UNESCO International Forum of NGOs

4th International Forum of NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO
UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
June 29-30, 2015

Global poverty has been reduced in recent years, but inequalities among regions, groups and individuals remain. Poverty is not only a financial issue but also multidimensional and results in social, economic and political exclusion.

Why talk about the role of women in fighting poverty? Why debate the role of women rather than the role of women and men? The answer is that women are disproportionately hit by poverty in comparison to men. The concept “the feminization of poverty” comprises three dimensions; 70 % of the world’s poor are women; the majority of the group of people living in extreme poverty (less than 1 dollar/day) are women and the number of poor women is increasing disproportionately compared to the number of poor men.

Of the 780 million illiterate people in the world, two thirds are women. Moreover, women constitute 70 % of the world’s total workforce, produce 60 % of the world’s food but earn only 10 % of the total income and own less than 1 % of property.

In many parts of the world, women suffer discrimination because of their gender in multiple ways, including little or no education, insufficient health care, domestic and sexual violence and low salaries or difficulties finding and keeping jobs.

The year of 1975, International Women’s year, was a landmark in women’s history as it was followed by the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985), the creation of the Commission of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979 as well as the International conferences of Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).

This year marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the beginning of the Post 2015 Agenda of Sustainable Development. It is also the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Conference and the 59th Commission of the Status of Women.

The 4th International Forum of NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on June 29- 30th 2015. With approximately 300 participants from NGOs from all over the world, the goal of the Forum was to review the progress that has been made in the field of women and poverty. IFMSA had three representatives from different countries: Michalina Drejza (IFMSA SCORA Director), Arthur Mello (IFMSA LO Public Health Issues) and Emelie Looft (IFMSA- Sweden LPO).

The Forum was hosted by Mr Eric Falt, UNESCO Assistant Director- General for External Relations and Public Information and Ms Martine Levy, Chairperson of the International Conference of NGOs in the UNESCO NGOs Liaison Committee. During two intense days, the participants were presented with data and hard facts from the different regions of the world on the current situation and the progress that has been made. The participants also had the opportunity to listen to testimonials from the different NGOs and get an insight in how they work. There were also thematic sessions and panel discussions debating the NGOs best practices to fight poverty.

The Forum discussed how women can drive poverty eradication by utilising their capacities that in many parts of the world are being undermined. The United Nations have estimated that if women would be given the same access to land, fertilizers, water and crops for food production, more than 100 million people would be lifted out of hunger.

Education was also discussed at length since it is widely regarded as the one key element to eradicate poverty. Education for women has many benefits; it reduces the birth rate, maternal mortality rate and the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as improves conditions for the whole family since educated women will have a better chance to provide for their families. As Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world”.

Women constitute the majority of the informal economy and globally women do the vast majority of unpaid work in the house. This work is not recognized or acknowledged, still many economies would fall apart without it. According to reports the unpaid housework in many societies constitutes about 30- 50% of BNP. This is problematic for women since this means that most women have two jobs; paid and unpaid. In the end democracy starts at home, with treating girls and boys the same and giving them the same opportunities.

Moreover, the Forum also discussed that empowerment and leadership goes hand in hand and the importance of women being involved in decision making. “When you seclude half the population of peace negotiations you can’t be surprised that they are not sustainable” says Ms Frederique Bedos, journalist.

IFMSA has been working on Women’s empowerment and gender equality especially embracing all actions during International Women’s Day celebrations. A new program on Gender Based Violence will be up for adoption during our next August Meeting 2015 in Macedonia. If adopted, we will be targeting Violence against women and Gender Inequalities, gathering empowerment actions and cooperating with other organizations working on ending women’s poverty.

Entry written by Emelie Looft (IFMSA-Sweden), Michalina Drejza (IFMSA SCORA Director) and Diogo Martins (IFMSA Liaison Officer to UNESCO)


IFMSA @ UNESCO 10th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics & Health Law!

UNESCO_1The UNESCO 10th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics & Health Law was held last week in snowy Jerusalem, Israel. The conference included a diverse array of sessions addressing different ethical and legal issues (the full program is available here). The IFMSA delegation to the conference included Deborah Hall (AMSA-USA) and Elizabeth Wiley (IFMSA Supervising Council, AMSA-USA).

The Opening Session, chaired by Prof. Amnon Carmi, featured Dr. Xavier Deau, President of the World Medical Association (WMA), speaking on “The ethical side of Health Technology Assessment (HTA).” Among the many issues Dr. Deau addressed during his opening remarks and presentation, he emphasized that “human values should always prevail over financial considerations.”

During the conference, Liz and Deb presented on the potential implications of trade agreements on health in a session titled, “Negotiating Away Health? Legal and Ethical Implications of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) with several IFMSA and WMA Junior Doctors Network co-authors. TPP and TTIP negotiations currently include forty countries representing more than half of the global gross domestic product (GDP), although these agreements will likely serve as a model for all future trade agreements globally. The presentation emphasized the many ways that this new generation of trade agreements may reshape health, health care, medical education and the social determinants of health including:

  • Undermining evidence-based public health laws and regulations
  • Reducing access to medicines through stringent intellectual property (IP) provisions
  • Increasing commercialization of higher education including medical education
  • Increasing commercialization of health care services
  • Compromising environmental protection and efforts to curb climate change

Of particular concern is the secrecy surrounding current negotiations; the lack of transparency is not consistent with democratic principles. The presentation invited discussion among audience members and can be found here.

Many conference sessions addressed different facets of bioethics, medical ethics and health law education relevant to medical students and junior doctors. Highlights included:

  • Quality improvement and quality assurance in medical education (systems-based improvements, root cause analysis);
  • Conflict of interest in medical education – balancing high ethical standards in a corporate-dominated learning environment;
  • Teaching the history of medical ethics to develop ethical decision-making frameworks among trainees;
  • Strategies used by pharmaceutical manufacturers to circumvent direct-to-consumer advertising regulations in Israel;
  • Ethical issues surrounding deportation of sick undocumented immigrants;
  • Integrating different learning theories including problem-based learning and adult education theory into medical ethics training;
  • Importance of cultural and contextual considerations in medical ethics education;
  • Ethical dimensions of end-of-life care and decision-making;
  • Substance abuse, addiction and preparing trainees to effectively manage pain (combatting “opiophobia”)
  • Ethical issues surrounding reproductive decision-making and assisted reproductive technology
  • Use of media and social media in bioethics and medical ethics training

Dr. Peteris Apinis, President of the Latvian Medical Association and Editor of the World Medical Journal, presented on medical ethics in post-USSR Eastern Europe in a session titled, “Some of the Medical Ethical Aspects of Eastern Europe After the Collapse of the USSR.” Dr. Apinis highlighted some of the challenges which emerged following the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent economic crisis including reliance on foreign aid for medical supplies and equipment, clinical drug trials, profit-driven prescribing by physicians and use of the sick role for secondary gain (social benefits). He also addressed the migration of physicians from Eastern to Western Europe following the USSR collapse – a trend which is now improving. Finally, he spoke about some of the emerging concerns around accuracy and quality of information posted by physicians on social media.

The next 11th UNESCO World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law Conference will be 20-22 October 2015 in Naples, Italy. This is a great opportunity for IFMSA members to present and engage in discussions around bioethics, medical ethics and health law. If you have questions about the conference or the process of submitting an abstract based on this year’s experience, please do not hesitate to contact Liz (elizabeth.wiley.md@gmail.com) or Deb (pres.elect@amsa.org) or, of course, Diogo Martins, LO-UNESCO (lunesco@ifmsa.org).

Finally, special thanks to Prof. Amnon Carmi, President, UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, for his support for IFMSA participation at this year’s conference.

IFMSA at UNESCO International Conference of NGOs

Today, we as an IFMSA delegation are joining the UNESCO International Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations. The delegation is composed of Diogo Martins (IFMSA LO UNESCO & Head of Delegation), Lucas Scherdel (Medsin-UK), Luiza Bastos (IFMSA SCORE Director), Mouna Hentati (Associamed-Tunisia), Murat Aksoy (TurkMSIC-Turkey), and Nitchakorn Tangsathapornpanich (IFMSA-Thailand).

About the Conferenceimage.jpeg
It is a key forum in which UNESCO’s official NGO partners to meet and hold discussions, with its primary purpose being to “review the state of cooperation with UNESCO […] and facilitate cooperation between organisations having common interests”. The 2014 Conference will focus on the theme “Re-enchanting the World with the Post-2015 Development Agenda” and will be organised around the following four sub-themes:

  • “The involvement of NGOs for the promotion of Quality Education in the Post-2015 Agenda”
  • “Water and Sustainable Development: From Awareness-Raising to Decision-Making”
  • “Enhancing Cultural Heritage and Fostering the Diversity of Cultural Expression”
  • “Climate Change: Acting Now”

Our Work
First day of the conference, Mr. Eric Falt (Unesco Assistant-Director for External Relations and Public Information) and Mr. Patrick Gallaud (Chairperson of the International Conference) made an official opening speech which implicated the importance of collaboration within UNESCO. As an introductory lecture, Mr. Gilles Van der Pooten (Director of Reporters of Hope) stressed the importance of media as a tool for UNESCO’s partner campaigns. Then, the agenda of the conference was adopted and the liaison committee presented their 2012-2014 financial and activity reports.

As a delegation, we listened to the presentations of the candidatures, taking careful note of the representation of the priorities of IFMSA. After all candidatures were given, we joined the social event of the conference organised by UNESCO and met with some fellow inspiring NGOs.

As the conference moves on, IFMSA will work to raise the profile of youth in this important inter-cultural process. Diogo Martins, delegation leader, gave an intervention about the use of social media in inclusion of youth and there is a general buzz amongst NGOs about a move towards a greater and more representative voice of youth.

Tomorrow, we hope to liaise with other youth actors within the UNESCO system to present a joint statement on the role and value of youth in the UNESCO process. For now, we anticipate a positive and involved response!