Tag Archives: un

Timor-Leste Diaries #1 – First Impressions

It seemed we had only just left Darwin before our little jet commenced its descent into Dili. Barely 600km from Australian soil, it was immediately clear that Timor-Leste was, in fact, a whole world away. Steep and striking mountains towered above us as we taxied along the Dili runway past multiple UN and ADF helicopters.

We lined up for immigration on a covered path surrounded by gardens (unlike any immigration I’ve encountered before!). And bam, there was my first collision with the language barrier.
“How long are you here for?” he asked from his little booth.
“16 days.”
“OK, 7 days,” he said, scribbling 7 days on the stamped visa in my passport.
“No, no, sorry, I need a 30 day visa.”
“One week? Yes? 2 week?”
This confusing but friendly conversation last for quite some time involving a comprehensive discussion about weeks and days and a bit of counting on fingers until I got my passport back with some scribble that I hoped spelled out thirty days. I get so frustrated and feel so rude when I am unable to speak the language of a nation.

We then threw our luggage into the back of a small truck and clambered in on top of it, much to the horror and embarrassment of the driver who couldn’t believe we’d prefer to sit in the dirty back rather than in the dual cab with him (oops. we didn’t know this offended him until later!).

As we weaved and honked our way through the heavy traffic past banana trees and cinder block houses, I was acutely aware of the smells…a pungent aroma of sea air, fruit, petrol fumes, rubbish, the tropics and animals all combined. Strangely, it invoked strong memories of my time in Guatemala…similar climate perhaps.

It was good to be here. Awake since 3am, exhausted, sick with a bad cold and sinusitis, mentally tired from a very busy semester, I was feeling a little apprehensive about surviving the next couple of intense weeks learning about peace building, state building, security sector reform and development. But in the back of that truck in the glow of the morning sun with the tropical breeze on our faces and countless children waving from the side of the road, the fears began to melt away and yes, it was good to be in Timor-Leste.

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UN & Street Children

Weโ€™re delighted that, for the first time in over two decades, street children have been heard at the United Nations.

On 9 March 2011, the UN Human Rights Council spent a day looking at the issues that face children living and/or working on the streets. As a result, a resolution has been tabled, calling for key changes, including inviting the Human Rights Council to prepare a report for this time next year โ€“ a vital follow-up mechanism.
– From the Street Child World Cup

Yay!

UN Report here.

I like this quote from the report:
“Ms. Najat Maalla M’jid explained that “moving from a charity based to rights based approach gives the child back his or her voice and, if you dare to listen to that voice, you will find the beginnings of solutions…”

[my post on street children]

40 cents and the MDG’s

The UN Millenium Development Goals Summit has kicked off in New York.
Making Health Global has some good coverage…you can like them on facebook.

This is a three-day summit in New York to review the progress being made towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

My heart is really in Latin America..and there’s a little good news there at least, they are on track to meet Goal One – halving extreme poverty by 2015. According to the MDG report, Brazil and Chile have already achieved this goal according to the MDG report and Peru is coming close.

Will be very interesting to see what comes from the summit. Hopefully some new momentum, fresh energy and increased aid commitments.

Also worth a watch:

63rd UN DPI/NGO Conference

Have spent the last couple of days volunteering at the “Advance Global Health” conference here in Melb (couldn’t make it today…). The most tweeted topic in Melbourne atm.

It was nothing like I expected. But informative. Lots of nations represented (not so surprising).

“Together we have not found all the answers, but we have clarified many questions.” Chris Varney

A little surprised at how many people there were who seemed to have come simply with their own agendas rather than being there to contribute and share ideas in the hopes of forming a more united front to achieve the MDG’s. But also some very good voices being heard.

Highlights:

– TIM COSTELLO’s PLEA FOR PAKISTAN. watch/read here. So glad to see something like this come out of the conference. Definitely best and most inspiring highlight.

Barbara Flick Nicol‘s opening ceremony speech.

– Hearing what Che Guevara’s daughter (Dr Aleida) had to say

– Meeting some other lovely volunteers

– Having to take half my clothes off just to get through security cos apparently they all have metal in them

– Tim Costello (this was before his ‘plea’ was delivered) speaking out about the ‘blind spot’ the media has had regarding the devastation in Pakistan…whilst the cricket match fixing scandal made front page headlines. Hear, hear.

– Hearing from people who work in Catherine Hamlin’s Fistual Hospital in Ethiopia. Although disappointed to not hear Dr Catherine Hamlin herself.

– Dr. Claudio Schuftan. Don’t know much about him at all and didn’t agree with everything he said, but very much appreciated the way he threw some interesting thoughts out there and approached things from a completely different angle than the norm, and challenged the whole origin of the MDG’s (apparently rehashed ideas from the 1970’s…)

– Getting a feel for how these big international conferences work. (And also how they don’t work…).

– Free food. Mmm. And loads of yum tea. However this felt a little uncomfortable considering we were sitting around talking about people who have no food.

– Hanging out with Marita.

– Getting a clearer idea of the kind of work I would like to end up doing. And what kind I would rather not.
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follow conference updates and related events here and follow on twitter with #achieveMDGs or #UNDPI

MDG’s – UK is outdoing Australia?!

Today I read something that got me a little frustrated.

The UK economy along with much of Europe has had a bit of a rough ride lately, and is looking at certain austerity measures, some of which are addressed in a recently released emergency budget in an effort to revive the economy.

Australia, on the other hand, has come out of the GFC with barely a scratch and our current government is anticipating that our budget will be back in surplus by 2013.

Why is it then, that the UK is able to still stand by its pledge to increase foreign aid to 0.7% GNI (gross national income) by 2013 (the agreed millennium development goal commitment) while the Australian government is still only committed to an increase to just 0.5% of GNI by 2015?

We were at the same UN summit in 2000, committed to the same millennium development goals which required the same agreement about an aid commitment of 0.7% of GNI and yet we are being poorly outdone by many nations (see us compared on a graph here). Come on, Australia…we can do better than that…

feeling motivated? take action here