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(FROM LEHIGH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND STAFF)

REPRESENTING LEHIGH UNIVERSITY AT UNITED NATIONS ON TWO CONVENTIONS
June 15, 2009

Ameya Marathe

I was fortunate to get an opportunity to represent Lehigh University at United Nations on two conventions held by UN’s Department of Public Information for Non-Governmental Organizations.

The first convention (which also was my first visit to UN) was held on topic of Nuclear Disarmament. Many eminent people were present in the audience as well as very high level dignitaries were present as speakers which included Daniel Prins- Chief of Conventional Arms Branch at UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, Frida Berrigan- Senior Program Associate, Arms and Security Initiative, New America Foundation and Rhianna Tyson- Senior Officer of Global Security Institute. The discussion mainly revolved around why countries are into nuclear arms race, how countries are aiming to achieve it to dominate the world and what could be done to prevent such a catastrophe. The discussion was very rich in its understanding and various diverse views were shared. UN is playing an outstanding role especially by wielding soft power to curb nuclear arms proliferation. It was interesting to see how everything in this world is tied in together and that we (like it or not) are a part of this web of life. Countries can’t insulate each other from each other’s impact and influence. One country with nuclear power is enough to make its neighboring countries wary and make them go nuclear too.

The second convention was about Human Disability. It was another marvelous day at UN with some outstanding panel of speakers. The discussion was about disabled human beings (which included both the mentally and physically disabled) being discriminated all over the world and steps taken by UN and other world organizations to overcome such challenges. It was understood from the discussion that it is a humungous task and it starts with data collection from various countries with statics on number of disabled people and their age and gender. It was understood that plight of disabled people in developing and underdeveloped countries is far worse than disabled people in developed world. Maria Martinho of UN statistical Division stated that disable people face more problems in under developed countries especially in regards to education, sanitation, health-care and employment. Some of the challenges faced by UN were getting countries to collect the data in an appropriate manner, improving communication between countries and local NGOs who collect the data and giving technical assistance to countries to pursue this challenge. Dr. Diana Indjov who is the Chairperson of National Council for Integration of people with Disabilities toward Council of Ministers said that there are more than 600 million people with physical and mental disabilities and the most discriminated group in the world is women with disabilities. The discussion was summed up by concluding that the main reason for people being discriminated was not just the handicap but also the poverty and that the disabled people aren’t given enough opportunities to rise above their poor conditions.

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