Wednesday, April 22, 2009

UN Launches World Digital Library

Quick: where can you go to find an 18th century map of the Galapagos islands, a video recording of immigrants landing on Ellis Island in the early 1900s, and a scanned 15th century German translation of Aesop's fables, complete with photographs of the original cover and woodcut illustrations? You might be able to dig up the first two after lot of Googling and visiting several different libraries, but there are only three known copies of the Aesop's Fables manuscript. So unless you're writing a doctorate thesis on ancient Greek folklore, up until a few days ago, you'd probably have been out of luck there.

But not anymore. On Monday, the United Nations launched a new resource, the World Digital Library, where you can access all these documents and hundreds of other sound recordings, maps, prints, videos, photos, books, and manuscripts from all over the world. The website can even be accessed in any of the six official UN languages. You can explore the library by place, time, topic, type of item, or where the original copy is located - whether it's the Library of Congress or the Biblitheca Alexandrina in Egypt.

Check it out at

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mongolian Rescue Team Receives Advanced Training

Rescue teams from Mongolia will be receiving advanced training in dealing with hazardous materials with the help of United Nations Development Programme's project, "Strengthening Disaster Mitigation and Management System in Mongolia." This ten-day program, lasting from April 20 to April 30, will educate fifteen trainees from the National Emergency Management Agency's(NEMA) Special Rescue Unit, City Rescue HQ, and Emergency Unit-105. These trainees will improve their skills in identifying, controlling, monitoring and neutralizing hazards and hazardous situations, as well as deactivating and burying radioactive pollution. The training efforts aim to prepare Mongolia in efficiently managing disasters, while also strengthening the institutional capacity to respond to emergencies.

United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) is an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Romeo Does Not Have to Die!

On April 3rd, Jet Li, an international film star and a martial arts expert, was appointed to be World Health Organization's Goodwill Ambassador. After experiencing the 2004 South Asian tsunami firsthand, Jet Li became actively involved in disaster relief efforts as well as promotion of mental health amongst youth. He set up the Jet Li One Foundation, which collaborates with the Red Cross Society of China in focusing on education, health, environment, and poverty. In honoring his effort as well as encouraging his future involvement, the World Health Organization chose Jet Li to be the spokesperson for raising awareness on key health issues. The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that directs and coordinates support on international public health issues.

Before Li’s appointment, many other celebrities have led the efforts of United Nations, such as George Clooney as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, Drew Barrymore as the Ambassador Against Hunger for the World Food Program, and Angelina Jolie as the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bringing Justice to the People

Most Americans have a basic understanding of how the justice system works here. We know about the right to a fair trial, innocence until proven guilty, judgment by a jury of our peers, and other basic concepts of the American legal system. Many of us know some things so well its as though we were born with them, like the beginning of the Miranda warning: "you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law". Even if we learned it from watching too many episodes of Cops rather than actually studying the law, it still demonstrates the widespread public awareness that we sometimes take for granted.

Unfortunately not everywhere is lucky enough to be able to take this for granted. One such place is troubled Timor-Leste. Although the violence that followed its declaration of independence in 1975 was mostly brought to an end by 2002 when it finally achieved international recognition, its fledgling government still faces many challenges. Today the UN is working to rebuild the civil institutions, like the justice system, of this fragile nation. On April 6th the UNDP Justice System Program undertook its first outreach campaign in the city of Pante Makassar. Government officials, judges, lawyers and members of the public were brought together in a forum for open discussion. Participants were provided with informational materials, and were able to ask questions about the issues that affect their lives everyday.

The UNDP Justice System Program will be continuing its campaign, helping build the capacity of the courts and ministry of justice, and bringing its open forums to districts around the country.

Find out more about UNDP's work in Timor-Leste by clicking here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting Out the Vote, from Sulawesi to Jakarta

National elections pose logistical challenges in any country, but planning for safe and fair elections is hardest in large, developing democracies, like that of Indonesia. This Thursday, more than 170 million Indonesians will be eligible to vote for their representatives in the national parliament, as well as on a number of regional assemblies. And voter turnout looks to be more diverse than ever before, thanks to UNDP's voter education program in Indonesia.

UNDP has been working with local Indonesian organizations to reach often-marginalized voters, like the disabled, the elderly, sex workers, and first-time voters. The local organizations have been teaching voter education classes and going door-to-door to let Indonesian citizens know where, when, and how to vote. Groups have also organized puppet shows, cultural dances, a youth festival, TV and radio commercials, public dialogues, and debates to help spread the word. These voter education initiatives are part of UNDP's three-year, $15 million electoral support program in Indonesia.

Watch the video below to see clips of voter education classes in action, and to hear Indonesians talk about how UNDP's programs have helped them. Click here to see another video, and here for more information on the projects.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Renewable energy for Rural Livelihoods.

On the edge of Rajasthan, marking the border between India and Pakistan, four villages have had their nights lit up by incandescent bulbs running on renewable solar energy. The villages have never been connected to a power grid. The lights they now have are part of the Government of India and United Nations Development Program project ‘Renewable Energy for Rural Livelihoods’ that trained and engaged village women as “Barefoot Solar Engineers” for generating renewable solar energy.

Four young women – one from each village – have assembled these lights from scratch and are paid to maintain and repair them. The Social Work and Research Centre (SWRC), a Tilonia-based NGO, which implemented the program in Barmer district of Rajasthan, runs a residential training program for women from selected villages at its campus in Rajasthan.

In the villages there are many still bemused that young women who until a few months ago were like any other – cleaning the yard, fetching water, helping with the cooking – are now called “engineers”. But, they would rather have lights irrespective of who is maintaining them. Each family with a light contributes to a village fund from which their woman “Barefoot Solar Engineer” is paid a salary ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,350 a month. And the villages are full of young girls, who trail their barefoot engineer and watch as she maintains the wires and fuses.

Apart from Rajasthan, this project, was also implemented by UNDP in Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.

For more information please click here..

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