• UNESCO: International Mother Language Day

    February 21 is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) International Mother Language Day.

    UNESCO reports that only one quarter of all of the languages spoken across our global village are used in education and in cyber space.

    Discussion starters:

    1. What does this mean for all of the children who speak other languages? Should those students go uneducated because their schools use a language they don’t understand?
    2. What should the role of the United Nations and the international community be in persevering languages play in preserving languages and promoting the inclusion of languages not normally used in education or on the web?
  • Syrian Refugees: A World Effort is Urgently Needed

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was created in 1950. A year later, the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was created. The 1951 document defines a refugee as a person who is located outside his or her own state and has a well-founded fear of persecution.

    The Convention also created the principle of international law of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from returning a person to a place where his or her life or freedom would be threatened. The latest figures available show that the number of refugees is about 10.5 million people. At the moment millions of Syrians refugees are in crisis. 

    Latest information sets the number of Syrian refugees at 2,386,087. States neighboring Syria are struggling to cope with the vast number of refugees that have crossed their borders.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Could this many refugees destabilize the entire region?
    2. What are the potential problems of such large numbers of refugees?
  • Will discarding democracy lead to more international conflict?

    A new report (click here) by Freedom House indicates that in 2014 our global village once again saw an overall decline in the respect for global political rights and civil liberties. 2014 marked the ninth year of consecutive of this decline. Does a decline in democracy lead to more conflict? 

    The major findings in the report indicate that…

    • Of the 195 countries assessed, 89 (46 percent) were rated Free, 55 (28 percent) Partly Free, and 51 (26 percent) Not Free. All but one region had more countries with declines than with gains. Asia-Pacific had an even split.
    • In a new and disquieting development, a number of countries lost ground due to state surveillance, restrictions on internet communications, and curbs on personal autonomy.
    • Ratings for the Middle East and North Africa region were the worst in the world, followed by Eurasia. Syria, a dictatorship mired in civil war and ethnic division and facing uncontrolled terrorism, received the lowest Freedom in the World score of any country in over a decade.
    • The Worst of the Worst countries are the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

    Discussion starters:

    1. As respect for democracy wanes and we experience greater and more aggressive tactics by authoritarian regimes, can we expect more conflict between states?
    2. How might the upsurge in terrorist attacks have contributed to the overall decline in freedom in 2014?