PEACEMAKING IN 2002
United Nations Association of Minnesota endorses global wellness
by Judy Steele
With every girl we help educate, with every landmine we remove, with every conflict we prevent or peace we keep, with every community we lift out of poverty, and every human wrong we defeat with human rights, we are making progress together. —Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (graduate of Macalester College, St. Paul)
GLOBAL PEACE, ECONOMICS, human rights, humanitarian efforts, international law, health all fall under the aegis of the international organization, the United Nations (U.N.). "The purpose of the United Nations Association," said Arlen Erdahl, president of the United Nations Association of Minnesota (UNA-MN), "is to educate people internationally, to get people to think globally, to think internationally, and at the same time to encourage U.S. support of the United Nations."
UNA-MN's global health chair affected by U.N.
"I grew up in South Africa," said Dr. Anil Mangla, Global Health and Infectious Disease chair for UNA-MN. "When we were growing up, the only hope we knew, the only agency we associated with help, was the United Nations. It was a star in the sky, giving us hope. The country was in turmoil with civil war, government takeover, apartheid, and disease. We grew up knowing there was malaria around, cholera around. We didn't have much else there, but we always knew there was a United Nations and that it could help us. They helped people with disease. They helped people when there was political turmoil. They helped people with peacekeeping."
Mangla continues, "I left home at 15 because of the violence; I lost friends in that time. And the people you could talk to were with the United Nations—the only ones who would listen to you, try to help you. If you were a minority, you couldn't get higher education. But I met a person from the United Nations who suggested, 'You know, you should apply to the United States.' My career started in this country because of a U.N. person who supported me and helped me."
Mangla is currently a research scientist at the University of Minnesota in HIV/AIDS as well as a supervisor in the Clinical Toxicology Department at MedTox Laboratories. "I started studying infectious disease because we grew up with disease, and when HIV started to thrive in Africa, I decided to specialize in HIV. It's been difficult, but I'll give my life to the United Nations because they stood there for me."
Global wellness issues
Since the Global Health Initiative is one of UNA-MN's projects, Dr. Mangla speaks to schools and other groups about infectious disease, especially HIV/AIDS. He said, "When I go to schools, half the kids don't know what the United Nations is. The other half don't really know what it does. We want people to understand what the United Nations stands for—that we're trying to help with peace and health globally. We stand for absolute peace and global well-being."
Some statistics Dr. Mangla presents include: "In 2000, there were 36 million people living with HIV; in 2001 there were 40 million. There is an average of five million new infections per year. One third of the population of Africa is infected. Recently, the new-infection rate has decreased in Africa, but increased in Eastern Europe. There are 15,000 new infections per day overall. The majority of the HIV-positive women are in Africa, because of cultural issues and the extremely high incidence of rape."
"In five years," said Mangla, "HIV will be the No. 1 killer disease the world has ever seen with the highest number of deaths. It will beat the plague and the pneumonia epidemic of the early 1900s. It's pandemic—a global epidemic. The biggest 'red spot' for HIV/AIDS is Africa; the next is the Caribbean. [The Caribbean] is an important location for the United States because it's a vacation spot. And even if you avoid HIV completely, there is tuberculosis, an opportunistic disease associated with HIV. Tuberculosis (TB) is infectious; it's spread by coughing, talking—you can get it from somebody who breathes on you right in the airport. Tuberculosis is a disease with very high incidence in Third World countries. Minnesota has the highest amount of foreign-born TB in the country, mostly in the metro area. So these are global problems, and these are things the United Nations is concerned with."
One earth, one people
Erdahl said, "People tend to think that what happens in a little village in the Congo doesn't make any difference to United States. But it does. Viruses don't need visas. We can have what we think of as an exotic disease in West Africa, and it could be in Hennepin County or back home in Blue Earth, Minnesota tomorrow." Erdahl, who has been a U.S. congressman, Minnesota Secretary of State, country director for the Peace Corps, and executive director of Minnesota International Health Volunteers, continues, "It's in our self-interest to help other countries with their very basic health, because it does affect this country. It helps them to have stability, which is good for everyone, and if we stop disease there perhaps we won't get it here, but we should also do it for humanitarian reasons."
Mangla adds, "You know, it's humanity; it's your fellow being. OK, maybe it's another country, but look at poverty, hunger, wherever it is. The world spent $600 billion on the Y2K bug. With that, we could have eradicated AIDS in the whole world! Do we want to spend all that money on those issues, or do we want to put it into peacemaking, or global wellness, and help these people? These people are starving. Is that our fault? No, it's not our fault, but as a fellow human being, don't you want to help somebody? You know, we're living on one globe—we all have just one home in the universe. A friend just came back from working in Africa for the Peace Corps. She said, 'If you throw a pebble in the ocean, it's not going to lift that ocean. But if a million people throw a million pebbles, it's going to do something.'"
"And what happens in Africa can affect the United States economically," said Mangla. "As an example, the workforce in one African country—people aged 25 to 55—will be reduced by AIDS from 80,000 to 10,000 people by the year 2020. If there is no work force in that country, there's no one to work; what happens to that country's imports? Minnesota is a major exporter to Africa. What happens to Minnesota income if its exports to those countries go down? These issues are very important to the economics of this state."
As for the U.N. mission of forging peace, Erdahl said, "The recent terrorist attacks underscore the need for the United States to work in concert with other nations. The best vehicle and organization to implement this cooperation remains the United Nations. The world now needs the United Nations as never before in our recent history." Asked whether he saw a connection between health in developing countries and peace, he said, "There's a very direct connection. For example, life expectancy in Uganda is down to 38 years. When you have the teachers and the workers dying, you have a disrupted system, you have effects on poverty; all these millions of AIDS orphans now living in Africa creates desperation. We need to remember that peace is not just the absence of war; it's the absence of things that bring about war—injustice, disease, poverty, and hopelessness. And this is why the young men get angry and start fighting. Health leads to stability which in turn makes for a more peaceful world. We've got a long way to go."
UNA-MN activities and contacts
The United Nations Association of Minnesota (UNA-MN), with over 700 members, works on a local and regional level to promote the principles and goals of the United Nations. It is an affiliate of the United Nations Association of the U.S.A. (UNA-USA), a national organization that supports the work of the United Nations and "encourages active civic participation in the most important social and economic issues facing the world today. UNA-USA offers each and every American the opportunity to connect with the critical issues confronted by the United Nations—from global health and human rights, to the spread of democracy, equitable development, and international justice." (William Luers, President of UNA-USA). UNA traces its history to a citizen-based group led by Eleanor Roosevelt that was established in 1943 to support the United Nations.
UNA-MN sponsors and co-sponsors events such as a CCTV hookup of Kofi Annan's talk in Minneapolis last year; Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and now U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, was also a speaker here at the International Town Hall Forum on Our Global Future. The very active UNA-MN Education Committee is developing "educating for peace" curricula for schools and sponsoring special events supporting the United Nations on campuses. Speakers are available to schools and groups at little or no cost. UNA-MN website (including membership form): www.unamn.org; firstname.lastname@example.org; 2104 Stevens Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55404; phone 612-879-7512.
Judy Steele is a teacher, writer and consultant specializing in effective mind/body/spirit approaches to life and work. www.schoolforliving.org, e-mail email@example.com. 612-929-0489 (Minneapolis MN).
Other area organizations promoting human rights and global governance
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
310 Fourth Avenue South, #1000, Minneapolis, MN 55415-1012
612-341-3302; Fax: 612-341-2971
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights works locally, nationally, and internationally to promote and protect universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. Minnesota Advocates documents human rights abuses, advocates on behalf of individual victims, educates communities on human rights issues, and provides training and technical assistance to prevent human rights violations.
Contact: Lynn Thomas, Executive Director, 612.341.3302.
United Nations Rally Board
Jeanne Thomas (president), 2104 Stevens Ave. S., 2nd floor, Minneapolis, MN 55404
The United Nations Rally Board seeks to promote understanding of and support for the United Nations; to organize annually a Rally with the United Nations as its
subject, co-sponsored with the United Nations of Minnesota.
Other contact: Mary Mantis, Council Delegate, 651-644-1156.
University of Minnesota Human Rights Center
229 19th Avenue South, N-120 Mondale Hill, Minneapolis, MN 55455
612-626-0041 or toll-free 888-HREDUC8; Fax: 612-625-2011
The University of Minnesota Human Rights Center was inaugurated in December of 1988 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The principal focus of the Human Rights Center is to train effective human rights professionals and volunteers. The Human Rights Center assists human rights advocates, monitors, students, and educators by providing training, internships, materials, and electronic resources and networks.
Contact: Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, Co-Director and Council Delegate, 612-626-7794.
World Federalist Association, Minnesota Chapter
5145 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55417
WFA's principal aim is to replace the law of force at the global level by the force of law through a system of global governance in which individual nations yield to global authorities power to deal with problems that they can no longer handle adequately by themselves, but retain control over all other matters.
Contacts: Joe Schwartzberg, Council Delegate, 651-429-9562, firstname.lastname@example.org; Verlyn Smith, President, 651-636-6544; Call national office, toll-free, 1-800-WFA-0123.
(This article was published in Twin Cities Wellness, April 2002)