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Crossing Cultural and Linguistic Boundaries: International Volunteer Day

Peace Corps volunteers work in the Gambia to create sustainable gardens

Founded on the values of solidarity and mutual trust, volunteerism transcends all cultural, linguistic and geographic boundaries. By giving their time and skills without expectations of material reward, volunteers themselves are uplifted by a singular sense of purpose.     --UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

December 5 has been selected as the International Volunteer Day by a 1985 UN General Assembly resolution. This year, Volunteer Day comes as government representatives and NGO volunteers are meeting in Paris to develop a new international climate agreement at COP 21.  The NGO representatives are fewer in number than originally planned due to the recent Paris attacks and consequent tightened security. However, those that are present are doubly active as world media attention focuses on the conference and its outcome.

As with all major UN conferences, negotiations among governments have been going on for two years with a good deal of input from NGO representatives. At the Paris stage, there is a preliminary “Final Document and Action Plan” of some 30 pages with a good number of square brackets around words or sentences on which there is no agreement. Negotiations concern making the document shorter so that the main ideas will stand out better and to remove square brackets. If a suitable word is not found, often the whole sentence will be dropped.

ISIS Recruitment: Social Media, Isolation, and Manipulation,_Anbar_Province,_Iraq.jpg

Lately the news has been flooded with horror stories of the ISIS-led attacks occurring around the world. After hearing about these, it’s easy to wonder: how in the world can any sane individual partake in such brutalities?

How is an organization that is so extreme and so violent able to get bright, young people, including an increasing number of Western foreigners, to drop their normal lives and risk it all for a terrible cause? 

To answer these questions, let’s take a look at how ISIS convinces young individuals to join their efforts.

Online Recruitment

The internet is the perfect place for ISIS recruiters to find and target future members. Online, it is easy to remain anonymous and to keep recruitment a secret process. Identities are easily masked, and information is easily transmitted.

ISIS recruiters are motivated to convert others to jihadists not only to propagate the values they believe in, but also to make a significant amount of money. ISIS pays its supporters up to $10,000 for every person they recruit. The price paid depends on who is recruited--if the people are well educated, such as computer specialists or doctors, they are worth more. 

A wide variety of online platforms are used to find potential recruits, including Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Then recruiters spend thousands of hours engaging with these individuals, keeping in regular touch and slowly ushering them towards the theological concepts ISIS is built on. 

The UN Voice for Environmental Action

Maurice Strong (Photo: Philip McMaster,

Just on the eve of the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) and the coming discussions on climate change and a sustainable world society, Maurice Strong died (November 29, 2015).

More than any other person in the UN system, Strong had been the driving force to put environmental action on the “world agenda” for both governments and NGOs. For Strong, to protect the earth’s environment, its biodiversity and life support system was a cause for cooperative action to transform society—a cause for which government and business leaders could rise above their disagreements and act together to protect the planet.

Before a topic becomes the focus of the world agenda, there is a good deal of intellectual preparation needed, and it usually begins outside of governments. Kenneth Boulding, a Quaker, economist, and peace researcher started writing what is now called “ecological economics.” Boulding helped develop the concept of “Spaceship Earth,” stressing the need to modify education in light of ecological realities. He wrote,

…the principal task of education in this day is to convey from one generation to the next a rich image of the total earth, that is, the idea of the earth as a total system…What formal education has to do is to produce people who are fit to be inhabitants of the planet.

Fighting Ideas: Military Power vs. Ideology,

We have been sold a story that goes like this: spend more on weapons, get more peace. But a strong government with an overpowering military didn't stop Luke Skywalker from joining the Rebel Alliance and launching an attack against the Death Star. It didn't stop Katniss from defying the Capitol. And it didn't stop Harry Potter and Dumbledore's Army from opposing the corrupt Ministry of Magic. La Résistance is an incredibly common trope.

Deterrence theory suggests that military strategy should entail more than just winning the war: it should deter conflict in the first place. By having a bigger military--a "bigger stick," if you will--you can avoid attacks because your opponent knows the damage they will incur in a fight is likely too big a price to pay. Typically applied to nuclear war, it certainly seems logical when dealing with certain actors--rational governments may avoid war with those who have nuclear bombs. Even in this context though, it is losing favor.

10 Horrifying Facts about Nuclear Weapons

This article was originally published for BogglingFacts. It has been cross-posted with the permission of author Reagan M.

On August 6, 1945, the world changed forever. After an American bomber unleashed the world’s first glimpse of an atomic bomb, countries scrambled to get their hands on the technology to ensure their safety. The power of nuclear weapons is almost unfathomable, and if nuclear war was to ever break out, it would likely spell the end of the world. Luckily, it’s this fact, among others, that has kept war from breaking out thus far. Read on for 10 more horrifying facts about nuclear weapons.

Key Elements of the Paris Climate Agreement: Deepening International Action

This article was originally published for the NRDC. It has been cross-posted with the permission of author Jake Schmidt.

World leaders are meeting in Paris to finalize an international climate change agreement that will require deeper emissions reduction commitments from all countries. If all goes well, all major countries will enshrine their new climate commitments in this agreement. The agreement will contain provisions to hold countries accountable to their commitments and mobilize greater investments to assist developing countries in building low-carbon, climate-resilient economies. And encouragingly, businesses, investors, states, provinces, cities, financial institutions, and others are already pledging actions to help governments implement the agreement and even exceed their commitments.

While the Paris agreement won't "solve" climate change, it can be a critical inflection point. It brings us much closer to a safer climate trajectory and highlights the path forward after Paris.

So what needs to be addressed in the Paris agreement if we are to build stronger international climate action that mobilizes action now and spurs even greater action in the years to come?

These key elements are outlined in the NRDC’s new "issue brief."

New emissions reduction targets for the Post-2020 timeframe by key countries

On this National Day of Giving

This year, GivingTuesday is arriving  just in time.

We're seeing four million refugees fleeing Syria; 38 million people worldwide internally displaced from war, terror, and suppression in 2014 alone; barrel bombs dropped on civilians by their own government; and countless other atrocities.

Now, under great pressure from the spread of terrorism, extreme weather, unrestrained war and huge migration flows across the globe, leaders from around the world are catching up to our vision of a well-governed world.

Citizens for Global Solutions has been invited to join global policy leaders in promoting crucial United Nations reforms, reforms that can prevent the triumph of terrorism, the cataclysm of global warming, or even World War III.

On Tuesday, December 1, Citizens for Global Solutions is participating in GivingTuesday, a day where people all across our nation come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to support the worthy causes in which they believe. 

We invite and encourage you to join the movement and to support Citizens for Global Solutions’ efforts to create a movement for crucial global governance initiatives before the window of opportunity closes.

Silent Violence Against Women

How many victims of silence there are, and at what cost! Silence has its laws and its demands.... Silence demands that its enemies disappear suddenly and without a trace. Silence prefers that no voice of complaint or protest or indignation disturb its calm. And when such a voice is heard, silence strikes with all its might to restore the status quo ante—the state of silence.     —Ryszard Kapuscmski, The Soccer War


November 25 is the UN-proclaimed International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Violence against women is a year-round occurrence and continues to an alarming degree. It presents an attack upon women’s bodily integrity and their dignity. We need to understand the universality of violence against women; the various forms it takes; and the ways in which gender-based violence, discrimination, and the broader system of domination are inter-related. The value of a designated day is that it serves as a time of analysis of the issue and of rededication to taking action.

Belarus: The Wild Card

It seems that every time I look at my phone, there is a news alert telling me about a new catastrophe somewhere around the globe. In the midst of the Paris terror attacks and the latest confrontation between Turkey and Russia, it is easy to assume that human rights abuses today are centered around violent conflict, often on an international scale. While these crises are worth our attention and concern, it is important to remember that there are still domestic issues being overlooked.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported earlier this year on the status of human rights in Belarus, and the outlook was—and continues to be—bleak. HRW stated:

The human rights situation in Belarus has deteriorated drastically and was marked by flawed presidential elections in 2010 and an ensuing crackdown on peaceful protesters and opposition activists. During the Human Rights Council’s initial review of 2010, the government rejected recommendations to protect freedom of speech, association, and assembly, as well as to implement a moratorium on the death penalty…Belarus continues to use the death penalty and to severely restrict freedom of expression and association, including through harassment and intimidation of journalists and restrictive nongovernmental organization (NGO) laws.

The Refugee Crisis: How the United Nations is Dealing with the Problem

Syrian refugees walk past UNHCR tents at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan

The events of November 13th have truly rocked civilized peoples of the world to the core. For many Parisians, it was just another Friday night: some decided to attend a soccer game; others made plans to have a quiet dinner at a favorite restaurant; and other people went to hear a concert.

However, as the world knows, this was no ordinary night. An evening of tranquility quickly turned to chaos. “The City of Light” was suddenly darkened, and what would happen next was uncertain.

The same group wreaking havoc across the Middle East brought its terror to the streets of the French capital. Yes, the Islamic State of Syria (ISIS) struck at the heart of Europe by hitting key soft targets in an attempt to inflict as much pain and suffering as they could. They place no value on human life, as they are willing to sacrifice their own lives in the name of a very twisted and perverse ideology.

What began as peaceful protests against the Syrian government in 2011 rapidly shifted to a violent insurgency. In its wake, the world is left with the decision of what to do next. One of the unintended consequences of this conflict is the mass exodus of refugees flowing across the Syrian border into neighboring states, like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. These countries are now burdened with caring for the many innocent victims of this violence.