Credible 2014 elections vital to progress on Afghan transition – deputy UN

Next year will see Afghanistan hold a presidential election, as well as the withdrawal of the majority of allied international military forces, with national forces assuming full responsibility for security throughout the country. “It is extremely important for the people of Afghanistan, but also for the United Nations and the many nations that have contributed to this transition, that the country does not fall back into the nightmares of war, the extreme poverty and violations of human rights that we saw earlier,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a news conference at UN Headquarters. Briefing reporters on his five-day visit to Afghanistan, from which he returned earlier today, Mr. Eliasson said he conveyed to those that he met that the intention of the UN is to continue its partnership with Afghanistan, provided that this is the wish of the Government and the Afghan people. “We will provide our support, where and when needed, following modalities that respect Afghan leadership and sovereignty,” he stated. Mr. Eliasson said that next year’s presidential election, slated for 5 April, will be a ‘make or break’ event, stressing the need for the polls to be free and fair, and enjoy wide participation. In that regard, he noted that it is vital that the Afghan parliament pass two pieces of legislation related to the future elections before the body concludes its current session in mid-July. The first of the two laws defines the structure and responsibilities of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), while the second concerns the main electoral law governing all future Afghan elections. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, also emphasized the importance of the manner in which next year’s presidential elections, as well as subsequent provincial council and parliamentary polls, are held. “These elections – the only legitimate way of democratic transfer of authority as prescribed by the Constitution – will be the surest basis of internal legitimacy and future stability and are the necessary foundation for continued extraordinary international support to Afghanistan’s transition and transformation,” he said in remarks today to a meeting of senior officials from Governments and international organizations in the Afghan capital, Kabul. “The international community, including the UN, is resolved to continue supporting credible, inclusive and transparent elections held under Afghan leadership. We must remember, however, that the ultimate test for the elections is that the Afghan people and political forces accept their result as credible,” said Mr. Kubiš, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). He added that the polls should be based on mutually agreed rules of the game based on law, on sound technical preparations, credible institutions and credible election processes before and after the elections under the close scrutiny of domestic and international observers. “There are expectations from both sides,” noted Mr. Eliasson, who met with a wide range of governmental and non-governmental representatives during his visit, which also included a stop in the southern province of Kandahar. There are expectations from the Government that its international partners live up to their pledges of support and assistance, he said. “But also, there are great expectations on the side of the international community that in fact Afghanistan lives up to its own obligations, primarily to have the election take place as planned in April next year, and to pass the electoral laws,” he added. read more

Security Council extends UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon for another year

Determining that the situation in Lebanon continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security, the Security Council today decided to extend the present mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for one year, until 31 August 2016. In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body “strongly” called upon all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities, to prevent any violation of the Blue Line and to respect it “in its entirety.” They urged further international support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, in areas where they are most critically in need of support, including counter-terrorism and border protection. Recognizing that UNIFIL deployment, together with the Lebanese Armed Forces, has helped to establish a “new strategic environment” in southern Lebanon, the Security Council calls for further cooperation between them, in particular regarding coordinated and adjacent patrols. The resolution adopted today also urged all parties to abide “scrupulously” by their obligation to respect the safety of UNIFIL and to ensure that the Mission’s freedom of movement is “fully respected and unimpeded.” The Government of Israel is urged to expedite the withdrawal of its army from northern Ghajar “without further delay” in coordination with UNIFIL. In the resolution, the Security Council expresses “deep concern” at all violations in connection with resolution 1701, in particular the “serious disruption” of the cessation of hostilities that took place on 28 January 2015. The incident is still under investigation by UNIFIL. The peacekeeping force, which was first established in 1978, is tasked with ensuring that the area between the so-called Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets. It also cooperates with the Lebanese armed forces so they can fulfil their security responsibilities, and continues to monitor and report on ground and air violations. read more

Noncredit graduate level courses focus on teaching service learning

Jill Grose (left) and Gail Cook will teach two non-credit graduate level courses that focus on teaching and service learning. The Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) will offer two non-credit graduate level courses, one focusing on teaching and the other on service-learning, through the fall and winter terms.The Theory and Practice of University Teaching (GRST 5N01) and The Theory and Practice of Service-Learning (GRST 5N02) will start in September. Registration for courses opens July 7. For information on how to register for the courses, students should contact Lorraine Sciamonte at x3239.This is the second year for GRST 5N01, while GRST 5N02 is being offered for the first time and represents a commitment to continued collaboration on course development between FGS and CPI.“Our partnership with CPI is allowing the Faculty to create courses that combine academic study and practical training in areas of teaching and learning as a way to augment their discipline-specific program experiences at Brock,” says Mike Plyley, Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies. “We want to offer graduate students from across all 44 graduate programs as many opportunities as possible to develop essential competencies and professional skills that are in demand by employers.”Prof. Gail Lynn Cook of the Goodman School of Business and CPI’s faculty associate for service-learning will teach the new service-learning course (GRST 5N02) that focuses on academic study, community involvement and critical reflection.Cook has a rich academic background in integrating service-learning components into graduate and undergraduate courses.“One of the best things about the course is that it offers equal value to graduate students regardless of previous community activities,” she says. “Some will see this course as an entrée to service-learning and others, who have been engaged in the community through volunteer activities and program opportunities, can build on their experiences. It fills a gap in programming for graduate students interested in the theory, practice and reflection of community engagement.”Graduate students who complete 5N02 will be given a formal transcript notation that documents their participation in a service-learning course.“The course responds to a growing recognition about the importance of graduate students acquiring experience in community settings,” says Plyley. “That is specifically articulated in Brock’s strategic mandate agreement. As well, external bodies, such as the Council for Graduate Studies, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and the Conference Board of Canada, have emphasized the value for graduate students to develop transferrable skills for the workplace through community outreach.”The teaching course (GRST 5N01) returns after its very successful introduction last year. CPI director Jill Grose says student feedback to the course has been very positive.“Students from last year describe the course as offering a collaborative environment that created a safe place to practise and develop their teaching,” says Grose. “They also remarked on how the range of resources and learning activities within the course helped them to reflect theoretically and practically on their roles as teachers.”The Theory and Practice of Service-Learning (GRST 5N02)Instructor: Prof. Gail Lynn CookCommences: Tuesday, Sept. 9, 9:30 to 12 noon, TH253 e-classroom (classes continue every second week)The non-credit course provides an opportunity for graduate students to join together in discussions about the value and implementation of service-learning in our lives.Students will:• identify the theoretical perspectives that position community-based experiences within the service learning literature• share approaches, strategies and best practices with a cohort of graduate students from multiple disciplines and perspectives• participate in active service learning projects within the community• describe, verbally and in writing, the transferrable skills/competencies acquired through the service learning involvement such as teamwork, problem solving, communication and leadershipThe Theory and Practice of University Teaching (GRST 5N01)Instructors: Jill Grose and Lianne Fisher, CPICommences: Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., TH253 e-classroom (classes continue every second week)The non-credit course explores the theories and practices of teaching in the post-secondary environment. Students will engage in experiential approaches to course planning, instructional methods, evaluation and assessment, and reflective practice.Students will:• identify and connect major theoretical perspectives in instructional design, student learning, assessment, and reflective practice• practice instructional and presentation skills in micro teaching sessions• identify and develop formative and summative assessment strategies• practice skills in giving and receiving feedback• write a statement of teaching philosophy• create a teaching dossier representing significant teaching experiences and growth read more