"Dispatches from Europe" Blog Contest

Are you planning on traveleling to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blogs

The third Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class traveled to the Arctic Circle in summer 2014. Check out their blog entries from this summer!

Ringing the Bells at the Banner of Peace

Landscape Architecture Doctoral candidate Caroline Wisler reflects on her travels to Bulgaria.

Zach Grotovsky's Summer 2013: 14 Cities, 15 Weeks, One Long Adventure

University of Illinois graduate student in Germanic Literatures and Languages Zach Grotovsky documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe in the summer of 2013.

Polar Bears

The Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class spotted polar bears in Norway!

Peaceful Opposition in Izmir

MAEUS student Levi Armlovich describes his experiences with the protests in Izmir, Turkey.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Discourse Surrounding the Final Declaration of the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference

Semantics played an important role in the Draft Declaration of the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference. It is evident that this becomes problematic when trying to create discourse or legislation when definitions vary across NGOs. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) present at the Conference collectively focus on a vast array of issues – Eradication of Poverty, Child Mortality, Population, Women’s Education, Sustainability, Nuclear Disarmament, Global Health, etc. – which are in turn influenced by these vast array of issues.

For example, the image below shows that ‘development’ means very different things to many different NGOs.
This is a specific example of where it becomes problematic in having meaningful dialogue or in creating legislation that centers on development.  In fact, according to Aram Ziai of Vienna University, any intervention can be called development as long as it is “a non-political intervention in the name of the common good, is based on expert knowledge, and is located in the global South.” While broad, it is also quite exclusive in that it alienates ‘development’ simply in the global North. Ziai asserts that, “NGOs should be clear about whether they are working for justice and solidarity or for economic growth and industrialization – and avoid the catch-all term ‘development.’” Ziai goes on to further state that, “NGOs should break up the consensus that all ‘development’ organisations are working for the same objective.” This not only applies to the term ‘development,’ but to any other issue NGOs choose to tackle.

In terms of the Conference, semantics were at the center of the Plenary Session of the Final Discussion on the Conference Declaration. For example, a delegate asserted that the term ‘gender and social equity’ is commonly referred to as ‘social and gender equality’ today and this change should be reflected in the Declaration. Another delegate pointed out that a phrase made it sound like “sustainable development should be the ‘only’ form of development.” He stated that this only “shoots us in the foot.” Vagueness was also a problem. For instance, the draft Declaration states, “support the role and important needs” and then a delegate argued that it was too vague because what is an important role and how do we support it? This discussion continued for an hour where delegates debated how specificity, in terms of words and description, can either hurt or help other’s goals. It was also stated that, “within the language is the problem of using a Eurocentric language and does not reflect a ‘united nations.’”

Suggestions for changes in the Draft Declaration were made not only during the hour session, but other roundtables, workshops, and communication via email as well. It is also important to note that work on the Draft Declaration took place a month before the Conference even convened. It is difficult to determine the exact reasons for each change in the Draft Declaration. However, it is evident that most suggestions at the Plenary Session reflected the perceptions of the poor or vague use of language. The Final Declaration can be seen here.  

What are your thoughts on the Final Declaration? Do you think it balances effectively between being specific, yet broad? Do you think it uses Eurocentric language? Do you think it provides meaningful dialogue for the Rio+20 Conference? After seeing the amount of time, scrutiny, discourse, and revision surrounding the construction of the Final Declaration, I believe the NGOs, Youth Sub-Committee, and Department of Information constructed an influential, operative Declaration invaluable to the Rio+20 Conference. Yes, individual words and phrases will continue to be scrutinized in the Declaration; however, it provides an essential and carefully balanced framework from those who understand that “The future does not belong to those who are content with today.”1

Alexandra Lively attended the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn, Germany as a UN Delegate. She is a first-year MA student in European Union Studies and an EU Center FLAS fellow. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Advertising at UIUC, with a double minor in Business and Communications. She graduated with High Honors and as an Edmund J. James Scholar. Her research interests include telecommunications, consumerism and trade within the EU.

1 Quote from Felix Dodds, Chair of the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference, during the Closing Ceremony. 


The Road to Rio: The 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference

The 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference was held in Bonn, Germany September 3-5. This year’s theme was “Sustainable Societies; Responsive Citizens” and revolved around citizen and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) involvement in creating and maintaining various aspects of sustainable societies for the benefit of mankind and the planet. The Conference served as a major NGO preparatory meeting for the Rio+20 Conference.

The Rio+20 Conference (June 4-6, 2012) is an event that marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.1 Objectives of the Rio+20 Conference are to focus on “a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.”2 Rio+20 is of particular importance due to the presence of Heads of State and Government that will ultimately lead to the construction of a formal political document.

The 2011 UN Conference resulted in the valuable construction of the Declaration of the 64th Conference. The Final Declaration was a collaboration between NGOs and the UN that aims to provide pertinent information to the preparatory process of Rio+20.

While the Conference addressed important issues related to environmental sustainability, green manufacturing and commerce, transparent governance, grassroots activism, and limiting personal carbon footprints, there was also a major focus on youth participation in recognition of the United Nations International Year of Youth (August 2010 – August 2011).

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels.”  This is exactly what happened at the Conference. Regarded as “moral stakeholders” of sustainable development, youths were primary contributors at the 64th Annual UN Conference.

In addition to attending and participating in the roundtable discussions, workshops, and interactive dialogues, there were various youth activities such as excursions, youth led breakfast sessions, youth centered workshops, networking opportunities, and even a pub crawl. While the commentary from youth was an integral part of the Conference, their role in influencing the Conference Declaration was even more important. The Youth Sub-Committee, compromised of representatives aged 18-24, collaborated tirelessly throughout the three days to ensure that the Declaration empowered youth and provided a useful platform for youth in the Rio+20 agenda.

There is also a TakingItGlobal European Youth Forum where youth, educators, and NGOs in the UK, Italy, France, Norway, and the Netherlands are meeting to form recommendations for the Rio+20 Conference. The forum began on October 4th in Oslo, Norway and continued through October 21st in London, Paris, Milan, and Amsterdam. Youth participation, media, and contributions at the 64th Annual UN Conference can be found here.

In addition to the Conference and Forum, there are numerous preparatory events occurring each month across the globe leading up to Rio+20. Youths have the opportunity to participate, whether through attending events, volunteering, media participation, or submission of their ideas regardless of their affiliation with the United Nations or NGOs.  More information on getting involved with the Rio+20 Conference can be found here. 

Alexandra Lively attended the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn, Germany as a UN Delegate. She is a first-year MA student in European Union Studies and an EU Center FLAS fellow. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Advertising at UIUC, with a double minor in Business and Communications. She graduated with High Honors and as an Edmund J. James Scholar. Her research interests include telecommunications, consumerism and trade within the EU.


Monday, November 14, 2011

International Business Immersion Program Concludes

IBIP, a program co-sponsored by the European Union Center including participation by EUC Director Bryan Endres, concluded its 2011 trip in October. Read the brief news article about the program below or on the Office of International Programs Monthly Newsletter.

The 2011 International Business Immersion Program (IBIP) concluded on October 6, 2011, as the 24 participants, divided into six groups, premiered their final video projects about their research findings on the European food and agribusiness industry. Since 2001, the IBIP experience has allowed students to gain an international perspective and network to build on for future study abroad experiences, internships, and careers. This year's theme was "Firm, Channel, and Industry Dynamics within the European Agri-Food Sector" and featured a visit to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The topics of this year's final video projects included sustainable cocoa, free range chicken, canola oil, and a comparison of the European and U.S. recycling industries.

Reflecting on the experience, participant Elizabeth Steger, a Finance in Agribusiness major in ACES set to graduate in spring 2012, says, “After participating in this trip I am very interested in having the opportunity to visit other countries for work, or even live abroad for a period of time for a career. I think this trip gives us a great advantage due to the knowledge and experience we have gained academically, personally, and professionally.” For more information on IBIP, visit the program's website.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Austria-Illinois Change through Exchange Conference

On October 27 and 28, the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program celebrated its 40th year of scholarly exchange between the University of Illinois and colleges and universities in Austria.

The conference's welcome address was delivered by Wolfgang Schlör, Interim Associate Provost for International Affairs; Barbara Sporn, Vice Rector, Research, International Affairs, and External Relations, Vienna University of Economics and Business; and Bruce Murray, Professor, Germanic Languages and Literatures, AIEP Director. View the video below or by clicking here.

Austrian Consul General Thomas Schnöll followed the opening remarks with a lecture entitled, "Transatlantic Relations – Prospects for Advancing Cooperation." Schnöll spoke on the importance of mutual understanding in building the foundation of international cooperation between the US and EU. View the video below or by clicking here.

A panel discussion entitled, "Academic Exchange in the Humanities: Historical Foundations, Current Initiatives, and Transatlantic/Global Perspectives" followed. View the video below or by clicking here.

After a concert and lecture in the evening, the conference recommenced the following morning with a documentary and lecture delivered by noted Austrian author Josef Haslinger entitled "Narrating Integration: One Story at a Time." The lecture is available below or by clicking here. You can also watch the documentary (in German, only!) here: Nachtasyl: Heimat der Heimatlosen.

For more information on the Change through Exchange Conference, view the conference webpage. If you would like to learn more about the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program, visit the AIEP site.

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