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February + March Reading List

[Climate] changes may be happening too fast for human comfort, but they happen too slowly for the newsmakers – and, to be fair, for most readers.

These events that have yet to materialise may dwarf anything journalists have had to cover over the past troubled century. There may be untold catastrophes, famines, floods, droughts, wars, migrations and sufferings just around the corner. But that is futurology, not news, so it is not going to force itself on any front page any time soon.

Even when the overwhelming majority of scientists wave a big red flag in the air, they tend to be ignored. Is this new warning too similar to the last? Is it all too frightening to contemplate? Is a collective shrug of fatalism the only rational response?

Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre – Alan Rusbridger in The Guardian (March 6, 2015)



Earth Institute Alumni Profile

office party conga line

May your first job be just as festive.

I shared some career advice in a short blog post for Columbia’s Earth Institute, where I interned for two years!

[EVENT] Between Media and Humanitarianism: the WFP Experience

Euaryste Tugirinshuru (32), president of the cooperative bvuri mbere, stands in a World Food Program (WFP) storage facility in Kagorogoro village, Rwanda. (Photo credit: gatesfoundation/flickr)

Euaryste Tugirinshuru (32), president of the cooperative bvuri mbere, stands in a World Food Program (WFP) storage facility in Kagorogoro village, Rwanda. (Photo credit: gatesfoundation/flickr)

Between Media and Humanitarianism: the WFP Experience

Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs

January 28, 2015

How is humanitarian action covered in the traditional and social media? How do humanitarians interact with the journalistic media, and get their message across? Emilia Casella, World Food Programme Global Media Coordinator and SIPA Alumna, will share her experiences and thoughts about the subject with the SIPA community. Emilia has worked with the UN’s World Food Programme, since 2006 and has served in Sudan and Geneva, before moving to the Headquarters in Rome, in 2011. This talk will be moderated by Prof. Dirk Salomons, Director, International Organizations Specialization.

In a packed room of SIPA student, Emilia Casella, World Food Programme Global Media Coordinator and SIPA Alumna, shared her experience of working at WFP after a career in journalism. Casella was speaking in her personal capacity, informed by but not on behalf of WFP. After prompting the audience to name the current big humanitarian stories (Syria, Ebola, Ukraine), Casella asked: why are these the stories the ones we follow? News media tend of cover disasters which seem to have a clear solution/end, focusing far more on emergencies than chronic issues like policy weaknesses.

Current challenges in humanitarian communications: 

  • there is intense competition for media attention among NGOs
    • while humanitarian work/need has grow immensely, the journalism industry’s capacity/interest in covering humanitarian stories seems to have waned (“business model doesn’t allow for” complex and nuanced coverage)
    • humanitarianism typically not covered as a beat
    • Casella calls for greater collaboration among similar organizations to get media attention (recent example of a massive coalition of nonprofits coming together to raise awareness around the Sustainable Development Goals: Action/2015)
    • “News is no longer news, it’s often content”
  • in recent years, communications across all NGOs have become increasingly donor driven due to tight budgets and government funding; in that sense NGOs often act as a PR arm for their donors
    • the competition is so tight that departments within the same organization recognize the importance of media/communications; putting out their own content, releases, and reports
    • the new media often conflates WFP and it’s work with the UN; however, WFP does not receive any UN money and is primarily donor funded
  • social media is a challenge in how quickly and incessantly it proliferates false information

Outlets covering humanitarian issues well:

Some closing words

  • communications is an essential component of every program, and there has been a greater recognition of this need across humanitarian organizations
  • historically, WFP has looked for former journalists for their communications team, as it is often easier to teach humanitarianism to people who already understand the needs of the new media, rather than the other way around

Chilling short film displays effects of air pollution in China

Released on Thursday, the film follows the lives of two Chinese families — one a mining family in rural Hebei Province, and the other a cosmopolitan family in hyper-urban Beijing. The film is intended to show that every Chinese citizen, regardless of socioeconomic status or geography, is affected by dirty air. – Amy Qin, New York Times (January 22, 2015)


Stay True

Benjamin Cho quote

And so, when the Rodarte girls, two former unknowns from Pasadena, California whose first collection was a galloping success, asked Cho for some career advice, he was quick to offer this wisdom: “Don’t let them make you expand too fast. Don’t let them force you to make conventional pieces. Everyone is always telling you to make things more basic. Protect yourself from that.

Quote via Benjamin Cho / Photo via -mrgt- (Flickr)

January 2015 | Post-2015 Reading List

This latest version of the Indicators working draft incorporates comments from hundreds of organizations (since it first launched in Feb 2014) and has been prepared in consultation with the UN Statistics Division. Following a 2nd global public consultation which will run from January 16-31,  a revised report incorporating public comments will serve as input into the Expert Group Meeting on SGD Indicators in February 2015, being held in conjunction with the UN Statistical Commission. Submit your comments here!

Indicators and a Monitoring Framework for the SDGs.” – Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) (January 16, 2015)


“Participation, however, cannot be equated with empowerment—taking part in flawed systems merely perpetuates existing patterns of injustice. In order to advance the common good, individuals must possess both the capacity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing social structures and the freedom to choose between participating in those structures, working to reform them, or endeavoring to build new ones,” said Mr. Tokbolat.

Briefing on post-2015 agenda stresses participation of civil society – Bahá’í International Community (January 15, 2015)


No one thinks the SDGs will be easy to realize. The goals are sweeping and their implementation broad. While non-binding, they are intended to apply universally to all member states, both rich and poor. Clearly they are more complex, and for that reason more difficult to communicate, put into action, and monitor than the MDGs. But the world’s problems are complex. Perhaps such an ambitious, integrated approach—one that looks to the links between development, human rights, peace and security, and climate change—is what is needed to carry us forward.

Can the world end extreme poverty by 2030? – Paul Nash in Diplomatic Courier (January 12, 2015)


UNESCO…identifies five priority action areas: mainstreaming ESD [Education for Sustainable Development]  in both education and SD policies; transforming learning and training institutions by integrating SD principles in daily activities; building capacities in educators and trainers; empowering and mobilizing youth; and accelerating the implementation of sustainable solutions at local/community level.

The Decade of Education for Sustainable Development – Goolam Mohamedbhai for Inside Higher Ed  (January 4, 2015)


Eight months until new development goals are agreed. Then what? – Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development (January 9, 2015)



[more to be added]