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Showing posts with label peace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peace. Show all posts

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Ato Dakheel, a Yazidi living in Sweden

The Sun Shines all over the World

Ato Dakheel is a Yazidi born in Hardan, a small village in northern Iraq. In 2014, Ato and his family fled Iraq when ISIL attacked the city of Sinjar near the Sinjar Mountain close to the Iraq-Syria border. After a long journey, Ato ended up in Sweden, where he today goes to school. In an interview he tells in detail about his, Yazidis’ and Kurds’ history.

Today he serves as a goodwill ambassador for the Yazidi/Kurdish people through sharing the account of his migratory journey.

– The sun is an important symbol for Yazidis, Ato explains.

"On November 26, 2015, I came to Sweden and I call it my birthday," says Ato Dakheel.

Sunday, August 3, 2014 – Sinjar Massacre

Ato Dakheel says he will never forget Sunday, August 3, 2014. It was on that day, at 11 am, that ISIL attacked the city of Shingal, or Sinjar as it is also called. The city is located in northwestern Iraq near the Iraq-Syria border. About 80 percent of the city's population were at that time Yazidis, about 15 percent were Muslims and about 5 percent were Christians. The UN has described the ISIL attack on the Yazidis as genocide.
ISIL attacked and slaughtered all men and the elderly. Young girls were taken as sex slaves. ISIL took more than 50 cousins ​​of mine on August 3, 2014. It was 12 kilometres to the mountain. We walked all the way and ISIL was behind us. ISIL calls Yazidis “kafer”, which means that you don't believe in anything. We believe in God and angels, Ato explains. 

The World Community Needs to Act

In recent years, there have been a lot of tensions in the area around Shingal between different Kurdish forces.

“The world community needs /… / to act and put an end to the impunity that has been prevailing for a long time in a practically lawless Iraq. The UN has become lame and refrain many times from acting because they depend on the Iraqi government for their presence in the country. Failure to intervene, however, will lead to continued uncontrollable violence, law violations and war crimes,” the Swedish war correspondent and Middle Eastern analyst Magda Gad wrote in the Swedish newspaper Expressen on October 17, 2017.

The Kurds were one people

Ato Dakheel explains that the Kurds a long time ago were one people.

– All Kurds were Yazidis. The Kurdish flag also testifies this. The Kurdish flag has a sun in the middle. The sun is an important symbol for us Yazidis.

Ato says that Kurdistan has its own territory in Iraq.

– Kurdistan has its own president, prime minister and parliament, but belongs to Iraq.

Ato is very knowledgeable in this area and he knows his history well.

– Before the First World War and even during the war many wars against religions took place. The Ottoman Empire wanted everyone to become Muslims. Many became Muslims after the First World War. Istanbul was the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which during the First World War was a friend of Germany. England and France wanted to divide the Ottoman Empire to make it weaker. After the First World War, the borders between Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey were drawn in the middle of Kurdistan.

The Kurdish flag

Some brief facts about the history of Kurdistan

1922: A Kurdish man in Turkey, Sheikh Said, fought against the Ottoman Empire. He was executed by Turkey in 1925.

1942: Mustafa Barzani, a Kurdish man from Iraq, wanted to make a revolution. His son Massoud Barzani is now president of the Kurdish part of Iraq. Along with an army of Peshmerga soldiers, Mustafa Barzani fought against the Iraqi state for an independent Kurdistan.

1946: Qazi Muhammad, a Kurd from Iran, fought against the Iranian state with the help of the Soviet Union. He was executed by the Iranian state.

Ato Dakheel explains that it was with the help of the United States that the Kurds in 1991 got their own region in Iraq where the Kurds could almost decide themselves. He further explains that the people of Iraq have suffered many wars.

On August 2, 1990, the Gulf War started when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq by attacking the capital Baghdad with aircraft and missiles.

March 16, 1988 – Halabja Massacre

March 16, 1988 was another tragic day in world history.

“30 years ago, Saddam Hussein's regime used the chemical weapons mustard gas and nerve gas to murder the Kurds in Halabja as part of his genocidal campaign, the so-called Al-Anfal Campaign, against Kurds. On March 16, 1988, 5,000 Kurds were murdered and more than 10,000 were estimated to be severely injured by the attack. Several thousand Kurds were reported to have died after the attack as a result of various complications, diseases and birth defects. The gas attack in Halabja was one of forty issued against Kurds during Saddam Hussein’s time where a total of 182,000 Kurds are estimated to have been murdered as part of the Al-Anfal Campaign. Even today, the survivors suffer from the traumatic experiences of that day, but also from the health problems that these chemical weapons brought. Experts have demonstrated that dangerous mustard gas still exists today in some of the city's cellars,” the International Women's Association for Peace and Freedom (Internationella Kvinnoförbundet för Fred och Frihet, IKFF) wrote on its blog on March 16, 2018.

Escaped to the Sinjar Mountain

Ato grew up in the small village of Hardan in northern Iraq. He says that there is very beautiful nature in Kurdistan. Water and mountains.

Ato went to school for nine years in Iraq. He says that the teachers beat the students if, for example, they forgot a school assignment. He also says that Yazidis could not go anywhere outside the area.

– It happened many times that they kidnapped Yazidis and demanded a ransom, Ato says.

Ato lived in the village of Hardan until August 2014 when his family and many other Yazidi families fled up to the Sinjar Mountain.

– We were on the Sinjar Mountain for eight days without food and without water. We had to eat leaves, Ato continues.

Kurdish military, PKK, came to the mountain and opened a small road.

– We walked to Syria. There were about 500,000 people. There were children and there were women. Many cried. We slept in the field.

Ato draws a map to show how the borders go through Kurdistan. The countries of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria are close to each other. He draws the city of Shingal, which ISIL attacked on August 3, 2014. He shows on the map how the family moved over the mountains.

Worked 12 hours a day in Turkey

Ato draws a map to show how the borders go through Kurdistan. The countries of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria are close to each other. He draws the city of Shingal, which ISIL attacked on August 3, 2014. Then he draws the province of Duhok, which borders on Turkey in the north and Syria in the west. Through the province of Duhok, Ato and his family – and about 400 other Yazidi families – were able to go to Turkey and a large mountain.

– There, the Turkish military took us. We slept under the trees for four days. Then we got help from Kurds from Turkey. In Shernak we lived in a school for 16 days. We were 16 people in two rooms. For us Yazidis it was extra difficult in Turkey.

Ato says the family moved to the city of Siirt, where they lived for a year and a half.

– We worked 12 hours a day, every day of the week. I was digging in the ground for one dollar a day. We lived 16 people in an apartment with two rooms and a kitchen.

Boat trip to Greece

Ato explains that his aunt, who lived in Småland in Sweden, called and told Ato’s dad that she could help one person. Ato says that he has two older brothers and two younger brothers. Ato’s father did not want to leave the family in Turkey. Together, the family decided that Ato should go to Sweden.

– I was scared and worried, Ato says. I went to Istanbul with some friends. We stayed there for a few days. From there we went in a small inflatable boat. 64 people. Children, women, elderly, young people ... We would go to Greece, one to two hours boat trip across the sea. We couldn’t swim. The small children cried. The boat began to fill with water. We prayed to God many times, Ato says and clasps his hands.

Ato continues his story and says that they all arrived on the Greek island.

– The others who I travelled with in the boat hugged each other, but no one hugged me. Then I felt alone in the whole world.

Long journey through Europe

The journey went on to Athens, an 8 hours long journey in a large ship.

– Then we went by many buses to Macedonia. There were refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Africa ... I was with a family. It was a mother, a father and two children. It was November and it was cold. We went by bus to Serbia, where we stayed for two or three days. We were outside all the time. Day and night. We couldn't buy food. We got some bread with butter and cheese.

Ato is very talkative and continues to tell the story about the long journey. The journey continued by bus through Croatia, Austria and Slovakia.

– In Austria we stayed for four days. We were outside all the time.

Ato ended up in a refugee camp in Germany. A cousin of Ato lived in Hamburg. The cousin wanted Ato to stay in Germany, but Ato had already decided; he was going to Sweden. Ato’s cousin helped Ato to the train station and onto a train to Copenhagen. The cousin explained that Ato had 30 minutes in Copenhagen to find the train which would go to Malmö in Sweden.

From one refugee camp to the other

Once in Copenhagen, Ato approached a man and asked for help. It turned out that the man was Kurdish and could speak Kurdish. The Kurdish man helped Ato to get onto the train that went to Malmö. Once in Malmö, November 26, 2015, Ato was taken to the police station. The police interrogated Ato about what he would do in Sweden and Ato replied that he was a refugee. Ato’s aunt came to Malmö to meet Ato, but first she was not allowed to meet him. After a few days, however, Ato came to his aunt in Småland.

The family who remained in Turkey thought that “we should live a better life or die” and decided therefore to go to Sweden. Ato’s mother, father, younger brother and younger sisters came to Sweden on December 12, 2015.

Ato’s older brothers, one 30 years old with four children and the other 25 years old and single, stayed in Turkey and came later to Greece.

– The EU decided that all Yazidis would move to Germany, Ato says. Therefore, my older brothers moved to Germany.

Ato and the family members who were now in Sweden moved from Småland to a refugee camp in Malmö.

– We were many who slept on the floor, Atos's mother interposes. She shed some tears.

A woman from the church helped the family

Later the family moved to another refugee camp between Lund and Hässleholm and then they were moved to another refugee camp in Hanöhus.

– Then we came to Listerlandet, Ato explains. We were eight people. Six of us stayed in one room. My brother Serbest and I lived in a cabin. We lived there for eight months. One day a woman who was active in the church came to the refugee camp. She wanted to integrate us into Swedish society. She wanted to integrate not only my family but everyone in the camp.

Ato says that the woman asked Ato questions.

– Then I could not speak Swedish or English at all. We had a neighbour who could speak English fluently who interpreted for us. The woman asked if I had signed up for school, but I had not. I didn’t know I had that opportunity in Sweden. The woman promised she would sign me up. This was a Friday. The woman said that “on Monday I’ll pick you up and we’ll go to school”.

On Monday, the woman drove Ato to a school in Sölvesborg. The whole family attended a church course in simple Swedish for new Swedes/refugees.

– From the beginning I was afraid of the church because ISIL in 2014 treated us so bad because we are Yazidis.

Ato Dakheel and Maria Veneke Ylikomi

Demonstration against war and for democracy

In 2016, Ato and his family came to Kungsmarken in Karlskrona in southern Sweden.

– We knew almost no one, Ato explains. We called the woman from the church who made sure we got to meet a man from Kungsmarken Church. The Kungsmarken Church has helped us a lot.

Ato tells with a smile that he started a course at the Naval Museum in Karlskrona.

– There I got to learn Swedish and we learned history. We participated in a competition with the museum, a competition between several museums in Sweden. The Naval Museum won the competition and we went to Stockholm to receive the award.

It went well for Ato in the Swedish school and he quickly completed a nine years’ (!) study plan.

– In June I got all the grades, Ato says happily, explaining that it meant a lot to him.

Ato had the luck to go to India on a school trip.

– We were 2 students out of 300 who went to India. I gave a lecture in India, Ato says with enthusiasm.

Ato came to the Swedish Parliament and met the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven. At the wall in the Dakheel family’s living room, there is a portrait of Ato together with the prime minister.

– We learned in school about the different parties and what they want.

In October 2019 Ato Dakheel led a demonstration in Karlskrona together with a friend. It was a short time after Turkey entered with soldiers into the Kurdish area of ​​Rojava. The messages from the Kurdish demonstration were clear against war and for democracy.

When asked whether Ato feels welcome in Sweden or if he in any way feels discriminated, Ato answers that this is a difficult question.

– It depends on different people. When we demonstrated we appeared in an article in the newspaper. Then there was one woman who wrote “Go home and help instead of complaining here”. Then I didn't really feel welcome.

"Do anything but do not kill people. Do not use weapons," says Ato Dakheel.

Ato's clear message: “Do not kill people. Do not use weapons.”

Ato has a clear message that he would like to convey:

– Do anything but do not kill people. Do not use weapons. I hope that women and children in the Middle East will enjoy more freedom. Not a dictator who decides everything. Women should have time for themselves. I will fight for the rights of women and children throughout my life.

In the summer of 2019, Ato Dakheel founded the Kurdish Democratic Association in Karlskrona. On the question of how Ato wants the Kurdish Democratic Association to develop, he answers:

– Freedom and democracy. We should all help each other. Everyone is equal.

"I hope that women and children in the Middle East will enjoy more freedom," says Ato Dakheel.

Ato Dakheel in the pulpit of the Swedish Parliament.

Article by Maria Veneke Ylikomi, Goodwill Ambassador Foundation, 30 November 2019

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Getting Ready for Global Citizenship

U.N. Puts Global Citizenship at Center of Agenda

By Thalif Deen

A peace sign formed by people in Croatia. Credit: Teophil/cc by 3.0

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 12 2015 (IPS) - When Denmark hosted the World Summit on Social Development (WSSD) in March 1995, one of the conclusions of that international gathering in Copenhagen was to create a new social contract with “people at the centre of development.”

But notwithstanding the shortcomings in its implementation over the last 20 years, the United Nations is now pursuing an identical goal with a new political twist: “global citizenship.”

“Our world needs more solar power and wind power.  But I believe in an even stronger source of energy: People power.” -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Reaffirming the opening line of the U.N. Charter, which says “We the Peoples”, the United Nations is adding the finishing touches to its post-2015 development agenda – even as there are increasing demands from civil society organisations (CSOs) to focus on issues relating to people, including poverty, hunger, unemployment, urbanisation, education, nuclear disarmament, gender empowerment, population, human rights and the global environment.

Addressing a star-studded Global Citizen Festival in New York City’s Central Park last September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared: “Our world needs more solar power and wind power. But I believe in an even stronger source of energy: People power.”

Speaking at the 20th anniversary of WSSD, Ambassador Oh Joon of the Republic of Korea and Vice President of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said while one of the three major objectives of the Copenhagen Social Summit – poverty eradication – was incorporated into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000, the other two – productive employment and social integration – were not.

“An integrated approach advocated at the Social Summit to simultaneously pursue the three key objectives was left behind,” he told an ECOSOC meeting last week.

“There was a need to re-examine where the new United Nations development agendas would come from,” the Korean envoy said.

Economic growth in itself, while necessary, was not sufficient to reduce poverty and inequality, he said, stressing the need for strong social policies, as well as inclusive and sustainable development.

Similarly, there were many links among social, economic and environmental fields that must be effectively addressed, he added.

Meanwhile, the concept of global citizenship has taken on added importance, particularly on the eve of the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda which is expected to be approved at a summit meeting of world leaders in September.

Asked how relevant the concept was in the post-2015 context, Roberto Bissio, executive director of the Third World Institute, a non-profit research and advocacy organisation based in Uruguay, told IPS: “If by citizenship we mean rights, and in particular the right to bring governments to account, and decide how taxes are used, we are very far from global citizenship.”

In fact, he said, there is little talk of citizenship in the current discussions around the Financing for Development (FfD) conference in Addis Ababa in July and the September summit of world leaders on a new development agenda.

Instead, he said, there is a lot of attention being given to “multistakeholderism”.

The notion of “stakeholder”, as opposed to “shareholder,” was originally a way to make corporations more accountable to the people affected by their actions.

Now “multistakeholder governance” in the Internet or in “partnerships” with the United Nations means that corporations will have a role in global governance, without necessarily becoming more accountable in the process, he pointed out.

“This means less rights for citizens, not more,” said Bissio, who also coordinates the secretariat of Social Watch, an international network of citizen organisations worldwide.

On the other hand, he said, if the FfD conference approves a U.N. mechanism for tax collaboration between countries to counter widespread tax evasion by multinational corporations, citizenship (including the elusive ‘global citizenship’ concept) may emerge strengthened.

Pointing out the successes of people-oriented policies, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, former president of Chile, said when he was the leading his country in 1995 he had supported several initiatives to promote democracy and social justice.

Over the last 25 years, he said, Chile had succeeded in drastically reducing poverty to 7.8 per cent from 38.6 per cent, with extreme poverty reduced to 2.5 per cent from 13 per cent.

The WSSD, he said, was the largest meeting of heads of state that resulted in shaping a new model of development that would create progressive social equity that addressed imbalances around the world.

“The human being was placed at the centre of development, as reflected in the World Summit action plan,” he said.

Highlighting achievements resulting from implementing the plan, he said Chile had increased investments in social development and was, under current President Michelle Bachelet, continuing to do so in order to address inequality.

While Latin America had reduced poverty, it remained “more unequal” than other regions and currently, 28 per cent of its population of 167 million lived in poverty, with 71 million living in extreme poverty, he said.

But some of the pressing tasks, he said, included thinking about a new fiscal pact and tax reform that would improve income distribution in order to avoid “false” development. Corruption and institutional reform also needed to be addressed.

“As such, the World Social Summit remained as valid today as in 1995,” he said.

Going forward, combatting poverty and inequalities required an ethical foundation and a sustained effort. At this crossroad, it was time that governments gave more impetus to that “moral movement”, the former Chilean president said.

Juan Somavia, a former director-general of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and ex-Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations, told the ECOSOC meeting the yet-to-be-finalised “zero” draft of the new post-2015 agenda recovered the spirit and dynamism of the 1990s and was a good basis for negotiations.

“The document reflected a supremely ambitious vision, with its 17 goals and 69 indicators focused on a people-centred poverty-eradication sustainable development concept,” he noted.

With regard to challenges, he said, policy support from the United Nations would be critical.

Since the world had discussed the three elements of sustainable development but had not yet implemented them, the basic challenge ahead was to ensure integrated thinking and to shape methods for using it to clearly explain the types of interactions between the agenda’s three pillars that were needed to fulfill commitments, he declared.

That difficult task required an initiative from the U.N. secretariats in New York and Geneva, its Funds and Programmes and the multiple networks in regions in which the organisation operated, he said.

Unless that process began immediately after the new agenda was adopted, the “goods” would not be delivered, Somavia warned.

That initiative would also require the recognition of the balance between markets, the State, society and individuals. “In recent years, people’s confidence in the United Nations had dropped.”

The manner in which the United Nations presented the new agenda was essential in addressing that issue.

As the Social Summit’s Programme of Action had recognized the importance of public trust, he emphasized that the new development agenda must acknowledge and address that current lack of confidence, Somavia declared.

Edited by Kitty Stapp, The writer can be contacted at

Related IPS Articles

U.N. Chief Backs New Int’l Decade for Water for Sustainable Development
Global Citizenship Essential for Gender Equality: Ambassador Chowdhury
Opinion: A Radical Approach to Global Citizenship Education

Friday, April 17, 2015

Interview with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mark Levengood

The Work of a Goodwill Ambassador

We must stop thinking nation states. We must stop mixing religion with politics.

There are today around 30 international UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors and 200 national UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors from different countries in the world.

Sweden has six UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors: Lill Lindfors, Liza Marklund, Kajsa Bergqvist, David Hellenius, Eva Röse and Mark Levengood. Their job as Goodwill Ambassadors is to speak for the children in various contexts and to spread awareness of UNICEF's work for the world's children.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Photo: Stellan Herner

Mark Levengood, born 1964 in a military base in North Carolina, USA, is a Swedish-speaking Finn who grew up in Helsinki, Finland. He is a journalist, writer and very popular TV personality. He is married to Jonas Gardell and they have two children. Mark Levengood is every year a host of the Victoria Day (the Birthday celebration of the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria) in Öland, Sweden.

I recently had the great honor to interview Mark Levengood, one of Sweden's six UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors. Here is that interview.

Interview with Mark Levengood, UNICEF Sweden

Why did you become a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and how did it happen?
It was a very long process that started when I went to school in Finland and sold Christmas cards for UNICEF. Then I was 8-9 years old. Since then I have always been involved in various ways. Eventually, when I became a journalist, I began to travel. I went to El Salvador in 1995, for example, and began making reports. I became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2008.
What is the best thing about being a goodwill ambassador?
The best part is that we get so much done. We are very effective. In crisis situations we are very quickly on the spot. But also to be involved in building the future for the children of the Earth. You never need to ask yourself ”why” regarding that kind of thing, because you know it will be a good thing.

On Children in Gaza

You visited Gaza in 2013, is that correct? Yes.

What is your strongest memory from there?
It's the kids. I remember we visited a youth center in Gaza City with the help of UNICEF. They showed us around there and there were a lot of activities. Then I heard a small tape recorder. I asked what it was, but they said it was ”not important”. Then I saw a tiny, tiny backyard where there was a ballet lesson for girls between five and eight years. The teacher was wearing a completely covering burqa. And that is not so good when you are a ballet teacher. But this showed that also in Gaza girls can dance ballet. All the kids are dreaming of a future there as well as in other places. Those were some of my thoughts.

This is of course an extremely difficult question, but how do you think we can best help Palestinian children today?
Today we can best help them by going through major recognized organizations such as UNICEF or Save the Children or the Red Cross. I think the established channels have the knowledge and contacts to help on the spot. If you start to collect stuff that you send yourself, it does not reach the children. Many people underestimate the difficulty of reaching crisis areas. But if you really want to help, so go ahead to raise money. We promise it will help.
What do you think are the most important prerequisites for peace?
We must stop thinking nation states. We must stop mixing religion with politics. There I think we have two very good prerequisites for peace.

A Blind boy in Ethiopia

What has Astrid Lindgren's children's books meant for you?
A lot, of course. I grew up with Astrid Lindgren. I work a lot now with Ilon Wikland, who was also Astrid's illustrator. We came out with a book in October 2014, called "Peter and the Wolf". I'm very proud to work with Ilon, who many people associate with Astrid. Astrid was somehow a "pillar" throughout my childhood.
Do you have any favorite book by Astrid Lindgren? The Brothers Lionheart.

You have been in Ethiopia with UNICEF? Yes, I have been in Ethiopia twice.
Ethiopia was magical. It is an absolutely amazing country despite having much trouble. Also problems with the government. And human rights is a difficult thing in Ethiopia. 
But it is an amazing country. I remember I met a boy who was blind. He lived in northern Ethiopia and he was abandoned by his family when he was four years old.
I asked him about his thoughts about the future, which of course is really tough.
I asked: ”What do you want to be?” He said: ”I'll become a lawyer.” Then I asked: ”But, are you able to become a lawyer?” Then he said: ”I am able to do all things because I am smart.”

Horrible, but terribly instructive

I read that you have been in Paraguay and met street children and children in prison. Can you tell anything about that?
We can conclude that children do not belong neither in orphanages nor in prisons. Both are evil places to educate future generations on.
Which was your first trip as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador?
The trip that was perhaps my life's most important trip was to El Salvador, but then I was not yet an Ambassador. But it was a terrible trip. It was the first time that I seriously got in touch with the reality that many children today live in, i.e. the total poverty. It was a very, very educational journey. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador my first trip was to Paraguay.
Did you have a mission as a journalist when you went to El Salvador?
The war had just ended, and UNICEF was working at high pressure, so I went there to document the work that UNICEF was doing. It was an incredibly torn country and it was an extremely violent country. I remember that everything was very dangerous. The worst that could happen was that the police stopped a person. For ”ordinary” people it was enough to rob a person. But police officers robbed a person and then shot the person. Everything was just horrible, but terribly instructive. I think that El Salvador is better today, when 20 years have passed. There always become very deep wounds in a nation where the war is raging.

Children want to play

What is your happiest memory so far, as a Goodwill Ambassador?
I have so many happy memories. Despite being exposed to a lot of poverty and misery, you become so incredibly happy when you see how much that is actually happening. Children who are almost dying of starvation get liquid because they need fluid in the body and then they can start to eat something. Often they already the second day start to play. It is so obvious that children want to play and with the help of playing explore the world and become great and good. You see how everyone wants to survive and everyone wants to live. It makes me so incredibly happy.
Do you have any special project going on right now with UNICEF?
We are working hard with children's rights principles, where we try to get the big organizations to get into their organization that they are prohibited to have operations which exploits children or put vulnerable children into danger. This is very important.

by Maria Veneke Ylikomi, Globcal International Goodwill Ambassador
Ambassador Maria Veneke is a global advocate for human rights and the environment. She specializes in scheduling International Observances and promotes global citizenship. Maria has been a Globcal International Goodwill Ambassador since 2013 in Sweden, in 2015 she has begun traveling to third-world and underdeveloped states as a global citizen.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ambassador Sean Penn wins the 2012 Nobel Peace Summit Award

Sean Penn gets Peace Prize

(AP) 26 April 2012 - Sean Penn gave an emotional speech Wednesday as he accepted an award from a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates for his humanitarian work in Haiti, urging the world community to help the earthquake-ravaged country.

Photo: Reuters
"It's an overused phrase I know, but I trust you know its genuine today, I am humbled. I'm trembling and I like it," Penn said after accepting the 2012 Peace Summit Award from former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was joined on stage by the Dalai Lama and former Polish President Lech Walesa.

He used his speech at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to urge the world community to remember Haiti and invest in the country's future and President Michel Martelly, who took office in May 2011.

"We have a very short window to support this team of the Haitian people's choosing," Penn said.

Papers in Penn's hands shook and he became emotional at times during his speech as he described conditions in Haitian refugee camps or told the story of a Haitian police officer who lost his family in the earthquake. Penn also warned that if Haiti fails it could become a harbor for narcotics trafficking and terrorism near the United States.

Penn has become a major player in efforts to rebuild Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation. Penn spends at least half his time in Haiti.

"He actually exchanged his home in Malibu for a tent," Udo Janz, United Nations high Commissioner for Refugees, said when he introduced Penn to accept the award. "Think of it as the Oscar for your humanitarian commitment Sean." - Associated Press

See photos of Sean Penn and other Nobel prize laureates present at the summit.

Sean Penn urges more aid for Haiti

CHICAGO — (AFP) Actor and activist Sean Penn urged more aid for Haiti as it struggles with the "enormous task" of recovering from the devastating 2010 quake.

"It would take a poet laureate to describe for you the courage and the dignity of (Haiti's) people," Penn said on Wednesday, after accepting an award at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates for his humanitarian work in Haiti.

"There are no people on earth more willing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps," Penn said.

"But as Dr. Martin Luther King said, it's fine to tell a man to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, but evil to tell a man to do so without boots."

The situation for many Haitians remains horrific more than two years after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake that flattened large parts of Port-au-Prince and damaged much of the south of the country, Penn said.

"Take a look at Cite Soleil some time, where 240,000 Haitians -- men, women and children -- following every light rain, sleep in a black water solution of sewage and toxins, garbage and pigs," Penn said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"Where rape and gun violence are a daily occurrence."

The magnitude 7.0 quake killed 250,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. According to UN figures, the quake killed, injured or displaced one in six of the Caribbean nation's entire population of almost 10 million.

Penn, who has been named Ambassador at Large for Haiti, expressed confidence in Haitian President Michel Martelly, who is trying to ramp up stalled reconstruction efforts.

"We have four years to solidify the seeding of institutions that can create sustainable democratic solutions. Four years that without a reinvigorated surge of support will leave the people's will up for grabs," Penn said.

"It's quite a task, but a doable one with investments in agriculture education, health care, housing, clean water and recognizing it's a country of nine million people, but it's also only nine million people."

Designated prime minister Laurent Lamothe told AFP last month that his country was seeking another $12 billion in aid.

But the head of the UN mission to Haiti has said that the political situation there remains "fragile" and that delays in forming a new government are hindering the recovery and economic development.

"Every time that Haiti is without a government, a prime minister and cabinet... violence and the feeling of lack of security grow," Mariano Fernandez, head of the MINUSTAH peacekeeping force, said in March.

Even before the earthquake Haiti was the poorest country in the Americas.

Penn insisted that failure is not an option and that the United States has a vested interest in Haiti's success.

"There is the human cost of poverty," Penn said.

"But if that on its own is not compelling, note that increased instability that attrition may bring to a Caribbean island (nation) an hour and half off our shores would be an open invitation to a new explosion of narco-trafficking, terrorist influences and paramilitaries." Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

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