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Ban to Madrid, Helen Clark To Ghana, OCHA Mid-Year Review, and more from this day at the UN

SG: tonight he SG is off to Madrid to participate in the first meeting of the MDGs Advocacy Group tomorrow.

Haiti IASC Report: today USG Humanitarian Affairs Holmes launched the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (or IASC, a inter-agency forum for coordination involving the UN and humanitarian partners) report on the Haiti earthquake response.  The report offers an honest assessment of the UN and NGO response in Haiti and lessons learned for the future.  In achievements, it notes that despite the challenging environment, immediate objectives were largely met (including food assistance, emergency shelter, water and Cash-for-Work).  While not perfect, the cluster system and coordination structures between the military and humanitarian actors were critical and improved over time.  In statements made by Holmes and representatives of WHO, UNICEF, Concern Worldwide and IFRC (International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent), several lessons learned were apparent: while well-meaning, many of the humanitarian organization were not well-informed and posed challenges to the response; there is a need to better listen to the needs of the people on the ground; the risks of disasters must be reduced before they happen and this must be done more systematically; and national and local NGOs must be engaged to build capacity, which will help for the long-term.

UNDP: today UNDP Administrator Helen Clark is wrapping-up a three-day visit to Ghana, including the annual meeting of UN Resident Coordinators in Africa.  On Wednesday, she met with women’s leaders and lauded Ghana’s progress towards MDG3, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

OCHA mid-year review: Yesterday, USG Humanitarian Affairs Holmes issued OCHA’s mid-year report and appeal, revising the 2010 appeal upwards from $7.1 billion to $9.5 billion, due mainly to Haiti and regional African crises in the Sahel and CAR.  Since the original appeal was made, countries have pledged $4.53 billion, leaving $4.98 billion needed.  This money will go towards the goal of providing humanitarian assistance to 53 million people in 34 countries.

Israel: last night Ambassador Rice made remarks at a farewell reception for Israeli Ambassador Gabrila Shalev, who recently announced will be heading the Ono Academic College’s academic board next year.  Daniel Carmon, Ambassador Shalev’s deputy, is also finishing up his term at the Mission.  It is still unclear who will succeed Shalev as Israeli PR.

EU @ UN: The EU will soon be tabling a resolution at the GA which would give it the right to speak and have the same privileges of other Member States (v. observers), such as making proposals and submitting amendments to resolutions and circulating documents.  The Brits underlined that this would not undermine their seat at the Security Council.

Wolff: Former Deputy PR of the U.S. Alejandro Wolff has been nominated by President Obama to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Chile.

Image: flickr.

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When Opportunity Knocks, Where are Our Girls?

Ed note: This week UN Dispatch and RH Realty Check are pleased to host a special series of blog posts on empowering adolescent girls in the developing world. We are calling the series “Girls Count,” which is the name of a series of reports from the Coalition for Adolescent Girls which seeks to elevate the profile of adolescent girls on the international development agenda and within strategies to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals”

By Anju Malhotra, vice president of research, innovation and impact at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).

There are more than 60 million child brides in the world today. For girls in the poorest communities, adolescence merges indistinguishably into adulthood. They are forced to marry and bear children while still children themselves. They bear the burden of chores to cook, clean, fetch water and firewood. They work in fields and care for family members. Their labor is the backbone upon which many poor families survive.

Forced child marriage is common in poor and particularly rural communities. In fact, countries with high child marriage rates also have high rates of maternal and child mortality, as well as extreme and persistent poverty. Often because there are few economic alternatives for girls to earn an income and where education cost money, marrying them helps to relieve an economic burden.

However, there are high opportunity costs to child marriage: this practice has deleterious effects on health for girls and economic ramifications for their communities. For example, when girls are taken out of school to get married they lose an opportunity to gain knowledge and confidence. When such a large proportion of the potential work force in a country is married and removed from mainstream society how can economies grow and political systems flourish?

Severe health consequences also abound. Child brides are at far greater risk of contracting HIV. Often they are married to older, more sexually-experienced men with whom it is difficult to negotiate safe sexual behaviors, especially when under pressure to bear children. The risks of pregnancy are much higher for younger girls. Those under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties and pregnancy is also a leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15 to 19. Child brides are also more susceptible to domestic violence.

Listening to girls and their aspirations is an obvious but overlooked starting point for addressing the challenges they face. Few policies and programs are directed to adolescent girls or account for the environment in which they live. As a result, many efforts fail.

Fortunately, we can solve this problem and girls themselves hold the solutions as seen in the recent Girls Speak publication by the International Center for Research on Women released today. The publication which draws together girls’ voices provides policymakers and program managers with access to girls’ needs as defined by girls themselves. They understand acutely the obstacles that bar them from opportunities. And they have clear ideas about what needs to change in their lives for them to succeed.

Girls have spoken eloquently about what they want – and now the world should listen and act. They tell us about the best methods to get rid of the barriers that stand in the way of accomplishing their dreams. They have the self-determination required to better their lives.

Girls’ voices echo a growing body of research that shows that positive long-term changes for girls and their families can only be brought about through delay of marriage and childbearing and investment in education, health and creating economic opportunities. When opportunity knocks for the largest generation of girls in history let them heed the call.

Additional resources:

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Gay Marriage in Argentina, But Homosexuality Still Illegal in Much of the World

In reaction to news that Argentina legalized gay marriage, the excellent Nate Silver posts this chart showing that the number of people living in jurisdictions that approve gay marriage has steadily risen over the past ten years.

According to the chart, the number of people living in jurisdictions which recognize same sex marriage has now risen to about 250 million people worldwide. That steady, upward trajectory is certainly a sign of progressing attitudes. But it is also important to keep in mind that there are at least 78 countries or territories in which homosexuality is illegal,  6 countries in which it is punishable by death (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan).  Check out this map, via Wikipedia. The red-to-orange countries are where homosexuality is illegal in some form or another:

Back of the envelope calculations suggest that about 20% of the word’s population lives in places where homosexuality is still illegal. So while we ought to celebrate progress (go Argentina!) there is also a lot more to be done to protect the rights of LGBT individuals around the world.  One way of moving forward is for more countries to sign onto a General Assmebly resolution on the decriminalization of homosexuality. 

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Listening to Adolescent Girls (Video and New Report)

Ed note: This week UN Dispatch and RH Realty Check are pleased to host a special series of blog posts on empowering adolescent girls in the developing world. We are calling the series “Girls Count,” which is the name of a series of reports from the Coalition for Adolescent Girls which seeks to elevate the profile of adolescent girls on the international development agenda and within strategies to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals”

By Yolanda Johnny Taylor,  Communications Director for the United Nations Foundation’s Women & Population program.

One of the most powerful forces of change on the planet is an adolescent girl.

Girls are part of the largest youth generation this world has ever seen.  The choices and opportunities that these girls have will not only impact their lives, but also their families, communities, and our entire world for generations to come.

Today, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) released “Girls Speak: A New Voice in Global Development.” Girl Speak, the latest report in the Girls Count series commissioned by the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, allows us to hear directly from adolescent girls as they share their hopes, fears and dreams for the future.

And what do these girls teach us?

No matter where they are born, adolescent girls want the same things: they want to be educated; they want to be productive members of society; they want to be healthy; they want to be free from abuse and sexual violence; and they want to have ownership over their own lives and bodies. 

They want what we all want – the freedom to be who they are.

But these girls can’t do it alone. Families, teachers, mentors and communities are key elements in unleashing the girl effect. These girls already have the vision and the determination they need to thrive. They need our help in clearing the roadblocks that stand in the way of their success.

Below, you can watch the Nike Foundation’s “I Dare You” video and hear more about the power of girls. There are 600 million girls living in the developing world. That’s 600 million opportunities for our world to be reshaped for the better.

I dare YOU not to act. 

To learn more about you can do to help girls in developing countries, visit, ,, and




Girls Speak a New Voice in Global Development

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Girls Count: “An adolescent girl living in poverty is the most powerful person in the world.”

Ed note: This week UN Dispatch and RH Realty Check are pleased to host a special series of blog posts on empowering adolescent girls in the developing world. We are calling the series “Girls Count,” which is the name of a series of reports from the Coalition for Adolescent Girls which seeks to elevate the profile of adolescent girls on the international development agenda and within strategies to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals”

In the first installment, UN Foundation CEO Kathy Bushkin Calvin and Nike Foundation President and CEO Maria Eitel discuss how child marriage is a barrier to the social and economic well being of adolescent girls and their communities.

By Kathy Bushkin Calvin and Maria Eitel

We believe that an adolescent girl living in poverty is the most powerful person in the world. If we reach her early enough, she can accelerate economies, arrest major global health issues and break cycles of poverty.

When a girl gets a chance to stay in school, remain healthy, gain skills, she will marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and earn an income that she’ll invest back into her family. When she can grow into a woman and become an educated mother, an economic actor, an ambitious entrepreneur, or a prepared employee, she breaks the cycle of poverty. She and everyone around her benefits. That’s the girl effect – the powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate.

Child marriage is one of the barriers preventing the 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries from unleashing their full potential. The numbers speak clearly: one girl in seven in developing countries marries before age 15, and nearly half of all girls are expected to marry by age 20. Early marriage is most common in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where in 15 countries almost half of all girls are married before age 18.

Child marriage is not only a violation of human rights, but it also has serious consequences for national development, ultimately stunting educational and vocational opportunities for a large sector of the population and for the future generations.

Considerable evidence points to the negative impact of child marriage on girls, their children and their communities: child marriage often results in heightened vulnerability of girls to physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse; increased rates of school dropout; early childbirth, which many times leads to poor health outcomes for both mother and child or even death, with pregnancy-related complications representing the leading cause of death among girls 15-19; increased risk of HIV transmission to married girls.

Consequently, interventions designed to specifically address child marriage actually impact a broader number of outcomes – health, education and economic empowerment. At the same time, programs focusing on providing safe spaces and putting assets in girls’ hands have shown to have a strong impact on delaying child marriage as well. In fact, when a girls has assets – and we are not talking massive resources, but simple things like a social network, specific skills, some knowledge, self-esteem, personal security… – if she has these resources to tap into, she then has a much greater chance of staying on course and not only delaying marriage but also positively impacting her overall future and the futures of her siblings. She becomes a hugely powerful agent of change.

Addressing child marriage also requires appropriate laws to be created and enforced, particularly at the subnational level, and changes in social norms and attitudes to be fostered through innovative programs.

But ultimately, eliminating child marriage is possible. We’ve seen it. Berhane Hewan, a program implemented by the Government of Ethiopia with support from UNFPA and the Population Council to prevent child marriage in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia has shown incredible changes in marriage age in relatively short periods of time.

Investing in adolescent girls and placing them at the center of international and national action is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do. The truth is, adolescent girls will either accelerate growth or perpetuate poverty. It all depends on where we choose to invest existing resources.

Photo Credit: David Snyder for ICRW and “Girl Speak”

For more information please visit:

Coalition for Adolescent Girls

International Center for Research on Women

Girl Up

The Girl Effect

The Girls Speak report

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Will Climate Change Cause Bhutan’s Glacial Lakes to Burst? (Video)

Global warming means melting glaciers. And in the small mountain kingdom of Bhutan, this means that glacial lakes are filling to capacity.  For the farmers who live and work in the valleys below, this means sudden, unpredictable, and potentially deadly flooding. Here is a video from the UN about an effort by Bhutanese to adapt to this scary new reality.  

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