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09 July 2020
2020 UNA-NCA Annual Membership Meeting

On Wednesday, June 24th, UNA-NCA held its Annual Membership Meeting which focused on the state of the organization, featured a panel discussion on racial injustice at the local and global levels, welcomed newly elected Board Members, and thanked outgoing leaders.
The meeting began with opening remarks from UNA-NCA Board Chair Stephen F. Moseley.  He welcomed the attendees and proceeded to discuss how this year’s annual meeting was unique compared to previous ones, having been presented in a virtual format. Noting that 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, while much progress has been made during this time, there is still much work that needs to be done in several areas for a more sustainable world.  Moseley stated that it is crucial, now more than ever, that we “make a better world through the multilateral, mutual cooperation among all peoples and nations to make a global reality that fully respects everyone’s human rights.” Moseley emphasized the local and global need to address the pain and suffering of people of color who have been systematically discriminated against in what is thought to be a modern age of progress and tolerance. This notion was further discussed later during the panel discussion.  
UNA-NCA President Paula Boland thanked our leaders on the Board, Executive Committee, Advisory Council, Program Committees as well as our volunteers, donors and staff for their incredible hard work and support this past year and particularly during this unprecedented time.  “While scary and filled with uncertainty, we stacked together and creatively adjusted our programs to virtual platforms; brought new programming and expanded our reach within and beyond our jurisdiction.  Seizing the moment and opportunities in the midst of challenges has certainly been our motto and it has served us well.” UNA-NCA’s mission of educating and mobilizing Americans for a strong U.S.-UN partnership along with over 20,000 UNA-USA members across the country has never been more relevant. “This is the decade of action to achieve the Global Goals working in partnership at all levels.”

UNA-NCA strived to bring the global-local dimensions throughout its programming and advocacy efforts. This past year saw a variety of timely and well-attended programs addressing the climate agenda, human rights, peacebuilding, and public health and more recently through our new Coffee Chat series which continues to experience record participation. UNA-NCA’s Global Classrooms DC Program, Graduate Fellows Program, and Young Professionals Program continued to have a strong year by utilizing virtual sessions and programming. Our Human Rights Committee produced two shadow reports, one on the state of human rights and another on the state of gender in D.C., which were submitted as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. UNA-NCA participated in UN75 consultations in our jurisdiction and district meetings.

UNA-NCA is in a solid financial position, had a balanced budget in 2019, strengthened its operational reserves significantly, and long-term investments. We had important staff transitions and built a strong team. Our Governance Committee worked diligently on updating the Bylaws to reflect current and best practices and to the Nominating Committee brought an outstanding and diverse group of new leaders. UNA-NCA will continue to work diligently and stand up for the UN while the UN is standing up for the world.

UNA-NCA Director-at-Large and President and Executive Director of the Global Health Council Loyce Pace moderated a discussion about the state of human rights, locally and globally focusing on racial injustice.  The panel participants included: Tonia Wellons, President of the Greater Washington Community Foundation; George Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bread for the City; and Oona Nelson, rising senior at Howard University and UNA-USA National Council Representative. All the panelists and the moderator discussed their own experiences and perceptions of racial inequity in the United States as a person of color. When asked what role should the UN be playing for the US in this trying time, Wellons stated:

“I think the opportunity is thinking through our connected struggles globally and the return to the principles and ideals that this country was founded on.  Was the implementation flawed? Of course, because it did not include native or indigenous or African American people in the ideals or the framing. But the framing in itself has a unique opportunity to really live out its true, core value. But until then, the UN and the international community needs to hold us to account in order for us to really push forward meaningful change…  everything in international development is local as much as it is global. When you are doing work, you are doing it at a community level. The systems that you’re trying to impact and effect are all the same systems.”

When asked for further insight, as someone who works on human rights issues daily, Jones responded:

“There’s a saying about racism in America, ‘we didn’t invent it, but we perfected it,” … Yes, the rest of the world has every right to call America out, because we have portrayed ourselves as a beacon of freedom, equality, and justice. We’ve always fallen short of that… the truth about racial equity is that we all have to start at home and talk about what’s going on in our own lives, in our own households, in our own countries, and in our own organizations.”

When asked what is the call to action in order to confront and address racism, Nelson responded:

“We need to recognize our potential, educate ourselves, and not stay complacent with the status quo. The racial and economic elite take advantage of how people like to stay complacent. We each have a special gift and our own power. We have to tap into that power in order to do what we need to do to help make the world a better place. We must do our own part to drive our future forward.”

After listening to the responses of the panelists, Pace was able to reflect on her own life and stated:

“I really appreciate the historical context that each of you brought to the conversation. My mother picked cotton and she integrated her high school. I turn to her sometimes, in these moments, and I ask, ‘how are you managing this? How should I manage this?’. She went through all these things growing up in Tennessee and my father in Alabama. They have seen some things. This idea that we don’t have to be in despair, we can certainly be exhausted because it has been a long period. Yet, there is so much we can learn from the people who traveled this road before us.”

The discussion not only touched upon what the UN should be doing in light of the issues that have occurred in the U.S., but also about what people can do on an individual level to initiate change in their own communities.

UNA-NCA Vice Chair of Communications and Nominations Committee Chair Sultana Ali presented the results of the 2020 Board Election. To begin, the reelected Directors-at-Large who will be continuing their terms are Patricia Beneke, Renee Dopplick, Michael Onyemelukwe, and Richard Ponzio. The newly elected Directors-at-Large are Supriya Baily, Ambassador Steven McGann, Audré Park, and Aaron Sean Poyton. The newly elected officers are Board Chair-Elect Jill Christianson, Vice Chair of Advocacy Gayatri Patel, Vice Chair and Secretary Dawn Calabia (continuing for a second term), and Co-Chairs of the Advisory Council Ted Piccone and Nancy Donaldson. The newly elected Student Representative is Nursena Oktem, from Georgetown University. Learn more about our new Board members here.  

Board Chair Moseley then thanked the outgoing Board Members Dr. Diane Adams, Heather Lane Chauny, Michael R. Marsh, Ellen McGovern, Oona Nelson, Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe, Kimberly Weichel, and Melissa Wolfe for their excellent work and service for UNA-NCA.

UNA-NCA ensures continuity and effective leadership by electing a Board Chair-Elect whose first year in office coincides with the last year of service for the current Board Chair. Board Chair-Elect Jill Christianson plans to look forward and work to ensure that UNA-NCA is a, “nimble, strong, efficient organization that also then is fully inclusive and addressing social justice and anti-racism issues.” Christianson wants to play to our structural strengths. She pledges to learn by listening, being a part of, and sharing her network with the organization to continue to grow.

Board Chair Moseley’s closing remarks focused on the remarkable work and progress UNA-NCA has been able to accomplish and the many opportunities ahead to strengthen our impact.  Moseley concluded, “there are plenty of us, plenty willing, plenty ready to work together and collaborate to address major issues.”