January Digital News Recap

The first month of 2019 saw a wide variety of stories and work done by UN staffers and associated individuals. Stories of success, of inaction and danger illustrate the far-reaching work done by the UN, and point to the work still to be completed to achieve prosperity for all.

The Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, outlined the UN’s implementation of wide-ranging reforms to make its work increasingly effective, accountable and responsive. Working on climate issues, human security, human rights, migration and contributing to development, the UN is continually working to mould its work to ever-changing global conditions. The reforms are primarily in the areas of development, management, and peace and security.

The story of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun became global news when she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room and refused to fly back to her family in Kuwait, fearing that doing so would put her life at risk. Rahaf had renounced Islam, punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, and yearned for freedom to work and study. She had planned to fly from Bangkok to Australia. However, upon landing in Bangkok her passport was seized, putting her in great danger of being returned to her family. Fortunately, Canada offered her asylum. Melissa Fleming, Chief Communications , wished Rahaf well in her new life in Canada.

The World Economic Forum held in Davos was similarly memorable, including the viral clip of Dutch historian Rutger Bregman lamenting philanthropists and leaders contradictory actions in promoting development. Tax avoidance and flying in on private jets were among the faults Bregman highlighted as he discussed the misguided efforts of elites and falling inequality levels. The UN Secretary-General was also in attendance, where he reiterated his hopes for a fair globalisation that can benefit all.


Adam Rogers was in high praise for this powerful speech given by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Greta was speaking at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. There, she outlined the lack of action and blatant disregard for climate change among the public and private spheres. That is, world leaders, business heads and energy corporations are continuing to favour extractive, wealth-generating activities over equitable, sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternatives. The effects are already taking place, as storms, droughts and floods are ever increasing, yet inaction has been the tale of the time.

UN High Commissioner for , Filippo Grandi, tweeted his discontent for states’ failure to address refugee and migration movements. In 2018, 2,262 people lost their lives attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea alone. Greater efforts are needed to prevent refugees and migrants from taking these desperate journeys, while solving issues that are causing people to leave in the first place are the only ways to reach sustainable solutions. Instead, lamenting refugees does nothing to help.

Millions of desperate Venezuelans have fled the country in the last year and continued to do so last month. Lorey Campese was in Venezuela showing the very real crisis. Economic disaster under the leadership of authoritarian Nicolas Maduro has caused food shortages, electricity failure and hyperinflation, leaving the masses vulnerable and millions to flee the country. Recently, Mr Maduro’s leadership has come under serious threat after Juan Guaido, the leader of the legislature, declared himself the country’s leader and has been backed by major global players such as the US, UK, Germany and France. The UN is working to help those in need, offering health care, supplies and temporary accommodation, but there is rarely enough to go round.

Lastly, Phumzile Mlambo, Executive Director of , outlined the benefits of gender equality and the difficulties its lack of is having in the world today. Gender equality is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). Women and girls are discriminated against and victims of violence across the globe. Gender equality can not only solve these issues, but also contribute to raising prosperity and reducing inequality. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.

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. Lets hope 2019 is the most successful year yet.