Category Archives: Clouds Over Sidra

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Next Generation, Cross-Curricular Global Learning through Immersive Technology

Blog by Neesha N. Rahim, Co-Founder Level Up Village

The Level Up Village (LUV) team joined forces with the UN SDG Action Campaign, Shared_Studios, VIF, The Qatar Foundation International & P21 at the 2016 Global Ed Forum in Philadelphia in October. With the goal of providing an immersive, perspective-building experience for some of the best and brightest educators working to build global competency skills in K-12 students,  the experience provided a unique interpretation of “cross-curricular learning” and showed how global competency could be infused in all aspects of education.

Thought leaders from around the world had the opportunity to immerse themselves virtually in the stunningly heartbreaking world of a Syrian refugee child named Sidra via Clouds Over Sidra. This set the stage to understanding what life is like in a Syrian refugee camp, adding depth and intimacy to an issue that many see only on the news.  Those who saw the film came away excited by the promises of VR, seeing the film and technology as an opportunity to effectively teach today’s digital natives about topics from the refugee crisis to the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

“Watching Clouds over Sidra in VR was an incredibly impactful experience,” said Connor Seidenschwarz of the Qatar Foundation International.  “Last summer I worked in a refugee camp in Lebanon, and the VR experience made me feel like I was right back there again.  I think this type of medium, along with the Shared_Studios portal and Level Up Village programs, will have a huge impact on anyone learning about refugee experience, especially in terms of what it can do to create humanize refugees.”

“I’ve worked in many countries, including in the developing world.  Yet this film drove home what life is really like for refugee children and made me see the differences and similarities between children here and there in a different light,” David Ross, Chief Strategy Officer at P21 said of the experience.

“Global education is the lens through which all teaching and learning should occur. Virtual exchanges, collaborative projects, and immersive VR experiences like Clouds over Sidra are critical elements for delivering quality education to all,” said David Young CEO of VIF, an organization that works districts and schools to develop global-ready teachers and students.

After watching the film, participants walked into a gold colored, sparkling Shared_Studios Portal tent where they connected in real time through full-body video conference with groups in Iraq, Pakistan and Nicaragua.  These live interactions pulled the world of each of these groups even closer, breaking down the wall of self consciousness that we often see via modes like Skype.  Through this opportunity, educators explored how students might be able to play and engage meaningfully with peers from around the world.    

Boys who fled the ISIS takeover of Mosul two years ago and are living in Harsham Camp for internally displaced Iraqis in the city of Erbil spoke directly to conference participants via the Erbil Portal, curated by UNICEF Iraq.  Amidst more serious conversations, one US educator spontaneously played a game of rock, paper, scissors with the children who taught her the Arabic words for the game.  The young Iraqi boys then taught a group of three women in the US a local dance.

Lindsay Mackenzie, communications specialist with UNICEF Iraq, explained that connecting with people around the world serves to build perspective and open the world for children in the camp, while giving voice to those who do not feel heard. Moreover, these opportunities represent hope and a moment of respite from otherwise harrowing situations.

Participants also connected in real time with educators and students from Level Up Village’s Global Partner programs in Pakistan and Nicaragua. iEarn Pakistan, led by Farah Kamal, has done incredible work in building global competency and tech skills in Pakistani students, often against seemingly insurmountable odds.  

“It was thrilling to stand right in front of my counterparts at the GEF 2016 and talk. We have the same hopes and aspirations – to have our students grow and thrive in a peaceful world,”  said Farah Kamal, Executive Director of iEarn Pakistan.   

Global Ed Forum participants interacted in real time with Level Up Village global partners NicaPhoto Nicaragua and iEARN Pakistan

At NicaPhoto in Nicaragua, Ronnie Maher has provided quality education, nutrition and other social services to hundreds of students who live in homes that were only recently wired for electricity.  Via Level Up Village programs, students in each location have engaged in one-to-one STEAM (STEM + arts) collaborations with students at schools in the US.

“The impact of Level Up Village programs on our kids is great, beginning with learning to use a computer, learning to form their own ideas, and to ask questions,” said Ronnie Maher, Founder & Executive Director of NicaPhoto. “The video letters and one-to-one connections help them to be less shy as they learn to express themselves. The project-based, small class environment is a unique opportunity that can have a big impact on learning here in Nicaragua.”

At the conference, we also demonstrated how Level Up Village’s social media-inspired platform facilitates the exchange of asynchronous video letters and project collaboration across the globe. In our courses, students in the US are paired one-on-one with partner students from around the world to learn cutting-edge STEAM skills and apply them to real-world problems, In addition, they collaborate on shared project files and exchange information about about each other’s daily lives and cultures through a guided exchange of video letters. The result is meaningful global collaboration and an enhanced understanding of the world – at a personal level.

Students in 20+ countries connect and collaborate using Level Up Village’s mobile-friendly Global Communications Platform in courses such as Global Inventors (3D printing). This type of innovative global STEAM collaboration with real-world applications teaches important 21st Century skills and creates meaningful personal connections

Participants at the Global Ed Forum experienced firsthand how a variety of exciting new technologies are proving to be game-changers in the field of global education. We look forward to further opportunities to collaborate with VIF, P21, The Qatar Foundation International, Shared_Studios and the UN SDG Action Campaign to move global education forward. In the next few years, we expect many more schools in the US and around the world will access the tools they need to bring the world into their classroom and the impact will be profound. Students will be able to develop social awareness, empathy and global competency in unprecedented ways, providing them with the framework they need to become compassionate leaders of tomorrow.

** Special thanks to GEF 2016 organizer Brandon Wiley & Dave Potter of VIF for making this experience possible.

About Level Up Village: A social enterprise based in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Level Up Village (LUV) delivers pioneering Global STEAM (STEM + Arts) enrichment courses that promote design thinking and one-to-one collaboration on real-world problems between K-9 students in the U.S. and partner students in developing countries. Launched in 2012, LUV runs courses during school, after-school and in the summer at more than 150 U.S. schools, with 30+ Global Partner organizations in more than 20 countries.  For more information, visit at levelupvillage.com or find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter @LevelUpVillage.

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Immersive exhibition brings delegates closer than ever to refugees, displaced, and migrants during UNGA

The 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly met this past September, which also coincided with the High Level Meeting on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. In an effort to raise the voices are those most in danger of being left behind, the UN SDG Action Campaign brought two immersive technology experiences to the UN Secretariat Building, highlighting some of the most complex global challenges the UN faces. The particular focus on refugees, displaced people, and migrants allowed diplomats direct access and a deeper understanding of their everyday realities.

Above: Haider al Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq speaking to Waleed, a young boy displaced from Mosul by violence now living in the Harsham IDP Camp. Below: Ewan MacGregor, Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF poses with Mirna, young girl he met on his last visit to the Camp in Erbil.

The United Nations Virtual Reality film series and Portals immersive experiences enables people to access locations and situations they would otherwise never experience, providing context for some of the most complex issues the UN is striving to mitigate. By doing so, the Campaign hopes it will help transform understanding of critical global issues that must be addressed in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals into a medium that is instantly empathetic and universally relatable.

Throughout the course of the week, Delegates were able to watch several films on the newly launched UNVR app (available at http://www.UNVR.org) about the everyday realities of refugees. Filmed in the Zaatari Camp in Jordan, Clouds Over Sidra recounts the new normal for a young girl from Syria, and Born Into Exile by UNFPA highlights the importance of providing safe births for mothers, revealing the amazing statistic that zero mothers have been lost at the camp. Beyond the Lake recounts the harrowing experience of a woman escaping violence in Burundi who is able to start a new life in the DRC through the support of UN Women safe spaces. UNOCHA also previewed Home, a new film documenting the UN Secretary-General’s humanitarian tour, highlighting the plight of refugees living in Lebanon, Syria and the DRC.

Delegates further had the opportunity to have full-body conversations with individuals living these realities, in real time, through the UN Portal, curated by the CampaignShared_Studios, and Bridges of Understanding. It is part of an international project with countless locations around the world by Shared_Studios. The UN Portal connected to the Harsham IDP Camp in Erbil, curated by UNICEF  Iraq, allowing delegates to speak to young Iraqis displaced by fighting in Mosul. It also connected to a refugee resettlement home outside of Berlin, where delegates could speak to people from Chad, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria in varying stages of asylum seeking, and to young people at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan with Turquoise Mountain Institute. In the afternoons, the UN Portal connected to Mexico City with an NGO called Proyecto Habesha that is supporting Syrian refugees in coordinates higher education degrees in Mexico.

This exhibition was made possible through the political support of the Government of the Netherlands, the Government of Germany, the Government of Iraq, and the UN Department of Information.

The Campaign also shared the space with UNICEF’s Time Machine, an installation that  translating childhood memories from data into unique sound – giving visitors and delegates attending the UNGA an opportunity to understand the data on children currently available and areas that fall short.

Peoples’ Voices from around the world celebrated in SDGs Exhibition in UN Visitors Lobby

Since its launch on the 18th of July, the SDGs: A People-powered Agenda – Leave No One Behind exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters has drawn excited crowds of visitors and high-level delegations from around the world.

IMG_20160808_115212.jpgH.E. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, visits the SDGs exhibition 

During the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), H.E. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and co-chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s SDG Advocacy Group, was one of the first to visit the exhibition together with the Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations, Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen. Both expressed their commitment to making the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality for all on the exhibitions large size blackboard. H.E. Erna Solberg wrote that she will continue to advocate for “Quality Education for All”, while H.E. Geir O. Pedersen committed to “Take Action against Inequality”.

IMG_20160718_110241.jpgH.E. Geir O. Pedersen, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN, writing his commitment to the SDGs on exhibition blackboard 

The HLPF is central platform of the United Nations for the follow-up and review of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. It provided political leadership, guidance and recommendations on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and follow-up; keep track of progress of the SDGs; spur coherent policies informed by evidence, science and country experiences; as well as addressing new and emerging issues. In addition to visiting the SDGs exhibition, H.E. Erna Solberg delivered the opening key-note speech at the start of the Ministerial Segment of the HLPF on 18 July and presented Norway’s voluntary national reviews on its progress of delivering the Sustainable Development Goals on the 19th.

IMG_20160804_171540.jpgJCI members at the exhibition’s selfie station

Taking up the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s challenge that “youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels,” members of Junior Chamber International’s (JCI) visited the SDGs exhibition during the JCI Annual Global Partnership Summit. Held July 25 to 28 in New York City, the summit offered international leaders and JCI members the chance to visit the exhibition and experience its interactive selfie stations, take surveysand engage with the important challenges and opportunities that the SDGs present to youth globally.

IMG_20160729_111157 (1).jpgYoung students read the stories of Humans of MY World (www.facebook.com/homy2015)

Moreover, groups of national and international students have been particularly drawn to the exhibition’s touch screens hosting the MY World 2030 Survey (www.myworld2030.org), the High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment’s special MY World 2030 Empower Women Thematic Survey (www.empowerwomen.myworld2030.org) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Impossible Choices humanitarian challenge (www.impossiblechoices.org).

IMG_20160808_115129.jpgVisitor taking the MY World 2030 Survey on exhibition touchscreen 

The UN Virtual Reality film series, which allows visitors to immersively experience the life of some of the world’s most vulnerable using high-tech 3D VR headsets has been a major visitor attraction since the opening of the exhibition. Visitors have been touched by the human stories of the Syrian refugee crisis, the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and the effects of conflict in the Gaza Strip in the VR films Clouds Over Sidra, Waves of Grace and My Mother’s Wing (www.unvr.org).

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Watching the movies and experiencing global issues up close has had a profound effect on visitors, many of whom have tried virtual reality technology for the first time. Especially touched was a group of students from LaGuardia Community College, NYC, who had scheduled a special visit to the virtual reality station. After visiting the exhibition with around 30 students the teacher wrote to the SDG Action Campaign to describe what a strong tool for the creation of empathy UNVR had been for the students:

“I just want to thank you for making the extra headsets available for my students last Friday. They were very impressed with the films. My students recently wrote an essay about whether or not the United States should take in Syrian refugees. Most of my students (who are all immigrants) said no, we shouldn’t let them in because there could be dangerous terrorists among them. One student stayed after class and argued with me about this, insisting that all Syrians are terrorists. After this particular student saw your film and experienced what it was like to be in a refugee camp, he told me he wants to rewrite his essay. We have been reading about refugee situations all during the term, we’ve seen film clips from the news, and we’ve watched Hotel Rwanda, and still most students wanted to keep refugees out. Your film changed that for some of them, which is very powerful. So thank you!”

The interactive SDGs exhibition will continue to be open until 4 September 2016.

HOW TO VISIT

The exhibition is open to the general public during official UN visiting hours:

  • Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
  • All visitors must exit the building by 5:30pm.
  • Virtual Reality screenings at the exhibition: Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm.

The entrance is at 46th Street and 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Visitors without an official UN Pass will have to first obtain a guest pass at the screening station on 46th and 1st across the street from the UN. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

If your delegation or mission would like to schedule a special exhibition tour, please kindly contact Kristin Gutekunst at kristin.gutekunst@undp.org (9143303774).

 

This summer, visit Refugees: a new exhibition in the UN Visitors Lobby

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Refugees Exhibition, UN Visitors Lobby (c) ARG Media

This upcoming September 2016, the UN General Assembly will address large movements of refugees and migrants at a High-level Summit in New York that will precede the annual General Assembly Debate. In the lead up to this, the UN Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign will be partnering with the UN Department of Public Information and UNHCR on an exhibition to draw attention to the plight of refugees, showcasing the individual stories and faces of those who are in in need of immediate help and desperate for the international community to reach and implement comprehensive and sustainable solutions. Through artistic installations that include infographics, photography, video, virtual reality, and a Portal, the exhibition will feature the personal stories of refugees as well as UNHCR’s latest facts and figures about the crisis. The exhibition will be open to the public in the UN Visitors Lobby from 20 June until mid-September.

As part of the exhibition, the UN SDG Action Campaign will bring you two immersive experiences, United Nations Virtual Reality + Portals, that allow visitors to feel first-hand what it means to be a refugee in the Zaatari Camp in Jordan. The Zaatari Camp is home to roughly 80,000 Syrians fleeing violence and war. Children make up half the camp’s population.

Opening of a new UN Portal to connect to the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan
Participants experiencing Clouds Over Sidra at the Refugees exhibition (c) UN Photo/Loey Felipe

 

Clouds Over Sidra is an award winning United Nations Virtual Reality film, which enables you to see Zaatari through the eyes of a young Syrian Refugee girl living in the camp. Individuals and groups may also schedule an appointment to visit the UN Portal that will and allow them to engage in dialogue and programmed events with Zaatari

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Dialogue with young boys living in Zaatari Camp, inside the Portal

The combined experience enables people to access locations and situations they would otherwise never experience, providing context for some of the most complex issues. Interactive experiences such as these also help build understanding of how successful implementation of the Goals can improve the life of a single person, and hopefully inspires action in helping to improve their lives, however small. Ultimately, the aim is to transform understanding of critical global issues that must be addressed in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals into a medium that is instantly empathetic and universally relatable.

Opening of a new UN Portal to connect to the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan
Richard Amdur, speech writer for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, tells of his experience after he talked with a young Syrian refugee at the Zaatari camp via the UN Portal  (c) UN Photo/Loey Felipe

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The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign is a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General that seeks to create an enabling environment for SDG Implementation by building new multi-stakeholder partnerships and empowering people with the knowledge and tools to become actively involved in supporting their governments with the implementation of the SDGs. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the world’s plan and guiding principle towards a more sustainable and equitable planet. These are a universal set of goals, interconnected and focused on leaving no one behind. While these are long-term goals, they are also highly relevant during pressing moments of crisis as well.

United Nations Virtual Reality (UNVR), coordinated by the UN SDG Action Campaign, uses high tech headsets to immerse viewers in some of the most complex global challenges. Building upon its mandate to amplify the voices of those who are often unheard, particularly the world’s most vulnerable, the project seeks to show the human story behind development challenges, allowing people with the power to make a difference have a deeper understanding of their world, and hopefully to act to make a difference. See more: www.UNVR.org #UNVR @sdgaction

Portals is part of a global network of interconnected shipping containers with immersive audio and video technology that allow visitors to converse face-to-face with people across the world. Together they form a global community where people can engage one another across myriad forms of distance. The Portal is made possible by a partnership between the UN SDG Action Campaign; Shared_Studios, a multidisciplinary arts, design, and technology collective focused on carving wormholes in the world through the use of new technologies and partnerships; Bridges of Understanding Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, nonpolitical organization established in 2007 that enhances positive relations between the United States and Arab World through one-to-one connections between thought leaders and the creation of original youth focused programs; and UNICEF Jordan. See more: www.sharedstudios.com/ #UNPortal #ZaatariPortal @sharedstudios

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(c) ARG Media

World Humanitarian Summit

Virtual reality hub at the World Humanitarian Summit
Virtual reality hub at the World Humanitarian Summit

The UN SDG Action Campaign participated in the World Humanitarian Summit on 22-24 of May in Istanbul, co-hosting the Virtual Reality hub, along with Samsung Mobile Turkey, RYOT Films, UN Women, OCHA and the WHS Secretariat.

Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator United Nations OCHA Kyung-wha Kang watched My Mother's Wing
Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator United Nations OCHA Kyung-wha Kang watched My Mother’s Wing

The World Humanitarian Summit – the first summit of its kind held by the United Nations – brought together participants from the global community which included hundreds of delegates and leaders of Governments, crisis-affected communities, private sector leaders, multilateral organizations, international and national NGOs, youth representatives, civil society, diaspora, civil-military, and academic leaders.

The UN is producing films using Virtual Reality (VR) technology, and through this new and powerful approach, they are changing the way how organizations raise awareness and funds. These films highlight some of the most pressing global challenges that the humanity faces, including the Syrian refugee crisis and climate change issues.

At the Summit’s Virtual Reality hub, visitors were able to watch 9 immersive films produced by the United Nations and RYOT films, using Samsung Gear VR and Galaxy smartphones, which were provided by Samsung Electronics. Continue reading World Humanitarian Summit

Clouds Over Sidra shown at Supporting Syria Conference

unnamed (3)The UN SDG Action Campaign collaborated with the World Humanitarian Summit, UNOCHA, DFID and Samsung UK to design and coordinate two exhibition booths showcasing Clouds Over Sidra during the Supporting Syrians conference in London on 4 February.

The exhibitions gave  world leaders, conference attendees and volunteers the chance to experience the Syrian crisis through the eyes of Sidra, a 12 year old girl living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. supportsyrians

The conference raised over US$ 11 billion in pledges in total. This included $5.8 billion for 2016 and $5.4 billion for 2017-20 to enable partners to plan ahead for the response. Commitments were also made to improve education and economic opportunities for refugees.

image4Those who were able to experience Virtual Reality were moved by the film, exclaiming that everyone should see it and returning with their colleagues and friends. Several visitors cried envisioning the harsh conditions many Syrian refugees face, especially children. One young visitor declared that VR would be extremely useful in his classroom to understand world issues. He was part of an exchange program between an English and Lebanese children.

More info on UNVR can be found on our website: http://www.UNVR.org

Millennium Campaign Hosts Screening of Clouds Over Sidra for Woodside Intermediate School 125 in Queens

Syrian native and presenter Sinan watches Clouds Over Sidra before event

On 12 November Date, the UNMC and UN Visitors Center co-hosted a special workshop on refugees with eighth graders from the Woodside Intermediate School 125. Following a screening of Clouds Over Sidra, three young refugees in various statuses in their legal application processes spoke to the students about their personal experiences. 

The workshop was a part of the Teen Thursdays Program, a collaboration between the NYC Mayor’s Office, NYC Department of Education and the UN Department of Public Information’s Visitors Center. During an 8 week program, seventh and eighth grade students participate in workshops and tours at the UN to learn about and become engaged in the UN’s mission. This screening of Clouds Over Sidra was the first in a planned sequence of of workshops in partnership with the program. The Millennium Campaign hopes to further expand the program so Virtual Reality can be used as an educational tool in informing young people about critical issues underlined in the SDGs.

Clouds Over Sidra is the story of a 12 year old girl, Sidra, who is a Syrian living in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. The experience gave the students a glimpse into the daily life of Sidra: her favorite subjects in school, her family, her hopes for the future, and her desire to leave Za’atari and the Syrian conflict behind. Many of these students were the same age as Sidra at the time of filming. 

The eighth graders were joined by three young students from Salve Regina College: Sinan, Karma, and Uma who told their experiences as refugees seeking asylum from Syria and Nepal respectively. Sinan explained how the Syrian war interrupted his studies and how the United States presented the opportunity to finish them. Karma was in the US when the Earthquake struck Nepal, and now she is seeking temporary asylum. Uma’s family were originally refugees from Bhutan. Her heartfelt story touched on how the UN helped her family through tough living conditions in a Nepalese refugee camp, and guided them through asylum application in the US.

Students from Woodside Intermediate School 125 watch Clouds Over Sidra

The response from the children showed a maturity beyond their age. One student stated: “It’s really heartbreaking listening to [the stories of the Sidra and the other presenters] because, we worry about having the newest game when many people are worried about getting food to eat”. This is especially poignant as many of the students knew little about the Syrian conflict or other important issues underlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prior to the workshop.   

Clouds Over Sidra and Virtual Reality experiences like it were designed to support the Millennium Campaign’s efforts to draw attention to some of the world’s greatest challenges, allowing people living through them to tell their stories in their own words. Previously, the vast majority of screenings had been directed towards decision makers, many of whom are involved in the international community. This screening was considered pilot testing to find the best practices in using Virtual reality as a learning tool in the classroom. 

Google Cardboard Distributed to General Assembly during Refugee Meeting

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On Thursday November 19th, the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) partnered with the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly to make Virtual Reality available to the entire General Assembly via google cardboard. This effort brought the voice of a Syrian refugee straight to decision makers and marks the first time the UN has been able to distribute its films in a way to directly advance the UN’s advocacy efforts on a larger scale in a more sustainable way.

IMG_8373During the meeting, UNMC placed Google Cardboard viewers and information sheets for delegates and observers alike to gain a better understand of the human side to the Syrian refugee crisis through Clouds Over Sidra. H.E. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly invited delegates to use the cardboard to understand the reality of refugees in his opening statement

On your desks, you will see a small box through which you can watch a short film about one of these people: Sidra, a twelve year old girl who has fled her home in Syria due to the ongoing crisis. Having watched this video myself, I recommend it highly as it really brings home just how difficult life can be for a refugee in our world today.

Our meeting, however, is an opportunity to help refugees like Sidra, an opportunity to identify key actions to advance a more comprehensive and proportionate response to the overall global humanitarian and refugee crisis.

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The President of the UN General Assembly called this informal meeting of the General Assembly three weeks prior due to the growing crisis in Europe.  The meeting, entitled “Global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum seekers” included H.E. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly; H.E. Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General; Mr. Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Mr. David Miliband, President and CEO of International Rescue Committee; Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; H.E. Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Co-Chair of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing; Mr Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Ms. Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme; and Mr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, Corporate Secretary and Special Envoy of the President of the World Bank Group.

The meeting was separated into three panels, which addressed protection and legal asylum measures, ensuring adequate financing, and resilience efforts to advance support for countries dealing with the largest burdens as well as the connection between humanitarian and development efforts. Each was permeated with discussion moments from member states.

Coordinated by the UNMC for the past year, the United Nations Virtual Reality (UNVR) series has attempted to use Virtual Reality as a way to advance empathy and understanding for people living through some of the world’s greatest challenges. As the UNMC works towards advocating for marginalized communities and other critical development issues, new mediums of communication have shed light on critical issues in new, imaginative ways.

To coincide with the event, UNVR.org, was launched to organize information on the series into one location. The website highlights the importance of using UNVR for advocating for bold action towards critical issues presents in the Sustainable Development Agenda and especially for focusing on the most vulnerable.

For more information, please visit UNVR.org

Virtual Reality Films Screened at Athletics for a Better World

By Di Cao – Global Youth Advocate at the UN Millennium Campaign

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(L-R) Olympic Champions and IAAF Ambassadors, Joanna Hayers and Dwight Phillips, IAAF President Lamine Diack, UNDP Country Director Agi Veres & UNDP Head of Policy and Partnerships Hannah Ryder.

UNDP and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) co-hosted a celebration of the social responsibility program Athletics for a Better World (ABW) in Beijing’s iconic Bird’s Nest stadium on Aug 26th during the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015. The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding to celebrate international partnerships in sports and cooperate to promote sustainable, inclusive human development to make the world a better place. This reception is a series of events UNDP is hosting to celebrate the UN Day for South South Cooperation.

UNDP invited members of the Beijing international diplomatic community to attend the event, which included delegates and representatives from over 40 Countries and many partner organizations. The Virtual Reality film screening became the highlight of the night. The UN Millennium Campaign office brought two VR films to the audience to demonstrate global development challenges from around the world. Launched in early 2015, the film Clouds Over Sidra follows the life of a young girl living in the Za’atari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Waves of Grace features a community’s recovery amid the Ebola epidemic. Both films were designed to support the UNMC’s efforts to highlight the plight of vulnerable communities.

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Attendees explored the ground-breaking technology through the virtual reality headsets with enormous passion, and the powerful, immersive watching experience brought the real lives of people in Jordan and Liberia straight to the Bird’s Nest. The audience were profoundly moved and gained deeper empathy of vulnerable communities.

“The most amazing watching experience ever before.” Exclaimed one diplomat working in Beijing after watching the VR Film. He added, “It’s like they are looking at me and talking to me, they are around me.”

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As the world’s second largest economy, China achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule, and has become increasingly important in the overall global performance on the newly approved Sustainable Development Goals. In the MY World Global Survey, which aims to link voices of citizens to global leaders during the process of defining the new development agenda, Chinese people contributed 321,395 votes with a high level of involvement of youth. Better transportation and roads, support people who can’t work are the two most popular priorities among Chinese voters.

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Ambassador Power Visits We the Peoples’ Hub

On the 30th of September, the UN Millennium Campaign welcomed US Ambassador to the United Nations H.E Samantha Power at the We the Peoples Hub. Ambassador Power was given a private walkthrough of the Hub along with reporters from Associated Press to see many of the instillations present at the hub.

Ambassador Power viewing a screening of Clouds Over Sidra at the We the Peoples’ Hub during the UN General Assembly.

During her visit, she was able to view the Virtual Reality film, Clouds Over Sidra, the story of a day in the life of Sidra, a twelve year old Syrian Refugee living in the Za’atari Camp in Jordan. Following this experience, Ambassador Power had the opportunity to step into a Portal and have a one on one conversation with Sidra, made possible by a collaboration with Shared Studios and UNICEF Jordan. Power and Sidra discussed topics from Sidra’s favorite classes to her aspirations for the future.

Virtual Reality helps decision makers like Ambassador Power step into the shoes of those living through some of the world’s largest development challenges, allowing them to experience their reality in a very real way. Portals are a global network of interconnected shipping containers that form a community center where people can engage one another in ways otherwise impossible. The Portals installed in the We the Peoples Hub gives individuals the unique opportunity to have a conversation and gain insight from someone living in the Za’atari Camp. These conversations bring a human element to global issues, helping bridge the gap between what we hear on the news and what is actually happening on the ground.

Ambassador Power was very impressed with the ability of the We the Peoples’ Hub to bring the human element to issues like the Syrian Refugee Crisis stating, “what the portal does… it doesn’t just give you those faces… [instead] you feel like you are right there”. Ambassador Power was also hopeful in supporting the introduction of a permanent We the Peoples’ exhibit in the United Nations’ headquarters as well as encouraging members of the U.S State Department to watch the film as well.  

Power’s statements come at a time where the United States are committed increase the number of refugees the United States is accepting with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry stating,We are committed to increasing the number of refugees that we take. And we are looking hard at a number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe”. As of September 2015, the United States have announced plans to accept a greater number of refugees globally, including a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees.