9th session of the OEWGA Side Event: National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) and Human Rights of Older Persons

In view of this week’s 9th session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, the National Human Rights Instruments (NHRI) have submitted written submissions and oral statements, in response to the two focus areas of “autonomy and independence” and “long-term care and palliative care”. Following up UN recommendations, this side event addressed the main cross-regional concerns in regards to the rights of older persons.

Hearing briefings from the Philippines, Croatia, Africa and Latin America, this side event first identified that long-term measures on long-term and palliative care for older persons are not adequate across countries. During the event, representatives lobbied on long-term health care measures, particularly age ceilings of paid health insurance services and universal health care systems.

In addition, the event underscored the problem of inconsistencies with the definitions of autonomy and independence for older persons. In fact, they are often misinterpreted as decision-making processes and lack legally binding powers across countries. Member states are called upon to come up with consistent, legally binding international instruments to offer clarity on parameters of protection of older persons.

Older persons are the driving forces of our economic development and shall not be left as marginalised social groups. They should not be mistreated with social injustice or infringements on human rights. Integrated human rights-based approaches should be well incorporated with government institutions to safeguard the rights of older persons.

Monday 23rd July 2018; 16:30 to 18:00; Conference Room E, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Mr. Lee Sung-ho, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea and Chairperson of the GANHRI Working Group on Ageing
Ms. Lora Vidović, Ombudswoman of the Republic of Croatia
Ms. Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
Ms. Florence Simbiri Jaoko, Special Envoy, GANHRI
Ms. Liz Vela, Expert, Defensoía del Pueblo del Perú
Professor Andrew Byrnes, International Legal Advisor

Written by: WIT Representative LAU Chun Ki


9th session of the OEWGA Side Event: Addressing Inequalities Experienced by Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Questioning and Intersex People (LGBTQI)

In recent years, there have been more spontaneous international movements towards liberalising LGBTQI individuals. However, older LGBTQI individuals still experience social discrimination and cultural stigma. For example, interactions with older LGBTQI population could bring social discomfort to individuals. Together with the cumulative effects of ageing societies, the psychological stress encountered by the older LGBTQI have been traumatised, not to mention their access to health care services specialised for LGBTQI individuals. Hence, this side event aimed to address the inequalities by older LGBTQI people and discuss the call to action on behalf of older LGBTQI population.

The meeting drew attention to criminalisation of older LGBTQI population in over 70 countries worldwide. Intergovernmental organisations were called upon to decriminalise older LGBTQI population with the provision of LGBTQI-friendly facilities and comprehensive academic research on the inequalities of older LGBTQI population.The side event then heard briefings from representatives of Brazil and the United States of America. Representing Brazil, Dr. Alexandre Kalache underscored that the denial of older LGBTQI population varies with the governance. He expressed the imminent need to consider different age groups and address proper terminologies of the LGBTQI population. On the other hand, in view of mounting concerns about ageing from the younger LGBTQI people, Mr. Fabrice Houdart from the United States of America drew attention to alleviating psychological stress and isolation from the present and future LGBTQI elderly.

In conclusion there was a call to action on behalf of older LGBTQI people. More public information on catering the social, psychological and medical needs of older LGBTQI population should be disseminated. More trainings on providing gender-friendly services at elderly care centres and public housing should also be provided.

Monday 23rd July 2018; 15:00 to 16:30; Conference Room E, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Ms. Maria Sjodin, Deputy Executive Director, Outright Action International
Dr Alexandre Kalache, Co-President, International Longevity Centre (ILC) Global Alliance; President, ILC-Brazil
Mr. Michael Adams, CEO, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders)
Mr. James O’Neal, United Nations Representative, International Federation on Ageing

Mr. Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer, Office the High Commissioner on Human Rights

Written by: WIT Representative LAU Chun Ki

An exceptional book launch event: In honour of the Nelson Mandela Centenary

July 18, 2018 (Wednesday) marked 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela, the iconic South African Civil Rights leader. Underling universal values on peace, forgiveness, integrity, passion, respect and service, Nelson Mandela was an exemplar of dedication to advocate peace and promote social equality. Indisputably regarded as the leading figure of theUnited Nations, Nelson Mandela was renowned for recognising human rights with courage and compassion.

In honour of Nelson Mandela’s Centenary, the book titled “The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela” was officially launched today at the United Nations Headquarters. Enclosed with 255 personal letters, the book provided a remarkable insight into how the imprisoned Mandela maintained his inner spirits and engaged with the outside world. Not only did the letters underscore the importance of recognising human rights, Nelson Mandela also seized the opportunities of writing letters to draw attention from outside world to gender-based injustice issues back to the late 20th century.

“Whatever happened in prison, Nelson Mandela would keep his personality and treat everybody with the greatest dignity and respect.” said Ms. Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela, the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela’s global vision to revolutionise the movement of civil rights shall continue to impact on our world.

Date/Location: Friday 20th July 2018; 14:00 to 15:00; United Nations Bookshop, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Ms. Sahm Venter, Senior Researcher, The Nelson Mandela Foundation
Ms. Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela, Granddaughter of Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Mr. Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

Written by: WIT Representative LAU Chun Ki

Transformation Toward Sustainable and Resilient African Cities


Lagos, Nigeria                                                                                                             http://www.nigerianmonitor.com/beautiful-photos-of-lagos-that-you-will-mistake-for-london/

This meeting focused on sustainable cities in Nigeria and more broadly the whole African continent.  The problem is mutual for African states, this problem is “trust” and this is hindering development in African cities and the overall society.  As one speaker simply puts it, “Mistrust can never lead to development.” Corruption needs to be addressed in African states. Slums need to stop growing, but cities need to start growing.

The Deputy Secretary General gave the example of Istanbul, Turkey as a city to model. Cities need to shift from consumption to production cities. There needs to be resilient buildings and affordable housing. This means more investment needs to allocated to infrastructure.  As the strikingly large part of the African population is youth, the goal needs to be to develop Africa to continue to grow and generate wealth for communities. The repeated focus by many speakers was digital infrastructure. This is an emerging untapped area that African people can master and use to develop Africa. Evidently, it is clear that successful economic growth and development initiatives in African states today need to take into account future trends and factors.

Meeting​: Transformation Toward Sustainable and Resilient African Cities

Date/Location​: Tuesday 17th July 2018; 16:30 to 18:00; Conference Room 12, United Nations Headquarters UNHG, New York, NY


Dr.David Mehdi Hamam, Director of OSAA

H.E Princess Gloria Akobundu, CEO APRM Nigeria Agenda for Resilient Societies

Dr.Rami M.E Ahmad, SDG Special Envoy, Islamic Development Bank

H.E Khayar Oumar Defallah, Chairperson of APRM Focal Points Committee, Ndjamena, Chad

Dr.Julius Monzi Muia, Permanent Secretary, State Department for Planning

Dr.Elisabeth Pape, Minister Counsellor. European Union Delegation to the UN

Mr.Eddy Maloka, CEO African Peer Review Mechanism

Mr.Marcos Bonturi, Director of Public Governance, OECD

Written by: WIT Representative Mariam Elsaker


Integrating Design Thinking & Systems Engineering to Help Grow Resilient Local Economies


This meeting, organised by SVA, offered great insight into design thinking and how it can be integrated into systems engineering. Unifying these disciplines would facilitate community-centric innovations to be more readily implemented in humanitarian projects, particularly within the UN system. Design thinking, at its core, reverses problem solving by focusing on problem definition and inter-disciplinary collaboration, prompting bottom-up systems innovation.

Many participants highlighted the multi-faceted nature of today’s global problems and that our current problem-solving mind-set is not well-suited to address them. This is often seen when western missions in developing countries impose rigid solutions rather than considering the current and future needs of the aid recipients. Systems engineering is important because many problems stem from complex ecosystems of inter-dependent stakeholders and trade-offs. Designing innovations that are easily integrated into these ecosystems ensures the solutions are both accepted by local stakeholders and enduring.

Design thinking, although not a new concept, promises to better connect society and actors from different disciplines. This is incredibly valuable since within each discipline, there exists a wealth of untapped potential being under-utilised. The clear disconnect that exists between the policy makers and local communities could be eliminated by developing lateral multi-disciplinary thinking in the middle – the implementers such as engineers, medical workers, social workers and municipal leaders who can connect the project requirements to the implementation process.

Date / Location: Thursday 19th July 2018, School of Visual Arts (SVA), 136 West 21 street, NY, USA

Author: WIT Representative, Farri Gaba

Briefing on UNECE High-Performance Building Initiative

In 2007, the Irish government implemented a policy limiting the amount of energy used by newly-constructed homes. Working together, the Irish and Belgian governments created the High-Performance Building Initiative, with the goal of reducing the amount of carbon emissions from buildings to nearly zero (under UNECE, this is also called the NZE Initiative). This goal is defined in Ireland’s building codes as 45 kilowatt hours per meter-squared year performance in new dwellings. Since 1991, Ireland has seen a 70% improvement in carbon emissions. Although the increase in cost over the past decade was 8.2% (not adjusted for inflation or new technologies) for newly-constructed homes, it has been absorbed by the housing market and has been made up for by a long-term decrease in utilities’ costs.

Mr. Tom Richard spoke on the significance of reducing carbon emissions, emphasizing the need for change and innovation in what he referred to as ‘building science,’ which extends beyond the structure of the buildings to the systems they use, such as electrical, gas, heating and cooling, with especial consideration to energy expenditure.
Additional presenters spoke on the Passive Housing Network, which has locations in major cities including Brussels, New York, and Wexford, Ireland, with the majority of research on the issue being done at Penn State University. Passive houses emit zero pollutants; yet, these structures are fully-functioning, and are becoming the new standard in Ireland, with other member states and major cities, such as Vancouver following in kind.

Following this meeting, there was an event at City Hall, during which representatives from the Building Energy Exchange and the UNECE signed documents to officially become partners on the high-performance building initiative.

Date: 10 July 10, 2018

Time/Location: 16:00-17:00; UN Secretariat, Room 1523

Speakers: Ms. Olga Algayoreva, UNECE Executive Secretary; Mr. Tom Richard, Director of Environment at Penn State; Mr. Richard Yancey, Director of the NYC Building Exchange; Mr. Michel Wllemacq, Passive Housing Academy; Mr. Tomas O’Leary; Mr. Sean Armstrong, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Housing, Planning and Local Government; Mr. Michael Bennett

Written by: WIT Representative, Genevieve Cickavage


The Peace and Security of Women in Africa, Security Council Meeting 8306



Today’s Security Council meeting focused on the inescapable horrors women in Africa are faced with. Girls are abused, raped, and married off at an extremely young age, all causing detrimental physical and mental impacts. Women are being ostracized and ravaged, ending with their death or for those who survive, abandonment by society.

With continuous lack of support, the only door left open to many women is violent extremism. There needs to be an investment made into the individual human being. This means a greater investment in education, encouraging the capacity of young people and woman to forge their own life paths by providing opportunities, and giving healthcare, food, water.

Nevertheless, the perseverance of women in these areas only demonstrates immense strength. Women are actors of hope, quickly transforming from victim to survivor to a true agent of change. Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden – Margot Wallström expressed high hopes that within 10 years, women will have an increasing voice in places like the UN, along with gender being systematically included when reporting and monitoring globally.

Representatives of Peru, Kazahkstahn, and the Netherlands echoed concerns for the gender situation along with their support for the need for participation of women. The Russian Federation took a slightly different stance, stating the role of change falls to national governments, while the UN and Security Council members are most successful when providing aid to those governments. The United States reiterated the latter security council member’s statements on continuous support and concern for the situation. However, Ambassador Haley ended on an unpleasant note, inappropriately stating America’s Ivanka Trump is a symbol to these abused women of empowerment.

Meeting: Security Council; Meeting 8306; Peace and Security in Africa

Location/date/time: Security Council Chamber, UNHQ-NYC; July 10th 2018

Speakers: Bineta Diop, Special Envoy on Women, Peace and security; Margot Wallström, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden; H.E. Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra – Peru; Ambassador Kairat Umarov – Kazahkstahn; The Permanent Representative H.E. Mr. Karel J.G. van Oosterom – Netherlands; Ambassador Karan Pierce – Permanent Representative of UK to UN; Mr.Dmitry Polyansky, First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations; Nikki Haley, Permanent Representative of United States to United Nations

Written by: WIT Representative Ariel Granat





Panel on International Cooperation to Combat the Use of Internet for Terrorist Purposes: Opportunities and Challenges


The Arab Union recently held a side event regarding the international cooperation to combat the use of internet for terrorist purposes such as misusing the internet for planning attacks, recruiting young people, broadcasting beheadings and using the dark web to acquire weapons – to name a few.

According to the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT), the UN has created targeted training that covers the use of digital forensic equipment, online prosecution and the cyber currency situation.

States have taken alternative counter-attempts. In Singapore, for example, the most successful counter-terrorist organization is called Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG). The RRG focuses on providing clarification on what radical ideology and violent extremism are along with counseling services.

Organizations such as Hedayah, Etidal and the Counter Extremism Project are working with states and the UN to find the root causes and connections between the internet and terrorist propaganda.

The Hedayah Organization uses a psychological lens to analyze the process of radicalization. The Counter Extremist Project studies the reactions of internet platforms to extremist content, while Etidal focuses on the narrative of extremist ideology – specifically the roots/readings.

The most success in counter-terrorism has been found with private sectors. Facebook and Twitter have platforms that engage civil society by allowing them to participate in a way no other social platform has. It was reported that 1.2 million terrorist accounts were removed on Twitter between 2015-2017, however, only .2% were identified by governments while the rest was Twitter itself and users who report content directly. Yet, according to Tech against Terrorism, it is mall companies that constitute the majority of cases due to limited resources – nevertheless there is a platform in place, Tech Against Terrorism, to increase knowledge sharing with small companies as well as expanding efforts to governments as well.

Meeting: International Cooperation to Combat the Use of Internet for Terrorist Purposes: Opportunities and Challenges

Speakers: H.E. Salem AlZaabi, Director of International Security Cooperation Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, United Arab Emirates; Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under Secretary-General, UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT); Mr. Yuri Fedotov, Under Secretary General and Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC); Ms. Michele Coninsx, Assistant Secretary General and Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED); Mr. T. Raja Kumar, Deputy Secretary (International) Ministry of Home Affairs and Chief Executive, Home Team Academy, Singapore; Ms. Anneli Vares, Counter Terrorism Coordinator, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Estonia; H.E. Mr. Lazarus O Amayo, Ambassador/Permanent Representative, Kenya; Moderator: Mr. Ivo Veenkampf, Deputy Executive Director of Hedayah; His Excellency Maqsoud Kruse, Executive Director, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism Hedayah; Ms. Frances F. Townsend EVP, Worldwide Government, Legal and Business Affairs, MacAndrews & Forbes, Inc., President Counter Extremism Project; Mr. Sultan S. Alkhuzam, Director of Global Collaboration at Etidal; Moderator: Ms. Alison August Treppel, Executive Secretary, Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), Organization of American States; Mr. Brian Fishman, Head of Counterterrorism Policy, Facebook; Mr. Adam Hadley, Director, Tech Against Terrorism; Mr. Colin Crowell, Head of Global Policy, Twitter

Location/time/date: Conference Room 3, UNHQ-NYC; 15:00-18:00

Written by: World Information Transfer Representative; Ariel Granat

37th Plenary Meeting, ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment


“I didn’t want to be looked at as a victim… I had circumstances beyond my control but now I am here.” Mari Malek, once a refugee – now supermodel – was the opening speaker for the Economic Social Councils Annual Humanitarian Affairs Segment. She spoke beautifully on the topic of education and how the absence of education means no life, no enlightenment, no opportunity. She closed with a question to all in the counsel, for those who were not educated to raise their hand. The room remained silent. That silence provided a powerful truthto Ms. Malek’s words. Without that basic human right, none of the most powerful diplomats, leaders, institutions – it would not have existed.

Ms. Henrietta Fore, used the example to introduce the broader situation- children facing enormous human rights vulnerabilities. In the Chaisai region in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there were recently 200 health centers and 400 schools attacked. In 2016 alone, more than 8,000 children were killed in the areas being discussed. Violence against health care facilities results in an increase of children with disease, psychological trauma and a disruption of education. In Yemen, 1.8 million children are malnourished. Those frightening statistics attest to this growing trend of children becoming front line targets, killed and now acute malnutrition.

Finding an agreed upon resolution for this situation will take time, however, Ms. Fore concludedthe event with short term solutions. Children in those regions need to be provided with identification, utilizing Bangladesh as they have been aiding not acting as an enemy. Lastly, no one is born a good parent, everyone is the same and we must learn how to be one with the proper tools.

Meeting: ECOSOC – Humanitarian Affairs segment; plenary meeting 37

Location/time/date: ECOSOC UNHQ NYC; 10:00-13:00; June 20th 2018

Speakers: Mari Malek, Henreietta Fore; Executive Director UNICEF; Yasmine Sheriff, Director, Education Cannot Wait

Written by: WIT Representative, Ariel Granat


HLPF Side-Event: Bridging and Building to a Renewable Energy Future: How to deliver at scale?


This HLPF side-event holistically addressed current renewable energy developments and how to deliver sustainable solutions at scale in the coming years. The event was co-hosted by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), the PM of Germany and the PM of the Netherlands.

The array of panellists spanned many sectors including the oil and gas industry, private banking sector, transportation sector and state-level renewable energy policy makers. Many topics were covered: the current renewable energy achievements, the global renewable energy imbalances both in investment and implementation, the transportation sector, the lagging heating and cooling sector and the potential for new renewable energy developments such as innovative geothermal technology.

An important question was posed on the back of optimistic funding opportunities by the Citigroup representative, Mr Eckhart. It challenged who the recipients of allocated renewable energy funding are, since small enterprises in developing countries struggle to attract financial support. With 93% of renewable energy investment being absorbed by only 30 states, diversifying funding channels is important in achieving global cooperation and simultaneous advancement. Furthermore, it was voiced that although banks offer financing options, the recipients rarely receive sustained financial support in the form of further funding or a sustainable ecosystem and marketplace for the enterprise to flourish. Thus, the lack of policy, infrastructure and economic and social frameworks to support such ventures often manifests as risk in the eyes of potential sponsors.

Thus, the barriers to rapid scaling of renewable technology in both developing and developed states are two-fold – the implementation of global best practices in developing countries and the sustained inclusion of the private sector funds to increase renewable technology deployment.

Date / Location: Thursday 12th July 2018, Otto-Carl-Keip Auditorium, Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, NY, USA

Moderator and Keynote Speaker:
Rana Adib (Executive Director, REN21)

German Ministry of Foreign Affairs Representative
Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs Representative

Marit Brommer (Executive Director, International Geothermal Association_
Mike Eckhart (Managing Director, Citigroup
Eco Matser (Global Coordinator of Energy and Climate Program, Hivos)
Paul Mbhuti (Senior Assistant director for Renewable Energy, Kenyan Ministry of Energy)
Karl Peet (Sustainable Transport Research Director SLoCaT)
Frank van der Vleuten (Senior Advisor Renewable Energy, The Netherlands)

Author: WIT Representative, Farri Gaba