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Why the UN General Assembly matters

If we accept there is truth behind the analogy that the tail does not wag the dog we will also understand the value of the United Nations to small countries such as Trinidad and Tobago. For two weeks beginning September 25th the United Nations meets in Assembly via presence of 193 heads of States. They will debate - or strongly make arguments for what the UN will accept as its agenda for the year to come. The agenda of the Assembly itself covers major international issues - including sustainable development, climate change, peace and security, human rights, public health concerns and gender equality.

We are familiar now in Trinidad and Tobago with global approaches to many of what the UN considers its business. We have in fact benefitted from the protection of trade laws. Otherwise dumping would have had two meanings instead of just the unpleasant one that exists on our roadsides. We have seen the impacts, largely positive, in the areas of gender equality and manifest even now in the person of our country's president Paula Mae-Weekes. We have noted if not celebrated with the gains made for human rights among the LGBTQI community, the first peoples, and the various religious orders, none of whom are under threat in Trinidad and Tobago.

The UN also factors prominently in the response of the local State to environmental considerations. Environmental impacts are now a constant item of concern whenever new developments are proposed here in Trinidad and Tobago. The very existence of the local Environmental Management Agency has a lot to do with work that filtered down from UN fostered accords and it is now their job to monitor 'environment' in new as well as older onstream projects.

The civil society sector, defined in the main by the NGOs, a grouping whose work covers the gamut of concerns already mentioned but which we can expand upon are; sustainable development, climate change, peace and security, public health, gender, economics, education - which includes literacy. All depend on the United Nations mission to provide the wedge by which their cause can have effect. Looked at in that light Trinidad and Tobago civicus therefore have and does benefit from the UN presence.

It doesn't hurt therefore for the 'small' NGO to follow the goings-on at the UN General Assembly. As what transpires there now, will in short time affect our own workpaths. In one aspect, knowing helps with funding. NGOs are constantly in search of money. The agenda accepted by the UN in current General Assembly (each member ratifies this in the one-state one-vote system) essentially determines where the UN places its focus. Focus means attributed resources. For groups such as Environment Tobago, this means project planners will better understand how to walk the fine line between what's required on the ground in Trinidad and Tobago and what's available out there in terms of funds.

To summarise. Environment Tobago , as should every other NGO needs to pay attention to the high level discussions such as this fortnight's General Assembly. Their decisions, once agreed upon, will impact the direction that the multilateral agencies; for example the Global Environment Fund, will take. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Which is good advice if you're just a flea on the tail of the dog.

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