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19 September 2018

A Panel Discussion on Russia and Human Rights in the United Nations

by Tselmegtsetseg Tsetsendelger, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee

Following its examination of China and Human Rights in the United Nations, UNA-NCA turned its attention to the human rights record of a second permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the Russian Federation. In May 2018 the United Nations Human Rights Council, through its Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, convened to discuss the human rights situation in the Russian Federation. In conjunction with this important review, the Human Rights Committee of UNA-NCA released a four part post entitled “Russia, the UN and Human Rights” to provide background on key components of the topic.


The discussion on September 13 at the Washington office of the American Jewish Committee built on the background paper and looked at the interactions among the Russian Federation, the United Nations and its human rights machinery. Specifically, the panelists discussed how the different parts of the UN human rights system work in addressing the situation in the Russian Federation, how the country uses its diplomatic tools to influence the UN human rights agenda, as well as the role of civil society actors and how they view the UN as a forum for addressing human rights.


Although the title of the conversation focused on the Russian Federation, the discussion went well beyond one country to reflect wide-ranging insights and experiences of our expert panelists.Felice Gaer of the Jacob Blaustein Institute shared general observations about how the UN human rights machinery operates, from the perspective of a non-governmental organization representative and academic analyst as well as that of a UN expert; she also provided a first-hand account of Russia’s recent engagement with the UN Committee against Torture, of which she is the Vice Chair.  Ted Piccone of the Brookings Institution spoke mainly on the way that Russia, often together with China, seeks to use its diplomatic tools to undermine the UN’s effectiveness in addressing human rights issues. Sarah Mendelson of Carnegie-Mellon University described Russia’s approach to human rights in the UN as well as steps taken to counter that approach, based in part on her experience as a practitioner of UN human rights work when she was the U.S. Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council.  Natalya Arno of the Free Russia Foundation focused more specifically on limited steps as well as significant shortcomings in the way that different parts of the UN address Russia’s domestic human rights situation, speaking from the critical perspective of a civil society advocacy organization.


Please view the recording of the event for the full discussion and the question and answer session that followed. 

View Event Video Here 



05 September 2018

"Equality: It's All In The Family" Review

On August 22, UNA-NCA’s Africa Affairs Committee and the Women's Learning Partnership collaborated with the George Washington University Gender Equality Initiative and the Institute of African Studies to host Women’s Learning Partnership(WLP) documentary film Equality: It's All in the Family. The film outlined some of the root causes of discriminatory laws and highlights pathways toward a legal reform.

Following the film, a vibrant panel discussion ensued,moderated by Paula Tavares, a from Women, Business, and The Law group at the World Bank, focusing on family law reform in African countries.
Opening_RemarksThe panelists came to a consensus that there can be no peace, security, or development without the involvement of women at all levels of decision-making processes within their respective governments. They also expressed the need for women to have a continued and a powerful voice against gender inequality and mentioned the need to implement critical international commitments including the support of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2063 Agenda of the African Union.

Ambassador Liberata Mulamula of Tanzania, from the GW Institute of African Studies, spoke about how every woman should be empowered to become drivers of social change in their communities. Speaking in her national capacity, she recounted several social challenges including inadequate and lack of access to education for girls, ensuring how some of these issues are intricately linked in achieving peace and security, human rights, and above all key development on the continent.

In the ensuing discussions, it is evident that women's voices should be heard rather than silenced in order to achieve gender equality. We need more women taking action to advance this vital work, the Ambassador cautioned. 
Panel
The overall objective of the event was to encourage the public, scholars, students, and policymakers interested in this issue to learn how inequitable family laws affect the security and well-being of women, girls, and their communities. 

The UNA-NCA Africa Affairs Committee is pleased to join WLP's global campaign and build on these efforts. We hope to continue to grow and catalyze the necessary investments to further advance this important campaign agenda to reform these family laws in Africa and beyond.



05 September 2018

Remembering Arvonne Fraser

By Vivian Derryck, UNA-NCA Advisory Council, and Karen Mulhauser, UNA-NCA Past President

Arvonne_Fraser
Arvonne Skelton Fraser, died on August 7, 2018 at her St. Croix River house at the age of 92. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and the New York Times obituaries thoughtfully document her long life of contributions to women’s issues, human rights, the Democratic Party and social equity.

If you want to honor Arvonne, please don’t send flowers or cards. Instead, go out and organize for a cause, donate to and volunteer for candidates, read the news and talk to your family, friends, neighbors and elected officials about important issues. This is how Arvonne spent her years as an admired leader, feminist, ambassador, author, wife of Congressman and Mayor of Minneapolis Don Fraser, sister of Bonnie Skelton, mother of Tom, Mary, John, Lois, Anne and Jean, grandmother of seven grandchildren, and friend, mentor and teacher to so many. You may also share stories and pictures on her memorial website here.

Arvonne began her career in the MN Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party [DFL] and was its president from 1956- 1962.  Her leadership in the women’s movement included a term as president of the Women’s Equity Action League in 1972, pioneering work as the Director of the Office of Women in Development at USAID in the Carter Administration and service as a U.S. representative to the UN Commission of the Status of Women. She was a member of the U.S. delegations to the first two conferences of the UN Decade for Women: Mexico City in1975 and Copenhagen in 1980.

Arvonne was committed to the U.N., so she was delighted when Don spent a session in New York as a Congressional delegate.  Indeed, in 1995 when Arvonne and Don shared the UNA-NCA Louis B. Sohn Award, Arvonne called the award one of the highlights of her professional life.  In addition to their joint awards, Arvonne received many awards and recognition for her work in women-in-development and women’s equity from the U.S. and other governments as well as from numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  

Arvonne modeled a committed feminist who saw the importance of listening, compromise and building coalitions.  Over the decades, she and Don also modeled a partnership which represented a shared passion for public service with an emphasis on human rights, improving lives in developing countries, democracy–strengthening and women’s equality--both in the developing world and here in the U.S.  With a rich mix of strategic thinking, global perspective and strong commitment to women’s equity, Arvonne leaves a legacy as a global citizen of integrity and conviction.



30 August 2018

Tribute to an exemplary diplomat – Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman

By Paula Boland, UNA-NCA Executive Director
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On August 24, 2018, UNA-NCA and the international affairs community lost one of its finest diplomats less than a week after the passing of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Ambassador Princeton Lyman was an active Advisory Council member and avid supporter of our chapter.

Ambassador Lyman began his government career with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and served as USAID Director in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 1976 to 1978. His extensive career in government also included assignments as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1981-1986), U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria (1986-1989), Director of Refugee Programs (1989-1992), U.S. Ambassador to South Africa (1992-1995), and Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (1996-1998).Princeton Lyman will be deeply missed, but he will live on as an exemplary patriot, diplomat, and friend,” Constance “Connie” A. Morella spoke of her fellow Advisory Council member.As a member of Congress in the 90’s, I traveled to South Africa before and during his Ambassadorship and salute his legacy of negotiating an agreement in the country’s transition to democracy. In all his diplomatic assignments, Ambassador Lyman’s calm, reasonable demeanor enhanced his practice of listening, learning, and leading.”

More recently, he served as the United States special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan from March 2011 to March 2013. As special envoy, he led U.S. policy in helping in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Ambassador Lyman previously held the position of Ralph Bunche Fellow for African Affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. From 1999 to 2003, he served as Executive Director of the Global Interdependence Initiative at the Aspen Institute. From 2008-2010, Ambassador Lyman was a member of the African Advisory Committee to the United States Trade Representative.

In his role as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, Ambassador Lyman supported the U.S. government in developing a strong relationship with the United Nations. His predecessor, Sheba Crocker, saidPrinceton understood better than most the value of US engagement and leadership in multilateral institutions, and the importance of those institutions to advancing U.S. interests on issues ranging from peace and security and conflict resolution to protection of refugees, human rights, and humanitarian issues.  His voice and commitment will be sorely missed.”  

Fellow Advisory Council member and longtime friend of Ambassador Lyman, Ambassador George Moose noted,

“Princeton is no doubt best known for his critical role as U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, in nurturing and facilitating the negotiations that led in 1994 to South Africa’s historic and peaceful transition from apartheid to multi-racial democracy. Less well known, but no less important, was his leadership of the State Department’s International Organization Affairs Bureau from 1996 to 1998, which coincided with the first two years of Kofi Annan’s tenure as UN Secretary-General.  Here, again, Princeton played an indispensable role in facilitating communication between the UN in New York and the U.S. policy makers in Washington. Their partnership was instrumental in mobilizing and galvanizing U.S. support for Annan’s ambitious agenda for reforming and revitalizing the UN and restoring its credibility, most notably in the areas of peacekeeping and human rights.  I had the opportunity to see and appreciate the value of his efforts from my perch as head of the UN Office in Geneva.  The fact that the world has lost both of these extraordinary leaders and visionaries in the space of just one week is doubly tragic.”

Ambassador Lyman was an active supporter of the UN Association and its mission of educating and mobilizing its members for a strong US-UN partnership. UNA-NCA awarded Ambassador Lyman with its Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award in 2015 at its Annual Membership Meeting. In his remarks, he emphasized, “What we do here at UNA and in UN Associations across the world is vital to enabling the UN to be effective, for its writ to be respected, and for it to be able to do its work…” “…No matter what its shortcomings and problems, the United Nations time and time again is the institution to which the world turns for some of the most difficult problems.”    

Ambassador Lyman was admired by his colleagues and consulted regularly by the network of foreign affairs organizations. Ambassador Lyman will certainly be missed at home and abroad, but his legacy will live through the work of the many organizations and people he touched and mentored throughout his journey. Rest in Peace.

UNA-NCA welcomes contributions in honor of Ambassador Lyman. See details here

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Ambassador Lyman 
receiving the 2015 UNA-NCA Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award at the Annual Membership Meeting. 

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Ambassador Lyman with UNA-NCA Board members Karen Mulhauser and Richard Ponzio at the 2016 UN Day event at the National Education Association.



20 August 2018

A Tribute to Kofi Annan

Stephen Moseley, President of UNA-NCA

Kofi_Annan
This weekend, the world lost a significant leader. Kofi Annan led the UN as Secretary-General for two consecutive terms from 1997 to 2006. Most recently, in 2016, he served as a special UN envoy to review and reveal the murder and genocide of the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for revitalizing the UN and for giving priority to human rights during his tenure as Secretary-General. The Nobel Committee also recognized his firm commitment to containing the spread of the HIV virus in Africa and his declared opposition to international terrorism.

As Secretary-General, he addressed the struggles for peace in Kenya after a disputed election and challenged Saddam Hussein to disclose his weapons in Iraq before the American and Allied forces invasion there. Through his tireless diplomacy, he garnered support for the UN from key members who were falling behind in their financial support for the UN, compelling the US to pay its arrears of dues to the UN. His soft-spoken demeanor and elegant presentation as the world's diplomat enabled him to address the UN's interests and mission in many of the most challenging places including Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Born in Ghana in 1938, Kofi Annan was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, he was the first Secretary-General to assume office after a career in civil service at the UN. Kofi Annan held a series of significant appointments: first, at the World Health Organization (WHO); second, in Ethiopia with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); finally, as the deputy and then head of UN Peacekeeping Operations.

His leadership was not without controversy on several occasions. He faced significant challenges in trying to bring peace in the war in Kosovo and received criticism for being overly cautious in calling for armed protection and air strikes from NATO when Bosnian Serbs overran UN peacekeeping forces in safe-haven areas. Later, he failed to recognize in advance the impending genocide in Rwanda. He unsuccessfully challenged the US and Britain’s decision to attack Iraq without a UN mandate, and called the US's position illegal.

By the time he left office, however, he had considerably strengthened the UN's image and reputation, not only by bolstering the UN's financial health and stability, but also by bringing about an improved and more coordinated humanitarian assistance operation. Under his leadership, the UN established the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, which in many ways successfully transformed the focus and accomplishment of multilateral and bilateral global aid assistance to address poverty, public health, education, the environment and maternal and child health.

In a tribute to Kofi Annan, the New York Times characterized his leadership of the UN as "redefining the UN in an era of turbulence." The current Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said in a heartfelt statement, "In many ways Kofi Annan was the UN." Nikki Haley, the current U.S. Ambassador to the UN said, “Kofi Annan devoted his life to making the world a more peaceful place through his compassion and dedication to service.” Madeleine Albright, who served as Ambassador to the UN from 1993 to 1997, called him "one of the world's foremost advocates for peace, development and international understanding... our world is a better place because of Kofi Annan."

Kofi Annan will always be remembered for setting a high bar for addressing the dignity of the individual and upholding the human rights of all. As he said in 1999, "For the end of the 20th Century, one thing is clear: a United Nations that will not stand up for Human Rights is a United Nations that cannot stand up for itself.” Thus, it is most fitting that we celebrate Kofi Annan's life in this 70th Anniversary year of the signing of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

See full obituary here and video here.  



14 August 2018

GCDC: A Busy Summer and An Exciting Fall


Although schools are out for summer break, Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) has been staying busy for the past few months!

Firstly, every summer, GCDC updates its curriculum with new activities, statistics, and topics, as well as it's signature mini-simulations. We produce no-prep mini-simulations that GCDC as part of its program creates mini-simulations, which are highly condensed versions of Model UN conferences. As opposed to taking three-four days that a normal MUN conference, mini-simulations typically take 45-60 minutes. Though they can be extended into an entire day, it allows a class to work as quickly as possible to find solutions to the issue presented. For the 2018-2019 school year, nearly every unit has multiple mini-simulation options for students to practice their essential skills of public speaking, negotiation, and group work. 

Secondly, the GCDC team ran a successful Model UN workshop. From July 9th to 11th, the Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) Program ran a workshop with eleven students from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, MD. The mission of this workshop was to give students fundamental skills and knowledge to be an active participant in Model UN simulations. 

Finally, we have developed a number of key partnerships that will expand the scope of topics for the year-round curriculum. We are working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to focus on the topic of migration for both the Spring 2019 Model UN Conference and a year-round unit. GCDC is also working with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to highlight providing decent employment opportunities for young people. Additionally, we are partnering with the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) to expose students to the women in peace and security agenda. 

GCDC is launching into the upcoming school year with plenty of excitement! We are looking forward to the Fall Model UN Training Conference taking place on November 15, 2018 at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This year, we will be focusing on the Global Opioid Crisis, and in a World Health Organization (WHO) committee. Many Americans may be familiar with the epidemic happening in our own country, but the easy availability of opioids have caused the increase in misuse and deaths that lead to worldwide crisis. In addition, many countries are extremely restrictive with life-saving pain medication, and suffer from too little access. Students will explore how to bridge this divide, and learn from countries’ experiences on both ends of the spectrum.





25 July 2018

Positive Cooperation with the UN's Help on Migration

By Stephen F. Moseley, President, UNA-NCA

In the midst of so many frightening stories regarding the stalemate among countries to address the global migration crises, some remarkable stories in the past weeks highlight how international collaboration encouraged by the UN can make a difference. 

On July 22nd, in the dark of the night, Israeli forces helped more than 400 White Helmets flee Syria to Jordan through a corridor in Israel. These volunteer emergency workers saved thousands of civilian lives in Syrian war zones but found themselves stranded in an emergency situation. The United Nations urged the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Jordan, and Israel to cooperate and arrange their escape from Syria with transport and border crossings into Israel before crossing into Jordan. The collaborative nations are also working together to create a process by which these brave volunteers will reach their later settlement from Jordan to the U.K., Canada, and others (not including the United States). The extraordinary efforts by these countries to save the White Helmets and their families demonstrates the values shared in this operation can overcome what otherwise has been a month of little to no cooperation on so many global issues about migration and related peace initiatives.
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18 July 2018

Model UN Workshop Helps Student Break Out of Their Shells


From July 9th to 11th, the Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) Program ran a workshop with eleven students from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, MD. The mission of this workshop was to give students fundamental skills and knowledge to be an active participant in Model UN simulations.

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On the first day, students were introduced to the GCDC Program and all the work we accomplish. Following this, students were given small exercises to get them familiar with the work of the United Nations. After a short discussion on the UN, the workshop started focusing on how this work is simulated in Model UN.

The next skill development that was focused on was writing and researching a position paper, which in Model UN is the one-page summary of a country’s position and recommendations for policy solutions. With help from GCDC Program Assistants, students wrote brief position paper outlines by using a paper that compared the ingredients in a burger to the major aspects of a position paper.

Workshop2018-2For the third skill, public speaking, students were given a small office supply article, such as a pen, and were tasked with speaking for 30 seconds on why people should buy it. After a lively discussion, students had the opportunity to practice their own public speaking skills through a speech from Malala Yousafzai. Their classmates gave them observations and suggestions to better improve their delivery, and everyone improved. After this, students regrouped and were randomly called on to give a 30 second extemporaneous speech on a subject, such as “should homework loads be reduced?” The day ended with the selling office supplies exercise, where students showcased their greatly improved public speaking skills.

On the second day of the workshop, students were able to learn and practice negotiation, collaboration and resolution writing skills. These essential skills that will help them not only at Model UN conferences, but also throughout their life to find better solutions in a group settings.

Workshop2018-3In order to illustrate the importance of the ability to negotiate and collaborate to resolve the vital issues students were given what we call “Alone on Deserted Island”, which forces groups of students to decide together what items they would keep if stranded on a deserted island. This activity was designed specifically to practice prioritization, compromising, as well as advocating for their opinions.

Next, students had to craft a restauant menu, complete with choices for appetizers, main courses, and desserts. Students had to take into account characteristics of customers like financial level, age, food preferences, and dress code as well as the essential needs of each customer. This activity helped students to realize that even such thing as creating a menu requires the consideration of a variety of different perspectives.

Workshop2018-4That afternoon, students learned and practiced resolution writing skills. Mentors explained the importance of resolutions and how resolutions that are written by the United Nations influence different countries and people around the world. Students were given a chance to brainstorm policies they as countries would recommend to protect the human rights of refugees in Syria - a mini simulation where they represented their countries perspective. This activity helped students to learn research and writing skills. Such skills are needed not only for MUN Conference but also for writing their school and university essays.

On the third and final day, students combined all the new skills they had learned from the previous days by participating in a mini-simulation where they were assigned countries to represent and discus about the human rights of refugees in Syria. In addition to learning about the conflicts in Syria, human rights issues, the mini-conference encouraged students to think about the ways countries work together to solve a global issue like the refugee crisis. It was also an effective way to familiarize students with the rules and procedures of Model UN, and to teach students public speaking, negotiation, collaboration, and writing skills.

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During the morning session, student delegates made opening speeches presenting their country’s perspective on the topic. Later, they discussed possible solutions about increasing refugee admissions, fighting extremist terrorist organizations like ISIS, protecting civilians, and allocating resources from developed and developing nations to prevent human rights violations and provide better living conditions for people in the refugee camps.

Two blocs or groups were formed as students realized the conflicting interests of different countries. For example, a major clash during the debate was that Syria, Russia, and China proposed that all countries should take an apolitical stance on the Syrian Civil War, while Saudi Arabia called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Workshop2018-6In the afternoon, student delegates presented two draft resolutions or documents outlining their solutions to the committee. During the presentation of each draft resolution, the sponsors were asked to answer other delegates’ questions about some specific clauses they wrote. By answering the questions, sponsors were able to explain and clarify some of the clauses, and find out how to amend their draft resolution to make sure that the solutions were feasible. Throughout the simulation, students worked together to brainstorm the possible solutions can be included in the draft resolution, and successfully found a common ground for countries with different positions through negotiation. Some of the students were step up to be the leaders of their group and make sure that everyone was on the same page. They also enjoyed expressing their ideas by making speeches, debating and discussing during moderated and unmoderated caucuses.

In the end, GCDC believes that the students gained invaluable skills pertaining to Model UN. Furthermore, we know that they have emerged from the workshop with more knowledge about the UN, international politics, and current events than when they entered into it. We are proud of our work done in partnership with Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, MD and hope that our guidance has inspired students to share their passion for Model UN.


If you want to learn more about Global Classrooms DC, you can email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit our website.






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