Common Principles Sought during World Interfaith Harmony Week

More than a thousand people filled the United Nations General Assembly Hall

World Interfaith Harmony Week was concluded at the United Nations General Assembly on February 7, 2012 at an event titled “Common Ground for Common Good.” Subthemes discussed by speakers included: the search for common ground, conflict resolution, disaster prevention and response, renewal of the United Nations, and sustainable development.

H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, UN Photo/Evan Schneider

“We recognize and celebrate the values that are shared across religious traditions,” said Mr. Al-Nasser, President of the 66th General Assembly. “These common principles form a common ground that unites us in our rich diversity.” The General Assembly President went on to note that the United Nations was itself established in pursuit of universal values such as peace, freedom, human rights, dignity, and the oneness of humanity, which are also espoused by many of the world’s religions.

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UB Students in MA in Global Development and Peace Visit the UN for Tour and Briefings

UB Group visiting the UN for Briefings

On December 1, 2011, 22 students in the MA in Global Development and Peace at University of Bridgeport visited the United Nations in New York for a day of briefings and a tour. Briefings were given by three leading experts: Mr. Renato Mariani (Conflict Resolution), Mr. Matthias Stausberg (The Global Compact), and Mr. John Solecki (Refugees). Each expert covered a number of technical areas critical to the work of the United Nations in protecting the world’s most vulnerable people, and in pursuit of peace and development. The students were accompanied by Dr. Dave Benjamin, Associate Professor of Global Development. 

UB Human Rights Class Briefed at the United Nations

The Human Rights Students in a UN Hallway

The Human Rights Students in a UN Hallway

A group of UB students in the International Human Rights course attended briefings at the United Nations in New York on Friday November 4, 2011. The briefings were coordinated by the Group Programmes Unit, and the speakers were Ms. Renata Sivacolundhu from the Human Rights Council, Mr. Adrian Morrice from Department of Humanitarian Affairs, and Dr. Jason Abrams from the International Law Department.  The briefings were: Recent Developments in the Human Rights Council, The Peacebuilding Commission, and International Law and Transitional Justice. The students were accompanied by Dr. Dave Benjamin from the International College.

UNESCO Grants Membership to Palestine

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) submits application to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

On October 31, UNESCO granted Palestine full membership with a vote of 107 for, 14 against, and 52 abstentions. UNESCO took this vote knowing full well that UNESCO might suffer financially as a result of reduced US support. The United States and Israel both oppose the UN creation of a Palestinian state, and the United States is the largest financial supporter of UNESCO. However,  United Nations Resolution 181, adopted November 29, 1947, divided British-controlled Palestine into two “independent Arab and Jewish States.” The UN is acting in accord with this resolution.

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General Assembly Calls for US the End Embargo Against Cuba

Cuba Seeks US Trade through UN Resolution

On October 25, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the end to an economic embargo of Cuba. The embargo has been in effect for over 50 years, since the communist revolution in Cuba seized property owned by US and Cuban citizens, causing thousands of Cuban leaders to flee to the US. There is still a strong anti-Castro lobby among those emigrants in Florida seeking redress.

The Resolution, adopted with 186 votes for and 2 against (the US and Israel) called for free trade and navigation. While speakers denounced the embargo as “a Cold-War toll of coercion,” the General Assembly itself has previously asked for embargoes (e.g. GA Resolution 1761 in response to racist policies in South Africa). This is the 20th time such a resolution has been passed.
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South Sudan is UN's 193rd Member

South Sudan Celebrates Independence July 9

South Sudan Celebrates Independence July 9

Just five days after gaining independence on July 9, 2011, South Sudan became a member of the United Nations.

The United Nations and its peacekeepers had worked hard to end the civil war and genocide in Sudan going on for decades, and urged a referendum by South Sudan on secession and the creation of a new state.

On July 13, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed the Security Council saying the new country ranked near the bottom of all human development indicators and needed continued UN help. Without a vote, the Security Council adopted a resolution to recommend South Sudan for UN membership. On July 14th, the General Assembly adopted the new state by acclamation.

UB Student Briefings at the UN

UB Students get briefed at the United Nations

UB Students get briefed at the United Nations

On Friday April 15, 2011, forty undergraduate and graduate students from University of Bridgeport attended a day of briefings at the United Nations, facilitated by the Group Programs Unit.

The briefings were given by Mr. Matthias Stausberg (Spokesperson for the Global Compact), Mr. Geoff Shaw (Representative of the IAEA Director General to the United Nations), and Mr. Arnold Pronto (Senior Legal Officer at the International Law Commission).  Mr. Stausberg addressed the role of the Global Compact in facilitating the dialog about corporate responsibility among the private, non-governmental, and state sectors.  Continue reading →

Bio-Piracy through Patent Protection

Traditional Medicines

Traditional medicine and a lot of other personal initiatives related to self-sustainability are under threat by large corporations that seek to control markets, and patent products that people have been using for hundreds of years. The United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has recently expressed alarm that pharmaceutical companies are patenting medicines that have been traditionally used for centuries, or obtaining laws that attempt to force people to buy industrially produced drugs at inflated prices.

In a meeting in New Delhi, other countries discussed emulating India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), a database that documents traditional medicine treatments. While treatments cataloged this way could be protected, other treatments are still at risk.

Parallel problems exist with organic farmers and traditional farmers being sued by Monsanto for using seeds from cross-fertilized crops Monsanto has patented.  Continue reading →

Libyan Civil War Spawns New Refugee Crisis

Libyan refugees stream into Egypt and Tunisia

Libya’s revolution, initially full of hope like in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, where dictators stepped down, has turned ugly as Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi has turned his military against the population in an effort to control power. Now refugees are streaming over the borders of Libya into both neighbors that yet have to put new governments into place.

This situation is causing more demand for international humanitarian aid in a continent riddled by anarchy and civil strife. On March 16, Ban Ki-moon called on the Libyian leader to cease his assault on civilians to put down a revolution by ordinary civilians. As some of the military has refused to fire on civilians Colonel Al-Qadhafi has resorted to killing such soldiers to make an example of them, and employing mercenary and foreign soldiers. This has led to brutal repression of the civilian population. Continue reading →

New Iraqi Challenges for Christians

Victims killed in Our Lady of Salvation church mourned by other church members

The new Iraq government promises to bring normalization, but treating the regime as instantly normalized is causing new problems for the fragile government. To the dismay of the UN, Sweden decided to forcibly return 20 Iraqis, five of whom are Christian, to Iraq. Yet the new regime is failing to adequately protect Christians and other minorities in the new Muslim state. Continue reading →