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20 September 2017

Progress on United Nations Reform

The Trump Administration’s proposed withdrawal from international obligations such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement and its proposed budget cuts to the United Nations, foreign assistance and diplomacy (largely rejected by Congress) would not seem to bode well for continuing US leadership at the United Nations. But with challenges come opportunities. One such opportunity comes with a convergence of UN reform agendas being advanced by the new Secretary General, the President and the US Congress. Any viable institution must constantly reinvent itself  to adapt to fast-changing geopolitics, demographics and technology. The UN is no exception. The world today is far different from that of 1945. Calls for reform are a compelling confirmation of the essential role the UN must play in our increasingly interconnected global community.

Because a more efficient and effective United Nations will be a stronger force for peace, UNA-NCA supports important reform initiatives. History teaches that US leadership is critical in achieving these reforms. And despite the occasionally discordant and harsh rhetoric coming from the Administration, progress is being made. Of course, meeting our funding obligations and generously supporting the UN’s humanitarian and human rights initiatives strengthens US leadership and leverage. See Status of FY2018 Appropriations.

On Monday, September 18th, President Trump addressed a high level meeting on UN Reform, inviting 128 nations which have signed on to a US-initiated ten point UN Political Declaration. The Declaration provides critical Member State support for the Secretary General’s reform initiatives to improve the management, transparency and accountability of the Secretariat. The Member States vest in the Secretary General the power to reduce “duplication, redundancy and overlap,” to develop human resource policies that “will attract, develop and retain high-performing staff members” and gender parity, to improve the planning and budget processes, and to align the UN’s “work on humanitarian response, development, and sustaining peace initiatives.” See Political Declaration. In his brief address on Monday, the President stated that the UN should focus on people and results, not process, that every level of management should be held accountable, and that whistleblowers should be protected. He urged that peacekeeping mandates have clearly defined goals and metrics that define success, and that Member States fully support the Secretary General's bold steps to streamline the bureaucracy and change business as usual. “We pledge to be partners in your work,” the President said.  With such reforms, the President predicted, “the United Nations will emerge as a stronger, more effective, more just and greater force for  peace and harmony in the world.” See President Trump’s statement

One of the weaknesses in the UN Charter is the ill-defined role of the Secretary General who is described as the “chief administrative officer,” an intentional objective of some of the original Charter signatories. Member State support is essential if the  SG is to be an effective global leader. Close your eyes and imagine that a President Roosevelt, Eisenhower, G.H.W. Bush or Obama had  called together almost 130 nations to vest in the SG enormous powers to strengthen the UN though management efficiencies that would enable the UN to realize fully the vision of its charter. UN supporters would be wildly applauding. Yet, this is what  happened on Monday if only the Administration can stay the course. The Declaration establishes an important foundation for UN reform, but it is only a first step. See Board Member Richard Ponzio’s article “Hitting the Reset on the UN".

Trump’s first address to the UN General Assembly on September 19th was quite a contrast, obviously written by another team. In vivid and typically Trumpian language, he spoke to both his base and the international community. He called for global cooperation in confronting the threats to the civilized world presented by “rogue regimes” such as North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba and by “radical Islamic terrorism.”  He thanked Russia and China for their support of UN sanctions against North Korea, but said this was not nearly enough. Trump attempted to reconcile his America first policies with the US traditional role of global leadership. The jury is out on whether he succeeded; however, the Trump doctrine reflects a pragmatic view of the UN, with its roots in the Treaty of Westphalia, as a forum in which sovereign nations advance their national interests through global cooperation in addressing common challenges and advancing shared values—“values expressed in the United Nations Charter.” In Trump’s view, the United Nations “was based on the vision that diverse nations could cooperate to protect their sovereignty, security and prosperity.”

Trump thanked the UN for its humanitarian work addressing the refugee crisis and world famines. He said the US is a compassionate nation spending billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance and supporting global health programs including  PEPFAR, the malaria initiative, the Global Health Security Agenda, and the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. Drawing applause, he praised “the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, part of our commitment to empowering women across the globe, ” and he thanked Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon for hosting refuges, arguing that it is more humane and cost effective to support refugees close to their home countries where they can return when a political solution is found. He saluted the UN for addressing the systemic problems that cause people to flee from their homes, noting that peacekeeping missions have made “invaluable contributions in stabilizing conflicts in Africa.”  Trump thanked the Secretary General for recognizing that “the United Nations must reform” and  focus more on people and results rather than process and bureaucracy. However, Trump criticized the UN for electing States with egregious human rights records to the Human Rights Council.

There were less satisfying notes in Trump’s address. He began by bragging about the record high US stock market and military defense appropriations. And then he complained about how the US shoulders an “unfair cost burden” at the UN, financially and militarily.  At less than one quarter of one per cent of the federal budget, US contributions to the UN actually understate the US proportionate share of the world’s gross domestic product. Given the cost in blood and treasure of US military interventions abroad, the US investment in the UN’s peace and security and humanitarian work is very cost-effective.  Trump did acknowledge that if,  by reform the UN lived up to its goals, the US “investment would easily be well worth it.” Trump’s harsh attack on the Iran nuclear deal was a “gift” to the smiling Netanyahu, and notably absent was any reference to climate change and only a slight passing reference to the Ukraine. His surprising attack on socialism seemed inconsistent with his emphasis on the sovereign right of each nation to pursue its own economic and cultural course as it secures its “sovereignty, security and prosperity.” He said little about human rights. There was no mention, for example, of the Rohingya crisis.  President Trump’s speech.

President’s Trump strong endorsement of  Secretary General Guterres’ reform agenda was timely. On the issue of Peacekeeping reform, a UNA-NCA initiative, the Secretary General transmitted a Note to Member States proposing to restructure UN Peace Operations. The Secretary General has proposed a “surge in diplomacy for peace” that  requires a “more nimble, pragmatic and flexible” organizational structure at both headquarters and in the field. His proposal addresses the barriers of fragmentation and functional silos by organizational integration and changing the working culture to channel capacity and resources towards conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Specifically, he proposes to combine into a single Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs the responsibilities of the Department of Political Affairs and the Peace Building Support Office. The new Department would support the Secretary General’s diplomatic activities, manage the spectrum of engagements from early warning through peacebuilding, prioritize relationships with strategic partners and regional organizations, and support the Security Council and General Assembly.

The SG also proposes a single Department of Peace Operations with the responsibility for peacekeeping and political missions, bringing the management of all peace operations under a single department. A Standing Principals Group would be created to provide leadership for strategic, political and operational functions, and  a single political operational structure would be created under three regional Assistant Secretary Generals. To increase capacity for preventative diplomacy, a new High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation would be established. See Note from Secretary General to Member States.

At a September 18th Circle of Leadership, the Secretary General requested heads of state or governments to sign a Compact agreeing to certify that citizens who serve the UN “have not committed, or alleged to have committed, criminal offenses, including of a sexual nature, and/or violations of human rights law or international humanitarian law.” The Compact further provides for credible international investigations of both military and civilian personnel charged with such violations.

Finally, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2378 on Peacekeeping Reform on September 20, after a high level discussion led by the current chair, Ethiopia. The resolution affirmed that the prevention of conflicts is a primary responsibility of States and that peacekeeping operations should support political solutions. The Resolution endorses the Secretary General’s structural reforms described above, calls for an annual comprehensive briefing of the Security Council by the Secretary General on Peacekeeping Reform, encourages strong support for the African Union, and urges that more women be recruited for Peacekeeping Operations. Vice President Pence addressed the Council calling for an exit strategy where Peacekeeping Operations have fulfilled their purpose of have failed to do so.

The Secretary General’s organizational proposals are a first step in addressing the Peace Operations Reform proposals that have been advanced for discussion by UNA-NCA. UNA-NCA’s Peacekeeping Reform proposals include recommendations that would strengthen the capacity of UN Peacekeepers to serve important US national security objectives. Specific recommendations fall within the following categories:

·Ensuring achievable, realistic and adequately resourced UN Security Council Mandates that serve clearly defined political strategies;

·Implementation of governance reforms that streamline the UN bureaucracy and integrate peacekeeping with UN peacebuilding, human rights and humanitarian objectives, vesting overall strategic responsibility in a senior UN executive and delegating operational responsibility to the field;

·Enhance readiness and training of military and police personnel and strengthen mediation capacity;

·Hold Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) accountable for peacekeeping performance and a zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation and abuse;

·Promote gender integration at all  levels; and

·Meet US funding obligations while ensuring efficient use of US taxpayer money by establishing effective oversight and exit strategies.

UNA-NCA Proposals for the Reform of Peace Operations can be found HERE. We have received  comments (and welcome further comments) on the paper which will be updated and revised in due course as we monitor progress on the UN’s peace and security mission—so vital to US national interest.

By Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), Past President and Co-Chair, Peace  & Security Committee
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area

20 September 2017

UNA-NCA President Statement on 2018 Budget

By UNA-NCA President, Stephen F. Moseley

September 19th, the 2017 UN General Assembly opens for a month of careful analysis and debate to improve the world, in the face of a world fraught with dramatic and dangerous challenges from the threat of nuclear war or miscalculations, the acts of genocide in Myanmar, the wars ongoing in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, a still burgeoning refugee crisis, attendant famine threats from war and climate change, and more threats to democratic processes by military dictatorships, such as Venezuela. There are more growing terrorist threats than ever, now internal to many countries, including in London, Barcelona, and elsewhere this past month. The importance of the mission and roles of the United Nations is more evident than ever. Yet only six months ago, the new Trump Administration presented its first budget for 2018 proposing to slash the US support to the UN on average by more than 30%, including 50% cuts to humanitarian and refugee assistance, 25% cuts to peacekeeping, and the reduction to zero of the funds for many of the UN's program agency for development, women rights, food supply, children's health, disease prevention, and many more. Five months ago, President Trump also pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Change accords, which only two years ago was hailed by nearly all world leaders and billions of world citizens for being the greatest modern international agreement for the well being of the world's future. With these agreements, 17 additional countries agreed upon Sustainable Development Goals for all countries to achieve together from 2015 to 2030.

Yesterday, President Trump and the American Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, joined by UN Secretary General Guterres, led a public meeting of some 15 key nations to declare their commitment to support the Secretary General's promises and actions underway to reform the UN's operations and management. While President Trump did not back away from the proposed drastic budget cuts by the US, in this forum he offered a tone of support to the Secretary General, which and may well have begun an opening for more constructive dialogue between the Trump Administration and the UN. This meeting also comes just weeks after, the US Senate committees on foreign affairs appropriations, rejected and rolled back with significant levels of  bipartisan votes in the committee, to restore many of the funding levels for UN operations. While this is not a long term definitive budget plan, since there is only a short term continuing omnibus funding bill through December 2017, these Senate actions support, and the rejection of even more cuts proposed then by the US House of Representatives, may well pave the way to a a significant but partial new level of cooperation by the US with the UN and its members.

This morning, the second Head of State speaker will be President Trump, who is expected to  present strong demands to the General Assembly to back the sanctions against N. Korea, to challenge again the behavior of Iran  under the Iran nuclear agreement, and to reinforce the US views on protection of borders from foreign refugees, and emphasize the management efficiency expected of the UN operations and lowering the costs of peacekeeping, and a range of other development spending around the world. The audience there in the UN General Assembly hall, and all of us who want the UN to be even more successful, will be holding our breath to hear and see if the US President will approach his agenda for change  at the UN with any new reflection of good will, interest in collaboration with other nations, and with a commitment and interest to the well being of the millions of people now at total risk from war, starvation, terrorism, the recognition of their human rights, and their human decency and individual dignity. These indeed are the essential rights of people spelled out in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and the mission of the UN, modeled of course after our own US constitution and Declaration of Human rights.

UNA-NCA has been active in the past few months since our annual meeting in June, participating with other chapters of the UNA-USA and with the Better World Campaign, to educate policy leaders in Congress, and some in the new administration, about the critical roles and work of the UN. We have also clarified to them that the overall US cost, even as we are the biggest financial supporter, is still a tremendous bargain to pay for all of what is expected of us and needed in the UN, at a total cost of less than 1/4 of of one percent from the Federal Budget.

In the months and year ahead following this General Assembly, our UNA-NCA programs in peace and security, human rights, global classrooms, women's rights, sustainable development, International law, public policy advocacy, and career support for young professionals, will be ever more important to support our community citizens'understanding of the UN, and to couple this support to our commitment of these same needs for human rights and fair opportunity in our own communities. Our work together must address these issues and needs  both locally and globally. 

14 September 2017

UNA-NCA Policy Review Paper on Peacekeeping Reform


Reform of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Would Serve Important US National Security Interests 

In her first opportunity to chair the Security Council last April, Ambassador Nikki Haley made UN Peacekeeping operations a top priority on the Council’s agenda.  Her objective was to consider “how the UN’s most powerful tool to promote international peace and security” can be made more “effective” and “efficient.” She set forth four reform priorities: Support for political solutions, host country cooperation, realistic and achievable mandates, and an exit strategy. 

The UN Secretary General shares a commitment to UN Reform.  Secretary General António Guterres has stressed “accountability and transparency,” better integration and coordination among UN entities, upgrading the governing structures and Member State oversight, and delegating operational authority to the field. Ambassador Haley has pledged full support for the Secretary General’s “bold strategy” to “advance organizational reforms.”

On the issue of sexual exploitation and human rights violations by peacekeepers, the Secretary General has called for a September 18th Circle of Leadership requesting heads of state or governments to sign a Compact agreeing to certify that citizens who serve the UN “have not committed, or alleged to have committed, criminal offenses, including of a sexual nature, and/or violations of human rights law or international humanitarian law.” The Compact further provides for credible international investigations of both military and civilian personnel charged with such violations.
Read More

29 August 2017

Global Classrooms DC is Ready for Back to School

It’s back to school season, and Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) has been busy prepping for the new school year.

Based on valuable feedback from our stakeholders and program beneficiaries, GCDC just released its newly redesigned curriculum with more activities and mini-Model UN simulations. Educators will now have more flexibility and support, as well as students getting more opportunities to develop crucial skills, such as public speaking, writing, research, and collaboration.

GCDC’s curriculum also benefits from our new collaboration with the Culturfied Foundation, a Washington, DC not for profit organization dedicated to fostering cross-cultural understanding by promoting the richness, variety, and originality of every culture through the platform of arts, education, and special events. As they put it, “Culturfied Foundation is proud to collaborate with UNA-NCA to include a cultural component to the Model UN curriculum… to help Model UN participants understand that cultural exchanges through literature, music, business, sports, and art can be powerful tools to help create peace and partnerships between countries.”

But curriculum is not the only thing that GCDC has launched this month! Our Back to School Campaign is in full force, and we’re looking to support underserved and Title 1 classrooms and schools to participate in our program at a reduced or no cost. You can donate to the fundraising campaign here.

Last but not least, we’re excited to announce our topics for the 2017-2018 school year:


Students will research these various topics for the Fall 2017 Model UN Training Conference and the Spring 2018 Model UN Conference, and will represent various countries advocating for solutions to these global issues. Whether stopping the rise of child soldiers around the world, or finding new ways to produce and use energy to combat climate change, students will be exposed to a variety of issues affecting their world and communities today.

We’re looking forward to the new opportunities this year will bring! Stay up to date on our events and developments on our Facebook and Twitter.

29 August 2017

UNA-NCA Says Goodbye to Writer and Human Rights Activist Page Wilson

UNA-NCA Says Goodbye to Writer and Human Rights Activist Page Wilson



We are deeply saddened to learn of Page Wilson's passing at age 99. Since her involvement with UNA-NCA in the 1990s, we shared many wonderful memories and experienced firsthand her deep commitment to human rights, women’s equity, children, and the environment. These were just some of the many ways that Page engaged with UNA-NCA’s education and advocacy activities. 

We especially recall the love for her mentee Perdita Huston. After Perdita’s death in 2001 to ovarian cancer, Page joined an effort to raise funds for an annual $10,000 cash award. These awards were given to outstanding advocates for women's rights from developing countries, whose lives reflected Perdita’s values. Page also lead UNA-NCA's Sustainable Development Committee. Under her leadership, she organized an important event at American University with climate change lead scientist, Dr. James Hansen. 

Page served several years on UNA-NCA's Board of Directors and later in its Advisory Council, and was a generous supporter. UNA-NCA recognized her dedication and commitment by granting her the Evelyn Falkowski Volunteer Service Award. 

We will miss Page’s easy wit and loving attention to the people and issues that were so important to her. There will be a memorial to celebrate her life later in the fall. Contributions in Page's honor can be made to United Nations Association of the National Capital Area or for a scholarship in her name to the Clarke Law School.

24 August 2017

UNA-NCA Welcomes New Global Education Staff

UNA-NCA wishes the best to Global Education Director Megan Penn, and welcomes Nicole Bohannan as Global Education Managing Director

After 2 years and a half, our Global Education Director Megan Penn, will be moving on to pursue an intense certificate program at the New York Code and Design Academy (DC campus). Megan's last day in the office will be August 24.

During her time at UNA-NCA, Megan has significantly strengthened our signature education program Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) which, during her leadership, expanded and diversified bringing new audiences, partners and improved program offerings. We are very grateful for her contributions.

"I have continued to be enthusiastic and impressed by the youth that come through GCDC, and their ability to respectfully discuss important and complex issues. It makes me excited for the future! …  It is wonderful to have been part of a community that is interested and willing to advance global education, international understanding and inclusion, and encourage youth leadership.” - Megan Penn   

We are pleased to announce that Nicole Bohannon will be joining the UNA-NCA staff as its Global Education Managing Director effective August 25. Nicole brings extensive Model UN and advocacy experience. She previously served as GCDC Program Manager, where she worked to organize the program's Model UN Conferences, to develop new and engaging curriculum for the year-round program, and to make Global Classroom DC more sustainable and dynamic. Nicole also served as the GCDC Program Coordinator.

We wish Megan much luck in her studies and welcome Nicole in her new role!

23 August 2017

Coverage From Leaders in Energy's Green Jobs Forum

On August 17, UNA-NCA partnered with Leaders in Energy on their annual Green Jobs Forum. This program brought together individuals interested in green industry (renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc.) careers and involvement with those having expertise and/or career opportunities available.  The event had a local to global focus, particularly exploring the DC Metro region, and incorporated Sustainable Development Goal content for SDG # 7, Clean Affordable Energy, and SDG # 8, Decent Work.  There were exhibitors at the event, who were promoting clean energy solutions and related career development. Formal remarks included opening comments from Janine Finnell, Executive Director of Leaders in Energy, and from Ken Lemberg, UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee member. Other UNA-NCA members were in attendance as well. The formal presentations incorporated two panels: one with industry experts, helping set the stage for background industry information, and the other with practitioners who managed to get green related jobs in the recent past. The participant audience was engaged and there was helpful social networkng during the event.GREEN2GREEN1

Photos courtesy Agustín Cruz, ArlingtonGreen,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

22 August 2017

Farewell and Thank You to UNA-NCA's 2017 Summer Program Assistants

“Program Assistants are such a vibrant part of UNA-NCA. They bring ideas, passion, and above all, an amazing commitment to our mission of building a strong US-UN partnership. Getting to know them every semester and seeing them grow professionally is one of the things I enjoyed the most. UNA-NCA is grateful for the wonderful contributions all and each one of them make. Thank you!” Paula Boland, Executive Director

"This summer we were lucky enough to have a great group of summer program assistants. Each one brought great energy to the office on a daily basis and was a pleasure to work with due to their professionalism, enthusiasm, and willingness to take on new tasks. I wish them all the best as they head back to school and their future endeavors. I am excited to see what they will accomplish." Megan Penn, Director of Global Education

When asked to reflect upon their summer internship at UNA-NCA, here’s what the group had to say about their experience:

HSchris"I had an unforgettable experience working with the UNA-NCA. Every day there was a new challenge, and new opportunity to develop skills while working with an incredible team, all of whom I am incredibly thankful for. The skills I developed while here and all that I learned while attending events in DC has opened so many doors for my future. I am eternally appreciative to the staff and all they have presented me." 

- Chris Benoit, 2017 Summer Program Assistant

hsbianca"The best part of interning at the Global Classrooms DC program at UNA-NCA was being able to assist in organizing and attending high-profile events and conferences, which gave me uncountable skills, as well as giving me the possibility of networking during the working experience."

- Bianca Cunha, 2017 Summer Program Assistant

HStaylor"I absolutely loved working for the UNA-NCA this summer. Not only did I gain extremely valuable work experience, but I was trusted with unique and important projects and had the opportunity to learn from an amazing staff. It was a great way to spend my summer, and I am leaving with invaluable skills and connections."

- Taylor Dumaine, 2017 Summer Program Assistant

HSaly"I am incredibly grateful to have had the fulfilling experience of working at the UNA-NCA this summer with such a talented, hard-working team. The countless opportunities for leadership and learning each day greatly sharpened my skillset, broadened my knowledge, and allowed me to engage directly with many unique groups and individuals within the Washington, DC community."

- Aly Gross, 2017 Summer Program Assistant

HStiffany"Working at UNA-NCA this summer was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. It was by no means your typical internship and because of that I have learned so much more than I ever thought possible. The staff at UNA-NCA truly made my summer experience- constantly teaching me new tricks of the trade and encouraging to explore all of the career opportunities that D.C. has to offer. I am so thankful that I was able to be part of such a strong team." 

- Tiffany Monroy, 2017 Summer Program Assistant

"Having the chance to intern for UNA-NCA gave me a true insight of the reality of what living and working in D.C. means. At the same time, I had the chance to meet with many great people involved in this non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization, and their fast paced strong efforts truly motivated me. I am more than thankful to have actively participated and support (with small daily tasks) the spirit of such an important and historic office in the United States."

- Jose Muela, 2017 Program Assistant

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