By Zoe Neill (University of Sydney)

Digital technology has become an integral part of our daily lives and is essential to the overall functioning of society. In an OECD session on technology in the workplace, Holly Niemela a Wellbeing Expert at Mindful and Peaceful Inventions, noted that technology has made us ‘busy’, and, warned us of the “full plate, empty life syndrome”. Inefficient ‘business’ leads to less overall work productivity and decreases work morale making. We need a humanist perspective to digital technology in order to increase productivity. 

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UNCSW61 Final Wrap Up

By Natasha O'Farrell, University of Sydney

On Friday March 17, the first week of CSW61 drew to a close. The official negotiations were underway in one of the conference rooms at UN Headquarters, with supporting members of delegations camped outside ready to give advice and show support as needed.  Our day started with a Townhall event run by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The Townhall provided Civil Society organisations with an opportunity to engage and share concerns with the Secretary General and his senior staff. The event was the first of its kind and a historic moment for Civil Society at CSW. Given that Secretary General Guterres is new to his post and, admittedly, a large proportion of civil society in attendance were rather disappointed that the new Secretary General was not a woman, the Secretary made a great effort to demonstrate his passion and intention for the UN to facilitate the global achievement of gender justice for women and girls. Civil society asked whether the Secretary General had plans to achieve equality and parity for women within UN staff, and if a Civil Society Liaison would be appointed (as was the case during Kofi Annan’s leadership). The Secretary General confirmed his commitment to initiatives. Other questions included how negotiations will ensure the independent treatment of girls in the agreed conclusions. Specifically, warning against an ‘add girls and stir approach’ and instead encouraging governments to re-consider all factors from the lived experience of a young girl.

After the Townhall, I attended a session entitled, ‘Promoting Women’s Economic Participation through Addressing Unpaid Care and Domestic Work’. This event was run by the Islamic Development bank and involved speakers from UN Women, Oxfam and Islamic Relief Worldwide. This discussion focused on specific programs that the above organisations are running to address the unequal distribution of unpaid care work. The event focused on specific examples from the developing world where infrastructure is poor and unpaid care work takes up a considerable amount of time. If it takes two days to fetch water or three hours to cook a meal—and there are three meals a day to prepare, then very little time is left to pursue paid employment. Unsurprisingly, women are the people who are in this situation and hence are not financially independent or economically empowered.

I also attended a session run by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions and the Asia Pacific Forum that sought to discuss the role of human rights institutions in promoting and protecting women’s economic participation in the changing world of work. Hosted by Australia, New Zealand and Germany, the presentations focused on the contributions National Human Rights Institutions make in championing the cause for equality. Presentations were made by representatives of these institutions in Chile, Costa Rica, Morocco, and the United Kingdom. The Australian representative the Hon. Dr. Sharman Stone MP, the Ambassador for Women and Girls, delivered introductory remarks and noted the incredible work of Australia’s independent human rights institutions. Immediately after this session the Global Voices delegates were fortunate enough to meet with Dr Stone and discuss our policy papers and more specifically, the lack of women in political spheres. She was both impassioned and inspiring, giving us a window into Australian gender politics both abroad and at home.

Delegates with Dr. Sharman Stone 

Delegates with Dr. Sharman Stone 

The afternoon left me some time to do some reflecting on the week as a whole. In my mind, three major conversations emerged from the conference this week. Note that this really is just my observations framed by the sessions I attended and the conversations that I had. These conversations were around the importance of prevention of violence against women and girls. Prevention meaning transforming culture, attitudes and education practices to create a new status quo that ensures that we do no harm to women and girls, and that we champion them. Another conversation was around indigenous rights and the multiple and intersecting experiences of discrimination that indigenous women endure. This conversation revealed to me that we simply do not do enough, we do not know enough and that perhaps we are not asking the right people and empowering indigenous people to make their own change. Indigenous women told me again and again this week that they want change, and they know how to do it, they just need a seat at the table.

The final conversation that I have observed or listened to was the importance of valuing unpaid labour. The work of women in performing care roles and domestic labour frees other people (predominantly men) up to spend time earning money. I learnt in a session that despite the fact that women enter and leave employment at different stages over their lifetime, on average, the amount of care and domestic duties they perform remains the same.

Perhaps what struck me the most this week was Australia’s position at the conference as an open contributor—as a nation that upholds best practice and speaks truth and practicality directly into complicated policy issues. The conference itself was both overwhelming and exhilarating. With so much potential for change and innovation, I was often frustrated at the deliberate pace at which business proceeded. However, I developed a better understanding of change, and good change as being incremental and generational.  What an awesome and humbling experience to be in the company of such talented and passionate people. 

COP22: Final Wrap Up (Week 2, Days 9-11)

By Madelin Strupitis-Haddrick, University of Sydney (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences)

The success of climate conferences is often judged based on the texts produced or, in the case of Marrakech, it is based on the progress of technical negotiations for implementing the Paris Agreement. Indeed, international agreements are highly significant in catalysing state action, however non-governmental actors play a crucial and complementary role in realising climate solutions.

Following the opening of the high level segment, the conference was buzzing with government ministers, UN officials and representatives from academic, business and advocacy organisations.  Keeping our phones at hand, the Global Voices delegates split up according to our interests, attending sessions in the plenary hall, visiting the displays of environmental technology and innovation in the public zone, watching technical consultations and networking with non-governmental organisations.

On receiving word from our Program Managers, Matt and Riley, we regrouped for two highly anticipated meetings: back-to-back discussions with Helen Clark, former NZ Prime Minister and head of the UN Development Program and Mary Robinson, former Irish President and leader of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice. As young women seeking to work for positive change in the world, Riley, Caitlin and I were moved to meet these idols in person and were inspired by their knowledge, passion and willingness to share this with us.

Following these meetings Matt, Sam and I attended the ‘Momentum for Change’ award night. Opened by an address from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, this event highlighted the role of communities in developing solutions to climate change on a local level. From household solar systems in Bangladesh to sustainable cities, the projects that were showcased opened our eyes to the impacts individuals and communities can have on reducing emissions, improving access to clean energy, and improving resilience.

Between these meetings and side events, we also caught up with Liz, a former GV delegate now working for DFAT and Luke, a Researcher from ANU who shared fascinating analysis of the options for a Paris Agreement with and without the United States.

The last few days of the conference ended on a high note for climate action, with Canada, the US and Mexico all releasing Mid-Century Strategies outlining their climate action plans for 2050. Hearing these in the context of the strong leadership, community commitment and hardworking individuals, which we had witnessed, reaffirmed that it is individuals and groups acting at all levels who will be key to the implementation of such policies and the realisation of a safe climate.



We did it! 

We did it! 

COP 22: Wrap Up Days 3-4

By Madelin Strupitis-Haddrick, University of Sydney Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

By day three at the COP, we woke up to a sombre mood in the air, with the US election results being finalised as the sun rose over Marrakech. Arriving at the conference venue, we attended a press conference where members of US NGOs shared their reactions to the presidential election and their expectations of the impacts on global climate action. Whilst this featured much uncertainty, there was a sense of cautious optimism that the global momentum we have seen increasing since the lead up to the Paris climate conference would continue: climate change impacts are leading to public concern; businesses are increasingly investing in low/zero-carbon technology; and, as we have seen these past weeks in Australia, state governments are demonstrating their capacity and willingness to move towards renewable sources of energy.

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UNCSW60 Delegate Victoria Cook Published in Doctus Project

Victoria Cook - the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW60) National Scholarship delegate - has been successfully published by Doctus Project. Victoria's opinion piece examines the purpose of the CSW and Australia's role in the discussions. 

UNCSW60 delegation at the UN HQ in New York. From left to right: Lamisse Hamouda (University of Sydney), Victoria Cook and Renee White (CQU)

UNCSW60 delegation at the UN HQ in New York. From left to right: Lamisse Hamouda (University of Sydney), Victoria Cook and Renee White (CQU)

Click here to read the article on the Doctus Project website or copy the following URL into your browser http://bit.ly/Victoria-Cook-Doctus-Project

Victoria Cook, 22, is pursuing an MD at the University of Sydney after completing a BS in Microbiology & Immunology at ANU, where she was an ANU National Merit Scholar. She is the COO and a founding member of Level Medicine Inc, and has completed internships with various community-based health organisations including the NSW Department of Health.

UN ECOSOC Delegate: Contributor at Inspired Economist

2015 UN ECOSOC delegate Madeline Greer has authored a piece for the Inspired Economist. 

Check out the story here or by the copying the following URL in your browser http://bit.ly/MadelineGreerInspired

Madeline Greer attended the UN ECOSOC High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July of 2015. Madeline is studying Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts. Madeline has had extensive professional experience in corporate sustainability principles, such as the UN Global Compact, at Westpac and Stockland, among other places.  

Global Voices would like to thank The University of Sydney for supporting Madeline's place to the UN ECOSOC Forum. Read more about our Partnerships program at globalvoices.org.au/partners