Looking back on his 10 years as head of the United Nations, Secretary-General, Kofi Annan today spoke of the continuing need for reforming the world body, efforts to build partnerships between the UN and other organizations, and the myriad challenges that lie ahead, particularly in bringing peace to strife-torn Darfur.“When I became Secretary-General [in December 1996]? I felt the Organization needed to be reformed and brought in line with today’s requirements, and so I embarked on a very early reform at the beginning, trying to improve the management, administrative and financial processes of the organization,” he told the International Women’s Forum.Describing this as a process and “not an event,” Mr. Annan also stressed his belief that if the UN was going to help people, it had to focus on inequality, and that was the reason for proposing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight targets that aim to reduce poverty, hunger and other social ills by 2015.“We needed to focus on inequality – inequality within States and between States, and that we had to really come together to fight abject poverty, and that’s what led to my report ‘We the Peoples’ and the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals by the? General Assembly in the year 2000.”As he prepares to step down at the end of this year, Mr. Annan voiced satisfaction that Member States accept that the UN’s work rests on three major pillars. peace and security; economic and social development; and human rights and the rule of law.He also pointed to such challenges as HIV/AIDS, bird flu and environmental degradation, saying that individual governments alone couldn’t deal with such problems and that was why he had sought to develop partnerships between the UN and other organizations to improve the world body’s efforts to counter these threats.“As an international community we needed to find ways of dealing with this, and the only way I could think of is that we needed to work in partnership with all the stakeholders – civil society, governments, international organizations, private sector and foundations, and so I can say that today the UN has become a partnership organization, reaching out and working with others.”However, while pointing to UN achievements, Mr. Annan also admitted that “many challenges remain,” particularly how best to stop the bloodshed in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region.“Darfur is still a challenge,” he said, acknowledging that despite the recent agreement in Ethiopia to put an eventual UN-African Union force into the troubled region, the “challenge will be in its implementation.”“The expectation is that the Sudanese will work with the international community to get it done, and so we will be pressing ahead on that,” he went on, noting that “everybody is looking at how we handle Darfur.”Mr. Annan also stressed that the UN is made up of Member States, a fact often forgotten particularly by those criticizing the world body.“When people talk of the UN, what is the UN? There are two UNs – the UN that is of Member States who sit in the Security Council and the General Assembly and give mandates to the Secretariat – the Secretary-General and the Secretariat. And there is a Secretariat which carries out these mandates,” he said.“But the way the media covers it if anything goes wrong, ‘It’s the UN.’ They talk and write about the UN as if it’s some satellite out there which their governments and others have nothing to do with. But the UN is their government and mine,” he said.
While acclaimed artist Alejandro Cartagena’s work focuses mainly on suburban life in Mexico, the themes expressed in his photographs bear uncanny resemblances to issues also currently impacting Canadians.Brock Visual Arts Professor Amy Friend said it’s that universality that made Cartagena’s work so appealing and was why she invited him to this year’s Walker Cultural Leaders Series at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA).Alejandro Cartagena, an international award-winning artist, self-publisher and editor who lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico, will present a lecture and exhibition as part of the Walker Cultural Leaders Series Oct. 17. (Photo courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena)“I’ve seen Cartagena’s work making an impact in how he is able to question political issues, mostly focused in Mexico, but I think there is a really universal message in what he is presenting,” she said. “It’s also important for students and the public to interact on a personal basis with a successful, working artist. To see that these are real people making real work in the real world — and it’s creating a dialogue.”Cartagena is presenting an exhibition, Presidential Guide to Selfies, and giving a public lecture titled Visualizing space and some ideas of homeownership 2006 to 2018. The exhibition opening reception and the lecture both take place on Wednesday, Oct. 17 and are free and open to the public.Hosted in the VISA Gallery and Student Exhibition Space, Presidential Guide to Selfies asks people to question the motives behind Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s vast collection of publicly shared selfies.Cartagena has curated a selection of these selfies (currently posted to the President’s Official website) as a means to examine whether these images are being shared to show the Mexican President’s engagement with the people of his country, or whether it is merely an exercise in vanity as he ‘poses with his fans.’Cartagena has also created an accompanying photobook for this exhibition in which he details the events surrounding each selfie.Friend noted that in an age of cell phones and social media, and with Canada’s own Justin Trudeau often affectionately and critically called ‘Prime Minister Selfie,’ the exhibition’s exploration of politics, social media connectivity and celebrity culture is exceptionally timely.Following the gallery opening, Cartagena will explore the interdependence of humans and landscape in the face of urban expansion in a lecture drawing from his own body of work.Carpoolers, for example, is comprised of a series of photographs taken of migrant workers travelling around Mexico in the beds of pickup trucks.In his public lecture on Oct. 17, Alejandro Cartagena will explore issues of home and ownership through the use of his work such as Carpoolers, which documents migrant workers riding in the back of vehicles. (Photo courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena)The images of hardworking labourers travelling from job to job during the harvest season can conjure connections to Niagara’s own large migrant worker population.In Ontario alone, tens of thousands of migrant workers come to farms, orchards and greenhouses as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program every year. They work and live in communities in the Niagara Fruit Belt, often spending six to eight months working in the agricultural hub of the province.“The idea of ownership floats around in Cartagena’s work, looking at suburban Mexican homes, border issues, migrant issues, issues of poverty and wealth,” said Friend. “It’s quite poignant now, in particular with what is happening with migration issues worldwide, and it also makes us question how we treat our own migrant workers. How do we decide how housing is built? Do we even know what is happening here in Canada?”The lecture is being held in the Robertson Theatre at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.Steve Solski, Executive Director, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, said hosting the event in conjunction with the MIWSFPA is another example of the close community partnership between the two establishments.“The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and our neighbours at the Marilyn I. Walker School have together truly become the cultural hub for our city and region,” said Solski. “The synergy between bringing together the very best artists from across our country and world paired with nurturing and developing local artists and young creative minds, is key to our thriving arts community.”Tickets to the lecture are free, but registration is required by visiting the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre website. The exhibition runs until Nov. 7.Presidential Guide to SelfiesExhibition opening: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 5 p.m., VISA Art Gallery and Student Exhibition Space, MIWSFPAExhibition runs: Oct. 4 to Nov. 7Visualizing space and some ideas of homeownership 2006-2018Wednesday, Oct. 17, 6 p.m., Robertson Theatre, FirstOntario Performing Arts CentreThe Walker Cultural Leader series brings leading artists, performers, practitioners and academics to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock University. Engaging, lively and erudite, these sessions celebrate professional achievement, artistic endeavour and the indelible role of culture in our society. Please join us. This education program is generously founded by Marilyn I. Walker. read more