KEYNOTE SPEECH DELIVERED DURING THE MODEL UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON POVERTY
Model United Nations Conference on Poverty
Under the UN Global
Association of Minnesota
University of St. Thomas
Saint Paul, Minnesota
1 May 2013
By Cheryl L. Daytec, Philippines Fulbright-Humphrey Fellow, Law and Human Rights 2012-2013
I am very honored to have been invited
to speak today in a very important gathering as what you are
having today. I was young once, and I have sat in occasions like this. I have listened to older people’s
thoughts and learned from them. And so I am very grateful for this opportunity
to be able to share my thoughts with you, young people, who are the most
important resource the world needs for it to become a better place. The future belongs
to you, and having a gathering to talk about one of the most serious concerns
we are facing in this country and in the globe means you are claiming your rightful
place in this world.
Statistics show that
currently, 80% of the world population
live on less than $10 a day. Almost half or more than 3 billion people live on
less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.25 a day. One billion
children around the globe are
living in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to
poverty. There are 925 million people worldwide who do not have
enough food to eat. On a daily basis, almost 16,000 children die from
hunger-related causes which translates to one child for every five seconds. The World Food Programme says, that “(t)he
poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.” Hunger is the leading
killer in the world, with more people dying from it than from HIV/AIDS,
malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
Let us look at the
picture in this country. Government statistics claim that in 2011, the poverty rate in the United States was 15.1% and 9.5 million families were
in poverty. Twenty-two percent or 16.1
million children under the age of 18
were in poverty. In my country, the Philippines, the figures are even worse.
Does this mean there is scarcity of
food? No. This country is the land of milk and honey. This is the world's wealthiest nation. There is sufficient food for everyone in this
country and even in the whole world. But
people will go hungry if they do not have the money to buy food or the means to
produce them. People will go hungry if only a few in this country and in the
world have access to the abundant
economic resources. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to
widen. In my country the Philippines,
75% of the country’s wealth is controlled by only 40 families. The gap between
developed and undeveloped countries continues to widen as well.
is the issue of poverty your business? It is, regardless of your skin color,
religion, or belief. Every injustice, every oppression, or every
violence suffered by an individual or by a
community is your business. And, you should always mind your business.
Poverty is an injustice which affects or
will affect many of you directly. You will soon go to college. Then the reality of
poverty will hit you when you have to deal with student loans that you are
unable to pay while university tuition and other school fees go up. Some of you
will have to work to be able to obtain a decent education. You do not want this
for your children. What happens today will affect the state of things in the
future. And the future belongs to you.
The United Nations acknowledges your very important role in building communities and nations. Thus, last year, the theme for International
Youth Day was “Building A Better World,
Partnering with Youth.” UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “to unleash the power of young
people, we need to partner with them because they have unprecedented potential
to advance the wellbeing of the entire human family. We need to listen and
engage with young people to establish strong mechanism for youth participation
because the time has come to integrate youth voices more meaningfully into
decision-making processes at all levels.” Ban-Ki-Moon further urged “governments,
the private sector, civil society and academia to open doors for young people
and strengthen partnerships with youth-led organisations.” He said that “(y)ouths
can determine whether this era moves towards greater perils or more positive
Like Mr Ban-Ki Moon, I believe that you are a very vital force in building this
country and the world for the better. You represent the older generation’s dreams
and aspirations for the future. One day, one or more of you might become
the United Nations Secretary General, or
this country’s president, Senator, or Congressman, or a leader of a government
agency or a private institution. And so
I believe that all governments must invest in the young to prepare you for your
roles as future leaders of the world. This
is what the UN Global Classrooms is doing- investing in you because it believes
in you. Under the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, you have the right to form your own views and to express
them. You therefore have the right to participate in public affairs. Sadly though, only the United States and Somalia
did not ratify this international treaty. Even so, this country is a democracy.
This means it should make space for everyone to be heard in decision-making. Be catalysts of change. If
things are bad today, it is partly
because those generations ahead of you did not do much to stop evil such
as abject poverty from happening.
Yesterday, they were the future and today is the future that they are
harvesting for themselves and their children including you. You would not want
the poverty in this world for the future and the coming generation that you will produce. By
coming here today, you affirmed your belief that you have an obligation to
future generations to make sure they will have a life better than the one we
know now. And so you are eager to act. Plato said a long time ago that “the penalty good people pay for indifference to
public affairs, is to be ruled by evil people.” So do not be indifferent. Choose action over
apathy or you lose your moral right to complain against the evil that you
is important never to forget that you belong to a community and that what
happens to that community affects you. Each one of you is your brothers and sisters’ keepers. Do not think that you do not know enough to
be part of the political conversations and actions. You know your needs that
the older ones may not know. Many say
that youth is a state of inexperience and immaturity. You may not have
the experience but you have the perspective. It is the youth’s perspective that
many countries’ governments lack. And that is one reason why they fail in
solving poverty issues. My own daughter
has been a member of my city’s local legislative council since she was 16 and
each day, she would amaze me with her ideas for a better world. She would think
of things I never imagined, but that is because she knows the needs of the
young and has their perspective. So do not underestimate yourselves. With your energy and your
idealism, you can help create a world of equality, a world
where people have equal access to economic resources and opportunities and political power. But you have to break free
from the restrictions around you that
hamper your participation. To do this, you must first believe that you have a
role in ending poverty. I refer to a
present role, not a role in the future when you graduate from school, or when
you take over the reins of government and other institutions.
that you can change the world. The 2011 Egyptian revolution which ousted a
corrupt dictator who ruled that North African country for a long time was led
by young people. You do not have to lead revolutions. Just do not be bystanders while
evil happens, while poverty claims every member of your community. Do not just fold your arms and watch. Do not let apathy kill your sense
of community. Do not think that you
cannot make a difference. You can. Have the courage to stand and be counted. Do
something. It does not have to be grand.
There are bite-size things that you can do to fight poverty.
It is OK party. It is OK to scream when the
likes of Justin Bieber pass by. It is OK to be interested to know who they are
dating or who they broke up with. But find out too what your leaders just did or did not do about poverty.
Investigate and understand social issues. Listen when President Obama opens his
mouth. Initiate discussions among yourselves and in the classrooms.
Find your voice and assert it. Assert
your place in the political space. Your ideas matter. Do not be
disappointed by those people who will silence you down or ignore what you say. Do
the older people suppress your voice. Tell them in a very nice way
have already messed up enough. Remember, it is your and posterity's interests that are at
stake because you and they will harvest
tomorrow the fruits of decisions made today. Thus, you are stakeholders whose voice must be heard. Write
your local government officials. Write your Congresspersons and Senators. Write
governments. Use the internet at which your generation is more adept than mine.
Tell them what you think. Tell them that wars lead to poverty and more hunger.
Tell them that public money should be
used for food and for employment opportunities and NOT for firearms. Only those who
manufacture guns and arms make money from wars; everybody else suffers. Promising
young lives are prematurely ended by wars. Tell your officials and the rest of
the world that peace is not just about
the absence of wars. Tell them that peace is more about having food for everyone in every country. Attend public forums and consultations.
Join organizations that work on peace and ending poverty or establish your own.
Organize forums and symposiums and
invite your elders – your parents, teachers, and government officials -to
to what you think the future which is yours should be.
When you are old enough, use your right to
vote wisely. Marshall McLuhan once said, “American youth attributes much more
importance to arriving at driver's license age than at voting age.” Let no one
say this about you. Support only those
candidates who have the interest of the disadvantaged and marginalized at
Facebook accounts not only to tell your friends what you had for breakfast, but
also to share information that can contribute to your friend’s political
maturity and awareness of social issues around them. Help one another in
building your social consciousness.
Volunteer some of your time to
organizations that are helping the poor. You can go help pack food for the poor
children of developing countries. You can go into fund-raising to feed a few
Do not waste food. Do not waste water.
Remember that the food you waste could be a meal for a family in Africa or Asia. Remember that the water you
waste can quench the thirst of so many children who have no access to safe
drinking water in other parts of the globe.
Study hard so that you will be freed from
poverty and so that you can help free others from it. Education is for freedom, for liberation. You are in school not only so
that you will be able to stand on your own in the future, but also so that you
can help in the advancement of communities.When you are done with your education, use it as an
educated person for others. Do not use it to contribute to maintaining
a decadent status quo or to sustaining systems of inequality and
injustice. Use it to fight poverty.
Recognize and embrace your role
in the lives of those who have less in life in this country and in the
world and use your education for social transformation. Do not forget that
people can contribute to strengthening structures of inequality and
perpetuating the systems that keep so many people in poverty by closing their
eyes, by being silent when they must speak out, by folding their arms, and by
Do not ever let go of your moral compass.When it is your time to take over the reins
of government and of society, you willnot repeat the mistakes of my generation and the generations ahead. The
future generation will thank you.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus
has a dream and it is a dream we all share: He wants poverty to be put
in museums one day. How I wish we can find poverty in museums only these days but
I guess my generation and those ahead of us did not do enough to make this happen, or my
generation contributed to making poverty happen. I apologize for my generation.
But I ask you to work harder where we failed. Be the ones to bring your
grandchildren to museums for them to understand how poverty was like, as
Professor Yunus says. Always remember
that if you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. Be a part of the solution.
Are you a new school to MUN? Would you like your students to learn more about MUN before attending a State Conference? Contact us if you would be interested in hosting a school conference for the 2013-2014 school year!
Washington Tech School Conference award winners, May 15
Please click on the committee topics listed above to see this year's background guides.
Global Classrooms Newsletter
The year is flying by for Global Classrooms! Here is a summary of our activity since January:
A Professional Development session featuring three local professionals speaking on our overarching topic of Poverty,
A training held by Robyn, one of our fantastic interns (featured below), for college student who wished to learn more about running a Model UN conference,
Three state Model UN conferences - middle school, high school, and Spanish language,
Two successful school conferences at Capitol Hill Magnet School and Washington Tech Magnet School in St. Paul,
Over 50 classroom training sessions at eight different schools in the metro area!
Intern Robyn in full Model UN regalia at the dais training
Our staff was also in attendance at the United Nations Association of Minnesota's Annual Meeting in January, where the Global Classrooms Norma Rowe Teaching Award was given to Martha Johnson of Highland Park Middle School in St.
Martha Johnson (L) and UNA-MN co-chair Randi Markusen at the UNA-MN Annual Meeting
Paul. Congratulations Martha and we thank her for all of her hard work with our program!
Below, you can find out more on our Professional Development session, our state conferences, and meet two of our graduating interns who have been invaluable to us during their time with our program. Read on to learn more, and if you are interested in working with us in the next year, be sure to look at our internship descriptions on the sidebar! As always, feel free to contact us for information or questions.
Sincerely, Fatema Kermalli Walji and April DeJarlais
United Nations Association of Minnesota Global ClassroomsProgram Staff
Spring 2013 State Model UN Conferences
Spring is our busiest season of the year, with students nearing the end of their school year and ready to exercise their country knowledge at Model UN Conferences! Our conferences this season have been:
High School State Conference, April 9th, Hamline University, with 244 participants from ten schools,
Middle School State Conference, May 1st, University of St. Thomas, with 371 participants from six schools, and
Spanish language State Conference, May 10th, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, with 188 participants from four schools.
Spanish Language State Conference at the University of Minnesota, May
A huge thank you to our guest speakers for the conferences: Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, University of Minnesota Humphrey fellow Cheryl Daytec, and University of Minnesota professor Luis Ramos-Garcia.
Professional Development Session Notes: Teaching Global Poverty to Students
Our February professional development session was centered around this year's conference topic of global poverty, with professionals in the field providing methods for teaching the topic to students. The discussion panel featured:
UNA-MN board member and former UN ambassador Robert Flaten as moderator,
Macalester College political science professor Paul Dosh,
Hamline University professor Hossein Akhavi-Pour, and
law enforcement professional from the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, Priyanka Mishra.
Below is a summary of each speaker's key points:
Paul Dosh: The Urbanization of Poverty
Professor Dosh, a Latin American scholar and activist, stressed the teaching of social issues through media, art, and engagement. In his classes at Macalester, he sometimes requires students to research a political figure, and then role play the figure to the class with a speech and question session. This type of activity ties in directly with the Model UN lessons of role-playing, speech-making, and research. Professor Dosh also delivered an impressive spoken word piece on poverty in Latin America.
Building Dignity: Professor Dosh, with three partners, founded the organization Building Dignity, which is based out of Lima, Peru. The organization aims to "identify, engage, and support key leaders using modest resources to spur action" within communities in the city.www.buildingdignity.org
International Photography & Research Project: A documentary photography site by James Lerager. Professor Dosh recommended that students view photos on the site and record reactions. www.webphotoessay.com
Priyanka Mishra: Poverty and Maternal Health
The state of Madhya Pradesh has the highest child mortality rate in India, where Ms. Mishra works on the police force in the town of Bhopal. Her presentation detailed the daily life of India's impoverished population, including valuable vocabulary for students, such as:
Social exclusion: Schools are often far away for rural families, and the threat of violence often makes it dangerous for girls to walk to school alone - therefore, many girls are unable to receive education.
Structural violence: A social structure that causes poverty or misery; i.e. the ratio of children to doctors in India is 90,000 to one, and the out of pocket expense for many hospital visits is 70% of the total cost.
Hossein Akhavi-Pour: Poverty and the Conflict in Afghanistan
Professor Akhavi-Pour emphasized the teaching of the political economy of poverty - why are people poor, and why do they stay mired in poverty? Both he and Ms. Mishra talk about impoverished men and women's inability to fight against unexpected events, and the need to live one day at a time since there are no resources to plan for the future.
Meet Our 2012-13 Interns:
Robyn Sellman and Anja Crowder
Global Classrooms interns serve as in-class trainers for our curriculum, and are a valuable resource to teachers and students. Please contact us if you are interested in requesting a
Robyn (L) and Anja
trainer (free of charge) for your class or Model UN club.
Robyn and Anja
are returning interns to Global Classrooms this year, and their experience and knowledge of the program has been invaluable. Robyn is a senior at Hamline University, and Anja a senior at Macalester College.
Why did you decide to join the Global Classrooms team?
Robyn: I was very interested in working with students--I have always wanted to teach and be in the classroom. After I became more involved with Global Classrooms, I realized how much I love Model UN and how great of an experience it is for kids.
Anja: To me, the Global Classrooms program really epitomizes what it means to be a global citizen. It's bringing the global to the local. I really believe that teaching young students about the importance of globalization, communication, development and peace can have a great impact on how the next generation deals with issues of global importance.
What do you like the most about the Model UN?
Robyn: My favorite thing about Model UN has to be the way it encourages you to think critically and creatively about international issues, but also requires you to compromise. Taking on a position that isn't necessarily your own, while trying to find common ground with others (who may well represent your own position) really causes you to change your perspective. Model UN, much like the United Nations itself, is all about collaboration to reach a common goal.
Anja: I love that students come together in a space of academic rigor, as equal individuals who are passionate about solving the world's problems. To me, a Model UN conference is like a 3-day think tank for international policy proposals. I only wish that the UN would read some of the resolutions students come up with at these conferences, because they are innovative and provide depth to current issues being debated in the General Assembly.
What has been your best experience as a GC intern?
Robyn: Global Classrooms really has the ability to empower kids to take charge of their own learning. My best experience as an intern was watching a young man develop his own curiosity about the world; he went from being one of the more disruptive and disengaged students in the classroom to an award-winner at the Global Classrooms conference at his school. It is moments like this when I realize how much I love working with Global Classrooms.
Anja: Chairing the Security Council Committee discussing the famine in the Horn of Africa last spring was my most fulfilling experience with Global Classrooms. The students were full of creative solutions that had merit for implementation. These students are not bogged down by international politics, and really collaborate to come up with amazing
resolutions. It's inspirational for me to listen to their ideas about the field that I eventually want to work in.
If you could choose one place to live, where would that be?
Robyn: If I could live and work anywhere in the world, I think I would choose the Swiss countryside. First, it's absolutely beautiful and has great chocolate. More important to me, though, is the strong education system and educational philosophy of the Swiss--encouraging every child to reach their potential, whatever it may be.
Anja: I am a German citizen, speak French, and love Italian food. Working in UN headquarters in Geneva would be my ideal job. All of these paths come together for me in Switzerland, so that is certainly my ideal location.
What is your dream job?
Anja: I don't really have a dream job because I'm still trying to figure my life out, but basically I would love to have a meaningful job where I could contribute to social justice here or somewhere in the world!
Robyn: That's always a tough one! My dream job is teaching: I would do it anywhere, teach anyone, and teach anything. It's amazing how much you can learn about yourself, the world, and others by working with children. They are the future and its as important as ever to teach them how to be citizens in tomorrow's world.