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.

http://webtv.un.org/topics-issues/watch/mogens-lykketoft-ga-president-on-the-global-awareness-of-the-tragedies-of-irregular-migrants-in-the-mediterranean-basin-general-assembly-59th-plenary-meeting/4623476587001

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

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.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/141007218]

Clouds Over Sidra Screened at World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of New Champions

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Guests at World Economic Forum watching Clouds Over Sidra.

From September 10th-12th, the Millennium Campaign had the pleasure to present a Virtual Reality screening of the film, Clouds Over Sidra at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2015 in Dalian, China.

Clouds Over Sidra,which was created to support the United Nations Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group’s call for partnerships to build resilience in vulnerable communities, immerses the viewer in the life of Sidra, a young Syrian girl living in the Za’atari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Gabo Arora — one of the co-creators of Clouds Over Sidra — says that the inspiration behind the project was to use virtual reality to give a platform for viewers to gain a better grasp of the conditions in camps like Za’atari stating, “if we used virtual reality and made them actually walk in [Sidra’s] shoes…. they would care and be moved to action”.

The event used Samsung Gear VR headsets to give people the opportunity to experience the daily life of one of the many children whose lives have been changed dramatically by the conflict in small groups. These intimate screenings were followed up with a Q&A session moderated by Arora along with Dr. Wei Kunlin, Associate Professor at Peking University, Olivier Oullier, Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at Aix-Marseille University; and Yobie Benjamin, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer of Avegant Corporation. The Q&A session discussed the impact virtual reality can have on outreach and advocacy for global issues such as the Syria Conflict that would otherwise be impossible with conventional forms of media.

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Co-director and producer Gabo Arora discussing the importance of Virtual Reality films like Clouds Over Sidra in bringing a human element to conflict crises.

In addition, the WEF took the screening as an opportunity to announce their plans to fund the translation of Clouds Over Sidra into Mandarin, bringing further light to a vital issue both to influential decision makers as well as the general public.

Data Playground, Virtual Reality, and Humans of MY World Heading to Bangkok!

By Kristen Grennan, Global Youth Advocate

The Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development is being held in Bangkok, Thailand from May 21-22 and the UN Millennium Campaign will be there displaying the peoples’ voices through the Data Playground, virtual reality, and Humans of MY World.

What is the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development?

The forum will be a multi-stakeholder dialogue on three key issues: (a) practical approaches for integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development; (b) the potential for a regional monitoring and accountability framework; and (c) the form and function of the Forum beyond 2015. The theme of this year’s session is “Strengthening integration, implementation and review for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.”

UN Millennium Campaign will be hosting a Data Playground at the forum for visitors to explore and interact with the MY World data, a virtual reality film screening called Clouds Over Sidra, and a Humans of MY World photo exhibition.

Social Media

What is a Data Playground?

Data Playground at the Cartagena Data Festival
Data Playground at the Cartagena Data Festival

The Data Playground is an interactive display of the MY World data. Using large touch screens, viewers can touch and play with the data, making “big data” fun and exciting. This is perfect for all ages and will be on display at the Forum in Bangkok on May 21.

Here are sample tweets you can use to post on your twitter account, so don’t be shy, join the conversation on Twitter!

  • Interact w/ @myworld2015 data on May 21 at the Data Playground at the @UNESCAP Asia Pacific Forum! http://www.unescap.org/events/apfsd2 #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • You’ll be in #Bangkok for the @UNESCAP Forum? Join us on 5/21 at our @myworld2015 #DataPlayground! #dataviz #bigdata  #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • Can’t wait for the #DataPlayground at the @UNESCAP Forum, showing #PeoplesVoices from around the globe! @myworld2015 #BKK #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • .@myworld2015 & @mcampaign hosting a #DATAPLAYGROUND @UNESCAP Asia Pacific Forum on #SustDev in Bangkok on 5/21! #sustdevAP #APFSD

Virtual Reality

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The Millennium Campaign offers the unique opportunity to get right into the life of a little girl living in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan–thanks to the technology of virtual reality. The film Clouds Over Sidra is a virtual reality film made in collaboration with renowned virtual reality filmmaker Chris Milk that allows you to feel as if you were really in the Zaatari refugee camp with the main character, Sida. As Chris Milk recently stated in a TED Talk, “When [Sidra] is sitting in her room, you’re sitting there with her. You look down and you can see the carpet you both are sitting on. And because of that you see her humanity in a different way.” See what opportunities virtual reality has in store for the future of development!

Sample Tweets:

  • #VirtualReality brings you right into the life of a Syrian child. See #CloudsOverSidra @UNESCAP forum for yourself #VR4Dev #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • #VR4Dev? Check out #virtualreality at @UNESCAP forum in #BKK to see for yourself what it is like to be #childrenofsyria #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • #VirtualReality can change how we perceive crisis & conflict, see @UNESCAP Asia Pacific Forum @mcampaign #VR4Dev #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • Get into the world of a Syrian refugee via #virtualreality at the @UNESCAP Asia Pacific Forum! @myworld2015 #VR4Dev #sustdevAP #APFSD

Humans of MY World

Humans of MY World

The Millennium Campaign will also be hosting a photo exhibition displaying the peoples’ voices behind the data. In this intimate photo series, people explain what their top MY World priorities are for Post-2015 and why it is so important to them. Go beyond the numbers, get into the stories, and see the human side of MY World.

  • Beautiful stories of experiences & priorities of ppl from around the globe from @myworld2015, @UNESCAP Asia Pacific Forum #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • #Storytelling that brings you right to the heart of #Development https://www.facebook.com/homy2015 View the gallery in #BKK @UNESCAP #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • “It feels mostly like I’m waiting for death to come” https://www.facebook.com/homy2015/photos/pb.502956393150078.-2207520000.1430749293./591525860959797/?type=3&theater Photo gallery in #BKK, @UNESCAP @myworld2015 #sustdevAP #APFSD
  • #PeoplesVoices #BKK: “It’s stressful, but we keep going” https://www.facebook.com/homy2015/photos/pb.502956393150078.-2207520000.1430749293./591525860959797/?type=3&theater Gallery on 5/21 in #BKK @UNESCAP Forum #sustdevAP #APFSD

Finally, don’t forget to join the Peoples’ Voices Challenge!