someone to explain why it is important to protect forests.

“Despite living in an increasingly digital age, the more than 2 million often hand-written letters the competition generates worldwide annually shows the tremendous value of the written word,” UPU director general Edouard Dayan said of the competition, which is open to youngsters up to the age of 15.

“The UPU is pleased that its 40-year-old competition continues to foster an appreciation for the art of letter-writing, encouraging young people to express their deepest and most insightful thoughts on topics that concern us all, while teaching them the importance of proper addressing.”

The international jury called the Barbadian entry “a powerful, personal and touching composition dealing with the issue in a very global manner. Comparing the plight of forests to some of the world’s great crises sends a strong message about the importance of protecting forests.”

The jury called China’s entry “a well crafted and whimsical composition. Using a parable of two villages to tackle the theme, the writer does an excellent job of bringing readers into the story in a way that people are able to relate to it.” This is the first time that Barbados and the fifth time that China has won top prize.

Grenada’s Jonathan Andrew, 14, won the silver medal for a “well handled and educational” presentation of the benefits of forests, while Botswana’s Charlene Tiagae, 15, was awarded bronze for “a delightful and personal composition explaining the benefits of the many plants and trees found in forests and why they need to be protected. The writer brings in lovely references about how some cultures perceive or depend on plants and trees.”

The jury consisted of Jan McAlpine, director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat; Jean-Paul Paddack, director of the network initiatives support unit; Daniel Shaw, head of communication at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Jean-François Thivet, philately expert at the UPU International Bureau and a passionate collector of forest stamps.

Next year’s theme, marking the London 2012 Olympics, asks youngsters to “write a letter to an athlete or sports figure you admire to explain what the Olympic Games mean to you.”

2. UN Invites Budding Creators To Enter Competition On Technology Innovation

Aug 11 2011 — The United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) today invited young innovators in digital and other fields to enter a global competition in which 60 winners will be invited to Geneva in October to pitch their novel ideas at a leading forum.

Three entrants from each of two categories judged to have the best all-round concepts by an online vote of delegates attending the 24-27 October ITU Telecom World 2011, an event attended by governments, industry leaders and regulators, will share prize money totalling over 50,000 Swiss francs (about $65,570) to help them realize their dreams.

Industry mentors will also continue to work with the six winners after the event to help them turn their vision into reality. Would-be innovators can submit their idea online in one of two competition categories:

(+) Young Innovators – Entrants should be aged between 18 and 25, and their idea must have been developed independently of any project with their current employer. ITU is actively encouraging submissions from women and those still looking to enter the workforce.

(+) Digital Innovators – Those in partnership with a non-governmental organization (NGO) or other not-for-profit body. Entrants are encouraged to submit their ideas for new ways in which information and communications technologies (ICTs) could help further their causes in areas such as environmental sustainability, improved access to health and education, digital accessibility or the alleviation of poverty.

Entries will be judged on innovation, feasibility and an applicant’s ability to implement. ITU Telecom World’s online community will initially vote on their favourite submissions, with the 60 most popular ideas from each category then submitted to a high-level selection panel of independent experts from the public and private sector, which will choose the finalists.

“The Young Innovators and Digital Innovators competition draw on our long-standing expertise in facilitating youth events and harnessing the power of fresh, digital thinking,” said Hamadoun Touré, the ITU Secretary-General.

“Applications, services and products driven by next-generation networks can truly transform the everyday life of millions. These competitions offer a unique and exciting opportunity for young talent and digital innovators to receive the support, recognition and seed funding needed to turn promising digital ideas into valuable, working contributions to a better world,” he added.

The deadline for submissions is 15 September.

Young Innovators can enter online at: http://world2011.itu.int/young-innovators

Digital Innovators working with an NGO or not-for-profit can enter at: http://world2011.itu.int/node/add/idea

3. UN Chief Retraces His Roots, Tells Hometown ‘Global Is Local And Local Is Global’

Aug 15 2011 — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon went back to his roots today, visiting his hometown of Eumseong county in the Republic of Korea’s countryside, where he urged local residents to concern themselves with the world at large.

The Secretary-General was greeted by villagers and officials who arranged a ceremony in his honour. Expressing appreciation for their warm welcome, he stressed that all of their efforts toward him should be invested instead in the United Nations.

He urged participants to think of themselves not just as residents of Eumseong county but citizens of the world. “Global is local and local is global,” he said. “You may live here in Eumseong county but you have access to the world.”

Among those welcoming the Secretary-General was his 92-year old mother, Shin Hyun Soon, who embraced her son as well as other members of his party. The two held hands as they moved among the assembled gathering of friends and neighbours.

The Secretary-General echoed his call for engagement during a visit to his alma mater, Chungju High School. Addressing students, he remembered the principal telling him to keep his head above the clouds and his feet planted firmly on the ground. “Dream big and be realistic,” he told the audience.

The Secretary-General said his principal’s words had inspired him to enter an essay contest, which he won, along with the chance to travel to the United States, where he met President John F. Kennedy in what he called “the most inspiring moment in my life.”

Mr. Ban said listening to the President speak prompted him to consider his own future and role. “I thought about how Korea was such a poor and underdeveloped country, I considered what I could do to make Korea a better place. And I decided to become a diplomat.”

This was a distant goal for a poor boy from Eumseong county, he said, and one that demanded a willingness to try and beat the odds. Pointing out that the students present enjoyed far greater prosperity, security and opportunity than his generation, he asked that they not forget these gains were hard won through sacrifice.

“Now you can go to better universities, you can live comfortably, but you should not be satisfied with that.” He asked the students to engage in helping to address hunger, poverty, climate change and other global threats. “Each and every one of you can be a critical agent of change,” he said.

“You need to have a sense of reality and lofty dreams. This will be your road to success. I have never forgotten this maxim. Please build a bigger vision, be patient and do your best. Do not settle for your current environment. Look beyond your boundaries.”

Mr. Ban specifically called on the students to see past the frontiers of the Republic of Korea. “Still one billion people around the world go to bed hungry. Millions of young people die from malaria. Many, many women die in childbirth. These tragedies are not acceptable and they can be fixed.”

The Secretary-General said he had been deeply moved earlier in the day to visit a reconstructed version of his childhood home located in the nearby mountains. The thatched-roof structure where he grew up in a family of eight had two bedrooms, each accessible through a small doorway and separated by a kitchen which was centrally located so that its wood-burning oven would heat both when used.

Members of his family were there to accompany him as he toured the reconstruction of his old home. The original had been demolished after it became too old to function.

Reminiscing about life as a boy, he said, “It is amazing that they have built almost the same house. It really reminds me of my old days.” He recalled hearing words of advice from his elders there. “I still remember my grandfather was saying, ‘Ki-moon, you study hard. You study hard.’ He’s been always trying to tell me that.”

The Secretary-General began his day in Eumseong by climbing a winding, paved path up the hill from his old home, past cornfields and rows of red-pepper plants, to his father’s burial site. Two straw mats laid out in front of the grave held a low wooden table prepared by his family with offerings of fresh fruit, cookies, meats, wine and incense.

Following the Confucian tradition, the Secretary-General, his wife, and other members of their family took turns bowing solemnly two and a half times each to pay their respects to the deceased, and taking ritual sips of rice wine.

Mr. Ban then walked back down the steep mountain path to an open-air wooden family shrine with a small courtyard at the front. Joined by other relatives, he removed his shoes before entering the building, which featured a row of flat cabinets against the main wall that opened to reveal paintings of his ancestors. There, too, participants bowed in silence, sipped rice wine in turn, and listened reverently as a family elder sang a tradit ional verse in memory of the deceased.

4. On World Youth Day, UN Hails “Youth-Quakes” Which Ousted Dictators

Aug 12 2011 — The United Nations marked International Youth Day today under the slogan ‘Change Our World,’ with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscoring the “stunning” role young people have played during the past year in overthrowing dictatorships.

“Far too many of the world’s more than one billion young people lack the education, freedom and opportunities they deserve,” he said in a message. “Yet, despite these constraints – and in some cases because of them – young people are mobilizing in growing numbers to build a better future. Over the past year, they have achieved stunning results, overturning dictatorships and sending waves of hope across regions and around the world.”

Citing their open minds and a keen awareness of emerging trends, and the energy, ideas and courage they bring to some of the most complex and important challenges facing the human family, Mr. Ban said young people “often understand better than older generations that we can transcend our religious and cultural differences in order to reach our shared goals.

“They are standing up for the rights of oppressed peoples, including those who suffer discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation,” he added. “They are confronting sensitive issues in order to stop the spread of HIV. And they are often the leading proponents of sustainability and green lifestyles.

He called on the international community to continue to work together to expand the horizons of opportunity for young people and answer their legitimate demands for dignity, development and decent work. “Failing to invest in our youth is a false economy,” he said. “Investments in young people will pay great dividends in a better future for all.”

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova also referred to the role young people have played in the recent overthrow of entrenched authoritarian regimes.

“The ‘youth quakes’ that have struck across the Arab world have shown the ability of young people to drive change,” she said in a message. “The struggle for democratic participation has shaken regimes seemingly impervious to pressure. These movements have shown the power of aspirations for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Ms. Bokova stressed quality education as the starting point for full and positive engagement by young people. “We must provide young people with everything they need to share their ideas and act on them – to fight unemployment and poverty, to overcome gender inequality and all forms of discrimination, to tackle diseases and marginalization,” she added.

The Day marked the formal close of the International Year of Youth, which culminated last month with a high-level meeting on youth at the General Assembly.

5. UN-Backed Tsunami Warning System For The Mediterranean Passes First Test

Aug 10 2011 — The first test of the communication network of the United Nations-backed tsunami early warning system for the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean was carried out successfully today, paving the way for the establishment of regional tsunami warning centres.

Tsunami warning focal points of 31 countries in the region took part in the test of the system, which was first established in 2005 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) established under the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“This past decade alone has shown us the terrible destructive power of earthquakes and tsunami on several occasions,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

“Today’s test represents a significant step towards improving security for the lives of tens of millions of people in the North-eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, and meeting UNESCO’s ambition of establishing early warning systems globally,” she stated.

A test message was set via e-mail, fax and the Global Telecommunications System from Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI) in Turkey to the 31 focal points. Early results show the messages were well received within a few minutes of being sent, according to a news release issued by UNESCO.

“The purpose of the test was to ensure the effective communication between potential regional and national tsunami warning focal points,” said Ocal Necmioglu, co-chair of the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas (NEAMTWS) and lead scientist for today’s exercise at KOERI.

“The exercise went smoothly. A full evaluation will be made in the coming weeks,” he added.

The success of this first test paves the way for the establishment of regional tsunami warning centres. The first two, Turkey’s KOERI and the Atomic Energy Centre in France, should be operational some time in 2012 when a more exhaustive test will be conducted. Others are planned for Greece, Italy and Portugal at a later date.