United Nations official Twitter photo.
Environmental sustainability. Universal primary education. Gender equality. Global partnership for development.
These are topics Jeffrey Redmond, a Johnson County Community College (JCCC) student, discusses regularly with classmates at Model United Nations meetings.
On Saturday, the conversation between Redmond and his peers will go beyond the classroom — they will join Kansas City community members to discuss with the United Nations what they believe the organization’s goals and priorities should be.
“We have to find a way to connect and work together to heal our world,” Redmond says. “We are going to inherit this world, and we have to find a way to piece it together in a way we would like to see.”
Saturday’s event in Kansas City is one of 11 United Nations Association (UNA) Post-2015 Development Agenda Consultations occurring in cities across the country this fall to address the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
These goals, created in 2000, include improving healthcare, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and combatting major diseases. But these goals expire in 2015, and many have not yet been met.
At these consultations, non-profit leaders, activists, educators, students and other community members provide the U.N. with feedback on these goals and what matters to their particular community. The UN will use these results to set its post-2015 agenda, according to Yashar Vasef, the executive director of the Iowa UNA.
“One of the criticisms of the original MDGs was there wasn’t a whole lot of civic participation or awareness, so they are trying to rectify that and get feedback as much as possible,” Vasef says. “I think the U.N. really values what people around the world think about these issues.”
The Iowa UNA hosted a consultation in Iowa City on Nov. 5. Vasef says his community emphasized environmentalism and climate change as priorities because those are issues affecting that community.
“We’ve had droughts for two summers in a row, and we had the latest snow on record last April,.” Vasef says. “Iowa is known for the corn and soybean output. These abnormal weather patterns have forced us to pay attention to what’s going on around us here and globally relative to climate change.”
Keelie Johnson, a University of Iowa student and Iowa UNA intern, thinks college students should attend these consultations to learn how to sustain these development goals.
“So many people today, especially in smaller cities, such as Iowa City, feel as though their voice does not matter and that they cannot make an impact on an international level,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail. “I have a special interest in health care, but I did not know much about how to build a global partnership for development. The consultation gave me well-rounded knowledge on a wide variety of issues.”
College students do not always understand why the U.N. exists and what it does, says Gaelyn McGhee, a member of the JCCC Model U.N. chapter. These consultations make the U.N. more tangible for average Americans.
“The U.N. is a very big, multi-lateral, multi-national organization, but they want to take in the thoughts and ideas of people like us,” McGhee says. “Being able to at least chime in – even if it’s just a minute chime – is still something that will cause a ripple.”
McGhee thinks the U.N. should continue focusing on the Millennium Development Goals that have not been completely met. She looks forward to discussing these ideas and solutions at Saturday’s Post-2015 Consultation in Kansas City.
“I hope post-2015, we’ll have more equality, better education, better food, better water, better access to necessities and more acceptance of people’s cultures,” McGhee says. “I would like to see a post-2015 world that is continuing to strive forward and fix and address these issues and not take setbacks as ultimate failures.”
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