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Honorary Ambassador Wonder Woman

Courtesy of UN.org and DC

Courtesy of UN.org and DC

The famous comic book character, Amazonian princess, fighter of evildoers, and undisputed role model Wonder Woman turns 75 on Friday, October 21st. In conjunction with the 70th birthday of the United Nations on October 24th and in an effort to meet its sustainable development goals (Goal 5 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”), Wonder Woman will be named an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls for gender equality.

In many ways, her appointment makes sense. “Wonder Woman is the epitome of the woman who needs a man the way a fish needs a bicycle…She is self-sufficient and strong and fights for equality and justice” (Friedman, 2016). She is a model for female independence. Framing the designation as powerful, inspiring and bold, DC and the WB are promoting this campaign with the new hashtag #WithWonderWoman — notably similar to a certain presidential campaign slogan, #I’mWithHer. 

However, her appointment is not entirely without controversy. In our particular political and social climate, some see this famous super hero as a scantily clad women, encouraging male fantasies of hyper-sexuality. Additionally, her sexual orientation is provocative to some parties. Protests are looming with some arguing that Wonder Woman’s outfit destroys the headway the women’s rights movement has made in looking beyond a woman’s body and clothing for her value as a human being. But, as Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times notes, Wonder Woman is inseparable from her clothing. It represents everything that is special about her, in addition to encouraging women to dress in whatever way that makes them feel comfortable, special, and empowered; whether than be in a sackcloth, loose jeans and button-up shirts, or a tight leather corset with a flowing skirt and combat boots.


“She may not be using her sexuality as a weapon (She has bracelets and gold lasso for that), but it’s nonetheless making a statement”

-Vanessa Friedman, NY Times, 2016


When asked how Wonder Woman would be portrayed as an ambassador, Nicola Scott, the artist behind the most current incarnation of Wonder Woman, noted, “the goal was to create a noble and strong look, while still maintaining Wonder Woman’s approachability and global appeal. While her look is contentious, her reputation and empowering persona still shine bright for all to see.” (Friedman, 2016)

 

Sources:

Canna, Michael. “Wonder Woman is named honorary U.N. ambassador. But not everyone is happy about it.” The Washington Post, 21 October, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2016/10/21/wonder-woman-is-named-an-honorary-u-n-ambassador-but-not-everyone-is-happy-about-it/

Friedman, Vanessa. “Is it Time for Wonder Woman to Hang Up Her Bathing Suit?” The New York Times, 20 October, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/20/fashion/wonder-woman-75-un-honorary-ambassador-fashion.html?_r=0

The United Nations. Stand Up for the Empowerment of Women and Girls Everywhere. Accessed 21 October, 2016. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wonderwoman/

 


Books:

Cole, William. 1956. Women are wonderful! A history in cartoons of a hundred years with America’s most controversial figure. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Inness, Sherrie A. 1999. Taught girls: women warriors and wonder women in popular culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Robinson, Lillian S. 2004. Wonder women: feminism and superheroes. New York: Rutledge.

Spar, Debora L. 2013. Wonder women: sex, power, and the quest for perfection. New York: Sarah Crichton Books.

Articles:

Avery-Natalie, Edward. 2013. “An Analysis of Embodiment Among Six Superheroes in DC Comics.” Social Thought & Research 32, 71-106.Howell, Charlotte E. 2015. “‘Tricky’ Connotations: Wonder Woman As DC’s Brand Disruptor.” Cinema Journal 55, no. 1: 141-149.

Crossette, Barbara. “In 2016, The UN Will be Transformed. Will that be Enough to Bring it Back to Life?.” Nation 302, no. 2/3 (January 11, 2016): 12-17.

Pennell, Hillary, and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz. 2015. “The Empowering (Super) Heroine? The Effects of Sexualized Female Characters in Superhero Films on Women.” Sex Roles 72, no. 5-6: 211-220.

 

 

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International Day of Peace – September 21st

poster-med“Let us all work together to help all human beings achieve dignity and equality; to build a greener planet, and make sure no one is left behind.”

-UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

On September 21st, the United Nations celebrated an International Day of Peace. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened up the celebration by ringing the Peace Bell and observing a minute of silence at the UN Headquarters’ Peace Garden. This year’s theme, “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”, aims to “strengthen the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples” (UN.org). Quoted as integral to achieving peace in our time, seventeen sustainable development goals were unanimously adopted by all 193 UN Member States in 2015. The UN’s 2030 agenda calls on all Member States start achieving these goals over the next fourteen years, addressing challenges such as poverty, environmental degradation, racism, corruption, and much more. This day was particularly meaningful in the wake of major global events, such as: the referendum in the U.K., the conflict in Syria, global warming concerns, constant tensions with North Korea, the presidential election in the U.S., protests in Burundi, genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, pollution and forest fires in Indonesia, and political turmoil in various South American countries, amongst others.

This International Day of Peace coincided with the September 19th high-level UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, held in New York City, New York. With roughly 65 million forcibly displaced persons – which includes 21 million refuges and 3 million asylum seekers – and little indication of these numbers decreasing, more immediate action from a supranational level is needed (United Nations General Assembly, September 2016: 2). This was first time the General Assembly called for a summit of this magnitude for the large movement of peoples, offering a momentous opportunity to bring “countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach” and “a better international response” on the refugee crisis (UN.org).


“This week’s summits only served to expose the leadership crisis. With few exceptions, many world leaders failed to rise to the occasion, making commitments that still leave millions of refugees staring into the abyss.”

–Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International


Response to the outcome of the Summit has been less than favorable for these global leaders. Amnesty International considers this but a small step forward in the global refugee crisis. Commitments made by global in similar ‘summit’ style gatherings are known to promise much and deliver little (i.e., the Paris Climate Deal). The responsibility of larger, more wealthy countries with humanitarian crisis have often been ignored, with Amnesty International maintaining that money cannot be the sole remedy to this worldwide problem. With the crisis far from over and an International Day of Peace stained with global predicaments, the General Assembly has a long road ahead before achieving the UN’s 2030 goals.

 

Sources:

United Nations General Assembly. September 19, 2016. New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. Seventy-first session. A/71/L.1. https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/sites/default/files/a_71_l1.pdf

 


 

Books:

Buzdugan, Stephen and Payne, Anthony. 2016. The long battle for global governance. New York: Routledge.

Ginkel, J.A. Van. 2002. Human development and the environment: challenges for the United Nations in the new millennium. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.

Hulme, David. 2015. Global poverty: global governance and poor people in the post-2015 era. New York: Routledge.

 Kolodziej, Edward A. 2016. Governing globalization: challenges for democracy and global society. New York: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Lesage, Dries, Van de Graaf, Thijs, and Westphal, Kirsten. 2010. Global energy governance in a multipolar world. England: Ashgate.

Miller, Max H. 2005. Worlds of capitalism: institutions, governance and economic change in the era of globalization. London: Routledge.

Taedong, Lee. 2015. Global cities and climate change: the translocal relations of environmental governance. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Whitman, Jim. 2009. The fundamentals of global governance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Articles:

Berliner, Daniel. 2012. “From norms to programs: The United Nations Global Compact and global governance.” Regulation & Governance 6, no.2 : 149-166.

Chami, G. 2016. “Governance and Security in an Age of Global Flux.” International Journal of Interdisciplinary Global Studies 11, no.2 : 1-14.

 Frove, Francesco. 2015. “From Global Governance to Global Government: Fixing the United Nations.” Public Administration Review 75, no.1: 174-178.

Helgason, Kristinn. 2016. “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Recharging Multilateral Cooperation for the Post-2015 Era.” Global Policy 7, no. 3: 431-440.

Ocampo, Jose .A. and Gomez-Arteaga, Natalie. 2016. “Accountability in International Governance and the 2030 Development Agenda.” Global Policy 7, no. 3: 305-314.

 

Online Resources:

UN Website: http://www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/

Refugee Summit: http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/summit

Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/09/refugee-crisis-leaders-summit-fails-to-show-leadership/

NY Times Climate Change Conference Coverage: http://www.nytimes.com/news-event/un-climate-change-conference

 

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International Right to Know Day – September 28

FOIA

In 2002 a group of organizations working in the area of free access to information met in Sofia, Bulgaria at the Freedom of Information litigation conference.  As a result of this meeting the International Freedom of Information Advocates Network was formed to promote the right of access to information for all people and underline the importance of transparency and openness on the part of governments.  The 28th of September is set aside each year to mark the progress made in promoting this “right to know”.

What constitutes transparency and openness in government?  This is an issue that affects all countries.  It includes the ability freely access and understand the publications and records of activities of government entities.  The U.S. Government Information Transparency Act of 2009 provides some additional background on the topic.  It states:

“Openness and accountability are deeply rooted in the U.S. Government, so much so that it is written into the Constitution that the Congress keep a record of its activities and make it available to the general public. To this end, the Congress has, over the years, enacted a number of laws requiring a variety of federal information to be made available to the public. Since its passage in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been a cornerstone of these efforts. Additionally, there are numerous federal laws requiring the public disclosure of an array of federal information including, but not limited to, the Ethics in Government Act, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.

While all of these open government laws improve transparency and accountability, the information and data they produce, whether it be because of format, venue, or sheer volume, is not always useful. As it currently stands, a variety of federal business and financial information is available to the public in a number of different formats and places. Although the Internet has greatly improved the accessibility of this information, accessibility alone does not promote accountability. In order to be an efficient and effective resource for both the general public and the federal government itself, federal business and financial information must be made available in a standard and useful way so that data is more easily manipulated, searched, and shared.  The Government Information Transparency Act directs OMB to adopt single data standards for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of federal business and financial information. H.R. 2392 is intended to improve the transparency, consistency, and usability of federal business and financial information.”

The United States government has a long standing Freedom of Information Act that provides a process for retrieving information that is not readily available for a variety of reasons.  Passed in 1966, the Act was one of the first to address the challenges of government transparency.  The FOIA website provides excellent information on how to make a request, statistics on the number of requests received and processed and more.  Mendel provides an excellent overview of the Act and how it is currently measuring up in comparison to other nations’ laws.  The challenges to federal employees in accommodating the law is discussed briefly by Rodgers and helps us understand some of the difficulties endemic to completing FOIA requests.  The University Library subscribes to the Digital National Security Archive, a database that provides access to many collections of previously classified documents.

In a related area today is also the first celebration of the International Day for the Universal Access to Information which underlines the importance of easy access to information for sustainable development.  You can read more about this celebration at the UNESCO site as well as the site for the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

For more information on this topic you might read –

Books:

Adshead, M. & Felle, T. (Eds.) (2015) Ireland and the Freedom of Information Act. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hammitt, H. A. & Susman, T. M. (2004) Business uses of the Freedom of Information Act. Arlington, VA: Bureau of National Affairs.

Martin, G. Bray, R.S. & Kumar, M. (Eds.) (2015) Secrecy, law, and society. New York: Routledge.

Schudson, M. (2015) The rise of the right to know: politics and the culture of transparency, 1945-1975.  Cambridge:  Belknap Press.

Scholarly Articles:

Doshi, P., & Jefferson, T. (2016). Open data 5 years on: A case series of 12 freedom of information requests for regulatory data to the european medicines agency. Trials, 17(1) doi:10.1186/s13063-016-1194-7

Gunnlaugsdottir, J. (2016). Reasons for the poor provision of information by the government: Public opinion. Records Management Journal, 26(2), 185-205. doi:10.1108/RMJ-03-2015-0013

Liu, A. C. (2016). Two faces of transparency: The regulations of People’s republic of china on open government information. International Journal of Public Administration, 39(6), 492-503. doi:10.1080/01900692.2015.1018426

Mendel, T. (2016). The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act: How it Measures up Against International Standards and Other Laws. Communication Law & Policy21(4), 465-491. doi:10.1080/10811680.2016.1216685

Mohapatra, S. (2016). Right to information act, 2005 and privacy in public mental health sector in india. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 19, 23. doi:10.1016/j.ajp.2015.11.011

Rodgers, M. A. (2016). Freedom of Information Act Requests Six Keys to Handling Them. Defense AT&L, 45(1), 50-52.

Vadlamannati, K. C., & Cooray, A. (2016). Transparency pays? evaluating the effects of the freedom of information laws on perceived government corruption. Journal of Development Studies, , 1-22. doi:10.1080/00220388.2016.1178385

Websites:

Ethics in Government Act

Digital National Security Archive

Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act

FOIA Improvement Act of 2016

United States FOIA Resources

Honest Leadership and Open Government Act

IFLA

UNESCO 

 

 

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International Literacy Day!


UNESCO Poster

 

“The world has changed since 1966 – but our determination to provide every woman and man with the skills, capacities, and opportunities to become everything they wish, in dignity and respect, remains as firm as ever. Literacy is a foundation to build a more sustainable future for all.”

-UNESCO Director-General

September 8th, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day.  Established by UNESCO in 1966, International Literacy Day reflects the desire to increase global literacy rates, promote literacy as a tool for peace and positive change, and empower individuals to achieve their dreams. This year, UNESCO celebrates under the theme “Reading the Past, Writing the Future”, honoring the progress made toward global literacy, acknowledging current challenges, and discussing solutions that can be enacted across cultures and regions.

Global literacy is incorporated into many national and intergovernmental peace-building programs, including UNESCO’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With the key goal of wiping out poverty, the international community identified education and literacy as valuable tools in the fight against economic inequality.  The Agenda specifically states, “ensur[ing] inclusive and equitable quality education and promot[ing] lifelong learning opportunities for all” is essential for true sustainable development.  2016 is the first year for 2030 Agenda implementation.

Literacy in a Technological Age

What role does technology play in literacy? Even though they increase our access to information, technological advances both help and hinder global literacy. With increased access, knowledge is always at our fingertips. This shift from print to digital eliminates geographic boundaries when attempting to access educational resources– that is, if we own the types of technology that can access it (phones, computers, tablets, etc.). Due to the increase in demand for digital materials, some basic literacy tools are only accessible electronically – thereby only accessible to those with enough monetary resources to purchase the technology that can access these digitized materials. The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) identifies this trend in the information services realm – a trend that no doubt favors more economically developed regions. IFLA acknowledges that access to information has and will continue to have profound impact on developments in the information economy.  According to the IFLA Trend Report,  “An ever-expanding digital universe will bring a higher value to information literacy skills like basic reading and competence with digital tools. People who lack these skills will face barriers to inclusion in a growing range of areas. The nature of new online business models will heavily influence who can successfully own, profit from, share, or access information in the future.”  Working with other interested organizations and individuals, this organization moved for the inclusion of these concepts in UNESCO’s Agenda.

For more information on the topic of literacy:

Scholarly Articles

Boughton, B. & Durnan, D. 2014. “Cuba’s ‘Yes, I Can’ mass adult literacy campaign model in Timor-Leste and Aboriginal Australia: A comparative study.” International Review of Education 60, no. 4: 559-580.

Duncan, Lynne G., Sarah P. McGeown, Yvonne M. Griffiths, Susan E. Stothard, and Anna Dobai. 2016. “Adolescent reading skill and engagement with digital and traditional literacies as predictors of reading comprehension.” British Journal Of Psychology 107, no. 2: 209-238.

Hanemann, Ulrike. 2015. “Lifelong literacy: Some trends and issues in conceptualising and operationalising literacy from a lifelong learning perspective.” International Review Of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift Für Erziehungswissenschaft 61, no. 3: 295-326.

Sharma, Ravi, Arul-Raj Fantin, Navin Prabhu, Chong Guan, and Ambica Dattakumar. 2016. “Digital literacy and knowledge societies: A grounded theory investigation of sustainable development.” Telecommunications Policy 40, no. 7: 628-643.

Sharp, Laurie A. 2014. “Literacy in the Digital Age.” Language And Literacy Spectrum 24, 74-85.

Books:

De Abreu, Belinha S. & Yildiz, Melda N. (eds.). 2016. Global media literacy in a digital age: teaching beyond borders. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Erstad, Ola & Sefton-Green, Julian (eds.). 2013. Identity, community, and learning lives in the digital age. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Rowsell, Jennifer. 2013. Working with multimodality: rethinking literacy in a digital age. London: Routledge.

Tyner, Kathleen R. 1998. Literacy in a digital world: teaching and learning in the age of information. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

Welsh, Teresa S. & Wright, Melissa S. 2010. Information literacy in the digital age: an evidence-based approach.  Oxford, U.K: Chandos.

Web:

UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Agenda: http://en.unesco.org/education2030-sdg4

The First Stop for Education Data: http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Pages/default.aspx

Incheon Declaration Education 2030: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002338/233813M.pdf

Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide: Insights from the IFLA Trend Report: http://trends.ifla.org/insights-document

IFLA Trend Report 2016 Update: http://trends.ifla.org/files/trends/assets/trend-report-2016-update.pdf

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Europe Spurred to Action on Mediterranean Migration

Tunisian coast sign

A sign on the Tunisian coast. Credit Flickr user noborder network.

On Sunday, April 19th, a boat carrying as many as 950 people capsized in the Libyan waters south of Italy, focusing international attention on the problem of illegal immigration and human trafficking in the Mediterranean. An estimated 800 people drowned in this latest incident, where eyewitnesses stated that hundreds had been locked under the deck of the ship, with no chance of escape. But this shocking tragedy, while it may be the worst to date,  is only a fraction of the much larger death toll that has resulted from attempted migration across the Mediterranean, which has reached 1,727 so far in 2015.

The individuals risking their lives to reach Europe through the Mediterranean do so for many, valid, reasons. They flee their home countries to escape war, poverty, or political persecution that has erupted in many African and Middle-Eastern states since the Arab uprisings of 2011. This type of migration is known as “irregular migration,” which involves foreign nationals living in countries in which they do not have a legal status, or foreign nationals working illegally in a country in which they do have a legal status. But, sadly, due to the horrendous and dangerous conditions on many of the boats that carry these migrants, many of them never reach their destination. Migrants often pay large sums of money to owners of vessels to carry them across the sea. However, the vessels are often not equipped to carry the amount of people that are placed on board. This leads to dangerous conditions and wreckage, whereby thousands of migrants have lost their lives in the past several years.

In a special meeting of the European Council on April 23rd, the Council discussed this growing problem and action that could be taken to save lives in the Mediterranean. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, urged the Council to take action.

“Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration,” the President urged.

At this special meeting the Council released a statement that included several key promises. The first is to strengthen the EU presence at sea, by tripling the financial support for search and rescue operations. The second objective is to pursue the traffickers themselves, through existing international legal channels.  Thirdly, the Council vowed to prevent illegal migration by working with the countries from which the migrants flee in attempts to solve some of the problems that lead to the illegal migration. And lastly, the Council agreed to strengthen cooperation within European Union member states to comply with the Common European Asylum System, which is based on the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees, and attempts to maintain a common European policy on protecting those asylum seekers who are fleeing violence in their home countries.

The European Council’s action on this issue is hugely important to finding an end to the tragic loss of life that is happening in the Mediterranean. But the UN is also recognizing that the problem is a global issue of human rights, and is taking action of several fronts as well. The UN Refugee Agency has been assisting those who are rescued at sea or attempting to make the journey to pursue asylum status, but this often means taking the refugees to detention centers where conditions are very poor. In an April 19th press statement, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stressed that finding a solution to the problem will involve not only helping those who are seeking asylum, but attempting to “address the root causes” of the migration that’s happening in the Mediterranean.

Find more information about this issue with the resources below.

Web Resources

OECD Factbook 2014: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics: Migration and employment DOI:10.1787/factbook-2014-8-en

European Union – Clandestino – Database on Irregular Migration

UN Refugee Agency

CBS News – Death in the Mediterranean

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Battaini-Dragoni, Gabriella. 2002. “The Distinctive Role of the Council of Europe in Migration Management: The Case of the Euro-Mediterranean Region.”European Journal Of Migration & Law 4, no. 4: 1-497. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2015).

Mountz, A., & Loyd, J. M. (2014). Constructing the Mediterranean Region: Obscuring Violence in the Bordering of Europe’s Migration “Crises”. ACME: An International E-Journal For Critical Geographies, 13(2), 173-195.

Raeymaekers, T. (2014). Introduction Europe’s Bleeding Border and the Mediterranean as a Relational Space. ACME: An International E-Journal For Critical Geographies, 13(2), 163-172.

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Lazaridis, Gabriella (2010). Security, insecurity, and migration in EuropeBurlington, VT : Ashgate.

Tapia, Stéphane de. (2008). The Euro-Mediterranean migration systemStrasbourg : Council of Europe Pub.

Kneebone, Susan,, Stevens, Dallal,Baldassar, Loretta. (Eds.) (2014). Refugee protection and the role of law :conflicting identitiesNew York, NY : Routledge, 2014.

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