#HelpWorthy – Sharing experiences to raise awareness

Student’s mental health has been a hot topic for a while now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuously worsening situation regarding the well-being of Finnish higher education students. Nyyti Ry is a Finnish association supported by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health focusing on the well-being of students and organizing Students’ Mental Health Day annually. This year the campaign around Students’ Mental Health Day revolves around help. We are all worthy of being helped even though it can be difficult to prioritize one’s own well-being when a lot is going on around us in the world and one’s worries may seem small compared to them. By taking part in Nyyti’s campaign, TAYK wants to raise awareness on mental health issues and encourages everyone to take care of themselves and the people close to them as well as aims towards a more free and open discussion about mental health issues and experiences around the theme.

The United Nations has called for action on mental health already at the beginning of the pandemic. According to the UN’s policy brief “COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health” (2020) good mental health is crucial to the functioning of societies. Therefore, for individuals taking care of one’s mental health should be a top priority, too. Good mental health keeps us motivated and helps us believe in ourselves and in our goals as well as gives us hope during unusual times, like the ones we’re living through right now. Moreover, the UN’s policy brief reminds us about the emotional difficulties of people that are exacerbated by social isolation, disrupted education and uncertainty about their futures. As important as it is to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, social distancing can cause feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety in anyone even if these feelings were otherwise new and unfamiliar. Symptoms such as the ones mentioned above should be taken as seriously as COVID-19 or any other illness and treated according to them, without shame whatsoever.

Recent research has shown that at the moment Finnish students suffer especially from feelings of loneliness, exhaustion and stress. Stress is caused, for example, by worry about financial well-being and uncertainty about both the present and the future. According to a survey deducted by the University of Helsinki, sixty percent of students at the University of Helsinki declare being fully exhausted or at the risk of becoming fatigued and exhausted in their studies (Salmela-Aro & Peltonen, 2020). According to Yle, students in Tampere University have felt feelings of insufficiency and meaninglessness more than ever before (Ihalainen, 2020) Ylioppilaslehti-newspaper states that symptoms like these have become more severe during online learning and social distancing (Paananen et al. 2021). The message is clear: Students are in need of help more than ever before.

Even though mental health issues aren’t necessarily considered a taboo in Finland anymore, especially among young people, one may still feel anxious and scared to open up about their thoughts and emotions. The reasons vary, but nevertheless are shared by many of us. Being scared of judgement, reactions from our closed ones, prejudice or the downplay of our feelings are only a few of the reasons why it can be difficult to share experiences about mental health. However, through sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings with other human beings we often notice a weight being lifted from our shoulders. It feels relieving to know we’re not alone with our thoughts. Through sharing our experiences we give ourselves the chance to relieve pain and encourage others to do the same.

According to the website of Nyyti Ry, the goal in the Students’ Mental Health Campaign of the year is to provoke conversation and encourage everyone to support mental well-being (Nyyti Ry 2021). Nyyti reminds us that we’re all in need of help and support sometimes – and there’s nothing to be ashamed of about it. Especially after the events of the previous year, in my opinion it is time to be open about the diversified challenges students are facing at the moment. Change is possible only through action. Collectively we can raise awareness on mental health and mental well-being and tear down barriers that prevent us from seeking the help we are worthy of.

Students’ Mental Health Day is celebrated this year on April 22nd. To read more about Students’ Mental Health day campaign, visit Nyyti Ry’s web page (nyyti.fi). In addition to that, TAYK has also taken a step towards encouraging students and other people to seek help and share their experiences through collecting anonymous stories about mental health related issues. The stories can be found on TAYK’s Instagram account (@tayk_ry).

 

Adeliina Silvola

The writer is TAYK’s Publicist and External Relations Coordinator for the term 2021 and a student of social sciences at Tampere University.

 

Helpful links if You are seeking help online. You are worthy of help. 

In Finnish 

https://www.suomi.fi/kansalaiselle/terveys-ja-sairaanhoito/paihteet-ja-mielenterveys/opas/paihde-ja-mielenterveyspalvelut/apua-mielenterveyden-ongelmissa 

https://www.helsinkimissio.fi/nuorten-kriisipiste 

https://www.nyyti.fi/ 

https://mieli.fi/fi

https://tukinet.net/

https://sekasin247.fi/#sekasin-2 

In English

https://www.suomi.fi/citizen/health-and-medical-care/substance-abuse-and-mental-health/guide/intoxicant-abuse-and-mental-health-services/help-for-mental-health-problems 

https://www.nyyti.fi/en/ 

https://mieli.fi/en 

https://www.mielenterveysseurat.fi/pirkanmaa/in-english/ 

 

Sources:

Ihalainen, S (22.11.2020) Tulevaisuuden lääkärit, opettajat ja toimittajat ovat uupumuksen partaalla – näin etäopiskelu Tampereen yliopistossa sujuu. Yle. From: https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11658730 Read 17.4.2021

Nyyti Ry. N.d. “#HelpWorthy – Students’ Mental Health Day 2021.” From: https://www.nyyti.fi/en/mielenterveyspaiva/. Read 16.4.2021

Paananen, K.; Uusheimo, T.; Somerpuro, V. ( 5.3.2021) Kyynisyys ja uupumus lisääntyneet etäopintojen aikana – Helsingin yliopisto pyrkii lisäämään syksyllä lähiopetusta, vaikka rokotekattavuus olisi riittämätön. Ylioppilaslehti. From: https://ylioppilaslehti.fi/2021/03/kyynisyys-ja-uupumus-lisaantyneet-etaopintojen-aikana-helsingin-yliopisto-pyrkii-lisaamaan-syksyksi-lahiopetusta-vaikka-rokotekattavuus-olisi-riittamaton/  Read 18.4.2021

Salmela-Aro, K. & Peltonen, M. (17.12.2020) Yliopisto-opiskelijoiden hyvinvointi jatkaa laskua. University of Helsinki. From: https://www2.helsinki.fi/fi/uutiset/opetus-ja-opiskelu-yliopistossa/yliopisto-opiskelijoiden-hyvinvointi-jatkaa-laskua Read 18.4.2021

The UN’s Policy Brief on Covid-19 and mental health (2020) [online research material] https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/un_policy_brief-covid_and_mental_health_final.pdf 

 

Pictures and graphics by Nyyti Ry 2o21.

 

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UN success stories and teachings

Tarja Seppä

Tarja Seppä (PhD) is a retiring international relations and peace studies lecturer at Tampere University. She has been a remarkable asset for TAYK, and in her work she has kept themes of our common interest alive in Tampere University. At Tarja’s retirement seminar 25.1.2021, TAYK ry gifted her with immaterial gifts from UNICEF and UN Women and presented her with a Certificate of Gratitude for all she has done for our association. As a final favour, we asked her to write about her memories with TAYK, and experiences teaching UN related matters at the University. TAYK ry wants to thank Tarja for her continuous support, and wishes her all the best in her retirement. 

UN success stories and teachings 

UN peacekeeping website describes how peacekeeping operations usually operate in situations where other actors cannot or are not willing to operate. UN peacekeeping operations can achieve results that otherwise would not be possible. However, success is not guaranteed due to the complexity and difficulty of these situations. 

Sustainable Development Goals have proceeded, for example the World Food Program was granted the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. Eliminating hunger and advancing food security is one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the UN’s charter, the UN has the responsibility of upholding peace and security in the world. These aforementioned factors are connected to peace and security. Some have described the UN as the conscience of the world. That’s actually a pretty accurate definition, as it reflects the  values and goals of the UN. 

However, as the Second Secretary General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld has stated: ”The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell”. 

Often things are hard and complicated, and they don’t always go as planned, but that does not mean that the UN is not working hard to overcome these complex issues. If one tends to think that the UN is not putting any effort to this, that usually means not being familiar with the UN. 

The UN’s mission to uphold international peace and security is beneficial to interpret widely, and when understanding the situation this way, the UN’s mission touches every faculty and degree programme in Tampere University. This can be perceived clearly especially when looking at the Sustainable Development Goals:

Tampere University has committed to sustainable development, and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. However, there is still much work ahead and, from my point of view, TAYK has a central role in this task.

 

About teaching

I strongly believe that the UN – widely interpreted – should be visible in the teachings of different degree programmes a lot more.

As Finland joined The EU in 1995, the situation understandably received a lot of attention in tuition and research. Unfortunately, at the same time it appeared to override the interest in the United Nations, and it seems the situation has not changed. 

Dear members of TAYK, please continue to strongly raise these questions in your curriculum working groups. From the point of view of one’s own degree programme and specialisation alternative, each and every one can consider how to link teachings of the UN into the curriculum. 

TAYK has been upholding meritoriously annual Peace Day -tradition, and the Peace Day seminar has always included interesting speakers about varied themes. This has been a key piece of our cooperation, for there has been a chance to receive compensation in peace- and conflict studies by composing a lecture diary or an essay of the Peace Day theme of the year. This same opportunity could be proposed to other degree programmes as well, depending on the theme of the Peace Day. 

The viewpoint and opportunity provided by the UN is not always taken into notice. 

In the feedback in the UN related courses I have taught during the years, many students have shared that they have come up with completely new ideas and realizations about the interconnectedness of different issues, and how seemingly separate things have common nominators. 

Over the course of years, I have held various courses about the UN, the international system, international cooperation, human rights, armed conflicts, conflict resolution, civilian protection, peacekeeping, responsibility to protect and humanitarian law. 

We have addressed these themes through lectures, group work, simulations, seminars and different presentations composed by students, through which we have been able to discuss these themes. Shared discussions have always been important and a key part of the learning process. I have many fond memories of these throughout the years. 

For example, last autumn, during a course “Responsibility to protect and human rights, question of responsibility” students composed a presentation to be used as a base for conversation. This was a success, even in online format. 

What has changed during the years in education about the UN, at least in my own teaching, is the fact that the teaching method has changed from plain lecturing to emphasizing varied group work and other activating methods. 

In the end, it is all about cooperation with students and that has been truly delightful. What has also been delightful, is having been able to see that students are able to concentrate and keep interest the whole day in events such as  the UN-days (from 9am to 6pm). 

Together with students, we traveled to New York to the UN headquarters and visited around ten different UN associations and events in April 2016. The programme was exceptionally intense, we had the chance to do lots of things. The journey included preparing in advance, actively taking part and discussing on the spot, organising an open seminar about the discussed themes after returning home and writing articles about varied themes for the UN Association of Finland. They might still be up on the UN Association’s web page, at least some of them. During the trip, the students met Finns and other people working for the UN, and so the UN became more concrete and humane in the students’ eyes. All in all, the journey was exhilarating. I wish that field trips like this could be organised regularly. If there were many groups organizing the trips, splitting the expenses could be possible, too.

International Peace Institute, New York, April 2016

UNDP Office, New York, April 2016

 

Thanks

Now I would like to thank all members of TAYK, all boards, the current board, for the great cooperation over the years. It has been exceedingly rewarding. Moreover, I’d like to warmly thank you for the gifts – Even those you were able to direct right where our shared interests are. Certificate of Gratitude got me at a loss of words (for once).

I wish you strength to carry on important and meaningful matters, to which the UN hands over excellent possibilities. Proceed with the work that you meritoriously have started. During difficult times, just like at the moment, it requires special effort but during difficult times they are more needed than ever.

I wish you all the best, good luck, and success for your work.

Warm regards

Tarja

 

All the photos are taken by Tarja Seppä

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YK:n menestystarinoista ja opetuksista

Tarja Seppä

Tarja Seppä (YTT) on eläköityvä kansainvälisen politiikan ja rauhantutkimuksen lehtori Tampereen yliopistossa. Hän on ollut merkittävä voimavara TAYK ry:lle, ja pitänyt työssään yhteiset kiinnostuksen kohteemme pinnalla Tampereen yliopistossa. Tarjan läksiäisissä 25.1.2021 TAYK ry luovutti hänelle aineettomat lahjat UNICEF:lta sekä UN Women:lta, sekä “kiitollisuuden sertifikaatin” (Certificate of Gratitude) kiitokseksi kaikesta, mitä hän on yhdistyksemme hyväksi tehnyt. Viimeisenä palveluksena pyysimme Tarjaa kirjoittamaan blogitekstin koskien yhdistystämme sekä kokemuksista YK-aiheisesta opetuksesta yliopistolla. Tahdomme kiittää Tarjaa vuosien varrella jatkuneesta tuesta, ja toivotamme kaikkea hyvää hänen eläkepäiviinsä.

 

YK:n menestystarinoista ja opetuksista

YK:n rauhanturvaamisen sivuilla kerrotaan, kuinka rauhanturvaoperaatiot toimivat usein tilanteissa, joissa muut toimijat eivät voi tai halua toimia. Niiden avulla voidaan saavuttaa sellaista, mikä muuten ei olisi mahdollista. Onnistumista ei voi kuitenkaan koskaan taata tilanteiden vaikeuden ja monimutkaisuuden vuoksi. 

Kestävän kehityksen tavoitteissa on päästy eteenpäin, esimerkiksi Maailman ruokaohjelmalle/WFP:lle annettiin Nobelin rauhanpalkinto syksyllä 2020. Nälän poistaminen, ruokaturvallisuuden edistäminen on yksi kestävän kehityksen tavoitteista.

YK:lla on peruskirjansa mukaisesti vastuu kansainvälisen rauhan ja turvallisuuden ylläpitämisestä. Näillä edellä mainituilla tekijöillä on yhteytensä rauhaan ja turvallisuuteen. YK:ta on joskus kutsuttu myös maailman omatunnoksi. Se on oikeastaan aika hyvä määritelmä, sillä sen voi sanoa heijastavan YK:n arvoja ja päämääriä.  

Kuitenkin, kuten Dag Hammarskjöld, YK:n toinen pääsihteeri on esittänyt: ”The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell”. 

Asiat ovat vaikeita ja monimutkaisia ja ne eivät aina mene kuin Strömsössä, mutta se ei kuitenkaan tarkoita etteikö näiden vaikeiden ja monimutkaisten asioiden eteen tehtäisi YK:ssa työtä. Jos tällainen mielikuva on kuitenkin vallitseva, yleensä se tarkoittaa ettei tunne asiaa kovin hyvin.

YK:n tehtävä ja tavoite kansainvälisen rauhan ja turvallisuuden ylläpitämisestä on hyvä tulkita laajasti, ja näin ymmärtäen tämä asia koskettaa kaikkia Tampereen yliopiston tiedekuntia ja tutkinto-ohjelmia. Tämä käy hyvin selkeästi esille, kun katsoo kestävän kehityksen tavoitteita:

Tampereen yliopisto on esittänyt edistävänsä kestävän kehityksen tavoitetta ja esittänyt sitoutuneensa kestävän kehityksen tavoitteisiin. Paljon on työtä kuitenkin vielä edessä ja näkisin, että TAYKilla on keskeinen rooli tässä tehtävässä.

 

Opetuksesta 

Olen vahvasti sitä mieltä, että YK:n opetus – laajasti tulkittuna – pitäisi näkyä paljon paljon vahvemmin yliopistojen eri tutkinto-ohjelmien opetuksessa.  

Kun Suomi liittyi vuonna 1995 Euroopan unionin jäseneksi, se sai ymmärrettävästi paljon huomiota sekä opetuksessa että tutkimuksessa ja tavallaan myös syrjäytti kiinnostuksen YK:hon. Tuntuu, että näin se on edelleenkin.  

Hyvät TAYKilaiset, ottakaa näitä asioita vahvasti esille omissa opetussuunnitelmatyöryhmissänne jatkossakin. Jokainen voi oman tutkinto-ohjelmansa ja suuntautumisvaihtoehtonsa näkökulmasta miettiä, miten kytkeä YK-opetusta siihen.  

TAYK on ansiokkaasti pitänyt yllä joka syksyistä Peace Day-perinnettä, jossa on aina ollut mukana mielenkiintoisia alustajia ja teemat ovat vaihdelleet. Tämä on ollut osa yhteistyötämme, sillä tekemällä oppimispäiväkirjan tai esseen päivän teemasta on voinut saada korvaavuuden rauhan- ja konfliktintutkimuksen opintoihin. Tätä samaa mahdollisuutta päivän teemasta riippuen voisi ehdottaa myös muille tutkinto-ohjelmille.

YK:n tarjoamaa näkökulmaa ja mahdollisuutta ei aina havaita.  

Monet opiskelijat ovat vuosien varrella palautteessaan esittäneet saaneensa YK-teemaisen kurssin aikana uusia ajatuksia ja oivalluksia, joita ei ollut aiemmin tullut ajatelleeksikaan – eri asioiden keskinäisistä suhteista ja miten monet eri asiat liittyvät yhteen.  

Olen vuosien varrella pitänyt kursseja YK ja kansainvälinen järjestelmä/kansainvälinen yhteisö/ihmisoikeudet/aseelliset konflikti/konfliktien ratkaisu/siviilien suojelu/rauhanturvaaminen/suojeluvastuu/humanitaarinen oikeus.  

Näitä teemoja on käsitelty luentojen, ryhmätöiden, simulaatioiden, seminaarien, erilaisten opiskelijoiden tekemien esitysten kautta, joiden avulla asioista on voitu keskustella. Yhteiset keskustelut ovat aina olleet tärkeitä ja osa oppimisprosessia. Tästä on monta mieluista muistoa vuosien varrelta.  

Viimeksi syksyn suojeluvastuu ja ihmisoikeudet, kysymys vastuullisuudesta -kurssilta, jossa opiskelijat ryhmissä valmistelivat ennakkovalmistautumisen jälkeen toisille ryhmille päivän teemasta alustuksen dioineen keskustelujen pohjaksi. Onnistuimme erinomaisesti myös tänä etäaikana.

Se, mikä YK-opetuksessa on vuosien varrella muuttunut – ainakin omassa opetuksessani- on että yhä enenevässä määrin opetusmuoto on muuttunut pelkästä opettajan luennosta erilaisten ryhmätöiden ja opiskelijoita aktivoivien tapojen suuntaan. 

Kyse on siis yhteistyötä opiskelijoiden kanssa. Se on ollut erityisen ilahduttaa, ilahduttavaa on myös ollut, kuinka koko päivän kestävien YK-päivien tai rauhanvälityspäivien (klo 9-18) ajan opiskelijoiden kiinnostus ja intensiteetti on pysynyt yllä loppuun asti.

Teimme opiskelijoiden kanssa opintomatkan New Yorkiin, YK:n päämajaan ja kävimme vierailulla n. kymmenessä YK:n eri järjestössä ja ohjelmassa huhtikuussa vuonna 2016. Ohjelma oli tavattoman intensiivinen, ehdimme paljon. Asiaan kuului etukäteisvalmistautuminen, paikan päällä aktiivinen osanotto ja keskustelu, kotiin tultua avoimen seminaarin järjestäminen käsitellyistä teemoista ja YK-liitolle tehtiin tekstejä eri teemoista. Saattavat olla vieläkin YK-liiton sivuilla, ainakin joitakin niistä. Opiskelijat tapasivat matkan aikana suomalaisia ja muita YK:ssa työskenteleviä, jolloin YK sai konkreettiset ja inhimilliset kasvot. Matka oli kaikkinensa riemastuttava. Toivon, että tällaisia opintomatkoja voitaisiin järjestää säännöllisesti. Jos olisi monta järjestäjätahoa, kustannuksia olisi myös mahdollista jakaa.

International Peace Institute, New York, huhtikuu 2016

 

UNDP Office, New York, huhtikuu 2016

 

Kiitokset 

Nyt haluan kiittää kaikkia TAYKilaisia, kaikkia hallituksia, istuvaa hallitusta, hienosta yhteistyöstä vuosien varrella. Se on ollut tavattoman antoisaa. Kiitän lämpimästi myös muistamisesta – nekin osasitte kohdistaa juuri sinne, missä yhteiset intressimme ovat. Certificate of Gratitude sai minut aivan sanattomaksi (kerrankin).

Toivon teille jaksamista tärkeiden ja merkittävien asioiden eteenpäin viemiseksi, joihin YK on antaa erinomaiset mahdollisuudet. Jatkakaa sitä työtä, minkä olette ansiokkaasti aloittaneet. Vaikeina aikoina, kuten nyt, se vaatii erityisiä ponnisteluja, mutta vaikeina aikoina niitä tarvitaan enemmän kuin koskaan.  

Kaikkea hyvää, onnea ja menestystä työllenne.

Lämpimin terveisin 

Tarja

 

Kaikki kuvat ovat Tarja Sepän ottamia.

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Timeout dialogues with high school students – learnings and perspectives

TAYK hosted three school visits in the Classical high school of Tampere. The topics of these visits were the UN and human rights, and bullying on social media. The visits followed the Timeout dialogue method which is a Sitra and Erätaukosäätiö (Timeout Foundation) coordinated initiative. Tiina, one of TAYK’s Events coordinators in 2020, wrote about her experience in organizing these visits in this special year with special restrictions.

 

During autumn 2020, TAYK was co-operating with the Classical high school of Tampere, as TAYK visited there three times and had Timeout dialogues with the students. The classes we visited were first-year student psychology class, second-year student ethics class, and second-and third-year student social psychology class. Two of the classes were held in Finnish, and one of them was held using both English and Finnish. Combining two languages was a great option to include international members of TAYK for this event with high school students who were not too confident with English yet. The teachers were very open to having a different kind of class experience by practicing dialogue and having a conversation that follows the rules of a Timeout dialogue. But what is this method all about?

 

The timeout dialogue method was created in a project by Sitra during the years 2016-2019. After the project, the own foundation of Timeout dialogue was established to carry on this procedure. Timeout-foundation continues and develops the work Sitra has done and brings together organizations that work with dialogues in order to spread out the know-how of dialogue as widely as possible. The goal is to make Finland the best-discussing nation in the world and to prevent confrontation, to build bridges between different views, so to say. At the core of this method is to learn how to listen carefully, to respect other people, and to understand the experiences and perspectives of each other. The timeout method has different steps and the structure of the conversation follows these same steps every time. You can find more detailed information about this method from here: Timeout – Let’s become the best in constructive dialogue!

 

Two of our conversations handled bullying on social media, and one of the conversations was focused on the UN and what the UN is all about. The conversations with students were very fruitful and educational, not only for the students but for us presenting TAYK as well. It was very valuable to talk with the students about these important subjects and to learn what are the thoughts of youth regarding the topic of the dialogue. Especially conversations regarding bullying and bullying on social media were very topical, and many of the students told, that this was the first time they had a proper discussion about this topic – even if it would have been great to focus for this important subject on the earlier grades as well.

 

One thing that stuck on my mind personally was, that bullying on social media has become such a new normal, that it might not even be recognized as bullying, it´s just something that belongs in social media. We also focused on the feeling of being left out and being lonely, and that due to the situation within COVID-19 restrictions has affected the social relations as everyone can’t be included anymore because of assembly restrictions.

 

As a result of these conversations the students, TAYK members, and the teacher had important realizations about how we can develop our activities to be all-inclusive and to create a safe atmosphere around us.

 

Every dialogue we had was an important one, but sometimes the students were a bit more talkative than other times. The challenge of the dialogue then was to keep the conversation going even if the students were not willing to talk that much. We noticed, that in moments like these, it helped that we shared a few of our own experiences regarding the topic – for example, shared our experiences of feeling left out or not being a part of a group.

 

As bullying and the feeling of being left out might be considered as a phenomenon among kids and youth, it’s important to understand that these feelings can also be present in higher-level education as well as a working life environment. That’s why we felt important to state, that talking about these feelings is one of the key elements in preventing those experiences which can be received through life.

 

It might be hard to admit that I feel left out from the group, or I don’t feel I belong, but as we have noticed, when someone has the bravery to open their mouth it might lead to many confessions about having similar feelings. None of us is perfect, and we are building ourselves every day. Having a dialogue about difficult feelings might teach us how our acts make another person feel, and what are those things that we can personally focus on to make sure everyone feels welcomed. It’s not easy to admit that one might have had been a bully or to recognize unfavorable ways of acting within oneself, but recognizing those maybe unpleasant but unconscious ways of treating people is the first step for the change.

 

During the dialogue, we were able to share both feelings of being left out and confessions of being a bully or a side viewer, and following the idea of the Timeout dialogue, no-one was judged, no-one was ashamed – we accomplished our goal to share our feelings and perspectives openly and learned from each other’s experiences.

 

Regarding the experiences of this fall, I would highly suggest that TAYK continues organizing Timeout dialogues during school visits. The dialogues are quite easy to organize, and they create an extraordinary environment where all the people participating can learn things that broaden their perspective and give ideas to consider for a long time.

 

Tiina Helin – “Before forming your opinion of the opposition, listen carefully to what she or he has to say´´

The writer is TAYK’s Events and excursions coordinator during the term 2021 and a Master student of sociology at Tampere University

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The Future we want, the UN we need – viewpoints of Tampere University student associations

In 1945, after two devastating world wars, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco and drew up the United Nations Charter. On 24th of October in the same year, the Charter was ratified and the UN officially came into existence. This is why United Nations Day is celebrated every year on October 24th. 

 

In the year 2020, the year of global pandemic with growing concerns about the changing climate and respect for human rights, the United Nations is turning 75 years old. The theme of the year is “The future we want, the UN we need” and the aim of this UN75 initiative is to be the world’s largest conversation about contemporary challenges and the future we want for our world. UN75 has been an open call for everyone to share hopes and fears for the future and contribute ideas on how we can make this a reality. The UN has organized surveys and different discussion platforms to make this happen, and we in TAYK wanted also to contribute to this global conversation. 

 

As a local association, we in TAYK wanted to raise discussion among Tampere University student associations, guilds and students. Our aim is to promote Tampere University students as diverse future professionals and their important input to this international dialogue now and in the future. 

 

To make this happen, first we asked student associations; in the field that you study, what kind of issues do you think should be discussed more often? What do you think are the key-issues in the future? Answers we received were very diverse because they came from diverse fields but it was very interesting to see that the same kind of themes appeared in these answers and they complemented each other in many ways. 

  • Worry about the future – It is perfectly normal for young people to be worried what the future might hold, but amidst all of the uncertainty that this peculiar year of 2020 has brought to us, this worry has deepened. For example Students in Lifelong Learning and Education program Mentor ry mention that it’s impossible to predict the future and it’s important to brace oneself to the changing future where the need for certain fields might not be needed anymore. Students in Information Studies and Media Studies UDK ry raises also similar concerns about the future; as technology is continually evolving and the role of automatization is increasing, do current jobs that we study for exist in the future? 
  • TechnologyUDK ry continues to mention that in our constantly evolving information society, the need for teaching, learning and developing new methods for data collection and retrieval is important. The Guild of Bioengineering Bioner ry adds up to this theme as they identified the role of technology and ethical questions as key-issues in the future. They referred in particular to how to develop functioning digital health care services and how to make sure an individual’s privacy is protected when the data gathered via different apps is continuously increasing. 
    • Ethics, equity and equality Bioner ry continues to bring up important ethical questions that we need more conversation on like animal testing and genetic modification. Questions about ethics and related to that also equality is also a cross-cutting theme in other answers we got. Medical students Tampereen Lääketieteen kandidaattiseura ry brings up the important theme of equality and equal rights and accessibility of treatment and health care, mentioning in particular the unfortunate hierarchical structure of health care system, and the vital importance of that matters of equality is put in practice in patient care. They also mention the recent statement from Finnish Medical Students’ association that the diversity of genders needs to be addressed in medical studies. Students of Health Sciences Salus ry complement these themes by noting the importance of supporting sexual and reproductive health and gender equality. Social Sciences students Interaktio ry emphasizes the need to address intersectionality of equality themes. Students in the teacher education program OKA ry mention the need to create a safe space and environment where children from different backgrounds can have equal opportunities to learn and to grow. They continue to point out that we have to keep thinking how classrooms can be places where intergenerational poverty can be reduced and how to make sure that we have enough resources to cater to individual needs of children. Mentor ry adds to this by raising an important point that it is important to consider all ages and make sure people don’t slip through the net out of reach from education services or other institutions.  

 

  • Climate change and internationality – In addition to ethics and equality, climate change is also one big combining theme of the answers. Interaktio ry begins by pointing out the belittling attitudes towards young climate activists and how we should support, not blame, the fight against climate change. Young people have taken the lead on this fight because it’s our future at stake, climate change being the most prominent threat to the physical environment, but also equality and peace around the world. OKA ry brings additional perspective to this by asking how can the school system raise future citizens who are climate and consumption conscious and active participants of civil society. Psychology students Cortex ry addresses the need to teach and understand multiculturalism in this changing world. This is an important question because the number of refugees is continuing to rise due to changing climate and areas in particular in the global south coming inhabitable. Salus ry keeps up with this theme by asking how to support health in environmental disasters and also to support the health of refugees. These questions connect to a larger theme of what kind of impacts climate change and its effects will have on public health? Tampereen Lääketieteen kandidaattiseura ry raise also concerns about how the refugee crisis will affect on equality and accessibility of health care and they wrap all of these themes together by mentioning the concept of One Health, where the interrelation of health, society and environment is combined. All of these sections impact health and sickness. 

 

 

We also asked how can we as youth/students increase dialogue? Even though the future is uncertain and there are many things that we need to address and take into consideration to build a better future for us all, at the same time we have many concrete ways to increase dialogue and awareness of these issues already! 

 

In the answers we got, the ways to participate in dialogue included organizing discussion events and encouraging interdisciplinary discussion between students. This way we can gain new perspectives and increase our knowledge of the world. At university level, we can participate in decision making for example in the TREY Council of representatives, and by proposing important themes for curriculum planning and also by participating as student representatives on faculty level. In addition to these, each of us can also increase the knowledge of our thesis’ supervisors by choosing contemporary themes to our thesis’! Last but not least, we can participate as active citizens of civil society to demand action or participating in politics ourselves by running in the upcoming municipal elections! 

 

It is really empowering to think about all the ways we can increase dialogue and raise our voice, the voice of young people, in all areas of the society; on individual level, association level, university level and societal level. We in TAYK encourage interdisciplinary discussion and dialogue inside and outside of the university. We agree that this is a very important way to deepen our understanding of different perspectives and viewpoints of the world. Individually, every one of us has so much to give to the world and our input on international dialogue is important. 

 

Nina Hokkala

Vice-Chair of TAYK ry

 

We want to thank the following associations, their chairs and board members for their contribution that made our input to UN75 dialogue possible:

 

Student association for students in Lifelong Learning and Education program Mentor ry 

https://mentorblogi.wordpress.com/ 

Student association for students in Information Studies and Media Studies UDK ry

http://www.udk.fi/ 

Student association for students in teacher education program OKA ry

https://www.okary.fi/ 

Student association for students in Psychology Cortex ry

https://cortexry.wordpress.com/ 

Student association for students in Health Sciences Salus ry 

https://salusry.fi/ 

Medical students’ student association Tampereen Lääketieteen kandidaattiseura ry

https://kandit.fi/ 

Student association for students in Social Sciences Interaktio ry

http://www.interaktiory.fi/ 

Guild of Bioengineering Bioner ry

https://bioner.fi/ 

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EFI distance excursion – How corona helped local association go global

 

As a part of our sustainable development week 5-11.10.2020, TAYK organized a distance excursion to European Forest Institute EFI via Zoom. The excursion was supposed to be present at EFI headquarters in Joensuu, as part of our excursion to Koli with Turku UN-association, but due to corona EFI does not take visitors at the moment. Therefore, we decided to organize our first ever online excursion. When we started the zoom conference, something amazing happened that we could not see beforehand.

 

TAYK is a Finnish local NGO, whose aim is to promote UN’s values locally here in Tampere. Our target audience is therefore local Tampere inhabitants. To increase diversity and inclusiveness, our association works in Finnish and also in English. Majority of our members are Tampere University students so we never would have guessed that our excursion would interest people from all over the world.

 

There were 15 people attending to our online excursion, and according to the feedback we collected after the event, this was the perfect amount of people for welcoming and cozy excursion. In the beginning we asked where our attendees were from and we were amazed when chat filled with answers; Peru, India, Bangladesh and Austria just to name a few!  As our guest from EFI we had the deputy director Lauri Hetemäki give us an informative presentation about EFI’s activity. Amongst other things we learned that EFI is an international organization focusing on producing science-policy reports and working in cooperation with global and local institutions.  EFI’s aim is to enhance the use of science in supporting dialogue and policymaking related to European forest-based sector. They respond to member states’ information needs and interact with European Parliament and the Commission, as well as EFI member states governments. Currently EFI has 3 ongoing research projects, and over the course of last five years there has been studies carried out by 200 scientists from 50 research institutes from 20 different countries. Examples of EFI global cooperation projects include the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (which was established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales), FLEGT (which is a joint action plan from EU and member states for the prevention of illegal logging), and REDD+ (which is international framework by UNFCCC for efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). In relation to other UN organizations, EFI has and is cooperating with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe UNECE and UN Forum on Forests.

 

After the presentation we had some questions prepared for Lauri Hetemäki by our dear active members. The topics that we discussed included; What is the biggest threat that European forests currently face, and what can youth do about it? Lauri was clear that climate change is the biggest threat to our forests and nature in general, and youth should keep up the good work in keeping pressure on politicians and decision makers and keep raising awareness on this issue.

We also talked about forest ownership with regards to conservation and sustainable forest management. Lauri pointed out that it doesn’t really matter whether forests are mostly private-owned like in Finland, or state-owned like in Poland, but what matters is clear ownership. Clear ownership leads to clear incentives, and he used as an example countries like Portugal and Sweden, where there is a problem that people have for example inherited a small piece of forest, and haven’t ever visited there or don’t even know that they own forest.

We learned that EFI takes interns from different kinds of fields, and the internship usually lasts 3-6 months. The interns usually get to participate in ongoing research projects or help out in communications or administration activities. People who currently work for EFI are also from different backgrounds, for example environmental science, forest science, social sciences, political science and environmental law. There is a rising demand and interest in European forests, so multidisciplinary approach is profitable.

There was also a question if EFI has taken a stance on Sámi homeland case in Finland, but as EFI is owned by 29 members states and c. 130 organizations, they cannot take a stance on these questions on behalf of their owners.

 

In addition to our actives’ prepared questions, there were many interesting comments and questions from the audience. Very specific issues related to South Asian forests raised interest, like what could be done to decreasing population of royal Bengal tigers in Bangladesh, and the conflicting view about environmental harm caused by Jhum cultivation in tribal hills of India. Lauri emphasized the importance of cooperation when dealing with conflicting views about what to do with these local issues.

There was also a question about EFI’s cooperation in other parts of the world like South America and China, and even though EFI’s main focus is on European forests, they have offices outside of Europe, like in Beijing and FLEGT office in Kuala Lumpur. Through joint global cooperatives like FLEGT, REDD+ and Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, EFI works even on global issues like the Brazilian rainforests. Lauri also warmly recommended that if you are interested in these different global programs, do not hesitate to contact them directly for example for your thesis subject or internship!

Lauri Hetemäki gave us an important reminder in response to a question about how sustainable the forestry industry in Finland is. The point to remember is that even high-level scientists are not always in agreement what is happening and what we should do.  For example, in Finland we do have a clear agreement that biodiversity is important for sustainable development and efforts should be made to increase biodiversity in Finnish forests, but we disagree on the methods on how this should be done.

 

Moral of the story is that even a local NGO like TAYK can gather participants all over the world and organize a successful distance seminar. In all fairness, EFI participation had a huge impact in attracting attendees, but we were very happy to host this interesting and fruitful event. Corona might put pressure and obstacles on organizing live events, but it made possible for us to organize a whole new kind of event with active participants from all over the world.

 

This year is the 75th birthday of the United Nations, and UN75 theme year focuses on raising dialogue. What a way for a small local NGO to start a conversation that exceeds state boarders and widens our perspective.

 

Nina Hokkala

Vice-Chair of TAYK ry

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Black Lives Matter

Did you play ‘who is afraid of the black man’ as a child?

As a nineties kid, I did. Even though it was later changed to ‘Aquarius’, it was there – being black (especially a black man) is something to run away from and be scared of. Why? Was it because being black was different from the mainstream? As a kid, you don’t really think these things through, you play what the others are playing, and in this game, yelling “who is afraid of the black man” is just part of it. Interestingly, this was the period when Finland started receiving more refugees from Somalia due to the civil war and disorder. Imagine having had darker skin colour and having to play the same game with the same rules with all the blondes running around you…

Systemic racism reinforces individual racism. Individual racism includes an individual’s racist behaviour, assumptions and prejudices, which often is learned from the surrounding ideological environment and its structures. Systemic racism thus is the practices and institutions that strengthen the exclusion of some over others, making it ever clearer who is the ‘Other’. (ACLRC.)

SDG 10, reduced inequalities, means narrowing inequalities among all people. Sadly, many societies around the world face forms of segregation based on e.g. gender, sexuality, religion and race. This results in dividing lines among societies that divide people into separate communities, which can result in inequalities in schooling, health care and confrontations with the official authority. Many societies in the world are still influenced by racial stereotypes and prejudice, the latest example of this being George Floyd’s death last month in an arrest in Minnesota, USA. His last words “I can’t breathe” were spread through social media and many started to share news on systemic and structural racism, hoping to be the change they wanted to see in the world.

 

These manifestations of structural racism also appear in school systems and health care, especially in the USA, where racial differentiations divide schools into “the black schools” and “the white schools”. Health care might not be available for all people of colour – consequently the ongoing pandemic has seemed to take lives of more black people than white people. Although USA has been in the spotlight for the past month, racism is a global issue, also applying to Finland. According to a survey conducted by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 12 European countries, Finland ranked one of the most racist countries in Europe. You can check statistics here: https://fra.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-and-maps/survey-data-explorer-second-eu-minorities-discrimination-survey.

 

In matters of tackling segregation, expressing solidarity is key. It is important to remember that change requires an united front. Changing attitudes and vast societal structures doesn’t happen in one night, which is why it is important to keep reminding ourselves and others of the problems of inequality that people face around the world. Racial prejudice isn’t something people are born to, it is something that they inherit from their surroundings. Children are born with an open mind – so it is up to us how they are raised into this world. 

 

The Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres reflected on racial prejudice by saying that diversity is a richness, never a threat. He stated, “Racism is an abhorrence that we must all reject. Leaders in all sectors of society must invest in social cohesion so every group feels valued.” Racism – in all its forms – is not something that all humans experience in the same way. There are people in the world who have never experienced racial prejudice in their lives and there are people who experience it every day. This is why it is so important to educate yourself on racism and how it appears in our societies. Being compassionate and standing up for the people who experience inequality and abuse due to their skin colour is a great start to making change happen. 

 

For further reading, please check out the following links. 

For Finnish speakers: 

News article on race-based discrimination in Finland by Pauliina Toivanen: Syntyikö nyt rasismin #metoo-liike? Tutkimuksen mukaan poliisi syrjii etnisiä vähemmistöjä myös Suomessa, YLE 3.6.2020.

Report on ethnic profiling in Finland by Suvi Keskinen, Aminkeng Atabong Alemanji, Markus Himanen, Antti Kivijärvi, Uyi Osazee, Nirosha Pöyhölä and Venla Rousku: PYSÄYTETYT – ETNINEN PROFILOINTI SUOMESSA, SSKH Notat 2/2018.

Website article on racism in Finland: Mitä rasismi on?, Finnish Red Cross.

In English:

Website article on equality and discrimination in Finland: Equality and discrimination – Migration and cultural diversity – THL,  THL 16.4.2019.

Summary of the report “Being Black in the EU”: Being Black in the EU. Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey, FRA European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights 15.11.2019.

Tampere University’s student association TREY’s statement on antiracism within the academic world: The academic world needs anti-racism!, TREY 10.6.2020.

 

Sources used for this statement:

 

https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11380075?utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=yleuutiset&utm_medium=social

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/racism-is-abhorrence-we-must-all-reject-un-chief-antonio-guterres-amid-increased-violence-in-nyc-93898

http://www.aclrc.com/forms-of-racism

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Call for a fairer scholarship system in Tampere University

As of recently TREY (@trey) has launched a campaign emphasizing the inequality that tuition fees bring to the student community by dividing students into paying ones and non-paying ones. TAYK highly supports this campaign that goes under the hashtag #freeEducation. TAYK decided to take on the challenge and express why free education for everyone is important!

In public discussion, the excellency of the Finnish education system is often brought up. It’s free, it is of good quality and treats everyone the same regardless of their socio-economic background – for Finns. Students arriving to Finland from outside the EU and ETA-countries have been set a tuition fee, which ranges between 8.000 to 12.000 euros, according to Tampere University’s website. Scholarships and financial support often depend on academic excellence the student has shown during their studies, which creates competition and excessive stress over studies.

Victor Theoret, Canadian international student in Tampere University’s Leadership for Change Master’s Programme says, “The scholarship programme is a true nightmare. It implicitly demands students to have the best GPA average, leading to an unbearable competition for education. We relentlessly struggle in every course to get fives, which is the only graspable hope to secure our next year.“

The #freeEducation campaign promotes social inclusion within our society and in our university. Addressing the need of students paying tuition by signing an open letter to the university, TAYK exercises its role in contributing to the achievement and communication of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable education for all

Education should be available for everyone. The Finnish Government has set strict goals for improving the educational level in young adults in Finland, with emphasizing the importance of higher education. International students shuld be able to benefit from the quality education supplied by the Finnish institutions of higher education along with Finnish students. International degree students are in a vulnerable position by leaving their home countries, relatives, but also grants provided by their home countries entering a new culture, job market and environment. Free education would be beneficial in securing quality education, as students don’t have to rush their studies and compete with their fellow students and thus get to know Finland and the opportunities here better.

SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

The tuition fees are concerning non-EU students which is, de facto, tightening people to their country of origin. Opening borders and promoting international community should aim at tackling discrimination, exclusion and segregation leaving aside financial motivation. The SDG number 10 is working toward equality within and among countries, by promoting free education for all – this goal can be tackled from the university level and lead the way for other institutions.

The effect of COVID-19

The pandemic increased the precarious situation of fee paying students who are questioning their ability to complete their degree because of their financial situation. The issue here is, that Tampere University has not acknowledged the situation many of the international students are facing at this moment. The criteria for scholarships is only based on numbers, i.e. how well one does and how many credits one achieves, and at that, does not take into account the pressure COVID-19 creates on all students.

By being vocal on the scholarship situation, students paying tuition are sharing their struggle and the high competition installed by this system. Some students share their high level of anxiety in the “race to top grades”, preventing them from fully enjoying their experience in Finland and repulsing them from the academic community.

Victor is worried for the next academic year and says,” I can’t imagine my next year, as I could not afford it. I share courses with classmates, but not their cost. This system requires financial resources that are in total rupture with students’ reality.”

With this statement, TAYK is shedding light on who is at risk of being excluded from development, the subject today being international degree students. During the COVID-19 pandemic social inclusion has never been more important. 

 

Leaving no one behind is the central aspiration that underlines the Agenda 2030 adopted by the UN in 2015. TAYK hopes that Tampere University will not turn its back on its excellent international students during this time, but hears their call for greater social inclusion.

 

The authors of this post are members of the board of TAYK, students at Tampere University and worried for their international friends.

For further reading, check out TREY’s post “Education should not be tied to ones bank account” from here, and for information on TUNI’s scholarship criteria here

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Buzzing World Bee Day for y’all!

When you close your eyes in a park or a meadow or your backyard in the summer you will hear all kinds of chirping, buzzing and shuffling. Most of these sounds don’t provoke any action inside us, but a certain kind of buzzing can give you a fight or flight reaction from the bottom of your stomach and cause mild to frightening panic. However scary, this buzzing sound is essential to life on earth; for humans and for other species. It is of course the buzzing of a bee. During this pandemic time, we might want the bees to comply the social distancing rules but let me tell you why you shouldn’t smack the little fella dead if it comes too close!

May 20th is the World Bee Day, when the importance of this marvelous insect is recognized, and the importance of its protection promoted. In fact, more than 75% of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollination. On top of that, on wild flowering plant species the percentage is almost 90. This means that pollination is essential for the survival of our planet’s ecosystem, conserving biodiversity and food security, and therefore also our survival. Even though we depend on them, our current actions are threatening their existence. Nearly 35% of invertebrate pollinators like bees, face extinction due to human actions that include intensive farming practices, land-use change, mono-cropping and pesticides. Also, higher temperatures caused by anthropogenic climate change threatens bees.

Because so vast percentage of the world’s plant species depend on pollinators like bees, butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, World Bee Day is closely linked to UN’s Sustainable Development goals “15. Life on Land” about maintaining a vibrant ecosystem, but also to goal “2. Zero Hunger”.

Bees help to ensure food security for the constantly growing population on this planet. Active pollination ensures nutrition rich diet, because so many fruits, nuts and vegetables depend on pollination. In addition, decrease or imbalance in pollination can cause misshaped or bland fruits or veggies. In regulated world market, misshapen fruits are unfortunately currently in great numbers thrown away. Wild bees are also important for people, whose livelihoods depend on forests.

In Finland, nearly one in five the most important invertebrate pollinators are endangered. In Finland the biggest threat has been land-use change. When 50 years ago there were meadows nearly everywhere, nowadays these fields that are so crucial to pollinators are in intensive agricultural use, build on or overgrown. Meadows are the most threatened natural habitats in Finland.

So, now we know why bees are so important to us and to our ecosystems, but what can we do to protect our buzzing friends?

  • planting a diverse set of native plants, which flower at different times of the year;
  • buying raw honey from local farmers;
  • buying products from sustainable agricultural practices;
  • avoiding pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in our gardens;
  • protecting wild bee colonies when possible;
  • making a bee water fountain by leaving a water bowl outside;
  • helping sustaining forest ecosystems;
  • raising awareness around us by sharing this information within our communities and networks; The decline of bees affects us all!

 

Nina Hokkala

Vice-Chair of TAYK ry

References and more information:

 

  1. United Nations (2020), World Bee Day 20 May. Available: <https://www.un.org/en/observances/bee-day>
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2020), Bee-ing grateful to our pollinatiors. Available: < http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1127922/>
  3. Asikainen, Hanna (2.4.2020), Pölyttäjien määrä on romahtanut – ja siitä voi tulla ihmiskunnan kohtalonkysymys. Yle, Article. Available: <https://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2020/04/01/polyttajien-maara-on-romahtanut-ja-siita-voi-tulla-ihmiskunnan-kohtalonkysymys>

Pictures: http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1127922/ and http://www.fao.org/zhc/detail-events/en/c/329095/

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World Press Freedom Day: Maintaining Independent Journalism

 

Photo: www.rsf.org

 

Every year the 3th of May marks the World Press Freedom Day which aims to raise awareness on freedom of the press and freedom of expression. On this day we wish to celebrate press freedom but also defend independency of media outlets. Press Freedom Day is an important reminder for governments to respect their commitment to those values. Celebrating this day allows journalists to better reflect on their work ethics and discuss the current challenges regarding press freedom.

The theme of the year 2020 is Journalism without Fear or Favour and it includes safety of journalists and media workers, independent journalism free from commercial and political influence and gender equality.[i] When thinking about fear in their field of work, journalists could be targeted, harassed, prosecuted and even risk their lives on the job. Journalism without favour means objectivity without pressure from outside. It’s in the definition of press freedom that journalists are allowed to work freely in the society and that there is no pressure for obedience.

This year the global concern is to maintain press freedom during times of a global pandemic. Countries such as China, Iran and Hungary have increasingly caused worry due to the implementation of restrictions to media freedom.[ii] Governments need to act in order to stop the virus from spreading. However, the concern is that civil liberties are restricted during the special circumstances and not restored later. What makes the situation even more difficult is that during a crisis there may be an increased pressure to obey the authorities and avoid criticism. Nevertheless, it is important for the media to bring to light how government functions and to evaluate its actions in cases of violations. The criticism regarding crisis management is not an excuse to restrict freedom of the media.

Reporters without borders is an independent non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides information on press freedom around the world. It has released the Freedom of the Press Worldwide 2020 charts and Finland was placed 2nd out of 180 countries right after Norway.[iii] In 2017 when Finland was ranked the 4th, there were instances when media freedom was questioned. The biggest issues were prime minister Juha Sipilä’s attempt to pressure journalists and a search warrant related to journalist’s article about security. Freedom of the press is always changing, and the annual rankings show that any country can shift to either way in their development. Press freedom is not a stable situation, but all improvements require a lot of work. When president Trump and president Putin met in Helsinki in 2018, at that time Finland was called “land of the free press” in a viral media campaign. I think that is a great title and an even greater responsibility to fulfil. We can’t mistake the current situation to be permanent, so instead we need to guarantee ongoing development and protection of press freedom.

 

Happy Press Freedom Day! Let’s continue to demand independent media and safe conditions for journalists.

If you want to learn more, here are some links related to press freedom:

Reporters without Borders: “2020 World Press Freedom Index.” Available: https://rsf.org/en/ranking

International Press Institute. Available: https://ipi.media/

UN News: “‘No time to blame the messenger’ warns UN rights chief, amidst media clampdowns surrounding COVID-19.” Available:  https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1062522

Essi Peuraniemi

The writer is TAYK’s secretary and student of International Relations

[i] United Nations: “World Press Freedom Day” https://www.un.org/en/observances/press-freedom-day

[ii] Reporters without Borders “2020 World Press Freedom Index: ‘Entering a decisive decade for journalism, exacerbated by coronavirus’”https://rsf.org/en/2020-world-press-freedom-index-entering-decisive-decade-journalism-exacerbated-coronavirus

[iii] Reporters without Borders “2020 World Press Freedom Index” https://rsf.org/en/ranking

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International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace

Last week, on the 24th of April, we celebrated the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. When the United Nations was formed in 1945, in the aftermath of the Second World War, its mission was to protect peaceful relations and security across the global community. This task seems, when put into words, rather simple. However, it has proved to be a challenging target to reach, but progress has definitely been made since 1945. Some of the challenges the international community faces today are the means of so-called new conflicts, climate change and pandemics. Preventing the impacts of these “challenges” is evidently a demonstration of how effective multilateralism and diplomacy are in the global community. Let’s break down some of the challenges of the world today to create a better understanding why the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace has been in our calendars since its establishment in 2018.

 

Firstly, when we talk about “new conflicts”, the targeting and attacking civilians is frequently mentioned in some context. The new means of warfare are increasingly targeting civilians and preventing international aid from arriving to conflict areas. These conflicts usually break out between groups inside states targeting each other due to ethnicities, religious background etc..These groups often use an array of small weapons and explosives for fighting, terrorism and destroying resources. Women and children are often victims of sexual harassment and forced prostitution during armed conflicts.

 

Secondly, climate change. It’s a large concept, affecting a lot of people around the world. The prevention of climate change has been institutionalized among the international community, due to ranging commitments to international treaties and conventions. Involving such a vast body of states, these commitments are sometimes difficult to implement. So many different opinions, values and targets are presented among the international community. Climate change forming into a question of belief, or an opinion – despite many confirmed scientific facts – is also disturbing international cooperation on creating collective methods to prevent global warming. Scientific approaches are also a key factor in protecting people from globally spreading illnesses, pandemics. The recent outbreak of the coronavirus has shown how tightly countries around the world are joined together. We live in a world where for example travelling, immigration and trade are common, thus we are not tied down by national borders as tightly as before. As we have noticed, viruses know no sense of borders, which is why most countries in the world are affected by this pandemic. 

 

To tackle the global issues and challenges that people confront nowadays, multilateralism and diplomacy must be highlighted on the political field. Pointing fingers, standing by and protecting only your home front isn’t working in our global community. We should respect the value of global cooperation, whether it is distributing protective equipment to those who need it or delivering humanitarian aid to conflict areas. Coordination of resources and education are crucial factors in facing the challenges that threaten our peace and security. Multilateralism and diplomacy create the foundation of peacekeeping and represent the commitments made by the founding members of the United Nations. Let’s try and see the world as a united front against the challenges that we face today. Let’s also remember the potential and value that the youth brings into this work. The Finnish Agenda2030 Youth Group is one example of the youth’s involvement in building a better future for all. This Agenda2030 Youth Group participates in planning the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals on a national level. Although there is a lot left to be done, but these efforts to increase solidarity despite our differences in for example ethnicity, language and age are a great place to start. 

 

As the UN Secretary-General António Guterres put it: “combatting it [the coronavirus] requires us to work together as one human family”. I believe this approach should be remembered with all global challenges.

 

Nella Virkola

 

Communications coordinator of TAYK and a student of political science

 

Sources and for further reading:

 

The Virtues of Multilateralism and Diplomacy. Available: https://www.un.org/en/observances/Multilateralism-for-Peace-day.

 

An Agenda for Peace. Available: https://undocs.org/en/A/47/277.

Nuorten Agenda 2030. Available: http://nuortenagenda2030.fi/

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The Quest for Sustainable Materials

Hello everyone and good Fashion Revolution week 2020!

What is Fashion Revolution?

In 2013, the Dhaka garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Cracks on the walls of the building had been found prior to the collapsing. However, the garment workers working in this building were told to continue their work even though the building was clearly unsafe. During a rush-hour, the building collapsed. 1,134 were found dead and around 2,500 were injured.

This devastating disaster did not go unnoticed. It caught the attention of people and organizations worldwide. People started to demand a change. There were protests against fast fashion around the world. International pressure to change the industry and labour laws increased.

The general public started to realize what kind of problems surround the fashion industry, such as pollution, inhumane and unsafe working conditions and poverty of the workforce. Fashion Revolution came into being as a response to the factory collapse. Fashion Revolution campaigns for a fashion industry reform. The focus is on getting transparency into the fashion supply chain. Transparency is much needed. As consumers, we have the right to know where and how our clothes are made. If we know the problems, we can make a change.

Photo: Paula Aromäki

Unsustainable materials – a problem

The world of fashion is full of problems. There is no denying that. Fashion has a huge impact on the environment. One kilogram of cotton needs thousands of liters of water. Polyester is basically plastic, and plastic-based materials release microplastics every time the materials are washed. Most of the materials require heavy chemical processing in order to become thread. Also, one of the oldest and best materials, wool, can cause harm. If sheep are mistreated in order to get wool, they will become sick and suffer. Same goes for other animals whose fur can be used in clothes. We, the consumers, do not see these processes. They are usually hidden from us.

The production of wool is interesting in itself. Wool is produced in Finland, often as a by-product of meat production. However, around half of the wool produced in Finland will become waste. The prices paid for raw wool are so low that they seldomly cover the costs of shearing or other expenses. Thus, it is easier to the producers to just throw the wool away. At the same time low-cost wool is imported from abroad to cover the demand. Do we really need the cheapest wool? Or could we pay a little bit more to the local producers?

So here we are, faced with a major problem. Human beings need clothes. Clothes protect us from the weather. Clothes also give us a way to be ourselves. In order to have clothes, we need materials but most of those materials are problematic. The production often pollutes the nature and may harm both animals and workforce. On the other hand, materials are imported even though we could produce a lot locally.

Solving the problem – what has been done so far?

It can be depressing to think about all these problems. Luckily, change is already on its way. For example, in Finland, there are multiple companies trying to solve the problem of unsustainable materials. Mostly, the aim is to cut down the use of harmful chemicals.

Spinnova is one of the companies trying to transform the industry and the materials used in garments. Spinnova is developing new technology for transforming pulp into textile fiber. According to Spinnova, this new way of processing does not require any harmful chemicals and it uses 99% less water than the production of cotton. The new fiber feels like cotton or linen. With the new technology, agricultural waste containing cellulose is suitable as raw material. Thus, changing fashion may reduce waste also in other industries. Spinnova and Fortum made a leap into the future of fashion in late 2019: they made garments out of wheat straw. I was surprised by this. I knew that you could make brilliant fabric from stinging nettle. Fabric made from stinging nettle is soft, light and feels good against the skin. It also has many other good qualities. Never had I thought that wheat straw could be used as the base of fabric. So, what else could we use as raw material?

Interesting are also Infinite Fiber and Ioncell. Both are developing ways to turn textile waste into new fiber. These methods replace harmful chemicals used in the processing of raw material with more sustainable options. Infinite Fiber method can also turn recycled cardboard, wood-based pulp, and agricultural pulp into textile fiber. Ioncell can do the same with wood, recycled paper, and cardboard. Ioncell fiber becomes even more interesting when you hear about its qualities: it looks silky, is very strong, easy to dye and use. Amazingly, it is also biodegradable! So again, when developing and trying new methods we can make waste into something new. Sustainable, eh? Development brings us sustainability. It also brings us new, strong, and versatile fabrics.

There is still a lot of work to be done. It will take a lot of time, effort, and campaigning to change the core of the fashion industry. The demand for change has already had an effect, though. These projects to develop new fibers prove that change is already on its way. We, the consumers, and people working in fashion, have the power to ask and demand change. We need to think about where we buy our clothes from, what materials they are made of, how the garments were made, and do we really need new clothes every few weeks. Asking for more sustainable practices will send the fashion industry a message that people want it to change its values.

I only wish that I can soon easily shop fabrics made sustainably from wheat straw, cardboard, or stinging nettle. Here are a few links for you if you wish to read more about the development of sustainable materials:

https://spinnova.com/

https://infinitedfiber.com/

https://ioncell.fi/

https://www.storaenso.com/fi-fi/products/market-pulp/dissolving-pulp-for-textiles-and-other-applications (in Finnish)

https://metsaspring.com/fi/project/tekstiilikuitua-paperisellusta/ (in Finnish)

 

Paula Aromäki

The writer is a tailor who studies social sciences

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Happy International Happiness Day!

Today, the 20 March, is a day to be happy. Just as any other day, of course, but today it says so in the calendar!

Indeed, in July 2012, the General Assembly of the UN proclaimed today to be the day of happiness and with it they wanted to emphasise the happiness and well-being as universal goals of human beings globally, but also the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives. With the adoption of resolution 66/281 on International Day of Happiness, the UN, its Member States, organisations and the whole international system, civil society and individuals included, were invited to raise awareness of the significance of happiness in each and everyone’s lives.

Consequently, I am writing this blog post today of all days.

The word on everyone’s lips this spring might quite well have been the coronavirus. It has changed our understanding and limited our freedoms of movement and assembly, set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we’ve had to start thinking differently about our current lifestyles. However, as has been noted in media, restrictions on travelling and closing of businesses and factories in heavily polluting countries like China, have had major positive effects on climate. Could corona be the push to transforming our lives and societies to healthier and more sustainable practices? Tough to say yet, really, but surrounded with news on the rapid, global spread of the virus we need more good news like that one!

The World Happiness report 2020 focuses on the different environments we live in: social, urban and natural. In general, social connections and trust in the system function as building blocks of happiness and well-being. Urban environment is no longer a guarantee for greater life evaluation as rural environment can, in some cases, correlate to a sense of belonging to a community and can share of resources more equally. Natural environment, then, is creating positive effects on life evaluations and better moods outdoors than indoors.

In that regard, Covid-19 has forced us to think outside of the box. On my free time, I would normally maybe open the television and watch it hours straight. Now, having to limit my contact with friends and stay home for the time being, I have found a new spirit-lifting joy in going for walks outside, enjoying the spring sunshine, talking with friends on the phone and just having more time in my hands than I would regularly have for things that matter the most. Strangely, and perhaps out of the privilege I have, this situation has already made me value things differently.

If you, too, are all cooped up in your apartment, what could you do for your happiness and well-being today? Here’s a list of ideas, if you are running out:

☐Call a friend or family member and check how they are doing. Possible topics to discuss: weather, daily routines and feelings.

☐Make a pot of coffee with a pinch of cinnamon and cardamom to spice up your morning routine.

☐Study irregular verbs of a language you should anyways be revising.

☐Read an article on Positive News to make your day slightly brighter.

☐Go take a walk in the nature, if you’re feeling healthy. (This one’s my favourite!)

 

Warm and fuzzy thoughts to all you readers!

 

For further reading:

Resolution 66/281. International Day of Happiness. Available: https://undocs.org/A/RES/66/281.

World Happiness Report 2020. Available: https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2020/environments-for-happiness-an-overview/.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Available: https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.

Vidal, John. 2020. ‘Tip of the iceberg’: is our destruction of nature responsible for covid-19? Available: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/18/tip-of-the-iceberg-is-our-destruction-of-nature-responsible-for-covid-19-aoe.

Positive News. Available: https://www.positive.news/.

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Happy World Water Day!

On Sunday 22 March we celebrate the World Water Day. It is one of the yearly marked International Days of the United Nations that increase awareness and action for particular topics or events in the objectives of the UN. Elina, a vice-member of TAYK, wrote a blog post to address the interlinkages of water, climate change and peace.

Water for Peace in the era of changing climate

Today, 1 in 3 of the world’s population – around 2.2 billion people – live without safe drinking water. Water is everything. It is crucial for the survival of not only human beings but the whole planet and its ecosystems. The scarcity of water and water stress will only increase in the future due to global megatrends such as climate change, population growth and urbanization. Unpredictable and extreme climate events combined with increasing population that packs into urban areas will not only diminish the quantity but also weaken the quality and availability of freshwater resources.

Sounds somewhat miserable, right? After reading more about the global water situation, I noticed quickly how the facts and numbers were mostly devastating. However, we can see the challenges from another perspective. Water is, first of all, a key to tackle climate change and, what is more, cooperation over shared water resources can promote peace.

Water and Climate Change go hand in hand

The theme of World Water Day 2020 is water and climate change. The two are closely interlinked. We feel many effects of climate change through water or the lack of it – in floods and droughts. Water is also crucial for climate change adaptation since it ties together the whole climate system, human society and the environment. Our use of water, including sustainable sanitation, is crucial to reduce floods, droughts, scarcity and pollution. More effective use of water also reduces greenhouse gases. The key message of World Water Day campaign is water can help fight climate change .

One way to tackle climate change is to base all our policies on sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015. At the heart of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal number 6 that is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” before 2030. To achieve the goal seems, honestly said, almost impossible during the upcoming ten years due to the lack of political will. However, there are also positive changes, which you can find more info about through the official SDG indicators.

Achieving Peace through Water

In order to build more sustainable and climate friendly societies we need sustainable peace. Water does not follow the borders set by human beings. Almost three billion people in 145 countries live in an area that is covered by transboundary river basins. Already now and especially in the future, water can increase conflict risk between and within states. Thus, water should be seen as a tool for peace instead.

Water diplomacy is a central solution. It takes the questions of peace and conflict at the heart of water issues and the water questions to the tables of diplomacy and conflict resolution[1]. In brief, the idea of water diplomacy is to increase the cooperation over transboundary freshwater resources. The role of water diplomacy is notable, especially in conflict-prone areas that already suffer from water scarcity. According to the Strategic Foresight Group, “any two countries engaged in active water cooperation do not go to war for any reason”. It is a clear message that cooperation over shared waters creates sustainable peace and peace, in turn, is a prerequisite to concentrate on tackling the climate change.

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Finally, here are some practical tips on how to do water and climate friendly decisions in one’s everyday life.

Choose one thing today:

💧Take only a quick shower.

💧Choose a plant-based meal.

💧Turn off sleeping tech.

💧Don’t throw away edible food.

💧Shop sustainably.

 

#WorldWaterDay www.worldwaterday.org

More  information and tips for climate actions here: https://www.un.org/en/actnow/

 

With these words, I want to wish all of you a Happy World Water Day!

Elina Häkkinen

Vice-member and former vice-chair of TAYK

Currently writing Master’s Thesis on Water Diplomacy as a toolbox for conflict prevention and peace mediation

 

Sources and more information:

Schmeier (2018), What is water diplomacy and why should you care? https://globalwaterforum.org/2018/08/31/what-is-water-diplomacy-and-why-should-you-care/

Strategic Foresight Group (2017), Water Cooperation Quotient. https://www.strategicforesight.com/publication_pdf/Water%20Cooperation%20Quotient%202017.pdf

UN Water (2018), Transboundary Waters. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/transboundary-waters/

UN Water (2019), Key messages UN-Water Policy Brief on Climate Change and Water. https://www.unwater.org/publications/un-water-policy-brief-on-climate-change-and-water/

UN Water (2020), Transboundary Waters. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/transboundary-waters/

UNECE/UNESCO (2015), Good Practices in Transboundary Water Cooperation. http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/water/publications/WAT_Good_practices/2015_PCCP_Flyer_Good_Practices__LIGHT_.pdf

Vetter, Thomas (2016), Water Connects. A Short Guide to Preventive Water Diplomacy. Supported by adelphi & the German Federal Foreign Office. http://www.idaea.csic.es/sites/default/files/Climate%20Diplomacy%20Report%20Water%202017.pdf

WHO/UNICEF (2019), Joint Monitoring Programme 2019 update report: Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.  https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/jmp-report-2019/en/

[1] Water diplomacy can be defined as the use of diplomatic instruments to existing or emerging disagreements and conflicts over shared water resources with the aim to solve or mitigate those for the sake of cooperation, regional stability, and peace (Schmeier 2018).

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Happy International Women’s Day – join Generation Equality! – UN Women

Few days ago, on the 5th of March we had the pleasure of hosting a conversational event in collaboration with UN women in Tampere, in honor of International Women’s day. The theme was empathy and kindness towards yourself and others. With International Women’s day approaching, it is beneficial to take some time for reflection and think about things from a deeper societal perspective. In addition to our collaborative event, we we’re also able to get their thoughts on women’s rights for our blog. 

 

 

 

 

Happy International Women’s Day – join Generation Equality!

Stating the obvious is a blatant way to begin but sometimes it has to be done just in order to highlight things that cannot be stressed heavily enough: gender equality is a vital yet unachieved goal. It is a group of ideas and views on justice, human rights and fairness, but it is first and foremost meant to be a lived reality. Not one single country in the world can claim to have achieved this end: gender-biased discrimination is still an issue everywhere in the world, and inequality extends to all areas of life including economics, safety and education, for instance. Gender equality, one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, is an end in itself but also intersects all other goals, making it impossible to realise one without simultaneously working for the others1. It is the unachieved realisation of equality that makes the prevailing issues visible in everyday life, also for those of us who live under fairly safe and stable circumstances.

The beginning of a new decade always has an air of its own, an atmosphere that feels just slightly more significant than single years passing by. The beginning of 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most ambitious and comprehensive human rights and gender equality agendas, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995. The declaration aims for the empowerment of women and girls all over the world, and it was adopted by no less than 189 governments that all seek to ensure full, equal participation for women in all areas of life2.

This ambitious goal is yet to be achieved. UN Women, the international champion for gender equality, is determined to fulfil the promises made in the Beijing Declaration, and its new campaign, Generation Equality, brings together the young activists of the new generations and the equality advocates who began the work with Beijing Declaration 25 years ago. Gender equality is an unfinished business, and this is something Generation Equality seeks to remedy.

It seems only natural that the theme of International Women’s Day 2020 is I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights. This motto can be declared by anyone anywhere, regardless of age or any other aspect of social or personal background: the campaign is thoroughly inclusive and invites each and every one to join. All hands on deck, so to speak, are now needed perhaps more than ever before. The need to turn gender equality from ideas into reality is dire which can be seen in the campaign’s declaration and its very language: equal participation, pay, peace, environmental justice, reproductive health rights etc. are indeed demanded, not bashfully wished for.

Are you Generation Equality?

If you are – in which case, congratulations – declare it today, on the first Women’s Day of the new decade. Realising gender equality requires hard, resilient work, but Women’s Day is also about celebrating. And yes, activism, hard work and sincere, pure joy can coexist. Happy Women’s Day!

HerStory Volunteers and participants of the Digital Inclusion Week 2019. Photo: UN Women/ Emad Karim

 

Katariina Kärkelä

UN Women Tampere

Citations and more information:

[1] “Why Gender Equality Matters Across all SDGs. An Excerpt of Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” UN Women.  https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2018/sdg-report-chapter-3-why-gender-equality-matters-across-all-sdgs-2018-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5447 Cited: 23.2.2020

[2] “About Generation Equality.” UN Women. https://www.unwomen.org/en/get-involved/beijing-plus-25/about Cited: 23.2.2020

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TAYK’s 2020 Board Introduction
The flags of the193 member states are back after the renovation of the "Allée des Drapeaux" at the Palais des Nations. 7 February 2014. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

TAYK’s 2020 Board Introduction

The year 2020, and a whole new decade, has begun and TAYK’s new board is hard at work in planning activities for the upcoming year! The board has now held two meetings and we already have a calendar full of exciting events for this spring to look forward to. An important thing will be the 75th anniversary of the UN, which we will be a part in celebrating. Furthermore, we have new interesting collaborations coming up. All in all there’s much to look forward to this year! Most importantly, in order for our members and readers to get to know our board better, we asked each of the members to answer a few hard hitting questions. 

Jasmiina Ahonen, Chairperson

Who are you? My name is Jasmina and I’m studying in the Leadership for Change Master’s programme at Tampere University. Before studying in Tampere, I lived in Helsinki for four years and in France for one, but to be honest, it feels good to be home, now. I’m the chairperson for TAYK in 2020. It’s my second year in the board as in 2019 I was responsible for events and excursions with my super-partner Nicole!

What are your tasks? My tasks are various, but in short, I need to keep track of everything happening in TAYK. Basically, that means communicating with each sector, ensuring everyone is familiar with what is expected of them, motivating everyone, listening to their ideas, thoughts and worries, and helping everywhere I can. Last week, this meant finding out when there’s a training for new treasurers which required sending some emails and asking around if anyone knew. Most of the times, this position is super rewarding as I get to see how everyone enjoys doing their part and has fun, but sometimes it takes a lot of time putting out little fires.

How does the UN inspire you? The UN has always been a somewhat distant institution to me. However, joining TAYK has taught a lot as this gives you great possibilities for familiarising yourself with the many aspects of the UN. What I find the most inspiring about the UN is its way of creating dialogue between peoples. To me open dialogue where everyone in the society is heard and has the possibility to speak up, is the only means for lasting peace. So, in a way it’s also the inclusivity, yet this one takes a lot more global effort to actually happen one day.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Teleporting. I could still travel but wouldn’t waste scarce resources nor pollute while at it!

Nina Hokkala, Vice-Chairperson

Who are you? My name is Nina and I am the vice chairperson this year. I moved to Tampere last autumn to study political science and already feeling like I have lived here all my life. My two passions are spending hours wandering in a forest, and binge watching f.r.i.e.n.d.s.

What are your tasks? What are your tasks as vice chair? My main task is to support Jasmina as chairperson and everyone else whenever they need help. Also I am helping to make sure the association operates smoothly.

How does the UN inspire you?  The sustainable development goals inspire me because I am very passionate about sustaining life on this blue planet of ours.

If u had one superpower, what would it be? I would like to talk to animals.

Essi Peuraniemi, Secretary

Who are you?My name is Essi and I’m TAYK’s secretary for the year 2020.

What are your tasks? My tasks are mainly related to arranging the meetings and writing minutes. Before meetings I send invitations and prepare the agenda. During meetings I write down all decisions and afterwards I have them approved and print all the papers.

How does the UN inspire you? UN is important to me considering my studies and future career. I’m interested to learn more about the institutions and peace building.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? My superpower would be the ability to teleport so that I could travel the world and see new places quickly.

Tinja Huhtala, Treasurer

Who are you?I’m Tinja Huhtala, 4th year student of international relations and the new treasurer of TAYK. This is my first year in TAYK’s board.

What are your tasks? My tasks as a treasurer are: updating the member register, accounting, taking care of the budget and monetary transactions and keeping the board updated on association’s economic situation.

How does the UN inspire you? The optimism of the UN really inspires me; that together we can actually make things happen and make the world a better and more equal place!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? If I had a superpower it would definitely be teleportation! I could sleep a little longer every morning and also travel whenever I wanted – and ecologically!

Tiina Helin, Excursion and Event Coordinator

Who are you?I’m Tiina Helin, and I’m an event and excursion organizer.

What are your tasks?My position in Tayk’s board includes planning and organizing events, contacting potential cooperation partners and participating board meetings. I’m happy to share all the tasks with my partner, Meeri.

How does the UN inspire you? UN is a unique organization whose work is crucial when solving global, cross-border problems of the day. Long term goals and commitment for those is something we need in this fast-paced society, and UN as an organization is an example for the countries around the world about the positive effects that can be found with cooperation.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? I would be able to breathe underwater, as I admire the underwater world and would be amazing to be able to participate underwater life all around the world.

Meeri Pääkkö, Excursion and Event Coordinator

Who are you? I’m Meeri and I’m one of the two events coordinators.

What are your tasks? My field is organizing events and coming up with new event ideas. This includes a variety of small tasks.

How does the UN inspire you?  I think it’s awesome that the UN exists, because it’s an organization built on the co-operation of all of the countries. I think we need more of this. It’s important to try to find agreement even when disagreeing. For example the goals of Agenda 2030 are giving us guidelines how we could achieve a better and more sustainable world, the world that belongs to all of us.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? It’s very hard to decide between flying and being able to hold breath for a very long time. To be a bird or to be a fish, that’s the question. Practically I’m a half fish already, since I’ve always loved spending time in water.

Taika Ahonen, Publicist and External Relations Coordinator

Who are you? Hey, I’m Taika and I’m a sophomore student of international politics. I’m one of two publicists for TAYK this year. I’m leaving for Korea for an exchange semester, so you won’t find me in TAYK’s events this spring. I will however fulfill my duties with the help of my publicist partner Nella.

What are your tasks? As one of the publicists, I’m in charge of promoting TAYK and communicating with other student associations and admining TAYK’s email-list, which means I write our newsletter emails and send them to our emailing list and to other student associations to promote our events and activities. I also do other admin duties for our lists. In addition, I am responsible for updating our website and coordinating posts for TAYK’s blog. Twitter is one of my responsibilities as well.

How does the UN inspire you? Having an interest in the UN comes with my field of study, I would say. I am especially interested in global governance and UN is the most important institution. As a  active TAYK and board member I wish to learn more about what the UN does to solve and manage global issues like climate change. I am also excited to play a small part in fulfilling UN’s sustainable development goals at a grass-roots level.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? I would love to be able to speak all languages, including ones that are no longer spoken. I believe this would make me more competitive in international job market. I could also help in reviving extinct languages and languages that are losing speakers!

Nella Virkola, Publicist and External Relations Coordinator

Who are you? My name is Nella, I’m 20 years old and studying political science at Tampere University as a first-year student. I am originally from Vantaa but moved here to Tampere for my studies! I love long walks with my dog, card games, cooking and weirdly enough, studying. My position in TAYK’s board this year is the communications coordinator (the other one, as there are two of us!). I’m really looking forward to this year in TAYK’s board!

What are your tasks? What are your tasks as the other communications coordinator? My tasks as communications coordinator include updating TAYK’s Instagram and Facebook, mainly creating events and posts to be published on these platforms. This also includes posting and advertising ongoing themes and actions from the UN Youth or possibly other UN organizations. My other tasks include, for example, taking care of TAYK’s email lists and coordinating writers for TAYK’s blog. As the communications coordinator it is important for me to stay up to speed on current events and themes of the higher-level UN organizations.

How does the UN inspire you? For me, UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is very inspirational. It offers many important goals for the years to come and stresses the importance of global cooperation in order to tackle problems such as famine, poor education and global warming. With this it is important to remember that change doesn’t happen all at once but requires strong commitment and solidarity. I feel like UN is the place for that, as it strives to be an organization where everyone feels welcome.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? If you had one superpower, what would it be? I would most definitely want to master the skill of flying. It would save me so much time.

Mérédith Chuzel-Marmot, Peace Day Coordinator

Who are you? Hey, I’m Meredith Chuzel, a French student settled in Finland for 2 years. With a. With a background in politics, I am currently studying a master’s at Leadership for Change with a minor in Gender studies. Vegetarian, Feminist and Eco-friendly, I’m working at making the world a better place to live.

What are your tasks? Elected as a Peace Day coordinator, I will organize the peace day Seminar around Gender violence

How does the UN inspire you? The 17 goals for 2030 are really inspirational. UN promotes peace and we should all work at strengthening it. Also, this year is the 20 years of UN Women and it is a good success toward women emancipation.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? As a super power, I would choose flying. Indeed, flying is carbon neutral and would enable to promote peace and continue a harmless discovery of the world.

 

 

 

 

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Orange Day, Orange World: Tackling Violence Against Women

 

The world is orange, starting today.

Violence manifests itself in countless forms, and its spectrum is regrettably multi-faceted. When it comes to open discussion, media and the news, the opposing ends of the spectrum seem to be very far from one another: on one hand, there is graphic, startling, brutal violence openly discussed in striking headlines; on the other hand, there is the invisible end of the spectrum, incidents, that remain unknown to all except for the victim and the offender. Whether these invisible forms of violence take place at school, work or home, they often have two things in common: Firstly, strikingly many of the incidents are never reported. Secondly, more often than not the victims are women and girls.

One of the severest human rights violations UN Women seeks to defeat is violence against women. According to WHO, one in three women and girls face some kind of violence either in an intimate relationship or by being sexually assaulted by someone else1. The different forms of violence include for instance child marriage, sexual abuse, human trafficking, harassment either in person or anonymously online and physical or psychological abuse. The last three in particular are grave problems also in the relatively safe Nordic countries. In Finland, too, the numbers are alarming: 71 per cent of women living in Finland have experienced sexual harassment after turning fifteen. The percentage of victims of online harassment, then again, is 14.2 The numbers very clearly show that there is plenty of work to do all over the world and that the rights of women and girls deserve attention also in countries that are seemingly gender equal. It cannot be denied that progress has been made both in legislation and in general atmosphere and attitudes; this shows that change is indeed possible but takes effort and dedication. Despite the many achievements, the invisible, unreported violence continues to be a dire problem here in Finland as well as in other countries. Progress can be made only after the problems are no longer underestimated and buried.

The many problems and the great danger of invisible, unspoken violence must finally be acknowledged: the fact that the violations remain hidden does not mean that they do not occur. Any place, regardless of its good reputation and allegedly stable atmosphere, can be a scene of abuse and harassment. In most cases of gender-based violence this place is, sadly, home: women are often abused or mistreated by their partners or family members. For many women home has become truly unsafe, which is often unnoticed by friends, neighbours and relatives; the saddest and most extreme incidents result in death, for approximately 58 per cent of female murder victims are killed by a partner or a family member3. Domestic violence is still largely unreported because of completely unnecessary and undeserved shame and stigma. Therefore it is also one of the hardest problems to conquer.

Today, the 25th of November, marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This year’s theme is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape”. UN Women strives for equality in over 90 countries all over the world, resiliently aiming to create a safer, more inclusive and just planet. Of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals established by the UN in 2015 it is Goal 5, Gender equality, that is found at the core of each and every project UN Women works for. However, as in all cases, the seventeen goals intersect, and their mutual influence cannot be ignored. For as long as inequality thrives, whether in the form of physical abuse, child marriage or harassment, for instance, the other sixteen goals are held back.

Idleness and ignorance do not avail, but neither does hopelessness. Take a stand, wear orange, speak up and engage in conversations; invite people to participate at work or at school; open discussions in social media. Our local committee group in Tampere is going to join the discussion on social media and spread the orange word, and we would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Orange days occur between 25th November and 10th December, the latter marking the International Human Rights Day. However, the two weeks only matter if the idea holds strong for the remaining fifty weeks of the year, too.

Photo: UN Women / Ryan Brown

 

Katariina Kärkelä

UN Women Tampere

 

References:

[1] World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, South African Medical Research Council (2013). Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, p.2. For individual country information, see UN Women Global Database on Violence against Women.
[2] “Naisiin kohdistuva väkivalta.” Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.fi/tyomme/teemat/naisiin-kohdistuva-vakivalta/ Cited: 19.11.2019
[3] “UN Women statement: Confronting femicide—the reality of intimate partner violence” https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2019/11/statement-un-women-confronting-femicide-reality-of-intimate-partner-violence. Cited: 13.11.2019

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Harjoittelijana YK-kokouksessa – näkymiä Suomi-kyltin takaa

YK:n aavikoitumissopimuksen osapuolikokous järjestettiin Intiassa 2.─13. syyskuuta. Harjoittelija Pietari Arikka osallistui kokoukseen osana Suomen delegaatiota.

YK:n aavikoitumissopimuksen 14. osapuolikokous järjestettiin New Delhissä, Intiassa 2.─13.9.2019. Suomi edusti kokouksessa Euroopan unionia ja sen jäsenmaita osana EU-puheenjohtajakauttaan.

Sain upean mahdollisuuden osallistua harjoittelijana kokoukseen osana Suomen delegaatiota. Avustin elokuun alusta alkaen osapuolikokouksen valmisteluissa ja käytännön asioissa: autoin laatimaan tausta-aineistoja, järjestämään tilaisuuksia ja kirjoittamaan raportteja. Välillä sain toimia sihteerinä kokouksissa sekä edustaa täysistunnoissa Suomi-kyltin takana.

Kokoukseen osallistui suurin osa aavikoitumissopimuksen 197:sta osapuolesta ja yhteensä 8000 osallistujaa, sisältäen ministerejä, virkamiehiä, kansalaisjärjestöjen ja median edustajia. Tärkeimmiksi teemoiksi nousivat kuivuus sekä EU:n alullepanema maanhallinnan sisällyttäminen sopimukseen. Kahden viikon spektaakkeli koostui täysistunnoista, kontaktiryhmien kokoontumisista, vastaanotoista ja kymmenistä sivutapahtumista.

Pelkästään kokouspaikkana Intia oli ensikertalaiselle elämys. Positiivisina puolina mieleen jäivät maan monimuotoisuus, kulttuuri ja kaikkiin osa-alueisiin ulottuva palveluhenkisyys. Toisaalta syvälle juurtunut kohteliaisuus tuntui suomalaiselle toisinaan hieman raskaalta: kysymyksiin ja pyyntöihin vastattiin helposti myöntävästi, toteutumisesta riippumatta. Valtava eriarvoisuus, köyhyys ja ilmansaasteet näkyivät heti konferenssikeskuksesta ulos astuessa.

Päätösten palaset viime hetkellä paikoilleen

Harjoittelijana oli mielenkiintoista nähdä, miten suuren ja huolellisen taustatyön puheenjohtajuus vaatii sekä miten kokonaisuus ja yhteinen kanta rakentuvat. Osapuolikokouksen aikana Suomen delegaation jäsenet osallistuivat lukuisiin neuvotteluihin ja kokouksiin, esiintyivät erilaisissa tilaisuuksissa sekä isännöivät EU-vastaanoton. Suomen vastuulla oli koordinoida EU-maiden sisäistä taakanjakoa, valmistella puheet sekä pitää huoli, että EU:n yhteinen kanta säilyy. Tietenkin muut EU-maat ja komissio auttoivat, mutta selkeä vetovastuu oli Suomen delegaatiolla.

YK näyttäytyy usein valtavana ja monimutkaisena, hieman kaukaisena organisaationa. Oli kiehtovaa nähdä, miten osapuolikokous käytännössä toimii. Kokonaisuus rakentuu niin monista työryhmistä, komiteoista ja sopimuksista, ettei ole ihme, että eteneminen on hidasta. Asiat kuitenkin etenevät lopulta yhteisymmärryksessä ja kaikki lukuisat instrumentit kietoutuvat toisiinsa.

Vielä toiseksi viimeisenä iltana osa päätöksistä oli täysin auki ja keskustelut kävivät kuumina. Olin miltei varma, ettei kokousta saada päätökseen aikataulussa, mutta perjantaina iltapäivällä kaikki palaset loksahtelivat paikalleen ja valtava kokonaisuus saatiin aikataulussa päätökseen. Viimeisen täysistunnon jälkeen minut valtasi epätodellinen olo. Nytkö se on ohi?

Matka opetti valtavasti monella osa-alueella ja tarjosi uniikin mahdollisuuden päästä näkemään, mitä puheenjohtajuuden tuoma rooli ja YK:n osapuolikokous käytännössä tarkoittaa. Hahmotan nyt paremmin YK:n rakenteiden logiikkaa ja toimintaa, mutta toisaalta olen entistä enemmän pyörällä päästäni. Ehkä muutaman osapuolikokouksen jälkeen ymmärtäisin selkeästi mistä maailmanlaajuisessa päätöksenteossa on kyse.

Pietari Arikka
Korkeakouluharjoittelija ulkoministeriössä/ TAYKin toinen viestintävastaava

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The Many Problems of The Fashion Industry

Hello folks!

How many seasons do you think there are in the world of fashion? Most people would say four:
spring, summer, autumn and winter. These are the main seasons, but actually, there are 52 seasons.
This means new trends and new clothes every week. Do we really need something new so often? As
we are living in the time of climate change, environmental problems and low-cost products, I
decided to write about fashion industry and the problems we face in fast fashion. I find this topic
interesting and important as the fashion industry is filled with problematic practices and harmful
behavior.

Now, I am a tailor by my profession so this text is also somewhat motivated by my own self-interest
and interest of fellow tailors’ businesses. But let’s not let that bother us too much. When you get
into the world of tailors and learn about the high-quality bespoke clothes tailors and dressmakers
are able to make, you very soon learn to appreciate clothes in a new way. I always knew that some
stores sell poor quality fashion and some clothes tend to disintegrate in the first wash, but I did not
think about it too much. After becoming a tailor, I got this “ahaa”-moment: quality over quantity,
style over trend and it is all about the details. After this change in my thinking, I started to look for
information about how the fashion industry operates, how it affects me as a consumer, and how it
affects me as a tailor and others working in the field. What I found was sometimes very shocking.

Problems in fashion

A short post like this is not enough to go through all of the problems in such detail I would like to, so
I will shortly describe a few and put some links in the end of the post. Some big global fashion
businesses have made the headlines many times when reports of extremely poor work
environments in factories or lack of environmentally friendly practices have come up. For example,
in India some factory buildings have collapsed because they have not been maintained properly. In
low-cost production countries workers do not necessarily get the needed protecting covering when
working with chemicals. This can cause multiple health problems in the long run. Also, disturbingly
common is the fact that the employees are paid so little that they cannot afford the basic necessities
with 40-hour work weeks. The low-cost production is possible due to lack of legislation protecting
the workforce and environment.

The problems sadly do not end when products leave the factories. Polyester and other synthetic
fabrics are known to release microplastic fibers in every wash, and microplastic is one of the biggest
environmental problems we are facing. So, be aware of the material the textiles you buy are made of
and how often you wash them. Another interesting aspect is what happens to clothes when we do
not use them anymore. To be environmentally friendly we should cut the waste we produce aka
through less in to the bin. People try to sell their usable clothes in flea markets. When we are unable
to sell something, we usually turn to donating the clothes to charity. Charity is always good and I do
encourage people to donate, BUT when it comes to fashion you need to be careful where you
donate.

It has been reported that people in wealthy western countries donate tons of clothes to charities,
and tons of clothes are shipped yearly into for example countries in Africa. What starts as a good will
and idea of giving to those less fortunate, can sadly turn into more trouble. It is known that in some
cases the second hand clothes have turned into a million-dollar business as the donated clothes are
sold. Prices may seem low to us, but they can be more than a couple days salary for the locals. The
supporters say that this second hand clothes business creates jobs, but it is debatable if the business
truly creates more or better jobs than those lost in local production. Also, shipping donated clothes

is not the best answer to a problem that could be solved with local development. For example, an
area might need new infrastructure and investment in education and facilities, and in these cases,
shipping used clothes won’t solve the real problem. So, check what happens to the clothes you
donate.

Another option is giving clothes and textiles to companies who can turn used items into new fibers.
Technology for reusing fibers has evolved greatly. This is a good way to reduce the need for new
fibers and reduce the amount of waste we create.

Can we (the consumers) make a change?

Oh yes, we can! As consumers we have a responsibility to know how the products we buy and use
are made. We don’t need to know every little technical detail, but we should be aware of the larger
picture. This is because, if we want to change something, we need to know what we are changing
and what we can do to change it. Think of it in this way: a lamb does not suffer from shearing if it is
done in good environment, by shearers who truly know their profession and the health of the animal
is a priority. If the lamb lives in poor environment and no one cares about it as anything more than
just a resource, it suffers and can live in huge pain and distress. The same goes for everything else.

Now, there is nothing wrong in wanting low-cost clothes as not all of us have the money to get
bespoke suits tailored by the best of the best. Also, clothes are just clothes and as they say ‘a suit
does not make the man’. But clothes can be produced efficiently, sustainably and in consumer-
friendly cost, we just need to change our mindset about fashion and start to ask for a better fashion
industry. There are already companies in Finland which use recycled materials and production
happens inside the EU. Also, there are multiple certificates such as Öko-Tex to showcase better
practices.

Here are some questions to ask yourself: How many garments do I need? Do I want to buy
something just because it is trendy? Do I see myself wearing the garment 2 years down the line?
Why do I feel like I need new clothes (possibility is that marketing has affected your thinking in a way
that a desire becomes a need)? Where do I buy my clothes from and how are the clothes produced?
Do I truly like the garment or do I truly need it?

It is all about making small changes and being more aware of our actions and what happens around
us, not forgetting the importance of working with other people to achieve something. In the end the
consumer has the power to decide where and how to spend money.

Greenpeace on microplastic https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/6956/what-are-microfibers-and-why-are-our-clothes-polluting-the-oceans/

The Machines. A documentary about fashion. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5690244/

Pollution and fast fashion https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html

BBC news article on fast fashion https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45745242

A look into the second hand clothes business https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/2015/feb/13/second-hand-clothes-charity-donations-africa

Clean clothes campaign on living wages https://cleanclothes.org/livingwage

Paula Aromäki
The writer is the secretary of TAYK, student of social sciences and tailor.

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New year, new blog!

Introducing TAYK, 2250 and 2030

As most of you have probably noticed, we have a new, fancy looking webpage! Kudos Miska for working on it during the autumn 2018. As part of our master plan we’re going to revive also our blog. As the very first blog post, we felt it would be nice to talk about TAYK and our current goals and themes so you readers would be able to catch up nicely 🙂

As I’m writing this, we’re waiting for our newbies night to start and I’ve been preparing to talk about these same topics there also. What is TAYK? Why should you join us and be part of our events? And what on earth are Agenda 2030, SDG’s and 2250? To start off, let’s talk a bit about TAYK itself. We are now a 15-year-old association with deep connections to our predecessor MYKY ry (Mansen YK-yhdistys) that was put down somewhere during the mid-90’s. The reasons were, according to its last chair, the fading interest in the UN and its values with the recent ending of Cold War and the fall of Berlin Wall. In addition, Finland was suffering from the recession and without resources or people willing to join MYKY’s events, there was no need for an association like that. In 2004 however, the successor known as TAYK was founded.

The association have grown a lot during these last 15 years. It started with just a couple of people and really small budget and low effort events. Now we’re organizing events for our ~150 members; events being anywhere between grabbing a drink (‘’Have a drink with TAYK’’) to visiting other countries like we did last autumn when visiting Geneva! But this isn’t a reason to stop doing more and going even bigger. I feel it’s incredibly important to share knowledge about the UN and its values now that the international politics have gone remotely downhill with growing protectionism and isolation together with talks about a probable new Cold War. There are huge humanitarian crisis around the world, which the world cannot seem to find any definite answers. These problems aren’t something any of the countries or their citizens could solve alone, so the need for international cooperation and global awareness is more important than ever.

As part of these issues, we in TAYK hope to make people more aware of the issues at hand and make sure people don’t fall to apathy with everything they hear from the news. Thus, our current themes are the Agenda 2030 and the security council’s resolution 2250 ‘’Youth, peace and security’’.

 

Agenda 2030 and resolution 2250

‘’The numbers Mason, what do they mean?’’

Yeah, we hear this a lot. It’s not like most of us follow closely UNSC (United Nations Security Council) resolutions or other UN stuff. We’re probably going to add sections to our webpage about Agenda 2030 and 2250 soon(ish), but before that happens, I’ll try to open them bit in this post.

Agenda 2030

From these two number combinations, the Agenda 2030 is most likely more well known since it is the biggest thing the UN is trying to implement worldwide currently. Agenda 2030 or the SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) are 17 interconnected goals, which are meant to be achieved by 2030. These 17 goals are meant to be a reference to global development in different sections of societies and global dimensions; for example, goal number 1 is ‘’No poverty’’, goal number 13 is ‘’Climate Action’’ and goal number 17 is ‘’Partnership for the goals’’.

The SDG’s are a successor for the Millennium Development Goals spanning from 2000 till 2015, which were nearly achieved. For example, the number of people living on less than $1.25 (extreme poverty) a day has been reduced from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015 – the goal was to halve the number. Also the global maternal mortality ratio fell by nearly half – short of the two-thirds reduction the MDGs aimed for.

The MDG’s were ambitious, but the SDG’s aim even higher. For example, Goal 1 ‘’No Poverty’’ includes the eradication of extreme poverty, meaning there would be no more people living with less than $1.25 a day. The progress is calculated, evaluated and followed with Sustainable Development Indexes, which you can look up yourself from a link I’ll provide in the end of this post. Finland has been one the first to take action on government level to acknowledge the goals as part of the state’s strategy. Just couple of days ago the state published their website for Finland’s SDI’s.

Whether or not we’ll achieve these goals or not, is up to every single person living and breathing on this planet. It is not just the governments, corporations and organizations but also you, me, your family and your friends who are responsible in trying to make our way of living sustainably on this planet.

Resolution 2250

Less known, but even so important. UNSC Resolution 2250 is better known as the resolution for ‘’Youth, peace and security’’ and it was unanimously adopted in 2015. The aim of this resolution is to call for the ‘’participation and views of youth to be considered during the negotiation and implementation of peace agreements, as their marginalization would be detrimental to building sustainable peace in such aspects as repatriation, resettlement and reconstruction’’. The resolution defined youth as persons between 18 and 29.

2250 was chosen as the annual theme by the UN Youth of Finland and TAYK, as we felt it would be a good year to participate the youth of Finland in the political processes here in Finland. In 2016 a 2250 network was founded for civil society, to take action together to make it easier to advance the resolutions aims together. As we’re currently having two elections, national parliamentary and European Parliamentary, it is necessary to get the youth of Finland involved and heard. There has never been more young people in the world and all of us will be the ones making the difference in the future. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the difference right here, right now.

Epilogue

I could’ve written a whole lot more about these topics, but I hope this will improve your understanding even a little bit. If you’re interested in hearing and learning more about these topics or about TAYK, feel free to contact me or anyone from the current board of TAYK. You can also come to talk to us in our events whenever you like!

I tried to gather some interesting links here about 2030 and 2250, so can read more about them.

About the SDG’s https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/sustainabledevelopmentgoals

The SDG index portal https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/

Finnish Index page http://www.stat.fi/tup/kestavan-kehityksen-yk-indikaattorit-agenda2030.html

S/RES/2250 (2015) (Resolution 2250) https://undocs.org/S/RES/2250(2015)

Finnish 2250-network http://www.2250.fi/fi/

 

Yeti Kakko

The writer is the chair of TAYK, an enthusiastic association nerd, student of international relations and currently in a hurry to the newbie’s night.

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