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29 June 2017

The Refugee Crisis: Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions

By Jose Muela, UNA-NCA Program Assistant and Patrick Realiza, Chair, UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee

Contributors: Anick Chaipraditkul and Kenneth Lemberg, Members, UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee

On Wednesday, June 21, 2017 the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) Sustainable Development Committee hosted a panel discussion entitled, “The Refugee Crisis: Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions” at the United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC. The event focused on Global Goal #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Patrick Realiza, Chair of the Sustainable Development Committee, served as the moderator for the panel of four.

The panel reflected the diversity of the Refugee Crisis. Each of them approaching the issue from a different background, they provided unique and complementing lenses through which to view the crisis. They discussed the backgrounds, experiences and personal perspectives of refugees and other displaced persons, as well as of those working in the field to resolve the crisis. As noted by Mr. Realiza, “With peaceful inclusive societies and common interest, people across the globe can help bring justice and safety to all those affected and displaced by the refugee crisis.”

Native to the North region of Darfur in Sudan; Niemat Ahmadi, current President of the Darfur Women Action Group, shared some of her past experiences as a refugee, including the compelling story of her journey  to the United States. She highlighted the ongoing refugee crisis in Darfur, especially the overwhelming lack of intervention from outside entities- proof that Global Goal #16 has yet to be witnessed in her home country. She discussed the importance of understanding just how many people are considered refugees and that, in most cases, it is an involuntary status- one in which people are forced into in order to survive.

Faith Akovi Cooper, a Regional Advisor for the West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative (WADPI) at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, Ghana, was born in Liberia. She entered the United States in 1993 as a refugee. In her remarks she noted the importance of disaster management and how it could be effectively be used across the globe to resolve world issues such as the refugee crisis. She noted that roughly 42,500 people are displaced each day and that this has led to the present day number of over 65 million displaced persons worldwide, with approximately 22 million of them as refugees. Ms. Cooper further described the need to address and find solutions to the current crisis as noting that this among her passions and that recent conflict such as the Syrian civil war have only worsen the crisis by adding nearly 13.9 million new refugees in 2016 alone. In addition, acknowledged the progress already made by governments and institutions who have worked to help find solutions, as seen with the significant the decrease in war on the continent of Africa. However, the number of refugees continues to grow due to the continued and increasing impact of climate change which is also heavily connected to issues concerning food security, deforestation and ocean erosion. Ms. Cooper stressed the importance of advocacy and local participation by citizens by holding their respective government leaders accountable. She highlighted that refugees do in fact positively contribute to their respective host countries’ economies because of their common desire to work hard and survive from their circumstances.

Daniel Sullivan, Senior Advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International (RI), provided a snapshot of the work through Refugees International, an independent global advocacy organization dedicated to providing better support for displaced and stateless persons around the globe. He shared his recent experiences in Myanmar (Burma) and the continued challenges faced by the Rohingya people, a Muslim based population primarily from the Rakhine State (Arakan). He noted that as many as 500,000 Rohingya refugees currently reside in nearby Bangladesh which was a consequence of decades of persecution led by the Myanmar government. Since October 2016 alone, as many as 74,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh. Mr. Sullivan noted Rohingya continue to face dangers which are tied to government actions and climate change. In addition, he cited that Cyclone Mora recently damaged or destroyed as much as 80% of the Rohingya makeshift settlements. Mr. Sullivan noted that climate related displacement continues to deepen the refugee crisis with as many as 24 million people being displaced directly by it in 2016. However, he explained that progress has indeed been made and cited the work of former U.S. President Obama in calling for a summit on refugees and the work of the United Nations to create of a global compact addressing migration and refugees. Today, many of these programs and initiatives designed at resolving the refugee crisis face the potential for paramount cutbacks, noting the potential withdrawal of funding and participation by the United States. Although better aid would be helpful to resolving this crisis, Mr. Sullivan stressed the importance of finding durable and lasting solutions.

Larry Yungk, Senior Resettlement Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the United States and the Caribbean, stressed assistance to refugees and resettlement as a great stabilizing investment, as it works against radicalization. Instead, refugees face impossible obstacles to reaching safety, a significant waste of human capital and talent that has consequently had a lasting negative impact on not only those individuals, but on societies as a whole. He defined refugees and other displaced persons as “those seeking to flee their respective countries due to a well-founded fear of persecution,” citing that the true number of displaced persons is even larger than what is reported, primarily because they are “not recognized”- a problem in and of itself.

Mr. Yungk closed by highlighting the importance of discussing and demystifying the myths and misconceptions that we hold about the refugee crisis. He explained the incredible worth of hearing first-account stories and challenges faced by refugees, like those of Ms. Ahmadi and Ms. Cooper.

Mr. Realiza concluded the event by highlighting the salience of the discussion and indicated that there is still much to do done. He thanked and recognized the key contributions of his fellow committee members as well as participating partners - the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Nexus Media News and the Forum on International Affairs (FIA) for their continued involvement and support on the planning and execution of this successful event.

28 June 2017

UNA-NCA Participates in UNA-USA 2017 Leadership Summit

Over 300 members and supporters from 40 states attended last week’s UNA-USA Leadership Summit, with both leadership and members from the National Capital Area turning out in full force. More than a dozen panels and discussions involving high-ranking UN officials, covered issues ranging, including personal experiences working on submitting local recommendations through the UN commissions; building partnerships for the Global Goals at the local level, and sharing chapter best practices. That was just the first day! Advocacy_Day

One of the panels discussed how to turn the same passion kids learn in Model United Nations into advocating for the UN itself. At the Annual Spring Model UN Conference held at the State Department this year, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson emphasized the same message. He encouraged the students attending the conference to pursue their passion in international relations, and use the skills they acquired in Model UN beyond school. Being able to speak up and advocate for issues young people care about translates into any interest they pursue.

The second day of the Leadership Summit was just as packed with talks around international action on climate change, UN plans for women and girls, and much more. They also covered the refugee crisis, which one of the most recent UNA-NCA events elaborated on. The event, moderated by Patrick Realiza, Chair of the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee, served as a platform for refugees to share their first-account stories. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions aims to find peaceful means to end the lasting violence, and finding people-to-people connections to contextualize what’s happening on the ground is the first step to progress.

Special guest speakers at the Leadership Summit included the President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights at the UN Human Rights Office Andrew Gilmour, Hamilton: An American Musical’s Samantha Ware, among others.

But perhaps the favorite day of many attendees was Advocacy Day on the Hill, reported to be the largest convening ever of Americans advocating for strong US-UN engagement, reaching more than 50% of the entire Congress (271 meetings). Over 25 UNA-NCA members met with their local Congressman or Congresswoman and Senators from Maryland, Virginia, and the District. Each delegation was well-represented, and everyone was able to tell their stories about how much the work of the UN meant to them, including an 8 year old elementary school student. Ana_Statement

We called upon our congressional representatives to do everything they can to ensure that these cuts are not realized, and to continue to support strong US-UN relations. Our Maryland team prepared talking points on the wide ranging work of the UN, as well as how the administration’s proposed budget cuts would jeopardize and endanger key programs, populations and many parts of the world for use by the members of congress on CSPAN and sign-on letters.

Having constituents speak directly to their representatives or office staff member had an enormous impact, and brought the UN face-to-face with Congress in ways that couldn’t have been done without the dedication and passion of our members.

15 June 2017

2017 Annual Membership Meeting

image_15On June 8 2017, over 100 members and supporters of UNA-NCA met at the United Nations Foundation Headquarters for the 2017 Annual Membership Meeting to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and to recognize its outstanding chapter leaders and volunteers. Keynote speaker Robert Skinner, Director of The United Nations Information Center (UNIC) in Washington, DC, spoke on “Advocating for a Strong US-UN Partnership in Challenging Times.” Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (Ret.) presented the 2016-2017 Annual Report, thanked outgoing Board members, and passed the Presidential gavel to incoming President Stephen F. Moseley. Four awards were proudly presented to exceptional chapter leaders, including the first-ever Edison W. Dick Advocacy Leadership Award.

Outgoing President, Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), opened the Annual Meeting, framing the focus on the years’ transition. The transition in welcoming a new UNA-NCA board, a new US President, and a new UN Secretary-General, all within the course of a few short months. He discussed President Trump’s mention of leaving parts of the United Nations, and reiterated the importance of the organization’s mission and re-tripling our efforts of advocacy. The importance of civil society in advocating for a strong US-UN partnership is greater than ever, and our work must continue in suit.

image_8Ambassador Bliss welcomed the Honorable Constance (Connie) A. Morella, to announce Edison W. Dick as the inaugural recipient of the UNA-NCA Edison W. Dick Advocacy Leadership Award for his service as the founding chair of the Advocacy Committee of the former UNA-USA Board of Directors, and as an active member of the UNA-NCA Advocacy Committee. Advocacy has assumed an ever-increasing importance in the work of UNA-USA across the country. Building on this award, UNA-NCA is committed to strengthening and expanding its advocacy work into its program committees and developing tools and training materials to engage its members actively in advocacy for a strong US-UN partnership.
Read Full Remarks Here    

image_4_copyAmbassador Bliss then welcomed keynote speaker Robert Skinner who underscored the challenges United Nations peacekeeping operations face today. Skinner emphasized the historical reliability of US leadership at the United Nations and challenged members to consider the history of US-UN relations, to see that issues cannot be solved without diplomacy and support of the United Nations, and to understand that US-UN relations are critical. Themes of maintaining hope through civil society emerged as well as fueling the desire to speak out. Skinner cited the Paris Accord as an example, with hashtags like #WeAreStillIn as beacons of hope that the people will be heard, with over a thousand businesses, governors, and advocates pledging to stick with the Accord. Skinner concluded with a call to continue speaking out — “And I emphasize that word PEOPLES, as the preamble of the UN Charter begins not with ‘we the governments’ or ‘we the nations’ but meaningfully with WE the PEOPLES.  And, if there was ever a time for the voices of the people to be heard – all of our voices – it is now.” 
Read Full Remarks Here

Ambassador Bliss again took to the podium to briefly present the 2016-2017 UNA-NCA Annual Report put together by the UNA-NCA staff, which featured some of the key events, programs, and crucial people and partners that made the year the success it was. He showed pride that 49% of the members were under forty years old, and that the organization successfully reached out to 48 schools, including Title I Schools though its flagship education program Global Classrooms DC.  His only qualm with the publication: there were not enough pictures of himself.
View the Annual Report Here

Former UNA-NCA President and Chair of this year’s Nominating Committee, Karen Mulhauser, presented the results of the 2017 Board Election. The elected officers include:

Vice President of Advocacy: Lyric Thompson

Vice President of Communications: Sandra Coburn

Vice President of Development: Timothy Barner

Vice President of Finance and Treasurer: Scott Stiends 

Vice President of Programs: Christina Hansen

Vice President of Young Professionals: Laura Blyler

The 2017 Directors-at-Large include: Diane Adams, Patricia Beneke, Dawn T. Calabia, Heather Lane Chauny, Renee Dopplick, Michael R. Marsh, Michael Onyemelukwe, Ambassador Lynn Pascoe, Richard Ponzio, and Ambassador Osman Siddique.

Bradley Wiggins from The George Washington University was elected to serve as the Student Representative. UNA-NCA would like to thank the outgoing Board members for their exceptional service, including Thomas Bradley, Kristen Cheriegate, Kasara Davidson, Vanessa Francis, Melissa Kaplan, Jessica Mueller, and Jesse Nickelson.

Three additional awards were presented throughout the evening. Newly elected President Stephen F. Moseley presented the Arthur W. Johnson Award to Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), former President of the UNA-NCA, for his exemplary leadership and commitment to the work of the United Nations. Ambassador Bliss was touched by the remarks given in his honor and expressed deep appreciation for the opportunity to serve UNA-NCA. He reaffirmed his commitment to staying actively engaged in the work of the chapter, particularly in the area of UN strengthening and reform.  

IMG_2270Former UNA-NCA President, Edward Elmendorf presented the Evelyn Falkowski Volunteer Service Award to Patrick Realiza, Chair of the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee and Co-Chair of the UNA-NCA Communications Committee, for his outstanding volunteer service and commitment to the work of the United Nations.

IMG_2307Roger Griffis presented the final award - the Richard and Anne Griffis Program Leadership Award to UNA-NCA's flagship program, Global Classrooms DC. Led by Director of Global Education, Megan Penn, the program was recognized for bringing access to global education and critical skills to thousands of middle and high school students in the DC metropolitan area.

The Annual Meeting concluded with remarks from UNA-NCA Executive Director, Paula Boland. Ms. Boland reiterated the importance of UNA-NCA’s mission during these challenging times because real effective change happens here, at home, using Eleanor Roosevelt’s words ‘It starts in your backyard.’ She encouraged members to keep mentoring, educating, and empowering. 

The Annual Meeting was followed by a festive reception in which the diverse members of UNA-NCA enjoyed one another’s company: mingling, discussing current events, and sharing their experiences with the organization. 

It was a pleasure to see so many dedicated members attend UNA-NCA's Annual Meeting. Special thanks to the United Nations Foundation for providing the excellent venue downtown, and to the United Nations Association of the USA for their organizational and logistical support. 

The Annual Meeting was followed by UNA-USA National Council meetings and the largest UNA-USA Leadership Summit,  which culminated with the historic day on the hill, with over 300 members visiting their congressional representatives. UNA-NCA members met with Maryland, Virginia and DC representatives. More to follow next week!

14 June 2017

Edison W. Dick Accepts Inaugural Edison W. Dick Advocacy Leadership Award

Thank you, Congresswoman Morella. You were a superb representative for the 8th Congressional District and still are a wonderful internationalist and supporter of the United Nations. Your presentation is very meaningful to me.

I greatly appreciate the current leadership of UNA-NCA for devising this important theme for tonight- thank you, Don, Steve, Paula. Immediate Past President Ed Elmendorf is also a co-conspirator in this effort. I am deeply honored and humbled by this award. However, there are many people with whom I should share it.

David Scotton has been an inspiration and mentor since I first became involved with UNA-NCA. His dedication and knowledge have been of invaluable support to me and to UNA. Happily, David remains co-Chair of our Advocacy Committee and an influential voice for the UN in Washington. Melissa Kaplan has been a diligent and superb co-Chair of the chapter’s Advocacy Committee for the past 4 years. I am confident she will remain at the center of our advocacy efforts for many years. I am also pleased our incoming Vice-Chair for Advocacy, Lyric Thompson, is here tonight.

I would like to play tribute to an individual who could not be with us tonight due to a conflict. Steve Dimoff was the Director of NA’s Washington office during the entire time that I served on the National Board of Directors.  He certainly inspired the effort to recognize the importance of advocacy as a necessary furtherance of policy for our organization. He was as knowledgeable as anyone regarding our executive and legislative branches of government. He was key to implementing UNA’s Advocacy effort. I was privileged to work very closely with Steve - he deserves a good chunk of this award. Finally and most importantly, I would like to thank my family for their everlasting support. I am delighted that Sally and our son, Warner, are here tonight.

UNA-NCA has a vibrant advocacy program. This is due to both the proximity to the levels of government and the power and strength of the chapter itself. Our claim to be the best chapter in the entire UNA system is valid but is met with a certain amount of skepticism in other parts of the country. Nevertheless, we work closely with other chapters and with the UNA-USA Advocacy Committee which does an outstanding job. I believe the Committee Chair, Mel Boynton, is here tonight. Tribute must also be given to UNA’s dynamic Executive Director, Chris Whatley. UNA’s advocacy effort has been skillfully advanced and enhanced as a result of UNA joining forces with the UN Foundation and its Better World campaign.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Kathy Calvin, Peter Yeo, Jordie Hannum, Micah Spangler and BWC’s leadership team for spreading the message about the importance of the UN in the world and the necessity for a vibrant United States role in the organization - especially during this difficult political environment.

UNA’s Leadership Summit, with its strong advocacy component, begins on Sunday. There are so many important advocacy issues to be addressed. Not the least of which is full funding for the UN - or as John Whitehead said, “In full, on time and without conditions.” Currently, we are facing devastating impacts of cuts to United Nations funding. There are also the myriad peace and security issues, the entire arena of sustainable development goals, including global health and climate change- especially after last week’s actions on the Paris Accord’s human rights problems abound. I do not have to recite the litany of advocacy issues for this audience. Advocacy also entails providing basic facts to skeptical or unfamiliar audiences - for example, such as those on Capitol Hill or at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It is often necessary to explain that 88% of Americans support an active role for the US in the UN and that total United States. Funding for the United Nations amounts to a horrifying 0.2 percent of the total federal budget.

I am looking forward to working with our chapter and everyone here to further this advocacy initiative. Thank you again for this honor and thank you all for coming.

12 June 2017

2017 Board Election Results

UNA-NCA is delighted to confirm the election of the following candidates for vacant positions on our Board of Directors. 

Officers (2-year term):

  • Vice President, Advocacy: Lyric Thompson                                          
  • Vice President, Communications: Sandra Coburn
  • Vice President, Development: Timothy Barner
  • Vice President, Finance and Treasurer: Scott Stiens
  • Vice President, Programs: Christina Hansen
  • Vice President, Young Professionals: Laura Blyler                                  

Directors-at-Large (3-year term):

  • Diane Adams
  • Patricia Beneke
  • Dawn T. Calabia
  • Heather Lane Chauny
  • Renee Dopplick
  • Michael R. Marsh
  • Michael Onyemelukwe
  • Ambassador Lynn Pascoe
  • Richard Ponzio
  • Ambassador Osman Siddique

Student Representative (1-year term)

 Bradley Wiggins (The George Washington University)

UNA-NCA wishes to thank the following individuals for their service on its Board of Directors:

Thomas Bradley, Kristen Cheriegate, Kasara Davidson, Vanessa Francis, Melissa Kaplan, Jessica Mueller, and Jesse Nickelson.

Bios for all Board Members may be accessed here

These results were announced at the 2017 UNA-NCA Annual Meeting June 8, 2017. 

08 June 2017

Closing Remarks From Outgoing UNA-NCA President, Ambassador Donald T. Bliss

As I complete four years as President of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), let me express my deep gratitude to our members, volunteer leaders, supporters, and dedicated staff for making this such a rewarding and enlightening experience. Thank you for the honor and privilege.

image 1I wish I could say that I am leaving you in a better place. We all know, however, that we are facing something of an existential crisis. There are voices in the US Administration and Congress that are questioning the value of the post-World War II global order. We face proposals to slash funding for the UN, foreign assistance, and diplomacy and to withdraw from international organizations and international treaties. Perhaps even more disturbing, we face a lack of understanding by the American public and many opinion and policy leaders about the multifaceted work of the United Nations and the values embraced in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The mission of UNA-NCA, serving the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia, has never been more important. We must redouble our efforts to: 
    • Increase public understanding and support of the United Nations. 
    • Advocate for constructive US leadership in strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations. 
    • Prepare present and future leaders to work for a better world, both globally and locally.

Yet amidst the chaos of conflicting messages, there is an opportunity that comes with the challenge. Our response must start with the proposition that any institution—certainly one 72 years old—must be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and increased challenges that require a global response. The world is a far different place from the one in San Francisco in 1945. The United Nations has expanded its reach beyond preventing wars between states to provide humanitarian assistance to record numbers of refugees and persons displaced by human and natural causes, to set goals that will mobilize governments, civil society and the private sector to eliminate extreme poverty and gender inequality and uplift global standards of living, to advocate for basic human rights, to resolve ethnic and religious conflict within states, to protect our planet’s fragile environment, to combat the 21st century threats of terrorism, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, cyber security, drug addiction, famines and growing economic inequality. These challenges do not stop at sovereign borders. No wall will keep them out. The United States cannot solve these problems by itself. They can only be addressed successfully through global cooperation. And the United Nations is the global institution that convenes and engages all sovereign nations in meeting these challenges. The UN works 24/7 to feed the hungry, eradicate disease, and facilitate safe travel, efficient communications, and free and fair trade, among many other missions.UNA-NCA has responded vigorously to these 21st century challenges, first, by strengthening our flagship programs that inform policy makers and prepare the next generation of leaders and, second, by undertaking new initiatives that encourage US leadership in strengthening a more efficient and effective United Nations.

On the first front, we:

  • Educated thousands of GCDC program participants, primarily from DC, Maryland and Virginia in the skills of diplomacy, negotiation and advocacy, addressing issues such as the Situation in Somalia, Rising Sea Levels, Human Rights of Refugees, access to Primary Education, and Technology for Sustainable City Development in our year-long Global Classrooms program, culminating in the Model UN Spring Conference at the U.S. Department of State, the largest outside event hosted by State each year, and the Pan American Health Organization.                                                      
  • Secretary_of_StateHosted a keynote address by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, in one of his first public appearances at the 2017 Spring Conference.
  • Under the leadership of David Scotton and Melissa Kaplan, we mobilized and trained an advocacy  team to meet with Senators and Members of Congress to support full funding of the United Nations and its Peacekeeping missions.
  • Celebrated the legacy of former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and welcomed the arrival of Secretary-General António Guterres with a lecture by former UN Undersecretary and Dean of the Maryland School of Public Policy, Robert C. Orr, with commentary by National Security Council and State Department leaders.
  • Discussed the priorities of the new Secretary-General with UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, at an event hosted by Ambassador Esther Coopersmith.
  • Under the Leadership of Laura Blyler and Lanice Williams, we provided Career Networking and Professional Development Opportunities for hundreds of young professionals seeking career paths in international work through our bi-annual Career Night Dinners hosted by our Young Professionals and UNA-NCA leaders.
  • Under the leadership of Ed Elmendorf and Steve Moseley, we offered educational and interactive programs on implementing the Global Goals for Sustainable Development globally and locally through public forums and community consultations.
  • Under the leadership of Past President Karen Mulhauser, we provided a series of programs on gender equality which included advocacy for passing The Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) legislation in DC. 
  • Offered many substantive programs with expert speakers on UN issues organized by UNA-NCA Program Committees on Sustainable Development, Human Rights, African Affairs, and International Law.
  • Under the leadership of Christina Hansen and Heather Hill, we recognized international and local leaders in human rights in our annual Human Rights awards reception on Capitol Hill.
  • Under the leadership of Kim Weichel, we engaged our experienced and expert Advisory Council in programming, conferences, and young professional development.
  • Under the leadership of Laurence Peters, 20 graduate students participated in our Graduate Fellows program this spring which prepared them to pursue careers in international affairs and offered mentoring opportunities.group at members day
  • Collaborated with our partners, including the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the State Department, the Pan American Health Organization, the United Nations Information Center, the American Foreign Service Association, the American Society of International Law, the US Institute of Peace, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, Freedom House, and many others.
  • Strengthened and published our weekly UN Express, informing our membership of upcoming NCA events and those of our partners, and providing commentary on key UN-related issues. 

UNA-NCA has also undertaken several new initiatives designed to address the challenges of today:

  • We have issued position statements and advocated for stronger US leadership and a more effective United Nations on issues such as the Syrian Refugee Crisis, supporting reforms in the selection of the UN Secretary-General, support of the Paris Climate Agreement, ratification of Treaties including the Convention on the Law of the Sea to protect US national security and economic interests, responding to terrorist attacks, and recognizing the UN’s unsung heroes.
  • UNA-NCA leaders have addressed issues of UN reform in speeches to regional organizations, letters to the editor,  and articles in scholarly journals (see “Strengthening the United Nations Peace and Security Mandate, Ambassadors Review, Fall 2016) and by teaching adult classes on the UN.
  • Under the leadership of Past President Ed Elmendorf, we launched a new book on the History of UNA-USA, illustrating the effectiveness of citizen advocacy.

luis7Our UNA Cox Chapman Fellow, Foreign Service Officer Luis F. Mendez, has spoken at 17 area schools on US-UN relations and mentored several students.

We have engaged our members, Graduate Fellows, Interns and the public in an interactive Blog of key issues and challenges facing the United Nations.

  • UNA-NCA has sponsored the Elnino School in the Kenya Dadaab (Dagahaley) Refugee Camp, as part of UNA-USA’s Adopt-a-Future Campaign—raising around 8K to provide education for refugee children.
  • UNA-NCA and the US Institute of Peace have formed a partnership to prepare concrete recommendations to strengthen and make more efficient UN Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding operations as part of the UN Secretary-General’s and the US Administration’s reform initiatives.
  • We have engaged in collaborative activities to express support for UN initiatives from the Paris Climate Agreement to Gender Equality in joint letters to Congress and citizen rallies.

Under the leadership of VP for Operations and Strategy, Melissa Wolfe, we continue to make progress implementing NCA’s Strategic Plan, which we have extended through 2018. With a small budget and staff, UNA-NCA is able to deliver extraordinary programs because of the passionate commitment of hundreds of volunteers. In FY 2016-17, we have been fortunate to have had an exceptionally hard working and professional staff, led by our experienced Executive Director, Paula Boland; our Director of Membership and Programs, Hanna Hayden; our Director of Global Education, Megan Penn; our Global Classrooms DC Program Manager, Nicole Bohannon; and an outstanding group of program interns. The Board of Directors is most grateful to our staff, committee chairs, co-chairs and members, a cadre of volunteers, and dedicated donors, and, as President, I want to thank our Board of Directors and officers for their active engagement and continued support.

With great confidence in our future, I pass the torch to Steve Moseley, our President-Elect, who has contributed his passion and expertise in countless hours and in countless ways to NCA’s many initiatives.

With much appreciation,

Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (Retired)

31 May 2017

Educator Appreciation Reception 2017

Over 30 educators and guests gathered at the United Nations Foundation on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 to celebrate the work of educators, including teachers, parents, and Model UN advisors. The reception was organization by UNA-NCA in partnership with the Culturfied Foundation and the program included a panel discussing Global Educators in the 21st Century, with many perspectives shared by the speakers and audience participation.

Megan Penn, UNA-NCA Director of Global Education, moderated the panel with Amy Trenkle, an eighth grade teacher at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC, and Luis Mendez, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer and Una Chapman Cox fellow at UNA-NCA. Their opening statements highlighted the importance of including global education in the US, the DC area and internationally.

Luis Mendez shared his personal experience visiting public, public charter and private schools throughout his year-long fellowship through the State Department, teaching students about his life story. Mr. Mendez has been dedicated to inspiring thousands of students to reach for their dreams through educating them on the importance of the United Nations, along with supporting Model UN programs and clubs in the schools that he visits.

Amy Trenkle emphasized that in Model UN, students are able to take charge of their own learning. For educators to succeed, they need to constantly talk to their students and embrace what they want to learn and how they would like to learn it. She referenced her use of field trips, such as museum visits and outside classes, as a way to present a more interactive approach in the learning process.

During the question period, educators from DC, Maryland and Virginia also stressed the importance of raising awareness on international issues and creating global citizens through global education programs like Global Classrooms DC and Model UN. The discussion and event also sparked curiosity in new teachers interested in learning more about our program, who want to create their own Model UN clubs. To top off the event, all guests participated in a raffle with prizes donated by Culturfied Foundation that went from a spa day basket to Starbucks gift cards and wireless speakers.

UNA-NCA is grateful to all its educators, volunteers, partners and sponsors, and looks forward to having another successful school year!

24 May 2017

Statement from UNA-NCA President on the Administration's Budget Proposal

If we have learned anything during the 72 years since the founding of the United Nations, it is that real progress is made through international cooperation and diplomacy--from the Marshall Plan to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In August 2015, the global community—193 member states of the United Nations—unanimously agreed upon Sustainable Development Goals that would mobilize governments, civil society and the private sector to address the underlining causes of global instability-- such as extreme poverty and rising income inequality, killer diseases like malaria, polio, measles, and HIV/AIDS, inadequate education and skills training, gender inequality, and the lack of sustainable institutions that foster the rule of law and inclusive societies.

Since the allied victory in World War II enabling the creation of global institutions that are premised on US leadership and enshrine US values, it has become increasing clear—in Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and in threats like terrorism and nuclear proliferation-- that the military alone does not provide the solution.

Sadly, the Administration’s proposed budget fails the test of history. It flies in the face of the global community’s march toward progress. It offsets an increase to $640 billion in defense spending by cutting diplomacy, foreign assistance, funding for international organizations, and funding for programs that combat poverty and lead to jobs and upward mobility domestically. And it does this while cutting taxes in ways that accelerate economic inequality in the United States, already among the highest among developed nations. Compared to FY ’17, the Administration’s budget proposes:

· a 32% cut in international affairs, reducing diplomatic and counselor operations, cutting in half cultural exchange programs and eliminating funding for USIP, the Woodrow Wilson Center and other peace promoting institutions

· a 37% cut in UN Peacekeeping funding, despite rising ethnic and religious conflicts and threats of genocide in conflict zones

· a 27% cut in funding international organizations, jeopardizing the prevention of pandemics, the enforcement of nuclear nonproliferation, ensuring safe and secure international air travel, and putting US funding obligations in arrears

· eliminating US support for the UN Population Fund, which has saved millions of lives by providing women’s health care

· eliminating funding for UN climate change programs, relegating climate leadership to China and India

· a 26% cut in Global Health Accounts, which seek to eradicate communicable diseases and improve access to health care, which, according to researchers, will result in six million additional deaths

· a 29% cut in foreign assistance, redirecting aid from two dozen most needy states to those deemed essential to US security

· a 31% decrease in humanitarian assistance, undercutting Ambassador Haley’s assurances in Jordan this week to increase aid to refugees

· eliminating emergency food aid from US farmers despite four world famines.

· slashing funding for domestic safety net programs while promoting income inequality by cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and forfeiting US leadership in advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In today’s fast changing world, every institution—from the United Nations to the US Congress—is in need of reform. History teaches that US leadership is critical to enabling the UN to respond efficiently and effectively to international challenges. US leadership begins by meeting our funding obligations and working through the United Nations and other international organizations to address problems that can only be solved through global cooperation.

The ball is now in Congress’ court, and the Administration’s reactionary proposals have little chance of success. In the words of a leading conservative Congressional Republican: “The budget was dead before the ink was dried.” Nevertheless, the voices of those committed to global solutions to systemic problems must be heard on Capitol Hill. UNA-NCA has made advocacy our energizing theme. Join us at our Annual Meeting on June 8th to support our expanded advocacy initiatives.

Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (retired)
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area

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