Water you doing about it?

As I’m writing this, I’m enjoying a nice cool glass of water. What’s better than that to really quench that thirst. But unfortunately, not everyone has that privilege. This wednesday, March 22nd, marked the World Water Day, a day set in place to tackle the water crisis. To this day, 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of various diseases. Something needs to change!


This week in SDG X is a novel writing initiative to keep the network and the blog’s loyal readers up-to-date with a brief collection of news directly related to the Global Goals.


On wednesday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a report, which states that by 2040, 600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely scarce water.

“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water – endangering their lives, undermining their health, and jeopardizing their futures,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. According to the report, 36 countries around the world are already facing extremely high levels of water stress. Imagine how many people are living without access to basic, sanitary water. It’s horrifying.

As an outcome of this report, the UN is urging governments and businesses to make changes to ensure access to water for everybody.

It was Thomas Fuller who said “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” In first world countries, water is not something we give much thought. It’s just always there, seemingly limitless and at our disposal practically everywhere. And yet, all around the world people are dying for the very reason that they don’t have access to it. Children in these countries have to spend their days, looking for water instead of having the opportunity to get an education and on these trips they are in danger of many things. It is an issue that may no longer be overlooked by the general public.

We have to help. Now, apart from water saving measures like not leaving the tap running or not showering for 2 hours per day, we can also go out there and actually help on the spot. With AIESEC, you could go to Cambodia and raise awareness in communities about the dangers of unsanitary water and how to tackle the water crisis or you could go to any number of other places and show your support there. It is time to step it up and do something for our fellow human beings. What will happen without our support? Well, maybe the number of children living without water by 2040 will double.

What are you going to do about it?

Blogpost writer: Jakub Wolf

I’m young and selfish. Deal with it!

Blogpost writer: Jakub Wolf

Give me a dollar (or whichever currency is present in your country) for every time someone calls a millennial selfish and self-involved. There is a stigma present about young people these days, that all we care about is ourselves, that we only do things to further our own agenda and that if we had a glass of water and had the option to give it to a person dehydrated, we would drink it ourselves or pour it out. Let me tell you why that mindset can be a good thing.

In the age of new technologies, children are growing up in a completely different way than their grandparents and even their parents. There is access to technology at a much younger age and especially social media seems to be present even in pre-school. But while you may argue that it ‘ruins’ children and makes them vain and selfish from an even younger age, that is not the case.Sure, kids will probably start taking selfies on their way to primary school, but they have a huge advantage to any generation before them. No matter what social media you are on, no matter how hard you are trying to avoid it, information is present everywhere. Young people are educated through social media more than you know. This means, that from a young age, they know much more about the world’s issues. You can’t spin this to make it a bad thing. 

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Now, in AIESEC we send people on exchange. Young people go abroad and do social projects or professional internships. We say, that it’s important to help other people because they might not be as privileged as we are. It’s important to be selfless and give back to our community. But there is nothing wrong with being selfish about your choices. You might only be going abroad to see a country you have never seen before or to make all of your Facebook friends see what an amazing person you are for helping people in need. But who cares? You are still going there and helping them. Other people are still benefitting from your selfishness. Whether or not you choose to post pictures of it all across social media (which does actually have the benefit of raising awareness) or to make all of your friends feel bad for only caring about themselves, someone somewhere will reap the benefits.

The truth is, most of our actions can somehow be traced back to a selfish motive. And that’s okay, because we are all human. Pretending like you’re a Robin Hood type character that never does anything selfish is just a pretentious lie. However, if your selfishness doesn’t harm other people, or even better, actually helps them, then go ahead. Go abroad, snap those pics, slap on a filter and make your friends feel like horrible people. As long as you are doing something good, it really doesn’t matter.

Ayn Rand, a russian-american philosopher and novelist said “Selfishness does not mean only to do things for one’s self. One may do things, affecting others, for his own pleasure and benefit. This is not immoral, but the highest of morality.”

Find a place where you can contribute, be selfish but make sure that you’re helping others in the process. We’re all young and selfish, just deal with it!

Introducing the new AIESEC Opportunity Portal

Rotterdam, the Netherlands: On Monday 20th of March, AIESEC is releasing the completely refreshed version of our main platform – AIESEC Opportunity Portal. Counting 1.3 million users, the platform provides access to over 80,000 volunteering positions and 6,000 job opportunities in 120 countries and territories. The new version aims to make it even easier for young people to quickly find the most relevant experiences all across the world. The updates will enable a seamless experience across mobile and desktop, a new application flow, and support in 5 languages.

What can you expect?

More intuitive: We simplified all our design and navigation so that there’s a better and faster experience for users on our site. We created new pages to access the information needed on every stage of your experience with us.

More consistent: Find additional information about our products, a simplified flow and a clear connection between your physical and virtual experience with AIESEC. The new version showcases our products and how each of them can provide you a different leadership experience.

What is new?

Smarter content: All text displayed in our opportunities on the portal was carefully thought out to provide you the required information for better decision making. Our opportunities now display clearer job description, specifics for each product, a map with the location of the opportunity and our fee.

Access using your phone: We built this version from scratch and you can now see our opportunities on the go! Apply, review your applications, edit your profile or read more about each of our products using your mobile device.

Constant support: Look for the blue bubble in the right bottom of your browser and we will be ready to support you. Also, we created a help center where you can find most of the answers to your questions.

The new AIESEC Opportunity Portal is rolling out globally to all members today. Make sure you experience it live yourself at youth.aiesec.org

Got…Water?

Blogpost Writer: Jakub Wolf

Water is great. We use it in many aspects of our lives, from drinking it to showering in it. We’re practically made of it. But unfortunately, not everyone can access it as easily as some of us.

Did you know that 663 million people on our planet are without water? And at least 1.8 billion people use water that is fecally contaminated! Disgusting, I know. More than 80 percent of wastewater resulting from human activity are discharged into rivers and sea without any pollution removal. Almost 1.000 children die everyday due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases. These numbers, as unbelievable as they may sound, are real, displayed on the website of the United Nations. Meanwhile water is something we take so much for granted.

Picture this. You want to cook a meal and you’re rinsing off your vegetables, but you remember that you have to grab something from the other room but instead of turning the tap off, you just leave it running out of pure laziness. Or you’re having a lazy sunday and you decide to shower three times that day. Sound familiar? All these things we do, are not because we hate people in third world countries and we want them to die from dehydration. It’s simply because water is so easily accessible, and seemingly infinite, that we just don’t think about it. I mean, in a developed country you can get water pretty much for free anywhere you want.

But that is exactly why we have so much more responsibility. It’s not that we can’t shower three times a day or wash our dishes for 2 hours. We have to be conscious about it and think when is it really necessary to use water and are we really being as careful as we can be?

In addition to that, we should always be incredibly thankful that the standards of sanitation are so advanced. If in your country, you can drink tap water, you should consider yourself very lucky! There are still many countries in the world where that is not available!

As Deepak Chopra, american author and public speaker, said:

“Although we take it for granted, sanitation is a physical measure that has probably done more to increase human lifespan than any kind of drug or surgery”

Water is an incredibly important part of our lives that we should appreciate much more. Don’t shower for half an hour just because you’re scared of the cold, use your dishwasher or at least when you’re washing the dishes with your hands, don’t spend hours doing it and for pete’s sake, please don’t leave the water running without reason! And spread the word. Make sure that your friends aren’t wasting water either! This is a group effort that we have to fight all together.

Are you up for it?

 

What are you doing? Stop wasting!

Blogpost Writer: Mariana Lainfiesta 

There you are, sitting at the restaurant having a laugh with your friends, and you completely forget about the dish in front of you getting cold. Hours pass, and you end up eating only half of the portion you asked for and leave without a moment’s pause because you ended with a full and happy stomach.

Did you know that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted annually?

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Sadly enough, some countries are greater culprits than others; according to the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN), the total amount of food wasted in the U.S. exceeds that of the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, France, and Germany combined. Moreover, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that global food production accounts for 70 percent of fresh water use and 80 percent of deforestation. Food production is also the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and creates at least 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

If you want to make a difference, there’s no excuse to do so. UNEP recently launched Think.Eat.Save, an initiative that is working with groups around the world to develop and coordinate projects to prevent the environmental problems that can result from food loss and food waste.

Be part of the U.N. initiative and support the Sustainable Development Goal #12: Responsible consumption and production by working to reduce the tremendous food waste and loss that occurs throughout the world.

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You’re probably wonder, how can I do it though?

We’ve compiled a list of 5 organizations working in restaurants, businesses, and on farms to make sure all of the labor and natural resources that go into growing, processing, and marketing food doesn’t go to waste.

  1. Culinary Misfits (Berlin, Germany) –Started by two friends, Culinary Misfits seeks out the ugly vegetables at grocery stores, farmers markets, and restaurants and turns them into delectable dishes at the events they cater in the city.

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  1. FUSIONS (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) (European Union) – After recognizing that the European Union discards approximately 89 million tons of food every year, Brussels has pledged, through the FUSIONS program, to reduce that number by half by the year 2025. Currently in development, FUSIONS hopes to tackle the issue throughout the supply chain, working with farmers so that they don’t reject less-than-perfect-looking produce. And they work with grocery stores to offer discounts to consumers on products that are nearing their expiration dates.
  1. Think.Eat.Save (International) – This initiative, launched by the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, works to reverse food loss and food waste by providing consumers, retailers, leaders and the community with advice and ways to take action to reduce their yearly food waste.  The campaign aggregates and shares different methods of conserving food, including policy recommendations and steps that consumers and households can take on their own to prevent waste.
  1. Sanford and Son (Illinois, United States) – Sanford and Son is a father-and-son company that works in the West Side of Chicago to repurpose food waste for urban farms. Ray Sanford and his son Nigel recycle food waste from restaurants and private homes and convert it into organic compost, which is then distributed to urban farms to use as fertilizer. They claim to save 226 kilograms (500 pounds) of organic waste for each family that uses their composting services.
  1. DC Central Kitchen (District of Columbia, United States) – From the 370,131 kilograms (816,000 pounds) of food it recovered in 2011, DC Central Kitchen provided almost 2 million meals to those in need in the DC area.  In addition to recovering food from organizations and restaurants, DC Central also offers local farmers fair prices for their produce, helping to contribute to the local economy.

These initiatives cover a wide range of sectors – private businesses, universities,and  nonprofit organizations – and illustrate the extent to which collaboration is the key to change.

Join us and let’s make a change together. Leave no one behind.

On consumer rights and the right to consume

Think about all the things you buy on a weekly basis. All the clothes, food and the commuting you do, all the things that produce a carbon footprint, which is pretty much encompasses everything we do in a modern society. Would you be able to cut down 3 fourths of it, and get by with only the 25%? If you are living a modern lifestyle – that’s what you might have to do in order to reach a level of consumption that is sustainable.

 

 

In 1962 Kennedy gave a speech in the congress which later became to be known as the consumer bill of rights, the date of that speech, the 15th of March,  later became the world consumer rights day.  With all the material wealth that the 20th century brought to the now developed countries, we started thinking more and more of ourselves in terms of consumers, and consumers that have rights.  Somewhere along the line people also woke up to the fact that growth and consumerism had a negative side effect, the inconvenient fact that we’re running out of resources on this planet. In fact, today globally, we are using 1,6 times the resources than what we actually can use sustainably on this planet.

 

Fortunately, nowadays we have more and more options for sustainable consumption as people are increasingly aware of the effect their daily choices have on the environment. Still every year we overstep the boundary of the sustainable level of consumption earlier and earlier.  In 2016, we did that already on the 8th of August.

 

Yet not everyone has the luxury of buying ethical products and for the large part of people on earth consumption is about making the ends meet, and having the most basic things in life.

 

It’s undeniable that in the quest for a higher standard of living through economic growth, the developing countries can’t be following the footsteps of industrialized countries. There are more than 1 billion cars driving the roads of the world today. In the next decades that number is predicted to double only by the contribution of the growing number of cars in China. But how could one deny people the right to a higher standard of living?  Poverty is a very complex phenomenon, but it is most importantly about not being able to satisfy the most basic material needs. And the fulfillment of these needs requires production.

 

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The question is how can we work together to get to a level of consumption that will be fair for all yet sustainable at the same time.

 

We all make decisions as consumers everyday. Those decisions, no matter how small, all add up to the bigger picture. As consumers we have rights, but we also have responsibilities to make the decisions that are sustainable. Acting sustainably is one of the core values of AIESEC. We also want people to believe in their ability to make a difference in the world, because the change starts with you and environmental sustainability requires actions from all of us.

 

The kinds of problems we face today on the global level are so connected that we all need to be able to work together to find a solution. We want to develop people who engage with others to achieve a bigger purpose.  So it’s not only about what decisions you make, it’s about what other people do too, and in order for people to make the right choices, we need awareness. AIESEC works with the Sustainable Development Goals through numerous volunteering projects around the world. Find your opportunity to contribute here.

 

What is gender?

Blogpost writer: Jakub Wolf

This wednesday wasn’t just any old wednesday. You might have gotten out of bed, eaten your breakfast cereal, slapped on your favorite pair of  jeans and gone to work just like you would every day. But this day was special. It was March 8th a.k.a. International Womens Day.


This week in SDG X is a novel writing initiative to keep the network and the blog’s loyal readers up-to-date with a brief collection of news directly related to the Global Goals.


Unfortunately we live in a world where equality is still a dream rather than reality. Women have to fight every day, to stand up for themselves and make sure that the antiquated morals of the past centuries are forgotten, that in this modern world we live in, they can have the same opportunities and the same chances as any man.

But it’s a fight that isn’t easy to win.

It was Hillary Clinton who said “We need to make equal pay and equal opportunity for women and girls a reality so women’s rights are human rights once and for all.” And she’s right of course. Why should women be treated differently? Women are and have always been achieving incredible things. Now, some might say that we already have achieved equality. Women are represented in most sectors already so what else do you want?

Well, unfortunately it’s not that easy. It’s true that the fight for women has come a long way, but until the day where a woman is passed over for a job because of her gender, or being judged by the way she looks or what she wears, we shall never use the word equality.

On wednesday, Anne Hathaway, who serves as a U.N. global goodwill ambassador, spoke at the United Nations. She praised all the efforts of the people before us in the fight for equality. “Let us honor them and build upon what they started by shifting our language, and therefore our consciousness, away from gender and towards opportunity.”, she said.

Read that quote again and think about it. Imagine a world where the first thing someone notices about you isn’t your appearance and your gender. Imagine, they just see your talent and your potential and your morals. That is a world we can truly call equal.

There are many organizations that have already greatly improved their policies for equality. Hathaway is currently working to ensure paid parental leave for everybody, regardless of gender, in companies in the United States.

In AIESEC we value diversity. We have people from all different backgrounds and with all different stories. We have leaders who are women who are powerful and strong and inspire thousands of people. We try every day to rid the world of things like sexism, by contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 5 Gender Equality.

So I guess what I’m trying to say, is speak up! Whenever you witness any inequality, speak up. Whenever you feel like somebody is mistreated, due to their gender or otherwise, speak up.

In the words of Madeleine Albright: “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

Are you being Bold for Change?

 

Do you care about the world?

Blogpost writer: Jakub Wolf

Would you recycle if you didn’t know that you should? Would you wear pants if you didn’t know that you should? Of course not, because how would you know? The same goes for contributing to the well-being of our planet. How are you supposed to know to do something, if you don’t even know what’s wrong?

Most of us have their lives planned out in a certain way, we have ambitions and dreams that we want to fulfill. Have you ever planned to help other people? To make sure that the environment is safe? It’s not something that most of us are taught. It’s something that we have to do ourselves.

Our world is not in a great place at the moment. Look at the front page of any newspaper, and there will probably be some kind of negative story on there. But why should you care, right? Sure, you feel sorry for those poor kids in third world countries and for the poor whales in the ocean. But there’s nothing you can really do, right? Well, wrong.

The first step to contributing to the well-being of our society is to educate yourself. Take half an hour every day, read about the problems that we are currently facing, read about where people are suffering and where they need help.

AIESEC is an organization where we believe leadership is one of the fundamental solutions to the world’s problems. With a term like leadership being very hard to define, AIESEC did some research and separated the concept into 4 qualities, that we believe make a great leader. One of these qualities is being a world citizen. Now what does that mean? Enjoying traveling? Being interested in new cultures? I’m pretty sure if you’ve ever talked to anybody about their interests, 80% will have said those things.

Everybody likes to travel. But what makes a true world citizen, is being interested in what is going on in our world. These days, most people are very well informed about the issues that are going on in their country. With social media, information is just one Google search away. But we are not divided by countries so that we can all be separated into our own bubbles. We all live on the same planet and it’s well-being should be the concern of everyone. That is why it’s important to also educate yourself about the situations in other countries of the world.

As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Even though it may not be in your 5-year-plan to help other people and to make a positive change in the world, it’s something that is worth investing your time in. In the words of Robert Swan, “The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It”. What are you doing about it?

Find your opportunity at opportunities.aiesec.org.

 

What do you mean, “leadership development”?

Blogpost writer: Julian Koßmann

If you’ve ever spent time thinking about or working with leadership, you’ll know that it’s something incredibly hard to define, and even harder to embody. But you’ll also know that within effective leadership lies the secret to making change happen.

It’s no secret that the world we live in is facing challenges – visit any popular news site for a few dozen examples. But the fundamental solution to these issues lies in engaging oneself, but also other people, to tackle the various problems head-on. In a sense, leadership. To achieve these solutions on the long run, it’s a logical conclusion that we need to make sure that young people – the next generation of prime ministers and CEOs and heads of NGOs – are challenged from early on, and equipped with the personal values, passions and skills that they need to make a proverbial dent in the universe.

For this reason, AIESEC works every day, around the globe, to provide powerful practical experiences to young people, that will instil in them a sense of responsibility, as well as those leadership qualities that they need to make the world a better place. And while leadership is still one of the hardest words to define objectively, in AIESEC, we believe that there are four qualities, that are the most important to develop in young people, to shape them as competent leaders for our world.

The first of these revolves around world citizenship. LDM-07 copyPeople who possess this quality aren’t only interested in what’s going on in their immediate vicinity, but they stay on top of news and problems from around the globe, and take responsibility to solve these as well. World citizens are the types of people who act to build a better world, because they enjoy it. They know that even the smallest actions can be significant, and they strongly believe they can make a difference in the world.

LDM-05 copySecondly, AIESEC experiences develop self awareness in youth. They provide plenty of challenges and give spaces for participants to reflect on what defines them as a individual, and by extension, as a leader. They allow participants to get to know their strengths and weaknesses, but put the focus on strengths. They give participants spaces to explore their passions and values, and consider how these can contribute to a bigger cause.


LDM-03 copyThe third quality is solution orientation. An effective leader does not dwell on the problems and adversity they face, but moves quickly to consider how to move forward from there. Towards the people they work with, they transmit positivity no matter how uncertain the circumstance, and has a great awareness of risk, taking the leap when it’s needed, and when others may not.

LDM-01 copyFinally, AIESEC strives to develop a capability to empower others. Through effective communication skills, even in diverse audiences and environments, through engaging others in a bigger purpose and through focussing on developing and investing in others, this quality maximizes the overall effect of the cause of the leadership. It can make the difference between an effective individual, and a powerful organization – even a movement.

World citizenship. Self awareness. Solution orientation. The ability to empower others. These qualities aren’t randomly chosen. They are responses to the way our global society has been developing, and they are what will be required from the leaders of the future – indeed, from anyone looking to make a difference in the way the world works. These are the leadership qualities that AIESEC strives to develop in young people through everything it does.

How are you developing these qualities in your everyday life? Let us know in the comments.

Over the next weeks, we will be spending each Wednesday on our Facebook page, exploring what each of the qualities means for and to young people. Join the conversation at facebook.com/AIESECglobal.

The Voice: Social Media between good and bad

Beginning from the 1st of January, employees in France have had the ”right to disconnect”, or in other words, the right to not use technology for work outside of working hours. Being constantly connected to work with digital devices has been associated with stress and even burnouts. Detrimental aspects of social media are frequenting news headlines, from the negative effect on one’s self image to cyber bullying and addiction. Moreover, recently the power of social media has shown its negative side with the dissemination of fake news that have spread, if not straight up lies, then at least questionable truths. Social media seems to have a strange effect on people; nobody prides themselves on writing abusive comments but somehow aggressive texts still show up all the time in comment sections all over the internet.

Social media seems to be like an uncontrollable, even mystical, force that has a tremendous impact but no one really knows how it works let alone can take responsibility for. Given that social media unquestionably has a lot of power, can that power be used for positive things? In the light of all the negative sides of it, it’s easy to forget how much good social media actually can do.

 

The democratization of information is a two way street; where it has given raise to ‘fake news’ and the like, it has also given a voice to people who previously had none. When the citizens of Aleppo were trapped in midst of the fighting, their good byes flooded the social media feeds of people all around the world. So when people are debating the politics, social media can help us to see behind the numbers and expose us to the actual human nature of the suffering, which makes it harder to ignore.

 

As technology becomes cheaper, more and more people in the least developed regions gain access to it. A farmer can get access to information on market prices on a mobile phone that they previously didn’t have and thus get a better price for their crops. Microloans also become more accessible with phones, providing people with the financial leverage to help them get out of poverty. Access to information can also be a catalyst for social change through increased awareness.

Photo by V Grigas (CC 3.0)

AIESEC believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to take a positive role in shaping the future of the world. We strive to activate youth leadership potential, and thus develop individuals who will empower others when working towards making an impact.  Unlike in many other instances where it can seem overwhelmingly hard to make a difference as a single person, the power social media social lies in the individuals. A single hushed tone can spread like wildfire, turning into a booming voice along the way. So when deciding how you’re going to use your voice, let that be a voice for good.