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13 April 2020

WHO is Not the Cause of COVID-19 Nor the Enemy. We Need It More than Ever for the Next Pandemic

By Richard Seifman, Independent Health Policy Consultant and UNA-NCA Board Member

It is unfortunate that your newspaper​-in editorials and opinion pieces-​ has chosen
this time of national crisis to point out what you perceive as political behavior by
the global technical agency that struggles to deal with infectious diseases in an
increasingly polarization world, with a Governing Board that brings their
displeasure without bringing the resources to allow it to measure up to the challenge​.
Exhibit A: Forbes on April 8th points out that the Trump Administration’s most
recent budget requested a reduction in the World Health Organization (WHO) U.S.
assessed financial contributions ​from $122.6​ million to an assessed contribution of
$57.9​ million. This is more than 50% and before significant recognition of the
covid19 threat across the country.

As to when the COVID-19 became a worldwide problem, it is worth remembering
that it was less than 100 days when WHO was notified by the People’s Republic
of China, a sovereign member State, of a new virus strain that posed a public
health threat of international concern. Also, worth recalling, in July 2019, well
before any evidence of COVID-19 had emerged, the U.S. Administration ended the
work of a key CDC medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s CDC. U.S. CDC
cooperation with China’s CDC had existed for 30 years (Dr. Anne Schuchat,
former acting CDC head and currently CDC Principal Deputy Director, worked in
China on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak). Given this
history, one can only imagine the difference that U.S. CDC epidemiologist on the
ground in December 2019 might have made.

While I hold no brief for China’s failing to alert sooner and be more transparent
about the outbreak, keep in mind it was not that long ago U.S. leadership thought it
was a minor distraction from our robust economy, and to this day our debate
continues over mandatory regulations regarding masks and social distancing. Nor
am I suggesting that WHO could not benefit from further reforms. In what will be
the post- COVID-19 era, WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly, as a
priority, should review member State infectious disease early reporting
requirements and consider more stringent obligatory rules when the Director
General must declare a “public health emergency of international concern” or
pandemic. This will require cooperation and concerted effort by Member States.

We know this can be done: One need only look at the response to the West Africa
Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016 in contrast to the 2019 Ebola outbreak in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.  WHO emergency teams were quick to risk
their health and lives and stay the course.  WHO was on the ground administering
new Ebola vaccines and treatment under very challenging circumstances, and
applying new technologies such as “the Cube” to better protect frontline health
workers, and making effective use of information management techniques. WHO's
coordination with-- yes, the U.S. and China—will mean this Ebola outbreak will
likely end in the very near future. Compare that to U.S. panic and economic costs
when very few came home from abroad with Ebola in 2014-2016, versus now? 

Vice President Pence often says, "we are all in this together".  He is right; but he
needs to think beyond our borders.  Next time when your child does not
have smallpox, or polio, or is not suffering from nutritional deficiencies, know it is
significantly due to the worldwide work of WHO.  Improvements yes, but let’s not
throw this institution out as technically weak and politically driven. There is no
doubt there will be another infectious outbreak, but no one knows where or when.
This is a special moment for the U.S. to lead by rising above partisan or anti-
globalist sentiments and put U.S. money, technical expertise and support behind an
improved WHO--so that we all do better next time.

13 April 2020

UNA-NCA Graduate Fellow Alumna Serves Her Country

Manuela Hernandez is a proud UNA-NCA 2019 Graduate Fellow. She is currently a first-tour Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She will work for the Consular Affairs section for the duration of two years. Manuela just completed her intensive Portuguese language training at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia to prepare for her job overseas. 

Manuela is a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow and prior to joining the State Department, she completed the Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) program at Georgetown University in May 2019. Prior to Georgetown, she worked in Munich, Germany for Kiron Open Higher Education, a non-profit that helps refugees access higher education through digital solutions. 

Originally from Florida, Manuela graduated from the University of Florida with majors in Economics and International Studies (with a focus on Europe). She has previously interned for the State Department at the U.S. Mission to the EU in Brussels and at the U.S. Consulate in Düsseldorf. Manuela has also interned at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency as well as the U.S. Congress; she consulted for the World Bank at the office of Agriculture Global Practice in the East Asia & Pacific Region.

07 April 2020

Raising our Voices on World Health Day

By Shayna Vayser, UNA-NCA Advocacy Associate

On April 7, UNA-NCA membership rallied for a World Health Advocacy Day of Digital Action. As our community has come to understand, the steady regression of US leadership in the United Nations has made it all the more difficult for member states to effectively collaborate in the global response to COVID-19.

Without full funding from the US, the efforts of implementing agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, IOM, UNFPA and UNHCR are severely undercut. According to a recent poll by the Better World Campaign, the majority of Americans believe that global cooperation is essential to a successful pandemic response- but the UN lacks sufficient resources and support.

As such, we used World Health Day as an opportunity to urge our members of Congress to support UN funding in forthcoming legislation. In preparation for our Day of Action, members participated in a Briefing and Training held on April 6 in collaboration with UNA-USA and the Better World Campaign to discuss the details of the UN’s response plan. Hundreds of people across the country have since written letters to Congress calling for Congress to invest in the UN and global health-but we’re just getting started.

It is now more vital than ever to hold our legislators accountable to the needs of their constituents; we must continue to advocate for the Global Goals for Sustainable Development through whatever means now available to us.

Picking up the phone and calling your Members of Congress is a quick and effective way to support the UN’s work on COVID-19.

To call your respective Members of Congress, please dial 855–466–4862. Once you dial this number, you will be asked to enter your five-digit zip code.

Afterwards, you will be prompted to press #1 or #2 to speak with your Senators and #3 to speak with your Representative.

Before calling, be prepared with a short script that covers the following pieces of information:

Who are you? Where you are from?

  • Sample Script: Hi, I’m [your name], a constituent and voter from [your town/county/city, state]. I am a member of the United Nations Association of the USA, a grassroots movement of Americans dedicated to supporting the vital work of the United Nations. My local chapter is UNA [chapter name].
Why you are calling?

  • Sample Script: I am calling you today to support the UN’s work on COVID-19 by paying our UN dues. Right now, the UN is leading and coordinating the global response effort to COVID-19 by supporting countries to prevent, detect, and respond to the pandemic. By fully funding the UN, we can assist people around the world, including Americans, at risk of infectious diseases, through the help of the World Health Organization (WHO). In today’s interconnected world, a deadly health threat anywhere is a deadly threat everywhere.
How has COVID-19 impacted your life?

Keep your message brief and to the point (no more than 2 minutes), and don’t forget to thank the staffer for their time!

You can also send a letter to your Members of Congress by signing this petition.

Share your efforts online and across social media using the hashtag #SDGsAtHome and #USAforUN and be sure to tag us on Facebook or Twitter @UNANCA.


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


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 paula@unanca.org 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

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