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The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Opens Its 16th Session at New York: April 24-May 05









Ceremonial opening of the Sixteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 2017: April 24. Image: UN Photo:Evan Schneider


Stand up Against Intolerance and Eliminate Discrimination: António Guterres

Children behind fence that separates them from the white community near Johannesburg, during the time
of apartheid in South Africa. Image: UN Photo:Pendl

|| March 21: 2017 || ά. Against the backdrop of rising discrimination and violence against those perceived as different, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today urged the world to stand up against intolerance and build communities that recognise diversity not as a source of weakness but a source of strength and richness. “In a time of upheaval and change, it is easy to paint vulnerable communities as the cause of problems....people are being targeted because of their race, nationality, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.” warned Mr. Guterres at an event at the UN General Assembly, commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Highlighting the particular plight of migrants as well as those, especially women and girls, from minority communities, who are often targeted as 'scapegoats' and experience racial profiling by authorities, Mr Guterres underscored the collective responsibility to do better and to protect human rights of all. “We all have a role to play, after all, racial discrimination destabilises societies, undermines democracies and erodes the legitimacy of governments.” he said. “By acting together to end discrimination, we can lift humanity as a whole.”

In his remarks, the Secretary-General, also, reminded that international law requires States to take effective actions to prevent and eliminate discrimination on all grounds and in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life. “They must be vigilant and respond immediately and appropriately, including by prohibiting incitement to racial, national and religious hatred and ending racial profiling.” he said, making a specific call on politicians and leaders to speak up and counter hateful speech.

“Let us stand up against intolerance and eliminate discrimination.” he noted, “Let us join forces in our global campaign, Together for Respect, Safety and Dignity for all.”

Marked on March 21, the International Day commemorates the killing of 69 unarmed protestors in 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa, who were staging a peaceful protest against the discriminatory pass laws of the racist apartheid regime.

In his remarks Assembly President Peter Thomson said it is challenging to see how far the world is from winning the global fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. Even though global migration had long been a feature of human history and forcible displacement had driven large number of people from their homes, refugees and migrants too often are met with suspicion, fear and intolerance.

“The world must reaffirm its faith in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.” he said, adding that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights called on the world to stand up against racism, xenophobia and hate where and whenever it appeared.

Moreover, political leaders must be role models for tolerant and respectful attitudes towards migrants. Cross-cultural education in schools must foster respect for diversity and understanding of the positive contribution refugees and migrants made to societies and economies. Most critical, said Mr. Thomson, is the need to fully support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to secure a safe, more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

“We must use this historic opportunity of the forthcoming negotiations on a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration to affirm universal respect for the rights of migrants.” he said.

Also, addressing the Assembly, Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, said that the New York Declaration and forthcoming global compact negotiations would show societies how to embrace diversity at a time when more than 240 million people were displaced.

With pluralistic societies appearing to be the norm, she said her work involved supporting the ‘Together’ campaign, a new dialogue about refugees and migrants to foster social cohesion while countering negative stereotyping and falsehoods about them.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Chinese New Year Celebrations at the University of Exeter: February 11: The Year of the Rooster

Image: UE

|| January 27: 2017: University of Exeter News || ά. Traditional dragon dancing, distinctive culinary delights, martial arts demonstrations and spectacular fireworks are just some of the colourful festivities planned to welcome in the Year of the Rooster at the University of Exeter. More than 2,500 local residents, staff and students are expected to attend this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations on Saturday, February 11 at the University’s Streatham Campus.

Organised by the Chinese Student Scholars Association:CSSA and supported by the University, the Student’s Guild and Streetwise Fund, the event promises to be an impressive festival, planned with students and families in mind. Yiting Li, a third-year BSc Mathematics student and member of the CSSA, said, “Chinese New Year is traditionally a time to spend with families, so it can be difficult being so far away from home. It means a lot to have such a big celebration here in Exeter. It is the holiday I most look forward to and it makes me feel at home.

I have participated in the celebrations for the past two years and I can’t wait for this year’s. It’s a great opportunity to introduce our culture to local people and the whole day is a wonderful experience.” The celebrations will begin at 13:00 when traditional dragon and lion dancers will make their way through the city, starting at Buffet City in George Street before moving to Bedford Square, Princesshay.

Following what promises to be a stunning performance, the parade will continue along the High Street and Gandy Street towards the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. The dancing finale will take place on the Great Hall Piazza, at the Streatham Campus.

Stalls illustrating Chinese traditions and crafts, delicious Chinese cuisine, martial arts demonstrations and performances will also be taking place in the Forum. To mark the end of the celebrations, there will be a spectacular firework display at the XFI Building at 18:15.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor for the University of Exeter, said, “Chinese New Year has become an important special date for the University calendar and the family-friendly celebrations are a fantastic opportunity to welcome local people to the University. At Exeter we are committed to offering an international experience and it is a real pleasure to celebrate this important festival on our campus.”

Chinese New Year has a rich long history spanning back thousands of years. In China it is known as the “Spring Festival” because it marks the end of the winter season and this year festivities will welcome in the dawn of the Year of the Rooster.

Yuchen Zhu, a BSc Mathematics and Economics student and member of the CSSA, said, “It will be great to get the community involved and learning more about this important time of year for China. It’s a fantastic chance to get together and share our culture with local people.

In China we like to make and eat dumplings together and watch the New Year’s gala on TV. It features singing, dancing and general entertainment, it’s a bit like the Royal Variety Performance or the Annual New Years Hootenanny shown in Britain.”

For more information on this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations, visit the website. ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Report Finland: Sámi People’s Rights Should Be Reinforced to Comply with the Constitution and International Law


|| December 13: 2016 || ά. A report on the rights of the Sámi people by an international team of researchers was recently completed. The study is part of the Government analysis, assessment and research activities designed to support decision making. The objective was to take a closer look at the challenges facing the state in its efforts to promote the rights of the Sámi people, e.g. in the context of the Act on the Sámi Parliament and the ratification of the ILO’s Convention No. 169.

The report examines the Sámi people’s right to land and participation in the light of the Constitution and international law and from the point of view of the rights of indigenous peoples in the legal systems of the key countries concerned. The comparative legal study included New Zealand, Canada and Latin American countries, in respect of which the study on the rights to land and participation was complemented by an analysis of how indigenous people are defined in each state.

The international report underlines that, regardless of the ratification of the ILO’s Convention No. 169 or the Nordic Sámi Convention, Finland’s existing legal obligations, the Constitution and international law, require a wider recognition of the rights of the Sámi people. The report recommends that the Act on the Finnish Agency for Forests and other laws related to the enjoyment of land and water essential to the rights of the Sámi people be complemented by a prohibition to undermine the Sámi culture. However, the ILO Convention and the Nordic Sámi Convention are considered to clarify and strengthen the legal status of the Sámi people, which is why their ratification is welcomed.

The report lends support to the 2014 Government proposal to Parliament to expand the Sámis’ self-determination by amending the Act on the Sámi Parliament through the introduction of more rigorous a duty to consult. The researchers found that the proposed duty of cooperation would be more consistent with the latest developments in international law where systematic emphasis is being placed on the right of indigenous people to self-determination and evidence-based advance consent.

According to the report, the ratification of the ILO’s Convention No. 169 does not require, particularly in the conditions prevailing in countries like Finland, that the Sámi people be guaranteed a right of ownership to land. However, strong rights of use and efficient participation in the management of lands are consistent with the ILO’s Convention No. 169, the policy line of the supervisory committee and the practices adopted by the countries that have ratified the Convention. Moreover, the ratification of the ILO’s Convention No. 160 does not require a redefinition of the Sámi.

The report states that the countries included in the comparative legal study have been bolder than Finland in adopting land co-management schemes. The study proposes that Akwé: Kon guidelines related to the Biodiversity Convention could be developed to provide a basis for active co-operation between the Finnish Agency for Forests and the Sámi people.

The study provides an extensive analysis of the cases reviewed by the Supreme Administrative Court regarding the definition of the Sámi. The report states that the principle of overall evaluation adopted by the Supreme Administrative Court in 2011 has proved problematic, and no clear logic is evident in the selection criteria applied by the Court; instead, very similar cases have been reviewed differently by upholding some appeals while rejecting others.

In particular, the analysis of the 2015 cases demonstrates that the appeal process is untenable from the point of view of the appellants’ legal protection and certainty. The report recommends that the concept of the Sámi be redefined by minimising the room for interpretation by both the Sámi Parliament and the Supreme Administrative Court.

One option is to adopt the inter-Nordic definition of the Sámi, which, in accordance with the Norwegian practice, does not provide any ethnic definition; instead, Sámis are people who are entitled to vote in the elections to the Sámi Parliament. This would enable the experience of being Sámi irrespective of election lists. At the same time, people who do not meet the language criteria but perceive themselves as Sámi and engage in traditional livelihoods should also be guaranteed the right to land use and participation in decision making.

The report ‘What can international experiences teach us on the indigenous peoples’ affairs?’ was prepared as part of the implementation of the Government Plan for Analysis, Assessment and Research for 2015.

Report: What can international experiences teach us on the indigenous peoples’ affairs: in Finnish

The lead researchers on the project were Leena Heinämäki, Doctor of Laws, Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland, and Christina Alard, Associate Professor, Luleå University of Technology. Other researchers and experts involved in the project: Sanna Valkonen, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Lapland; Professor Alexandra Xanthaki, Doctor of Laws, Brunel Law School; Associate Professor Ulf Mörkenstam, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Stockholm; Professor Nigel Bankes, University of Calgary; Professor Jacinta Ruru, Doctor of Laws, University of Otago; Professor Jéremie Gilbert, Doctor of Laws, University of East London; Professor Per Selle, Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Bergen; Professor Audra Simpson, Doctor of Social Sciences, Columbia University; and Laura Olsén, Master of Laws, University of Lapland.

For more information on the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities, see

Inquiries: Leena Heinämäki, Doctor of Laws, tel. +358 (0)40 484 4280, e-mail: leena.heinamaki at and Laura Olsén, Master of Laws, tel. +358 (0)40 484 4277, laura.olsen at, University of Lapland, Arctic Centre.

Music Anne Maddji Heatta May be a Doctor But She Sings Like Stars      

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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UN Expert Calls for Concerted Action to Guarantee Rights for Persons with Disabilities

Enlighten Universana The Humanion Beacon Organisations The Papworth Trust National Charity for People with Disabilities

|| December 13: 2016 || ά. Following the recent global commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a United Nations human rights expert today issued a warning that some of the most basic components of the convention have yet to be realised and that urgent steps are necessary to level inequalities. According to Devandas Aguilar, overall progress is 'only peripheral' and swift action is necessary to ensure that the some one billion adults and at least 93 million children living with disabilities are guaranteed their full rights.

“Thanks to the Convention, every one of them can claim rights that relate to every single area of their lives. It is now vital to ensure that this translates into significant improvements and tangible changes in their lives.” the Special Rapporteur said in a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:OHCHR. According to the expert, many countries are failing to meet the goals of the Convention. “Many States have declared their desire to protect persons with disabilities through public policies and social protection systems.” said Ms. Aguilar.

“But all too often, these same systems promote exclusion and limited participation, for example, by institutionalization or social benefits that discourage people joining the open labour market. She reported that while States continue to reaffirm their commitments to equal rights for persons with disabilities, they simultaneously deny these groups the ability to exercise their legal rights and freedom of choice.

She hailed the progress of some States who have implemented new laws, policies, and programmes that place disability issues at the heart of international progress, but lamented that others do not seem to understand the advanced model of human rights and disabilities that are set forth in the Convention.

“They may have decided in principle to act, but still struggle with issues as basic as inclusion, non-discrimination, reasonable accommodation, and support services.” said the UN Special Rapporteur. Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. Their positions are honorary they are neither staff nor paid for their work.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Gary Moritz from London: I Felt Like a Number, Not a Human Being They were Trying to Help

Gary Moritz from London: Image: Sense

|| October 04: 2016 || ά. Gary has Usher syndrome, a genetic condition that affects vision, hearing and, in some cases, balance. After losing his job, Gary claimed Employment Support Allowance and was subsequently referred to the Work Programme, which failed to address his support needs.

“No one asked me what I wanted to do and what I could do. They quickly dismissed my aspirations to find an administrator job and told me to concentrate on customer service roles, such as a call handler at a call centre. It did not register with them that I had a hearing impairment.

“I was later sent on training sessions, where I could not see and hear what was being said. I had to come in and apply for jobs, and they assigned a person to help me do this as I could not see the screen and they didn’t want to adapt it for me. The lady just quickly read the jobs to me and sometimes applied without even letting me know. I later found out that she had a target to meet before lunchtime. The whole experience was awful; I felt like a number, not a person.”

Gary would have benefited from a personalised approach aimed at building his confidence and encouraging independence. The support provided did the opposite. They could have installed screen reading software on the computer and checked whether or not Gary needed to develop his computer skills to apply for jobs effectively. This approach would also have encouraged his independence. Instead, staff read the jobs to Gary and applied on his behalf.

Gary’s basic access needs were not met and it made it harder for him to benefit from the support he received. It might have been more effective to assess the demand in the labour market and reach out to employers who are actively recruiting staff to encourage them to consider employing Gary, rather than helping him to apply for the jobs he did not want and was not able to do. Gary finished the programme without getting a job, and continues to look for work himself.

Gary Moritz's story is provided by Sense.

Sense is a national charity that has been supporting and campaigning for children and adults who are deafblind and have complex needs for over 60 years. There are currently around 356,000 deafblind people in the UK. Sense provides specialist information, advice and services to deafblind people, their families, carers and the professionals who work with them. Sense runs services across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and employ 2,000 people who work in services directly with deafblind people.

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Women and Girls with Disabilities are Equal Rights Holders, Not ‘Helpless Objects of Pity’: UN Rights Committee

Participant of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities takes photos of participants attending a special event organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs:DESA on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Image: UN Photo


|| August 30: 2016 || ά. Noting that national policies often tend to treat women and girls with disabilities as helpless objects of pity or allow them to be treated in that manner, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has stressed that, instead, they need to be empowered and allowed to enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms, as any other person.

“Policies for women have traditionally made disability invisible, and disabilities policies have overlooked gender,” said Theresia Degener, a member of Committee member in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:OHCHR. “But,” she added, “if you are a woman or a girl with disabilities, you face discrimination and barriers because you are female, because you are disabled, and because you are female and disabled.”

To address this issue, the Committee has issued guidance for the 166 states that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to help them empower women and girls with disabilities and to enable them to participate in all spheres of life on an equal basis with others, as set out expressly in Article 6 of the Convention.

According to OHCHR, the guidance, termed as a General Comment, stresses that states need to empower women by “raising their self-confidence, guaranteeing their participation, and increasing their power and authority to take decisions in all areas affecting their lives.” It also details the measures the countries should take in a range of sectors, including health, education, access to justice and equality before the law, transport, and employment to enable women and girls with disabilities to fully enjoy their human rights.

“Our recommendations cover practical steps, such as planning public services that work for women with disabilities, and involving them in the design of products so they can use them,” said Diane Kingston, another member of the Committee. “Think of the women and girls with disabilities who face huge and daily hurdles with regard to water, sanitation and hygiene, and how guaranteeing accessible facilities, services and products could transform their lives.”

The General Comment also calls on States parties to the Convention to repeal or reform all legislation which discriminates, either directly or indirectly, against women and girls with disabilities. It also urges public campaigns to overcome and transform long-held discriminatory attitudes towards women with disabilities.

“We hope that States parties will be guided by this General Comment to review their laws and practices to achieve greater recognition and fulfilment of the human rights of women and girls with disabilities,” said Committee Chair María Soledad Cisternas Reyes.

The Committee is a body of 18 independent experts which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The members of the Committee serve in their individual capacity and not as government representatives. They are elected at the Conference of the State Parties to the Convention for a four year term with a possibility of being re-elected once. ω.

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Scotland Celebrates Diversity: EU Nationals to Meet the Scottish Government to Discuss EU Referendum Implications on August 17 at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange

The Great Tapestry of Scotland at Scotland’s Jute Museum at Verdant Works, Dundee March 19 – 1 May 01, 2016

|| August 14: 2016 || ά. Scottish Government to hold discussion with EU nationals living in Scotland. EU nationals living in Scotland will have the chance to discuss the implications of the EU referendum result with the First Minister next week. The public Q&A event takes place at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on August 17 from 11:30 - 13:00.

It’s the first time EU nationals have been given the opportunity to discuss the result with senior politicians and hear the First Minister’s commitment to protecting Scotland’s relationship with and place in Europe. 450 people are signed up to attend the session, which will take place at the end of a special European Cabinet in Edinburgh on Wednesday. 30 different nationalities, including 24 from EU member states, will attend the event to discuss the EU referendum result and what it means for them.

Speaking ahead of the event, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland spoke loudly and clearly when it delivered an unequivocal vote to remain in the EU. It is my duty as First Minister to speak on behalf of all Scottish citizens, including those who have chosen to come from other parts of the EU and make Scotland their home.

“They have brought a wealth of social, economic and cultural benefits and have enriched our society. And as I said on the day after the referendum, they remain very welcome here. My Cabinet and I are determined to provide reassurance and certainty, wherever we can, to those who have come to Scotland and have contributed so valuably.

Our priority is to protect Scotland’s interests, and the interests of everyone living, working and studying here. That’s why I, alongside my Cabinet, am considering all possible options to protect Scotland’s continuing relationship with and place in Europe for future generations.”

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In Our Diversity We Join in Our Common Humanity: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2016: August 09

|| August 09: 2016 || ά. Scenes from the First World Conference on Indigenous Peoples 2014: A participant at the round table discussion on "Indigenous Peoples' Lands, Territories and Resources", taking place as part of the first World Conference. Image: UN Photo:Loey Felipe: Date: 23.09.2014: ω.

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Building Bridges for Indigenous People in Bangladesh

Ms Sulekha Mrong: Image: ILO

|| August 09: 2016: ILO News || ά.  On the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we spoke to Sulekha Mrong, an indigenous Garo woman from the rolling hills of north-eastern Bangladesh. She explains how an ILO initiative helps indigenous people to better understand their rights as well as forge positive relationships with government authorities.

The light falls softly on Sulekha Mrong’s face as she speaks about her community of indigenous people, the Garo. She sits back and talks at the slow, steady pace of someone who has had to wait a lot, but who is absolutely sure that what they are waiting for is worth it. “We work for indigenous women and men. To empower them, to promote their rights, to unite them,” explains the 52-year-old retired school teacher.

The Garo is one of the main indigenous communities in Bangladesh. They live in the north-eastern part of the country. But with illegal settlements of non-Garo people encroaching into the forests and multiplying land dispute claims, the Garo have become marginalized in their own traditional lands. They face many challenges to their property and human rights.

An ILO initiative, Building Capacities on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Issues in Bangladesh: Rights and Good Practices supported by the government of Denmark has been working with indigenous communities and the government authorities in Bangladesh, to create greater awareness of the rights and responsibilities of indigenous peoples.

The Achiki Michik Society:AMS, a society for Garo indigenous women, was supported by the project to organise training and workshops on indigenous rights and conventions. As a local AMS leader, Sulekha Mrong’s participation ensured that this knowledge was passed on to others in the community. At the ILO workshops, the Garos were also introduced to elected officials and forest department representatives, building bridges between the indigenous people and the authorities.

“Now we understand that there are local level services available for indigenous people. We consulted different administration bodies with that information. In the beginning, they did not want to listen to us. We did not leave their doors though, we continued to consult them, applied for their services using their criteria and gradually they listened to us. They began to understand what we are doing and allow us to discuss issues,” she said.

The Garos are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world. Inheritance goes to the women and the Garo children take their surname from their mother. This creates additional responsibilities for the Garo women, which, Sulekha explained, they were not always well-equipped to understand.

“As an Indigenous Garo woman, I inherit land. We didn’t actually know about land management though; we just knew about the tradition. Through the support from the ILO, we’ve learned how we can manage and document our land and how we can exercise our traditional rights in non-traditional structures. We understand how to update land documents, how to communicate with land officers, what rights we have about our lands.”

Creating a better understanding

ILO Bangladesh Country Director Srinivas Reddy agrees that the situation is gradually improving. “The changes taking place in recent years indicate a brighter future for indigenous people in Bangladesh. ILO will continue to provide support in this area while at the same time encouraging the government to fully implement policies and agreements that have been signed relating to them,” he said.

Sulekha meanwhile is confident that the project’s activities have helped create a better relationship between indigenous people and the authorities. “The space between us is slowly reducing. It is helping both of us, just knowing each other. When we want to discuss issues now, officials are starting to give us space. There has always been an unequal relationship. The training is helping to put us on the same page, when it was not even the same book before.” ω.  

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Enhancing the Visibility of the Living Conditions and Status of the Roma in the Nordic Countries: Seminar June 16

Flag of the Roma People

|| June 15: 2016 || ά.  A Nordic seminar on the policy on Roma will bring together around 60 Nordic experts on Roma on Thursday, June 16. The theme of the seminar is the inclusion of the Roma population in decision-making that affects their lives. The seminar aims to enhance the visibility of the living conditions and status of the Roma in the Nordic countries and to improve cooperation between authorities and the Roma population. The seminar also provides an opportunity to exchange experiences on discrimination against the Roma and effective measures in pursuing a policy on the Roma among different Nordic countries.

The Roma are the largest minority in Europe. There are about 11,000 Roma people living in Finland while Sweden has 50,000 and Norway 10,000 Roma people. In the Nordic countries, the Roma are treated equally and the same systems in society concern them as well as the majority of the population. The Roma population often have, however, a weaker position in society than the rest of the population. Their living conditions should be improved through an existing service system.

To improve the living conditions, it is necessary both to recognise and enhance the visibility of the Roma in different life situations: as children, young people, senior citizens and disabled people. Long-term experience shows that for example their educational level has improved only after they themselves have been involved in developing and promoting matters.

Finland's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is currently preparing the second National Policy on Roma for 2018-2020. Matters are prepared in close co-operation with the Roma population. The status of mobile EU citizens will also be addressed during the Roma seminar. There is a great need to exchange experiences in the best practices which concern both those who arrive in Nordic countries on a temporary basis and those who wish to stay permanently. There is still relatively little experience from the latter group in Finland.

The Nordic seminar on the policy on Roma is one of the events under Finland's Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2016. The seminar is arranged by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in cooperation with the Advisory Board on Romani Affairs in Finland.

The Advisory Board which functions under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health was set up already 60 years ago. One of its tasks is to promote the Roma's opportunities for participation in society and equality as well as to prevent discrimination. It also functions as a cooperation and expert body for the Roma population and authorities.

Sarita Friman-Korpela, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 63349;
Viveca Arrhenius, Ministerial Counsellor for Social Affairs, +358 295 63286.


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Cultural Diversity: An Outstanding Source of Exchange, Innovation and Creativity

In Tunisia, Zina works with the association Appui aux initiatives de Development AID:Support to development initiatives.
AID and has trained over 20 women in handicraft work. She also makes furniture item thanks to palm tree by-products. Image: Arne Hoel:World Bank

|| May 21: 2016 || ά.  Cultural diversity is an outstanding source of exchange, innovation and creativity, and has the enormous potential to accelerate sustainable development, the United Nations cultural agency declared today.

In a message marking the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation:UNESCO, highlighted that celebrating cultural diversity is a way of recognising that “the wealth of cultures is the constitutive power of humanity and an important asset for peace and development, the promotion of which is inseparable from the observance of human rights.”

“Celebrating cultural diversity also means being aware of the ties that bind us to our environment, because cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature,” she added, as stated in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted in 2001.

In particular, Ms. Bokova noted that celebrating cultural diversity means opening up new perspectives for sustainable development and promoting creative industries and cultural entrepreneurship as sources of millions of jobs worldwide – particularly for young people and especially for women.

The Director-General also stressed that culture is a sustainable development accelerator whose potential has been recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN.

“Culture offers the unique opportunity to reconcile the economic and social aspects of development – cultural goods and services have identities, reference points and values, while enabling millions of creators, artists and professionals to make a living from their work,” Ms. Bokova said. “Celebrating cultural diversity means enabling them to practice their trade and helps them to enrich the cultural landscape, which in turn enriches us.”

In fact, she said, the core of UNESCO's mandate – for heritage, education, information and knowledge-sharing – is based on celebrating cultural diversity that broadens our horizons and human rights that unite us.

“The enemies of human rights always attack cultural diversity, which symbolizes the freedom to be and to think, and which is unbearable to them,” Ms. Bokova said.

“On this Day, let us dare to respond to them collectively: I call upon all Member States to strengthen the spirit of this day, as a peaceful weapon against the temptations of isolationism, closure and exclusion, which lead humanity to renounce itself, ignoring its own wealth,” she concluded.

The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 2002 and celebrated annually on 21 May, provides an opportunity for mobilization on the part of governments, policy makers, civil society organizations, communities and cultural professionals to promote culture in its diversity and in all its forms, according to UNESCO.

Special attention is given to national cultural policies that recognize the contribution of traditional knowledge, particularly when it to comes to the protection of the environment and the management of natural resources.


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MPs Speak for the Need to Raise Awareness About Autism










Image: CARE:David Rochkind, Design: Kim Conger

|| May 02: 2016 || As Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, Autism Rocks has reached out to Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism to hear their views on what autism means to them and what needs to be done to improve public awareness. In light of startling statistics published recently by the National Autistic Society that show 44% of people on the autism spectrum fear harassment, 75% are bullied at school and 75% of parents said their autistic children have been labelled “naughty” or “strange”, MPs reveal their thoughts.

What is Autism: The National Autistic Society

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, including an estimated 700,000 people in the UK.

Every person on the autism spectrum is different. It can present some serious challenges – but, with the right support and understanding, autistic people and their families can live full lives.

Although everyone is different, people on the autism spectrum may:

be under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, which can make everyday life extremely difficult

find social situations and change a challenge, sometimes leading to extreme levels of anxiety

experience a ‘meltdown’ if overwhelmed by anxiety or sensory overload

benefit from extra time to process and respond to communication.

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language. Readmore

Autism Research Trust

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability, characterised by difficulties in the development of social relationships and communication skills and the presence of unusually strong and narrow interests, and repetitive behaviour. Classic autism typically involves associated learning difficulties and language delay. Asperger Syndrome (AS), part of the autistic spectrum, shares the features of autism but without the associated intellectual disability. We refer to these conditions as autism spectrum conditions, or ASCs. We use the term ‘spectrum’ because, while all people with autism share common difficulties, their condition will affect them in very different ways. Some individuals are able to live relatively independent lives; others will require a lifetime of specialist support.

To people with autism, the world is often a mass of people, places and events which they struggle to make sense of, and which can cause them considerable stress. In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family and social life may be harder for them. Other people appear to know, intuitively, how to communicate and interact with each other, and some people with autism may wonder why they are ‘different’.

It can be hard to create awareness of autism as people with the condition do not ‘look’ disabled: parents of children with autism often say that other people simply think their child is naughty; while adults find that they are misunderstood. Readmore

Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, who has a son on the autistic spectrum, said that although attitudes to autism are changing “slowly”, the public perception is still largely “something akin to ‘Rain Main’ where everyone with autism has a secret genius ability”.

He added that to better support people with autism we need to “understand autism, spread awareness, change our own perceptions and crucially get more people with autism into work.

“However, we also need to understand this won’t be possible for everyone, and for those people we should ensure there is a system of support to meet their needs and keep them safe and healthy. If anything, this is getting worse, not better.”

He added that the word ‘autism’ is “complex”, and that “every person on the spectrum is different, like any parent I love my son for who he is. But I cannot deny it is also a source of considerable sadness and anxiety; that his ability to communicate with me has been so severely limited, and knowing how difficult a place the world is to him.

Charlotte Leslie, MP for Bristol North West spent a year working for the National Autistic Society. She says that the word ‘autism’ means “a way of seeing and experiencing the world that is very different from norms expected and often imposed by society.”

She said that to support people with autism we need to “seek to appreciate and understand the world that faces people with autism, and perpetually seek to accommodate people with autism as much as we possibly can.”

She adds “I think awareness of autism and the autistic spectrum is growing, but there’s still much to be done to end prejudices and misunderstandings.”

Steve Brine, MP for Winchester commented that “awareness around autism has been growing in recent years, but there is much more to do.”

Sanjay Shah, founder of Autism Rocks, the UK based charity that hosts music concerts to raise funds for the Autism Research Trust, said: “We are very grateful to hear the MPs valuable opinions and that they agree that there is still much to be done to spread awareness and change attitudes towards autism. We hope they will champion these views in Parliament.

“Although Autism Awareness month is almost over, the battle to change public perceptions of people on the autism spectrum is ongoing, we appreciate the MPs and the public’s support.”

About Autism Rocks: Autism Rocks, founded in 2014 by British philanthropist Sanjay Shah, is a UK- based charity which raises funds for autism research and services through collaborating with the music industry. All Autism Rocks proceeds go to the UK registered charity Autism Research Trust.

About The Autism Research Trust: ART: The Autism Research Trust (ART) raises funds for research at the Autism Research Centre, Cambridge, directed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen. ART funds research projects to identify who will develop autism, projects that develop early diagnostic tools and research to evaluate specific interventions and support, with the aim of aiding people with autism through their lives. Such projects include the Talkosaurus app, to help non-verbal children with autism learn how to speak and the stem cell neuron testing, a cutting edge new way of studying the autistic brain and studies of the impact of Oxytocin, also known as “empathy” or “social” hormone, to detect behavioural changes in autistic children. It is a registered charity (no. 1136737).


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Janet Williams, Citizenship Winner Accepting a Trophy from the First Minister St David Awards Ceremony 2016 : Seremoni Gwobrau Dewi Sant 2016

















Our Unity Our Diversity

Our Unity is the ultimate expression of oneness that is determined to make itself as diverse as possible so to be a able to achieve that what we have chosen: to continue to go on maintaining, achieving, fostering, regulating, nurturing, enhancing, advancing, empowering and adapting homeostasis which allows us to become the best of that what we seek and strive to become: in harmony with ourselves as well as in communion and equilibrium with the outer, wider, deeper, greater and complex Universe in which we must live and be.

Image: The Welsh Government


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Marking Autism Awareness Day 2016: UN Officials Call for Inclusive Societies










Photo: CARE/David Rochkind, Design: Kim Conger


April 01, 2016:  On the eve of the World Autism Awareness Day, United Nations officials highlighted the contributions to humanity by people with autism, noting that shunning them is a “violation of human rights” and a “waste of human potential.”

Addressing a commemorative event this morning, UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft stressed that “autism and other forms of disability are part of the human experience that contributes to human diversity.”

The head of the 193-nation body noted that autism prevalence figures are growing, one in 68 people, or about one per cent of the world's population. The vast majority of those affected are children.

“Today we also celebrate the unique talents of persons with autism,” he said, emphasizing that each must be treated a valued member of society and is thus entitled to equal opportunity in all respects, including education, employment, participation in social, political and cultural life and access to information.

Member States have emphasized the need to mainstream disability in the global development agenda. This means that the needs and rights of persons with disabilities, including autism, need to be taken fully into account, on an equal footing with other citizens, in the design and implementation of all policies and programmes.

In adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)in September 2015, the Assembly pledged that no one would be left behind.

“Let's make that a reality by building providing an inclusive society and accessible communities where people with autism and other disabilities can thrive, enjoy equal opportunity and thus be empowered,” he said.

Titled Autism and the 2030 Agenda: Inclusion and Neurodiversity, the event also featured a keynote speech by Steve Silberman, author of Neuro Tribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.

Violation of human rights and waste of human potential

In a message on the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that autism is not well-understood in many countries, and too many societies shun people with autism.

“This is a violation of human rights and a waste of human potential,” he said.

Earlier this year, he engaged in a dialogue with a young man with autism at United Nations Headquarters. His innovative approach to the implementation of the SDGs was impressive, he said.

The UN is proud to champion the autism awareness movement. The rights, perspectives and well-being of people with autism, and all persons with disabilities, are integral to the 2030 Agenda and its commitment to leave no one behind.

Noting that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he called on societies to invest more funds in enabling young persons with autism to be part of their generation's historic push for progress.


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Message of Grace from Pope Francis

Photo: Holy See

Saint Peter's Square
Tuesday, 8 December 2015

In a few moments I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door of Mercy.  We carry out this act – as I did in Bangui – so simple yet so highly symbolic, in the light of the word of God which we have just heard.  That word highlights the primacy of grace.  Again and again these readings make us think of the words by which the angel Gabriel told an astonished young girl of the mystery which was about to enfold her: “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:28).

The Virgin Mary was called to rejoice above all because of what the Lord accomplished in her.  God’s grace enfolded her and made her worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ.  When Gabriel entered her home, even the most profound and impenetrable of mysteries became for her a cause for joy, a cause for faith, a cause for abandonment to the message revealed to her.  The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception expresses the grandeur of God’s love.  Not only does he forgive sin, but in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world.  This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves.  The beginning of the history of sin in the Garden of Eden yields to a plan of saving love.  The words of Genesis reflect our own daily experience: we are constantly tempted to disobedience, a disobedience expressed in wanting to go about our lives without regard for God’s will.  This is the enmity which keeps striking at people’s lives, setting them in opposition to God’s plan.   Yet the history of sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness.  Sin can only be understood in this light.  Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures.  But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy.  The word of God which we have just heard leaves no doubt about this.  The Immaculate Virgin stands before us as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfillment.

This Extraordinary Year is itself a gift of grace.  To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.  It is he who seeks us!  It is he who comes to encounter us!  This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy.  How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy (cf. Saint Augustine, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 12, 24)!  But that is the truth.  We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgement will always be in the light of his mercy.  In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love, of tenderness.  Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved.  Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.

Today, here in Rome and in all the dioceses of the world, as we pass through the Holy Door, we also want to remember another door, which fifty years ago the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council opened to the world.  This anniversary cannot be remembered only for the legacy of the Council’s documents, which testify to a great advance in faith.  Before all else, the Council was an encounter.  A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time.  An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit, who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey.  It was the resumption of a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces.  Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel, and the mercy and forgiveness of God.  After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm.  The Jubilee challenges us to this openness, and demands that we not neglect the spirit which emerged from Vatican II, the spirit of the Samaritan, as Blessed Paul VI expressed it at the conclusion of the Council.  May our passing through the Holy Door today commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan.


Posted: December 9, 2015


Bedouin Woman with Her Goats Near Petra, Jordan.

UN Photo

Bedouin woman with her Goats near Petra, Jordan.
06 December 1990


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Our Unity Our Diversity

Our Unity is the ultimate expression of oneness that is determined to make itself as diverse as possible so to be a able to achieve that what we have chosen: to continue to go on maintaining, achieving, fostering, regulating, nurturing, enhancing, advancing, empowering and adapting homeostasis which allows us to become the best of that what we seek and strive to become: in harmony with ourselves as well as in communion and equilibrium with the outer, wider, deeper, greater and complex Universe in which we must live and be.

Diversity is the other end of the same oneness where expressions are sprung up so to specifically go about achieving particular goals so that division of forces are organised that will guide efforts in specialist areas. This we see happening every second of every minute of every hour of every day in our physiology. At the bottom of all that we have in the Universe is: energy, the unity of all energies: yet they are diverse; varying from chemical to electrical to biochemical to magnetic or electromagnetic. But at the core all of these expressions of energies are essentially energy but they are divided in this way so to be able to achieve and do particular goal, particular task.

The second basic thing or unit in the entire creation is the atom; all of the matters are made of it (and they are essentially the origins and sources of all energies) and yet out of the unity of this matter we find an endless diversity of the structures, arrangements and relational prospectus of what they could and would do were they to interact with each other. In here, we see that the diversity is happening as to achieve and advance the goals and prospects of the unity.

In living organism we see the oneness in the building block of cell ( we are not going any smaller here) which is the single entity that forms the oneness of life yet the cell is spread out into an impossible array of wonderful organisations, structures, specialisms and functions into the song sheet of diversity and here we come to realise the same thing that in this diversity they are organised in and out simply to achieve the objectives and aspirations of the Unity from which it originated. Therefore, we must ensure that we never forget our oneness and forever remind ourselves of our diversity. The unity is the sunlight or the darkness but look at the myriad of expressions of the same sunlight and the endless variations of darkness and the way these both play with the expressions of colours and their shades, tones and textures. Our oneness, our unity as humanity is this humanity itself, the unit of which to measure it is love ( that can be subdivided into many qualities, i.e, kindness, grace, care, affection, jubilation, compassion, celebration, creativity, imagination, wonder, openness, hope, faith etc). Out of this unity of humanity, out of this oneness of humanity we seek to create and so we create diversity by becoming diverse so that we can become the best, create the best, imagine the best, achieve the best, sing the best, paint the best, love the best all of which is connected to achieving homeostasis: in being in harmony with ourselves as well as in communion and equilibrium with the outer, wider, deeper, greater and complex Universe in which we must live and be. One we are which we remain, become and continue to be by becoming diverse. Our unity is defined by our diversity and diversity is defined by our unity.. What is being diverse? The unity. What is being unity? The diversity. Energy's unity diversifies into arrays of energy classes while all the energy classes are connected to and fall back on the original energy like the fountain water rising from the origin and falling back to it.

Oneness is William Shakespeare and diversity is in the same very William Shakespeare's efforts to design, sign, shape, form, imagine, build and bring to life that very oneness and thus he has created and become as diverse as his creations all of which says the same thing: William Shakespeare. Imagine that our imagination is our unity which would like to fly to go out onto the Universe to take a look at the heavens. It would require a boat in the name, form and shape of a rocket. That rocket is our diversity. One cannot be without the other. Oneness and Diversity are absolutely linked that they cannot be separated as the we way liberty and equality are inseparable. So to bring this to a close: our oneness, our unity relates us to Liberty ( to be so to imagine, so to love, so to create and to make choices) and our diversity relates us to equality (to be so to go about without fear, favour, greed/temptation, manipulation or hindrance imagining, creating and making choices as any other or all others would be able to do likewise).

Here is what we come to: our oneness, our unity needs liberty and our diversity needs equality so that we can live as humans in humanity, with humanity in which we all are at liberty and equal for there is natural justice that makes it possible; natural justice is a state in which there is no gun: the metaphorical gun that is, that stands for power: capital/wealth, money, positions, ownership all is expressed in the term power which is the gun. Natural Justice therefore, means no one owns anything: no individual, no collective of individuals, no body nor bank nor organisation whether it is a party, government, state and because this way the 'gun' is 'lost' as there is no more powerfuls (with 'the gun') and powerless (without 'the gun') so that all are equal because no one is holding the gun against others. And what would replace ownership: belongingship. Everyone belongs to the earth and the Universe equally, naturally and lawfully and everything on earth and on the universe belong to everyone for everyone and, no one will ever die of hunger or lack of medicine, nor will anyone live beneath the skies in the rain and cold, no one would be jobless, no one would be homeless. Everyone works for others while the others (all the everyone in the others) work for the rest of the others. This way 'selfishness' is taken out of our work which humanises us back for we appreciate our work because it offers us meaning for we do not get paid for our work (which dehumanises us) yet all our needs are met because of others' works while 'my' work goes to make others' needs. Purpose and meaning are back with liberty and equality that are the foundation of Natural Justice.

In short: our unity and our diversity require natural justice for without it we cannot be at liberty nor can we be equal without which we cannot achieve peace (the outcome of true civilisation) which is an existential necessity that we must achieve in order to 'practise' our humanity in living, loving, working and creating all of which we must be in order to get rid of the effects and impacts of dehumanisation imposed and inflicted on us so that all over the world we are bleeding away, dying away, suffering away. And this system of ours tells us this is the best we could do, that this is the pinnacle of 'civilisation' and that this is how it is and will be.

This is definitely not the best we could do, this is not absolutely nowhere near 'civilisation' nor is it the pinnacle nor is it going to be like this. But it must be changed. How: for change, must we start with ourselves. Each individual human must make that choice to change himself/herself. Light up the candle of that self that lives in each person and the darkness will be illuminated by it and then add these candles together and the light will increase both qualitatively as well as quantitatively and it will illumine wider and further.

Illumine each individual soul and let them begin to light their own darkness and spread their lights wider and further and they would see other lamps being lit and they all will begin to form a fire fly vigil that will continue to grow. Humanity cannot reach the shore of light with darkness; it must choose light and must seek to enlighten all its members without force or hatred or violence or threat or intimidation or other negativity. We must seek to set out this fire fly vigil of light. This vigil of fire fly lights.

Munayem Mayenin

Posted on: November 5, 2015


Power of Volunteerism Can Help Build More Sustainable World: Ban Ki-moon on International Volunteer Day

UN Volunteers and members of local organizations clear a busy road as part of activities for International Volunteer Day in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

UN Volunteers and members of local organizations clear a busy road as part of activities for International Volunteer Day in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

5 December 2015 – To celebrate the power of the volunteerism, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon is marking the International Volunteer Day by emphasizing that volunteering fosters creativity, “draws strength from our passions and connects us to those who need us most.”

“Volunteerism is a global phenomenon that transcends boundaries, religions and cultural divides,” said Mr. Ban in his message on the Day, adding that volunteers embody the fundamental values of commitment, inclusiveness, civic engagement and a sense of solidarity.

The Secretary-General recalled the volunteering spirit during the Ebola crisis in West Africa, saying: “community volunteers, international volunteers and United Nations Volunteers were crucial to the response.”

“A similar spirit of volunteerism and solidarity has been on display in addressing the current refugee crisis and this year's devastating earthquake in Nepal,” added the UN chief.

The Day has been observed on 5 December every year since 1986. This year, the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer another opportunity for individuals to show solidarity through volunteerism.

As such, Mr. Ban called the world to contribute through volunteerism towards realizing the 2030 Agenda's vision of ending poverty.

He went on to highly commend volunteers' contributions, saying: “I thank the more than 6,300 United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and 11,000 United Nations Online Volunteers who help millions of people to make sustainable change and peace happen. I also commend and salute the one billion community volunteers worldwide.”

“As we mark International Volunteer Day,” the Secretary-General concluded, “let us strive to make the most of the power of volunteerism to build a more sustainable world and a life of dignity for all.”


Posted: December 6, 2015