Hello to you all,

Thank you so much for following our blog over the years. We are pleased to announce that our blog will now be housed on our main website. You can view it here: under News–>Council Blog.

Thank you again for all your continued support and we look forward to engaging with you on future posts!


Report from the Field – Sport for Development in Cameroon, Africa

Justin Forzano is the founder and CEO of Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP). He started the initiative to improve the lives of youth in Cameroon with the game of soccer. Because so many youth lack the resources and opportunity to succeed in such a challenging environment, CFDP aims to shine a spotlight on the potential for youth as future leaders and capacitate them with the skills they need to overcome the significant barriers of living in a developing country. To date, CFDP has worked with thousands of boys and girls in the Southwest Region of Cameroon.

I arrived in Douala, Cameroon around half past midnight. Inside the airport, perpetually under construction, I followed the fluorescent lights which guide weary travelers through a maze of control stations: the now-defunct Ebola screening station, a Yellow Fever checkpoint, the Police Control for visas, and finally into the main hall where the conveyor belt might just spit out all of your luggage if you are lucky. I was fortunate that both of my bags made it all the way from Pittsburgh after stops in DC and Brussels. Finally, I was back in my second home!

The car we hired flew through the darkness of the city without street lamps. It was only when we reach Rue de la Joie, or ‘street of joy’, did a few places shine light for us to see that roasted fish was still available. We shared a meal together and then made our way back to the home of my very good friend and brother, Epulle Ernest, better known as “Biggie” for the size of his muscles and his heart.


Up with the sun, we ventured to a local pitch to get in an early game of football (soccer) before the official start of the working day. Upon arrival at the field, we met a team of young adults who train there every morning. The team does not participate in any organized football competition – if you could call any football in Cameroon organized – aside from the occasional summer holiday tournament. The team does not have sponsorship nor do they play on a quality field. They lack quality equipment, playing with a busted ball the morning I met them at the field and wearing some faded, Chinese-made replica jerseys. But they are united. They know each other’s style of play on the field and support one another off the field. They represent the neighborhood. They give back to their community. Every Sunday morning they play 90+ minutes and then spend the next few hours in association-style meetings which sometimes continue into the afternoon. They sing club songs and traditional chants and share plenty bottles of mimbo (drinks) together. They represent the power of football in a country like Cameroon.

Later that afternoon, Biggie and I traveled to Kumba where the Cameroon Football Development Program, an organization I started back in 2010 after spending three summers in country with the University of Dayton School of Engineering, is based. We were met with a warm welcome from the local management team who oversees programs in 14 secondary schools and three community-based youth football leagues in as many different towns in the Southwest and Northwest Regions. It was there I delivered the news to some members of the team: we have been awarded a FIFA Football for Hope grant to support our league expansion in 2015!019

FIFA awarded this grant to support our innovative approach to integrating life skills, leadership and health education into competition. We call this our youth enrichment football league; where every season has a social/health theme and every match has a topic. We infuse the education right into the match procedures, so players and coaches learn and share information about important issues critical to the development of the whole community in the most engaging forum: a football game.

Over the next two weeks, I worked with my team to strategize the best approach to our expansion. We discussed the importance of balance between school programs, a new leadership initiative led by our in-house Peace Corps Volunteer, our girls programs, and this our FIFA-endorsed league expansion. We assigned responsibilities. Kama and Wallace would take care of all things concerning the league. Killian would manage the school programs and oversee distribution of thousands of pieces of soccer equipment donated by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, City of Pittsburgh CitiParks Big League Sports, Avonworth High School Girls Soccer Team, and the dozens of other clubs who supported us in our last equipment drive. Nenne will continue in her role as communications director – making sure equipment donors in Pittsburgh know who receives their old jerseys and cleats. Caroline will collect the ever-so-important data to track our progress with monitoring and evaluation. Ashu manages the finances while Collins oversees the whole operation. The plan was set and my job was done… at least until Monday when I returned to Pittsburgh.

180On Saturday, we headed to the beautiful beaches of the Atlantic in the coastal town of Limbe. Upon arrival, we quickly joined a few strangers in a thrilling game of beach soccer before going for a swim and then heading back to the airport. The work was not over, but had merely just begun.

A week later, the Kumba community league kicked off it’s first-ever full season for under 14 boys. Six teams will compete in the season which runs into May. The theme is Gender Equality and the players and coaches have already begun to sensitize the community about the role of boys and men in promoting a more just and equitable society for girls and women.

Members of the Pittsburgh community are invited to get involved and become supporters of Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP). Connect with a local nonprofit organization creating global impact, by visiting our website (, signing up for the newsletter ( and following along on social media.




action/2015 launch: January 15, 2015

This blog post was written and researched by World Affairs Council Intern, Katie Brown.

According to new research, almost a billion extra people face a life of extreme poverty if leaders duck key decisions on poverty, inequality and climate change due to be discussed at two summits in New York and Paris later this year, with billions more continuing to face a life of hardship. That’s why organizations of all shapes and sizes across the globe are launching a new campaign called action/2015 to galvanize local and world leaders towards action to halt man-made climate change, eradicate poverty and address inequality.

Source: These new calculations released by action/2015 suggest that even in relatively conservative scenarios the number of people living in extreme poverty – on less than $1.25 a day – could be reduced from over a billion to 360 million by 2030. Estimates from other researchers show that the eradication of extreme poverty is achievable for the first time in history – a key objective of the campaign.

Conversely, if leaders fail to deliver and build on the growing momentum for ambitious change at the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development in September and the UN Climate talks in Paris in December, the number of people living in extreme poverty could actually increase to 1.2 billion by 2030. This would be the first increase in a generation (since 1993) and almost a billion higher (886 million) than if ambitious action is taken.

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Prize winner who put her life on the line for the right to education said;

People globally want an end to injustice, poverty and illiteracy. Our world is interconnected and youth are ready and mobilised more than ever to see real change take place. Together, we are demanding our leaders take action in 2015 and we must all do our part. I will continue to work tirelessly to call on world leaders to seize this opportunity to guarantee a free, quality primary and secondary education for every child. That is my goal and I hope that my voice will be heard as it is the voice of millions of children who want to go to school.”

Source:When accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala announced the action/2015 campaign, which has since been joined by the efforts of high profile activists such as Queen Rania of Jordan, Bill and Melinda Gates and Mo Ibrahim, in addition to thousands of organizations in more than 120 countries around the world. Through the efforts of this diverse group of actors, the campaign is calling on world leaders to decisively act to eradicate poverty, prevent dangerous climate change and tackle inequality while at these summits. From well-known INGOs like Save the Children and Amnesty International to grassroots organizations working in local communities, the movement aims to make sure the agreements of 2015 are shaped by the people.

action/2015 is calling on the public, particularly youth, to join them in their efforts to instigate change and impress upon world leaders the importance of the issues to be discussed at the summits. Over the course of 2015, the campaign will provide ways for everyone to get involved to make progress in completing the following goals:

  • An end to poverty in all its forms;
  • The meeting of fundamental rights, tackling inequality and discrimination;
  • An accelerated transition to 100% of renewable energy;
  • A world where everyone can participate and hold their leaders accountable.

At  part  of  the  launch,  activities  are  taking  place  in  more  than  50  countries  all  around  the  world.    Many of these are spearheaded by 15 year olds – a constituency who will be among the most affected by the agreements:

  • In Costa Rica, young people will take to their bicycles to raise the profile of the campaign in a cycle rally which will deliver the message of the campaign to leaders and the public.
  • In India, young people are meeting their leaders in 15 states and over 150 districts to deliver their messages of hope for 2015.
  • In Nigeria, 15-year-olds will present their hopes for the future to Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at a live concert;
  • In Norway, a delegation of 15 year old campaigners from across the country will meet with
  • Prime Minister Erna Solberg to challenge her to play her part in the summits and secure a safe future for people and planet in 2015;
  • In Uganda young people will challenge the Speaker of Parliament to listen to their demands when they hand over a petition signed by over 10,000 young people;
  • In the UK, some of Britain’s leading youth activists will meet Prime Minister David Cameron and Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, to urge them to seize the opportunities of 2015.

Pittsburgh will also be participating in the action/2015 launch on January 15th as area students add their voices to youth from around the globe in a call for action for some of the world’s most serious issues. Through a video conference involving Avonworth High School, Cornell School District, and Quaker Valley High School of Pittsburgh, Northwestern High School in Erie, Del Valle High School in Texas, Colegio Newland in Mexico, and Kherad School in Iran, students will discuss how world leaders should address the problems most important to them. They will hear from Michael Klosson, Vice President for Policy and Humanitarian Response for Save the Children, based in Washington, D.C. Students will also participate in the global digital rally by contributing to a “selfie” campaign in which they will share their dreams for the future. These students will join millions around the world in speaking up for a desire for change.

Source: In addition, two students from Cornell High School have been selected to visit Washington, D.C. as part of the launch. Held in partnership among the ONE Campaign and Save the Children, the students will have the opportunity to meet with a high level representative at the White House to share the changes they would like to see in the next 15 years. They will also have the opportunity to tour the nation’s capital. The Cornell students will be joined by 15 year-olds from across the country.

Throughout the program, these students will be encouraged to voice their own hopes for change during the next fifteen years as they look towards a time when they will be the leaders responsible for these issues. Speaking about why she got involved in the campaign, Maryam, a Nigerian child rights activist, who will turn 15 this year said:

“By 2030, I will be an adult, and may have children of my own. My generation might not be the ones making decisions today, but we will be the ones to make sure that our leaders take full responsibility for the actions they take this year.

action/2015 will be a platform for young people just like Maryam and our Pittsburgh students, not only giving them a chance call for action now, but also making them actors for their own futures.


Civil Liberties: A Privilege, Not a Right? A look at the flexibility of human rights in security issues

flag securitySource: American Constitution Society for Law and Policy

Last week the U.S. Senate released a controversial report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture in the interrogation of terrorists and suspected terrorists. The report argues that torture is ineffective as an interrogation technique and is therefore unjustified. The CIA promptly countered the criticism with a media blitz. Former intelligence officers and officials launched the website maintaining that their actions prevented terrorist attacks, preserved U.S. national security, and protected the lives of Americans at home and abroad. Perhaps what is the least controversial about the report is what is being investigated. The Senate report questions the efficacy of the use of torture in interrogations; not the ethics. Though some argue that publishing the report is harmful to national security, the silver lining is that it sparked discussions on an important subject: the delicate balance of civil liberties in issues of national security.

In democracies, the protection of individual rights take priority over the protection of society as a whole—in the post-9/11 world, this tends to clash with national security policies. The government has an obligation is to keep its citizens safe, which is easier to accomplish by using tactics that violate constitutional rights. Furthermore, since intelligence operations and interrogations are classified, the public will never know if the ends truly justify the means. The U.S. frequently faces criticism from the international community for using interrogation tactics that blatantly violate principles of American democracy. These criticisms strike a chord with U.S. foreign policy makers because it contradicts the American principles which they preach to both our allies and our foes. However, this isn’t an issue that is unique to the U.S.—many other countries have also struggled to balance individual rights with the protection of society.


Although there aren’t many that expect Cuba to spearhead international civil rights initiatives, their response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic does little to respect patients’ rights. Under the current policy, testing for HIV/AIDS is mandatory and, if infected, patients are placed in a state-run sanitarium for a period no less than 6-8 weeks. In the sanitariums, patients receive education about the disease, transmission, prevention, and how to live a healthy live while infected. Patients still have the expectation of privacy and those that are employed are still entitled to receive their regular pay while being treated. After the mandatory term of six to eight weeks, patients can either stay in the sanitarium indefinitely or they can go back home and resume their lives as they were prior to their diagnoses. Notwithstanding the obvious ethical dilemmas this policy poses, it is extremely effective. Among sexually active adults in Cuba, the rate of HIV/AIDS transmission is 0.1%.


As the country hit the hardest by the Ebola virus, Liberia has struggled to balance public health with civil liberties in its efforts to stop the pandemic. This is especially challenging for Liberia because of its weak governance, poor infrastructure, and a virtually nonexistent healthcare system due to a series of prolonged and destructive civil wars that occurred from the late 1980s to about 2004. The United Nations maintains a force of approximately 15,000 peace keeping troops in Liberia constituting one of its largest peacekeeping operations.

Instability and conflict have been part of life for Liberia for nearly 3 decades, so when the new threat to security was biological, the leadership was unprepared to implement countermeasures. Once the pandemic advanced beyond management, Liberian leadership enacted strict quarantines for Ebola patients in an effort to get ahead of its advance. The quarantines were mismanaged, with patients not receiving the care they needed or being allowed to leave. There were even reports of people under quarantine that were not diagnosed with Ebola or even exhibiting symptoms.


As the next door neighbor to Syria, Turkey is on the front lines in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). The spillover from the Syrian conflict—the influx of several thousand Syrian refugees and preventing extremist violence from spreading to Turkey—has generated huge challenges for Turkish government and law enforcement. In response to the IS threat, the Turkish Parliament is facing criticism for its new legislation. Turkey’s new laws are similar to what the United States was trying to accomplish with the Patriot Act. While the United States relies upon military and intelligence responses to terrorism, many European and Asian countries emphasize policing and law enforcement to combatting predicate offenses to terrorism. As such, the legislation gives broader authority for Turkish law enforcement to:

  • Search people and vehicles
  • Detain people for up to 48 hours without prosecutorial authorization
  • Increased penalties for protesters disseminating propaganda or inciting terrorism
  • Use firearms in their efforts to prevent attacks or bombings of public buildings
  • Take instructions from governors to pursue particular crimes or individuals suspected of criminal behavior

Understandably, there are negative reactions to the new legislation mainly because of the potential for police to abuse their authority. Additionally, allowing police to take instruction from governors to pursue particular crimes or individuals is a breach of the system of checks and balances. However, IS presents a serious threat to the safety of Turkish citizens and to Turkish national security. The new legislation may be able to help law enforcement prevent attacks on Turkish citizens.

A Fine Line

A Pew Research Center poll attempted to take the temperature of the public’s reaction to the torture report. The poll found that 51% of Americans believe post-9/11 interrogation tactics are effective to prevent terrorist attacks. Of those remaining, 29% think it is unjustified and 20% don’t know. While a majority of Republicans think the interrogation methods are justified, Democrats are split on the issue.

PEW study graphic

Source: PEW National Survey on CIA Interrogation Methods

Based on the majority of public opinion on these issues and a multitude of similarly controversial policies across the globe, it would appear that this imbalance will be an enduring issue. Taking the CIA interrogation issue as an example, we can conclude that if there is no decisive opinion, public sentiment can sway in either direction. If government gives more priority to national security than to civil liberties, the public may grow weary of the pattern of intrusion. Since younger demographics are the group which take the most issue with government privacy intrusions and rights violations, this may be the more likely scenario. If opinion sways in the other direction, it is possible that we can see an alarmingly disproportionate relationship between the protection of individual rights and invasive national security policies. We would see a decline in the protection of civil liberties and an increasingly broad definition of what constitutes a national security threat. The questions remain:

How have we drawn the line between civil liberties and national security?

How will these decisions evolve over time?

What can we do to keep our rights and remain vigilant against security threats at the same time?

PEw study graphic 2

Source: PEW National Survey on CIA Interrogation Methods

The most pertinent question we can ask however, is: why aren’t more people paying attention to this? The Washington Post’s reaction to the Pew study questions what effect pubic disinterest had on the results. The survey showed that only 23% of Americans followed the story closely. Interest in CIA interrogation methods lagged behind domestic issues like police brutality, the state of the U.S. economy, and sexual assault on college campuses. In order to solve the problem, the American public first needs to decide if one exists. International comparisons, like the ones outlined in this post, can help to put the issue in context to decide where the line should be between upholding civil liberties and national security.

In the Office: A Look at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh’s Babies in the Workplace Program

Amiena Mahsoob and her sonToday is the first day that my work isn’t being punctuated by coos, and the rhythms of feeding and burping my four-month old baby boy. He has started daycare, and I am back to working as most adults with children do: kid-free.

Though my husband and I were lucky to have found a wonderful daycare early in my pregnancy, we soon realized that the start of the baby “academic” year and the end of my very generous maternity leave would leave us without childcare for over a month and a half. So for the past seven weeks, my son and I have benefited from an innovative approach to this gap in childcare: a Babies in the Workplace program.

I first heard about baby-friendly workplaces when an acquaintance worked alongside her infant at Rhiza.  Shortly after I learned I was pregnant, I stumbled across the idea again when reading this article written in response to Melissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo! bringing her newborn to work. As summertime is when my colleagues and I at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh collaborate and plan our school year programs, working from home for seven weeks or taking additional time off were not options for me. When I proposed the idea to our CEO and Vice President, they took to it immediately. After ironing out the details and referencing a Babies in the Workplace template from the Parenting in the Workplace Institute, our counsel gave it the okay. Audrey Russo, our board chair, who was responsible for implementing babies at work programs at Rhiza and Maya nearly a decade ago, was delighted.

10477114_10152587387894253_3906887940984784147_oSo it was that my little guy had the opportunity to work with me this summer. He attended our summer program for high school students, the Summer Seminar on Global Issues, where he met 36 students from twenty high schools, including three students and their chaperone from the Roots School in Islamabad. He napped through an otherwise engaging conversation via video conference with Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, who gave a talk on the crises facing migrants and refugees in the Middle East and on our borders. He smiled when we video conferenced with our partner, Helenne Ulster, the Principal of United Church School in South Africa. He giggled during another video conference with our partner school in Taiwan. He made comments during meetings with Pittsburgh-area teachers. He even had the chance to babble to students in Bangladesh.

Though our organization is small, we work in a large bank building in downtown Pittsburgh. As my son and I came into the building each day, everyone from bankers to security guards greeted our youngest summer intern. It was delightful, and a great way to start the day.

Working with an infant, I found, was both more difficult and much easier than I anticipated. Once we both acclimated to the office, the rhythms of infant life provided a structure to the day. Anything that required concentration could happen during naps or feeding, while meetings worked best with an alert baby, who would also serve to entertain and calm the grownups in the room.

As many working parents have experienced, there simply aren’t enough great options for childcare in the United States. While bringing an infant to work isn’t for everyone, I am incredibly grateful to have had such a wonderful transition. And our youngest summer intern now has a little something for his baby CV.

Day of the African Child: Celebrating 50 years of African Unity



“I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself.” – Nelson Mandela

This post was written by Jalyn Evans, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern

June 16, 1976, 10,000 students took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa, refusing to attend poorly funded schools which administered education in a language they did not know. The Bantu Education Act of 1953, a pillar of the Apartheid project, required non-white students to be educated in a way that suited their culture, ultimately preparing non-white South Africans for manual labor roles in the society. Penalties imposed on political protests, even non-violent protests, were severe, ranging from life sentences in prison to beatings and death. The protest in Soweto turned violent when students were greeted by police forces armed with teargas and loaded firearms. Over 20 students were killed in the chaos between police and protesters.  This was a major strike in the fight to dismantle the apartheid government, which legally instituted racial segregation in 1948.

Soweto’s 1976 movement for education equality is kept alive in spirit by the South African holiday, Youth Day (June 16th) and namely the African Union (AU), a renowned organization dedicated to the “development and integration” of the African continent. The AU commemorated this year’s Day of the African Child (DAC) centering initiatives on “child friendly, quality, free, and compulsory education for all children in Africa.” The event which is held annually at the Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia entailed:

  • inter-generational dialogue between children and experts;
  • a talent show;
  • a mini-marathon;
  • and a press conference.

See the video linked below for more information:


From DAC to IDAY: A Growing Movement

The Day of the African Child has become an international movement through the support and emergence of organizations and non-profits from nation to nation.  Established in 2005, the non-profit organization IDay has a network of 8 European and 16 African countries with more than 240 member associations. Click here to see example of IDAY supporters.

IDAY’s vision

A world where all barriers to education are eliminated and where all African youth have access to quality basic education.

Get Involved!

Here are some ways that you support the Day of the African Child and IDAY movement in your country:

  • Organize an IDAY celebration in your country;
  • Help the IDAY International team with translations, design, information technology, organization of the June 16 events;
  • Raise awareness about IDAY and get in contact with other organizations in Europe or in Africa that operate in the field of education in Africa and might be interested in joining IDAY!

Human Trafficking, Pittsburgh, and the World


Over the past couple years, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh has incorporated Human Trafficking events into our calendar. Highlighting this important global issue comes naturally to us, in no small part due to the fact that the Project to End Human Trafficking is based here in Pittsburgh. We have screened the film Not My Life, which tells stories of human trafficking from around the world. We have also screened the film Girl Rising, which tells the stories of girls around the world who are not able to go to school, including a girl who is kept as a slave.

This week, we will again focus on human trafficking at our 17th Annual Summer Institute for Teachers with a screening of Not My Life and a discussion with Robert Bilheimer, the film’s director, and Anne Rackow from the Project to End Human Trafficking. This is especially timely in light of the U.S. State Department’s release of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, which was published this month. Published annually since 2001, the U.S. State Department uses the information in this document to engage foreign nations on issues involving human trafficking.