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Students unite to consolidate UN agreements

Students unite to consolidate UN agreements

SEVEN STUDENTS from Flinders University are taking part in a global initiative to establish an accessible internet database of United Nations agreements.The initiative, Making Commitments Matter…

SEVEN STUDENTS from Flinders University are taking part in a global initiative to establish an accessible internet database of United Nations agreements.

The initiative, Making Commitments Matter (MCM), was established by students in Germany and now comprises about 100 students from 20 countries. The aim of MCM is to improve the implementation of UN agreements by making them accessible. The representative for MCM in Australia, Julie Ngoz, said that the project is targeted towards non-government organisations who lobby governments to implement their obligations under such agreements.

“We think there’s an information gap between the NGOs and how they are able to look at UN agreements and use them in the most effective manner to lobby government,” she said. “We think that if we were able to give them the tools to effectively use that information… then it is more likely that they will be successful in their lobbying efforts.”

Ngov believes that the sheer number and complexity of UN agreements is hindering how effectively they are being implemented. “While the UN agreements are [already] accessible via the internet, the problem is not too little information, but too much,” she said.

“There’s nobody that is comprehensively filtering the amount of agreements that are available for public use. The problem is that they’re too complex for the layperson, too complex for the person working at the NGO and even sometimes too complex for the administrative staff working with government to try and interpret those agreements in some logical manner and to come up with policy to submit to governments or to their departments.”

The online database will cover the range of UN instruments, including agreements, resolutions and communiqués. The students are receiving guidance and assistance from UN and EU institutions as well as experts from universities such as Princeton, Columbia, Harvard and Yale.

Ngov said that the Flinders University team are each volunteering around 10 hours of their time each week for the cause.

Zoe Lyon

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