The United Nations struggles to be the world’s peacekeeper

The United Nations struggles to be the world’s peacekeeper

Where diplomacy balances demagoguery, should one nation be able to veto the votes of 192 others? Giving peace a chance might just be too much to ask. Non–Violence or The Knotted Gun by Carl Fredrik Reutersward, UN New York. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 Hands up if you...

Global citizenship and cross-border collaboration has never mattered more. Among the 193 nations that make up the United Nations, the island nation of Tuvalu – less than 13,000 people – has the same vote on referendums in the General Assembly as China, which has more than 1 billion people. But China also serves on the UN Security Council and so can veto any proposal. Because of this strange inequity, the UN has been unable to stop ethnically-driven massacres, genocidal persecution of minorities and other smaller conflicts. On the other hand, it is bringing the world together on climate change. 

Exercise: Turn your class into a mini United Nations. Each student will get one vote. But appoint a small number of students to also serve on the Security Council. (You might choose the tallest, biggest students to emphasize the idea of power imbalance.) Have students propose changes that should be made by the school or your class. Then have the students on the Security Council see if they are willing to endorse the idea, with any one student on it given the power to quash the proposal. Then have students discuss the pros and cons of that structure and the power of the veto.

Decoder: To battle climate change, go local and be vocal

Decoder: To battle climate change, go local and be vocal

Climate change requires global, systemic action if we are to save Earth. But each of us can help bring pressure for the painful changes needed. Greta Thunberg at a climate strike outside the United Nations in New York, 30 August 2019 (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) This...

Can one person’s actions really help save our planet? The news on climate science is often bleak but Correspondent Jeremy Lovell tells us why we should each think of ourselves as one of a billion climate activists environmental advocate Greta Thunberg seeks to mobilize. And together we can push governments and corporations for changes that can save our planet.

Exercise: Have students come up with a short list of steps they think your national or regional government should and could take to fight climate change. Have each student write a letter to the president or your governor asking them to push for legislation that would accomplish this.

Decoder: With Artemis, US aims to return humans to the Moon

Decoder: With Artemis, US aims to return humans to the Moon

It’s been 50 years since humans walked on the Moon. Now, the U.S. is launching a costly program to return there and possibly pave the way to Mars. NASA’s Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida,...

Five decades after humans walked on the Moon, the U.S. space agency NASA is leading an international endeavor to return there at a cost of $93 billion. Correspondent Natasha Comeau decodes the Artemis project, a series of missions to build a long-term human presence on the Moon. The 21 nations that have signed the Artemis Accords for space exploration reflect today’s political divisions. Missing from the collaboration are China and Russia, which plan to build a lunar station of their own. It was competition with the then Soviet Union in the 1960s that spurred the first space race and resulted in the historic 1969 moon landing. Now, a host of private corporations are funding their own space initiatives.

Exercise: In teams, have students form their own private space exploration company. Were they able to successfully build their own rocket that could take people into space, what would be their mission? What would they hope to get out of their space exploration ventures? Have each team come up with three things they think space missions could accomplish.

Decoder: Armenia in a bind as Ukraine war resets global order

Decoder: Armenia in a bind as Ukraine war resets global order

A conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is heating up as the war in Ukraine prompts geopolitical realignments, with implications for outside powers including the West and Russia. Azerbaijani soldiers carry portraits of soldiers killed during fighting over...

“It is easy to pay little attention or to even ignore regional conflicts, but they can hold the key to understanding larger political currents in the world.” Correspondent Bryson Hull’s words remind us of why a simmering conflict in the Caucuses between Armenia and Azerbaijan has potential implications for all of us. News Decoder is premised on the notion that young people know a great deal, through headlines on their screens, about what is happening in the world but, because they are young, can have difficulty connecting the dots and understanding why far-away events matter to them. Hull offers a clear explanation of why fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh appears periodically in those headlines, and then disappears, only to reappear some day, like so many other intractable conflicts in distant places.

Exercise: Ask your students to identify a regional conflict that became a proxy for armed competition involving stronger powers.

Decoders