Joining over 700 educators and students, the University of Bridgeport College of Public and International Affairs (CPIA) returned to the United Nations on Jan. 27 for the 18th Annual Committee on Teaching about the United Nations (CTAUN) Conference, this year to deliberate the urgency to protect and uncover solutions to the global refugee crises. Three Global Development and Peace (GLDP) graduate students and one International Political Economy and Diplomacy (IPED) undergrad were among the winners of posters selected for public recognition at this year’s session, marking CPIA recognition at the annual event for the fourth consecutive year.
[Photo Credit: Kwonsook Gerena]
Refugees: The 21st Century Challenge featured UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) experts and refugees speaking on the issues of this worldwide emergency and the importance of global citizenship. Highlights for UB students included:
UB’s Mading Anyuon (GLDP ’18), a refugee from South Sudan for over 10 years, detailed his experience, including the challenges of getting food, water, and schooling, as well as the health and sanitation issues that plague the refugee camps. “Rations and water schedules did not correspond,” recounted Anyuon. “Refugees had to decide “to miss either food distribution, water, or school,” he said. CPIA Dean Thomas Ward commented that “it’s amazing he survived,” and noted that “Mading is a serious student of the Global Development and Peace master’s program who is always thinking about his country.”
Martina Santia’s (GLDP ’17) award-winning poster, Fostering Resiliency in Refugee Families, spoke to the need for collective action to find solutions for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. “Fostering resiliency of refugee families could ensure sustainable recovery and strengthen individuals’ capacity to cope with the onslaught of challenges they face in a more effective way,” she said.
Oluwatosin Akegbejo Samsons (GLDP ’17) and Ama Kouassi (IPED ’18) co-produced the prize-winning poster, Refugee Crisis and Cultural Backlash: the Modern-Day Challenge on Lebanon. Their work focused on the crisis in Syria since 2011 and its aftermath of the carnage of some 250,000 non-military citizens. “Six out of 10 Syrian refugees are now uprooted from their homes,” said Akegbejo Samsons. “Challenges faced are prostitution, suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, and loss of hope. Possible solutions are more partnerships among European governments, opening up safe havens for refugees, and the establishment of a legitimate path for refugees to enter Europe.”
Swechhya Bhattarai (GLDP ’17) was the fourth CPIA poster winner.
Among the many speakers on the schedule were UN Assistant Secretary for Refugees Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) Chief Ramu Damodaran, United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI) Director of Outreach Maher Nasser, Rockefeller Archive Center Director Robert Clark, and CTAUN Chair Anne-Marie Carlson, as well as refugees and victims of human trafficking such as Anyuon.
Anyuon was captivated by the content of the conference as speakers addressed global suffering and injustice, dictatorships, and the suffering of women and children in war zones. “What we need is unity together to bring democracy to the world,” he said.
At the conference conclusion, CTAUN released a statement adopted by acclamation, calling on governments, private institutions, and public-interest groups to join forces and work together to protect refugees’ rights and ensure these people are not sent back to unsafe situations. “Special efforts must also be made to stop the causes of refugee flow. Preventing war, terrorism, persecution, and other causes should include aid for economic development, education, and a commitment to human rights,” detailed the declaration.
“The CTAUN conference was a great opportunity to learn about the organization, its mission, and accomplishments,” noted Santia. “I was happy to have the chance to attend and meet with people who value the work of the UN, especially regarding the theme discussed.”
CTAUN works to present opportunities for educators to learn, understand, and appreciate the work of the UN and help integrate global awareness into curricula.
“As a University fortunate to be granted NGO Status since 2012, we like to find UN activities that relate to our institutional mission,” said CPIA Dean Thomas Ward, who serves on the CTAUN Conference Organizing Committee. “With UN education being important for both CPIA and CTAUN, it is an excellent match.”