April Digital News Recap

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, voiced his continued concern for refugees fleeing the disastrous conditions in Venezuela last month. Despite great pressure against him in recent months, Nicolas Maduro remains as Venezuela’s President and the public continue to face food shortages, intermittent electricity supply and high rates of crime. As a result, thousands are still fleeing the country every day; that despite the fact that land borders between Venezuela and Colombia and Brazil were closed in February. Refugees have therefore been restricted to dangerous river crossings and put under risk of violence from armed groups controlling regions. The UN calls for further support to help those in need.

The Rohingya refugee crisis has also seen millions of people in treacherous and unsafe conditions. The impact of this and other crises around the world are not only damaging physically and financially but can have a great impact on people’s welfare and mental health. Melissa Fleming, the Chief Communications for the UN Refugee Agency, tweeted about some of the work the UN is supporting for those facing such challenges. In Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, home to 720,000 refugees, discussion groups have provided a platform for children to speak about their feelings and worries. The discussion leaders are children themselves, taking others through the key points – mental illness is not a choice, recovery is; there’s no shame in seeking help. Filippo Grandi also spent time in the camps with the young leaders. Both he and Ms Fleming were enlightened by the young leaders helping their cohorts to overcome their worries caused by the crisis.

The amazing work of youth groups has been particularly prevalent in recent months, particularly in the face of climate change. Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J Mohammed, recognises the importance of youth to help to drive sustainable development and prosperous change in the future. The ECOSOC Youth Forum is the UN’s largest gathering for young people. Over 1000 youths were given the chance to attend. Providing a platform for young people to speak out and foster ideas not only provides wider perspectives but also enables youth to have a say in their own futures.

Ending violence against children is a key objective of the UN to support the SDGs. Marta Santos Pais, a UN advocate for prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children, highlighted the damage that violence can do to children’s cognitive and emotional development. Ending violence and enabling access to education can help children to be freer and happier, as well as support development efforts as greater cognitive capabilities contribute to growth and wider development as children and youth grow older and enter the workforce.

Female Genital Mutilation is one example of such capacity-limiting violence. More than 200 million girls alive today have experienced FGM. This practice must end.

Finally, Chris Reardon, Chief of Multimedia Content for , tweeted a letter he wrote to a Syrian refugee he met several years ago prior to his forced emigration with his family in the face of the Syrian war. A short excerpt reads:

‘Dear Hani,

I stopped by your house today, but you weren’t home. No one was home. Your parents weren’t there to join us for tea, and there was no sign of your brothers or sisters. Your neighbours were away too…

…After eight years of conflict, half your nation has left home. You have been displaced, often multiple times. Today, 5.6 million Syrians are still living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Millions more remain displaced inside Syria. It’s a relatively small number who, like you, have gotten a second chance in another part of the world.

On your street, there were no stray cats or dogs. Not even any birds. The only sound was the distant whirr of a saw cutting through metal. Your neighbourhood, Hani, is a ghost town.’

Fortunately, Hani, the boy Chris met many years ago, has had the chance to create a new life in Canada with his family. As Chris’ letter alludes to, many millions have not been so fortunate and are still living in dangerous conditions in Syria with little opportunities to away from conflict.

The work of the United Nations is more easily achieved with widespread support and action. The use of social platforms, such as Twitter, by UN staffers to share their experiences, work and promote awareness is thus valuable to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and ultimately greater prosperity for all.