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4.Dec.2014: GTAH Chairman gives Keynote Speech at HUMANICY Meeting at UN, New York

December 7th, 2014

Gordon Tapper, Chairman of GTAH, gave the Keynote Speech on ‘Art and Cultural Diplomacy at the United Nations’ on Thursday 4 December at a meeting entitled “HUMANICY: THE HUMAN SIDE OF DIPLOMACY – At the Crossroads of Art, Diplomacy, and Heightened Consciousness”. The two-day meeting which took place in the ECOSOC Chamber and Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York, 4-5 December 2014.

“Humanicy: The Human Side of Diplomacy”, a partnership of the Permanent Mission of Sao Tomé and Principe to the United Nations and the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Inc. (FAF), is a programme aimed at highlighting the role of culture, arts and humanities in shaping diplomacy. (For further information, please view their websites: www.humanicy.info OR www.faf.org )  IMG_1392

 

Following is the Keynote Speech:

Excellency Ambassador Toriello, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sao Tome and Principe to the United Nations, the co-organizers of this marvelous event, Patrick Sciaratta and Yin Chu Yu, the leadership of Friendship Ambassador Foundation, special participants in the HUMANICY programme, UN colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a pleasure and an honour for me to be here with you today to speak about a subject that is dear to me – Arts, Culture and Diplomacy. For more than 15 years of my career at the United Nations I was responsible for coordinating Special Events – producing concerts with such famed performers as the New York Philarmornic Orchestra, PAVAROTTI, BONO, GILBERTO GILL, YUSOUF N’DOUR, ZIGGY MARLEY and THIRD WORLD – as well as hosting several Japanese Tea Ceremonies, exhibitions of IKEBANA and a host of other artistic expressions to promote peace amongst peoples, right here in the United Nations Headquarters complex. I even had the pleasure of coordinating a table tennis game between Chinese players and the UN Table Tennis Club, right next to these rooms in the Delegates Lounge, during the period of “Ping Pong Diplomacy” started by President Nixon and his Chinese opposite number Premier Chou En-Lai in the early 1970’s.

Throughout my years at the UN I gained an appreciation of the immense value of Art in opening doors that were once closed to people who were ‘different’ or ‘not like us’ because of race, religion, culture, political systems or for a host of other reasons that extremists and bigots create to separate people.

I wish to applaud the effort of Ambassador Toriello and FAF for hosting this event – Art as a vehicle for Peace and Diplomacy.   It is a most timely intervention in a climate where people seem to have become even less tolerant of others with levels of cruelty and barbarism taken to unimaginable heights.

Our challenge today is to find a way to reach the most hardened opponent that we might have, not by guns and bombs but by our common appreciation for what is beautiful, for a universal unambiguous message delivered by a sculpture in marble, the painter’s brush, the leap of a Baryshnikov, the heavenly tones of Maria Callas, the strings of Yo Yo Ma’s cello, the black and white keyboard of Lang Lang’s piano and even such great written works as the Bible and the Koran. That is our challenge. Guns may subjugate, but only understanding and appreciating another’s culture can produce harmony amongst people.

But let me digress somewhat and tell you something about Art at the UN. Those of you who have had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the premises both inside and on the grounds will have seen that the UN has enough iconic and outstanding works of art to create a mini-museum. If you have not had that opportunity you should do so while you are here.

Many of the pieces displayed in the UN grounds and buildings need no words to explain what they are trying to say. It is you, the viewer who interprets the piece and decides what the message is. The words “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares” does not mean literally that but it is a message everyone understands just by looking at the sculpture.  St. George and the Dragon, with St. George on a rearing horse stabbing the dragon with his lance, is made out of a disarmed nuclear weapon, so it speaks to us of disarmament. The twisted gun barrel on the UN Plaza needs no explanation. One is not likely to forget images like these because they are not received passively. They invoke a reaction from the observer; they leave an impression.

Now let me tell you a little secret about gifts that are donated to the UN. Almost every UN Member State has donated one or more gifts, usually an art piece, to the UN.  In fact, this very room that we are meeting in today, the ECOSOC Chamber, was a gift from the Government of Sweden. Hundreds of other items are donated by individuals or groups. However, perhaps less than 30 % of all gifts are on display. The majority are hidden away in storage. There would not be enough space, perhaps even in the Louvre or the MET, to exhibit all of the gifts of works of art that have been donated to the UN. Gifts from Member States are not simply works of art, they are mostly an expression of how the country sees itself and wishes to portray itself to the world. In other words it is a way of projecting their culture.

Let me digress once again and tell you an anecdote relating to UN gifts and artwork. One is about the elephant that is at the north end of the grounds closest to the sidewalk on First Avenue. Residents of Sutton Place and the environs were upset about the elephant which seemed to have a very large organ. It was a troubling issue as many parents complained that their little children walking by would be asking what is that. The UN solicited the views of the Bronx Zoo which confirmed that all was normal. Not to worry.  Secretary General Koffi Annan at its unveiling made some humourous comments which I will not repeat, but suffice it to say the UN reached a diplomatic solution and planted tall grass around the elephant so as to obscure the offending appendage. Actually it looks pretty good like that.

Indeed, from what I have been saying it must be clear that Art can and does deliver a message that is often more powerful than words or political action. Art introduces people to other peoples and cultures that they previously knew little about or perhaps even opposed or feared on the basis of race, religion or culture. Art is a neutral medium for meeting without preconceived notions since images are universal and speak their own language.

I urge you to support cultural exchanges and to be open to the Art of people from all different persuasions as you will learn a lot and you will see that you have more in common than what divides you.

Thank you.

GTAH and UAC lead walk against Ebola from Times Square to the United Nations

October 29th, 2014

 

IMG_1242

On Friday 24 October, United Nations Day, GTAH and UAC led a large group of community leaders and concerned citizens from the New York metropolitan area in a walk of solidarity with the countries of West Africa currently suffering from the Ebola virus. The group marched from Times Square to a congregation point in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza opposite the United Nations where many speakers urged the New York State and City governments as well as the Federal Government not to forget the many thousands of affected persons in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who desperately need our help.IMG_1240

GTAH Founder and President, Mr. Gordon Tapper, addressed his remarks to the United States and all countries at the United Nations about the urgency of lending all possible help to West Africa in their fight against the scourge of Ebola. The affected countries cannot hope to win this fight alone he said.   He stressed that the virus must be defeated at its source, and that we cannot just stick a finger in the dyke to stem the flow. The virus is now international and is travelling to Western countries by commercial flights.

Welcoming remarks were made by Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman of the United African Congress, followed by brief IMG_1241comments from Dr. Tomislav Prvulovic, a veteran in the fight against Ebola and three-time Nobel Prize nominee in Medicine for his role in eradicating smallpox, a member of the medical committee of the coalition.

Notable among those present were The Union of Sierra Leonean Organizations (USLO) Inc., There Is No Limit Foundation, The United States Sierra Leonean Association (USSLA) Inc., and representatives from the Liberian Community and Guinean Community, as well as Dr. Edmund Bourke from SUNY Downstate who is also a member of the medical committee of the coalition. Some of the supporters who marched with the group had come from as far away as Kentucky and Texas.

Pleas for community and government action were made by Reverend Dr. L. Rouse of the United Methodist Church as well as by New York State Senator Bill Perkins.

Closing remarks and thanks to all present were made by Mr. Sidique Wai, President of the United African Congress.

 

GTAH and the UAC – amongst the first to declare the Ebola Crisis in Africa to be an international disease!

October 12th, 2014
Ebola Forum  ---  Amb. Mamadi Toure, Amb. Marjon Kamara, Amb. Vandi Minah (afrikanspot.com)

Ebola Forum — Amb. Mamadi Toure,
Amb. Marjon Kamara, Amb. Vandi Minah
(afrikanspot.com)

 Ebola Forum, United Nations ECOSOC Chamber  –  27 August 2014

A meeting dubbed the “New York City Ebola Forum”, jointly organized by the Give Them a Hand Foundation (GTAH) and the United African Congress (UAC), was held in the United Nations ECOSOC Chamber on 27 August 2014.  (See Forum programme below)

Gordon Tapper (afrikanspot.com)

Gordon Tapper
(afrikanspot.com)

Mr. Gordon Tapper, the MC of the Forum and Founder and Chairman of GTAH, brought the meeting to order, stating that the EBOLA epidemic could not be defeated by the three most affected countries alone – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – but that it would take a concerted effort by the world community to halt the spread of the disease, to beat it back and to find a cure. He added that many countries considered themselves insulated from the disease by distance but that every city in the world was just a plane ride away from the virus.

Participating in the Forum were Ambassadors from the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the Permanent Representative of the African Union Observer Mission to the UN, the WHO, the EU, prominent individuals from the medical profession, leaders from faith-based communities and various expatriate African communities here in the United States.

Sidique Wai (afrikanspot.com)

Sidique Wai
(afrikanspot.com)

Following opening prayers by the Reverend Loune Rouse, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Long Island, and by UAC President, Sidique Wai, representing the Muslim faith, UAC Chairman Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein made his welcoming statement. Dr. Nurhussein commented on the lethargy of the international community to get involved in the fight against Ebola, noting that the first incident of this current outbreak had occurred in Guinea as far back as December 2013. As the blood samples from Guinea had to be sent to France for testing, it was not until 14 March this year that the sickness was diagnosed as Ebola. In those 90 days the disease had spread to the three countries which shared common borders. Dr. Nurhussein attributed this spread to the lack of an adequate health care infrastructure, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone which had only just emerged from more than a decade of debilitating civil wars. Dr. Nurhussein added that one of his objectives was to see established an AFRICAN CDC to serve as a center for diagnosis and research and to direct the fight against any future health crises that might arise on the continent. He also wanted to see a rapid reaction health task force that could move into challenged areas without delay.

H.E. Ambassador Mamadi Toure, Guinea, acknowledged the weakness of the health infrastructure in his country and said that the traditions and culture of the people, which held that any sick person or dead body had to be cared for and handled by family members, had contributed to the spread of the disease. He urged that doctors and health care workers be trained with those cultural mores in mind.

CDC/Sally Ezra phil.cdc.gov

CDC/Sally Ezra
phil.cdc.gov

H.E Ambassador Marjon Kamara, Liberia, commented on how the epidemic had damaged the economy of her country. She added that with the focus now on Ebola, with hospitals and clinics being overrun, and the population fearing that they may actually become infected in the hospitals, persons suffering from other diseases such as malaria, diabetes, and high blood pressure were also dying through lack of care, adding to the already heavy burden.

H.E Ambassador Vandi Minah, Sierra Leone, said that there was both a health care crisis and an economic crisis taking place in Sierra Leone. He suggested that there should be a “health-keeping mission” to his country and to the others badly affected, in the manner of UN Peace-keeping Missions.

Amb. Tete Antonio (afrikanspot.com)

Amb. Tete Antonio
(afrikanspot.com)

H.E. Ambassador Tete Antonio, head of the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the UN, commented on the economic effect of the epidemic which had resulted in a 1.5 loss in GDP in the three countries.

Impassioned statements were made by many speakers, but one of the most moving was by Dr. Tomislav Prvulovich, a three-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contribution to eradicating smallpox, and a veteran of the fight against the earlier Ebola outbreaks in the Congo and Uganda. Dr. Prvulovich expressed anger at how slowly the world was reacting to the Ebola epidemic dismissing it as just an African problem. He did not spare the WHO and other international organizations from criticism. He suggested that scientists should use the blood of those who have survived Ebola to create a serum to fight the disease. Dr. Prvulovich and some of his colleagues had actually injected themselves with the blood of survivors when they were in the Congo in 1976 to give themselves some kind of immunity while tending to the sick and trying to find a cure. (See video statements below)

Dr. Julius Garvey sent regrets that he was unable to attend but the key points of Dr Garvey’s message, read in his absence, were that the medical community needed to find a way to build trust with the local communities and those infected by the disease. He felt that prevention education was important and that what was needed at the moment was not necessarily more doctors and nurses but trained health workers in vast numbers. The expansion of primary care in the future was essential in the rural areas.

Dr. Dexter McKenzie, President of the Provident Medical Society, commented that a communicable threat to health anywhere would be a threat everywhere.

Reverend Loune Rouse spoke about the PIT approach he had proposed, and which was adopted by GTAH and UAC, highlighting that efforts should be directed at Prevention, Information and Training.

WHO

CDC/Daniel DeNoon

CDC/Daniel DeNoon

 

The leaders of the Sierra Leone community in the Tri-State area and from the Liberian and Guinean communities pledged to work collaboratively with GTAH and UAC in finding solutions for their respective countries, including collecting medical supplies, food items and funds to support local communities.

The Ambassadors closed by stating that they would like to see this spirit carried over into positive outcomes.

Mr. Gordon Tapper informed the Forum that they would be planning a major concert in the near future to be held at the United Nations to both raise awareness and mobilize the donation of resources for the stricken countries.

 

Ambassador Mamadi Touré – statement

 

Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein – statement

 

Dr. Tomislav Prvulovich – statement

Forum Programme

Forum Programme

Ebola Forum prog 2



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