MY World in Bhutan: an inspiration to become active citizens and volunteer

Text and photos by UNV/Riikka Suhonen

Riikka Suhonen, from Finland, has served as international UN Volunteer in Bhutan, advocating for the recognition of volunteerism as a vital component of the Post-2015 development agenda and its implementation mechanisms. As part of her assignment, Riikka organized an advocacy campaign on youth volunteerism for Post-2015 with support from UNDP Bhutan and the Bhutan UN Resident Coordinator’s Unit. From May to June 2014, the campaign raised awareness on the UN and the Post-2015 process among young Bhutanese and promoted youth volunteerism for development in Bhutan.

Yonten, student at the Royal Thimphu College, collecting MY World votes from fellow students.
Yonten, student at the Royal Thimphu College, collecting MY World votes from fellow students.

“MY World proved to be a good way to introduce the theme of Post-2015 to young Bhutanese and to connect it with volunteerism as a way to become active citizens”, says Riikka. “In ten days, our two-member team visited three secondary schools, three colleges and one vocational institute covering five districts in Central and Eastern Bhutan”, she adds. “Students, particularly those involved in volunteering clubs such as scouting, environmental, or social service clubs, were invited to join our interactive workshops. The Royal University of Bhutan and a local NGO, the Tarayana Foundation, helped to connect with teachers in these different schools and institutes”.

After filling out the ballot, participants were asked to select their top priority –“good education”, for the majority – and think about how they as volunteers could help address that priority. “Student volunteers came up with very diverse ways to address the development priorities they had identified, such as helping elderly or children with less financial means, giving free tuition classes, planting trees and disposing waste properly, educating people, promoting organic farming, and solving problems by taking collective action together. For college students, we also explained how the MY World survey works and encouraged them to gather more votes from their community”, Riikka explains.

Kencho Dorji, 22, Bhutanese youth volunteer who co-facilitated the workshops of the Post-2015 advocacy tour, and Wangdi Phuntsho, 22, one of the active volunteers for the MY World campaign in Bhutan.
Kencho Dorji, 22, Bhutanese youth volunteer who co-facilitated the workshops of the Post-2015 advocacy tour, and Wangdi Phuntsho, 22, one of the active volunteers for the MY World campaign in Bhutan.

Wangdi Phuntsho, 22, was one of the active volunteers who coordinated the collection of MY World votes in his college, the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies in Taktse. After the post-2015 workshop in the college, seven student volunteers reached out to different people in the village – friends, neighbours, monks and shopkeepers – to involve them in this global discussion on people’s development priorities.

Wangdi believes that MY World is a good way to raise awareness on the work of the United Nations and on the sustainable development goals, although it requires special efforts to be communicated, for example, to illiterate people.

“I feel that the MY World survey gives an opportunity to people to share their views on development challenges and potential solutions. People expressed their gratitude for getting the chance to have their say through such an important survey. Also, decision-makers can better understand the real scenario at the grassroots level and plan accordingly”, Wangdi explains.

After this experience, Wangdi was even more motivated to volunteer. “MY World creates the space for youth volunteers to realize their roles in a rapidly changing world. We got to understand and feel the pain of local people as we interacted with them. It really inspired us to volunteer and help finding solutions for the difficulties faced by our community”, he notes.

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Leaders at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) vote for a better world

My world 3gfThe Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Millennium Campaign organized a Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) MY World vote in Copenhagen on 20-21 October 2014 to raise awareness and build synergy between 3GF and the post-2015 agenda.

MY World is the UN global survey for a better world. The survey will gather people’s voices up to 2015 and the results will be shared with the UN Secretary-General and global leaders as they negotiate the new global agenda to address extreme poverty and preserve our planet.

Mogens Jensen, Danish Minister of Trade and Development, kicked off voting and expressed a strong message of hope: “We WILL be able, in the next 15 years, to totally eradicate extreme poverty.”

Hundreds of green growth and sustainability leaders at 3GF welcomed this unique opportunity to have their say at the UN and share what kind of world they want in the future. The top 3GF priorities are:

  1. Action taken on climate change
  2. A good education
  3. Access to clean water and sanitation
  4. An honest and responsive government
  5. Protecting forests, rivers and oceans

See full vote results. Watch event videos & interviews and check out photos. Thanks for having your say for a better world!

Humans of MY World – Sharing the Stories Behind the Global Survey

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After traveling to 15 countries across 5 continents, Humans of MY World (HOMY) returned to New York to share MY World stories with the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014. The UN Millennium Campaign distributing postcards with HOMY images and stories. Several events also showcased large-scale Humans of MY World prints.

A photo-narrative project launched in April 2014 by the UN Millennium Campaign, HOMY aims to highlight a variety of personal stories from participants of the MY World Global Survey. MY World voters share the rationale and stories for choosing their top priorities – the personal experiences and philosophies which led them to select their priorities for a better world.

“Humans of MY World is a powerful reminder of what global development is truly about: improving the daily lives of individual people around the globe. Humans of MY World brings further life and nuance to the groundbreaking data being collected by the MY World 2015 campaign,” said UN Millennium Campaign director, Corinne Woods. ​

Their travels have thus far taken them to Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Kosovo, Turkey, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Rwanda and Iceland. The cultivation of the content has been supported by a number of UN Country Offices, as well as UNHCR and UNDP.

In mid-October, HOMY began a partnership with UNHCR Rwanda to capture stories in Rwanda from two of their refugee camps there: Gihembe (population 15,284) and Mugombwa (population 6,850). HOMY now has nearly 30,000 Facebook followers and newspapers, magazines, and radio programs have featured the project. You can see the growing collection of HOMY interviews on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/HOMY2015

“UNMC is working hard to amplify citizen voices in new and innovative ways,” commented William Moore, UNMC consultant and HOMY photographer and co-founder.  “HOMY is just one part of that movement, but it is an important means of upholding our focus on the power of stories, and the wisdom of the human individual.”

HOMY also launched a 6-week exhibition at a popular coffee shop, Pennylane coffeehouse, located near the UN Headquarters in New York at 305 E 45th St. The exhibition lasts until November, so be sure to check it out if you are in the neighborhood!

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An Honest and Responsive Government – the Role of Citizen Voice

Blog by Caya Johnson, Global Youth Advocate

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“Throughout history, progress has always been driven by citizens, who have the courage to raise their voices” – US President Barack Obama, Open Government Partnership Side-Event, 24 Sept. 2014

By empowering people around the world to have their priorities heard at the UN, the MY World 2015 Global survey has enabled a more transparent and accountable international development process – so perhaps it is unsurprising that these people have a similar aspiration for the openness and accountability of their own governments.  Out of the 16 MY World priorities, “An Honest and Responsive Government” is the 4th most voted for worldwide.

Disaggregated MY World Results on “An Honest and Responsive Governance”
Low HDI Governance

Furthermore, the MY World survey indicates that in low-HDI countries people feel that governance has a very real impact on their lives.  In these countries an honest and responsive government is the 2nd most voted for priority on average, indicating that governance and poverty are indeed linked. This linkage is backed up by research carried out by Transparency International showing a clear connection between poor governance and poverty.

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MY Green World Open Consultation

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On September 21st, the largest climate change mobilization in history took place; over 750,000 people around the world – including a staggering 400,000 in New York – marched for action on climate change. The march served as a platform to showcase the high level of activism from global citizens on this issue ahead of the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit.
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The Climate Summit, a special conference ahead of the 69th General Assembly, gathered world leaders to announce ambitious climate change actions and goals on behalf of the governments they represented. Also in attendance were leaders from the private sector. “We are not here to talk. We are here to make history,” announced Mr. Ban Ki-moon in the opening ceremony. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands spoke soon after on behalf of civil society about the threats facing people worldwide. She was selected from a pool of 544 people from 115 countries through an open process effort by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.  Her moving and riveting poem caused everyone in attendance to give a standing ovation.

The weeks following these events have left many to ponder: “What is next?” Many citizens are working at the national level to influence countries to make ambitious commitments towards a new legally binding global climate change agreement, to be reached in late 2015 in Paris.
 
Climate change has been acknowledged as a key cross-cutting issue which links with almost all other development issues. The MY World Survey with over 5 million voters shows that major development challenges impacted by climate change –  A Better Education, Better Health Care and Better Job Opportunities – are all top priorities for people international. 
A MY World Survey inspiration called MY Green World is currently in development in order to engage citizens in climate change solutions at the local, national and global levels. As Corinne Woods, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign described recently in an Opinion Piece published in the Huffington Post Climate Change series, “our goal is to speak to as many people as we can, because when people get together and speak their minds, they can make a difference. They can influence leaders to make bold moves.”
 
To ensure an inclusive and transparent approach to the survey, an open online consultation was launched through the World We Want 2015 platform. Corinne Woods emphasized the goal of MY Green World in her Op-Ed noting the survey’s goal to “focus minds on possibilities, suggest solutions and give a sense of what could be achieved.”
In the pursuit of a comprehensive and effective post-2015 agenda and a global climate change agreement, the first round of consultations to support the building of MY Green World–a MYWorld spin-off survey aimed to gather citizen perceptions of climate change solutions and popular support for government-led initiatives.  The goal is to provide governments and world leaders with perceptions data to support their negotiations on climate change solutions from the Climate Summit on through COP 21, Paris.
 
Additional information regarding MY Green World’s open consultation can be found in recent ISSD news. Concerned citizens are urged to join the consultation and share their voices ahead of its launch at COP 20 in Peru, December 2014.
 

Vote and volunteer: VIO Network Engages Kenyan youth

Youth Engaged in a Discussion while Filling Out the My World Paper Ballo...KENYA

The VIO Network Kenya, which gathers nearly 20 volunteer organizations across the country, actively rolled out the MY World survey during the International Youth Day (IYD) 2014. Member organizations took part in the celebrations at the United Nations Office and Kenyatta International Conference Center in Nairobi, where they were involved in discussions on volunteerism for development and in particular on the inclusion of youth priorities in the post-2015 agenda.

The youth participating in the events, mostly enrolled in university programs, but also young volunteers and members of youth organizations such as the Organization for African Youth and Youth Agenda, were invited to vote for MY World offline by filling the paper ballot. Around 100 young people voted and all have taken the survey willingly. For us, it was very encouraging to see them discussing amongst each other what was most important for them in the future.

The situation also allowed youth to ask many questions about the possibilities for volunteering and where to find information. As a result, numerous young people showed up to support a clean-up and tree planting activity in a Nairobi neighborhood organized by the county government of Nairobi with our collaboration during the International Youth Week 2014.

Starting from its own country, VIO Kenya will continue to engage governments, partners and other stakeholders in efforts aimed at ensuring universal access to quality services. We are doing this through the promotion of volunteerism, and MY World helps us engaging people in identifying priorities and act on them.

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MY World reaches 5 MILLION votes – The Celebration!

September 25, 2014, NEW YORK

Blog by Caya Johnson, Global Youth Advocate

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THANKS A (FIVE) MILLION TO ALL MY WORLD PARTNERS!

If you were unable to attend, please enjoy the web-stream and picture album of the celebration

_MG_6890The evening of 25th of September during the UN General Assembly week brought together MY World friends from far and near, in person and via live web-stream – and these MY World friends had 5 million reasons to celebrate!

The hard work of dedicated MY World partners brought the voices of 5 MILLION PEOPLE from 194 countries into the United Nations.  MY World has had very extensive support from a range of partners, over 700 organizations, including NGOs, heads of state, faith groups and youth movements who are still currently participating in its roll out and this collective achievement provides the perfect backdrop for a MY World Partner Recognition Event and MY World Award Ceremony which took place in New York during the UN General Assembly week.

This global survey, thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of all is now the largest survey of its kind ever undertaken.

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68th President of General Assembly’s High-Level Stock-taking Event – a participatory approach

Panel“Our work must remain open and transparent so that we hear the voices of all”

            -Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General

September 11, 2014, NEW YORK

Blog by Caya Johnson, Global Youth Advocate

The President of the General Assembly’s High-Level Stock-Taking event on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, held on the 11th and 12th of September in New York, emphasized the need for a participatory, inclusive, and open approach to formulating the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The proceedings of the Stock-Taking event, which marked the end of President of the General Assembly John Ashe’s term, will be incorporated into the Secretary General’s Synthesis Report at the end of November.  The Stock-Taking event also served as a way to pass the post-2015 agenda into the hands of the incoming President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa.

Over the course of the event, panelists, civil society guests, and country representatives stressed the importance of openness, transparency, and citizen involvement in the formulation and adoption of the SDGs.  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that “the ongoing UN system consultations, including MY World, have sought the voices of…millions and millions of people around the world.”

Helen Clark praised the “unprecedented consultation around the world and online” which has allowed people to have their say in the post-2015 development agenda – she noted that “the global MY World Survey enabled many people to be involved.”

Helen Clark Ban Ki-moon

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Celebrating 5 million votes on MY World- the largest survey ever!

5 million voices

THANKS A (FIVE) MILLION!

Thanks to everybody’s outstanding efforts- MY World has hit the 5 million votes mark!

This is a historic achievement which means that millions of people – many for the first time – now can have a say in defining a better world for themselves and their families.

MY World will continue to inform the negotiations about the future development agenda into 2015, and we will continue to ensure everyone´s voice is heard.

See the MY World results by country, gender, level of education and Human Development Index

Thank you!
United Nations Millennium Campaign team

On Thursday, September 25th at 18:30-19:30 EST, watch the MY World Partner Recognition Event and Award Ceremony livestreamed here