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31 March 2020

Thank You For Your Commitment and Support

Dear UNA-NCA Community,

I hope this email finds you well and adjusting to this unprecedented time and new way of living. The past few weeks have certainly been very challenging for all and many have been struggling in our community, the country and the world. The messages shared on several platforms have been encouraging and brought a sense of global unity in the face of adversity.

We are committed to keeping you informed and providing opportunities for continued engagement with our members and supporters. The current challenge has the potential of bringing us closer together and expanding our outreach within and beyond our jurisdiction. We are embracing this opportunity and discussing with partners and program leaders various alternatives for conducting our programming virtually.  

Global Classrooms DC: despite the difficult decision of canceling the annual Model UN Conference, our GCDC team is exploring alternative ways to bring our program to the students as well as professional development opportunities for teachers. We are very appreciative of the understanding and continued support of our educators, partners and supporters;   

Young Professionals: despite having to cancel the Spring Career Dinners, the team is working on launching a series of professional and leadership development opportunities for young professionals and students;  

UN at 75: UNA-USA has encouraged its chapters to engage in virtual consultations about the future of the UN. Other programming being assessed include Town Halls around relevant topics, engaging our network of experts and community leaders. UNA-NCA will have special programming in the fall to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.  

 - Advocacy: Now more than ever, we will continue to strengthen our efforts to build a strong U.S.-UN partnership through virtual trainings and outreach to our congressional representatives. We need our leaders to know that American support for the UN comes at an unprecedented time. In order to commemorate World Health Day on TuesdayApril 7, we're going to raise our voice. Join us for an Advocacy Briefing and Training on Monday April 6 from 5-6pm to prepare for our day of digital action. Register here

Last week, the Senate passed an unprecedented $2 trillion relief package to deal with the economic and public health effects of the coronavirus pandemic, by a vote of 96-0. While the vast majority of the package is focused on domestic spending—including relief for industries and small businesses, an expansion of unemployment insurance, direct payments to Americans, and a significant growth in spending on the health sector—the bill also includes a very modest $1.15 billion for the State Department and USAID.  See a USGLC summary here.  

Please note that our office will remain closed for the week ahead and our staff will continue to work remotely. The International Labour Organization (ILO) will have a briefing on the impact of COVID19 on employment and the world of work on April 2 at 10:00 am. Click here if you are interested in participating.

I want to end my message by quoting my 7-year-old daughter “Together we are better than Unicorns, Sprinkles and Rainbows.” I have no doubt we will get through this and come out stronger.

Sincere thanks for your leadership and continued support!

Your Executive Director,

Paula Boland



19 March 2020

Executive Director's Statement on Programming During COVID-19

Dear UNA-NCA leaders,

I trust you are well and keeping safe. The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique and unforeseen challenges for us leaders and the people and communities we serve. It is a scary time, both as we work to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and as we work to navigate organizational questions about how we will proceed in the coming days, weeks, and months.

We have been carefully monitoring the information and guidelines being made available regarding the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States. Read full recommendation here. The Global Health Council, lead by our Board member Loyce Pace, has compiled useful information and resources you can check out here.  

In order to do our part in the efforts to flatten the curve and impact of this virus, our office is operating remotely and we have postponed public events for the next several weeks while we look for alternative virtual options. The health of our members and staff is paramount, so while we apologize for this inconvenience, we believe it is the right thing to do at this time.

Most unfortunately, we had to make the decision to cancel our annual Spring GCDC Model UN Conference scheduled for April 21. We have come to this difficult decision after consulting with our partners at the U.S. Department of State, Pan American Health Organization as well as teachers, parents, and staffers. The GCDC team will offer optional classroom visits and/or video-call alternatives to help groups facilitate Model UN sessions, as well as virtual professional development for our educators

While we are very sad not to be able to host this very special convening, we know that the safety and health of everyone is the top priority.

In times like these, we must come together to work in partnership and use our creativity to carry out our mission of building a strong US-UN partnership and keep our community engaged.

With much appreciation to all for your continued support.

Paula Boland

Executive Director

UN Association of the National Capital Area

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12 March 2020

UNA-NCA Statement on COVID-19

We have received a number of questions/concerns regarding the ongoing COVID-19 developments, and how it may affect our programming and operations this spring. 
 
We want you to know that we are closely monitoring any updates on the COVID-19 disease. We are coordinating with and following the guidance of our partners and event hosts, including the UN Foundation, U.S. Department of State, and Pan American Health Organization (the regional branch of the World Health Organization for the Americas.)
 
At this time, we are assessing alternative locations and/or methods of conducting our upcoming programming and meetings should it be necessary. Currently, the UNA-NCA office will remain open and staffed.   
 
At the moment, the following programs have been postponed until further notice:
  • “The United Nations and Human Rights in Washington, DC” originally scheduled for March 24th at the;
  • "Refugee & Immigration Town Hall" originally scheduled for March 31;
  • "Spring 2020 Young Professionals' Career Dinners" originally scheduled for April 4th
 
The health and safety of our partners, volunteers, staff, and guests is our top priority. We regularly work with federal agencies and international organizations who have strict procedures on necessary cancellations. We trust their guidance on the current situation.
 
UNA-NCA is committed to providing our network with accurate information on critical global and local issues. We are concerned at the spread of misinformation across social media and news outlets contrary to what health officials and doctors have stated.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to remind the American public that the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is low. (Click here for more CDC recommendations).
 
In addition, the World Health Organization has made it clear that the vast majority of people who contract the disease will experience mild illness and recover. Those who are most at risk for severe symptoms are “people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease),” just as with influenza or rhinovirus infections (the leading cause of the common cold). (Click here for more information on myths around COVID-19).
 
Basic health and safety measures will protect you, your family, and your community, such as frequent hand-washing with soap and water, covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, and staying home if you feel unwell. (Click here for more information on advice for the public).
 
For any further questions on spring programming and meetings, please email Paula Boland, Executive Director at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or call our office at 202-223-6092.



20 February 2020

Graduate Fellows Program Class of 2020

By Calypso Moschochoritis, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

The UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program has finally begun its 2020 session. The program focuses on current key global issues as they are faced by United Nations agencies. The mission of the program is to foster an understanding of UN issues, policies, and organizations and prepare the fellows for UN-related careers. The fellows meet once a week with experts in the UN, sustainability, conflict management, and more.

This year’s talented group of 24 students is more diverse than ever. With 14 of them having spent most of their childhood outside of the United States, they represent most regions of the world. The fellows grew up in a wide variety of circumstances, including poverty, privilege, hardship, forced migration, and refugee status. Some grew up in war-torn countries and others in peaceful surroundings. Despite differences, they all have a fire raging inside that compels them to make the world a better place. This year’s group of energetic change-makers come from nine universities in the Washington area, including Georgetown University, the George Washington University, the University of Baltimore, George Mason University, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and the University of Maryland. Twenty fellows are master’s degree candidates, two are doctoral candidates, and two are law students.

Components of the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program include a weekly seminar program focusing on current key global issues such as economic development and economic policy, UN budget and finance, and gender; intensive career development sessions to support the Fellows as they explore UN-related careers; and a visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, were fellows will participate in the annual UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit.

In conclusion, the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program is an opportunity to gain otherwise hidden insight into the UN system, as well as interact with an array of people from diverse backgrounds they otherwise would not have had the chance to meet.



12 February 2020

UN Funding Threatened: The FY '21 Budget Proposal


Earlier this week, the administration proposed a budget for 2021 that drastically slashes global accounts by upwards of 22%. UN-related accounts were even more heavily targeted: contributions to UN peacekeeping activities, for example, would be cut by 29% from FY’20; an account that finances U.S. dues payments for the UN Regular Budget and a plethora of UN specialized agencies would be slashed by more than 34%; and a key account that provides voluntary contributions to UNICEF, UNDP, OHCHR, and a number of other UN programs would be eliminated entirely.  In addition, as the Wuhan Coronavirus continues its rapid spread across the globe, the Administration’s budget also slashes funding for Global Health Programs by 34% compared to what Congress provided last year.


The U.S. currently owes almost $1 billion in arrears to UN Peacekeeping. If we fail to pay our dues to the UN, we put our country, and our planet, at risk. The approval and implementation of this budget would severely limit the UN’s capacity to facilitate critical, lifesaving work and threatens the safety and success of our peacekeeping allies. Simply put- these cuts are dangerous and not aligned with priorities of average Americans. 


We must hold our elected officials accountable and reaffirm our support for full UN funding. Take action now.

For a comprehensive breakdown of the FY '21 global budget, see the US Global Leadership Coalition's full report








11 February 2020

Strategies for Investing in Africa's Public Health Preparedness


On January 23, the African Affairs Committee held a health forum to discuss strategies for investing in global health preparedness in Africa.


The panel members focused on three separate areas pertaining to Global Health Preparedness on the Continent. Eric Friedman from the Georgetown Law O'Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law stressed the need for African countries to develop comprehensive, inter-sectoral, human rights-based plans to reduce health inequities. He strongly recommended that African governments achieve this through national health plans and development strategies.


Mr. Richard Seifman, former Senior Health Advisor at the World Bank, elaborated on the evolution of Global Health in Africa within the last century, underpinning the vitality of collaborative approaches. His remarks concentrated on global financial institutions and their attention to pandemic preparedness, as well as domestic bipartisan in the US Senate efforts to designate January 2020 as “One Health Awareness Month”. The African Union’s development of an African Center for Disease Control is now being strongly supported by the World Bank.


In closing, Mr. Andjelo Mwembya reiterated the need to engage youth in championing the Sustainable Development Goals across the Continent. Mr. Mwembya’s strategic vision is to establish a business and entrepreneurship program for young professionals across the US-African Diaspora that will allow their African-based peers to enhance, adapt, and apply their experience and expertise across industries. 


The forum provided tangible recommendations to invest in global health preparedness across the Continent. In order to encourage African governments to promote health equity policies and strategies through their country dialogues with other NGOs, the panelists recommended the development of a program of action that may incentivize governments to seek funding. Whether these efforts are domestic or transnational, successful global health preparedness will require interdisciplinary collaboration. 




10 February 2020

The Future of Multilateral Peacebuilding:A Conversation with U.N. Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo


By Kathie Bolognese, Sustainable Development Committee


How well is the global community committed to peace and security tackling today’s unprecedented challenges of conflict and violence? What global action can be taken to resolve the world’s most intractable conflicts in this era of rapid technological change and fraying traditional alliances? 

To answer these questions, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area and the Stimson Center, Alliance for Peacebuilding partnered together with the U.S. Institute of Peace on the morning of January 29,2020 to host a timely discussion on the future of the multilateral system. The program featured an in-depth conversation with keynote speaker U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, the highest-ranking American currently serving at the United Nations and the first woman to hold the position.

The panel discussion event, the UNA-NCA’s third in a series on global issues, was held at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Other distinguished speakers included Ms. Victoria Holt, Vice President, Stimson Center; Ambassador Jonathan Moore, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Ambassador Lynn Pascoe, Board Member, UNA-NCA; former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ms. Uzra Zeya, President & CEO, Alliance for Peacebuilding; and Ambassador George Moose, moderator, Vice Chairman of the Board, U.S. Institute of Peace; Advisory Council Member, UNA-NCA.

Ms. Nancy Lindberg, President and CEO, U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP,) made introductory remarks noting the extraordinary interest in the event, for which they had to close registration, and that it wasn’t surprising given the news and headlines dominated by conflict, violence and war. She additionally expressed confidence that the audience shares USIP’s vision that, “Peace is possible, peace is practical, but it takes all of us.” 

USIP’s recently launched 2020 Strategic Plan considers the threat of fragile states, mass migration, pandemics, civil wars, and violent extremism, all of which are further complicated by increasing major competition between powers, enormous strain and fewer resources for the institutions responsible for international conflict resolution. The additional rise of global challenges such as climate change, new technological weaponry and cyberthreats further stress a greater imperative for collective action to help resolve global conflicts, while the institutions responsible for delivering this outcome for last 75 years are under greater strain than ever. 

Ms. Lindberg concluded by observing that the critical challenges we face offer an extraordinary opportunity to seize the disruptions of today to push our multilateral institutions to be more agile and adaptive to better face the complexities ahead and remain vital. Lastly, she commended UN Secretary-General António Guterres for his leadership in elevating conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and for introducing reforms that enable the UN to become nimbler and more effective in conflict settings. As the Secretary-General previously stated, “It’s not enough to extoll the virtues of multilateralism, we must show results.”

In her keynote remarks, Undersecretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo provided an overview of the many sensitive political and diplomatic activities her department undertakes while operating within a complex global and security environment. She emphasized that the international communities’ military, political and humanitarian conflict management capabilities are overstretched, and the multilateral system is struggling to respond. Yet, the world today is a safer more prosperous place thanks, in part, to an effective collective security system which has seen a significant reduction in armed and interstate conflicts.

Undersecretary-General DiCarlo went on to stress three major reasons for concern: 

  • Despite a decline in the number of conflicts, those that do occur tend to last longer and cause more suffering, especially among civilians

  • Conflicts that begin small and locally are increasingly internationalized due to the involvement of regional and global powers as supporters, enablers and conflict parties (e.g., Yemen)

  • There is a greater fragmentation of conflict actors at local levels, including nonstate armed groups that operate in loose and rapidly shifting coalitions with widely different agendas (e.g. Syria, Libya).

What is the UN’s response to these challenges? Work harder to make its tools better suited to tackle complex conflict, engage earlier and proactively, and to not only focus on high level political engagement, but to build anticipatory relations and address stress factors in a more effective way.

Improving the UN’s ability to prevent and resolve conflict was the impetus for the UN Secretary-General’s 2019 Interrelated Reforms which created a single regional political and operational structure focused on prevention and on increasing collaboration within and among the three UN pillars (development, human rights, peace and security).

While reporting on the ways in which the UN has strengthened its capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts and sustain peace, Undersecretary-General DiCarlo underscored seven important areas: Expanding its analytical lens to look at a wider range of stressors that trigger conflicts (e.g., climate change, social technologies); putting inclusion front and center with women’s participation in peace processes a major priority; providing electoral assistance to Member States; establishing UN sanctions regimes (14) that focus on individuals, entities and groups rather than blunt economic instruments; providing mediation process support within 72 hours; and increasing the UN’s focus on regional dynamics rather than country-specific approaches.

In concluding her introductory remarks on the UN’s efforts to improve  its effectiveness, Undersecretary-General DiCarlo emphasized that the UN really needs the U.S. as a strong partner whose leadership and diplomacy can play a vital role and support collective efforts to prevent crises and make peace.  

The Moderator, George Moose, then introduced the panel members and invited them to respond to  Undersecretary-General DiCarlo’s remarks, specifically, “What did you hear that you liked and what are the things you would like to hear more about?”

Ambassador Jonathan Moore stated that he liked everything we’ve heard and pointed out that the U.S. meets regularly with Under-Secretary DiCarlo, doesn’t always agree on every detail, has a perspective grounded in the policy of this administration and has had varying levels of engagement with the multilateral system. Mr. Moore concluded by noting that, “We completely agree from the perspective of the United States that the UN is essential, we are committed to its success and we are still the number one contributor to the UN system.” 

The Moderator acknowledged Ambassador Pascoe’s involvement in many of the building steps that have led to the reforms the UN Secretary-General Guterres is putting in place and asked, “What do you see that’s been important and where we go from here?”

Ambassador Pascoe was pleased the U.N.’s professionalization effort was mentioned noting that it was incoherent, unresolved and had limited resources when he left and so would be pleased to hear more about that area. He further stated that, “My love was preventive diplomacy and working to resolve issues. If you have examples of some successes, I would love to hear it.”

Ms. Holt next noted that when there is a crisis the UN is an invaluable partner for U.S. interests and U.S. values. She further elaborated on the shifting nature of conflict since World War II and asked, “How do you marry up the new conflict environment, the rise of authoritarianism and your own ability to deploy around the world for both high-level and quiet-level mediation? Also, second, what could the U.S. do to support that role? There’s always a resource question, there’s also human capital and marrying up U.S. bilateral muscle with some of the goals placed out in the multilateral environment.

Ms. Uzra Zeya commended the resolve and commitment to transformation and integration in the UN’s approach to multilateral peacebuilding, and remarked that, “When considering the future of multilateral peace building, it’s important to recognize the future is multi-stakeholder.” The really difficult question is how do we come together outside the state-to-state system to support better outcomes? She went on to share the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s willingness to step up its collaboration efforts and cited the example of the successful adoption of the Global Fragility Act as evidence of growing bipartisan consensus efforts. 

These comments set the agenda for the remaining panel discussion on the successes, challenges, and innovations taking place in multilateral conflict prevention, mediation, and peacebuilding and were followed by a substantive audience question and answer session. To learn more, please listen to the event recording  at: https://www.usip.org/events/future-multilateral-peacebuilding.





22 January 2020

Important Update: UN Funding


Last year, Congressional support for the United Nations seemed untenable.  


The Administration proposed a dramatic reduction in funding for UN Peacekeeping Operations and the general budget- this included cutting all funding to IO&P accounts, targeting agencies like UNICEF, UNDP, UN Women, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The proposed FY ’20 budget recommended an additional 24% reduction in State Department and USAID funding as well. 

Your steadfast efforts stopped this proposal in its tracks; Congress instead opted to fully rebuke the Administration’s proposed budget. On December 20, 2019, the President signed a bill into law featuring a number of victories for our advocates, including: 

  • Full Funding for the Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) account; 

 

    • Providing $1.5 Billion to pay US assessments for the UN Regular Budget.

    • This is $460 million above the President’s request, and $113 million above FY’19 enacted levels.

  • Increases funding for the International Organizations and Programs (IO&P) accounts; 

    • Provides $390.5 million, an increase of $26.5 million over FY ’19. 

  • Provides $1.56 billion for the Global Fund, a $216 million increase from FY’19; 

    • This is the first funding increase for the Global Fun in six years. 

    • Presents a $460 million increase from the President’s requested budget. 

  • Includes $770 million for the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI); 

    • $15 million above FY’19 levels and $81 million higher than the President’s Budget Request for FY’20.

 

These successes are a testament to our ability to effectively communicate to Congress the value of a strong partnership with the United Nations. While encouraging, these victories were not secured without tradeoffs. Contributions to the UN Peacekeeping Operations fund will remain capped at 25%1. As such, the FY’20 spending bill all but ensures that the US will owe over $1 Billion in peacekeeping arrears by the end of 2020. A lack of funding, and thus assurance of stability and security, leaves international allies- including hundreds of peacekeepers on the ground- at great risk. 


As we approach the 75th anniversary of the United Nations in October, we must persist in communicating the vitality of sustained partnership with the UN through the provision of full funding for both the General Budget and Peacekeeping Operations. Take action now




[1]  In the early 1990s, the U.S. peacekeeping assessment was over 30%, which many Members of Congress found too high. In 1994, Congress set a 25% cap on funding for all fiscal years after 1995. Over the years, the gap between the actual U.S. assessment and the cap led to funding shortfalls. The State Department and Congress often covered these shortfalls by raising the cap for limited periods and allowing for the application of U.N. peacekeeping credits (excess U.N. funds from previous peacekeeping missions) to fund outstanding U.S. balances. For several years, these actions allowed the United States to pay its assessments to U.N. peacekeeping missions in full. However, since FY2017 Congress has declined to raise the cap, and in mid-2017, the Trump Administration allowed for the application of peacekeeping credits up to, but not beyond, the 25% cap—leading to the accumulation of additional U.S. arrears. (Luisa Blanchfield, Congressional Research Service 2019).




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