COCA-COLA AND THE UN: What do they have in common?

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to have been the sole New Zealand delegate at Harvard Model United Nations held in Boston. As the representative of Oxfam, I was placed into the High Level Meeting where we discussed Failed States. However one of the committees that appeared in my Study Guides was the ‘Coca-Cola Board of Directors’. One may wonder “How on earth does the Coca-Cola tie in with the UN?”

Firstly, here are some UN+admitted facts about Coca-Cola:

  • Coca-Cola and Pepsi together have earnings greater than 40% of the GDP of the world’s poorest states combined (i.e. 80 member states of the UN).

  • Coca-Cola’s $35.1 billion in revenue makes it the 84th largest economy in the world, just ahead of Costa Rica. (As the delegate of Costa Rica for AMUN 2013, I can say that this surprises me)

  • If you stacked up Coca-Cola’s 2.8 million vending machines, they would take up 6,592,458,240 squared metres. This is the size of 4 Empire State Buildings.

The Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York City

  • During the Nazi regime, Coke was banned because it contained too much sugar so Fanta was created in 1936 so that Coca-Cola wouldn’t have to stop trade with Germany.

  • Coca-Cola has over 3500 beverages and it would take the average person 9 years to try each one.

Coca-Cola is an example of a Multinational Corporation (MNC) willing and able to expand their firm so that it operates in more than one country and because they are so large, they can produce more output at a lower cost. One may think this is great because they can expand into developing nations and reduce unemployment in order to train and educate people to improve efficiency and knowledge. Moreover, globalisation allows us to make a shift towards democracy. But at the same time many problems arise. Here are some UN+canny facts:

  • MNCs are responsible for economic exploitation. They can expand into developing nations because it is cheap to do so due to weak laws and regulations. They also risk polluting and damaging the environment.

  • Developing nations receive very little profit as it gets sent back to the country of origin (e.g. the CEO of Starbucks receives an annual salary of $2.15 million USD whereas coffee producers in Ehtiopia receive less than $1 USD a day which is 1-3% of the profit earned) and as a result we are seeing an ever-increasing gap between developed and developing nations.

  • Water is a key ingredient in its beverages and the future stability of the Coca-Cola Company depends on the management of water.

Believe it or not, 94% of the world’s population can recognise the popular red and white logo we see in supermarkets.  People purchase Coca-Cola because they see it’s affordable and represents a Western lifestyle.

The Coca-Cola Logo

Cary Folower, the economist for the UN Commission for Checking Transnational Companies stated that: “Poor people in the third world can see the company’s advertisements how Coca-Cola and Fanta is equalled to happy, well-off, often white middle-class families. The poor that want the best for their children consequently buy Coke or Fanta for their children, or even worse, they start buying it for their infants. Instead of breast milk, the children get Coca-Cola!”

However, children who are raised on these soft drinks are likely to suffer from malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies because they are missing out on essential vitamins.

Multinational Companies have the potential to destroy environments and cultural traditions by their Western Influences. However at the same time multinational companies such as Coca-Cola are striving to make a change.

The Coca-Cola Board of Directors plays a major role in the public face of the company by deciding which philanthropic efforts the company will change (e.g. in 2012, Coca-Cola donated $3 million to conservation efforts by the World Wildlife fund)

Coca-Cola also has a water stewardship program aimed to protect and conserve water and has also teamed up with the UNDP. Perhaps this occurred as a response to allegations about poor water treatment and abuse in India. Like several NGOs that work with the UN such as Charity Water and World Vision, Coca-Cola is trying to help developing nations in Africa get clean water by installing water pumps, etc.  As a delegate at HMUN 2013, I contributed to one of the water pumps being built by Charity Water as my committee fundraised $862.54.

Charity Water has a goal of monitoring and recording the water flows of 4000 water pumps across Africa by 2015


In 2011, Coca-Cola paired up with UN Women to form a global partnership aimed at improving Women’s Economic Development. This partnership generated the ‘5 BY 20’ initiative which aims to empower the 5 million women entrepreneurs within the Coca-Cola chain by 2020. Together they will be providing increased access to business skills training, mentoring and financial services, focusing in growing markets such as Brazil, India, the Philippines and South Africa.

UN women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet and Coca Cola CEO, Muhtar Kent, announced partnership for Women Empowerment in 2011

So next time you participate in a MUN, take note of how multinational companies (not limited to Coca-Cola) may impact your country’s cultural tradition, the environment and the wellbeing of its citizens. Multinational corporations have a great impact as they contribute a lot to the economies of both developing and developed nations. Though economic development and expansion is important, one must look after their environment as this will impact the stability of our member states and their industries in the future.


International Women’s Day: Inequality – it’s just not cricket

Today, Friday 8th of March, is International Women’s Day, and that’s pretty exciting. But one thing I found even more exciting lately (sorry sisterhood) is the cricket test between England and New Zealand in Dunedin. Yesterday I was lucky enough to be able to spend most of my day, in the sun, watching New Zealand, against all odds, completely dominate the English on the cricket field. A century opening partnership!! Last time that happened was a couple of seasons ago against Zimbabwe!! But before I rant about cricket for this whole post, I’ll explain where I’m going. As I sat there in mild shock and elation, I saw some little boys approach the boundary fielder to grab an autograph and a smile. The fielder was really lovely and signed every single one of them and even took the time to shake the hand of an intellectually handicapped boy which, touchingly, garnered applause from our wee section of the crowd. It made me remember haunting the boundaries myself as a little nerdy cricket fangirl. I must have about 17 copies of Daniel Vettori’s autograph.

As a little girl attending cricket holiday programmes, going to games, playing in mixed junior leagues, it is unthinkable how much casual sexism you encounter. I remember having to be taken home on several occasions from cricket programmes because the relentless teasing from the other kids (all of whom were boys) was just too much to cope with. You’d be standing at the crease and every boy within earshot would be yelling out things like “where’s your Barbie doll?” or “don’t get your dress dirty!” Needless to say cricket whites don’t come in dress form, but these are 7 year olds we’re talking about. Even gathering autographs you’d be stepped on, pushed out the way and elbowed with similar gender-related comments. To the players’ credit, often the sight of a lone girl would attract notice and I usually did pretty well regardless. But it isn’t hard to imagine that I was the only girl with such normalised behaviour going on. The same continues today with unabated fervour. My friend plays basketball for the Otago Nuggets and I’ve been known to terrify some of the many little boys who love to yell out “SHE won’t get it” and “throw like a girl!” at the opposing team. And we can hardly blame them when the court DJ plays “Do It Like A Lady” and “I Feel Like a Woman” when the opponents go for a free throw.

So sexism is alive and well, and right from the start of our lives. It’s tempting to not see gender equality as worthy of our attention here in New Zealand where, on September 19th 1893, Kiwi women became the first in the world to cast their vote. Women can drive, speak, run for parliament, hey, lead the country for 11 years straight, take CEO jobs at big businesses, keep their names, change their names… Things which millions of women not only can’t do but are encouraged to believe it is wrong for them to aspire to. But although no teenager is about to get attacked in New Zealand for wanting to go to school, there’s a dangerous acceptance of gender roles we need to be aware of. If I say to someone I’m a feminist, if they aren’t immediately terrified by the image of a 1970s hairy-legged bra-burner, than they will often ask – Why? In this place? This time? But women still earn 88 cents to a man’s dollar. Men are still made to feel like they can’t be the stay at home parent. Men still hold 72% of top management jobs, we still subsidise Viagra but not women’s sanitary items, a third of women still experience sexual violence and little boys still shout at little girls at sports games.

But International Women’s Day, as well as being a time to realise that there is still so far to go, is a time to celebrate. Celebrate the women and men who have worked so hard to bring about equality. Celebrate not only ways in which women are equal to men (and yes I know there are other genders out there but it’s a tight word limit), but ways in which we stand out, ways women are uniquely awesome. So I raise my glass (mug of tea) and encourage you to do the same, to these inspiring women, this tiny, tiny selection, who championed women’s liberation and celebrated their femininity instead of being constrained by its place in the patriarchies they lived in.

Julian of Norwich, rejected the outside world and lived as an anchoress in the 14th century. She was the first women to write a book in English.

The Queens – Elizabeth I and II and Victoria, who make up three of the ten longest serving British monarchs despite the patrilineal system meaning a tiny proportion of British monarchs have been queens. They also gave us some brilliant quotes, like this kick-arse quip from Lizzie the First – “No will in me can lack, neither do I trust shall there lack any power.”

Huda Sharawi (photo from Wikipedia)

Huda Sharawi (photo from Wikipedia)

Huda Shaarawi who founded the Egyptian Feminist Union, fought against British occupation, famously removed her veil in a crowded station and fought against the harem system she grew up in.


Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the USA, whose attendance at medical school was treated as a joke by her peers and teachers and was refused work. She set up her own clinic instead.

The many, many, many invisible women who raised, were married to, mentored, inspired the great men who so dominate our understanding of history. We don’t know who they are, we can’t give them the credit they deserve, but they were there in their millions.

And my beautiful colleagues, Nurain Janah who set up this post, Suzy McKinney, aspiring doctor and your VP Governance, Portia Holt and Chelcie Lutton who run the Wellington and Otago regions, Sarah Wilson, lawyer and THI-MUM, Sally Wu who’s leading Pacific Project, Lizzie Chan, our pocket-rocket IPP, Charlotte Falloon, Dipti, Olivia Payne, Pooja, Eve, Yanjie, Anu, Kirsty, Victoria and Brittany Rea, Mary D-C, Amelia Lamb, Hadae Kim, Alex Gimour, Maanya, Gayathiri, Margot Shanahan, Emma C, Megan D, Kohe, Tamsin, Taylor, Forrest, Claire B, Sylvie, Amelia Nichol, Liv K, Camille, Catherine and Sara of Columba, Courtney B, Kaitlyn W, Kaylee, Sarah A, Emma P, Rebecca W, Cherry Mo and Sun Lee. These are our female officeholders and they are a mightily impressive group and inspire me every day.

I hope you have a fantastic, joyous, inspiring and celebratory International Women’s Day 2013. Here’s to the sisterhood!
Sarah Paterson aka Sarah Hamlin (I use both cause I can)

The Situation in Syria: What can we do about it?

credit: Associated Press


You will have seen the bold headings on the news, the graphic images and blurry videos of rows of dead bodies, missiles being fired at civilian buildings and people screaming and running.  The world knows that innnocent civilians are being targeted and executed, but what has been done so far, and what can you do about it?

The sich, the 411



To summarise the situation in a paragraph (or two):

The Syrian uprising is a violent internal conflict in Syria, triggered by the “Arab Spring” uprisings which has seen the overturning of the Egyptian government and protests across the Arab world.

The protesters want to overthrow the government, and they are demanding that the current President resigns and holds democratic elections. In response, the Syrian government deployed the Syrian army to quell the uprisings, resulting in several cities being besieged. Civilians and army defectors have formed fighting units in response to the Syrian Army’s attacks, and the Syrian Army has been accused of targeting and killing civilians.

To date, the UN estimates that up to 20,000 people have been killed, and many more have been imprisoned.

Why has nothing happened so far?

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the Syrian government on the crackdown on its own civilians; however for the United Nations requires a Security Council resolution to pass to authorise any intervention in Syria.  Following the General Assembly resolution, the draft Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government failed as it was vetoed by both China and Russia. Unsurprisingly, this has lead to renewed calls for the Security Council to be reformed as the vetoes were widely perceived to be Russia and China acting in self-interest.

Meanwhile, the deaths are mounting, the UN is getting lambasted for its inaction, and ordinary Syrians are dying while the world is wringing its hands wondering what the next move is.


UN Youth New Zealand’s role

Posting messages on our Facebook wall telling us to do stuff isn’t going to cut it – UN Youth New Zealand is a volunteer-run educational organisation. We aim to educate and empower young New Zealanders so that they are equipped to make a difference in the world. Military intervention doesn’t really fit well with our university schedules – sorry.

If by attending our Model UN events, young New Zealanders understand the mechanisms of the United Nations and how diplomatic/political tensions and differing ideologies of states can affect the operation of those mechanisms then that makes our work as educators worthwhile.

If by getting to know fellow UN Youth members and attending our events, young New Zealanders are inspired and empowered with a strong voice to speak up about these issues and know how they can play their part in making a difference, our work is done.

What can you do about it?

Upset? Angry? Wondering how such atrocities are happening in the 21st century? GOOD.

Wanting to do something about it? EVEN BETTER.

Here are some suggestions on what you can do to make a difference:


I don’t mean recapping the number of deaths like you see in the media today – that’s not news!  How many people do you think are aware of how this conflict began, why there has been no intervention to date?  Do they fully understand how horrific even the idea of a government turning on its civilians is?  They aren’t just deaths from a war somewhere far away – these are people being killed in their own homes for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Peaceful protesters being mowed down by the very army that is supposed to protect them. People being denied access to water, food, electricity and medical care because their own army has barricaded in the city they live in.   Disturbed and a little uncomfortable? I fecking hope so.


I encourage you all to sign the petitions on calling for the EU to impose severe economic and political sanctions on Syria and impose an arm embargo. The Syrian state can only continue its activities if they are able to source munitions and other supplies to continue its actions.

I would also encourage you to write to your local MP, to write to the New Zealand delegation at the United Nations to encourage and support them in their efforts.

New Zealand is also bidding for a position on the Security Council in the 2015-16 term.  While non-permanent positions on the SC do not have the power of veto, New Zealand has long been an advocate for reform of the Security Council.   The hope is that our term on the Security Council acts as a catalyst for Security Council reform, so we do not see a repeat of Syria, where the current political deadlock  has lead to the death toll continuing to rise needlessly.


I would also encourage you to support the protesters and civilians, by making a financial contribution towards their basic needs.  Perhaps you aren’t in a position to make a financial contribution – make a donation of your time and effort by telling others who are why you think it is important to support the civilians in Syria and encourage them to donate.

Are there any other ways that we can make a difference?  Comment below:

What future do you want?

Still buzzing with excitement following Youth Declaration, or perhaps experiencing post-conference blues? Never fear, enthusiastic member, the opportunities to engage with global affairs just keep on coming. Allow me to elaborate:

In 1992 there  was a United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  This was known as the Earth Summit, or the UN Conference on Environment and Development. It was here that Agenda 21 was adopted, a comprehensive plan-of-action, meant to deal with all issues arising from humans using or exploiting the environment. Quite a hefty task, one might add.

As you will be well aware, the world is rapidly changing. The General Assembly found that there were a lot of new issues emerging as impediments to this plan, things that didn’t really exist two decades ago, or at least not on their current scale. Globalisation, for one thing, and unprecedented technological advancement. And although we have seen a growing global middle class, there are deepening inequalities on the fringes.  The reality of Agenda 21 was divorced from the original ideas and goals, despite commitment to ‘further action’ and ‘full implementation’ coming from the UN.

So, twenty years on, we get Rio + 20. Clearly the international community has more pressing issues than creative conference titles.


What is Rio + 20?

Clause 20 (a) of 2010 GA resolution [64/236] (a real one, keen Munsters) reads,

The objective of the Conference will be to secure renewed political
commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and the
remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on
sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.

This conference will set the sustainable development agenda for the decades ahead.

The Economic and Social Council have identified seven key issues, which you can see in the symbolic diagram below:

So it is at about this point in the blog post that you might be starting to think, how can I get involved and play my part in this global conference, which is going to determine the world I live in? While pondering this, you may have also perused the aforementioned resolution, and came across operative clause 12, which of course reads,

Also reaffirms the objective of enhancing the participation and effective
involvement of civil society and other relevant stakeholders, as well as promoting
transparency and broad public participation…

And you’re right in thinking that this applies to you. So, read on, young global citizen, and prepare yourself for exciting information.

Your line: ‘Wow, this is neat! But how do I become part of the process?’

This questions plays on your mind for a while. You keep thinking, ‘These leaders are making decisions on my behalf. But how do they know what I think?’ So you get together with your friends, are you start talking about how super it would be if you could all somehow present your views to these decision-makers.

Well, dear friends, this blog post is going to make your day!

UNICEF, in cooperation with a bunch of other great organisations, are running Rio + 20 youth consultations in the three major centres in the coming weeks. Here, you will learn more and discuss the critical issues of sustainable development, and express your views to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and also international forums like the World Youth Congress, which will run concurrently with the conference in Brazil.

Before you start think of excuses for why you shouldn’t go, consider yourself already qualified. It’s not about technical knowledge, but about your vision and hopes for your future.

Imagine the city you want to live in when you’re older.

Do you imagine safe streets and green, open spaces?

Do you want a well-paying job, and financial security?

Will you and all your friends drive your own car?

What kind of world do you want to live in? How will we get there?

This is the essence of sustainable development. You are a key stakeholder in these issues, and you now have the opportunity to influence the conference which aims to ‘define pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all.’

During the consultation, you will hear from guest speakers and a panel of experts, as well as participating in facilitated group discussions. Your views will be brought together not only in a document, but expressed through an art project and video message.


What is ‘sustainable development?

If simplified, it can look a little bit like this:

Or summed up like this:

We must also remember that the human system is only one of  many, and it is imperative that it operate along side natural systems- climatic, for example.

We can’t solve all the world’s problems in a day, no matter how many UN Youth events we’ve been to. We can, however, through educating ourselves and engaging in society, build the foundations for sustainable change.

So, while you are recovering from this wildly inspiration post, register for a free youth consultation in your city!

Saturday 21st April
Case room 1, Owen G Glen building
University of Auckland

Saturday 28th April
Location to be confirmed

Saturday 5th May
Dovendale Village rooms DA1 and DA2
University of Canterbury

Register at: 

For more info email: [email protected]

See you there! 

The “UN” in UN Youth New Zealand

Ever suspected that the hooligans running UN Youth New Zealand have stolen the United Nations’ name and logo without really having anything to do with it? What’s the connection between us here in New Zealand and the international behemoth fighting for peace and justice around the world?

If my computer skills allowed, I’d draw you an elaborate family tree. Instead, let me direct you to any UN Youth letterhead, business card or conference brochure you may have on hand. There, you’ll find the following blurb:

The United Nations Association of New Zealand (The United Nations Youth Association of New Zealand Branch) Inc is the youth arm of the United Nations Association of New Zealand, a member of the World Federation of the United Nations Associations (WFUNA).

To begin at the beginning, “The United Nations Association of New Zealand (the United Nations Youth Association of New Zealand Branch) Inc” is UN Youth’s legal name. This is the name by which we are registered as an Incorporated Society (meaning the organisation is essentially a legal person) at the Companies Office and at the Charities Commission. Since a makeover last year the organisation has traded as UN Youth New Zealand – regardless of our legal name, this is what we call ourselves when communicating with members and stakeholders. We feel it makes a lot more sense than “UNYANZ”, an acronym easily confused with a vegetable.

While a separately incorporated organisation, UN Youth New Zealand is a branch of the United Nations Association of New Zealand (UNANZ). In other words, while UN Youth New Zealand is its own legal person with its own bank accounts and legal powers and responsibilities, it is nonetheless just one part of another organisation. That other organisation is UNANZ, established shortly after the United Nations itself came into being in 1945. Its primary mission is the same as ours: to promote an understanding of and support for the United Nations amongst New Zealanders. While UN Youth New Zealand serves those under the age of 25, UNANZ focuses on New Zealanders more generally.

UNANZ is one of over one hundred UNAs around the world. Soon after the UN Charter was signed in 1945, these non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were established as “peoples’ movements” for the UN. The enthusiasm and drive of those citizens who got these UNAs underway is best understood in the context of 1945. With the human catastrophe of World War Two fresh in their minds, the UN Charter’s pledge “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” was felt very personally. It was recognized that politicians and officials needed support from a broader public understanding and appreciation of the United Nations – back then a new and novel concept. Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, was among those early UNA members, fighting in particular for the recognition of human rights – enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and elsewhere.

The blurb above describes UNANZ as a member of the World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA – an appropriately awkward acronym pronounced “wa-foo-na”). WFUNA was established in 1946 as the international umbrella organisation responsible for representing and coordinating UNAs. Today, its work includes international campaigns and the facilitation of relationships and cooperation amongst UNAs and with UN agencies. Although an independent NGO, WFUNA is recognized with Category One Consultative Status at the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). ECOSOC is the UN organ responsible for overseeing and coordinating UN agencies in the realm of economic and social policy. Uniquely, WFUNA and its member UNAs are entitled to use the UN’s name and emblem. In New Zealand, this is otherwise prevented by the Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981.

WFUNA’s supreme governing body is a plenary assembly of all member UNAs held every three years. This elects a President and an Executive Committee to oversee the organization in the periods between. In turn, WFUNA has a secretariat of staff and interns at offices in the UN Secretariat Building in New York and the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The secretariat is run by a Secretary General.

UN Youth New Zealand’s relationship with WFUNA is strong. I attended the WFUNA Plenary Assembly in South Korea in 2009, having the pleasure of meeting the then President of WFUNA, Hans Blix (former IAEA Director and leader of the weapons inspection team that famously concluded that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. You may also know him for his cameo in Team America). It was there that I also met Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In 2011 I was appointed to a Youth Advisory Group assembled to advise the Secretary General on a new strategy for WFUNA’s engagement with youth. We met in Argentina last July and have since formed the WFUNA Youth Network, which you can follow on Facebook here.

UN Youth New Zealand is an organisation distinct from the United Nations proper. We are a not a formal part of the United Nations system. Rather, through WFUNA and direct contact with UN agencies such as the UN Information Centre in Canberra we have a formal, established and recognized relationship with the United Nations. It’s this that gives us our legitimacy as a United Nations Youth Association.