SOU addresses world problems at 'UN Day'

| Daily TidingsRamu Damodaran of the United Nations, addressed a crowd at Southern Oregon University Tuesday night during a celebration of the 62nd anniversary of the U.N.

Many of the more than 100 attendees at the UN Day celebration on the campus of Southern Oregon University Tuesday night seemed unprepared for the stark reality of the answers given to tough questions about some of the most difficult problems facing humanity.

"If I may talk for a moment about Africa" said Ramu Damodaran, leader of the United Nation's Civil Society Service and the evening's keynote speaker, "I think the problem is compounded by the fact that within Africa &

where there is the greatest degree of destitution and despair &

there is a feeling of inevitability about it."

Damodaran explained further by relating an experience passed on to him by Stephen Lewis &

envoy to the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan &

who visited Zambia on behalf of the World Food Program. Lewis was struck by the severity of the problems faced in that region while checking on the progress of a fund given to widows who were trying to support their children by growing cabbages. Damodaran told the story:

"Lewis asked, 'Aren't you happy that you're making an income?'

"He explained to the women, 'Look, if you take the money you are making from this cabbage patch and invest in something along the lines of micro-credit, you can do much better things.'

"The women looked at him and said, 'Mr. Lewis, we can't save this money. We spend it as soon as we get it.'

"So Lewis said, 'What do you spend the money you get for?'

"They looked at him and said, 'Mr. Lewis, it is very obvious. We need the money to buy coffins.'

"So that is the reality," Damodaran said. "It was a statement of fact. This, to them, is the cycle of life and death in Africa in the year 2006. They are not vengeful. They are not upset. But the fact is they have no great faith in the United Nations because all the United Nations has been able to do is to give them the wherewithal to buy more coffins to bury the inevitable dead."

The somber moment was one of several during a Q A session that covered issues such as the problems in Darfur, the two million refugees fleeing Iraq, the plight of the Kurds, women's rights in Hungary, the machinations of the UN Security Council and the role of its most powerful members.

Prior to the keynote address, SOU faculty Kristina Foltz and Alexander Tutunov performed on the piano. The duo was followed by the Ananda Natya School of Indian Dance, directed by Andrea Luchese.

During his speech, Damodaran expressed the many positive involvements of the UN, suggesting that there are few things in any individual's life that does not, in some way, correspond with the involvement of the UN. His message was that there is a lack of awareness of the extent to which the UN reaches around the globe and touches the lives of billions of people, even within the United States. Still, Damodaran is encouraged by what he expressed as a tremendous evolvement by the UN and its 192 member nations since 1989 when he began working with the organization.

The local event was timed to coincide with the 62nd anniversary of the United Nations. SOU President Mary Cullinan introduced the president of the United Nations Association of the U.S.A., Southern Oregon, Russy Samariwalla, who resides in Medford. The UNA-USA organization sponsored the appearance of Damodaran, who was introduced by Sumariwalla.

Sumariwalla works locally with a team of dedicated leaders in Ashland and elsewhere throughout the Rogue Valley to spread the word about the United Nations. Earlier this year, UNA-USA sponsored a speech in Ashland given by former Secretary of Defense William Perry.

can be reached at 492-3456- x223 or

Share This Story