Protest in November
Protest in March
In November 2015, I joined the FII.
In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a movement of current and former interns at the UN advocating for fair, more accessible quality internships (Quality and Equality) within the UN system. It is a relatively young movement in the phase where there’s a lot to be done, prioritites to be set and the survival to be secured. When I started, the Initiative did not even have a website and little knowledge about the possibilities to actually induce change. Now, it is much more organized, has joined forces more efficiently with the partner organisation in Geneva and has a well set-up website and social media presence, all due to the efforts of dedicated people who were willing to take up bits and pieces here and there and in total make it more coherent and efficient. However, there are many problems with the organisation of a small and constantly fluctuating initiative advocating at one of the biggest organisations with a high degree of institutional inertia – the UN. Although, I’ve withdrawn mostly from the FII since my return to Europe, I’ve learned a lot when I did my bits and pieces – about the UN, youth activism, and more.
At the end of February, my fellow scholarship holders and I, who received a stipend from German institutions to finance our stay in New York with the UN, organized a panel discussion on:
The Youth, Peace, and Security agenda and its implications for European Youth.
While the discussion did not turn out as fruitful as we had hoped, it nevertheless alluded to one of the core problems that we, and youth all over the world, face in global politics at the moment: being taken seriously – or rather: not! While I won’t mention the names of the participants and speakers (it was a rather informal discussion), I want to give you some impressions about how the discussion quickly turned out to be a signifier for the lack of voice and credibility that is given to youth.
by wallsdontlie 2013
As you know I am in New York but what am I doing here? When people ask me where I work, I have a standardised sentence by now which is very concrete, honest and will keep them from asking any further questions:
General Assembly Hall from the outside
All memberstates flags put up every day in alphabetical order from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe
Secretariat Building and my 25th floor!
“I work for the United Nations Headquarters at the Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) of the Secretariat. Within this Department, I work for the Office of ECOSOC support and coordination (OESC) and within THAT in the NGO Branch”. Deep breath!
We knew the UN is not an easy enterprise to get into, but I did a lot about it in my studies and still admit that it probably took me still2 months of my 6-months internship to get comfortable with the diverse abbreviations, responsibilities and regulations.
So here a quick overview of the UN – in a nutshell. Behind that bureaucratic monster lies one of the most glamourous and idealistic undertakings and one of the most politicized institutions of the world.
“Anyone working in international development for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) over the past few years has likely had the following experience:
Working for or interacting with NGOs (such a broad category that it encompasses all manner of organizations) that serve no apparent purpose”. (africasacountry.com)
The introductory sentences are from an article featuring a new TV-series about an “NGO that does nothing”. In an interview, published on the blog “Africa is a country”, whose philosophy is about empowering the continent from within, the director announces the subject of the first season being about the NGO applying for a huge grant. In episode 2 they are looking for an acronym before having decided about the project’s topic.
Since this is a comedy series, it is of course highly exaggerated, but nevertheless the abovementioned quote is picking on some weak points, rubbing salt in the wounds, (or whatever you want to call it) of the critique on NGOs and foreign (humanitarian) intervention(s).
Lenin on a square in the centre of Bishkek
November 7 was a national holiday in Kyrgyzstan celebrating – the Bolshevik Revolution. Well, every post-soviet country has a different way of dealing with its past. While in most of them every single Lenin statue has been torn down, this is not the case in lovely Kyrgyzstan, where my Latvian flatmate is still shocked and disgusted whenever she sees Lenin on a street corner, friendly standing opposite the national hero Manas. Neither in Latvia nor Uzbekistan or Georgia could bronze Lenin survive his empire.
But for somewhat more contemporary reasons I want to talk today about Russia. Although Lenin can also be found in Russia, apparently the country has developed another way of dealing with its memory.
Nationalist demonstration in Russia under the old flags, pic by valya v. (flickr.com)
On November 4, Russia celebrated “Unity Day”, a holiday established in 2005 to commemorate the unification of Russia against a Polish-Lithuanian occupation force in the beginning of the 17th century. It is also said that the day was mainly installed to replace November 7.
However, “Unity Day” somewhat seems to be the opposite of unifying today. In several marches all over the country it showed to be mainly anti-gay, anti-muslim, anti-migrant, xenophobic and racist (“Russia for Russians”, “White Russia”).
Attention: this is going to be an angry, political blogpost. So, if you just had your first cup of coffee, and are happily smiling at your partner or flatmate who’s preparing eggs, a second coffee or just smoking a cigarette and stealing your newspaper (depending on your partner or flatmate), if you decide that you don’t want your morning energy and your happy thoughts to be spoiled, I recommend you not to read it, because it will make you angry at the world…