23 January 2017
Join the Human Rights Committee
UNA-NCA’s Human Rights Committee offers human rights activists and others committed to the fight for human rights locally and globally opportunities for engagement, advocacy, and learning. Aside from membership in the United Nations Association, no special expertise is required of members – only the willingness to engage, to learn, and make a difference. The Committee organizes panel discussions and events, including the annual Human Rights Day program on Capitol Hill to celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in 1948. If you are passionate about human rights and are eager to help, we would love to have you join our committee. The next committee meeting is on February 6th at 6 p.m. For more details please contact co-chairs Christina Hansen (
) or Heather Hill (
04 January 2017
UNA-NCA President Rings in New Year and Welcomes New UNSG, Antonio Guterres
Dear UNA-NCA Members:
I hope you have had a peaceful holiday season and are refreshed and ready to work for a strong and constructive US-UN relationship, so essential to achieve world peace and a better world for all human beings. Please take note of Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ January 1st Appeal for Peace.
The UN Foundation, the Better World Campaign (Peter Yeo) and UNA-USA (Chris Whatley) and others have been working hard during this transition period to show the value and importance to the incoming US administration of strong US support for the United Nations. Please note my article published in Pass Blue, showing how the United Nations would greatly enhance the new US administration’s foreign policy. The President-Elect has stated that the UN has great potential and we agree. We at UNA-NCA plan through our programs and actions this coming year to show how this potential can be harnessed to advance US national security, economic, diplomatic, military and humanitarian objectives. US support for UN peace keeping, peacebuilding and implementation of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement are critical to ending conflict, combatting the root causes of terrorism, and creating a more stable global environment. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions as to how and to whom we should convey this message.
For those of you discouraged by some of the comments emanating from the transition and from Congress in response to the US abstention from Security Council Resolution 2334 of December 23, 2016 (intended to preserve the Israeli-Palestine two state solution), it is worth remembering that in our democracy and at the UN, it is the voices of citizens and civil society that makes good things happen. And those voices must speak out and be heard. Those of you who know my work with Mark Twain will not be surprised if I close with a Mark Twain quote (with apology for the lack of gender neutrality):
“In a republic, who is ‘the country?’ Is it the Government which is for the moment is in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant – merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is patriotic and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is ‘the country?’ Is it the newspapers? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command; they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousands; it is the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. “Who are the thousand– that is to say, who are ‘the country?’ In a monarchy, the King and his family are the country; in a republic, it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of the pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.”
Let our voices be heard.
Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (retired)
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area
14 December 2016
UNA-NCA Hosts Annual Human Rights Awards Reception
By Tselmegtsetseg Tsetsendelger, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee
On Thursday, December 8th, UNA-NCA hosted its annual Human Rights Awards Reception in the beautiful Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building. This event correlated with the 68th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Human Rights Day, celebrated on December 10th. The room was filled with people who were excited to celebrate the award recipients’ strong commitment to human rights while enjoying classical music by the DC Youth Orchestra.
This year’s inspirational honorees shared their experiences working to advance human rights through their respective fields, positions, and organizations. They spoke honestly about the challenges facing human rights today, their experiences creating change throughout their careers, and their continued dedication to push for human rights. The reception began with opening remarks by Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), UNA-NCA President, and Robert Skinner, Director of the UN Information Center, who shared the message from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and talked about the UN global campaign “Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today.” This call to action set the tone for the rest of the reception, inspiring and empowering the audience to advocate for human rights.
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, came, as she said, from India to present the 2016 UNA-NCA Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award to her colleague and friend Felice Gaer.
Advancement of Human Rights and the Vice-Chair of the UN Committee Against Torture, opened with an acknowledgement of the phenomenal work that Sohn had done in the development of international law and human rights. She also spoke about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reiterated Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote—“This is no ordinary time”—explaining that it is as relevant today as it was over 70 years ago. Furthermore, Ms. Gaer talked about the U.S.’s history on human rights and how all the rights from freedom of religion to freedom of speech are enshrined in the country’s foundation, emphasizing that they must be practiced and protected.
“The destiny of human rights lies in the hands of us, for us to take action, for us to call on these issues, recognize, realize and implement.”
-Ms. Felice Gaer
Remarks by Felice D. Gaer can bee seen here
. Ambassador Robert R. King
, Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights Issues at the State Department, presented the 2016 UNA-NCA F. Allen "Tex" Harris Human Rights Diplomacy Award
to Mr. Eric Richardson. Mr. Eric Richardson,
Political-Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy for Libya, addressed the amazing work that Tex Harris had done in exposing the killing and disappearance of people in Argentina in the 1970s. He recounted three stories about his work with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to illustrate “how the Human Rights Council can do more than articulate standards and make concrete differences on the ground
.” He described the UNHRC resolution on China and the nuances and successes of the work, atrocity prevention in relation to the UNHRC emergency session, and council action to address accountability specifically in Sri Lanka in 2009. These insightful stories explained the strength of the UNHRC and the importance of continued U.S. engagement. Karen Mulhauser
, former UNA-USA Chair and UNA-NCA President, presented the 2016 UNA-NCA Perdita Huston Human Rights Award
to Ms. Ritu Sharma. Ms. Ritu Sharma
, Co-Founder and former President of Women Thrive Worldwide, and Director of the Center for Gender and Youth at the International Youth Foundation, started her remarks with a nod to Huston, having read her work during her studies. Ms. Sharma shared her experience of living with women and girls who survive on less than a dollar a day; and how being able to advocate for others is a privilege. She pushed the audience to confront the current challenges facing human rights and US-UN cooperation. She also emphasized that, as coastal liberals, we need to understand the grievances of Middle America and work towards a brighter future with greater empathy.
“The global women’s movement owes a lot to the UN’s support, and its investment in movement building.”
-Ms. Ritu Sharma Mr. Jose Antonio Tijerino
presented the 2016 UNA-NCA Distinguished Community Human Rights Award
to the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC).
LAYC President and CEO, Lori Kaplan
received the award on behalf of the Latin American Youth Center
. LAYC exists to empower a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths’ social, academic, and career needs. Each year, LAYC serves over 4,000 youth and families through youth centers, school-based sites, and public charter schools. The organization truly embodies the phrase, “Think globally, act locally
“The LAYC was born out of a strong social justice movement and a commitment to human rights for all is imbedded in our fabric.”
-Ms. Lori Kaplan
Remarks by Lori Kaplan can be seen here
UNA-NCA Executive Director, Paula Boland, closed the program thanking everyone who made the evening possible and quoting someone who was instrumental in the shaping of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
You can view a photo album from the event here
. Additional information about the event, bios, and articles from each of our awardees, can be found in the Program Book.
If you are interested in learning more about our awardees, we encourage you to check out the Spotlight! interview series on the UNA-NCA blog
We are very grateful to our sponsors, honorary chairs, photographers Elliott Lyles and Scott Chism, and Representative Donald S. Beyer, Jr. who provided the space for the Awards reception.
Congratulations to all of our awardees and we look forward to your active engagement in 2017!
06 December 2016
Press Release for 2016 Human Rights Awards Reception
2016 Human Rights Awards Reception
December 8, 2016
5:15 - 8:00 pm
Registration closes tomorrow, December 7, at 9:00 am
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area to Host Human Rights Awards Reception on Capitol Hill in Honor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 71st Anniversary of the United Nations
Washington chapter of historic NGO to recognize four human rights advocates
Washington, D.C. – 6 December 2016 – The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) is pleased to announce that it will commemorate International Human Rights Day on Thursday, December 8, 2016 with its Annual Human Rights Awards Reception from 5:15-8:00 pm ESTat the Cannon House Office Building (Caucus Room), with a reception to precede the program commencing at 6:00 pm EST. UNA-NCA, in partnership with its Human Rights Committee, will recognize the outstanding work that individuals and organizations are doing to improve human rights in their communities and around the world.
At this event, three extraordinary individuals will receive the chapter’s highest awards: Ms. Felice Gaer, Director of The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, will be presented with the UNA-NCA Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award by Navanethem Pillay, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ms. Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and Former President of Women Thrive Worldwide, will receive the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award presented byKaren Mulhauser, Former Chair of UNA-USA and Former President of UNA-NCA.
Mr. Eric Richardson, Political Economic Counselor for the U.S. Embassy for Libya, will be presented with the F. Allen “Tex” Harris Diplomacy Human Rights Award by Ambassador Robert R. King, Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights Issues, U.S. Department of State.
“I always wanted as a diplomat to find a way to explore and advocate for those fundamental freedoms for states in the developing world, especially with respect to rights involving the U.S. First Amendment and non-discrimination. I have been fortunate to receive assignments, whether in Geneva working for the UN Human Rights Council or elsewhere, that allowed me to help implement our diplomacy in a way that was consistent with these very American values.”
Mr. Eric Richardson, Political Economic Counselor for the U.S. Embassy for Libya
Read the Spotlight on Mr. Richardson here.
UNA-NCA will present the Distinguished Community Human Rights Award to the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), a nationally recognized agency serving all low-income youth. This award will be accepted by Lori Kaplan, President and Chief Executive Officer of LAYC, and presented by Jose Antonio Tijerino, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.
“We will stay strong in our commitment to our values, diversity and inclusiveness. We will stay the course and continue to support our young people. This recognition for our work in the area of human rights is very important. It represents our commitment to standing for social justice issues, multi ethnic, racial, faith, gender and identity. Social justice work has been so much a part of our fabric since our inception.”
Ms. Lori Kaplan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Latin American Youth Center
Read the Spotlight on Ms. Kaplan here.
This annual event that capitalizes on the achievements of those at the forefront of human rights is hosted by Honorary Chairs includingRepresentative Donald S. Beyer, Jr., our host on the Hill. See the full list of Honorary Chairs here.
This program is also supported by the following institutional sponsors: Airschott, DC Youth Orchestra, Hansen Business Solutions, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, Latin American Youth Center, Northern Trust, United Nations Federal Credit Union, and Youth for Human Rights International.
Please visit the event page to learn more and register for this event. This is a ticketed event, open to the general public.
Established in 1952, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) is one of the oldest and largest chapters of the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA). Its territory includes all of the State of Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia. With the help of over 1,000 members, volunteers, and supporters, UNA-NCA works to build public knowledge, to strengthen US-UN relations, and to aid the UN in achieving its goals.
|United Nations Association of the National Capital Area
2000 P Street, NW Suite 630 | Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202.223.6092 | Fax: 202.223.6096
UNA-NCA is a Division of the United Nations Association of the United States of America
30 November 2016
Una Chapman Cox Fellow and U.S. Foreign Service Officer Luis F. Mendez Speaks at GCDC Conference
|On Friday, November 18, 2016, UNA-NCA's Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) Program hosted its Fall Model UN Training Conference and Professional Development Workshop at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The event began with keynote speaker Una Chapman Cox Fellow, and U.S. Foreign Service Officer Luis F. Mendez. The following is the full text of his speech to the students on his journey from Model UN to the Department of State, and the valuable lessons he learned along the way.
Thanks for the kind introduction Paula. And thank you to the UNA-NCA staff and volunteers for the organizing this wonderful event.
Good morning. How’s everyone feeling? I don’t know about you, but I am feeling inspired. Having been a Model UN participant for years, I know what you have to offer this world.
I remember my first Model UN experience. I have to be honest. I was terrified. I was assigned Burkina Faso, a country I knew nothing about. I mustered the courage to deliver my opening points and I froze. Yes. Froze. Zero. Nothing. I eventually composed myself and yielded to the chair. I remember feeling embarrassed. How could I get through the rest of the conference? But I did, winning the best delegate award in my committee.
Fast forward a few years, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to represent a country where the impossible can become possible. You see, my parents were immigrants from Ecuador. My father a waiter. My mother a seamstress. My sisters and I didn’t have much growing up. Yet, somehow/someway I became a United States diplomat – so don’t let anyone tell you dreams don’t come true. We’re fortunate enough to live in the land of opportunity.
And in my travels as a diplomat, I have met some of the brightest children in the world, who sadly were never given that opportunity. They had the same talent, the same dreams that you do. The difference wasn't drive or intelligence. The difference was opportunity.
Sadly, millions of children across the world do not have access to primary and secondary schools. They will struggle to escape the cycle of poverty; earn lower wages; and will be more likely to contract HIV. Because when children can’t go to school that not only affects their families’ health but the health, economy, and security of their countries. And in today’s interconnected world, all of that can affect the United States too.
This morning, I’d like to share a story of struggle and triumph that I hope will inspire you as much as me to be an advocate for change.
Meet Madeline. An 10 year-old girl from Cote d’Ivoire, where the average family lives on less than three dollars a day, and the country is still recovering from a long and bloody civil war. Just a handful of the kids make it to secondary school. Madeline is one of the lucky few. She travels over two hours by foot each day, often in the dark. She dreams of being a surgeon and unlike many girls in her village has the support of her parents.
I have met so many girls like Madeline across the world –- girls who are working to defy the odds and pursue their dreams and serve as an inspiration for other girls in their communities.
So as you embark on today’s debate. I want you to think of Madeline.
I want to conclude with three tidbits that I learned through my years as a Model UN delegate that I have turned to time and time again as a diplomat.
1. Don’t be afraid to fail. As a diplomat I’ve worked on complex issues with no easy answers. You will do the same today. I urge you to be bold and ambitious. To not be afraid to fail. I have many a times and that’s ok.
2. All voices matter. Model U.N. will teach you to listen to the neglected voices. As a diplomat, I’ve spent countless hours listening to refugees, to those in need, to Madeline. Finding common ground and developing consensus begins with listening. So listen, even if you may not agree.
3. You can’t change the world alone. Model U.N. will teach you that you need allies/partners to push your agenda forward. Bullying your way around will not work, but empathy will.
So in closing, get to know each other, have fun, and as Ghandi would often say be the change you wish to see in the world. Thank you!
30 November 2016
How the United Nations Advances President-Elect Trump's Foreign Policy Change Agenda
By Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (Retired); President, United Nations Association of the National Capital Area
Strong US leadership at the United Nations would greatly enhance President-elect Trump’s Foreign Policy Agenda. Why?
Because US investment in the United Nations is a cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars to serve US military, diplomatic, economic, and national security interests. For example, UN Peacekeepers are one-eighth the cost of US boots on the ground. And history shows that US leadership is critical to the UN’s efficiency and effectiveness.
Combating terrorism and defeating ISIS and its metastasizing clones is clearly a top priority of the new administration. Yet, failing and failed states are breeding grounds for terrorism. Instead of sending US troops to places like Somalia, Lebanon, Mali, South Sudan, or the Congo or asking the US military to engage in nation building, UN Peacekeepers can be employed at much lower cost. That’s why there are currently 125,000 UN Peacekeepers operating in 16 conflict zones on four continents—the world’s largest military deployment.
UN peacekeepers are often undertrained, underequipped, and sometimes have been charged with abuse and negligence, but they are being held accountable and the UN is committed to improving standards of conduct. With strong US and NATO advisors and support, they can be a very cost-effective, disciplined and accountable force to secure the peace in conflict zones. And as a permanent member of the Security Council, the US can veto any peacekeeping mission, shape the authorization and mandate, and exercise regular oversight. Lasting peace can be sustained through the collaborative work of the UN, regional organizations and Member States by mediating disputes and building sustainable democratic institutions under the rule of law. Nation building should be a collective not unilateral responsibility. If President-elect Trump wants to strengthen US security and make America safe, this is a very efficient way to do it around the globe.
At any given moment, 30 ships at sea, 70 aircraft in the sky, and 5000 trucks on the ground enable the World Food Program to deliver food, much of it the beneficence of US agricultural productivity, to 90 million people in 80 countries, reducing the threat of instability in failed and failing states. Reducing chaos, the United Nations provides humanitarian assistance to people devastated by natural or manmade disasters and to 70 million refugees and displaced persons, mitigating the harsh effects of global instability.
US citizens safely travel throughout the world because aircraft and airports adhere to global safety and security standards and pilots effectively communicate with ground controllers in the same language. UN statistics show that you are safer on a transoceanic flight than you are driving to and from the airport. The UN vaccinates over half the world’s children reducing the threat of communicable diseases that do not respect sovereign borders. UN specialized agencies harmonize global standards and ensure cooperative working relationships that advance US national security interests. Instead of negotiating separately with 193 countries bilaterally, the US can protect our citizens and strengthen our economy most efficiently by establishing global safety and security standards in air travel, enforcing fair and balanced trade agreements, facilitating global telecommunications and postal services, protecting food security, containing pandemics and communicable diseases, forecasting tsunamis and hurricanes, and fighting human trafficking, trade in narcotics, counterfeiting, and the sale of antiquities to fund terrorist organizations.
The United Nations is only as effective as its Member States enable it to be, especially the permanent five members of the Security Council. If President-Elect Trump seeks a better working relationship with Russia, the Security Council is a continuing deliberative forum that can facilitate this. This October, Russia and the United States quickly reached agreement on the next UN Secretary General, António Guterres, the first former head of government to hold that position. On many issues Russia, China and the US work effectively together as they have, for example, in supporting the Colombian peace agreement with FARC, opposing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, or imposing sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Despite the challenging complexities of Syria, Ukraine or Yemen, the UN’s work in resolving dozens of conflicts in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, including Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Haiti, Namibia, and Mozambique, has enhanced global stability while saving US blood and treasure.
Reaching agreement among 193 States, or even the permanent five on the Security Council, is rarely easy, but effective US engagement can shape an agenda consistent with US interests and values. We can support friends like Israel and defeat the agendas of hostile States. The US will not prevail on every issue at the UN but when the US is fully engaged and leads through effective diplomacy, its influence is unparalleled, bringing results like safer skies and the eradication of small pox and soon polio. Supporting the United Nations does not mean that the US succumbs to globalization or world government. Rather it enables the US to take the lead in shaping and influencing global affairs that directly impact the safety and security of Americans.
The United States is the only country that sends an Ambassador to the UN for Management and Reform. The US mission at the UN, with the support of allied States that share our commitment, has worked to streamline the UN bureaucracy, fight corruption, promote accountability and transparency, efficiently manage the budget, and encourage meritorious hiring and promotion. To give two recent examples, audit reports are now made public, and officials have contracts subject to performance reviews. While progress has been made, more remains to be done. Continuing progress depends upon US leadership.
Advancing national security involves more than fighting fires and crisis response. Addressing the systemic causes of conflict and terrorism requires collaborative efforts to raise global standards of living and economic opportunity. In the words of the 2016 Republican Party Platform, “Foreign assistance is a critical tool for advancing America’s security and economic interests by preventing conflicts, building stability, opening markets for private investment, and responding to suffering and need with the compassion that is at the heart of our country’s values.” Over the past fifteen years, under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, extreme poverty was reduced by 50 percent and infant and maternal mortality by 60 percent. The proportion of girls and boys in elementary school increased from 40 to 85 per cent and deaths from diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB were dramatically reduced.
In September 2015, 193 nations in the UN General Assembly agreed to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which envision private sector-public-civil society partnerships to create jobs and economic progress, eliminate extreme poverty, and promote good governance and the rule of law. US leadership in implementing these Global Goals will address the underlying causes of conflict, terrorism, and the refugee and migration crises, and serve, in the words of the Republican Party Platform, as a “catalyst for private sector investment to fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, and create new markets for American goods and services in a competitive global economy.”
Consistent with President-Elect Trump’s statement to the New York Times that he has an “open mind” on climate change, the US should be a leader in shaping the implementation of the Paris climate agreement by encouraging private sector innovation and investment in clean energy alternatives and technologies that would create domestic jobs and markets for US exports.
US dues to the regular UN budget are $621 million annually, and the US pays about $2.4 billion for Peacekeeping, out of a four trillion dollar US budget, less than one-tenth of one percent. Beyond that, voluntary contributions of dollars and expertise are made to UN programs that serve the US national interest. This is a cost effective use of taxpayer money and consistent with the Republican Party Platform which expressly affirms a “strong commitment to international development and diplomacy,” which is “far less costly both in dollars and in human lives than military engagement.” As has been demonstrated time and again over the past 75 years, when the US leads at the UN, real progress is made, and US national security is advanced.