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Ban Ki-moon: Connected, united

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English: Ban Ki-moon 日本語: 潘基文
English: Ban Ki-moon 日本語: 潘基文 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few short months after the conclusion of the Second World War, the United Nations was formed on 24 October, the anniversary of today.

Do anniversaries really mean anything to anyone anymore?

What about the United Nations? A colossal failure and bureaucratic mess? Or is it a critical international place of important convening?

I have had my own first hand experience working with the United Nations in many different capacities, but perhaps most significantly was as the Lead Operations and Plans Officer for the Australian Defence Force while deployed into East Timor.

Certainly, it is not a perfect organisation, but would the world be better off without it? I think not.

Far beyond an instrument of global security, the United Nations focuses across a broad range touching every aspect of the human experience.

The one area this blog focuses on is the eight Millennium Development Goals signed by all 192 Member States in 2000 to reduce  extreme poverty levels to two-thirds of the recorded levels in 1990 by 2015. It has been one area where there has been some success. It is not a perfect story: child mortality remains improved, but only reduced to half of the recorded levels of 1990, and so the aspiration to achieve a two-thirds reduction by 2015 might be unobtainable.

Work remains to be done. And it is not for us to sit back and criticise the United Nations. We must put our shoulder to the wheel also.

Ban Ki-moon’s words today in his United Nations Day Message for 2013 was fitting:

We continue to show what collective action can do. We can do even more.

In a world that is more connected, we must be more united.

This is the sentiment of the 10 City Bridge Run. To build a human bridge between ourselves to help address the problems we face. Together we can make a difference.


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Janne Ryan & Adam Spencer | TEDxSydney 2013
Adam Spencer  (Photo credit: TEDxSydney)

Celebrate with us! We are ReLaunching the initiative 10 City Bridge Run on Thursday 24 October 2013 at The Lansdowne Hotel in Sydney and want you to join us. Click here to RSVP or just come on the night.

The 10 City Bridge Run is a citizen-led initiative focused on asking how we can use our networks to help improve the delivery of child survival. This is a massive problem with more than 6.4 million children under the age of five dying this year from mostly preventable disease.

Adam Spencer has kindly agreed to emcee the ReLaunch. Most of you will know Adam already from his role as a broadcaster with the ABC. He describes himself as “Geek, Dad, Comedian.”

Thursday 24 October 2013, 6-9 pm. Free to attend.

The ReLaunch will be a relaxed evening to make connections and open a few new circles.

Thanks to everyone has been involved to date. It has been a long journey already which began in 2010. There has been a lot of learning. Come and hear about the journey to date, and our vision for the future and how you can get involved in making a difference.

Collaboration can produce powerful results. Please join us!

No One Left Behind

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Helen Clark visits a ceramic workshop that is ...
Helen Clark, Administrator UNDP

Helen Clark spoke about ‘Human Progress in a Diverse World’ last night in Sydney for The University of Sydney.

Most people will know Helen from her service as Prime Minister of New Zealand across three successive terms 1999-2008. She is now appointed as the Administrator for the United Nations Development Programme since 2009, and so has a close if not intimate role in managing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which are due to be achieved in 2015.

Her talk was excellent. She spoke about the challenges of the past and the future, and importantly this in the context of leading a large institution that is dependant on the participation of a wide variety of stakeholders in an environment with many competing interests.

She was able to describe how Syria and sustainability are both buzz-words, but important to address within the same framework. Not a choice of either/or.

Towards the end of her talk, she turned her attention to the post-2015 agenda, the post-Millennium Development Goals agenda, and called for a transformative approach relying upon paradigm shift in how policy, ideas and innovation can be shared successfully.

It is this post-2015 agenda that the 10 City Bridge Run is seeking to contribute towards.

There are five key points framing how the United Nations will tackle this post-2015 agenda. The first of these is ‘Leave Nobody Behind’.

What this means is that for all of the progress made in lifting half of the world’s population out of extreme poverty, there will still be the other half still caught in the unenviable and almost inescapable plight of extreme poverty. This must be understood in more ways than simply trying to eat food purchased on less than $2 per day. Actually, their lot is incomprehensible to our reality. More than 6.4 million children under the age of five dying every year. It is just wrong. And so we must help if we are able.

Helping does not necessarily mean throwing more money at the problem, or finding a charity to whom to donate. Those might be good thing, and I am not suggesting that they should be stopped. But on their own, they do not solve the problems of extreme poverty.

To ensure no one is left behind, it will need all of us to work together to find the best ideas and then how to implement them. This is what the 10 City Bridge Run seeks to do. I have been leading this initiative, and not everything has been perfect, in fact far from it. But it has been a learning experience.

We are taking that learning and ReLaunching on 24 October at The Lansdowne Hotel in Sydney. I hope you can join us. Adam Spencer has kindly agreed to help us kick this off by emceeing for the night. More information here.

Collaboration can produce powerful results. Please get involved and help us build a better bridge for the future so that no one is left behind.

Race against time

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Half marathon
Half marathon (Photo credit: bostjan_rudolf)

Does it really matter if the Millennium Development Goals are not achieved? Of the eight goals set, there are a few that will be achieved (or have already been satisfied) before the 2015 time horizon. Others might not cut it.

Child mortality is one of those measures that is looking doubtful of meeting the 2/3 reduction of 1990 measurement of under-five death before 2015.

It is a race against time, and we as a global community as close to halving the 1990 level. Reduced from around 12 million deaths of under-five children in 1990 to an approximated 6.4 million deaths in 2013.

The stunt which frames the 10 City Bridge Run will illustrate this through running across two distances:

  • 2.4 km. A participative run involving a large group running 2.4 km together across a bridge. There are 2.4 million children too many dying this year in 2013 above what is required to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 4 (reduce child mortality by 2/3 from 1990 levels before 2015).
  • Half-Marathon. 10 half-marathons will be run in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to show we have halved 1990 levels, and while that is good, it is now a race against time in this marathon journey to end child mortality.

This running is framing the conversation asking: “how can we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

There are a lot of people who have been working hard on this issue for more years than I have been aware of it. How can we find, learn about, then share best practice to make a difference in the lives of literally millions of people where the need is at its greatest?

This is a race we want to win. Together.

Begin with the End: Focus on Kenya

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Dressed up Maasai warriors
Dressed up Maasai warriors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Begin with the end in mind. Before looking at the running in other locations, we are going to get a tighter plan around Kenya which will be the last country visited as part of the 10 City Bridge Run.

The maturing focus on the 10 City Bridge Run itself is a great advancement from the largely idealised and abstract concept which it began as back in 2010. It is an enormous undertaking, and the timeline and the plan we have going forward is much improved.

The first task is perhaps grounding the 10 City Bridge Run in a particular activity. Thanks for good friends in Kenya and around the world, there has been much discussion about what shape the run in Kenya might take next March. We will begin our initial planning there, and work to address some of the more immediate issues in other cities a little later in June.

Already there has been great input as to what form the run should take. We are looking at an out and back course. It will be open to international participation. And there is still a lot to organise.

Asking good questions before has been helpful. We have been able to identify that covering a marathon distance is not desirable for a number of reasons. Despite the narrative that is built around this, it might be that running a half-marathon distance is preferable to a 24 km distance. We welcome your feedback as to whether you would favour a half-marathon. Whether it is 24 km or half-marathon, all runs across the 10 cities will cover the same (or approximately the same) distance.

There are a still a lot of people we need to speak with to get this done. Please register your interest to support the Kenya Run here as either a runner or as someone who has some specialty knowledge to assist with planning, organising or marshalling this event. If there is someone or some organisation we need to speak to, please pass on their details or make an introduction.

Enter the form here to register your interest. Thanks for working together! Harambee!

Running for a cause

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World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka - ...
World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka – Marathon winner Catherine Ndereba on her last 50 metres (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People run for many reasons. Among the most common reasons are: (1) because they can, (2) because of the feeling of freedom, (3) because they get to challenge themselves, and (4) just for the enjoyment of it all.

More recently, now at any road race or fun run you attend you will see that many people are also doing it to raise money. “It is for a good cause.” This has been an innovative money spinner for many not-for-profits, and why ought they not to benefit? It is a good thing.

Since 2010, I have been working on running for a cause. The running serves as a stunt to open a conversation asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

This is an important question because of the magnitude of child mortality alone. If the entire Australian cities of Sydney and Perth were completely wiped out this year, it would be a figure less than the number of children under the age of five who will die this year alone. That is just wrong. Worse, many of the deaths are from preventable disease.

The running is to raise awareness. It is not a ‘charity’ run in itself. It is seeking to create social impact by opening a conversation where best practice can be gathered and then shared, especially to the people where it matters most. Note that this is a difficult problem. A lot of people with money can fly to New York and have the same conversation, and a lot of good will come from that. My sense is that in some cases the problem remains unabated. This is my point: we need to improve our capacity for delivery.

What I am proposing is an enormous undertaking. So too is improving child survival. Maybe you might say it is unreasonable to try to tackle too much (which I contend to be possible). I say it is unreasonable to do nothing more than raise a few thousand dollars for charity. Because we have the capacity to do more, we must also act. We really are the privileged few…

The outcome is all important. Designing a ‘wellbeing-wiki’ to help those most in need to improve the delivery of child survival. A series in Design Forum in each city visited (along with gathering advice and information from around the world) will shape out capacity to find best practice, and determine how this is best shared. It is the running that opens this conversation. That is why in this case running is important. That is why in this case it is running for a cause.

There a three distances to be run:

  • 2.4 km: A highly participative run to engage groups in different locations running the same distance. This idea to involve collage students across the world came from a conversation from my running coach Bob Williams. While 100 people running 2.4 km in under 30 minutes illustrates that many people coming together can run the distance I will travel across 10 countries, there is a more meaningful symbolism here. ’2.4′ is an approximation of the number of under-five deaths to be reduced before 2015 to meet the Millennium Development Goal. 2.4 million. The focus is to run this in mid-September from New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly which is coincident with what I have called ‘Mortality Overshoot Day’: the date in 2013 when we as a global community exceed the number of child deaths aimed for in 2015.
  • 24 km: the 10 City Bridge Run is organised with 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km run in 10 cities across 10 countries. ’24′ relates to the mortality rate from 2008 which in 2010 (when this idea was hatched) was the cited figure for child mortality. The good news is that we are making progress. Hans Rosling, the avuncular statistician, has even demonstrated that it might be possible yet to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The 10 countries where the running will occur are among those where child mortality is at its worst, or where the capacity to leverage child survival is at its best.
  • Marathon (42 km): This is the reason for this blog. There are two wonderful women both called Zipporah in this story, both from Kenya. My Facebook friend Zipporah back when I first announced the countries to be run asked why didn’t I have more focus on Africa. That has since changed. The second Zipporah is a friend I met on the recent Commonwealth Study Conference. She was very insistent that I go to Kenya and invite runners from elsewhere in Africa and the world to join us there. I have been encouraged by other friends, such as John Thuo also from Kenya. During all of these conversations, what emerged was the idea of finishing the 10 City Bridge Run off with a full distance marathon in early March 2014. It is a way of celebrating: celebrating the completion of the 10 City Bridge Run journey, celebrating progress made in improving child survival, and the running community celebrating a sense of unity coming together to make a difference. It would have a proposed international entry. The question this blog seeks to have answered is whether it is desirable or necessary to run a full-length marathon? Wouldn’t it be less trouble and make more sense to complete the 10th leg as also a 24 km distance?

And yes, there are a lot of questions to which we don’t have answers.

There has been some excellent discussion and contribution, and the reason for this post is to put those questions on the table for everyone to talk about and pick apart. We want to hear your thoughts. Good ideas, bad ideas, trouble and problems. Also opportunities.

This is a little clunky because we are all around the world, but it is also part of the task we are on. Thanks to everyone for your views:  Warra Thahla Mpondo Ncipha, Victor Flores, Eduardo Antonio Marquez Vera, Robert Malseed, Korgoren Erick, Emma Tepha ,  Muthaura Purity, among others for your help. Here is a list of four questions- there are more, but this is a start:

  1. Is running a marathon in Kenya in March 2014 achievable? Noting the additional marshals, distance and logistics, would we be better to run a 24 km distance instead? It might make more sense to keep the 24 km distance: less stress on athletes who might be training for other races, less burden to organise. The only real advantage of keeping the marathon is that Kenya and other countries in Africa are well known for their runners across marathon distance. I think we could safely kill off the marathon, and still uphold the spotlight on African athletic reputation. Let’s come to a decision quickly!
  2. Where is the best city/village in Kenya and route to chose? This will obviously depend on the length. Again, 24 km makes all of the organisation much easier.
  3. If the run was across 24 km, it would be a ‘challenge’/’fun run’, but not a championship race as very few other runs cover this same distance. What are your thoughts as to the purpose?
  4. What prizes structure would be best to organise? This will impact on how sponsors are approached, and this will be affected by our relationship by organisation with Kenyan Athletics. Again, there are some first order questions to be addressed: distance, location and purpose. Once these are addressed, we can open a more meaningful conversation with sponsors and Kenyan Athletics.

So there is a lot of work to do. I just looked at the Marathon 2014 website and something caught my attention. I believe it speaks to the unequal distribution of focus which itself directly impacts our ability to understand what poverty is and its impact.

In 2014, there are zero marathons planned to be run in Kenya according to the site. I don’t know if this is correct, and I haven’t asked Toby Tanser about it. But it is interesting to note that in the US or UK or even Australia there are a wealth of marathons people can attend.

To end, one last comment. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. We are part of a global running community, and should all help each other. If there is an existing race that this can be part of, or if we can partner with someone to make this easier to organise, then let’s talk about how that is possible. There is a particular focus to what we want to achieve here, in improving the delivery of child survival globally. But let us be open to what each other has to say. Harambee!

Seven most important reasons why a good photograph matters

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Not a Crime - Chris Steele-Perkins
Not a Crime – Chris Steele-Perkins (Photo credit: Eleven Eight)

We all see images everyday, many of these photos. Thousands and thousands of images.

And we instinctively ‘know’ what makes a good image, but explaining it is not always that easy. Listening to three Magnam photographers visiting Sydney this months for the Head On photo festival was instructive. Here are a list of the most important reasons Shahidul Alam, Eli Reed and Chris Steele-Perkins gave from their talks and interviews at Head On. Worth reflecting on…

1. People in the villages do not exist. News is not about them, not for them. People in problems of a massive scale will exist as numbers, not individuals. (Alam)

2. The power of an image…Those are the stories that often don’t get told. It is challenging the sources of power. (Alam)

3. Photography changes the world. Things we can do at a personal, finite level that make a difference. Those small, tactile, little steps…it certainly made a difference to me. (Alam)

4. Everything changes the world at one point. It is an aggregate thing….Grains of sand on the right side of the justice scale. (Steele-Perkins)

5. Photography for me has been this fantastic passport to the world. (Steele-Perkins)

6. Some people say photography doesn’t work. Screw that. It does work. I have seen the difference it makes…Photographs can change the world. Just think of the Holocaust. (Reed)

7. This list won’t be the same without your contribution too. I saved the last word for you. Leave your reason below on a comment, or at Facebook or Twitter, and I will update this post.