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08 November 2019

Full Coverage of UN Month 2019


UNA-NCA celebrated the United Nations' 74th Anniversary this year focusing on the theme "Our Planet.  Our Future."  Three events were hosted in honor of the organization, beginning on October 8th with the annual Eleanor Roosevelt Happy Hour, celebrating the former First Lady and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We then hosted UN Environment Program Executive Director Inger Andersen for a convesation with Center for Climate and Energy Solutions President Robert Perciasepe, moderated by the UN Foundation's Managing Director for Climate and Energy, Ryan Hobert.  Finally, UNA-NCA concluded UN Month with a discussion on "The UN and Human Rights in 2019" featuring keynote remarks by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, followed by a discussion with Ambassador Keith Harper (ret.), former U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, and Ambassador Sarah Mendelson, former U.S. Permanent Representative to ECOSOC.

Click below to view coverage and learn more!


October 8 - Eleanor Roosevelt Happy Hour

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October 18 - Our Planet.  Our Future

Climate_Panel

October 28 - The UN and Human Rights in 2019

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29 October 2019

"The UN and Human Rights in 2019" Event Coverage

By Micayla Costa, Human Rights Committee Member, and A. Edward Elmendorf, UNA-NCA Past President

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Andrew Gilmour and former Ambassadors Sarah Mendelson and Keith Harper focused on the many human rights challenges facing the UN, at a UNA-NCA UN Month forum on Capitol Hill, on October 28th.  Gilmour, the New York Representative for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, placed current problems in a historical context, including the horrors of civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and the Rwandan genocide. Citing differences of perspective among UN Security Council members, including the P5 (comprised of China, France, Russia, the United
Kingdom, and the United States), on the extent to which the Council should engage on human rights issues associated with international security problems, P1010772Gilmour called for an expansive view, as opposed to that of China and Russia.  In terms of other Security Council reforms, Gilmour mentioned changes in composition, and modifications of the use of the veto. With indirect reference to the dialogue in the United States about its overseas engagement, Gilmour said that the UN is engaged in nation-building. He expressed his concern regarding human rights violations in many areas of the world, and called for the protection of people, who bring human rights grievances to the UN, from reprisals by their home governments. 

Serving as discussants prior to open questions and answers, Mendelson, former U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, and Harper, former U.S. Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, agreed on the current backlash against human rights. They saw an important absence of global leadership for the protection of human rights, lamenting the current absence of the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council. They called for the U.S. to re-engage as a member of the Council and to provide new leadership on human rights issues in the Council and beyond. They argued that full deployment of U.S. diplomatic capacities in capitals around the world might, for example, have assured the election of Costa Rica over Venezuela in the recent UN General Assembly election of members of the Council.  The importance of a Council comprised of human rights advocates, with minimal numbers of spoiler states which may discourage action by the Council regarding abuses, was underscored. Harper stressed the importance of UN work to support human rights defenders.

P1010762Gilmour said that the UN’s human rights agenda has evolved considerably over the decades.  For many years, it had been determined solely from the perspective of leading world powers.  More and more, the agenda has become widely global, yet inclusive, as reflected in the universality of the UN’s Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While Gilmour emphasized that the SDGs are only goals and not rights, Mendelson said that the Goals should be seen as a hopeful development, stressing the SDGs’ ability to mobilize young people.      

During the discussion, the speakers stressed the significance of protecting current human rights standards and institutions against backlash attacks from authoritarians and others abroad and at home. Civil society organizations, whose work is at the core of international protection of human rights, face increasing threats, both on a personal level, as well as through regulatory changes which reduce civic space, and limit NGO fundraising. Concerns were expressed about potential threats to the international protection of human rights that could arise from the “Commission on Unalienable Rights,” recently created by Secretary of State Pompeo. 

The speakers stressed the complicated position of ethnic conflicts in regards to human rights, as these cases can often be posed as security concerns, rather than as human rights issues. Considering these situations as ones which concern human rights may expedite their being addressed, before they can evolve into even more difficult issues of international peace and security. 

The uncertainty of the international environment is a critical factor in the realm of human rights.  For example, the unexpected fall of the Soviet Union spawned P1010777a massive expansion of human rights reform in former Soviet republics, and created an international environment which facilitated the establishment of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Similarly, LGBTQ issues lacked significant international attention prior to the last decades. This situation has steadily improved, however, and in 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council established an Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI).  The Independent Expert, a distinguished Costa Rican lawyer, has visited and reported on country performance on LGBTQ matters, and addressed the UN General Assembly’s Committee on Human Rights and Social Issues on UN Day 2019. 

Gilmour observed that UN human rights failures, in part due to their prominence in the public eye, are much easier to identify than human rights successes. Still, Gilmour, Harper, and Mendelson were certain to make note of key human rights successes throughout their discussion, including the UN-mobilized support for the reforms now under way in Sudan, and for the actions of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan in protecting civilian populations.

The event concluded with a full house of attendees, who engaged in informal discussions and networking after the distinguished speakers concluded. This type of continued dialogue and collaborative learning is encouraged under the auspices of the UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee, where new members are welcome, and where multiple advocacy opportunities are currently available.



23 October 2019

2019-2020 GCDC School Year in Full Motion

GCDC launched the upcoming school year with plenty of excitement! GCDC is preparing for the Fall Model UN Training Conference, taking place on November 14, 2019 at the Pan American Health Organization. The conference will focus on Malnutrition in a World Health Organization (WHO) committee and serves as a spring-board for success at the Spring Conference. We are proud to announce that as of October 16th, the conference hit maximum capacity for students - the earliest that we have ever reached capacity.

We have confirmed partnerships with key organizations to enhance the school year for our students. For the second year in a row, GCDC is partnering with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and International Organization for Migration (IOM). GCDC also confirmed a new sponsorship with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). These relationships will be key in supporting and sponsoring the GCDC Spring Model UN Conference, hosted at the U.S. Department of State and Pan American Health Organization. 

GCDC has also decided on the final topics for the 2020 Spring Model UN Conference:

  • World Health Organization - Prevent Malnutrition (SDG #3)
  • International Labour Conference - Integrate Just Transition Towards a Green Economy (SDG #8)
  • International Organization for Migration - Protect Forced Migration Due to Conflict (SDG #10)
  • UN Development Programme - Promote Women’s Political Participation and Leadership (SDG #5)
  • UN Environment Programme - Advance Responsible Consumption for Sustainable Growth (SDG #12)
  • Crisis Topic in the UN Security Council

We're looking forward to another great year for GCDC!



19 October 2019

"Our Planet. Our Future." Event Coverage

By: Abby Bowman, UNA-NCA Program Assistant


On October 18th, 2019, the United Nations Association of the Capital Area (UNA-NCA), in conjunction with the UNA-USA, the UN Foundation, and the UN Environment Programme, presented a highly successful event entitled “Our Planet. Our Future.” This programming was set forth as part of UNA-NCA’s annual October ‘UN Month’ celebration, to commemorate the anniversary of the United Nations. UNA-NCA began the month by hosting another successful annual Eleanor Roosevelt Happy Hour, to celebrate Eleanor’s birthday, the International Day of the Girl, and the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On October 28th, UNA-NCA will host an event entitled ‘The UN and Human Rights in 2019’ with keynote speaker Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

“Our Planet. Our Future.” was held in the evening on Friday the 18th at the United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC, and highlighted the work of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and its Executive Director, Inger Andersen. The event succeeded in connecting the global and local dimensions of the climate change challenge by joining Ms. Andersen’s remarks with a discussion including former Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe, and moderated by Ryan Hobert, Managing Director for Energy and Climate at the UN Foundation.

The presentation began with opening remarks by UNA-NCA Board President and event sponsor Stephen F. Moseley. Moseley thanked the event’s sponsors, Ambassador Donald T. (ret.) and Nancy Bliss, Edison and Sally Dick, A. Edward and Susan Elmendorf, Tim Barner and Kathy Guthrie, Michael R. Marsh, Northern Trust, Renee Dopplick, Kristen Hecht, Ellen McGovern, and Kimberly and Carl Weichel. He then highlighted the many events of UNA-NCA’s UN Month, and expressed his gratitude for everyone in attendance, as well as the guest speakers.

Moseley then turned the microphone over to Paula Boland, Executive Director of UNA-NCA. Boland shared the UNA-NCA’s intention behind this particular event, “This UN Month, we found it critical to program an event in which we could engage in a discussion about the global climate change challenge. Specifically, we wanted to highlight the work of the UN Environment Programme and its Executive Director, as well as connect the local and global elements of this issue, as aligns with our mission at the UNA-NCA.”

Boland then introduced Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen, to deliver the evening’s keynote remarks.

Andersen was appointed to her prestigious position in February of this year by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. She brings 30 years of experience to this position, and is a global expert in international development economics, environmental sustainability, and policy-making. Prior to her appointment to her current position, Ms. Andersen served as the Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Ms. Andersen brought to this position 12 years of experience in the United Nations, as well as a 15-year career at the World Bank, where she held key leadership roles including Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa, and Vice President for Sustainable Development. Prior to the World Bank, Ms. Andersen was appointed to several roles in the UN, and served as the UN Development Programme’s Water and Environment Coordinator for the Arab Region. She is a committed and passionate advocate for conservation and sustainable development, and carries invaluable experience with her to the position as Executive Director of UNEP.
andersen
Andersen took the podium to loud applause and a great excitement from the crowd. She began by detailing the multiple threats that she sees to face our planet and its people. Andersen explained this, stating, “Climate change is eating into our well-being, economic development, peace and stability, and unfortunately unless we take action, it will only get worse. In converting land for agriculture, infrastructure and urban expansion, we have destroyed ecosystems, biodiversity and the services they provide. We are polluting the land, air and sea, causing millions of deaths each year, burdening healthcare systems and, again, destroying nature’s foundations. In reality, though, there is only one threat: humanity. Our reliance on fossil fuels, our pursuit of unrestrained growth, our prioritization of the short-term over the long has caused these challenges. We are our own worst enemy.”

Andersen was also clear to promote the work of the United Nations as a whole, and the role that multilateralism can (and must) play in this effort. She said, “The UN has always been at the core of finding common grounds and the platform where we develop collective action, whether on the Sustainable Development Goals or the Paris Agreement. The environment challenge is one that travels across boundaries, and in a sense, binds nations together. The environment is the platform that can enable multilateral action.”

She thanked those in attendance for their demonstrated commitment to this important cause, and paralleled this with a promise of commitment by UNEP. Andersen closed on a positive note, stating, “There is no excuse. With the multilateral processes in place, and levels of support never seen before, we can recalibrate our relationship with the environment. We can design and implement an inclusive global society that thrives within planetary limits. We can ensure a better future for this planet and all of the creatures that live on it.”

Following Andersen’s keynote remarks, Robert Perciasepe, former EPA Deputy Administrator and current  President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) joined her on stage for a panel discussion. This panel was moderated by Ryan Hobert, Managing Director for Energy and Climate at the UN Foundation. Hobert posed a couple of questions to the two, and Perciasepe discussed the groups he has seen have the most positive (and the most negative) influences in this effort. He said of power companies, amongst other businesses, that, “... they are questioning how they are going to [get to net zero emissions by 2050, amongst other goals], but they are making these public commitments. So there’s a lot going on, which is, I think, helpful.” However, he noted his discontent with government commitment to this work, explaining that he is extremely discouraged by the fact that, “...our government cannot mount the expedition to be a helpful global leader.”

panel Hobert then directed a question to Andersen, asking in the context of the 2020 Convention on Biological Diversity, “How do you see these major moments on biological diversity and climate coming together?” Andersen responded through an explanation on the way in which, “Nature produces the essence of our livelihood,” citing the “magic” of these intricate webs of survival. For her, an understanding of this connection is critical in understanding the far-reaching impacts of recent fast-paced climate shifts.

The panel discussion was then turned towards the audience, and there was a brief moment offered for questions from the event attendees. Interest was demonstrated in how to do one’s part in this global effort, as well as how realistic the implementation of some of these prescriptions proposed by leaders in the field might be.

“Our Planet. Our Future.” was another highly successful event organized by UNA-NCA, in conjunction with UNA-USA, the UN Foundation, and the UN Environment Programme. A strong call-to-action was made by Andersen, Perciasepe, and Hobert directly to the participants of the event, but emphasized that this call should be one that everyone actively chooses to answer. group







09 October 2019

'Eleanor Roosevelt Happy Hour' Event Coverage


By Ian Sloan, Human Rights Committee Member


On October 8th, 2019, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the U.N.A.-N.C.A.’s Human Rights Committee hosted a celebration at ‘The Eleanor’ of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday, and her lasting impact on human rights protection and advocacy efforts.  Guests were provided flyers that included a timeline of the First Lady’s greatest achievements, such as her contribution to the legislation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, 1948.  Through reading this timeline, guests were able to take their own journey into Roosevelt’s life and receive some initial or continued motivation to be involved in human rights protection and advocacy. Inspiring involvement in this kind of work was also the main objective addressed by guest speaker, D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who spoke once again at this important event, following last year.  In her speech, she emphasized the present necessity of protecting and supporting human rights through our individual efforts and efforts involving coalitions such as the UNA-NCA.

In addition to welcoming the attendance of current UNA-NCA members and supporters such as Representative Norton, the Human Rights Committee was also excited to receive guests new to UNA-NCA, who were interested in learning more about the efforts of Roosevelt, as well as the organization as a whole.  This openness to the public demonstrated that inclusivity and cordiality were established priorities for this event.  These two priorities were also emphasized through the event’s facilitation of a space for socializing through networking, as well as food, drinks, and birthday cake, and arcade game playing between attendees. The event was ultimately another successful celebration and birthday for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a powerful figure who has inspired many contemporary human rights protection and advocacy policies and events, such as the International Day of the Girl, and the social media promotion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   

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03 October 2019

Universal Periodic Review Stakeholder Reports

The Universal Periodic Review (or UPR) is a process set forth by the United Nations Human Rights Council that strives to improve the human rights situations in all of the member states of the UN. A rotative system is set in place so that, while reviews occur every year, each member state is reviewed every five years. The United States of America is set to be reviewed next on May 11th, 2020, during the 36th Session.  You can learn more about the United States' last review in 2015 here.

In striving for the most effective and comprehensive approach to the review of the human rights situation on the grounds of these member states, varying stakeholders at the national and international level contribute information to the leading reviewers. This information includes a report from the government of the nation itself that is being reviewed, as well as reports from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (Read more about these aforementioned processes here). 

At the local level, participation by civil society is also encouraged, as this information likewise includes reports prepared by non-governmental stakeholders that feel as though they have recognized a pressing issue that perhaps has not been recently addressed in a review of the country, and could potentially be left out of being addressed in a forthcoming session. The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) compiled a Stakeholder Report that was submitted in September of 2019 in efforts to inform the May 2020 review. This review drew on the strength of the organization’s innate essence as a grassroots group to emphasize the relevance of four key themes that individual nationwide stakeholders felt as though must be addressed by the UN. These themes are: “...the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees; gender equality and combatting human trafficking; the right to water; and the human rights of older persons.”

Beginning in early 2019, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) teamed up with other D.C.- based NGOs in an effort to conduct a similar survey of key National Capital Area-specific human rights concerns. In order to find out what issues D.C. area residents believed to be the most pressing in terms of human rights in the capital area, a public survey was conducted. It concluded that housing and homelessness emerged as the greatest human rights concern, followed by poverty and inequality, and D.C. statehood. Community roundtables were then held to discuss these specific issues further, and additional research was supplemented by the George Washington University Law School International Human Rights Clinic (GW IHR Clinic) in the conducting of formal studies on these problems. 

This past week, the results of these studies culminated in the submission of two formal reports to the OHCHR to be considered as part of the UPR for the United States of America in Geneva in 2020. 

One report is entitled Gender Equity in Our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C., United States of America, and was prepared by the UNA-NCA along with the Gender Justice Project (GJP) at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law). This report draws attention to five key human rights concerns pertaining to gender equity in the D.C. area. These concerns address all women, girls, and the LGBTQ community, but primarily center around low-income women and women of color, and include homelessness, lack of income security, lack of appropriate health care, alarming levels of gender-based violence, and mass incarceration.

The other report was prepared in conjunction with The DC Human Rights City Alliance (DCHRCA) and the George Washington University Law School International Human Rights Clinic (GW IHR Clinic), and is called The Situation of Human Rights in the District of Columbia as Concerns the Lack of Statehood and Voting Rights as well as Entrenched Inequality and the Lack of Affordable Housing. This report recommends sustainable housing reform in D.C., as well as the passing into law of Congressional legislation H.R. 51, which would lead to the creation of the District of Columbia as the nation’s 51st state, thus eliminating human rights concerns over a lack of federal representation as well as local autonomy for residents of the D.C. area.



Read the Full Stakeholder Reports Below:

Gender Equity in Our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C., United States of America


The Situation of Human Rights in the District of Columbia as Concerns the Lack of Statehood and Voting Rights as well as Entrenched Inequality and the Lack of Affordable Housing

Read the Full Press Release Here.




21 September 2019

Peace Day: Building Peace Pays


By Chic Dambach, UNA-NCA Asvisory Council Member; and Kimberly Weichel, UNA-NCA Advisory Council Chair

On Saturday, September 21 we celebrated the International Day of Peace. Peace Day was established by the United Nations in 1981 to “commemorate and strengthen the ideals of Peace both within and among all nations and peoples."  This is an opportunity to reflect personally and collectively on how we live peace in our families, communities, workplaces and in our world, and to take specific corrective steps where needed.

Virtually no one disputes the value of peace, yet we still hear the common refrain that war is inevitable, and some still contend that war is good for the economy. We rarely hear the affirming truth that peace is good for the economy, or that peace can be inevitable. Peace could also be deemed patriotic. In fact, we know it is. Consider the evidence.

Multiple studies have confirmed that the curve of human history has been towards peace. Wars and war-caused casualties have declined dramatically over the centuries and even more so since the world wars and the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, contrary to popular mythology - war is not good for anyone’s economy. If it were, the US would have been thriving while we fought two large wars, yet the economy collapsed, and the tax payers have been saddled with trillions of dollars in additional national debt. 

The Institute for Economics and Peace has calculated that, “The economic impact of violence to the global economy was $14.1 trillion in 2018… This is equivalent to 11.2% of world gross domestic product or $1853 per person. If the world decreased violence by only 10%, an additional 1.48 trillion could be directed to other economic activities.” Oxford University economist Paul Collier in The Bottom Billion writes, “Civil war tends to reduce growth by around 2.3% per year, so the typical seven-year war leaves a country around 15% poorer than it would have been.” Business suffers, people suffer, and government suffers.

The obvious corollary is that peace pays. The Global Peace Index (GPI), developed annually by the Institute, shows the multidimensional nature of peace by identifying key drivers, measures and economic benefits of peace. The 2018 Index shows that 86 countries became more peaceful in the past year, and that over half of the world enjoys a stable peace. This demonstrates that differences were resolved effectively without warfare, showing that war is not inevitable. Furthermore, the most peaceful countries correlate with the most prosperous, not to mention the happiest societies. The top 40 on the GPI correspond closely with the World Happiness Index top 40. People like to do business and live in peaceful countries. Who knew!

So, if living in peace produces prosperity and happiness, why not invest in the systems and structures that build peace? The GPI includes a detailed analysis of the factors that enable societies to grow. It is known as positive peace, which means “the capacity for a society to meet the needs of its citizens, reduce the number of grievances that arise and resolve remaining disagreements without the use of violence.” The infrastructure of peaceful societies is based on well-functioning government, sound business environment, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbors, free flow of information (a free press), high levels of human capital (quality education), low levels of corruption, and equitable distribution of resources.Research shows that positive peace creates an environment that leads to many other positive social and economic outcomes.    

Granted, building the pillars of peace can be a heavy lift, but it is easier and less costly than fighting wars – by far. As we celebrate the International Day of Peace, societies and governments the world over have an opportunity to reorder priorities and commit to building a more peaceful world. Why not?

Chic Dambach is President Emeritus, National Peace Corps Association, former President, Alliance for Peacebuilding, and a member of the UNA NCA Advisory Council.

Kimberly Weichel is a peacebuilder, cross cultural trainer, citizen diplomat and women’s leadership specialist who has worked for 25 years building bridges of understanding. She is Chair of the UNA NCA Advisory Council. This is one of the chapters in her new book Our Voices Matter: Wisdom, Hope and Action for Our Time. www.kimweichel.org.



27 August 2019

Ready for A New School Year After A Summer of Preparation and Hard Work

On August 26, Global Classrooms DC launched registration for the 2019-2020 school year – a day that the GCDC team has spent the entire summer preparing for.

Every year, the GCDC team evaluates all of the responses and feedback that schools and teachers have given throughout the year. This includes evaluations from the Model UN conferences in the fall and spring, as well as in-depth, midyear discussions that Nicole Bohannon, the Global Education Managing Director had with educators.

Armed with constructive criticism, starting in early June, GCDC goes through every activity, hand-out, and guide in the year-round program. They made all necessary changes, whether it's a typo or a more foundational issue that needs to be addressed. In addition, the GCDC Program Assistants conduct intensive research on the new topics that students will learn about for the upcoming school year. Overall, it takes all three summer months to update and publish the final materials across 8 units for the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition, the GCDC team ran a successful Model UN workshop in July 2019. The workshop's aim was to help students develop fundamental academic and life skills, and to prepare them to become active participants in Model UN simulations and global conversations. Participation in the workshop this year more than tripled, growing from 11 students last year to 36 students this year. Multiple nationalities were represented, as students from Vietnam, China, and the USA traveled to attend the three-day workshop.

Lastly, GCDC has confirmed several key partnerships that will enhance the upcoming school year for our students. For the second year in a row, GCDC will be working with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). With the ILO, they will be sponsoring a topic for the Spring 2020 Model UN Conference, hosted at the U.S. Department of State and Pan American Health Organization. IOM will also be sponsoring a topic for the Spring 2020 Conference, and highlighting the issue of "forced migration due to conflict".

In a new partnership, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will be sponsoring the conference, and participate in supporting students inside of the UNEP committee.

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 14, 2019 at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This year, we will be focusing on Malnutrition in a World Health Organization (WHO) committee. While hunger and malnutrition can be interconnected, they are two very different issues. One of the biggest differences is time: hunger is a temporary issue, but malnutrition is long-term issue. Malnutrition is when someone does not have access to healthy food for a long time, and the body cannot get the important nutrients it needs, causing serious health problems. Every country suffers from some form of malnutrition, whether it be obesity, stunting, overweight problems, or undernutrition. The health, social, and economic costs of malnutrition are high, but there are many possible solutions to help end malnutrition that students will debate in this committee.






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