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06 May 2015

Call for Nominations for the 2015 UNA-NCA Human Rights Awards

Please submit no later than Tuesday, June 30, 2015 to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

We are currently soliciting nominations for the 2015 recipients of our Louis B. Sohn Award, Perdita Huston Award, and Achievements in Human Rights through Diplomacy Award. These awards will be presented during our commemoration of Human Rights day in December. 

These UNA-NCA awards are bestowed annually on individuals in the Washington, DC area who have provided outstanding service in promoting and protecting human rights. We encourage and invite your nominations for recipients of these awards.  Nominations should be endorsed by an appropriate decision-making body or point of contact from your organization and should be accompanied by a brief statement of no more than 250 words describing the nominee’s human rights service and contributions, including any local and/or international impact. Criteria to be nominated are as follows: individual must be a part of a local group or organization in the DC area (includes DC, Maryland and Virginia) and should have been active for at least one year in that cause and/or organization, making contributions to advance the cause of human rights.

Candidates for these awards should exhibit the following:

Louis B. Sohn Award

When the Sohn Award was established in 1997, it was stated that recipients would be persons who:
  1. Advocated respect for international human rights as defined by the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights treaties and instruments;
  2. Championed the effective role of the UN as well as regional organizations in the promotion and protection of human rights;
  3.  Advocated respect for human rights as a priority in US foreign and domestic policies;and
  4.  Sought to elevate the role of non-governmental organizations in promoting and protecting human rights.

Perdita Huston Award

When the Huston Award was established in 2011, it was stated that recipients would be persons who promoted the empowerment of women, gender equality, and human rights.

Achievements in Human Rights through Diplomacy

The Diplomacy Award, given in collaboration with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), will recognize significant achievements in the use of diplomacy to promote and protect human rights. The UNA award will be given to a current or former American diplomat whose achievements are recognized by their peers. It is hoped that the recipient will accept the award in person. Nominations should consist of a brief cover message with attached evidence of recognition of the nominee’s human rights achievements by peers, supervisors, and/or colleagues inside and/or outside the government. UNA-NCA will constitute an ad hoc panel to review nominations.

Nominations should be received no later than Thursday, June 30, 2016.

Nominations for the Louis B. Sohn Award, Perdita Huston Award, and the Achievements in Human Rights through Diplomacy Award should be submitted by completing this form and mailed to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Nominations will be reviewed by the UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee. 

30 April 2015

A Woman Should Lead the UN

Gillian Sorensen and Jean Krasno wrote this article for the Washington Post Opinions Section dated April 26th 2015. Gillian Sorensen is a former U.N. assistant secretary-general and national advocate at the U.N. Foundation. Jean Krasno is a lecturer at the City College of New York’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.

Over the next year, the United Nations will make a critical choice. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s term ends Dec. 31, 2016, and a new leader will replace him. In the past, the election of a successor has taken place in the fall of a secretary-general’s final year in office, but the debate is heating up early this time around.

Since the birth of the United Nations in 1945, eight men, from Norway, Sweden, Burma (or Myanmar), Austria, Peru, Egypt, Ghana and South Korea have held this important post. The next secretary-general should be a woman.

The U.N. Charter states, “The Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” This has traditionally meant a process of secret consultations by council members, primarily the council’s five permanent members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. The transition to Ban’s successor has been a matter of speculation for months, and unofficial campaigning has already begun. The final choice must get affirmative votes from nine of the 15 Security Council members, with no objections from any of the veto-wielding permanent members. The final candidate will then be presented to the General Assembly for confirmation.

Historically, the General Assembly has confirmed secretaries-general by consensus. But in 1991 the U.N.’s Africa Group said it would call for a vote in the General Assembly if an African was not nominated. The group had enough states in its camp to defeat any non-African, and the Security Council responded. Similar pressure could be exerted today to encourage the council to select a woman.
The process has always been secretive. There is no transparency, no apparent search process, no job description and no pool of candidates. As far as anyone can tell, no woman has ever been seriously considered.

In the 70 years since it was created, the United Nations’ effort to secure equality and opportunity for all women has been a critical goal, as demonstrated by the thousands of people from all over the world who attended the Commission on the Status of Women conference at U.N. headquarters in New York last month.

Many women, and men, feel strongly that the selection process should be opened up. A genuine search should be launched for the best possible female candidates. The excuse that there are not enough qualified women to choose from is no longer valid, if it ever was. Numerous distinguised female leaders have acquired deep experience as presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, foreign ministers and diplomats. Many of them possess all the key qualifications for this challenging post: experience in multilateral relations; a commitment to peace, justice, human rights and other fundamental goals of the United Nations; and intelligence, eloquence and proven communications and managerial skills.

The U.N.’s top leader has no military and no budget, except for what the member states decide to provide. A secretary-general’s strength lies in his or her powers of persuasion and ability to provide a moral compass for the world. The selection of a woman as secretary-general would send a strong and inspiring message at this challenging time. Women make up half the world’s population, and it is time that the nations of the world choose a woman for this significant position.

22 April 2015

Spring Career Dinners 2015 were a hit!

The UNA-NCA Spring International Career Dinner Series took place on April 18th, 2015 and had the participation of over 70 young professionals interested in pursuing a career in global affairs.  

The night started with a reception at the United Nations Foundation (UNF), which was followed by the different dinners. Most of the dinners were hosted at the UNF, except for two, that took place at the homes of UNA-NCA Board members.

The participants had the opportunity to network and increase their knowledge about their areas of interest by engaging in an informal conversation and exchange of ideas with experienced professionals during the reception and dinners they chose to attend. The following topics were addressed during this spring edition: International Nonprofits, Women in Policy, Technology for Development, Global Health, Human Rights, International Business/Development Economics and International Development.

17025903269_1d92fc5c03_oThe renowned professionals provided the attendees with great advice on how to improve their networking skills and find a job on the field of their interest. This year's reception keynote speaker was William Davis, Executive Director at U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and former Director of UNDP Representative Office in Washington. As for the dinners, the speakers included: Colleen Teixeira Moffat, Rachel Wallace, Jessica Mueller, Karen Mulhauser, Angela Canterbury, Wendy Santis, Nick Martin, Sarah Pitcairn, Delanie Ricketts, Kimberly Sutton, Juan Mendez, Dawn Calabia, Tino Calabia, Jens Flanding, Christopher Dorval, Mary Bliss, Paula Boland, and Dr. Thomas J. Herlehy.
The International Career Dinners take place twice a year, during spring and fall and constitute one of the main events organized by the UNA-NCA and its Young Professionals Board of Directors.

The fall edition will take place in October, 2015.  We hope to see you there!

The career dinner event is a great place to meet other young people whom you share similar interests with. It is a good opportunity to learn more about a specific field you are interesting in pursuing professionally. The nature of group dinners makes it more comfortable to ask any questions to the speakers, and to engage in a lively and informal conversation." -Marisa Garcia, Career Dinner participant, 2015

A special thank you to Christopher Neu for his photography during the event.  Check out the photo album!

15 April 2015

UNA-NCA Hosts debate on Current and Emerging Technologies in Development

On Thursday evening, 9 April 2015, nearly 50 attendees attended the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee program on “Current and Emerging Technologies in Development” at the Greater Washington Urban League, 2901 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC with three thought leaders in technology and development:

1) Laura Walker McDonald, CEO, The Social Impact Lab; 

2) Robert Baker, Operations Officer & Program Lead for the Open Aid Partnership (OAP) Program, The World Bank Group;

3) Wayan Vota, Technology Advisor, FHI 360’s TechLab

Ms. McDonald, CEO of the Social Impact Lab since 2010, helps people and organizations around the world adopt inclusive technologies. She elaborated on her free and open-source professional messaging software called FrontlineSMS, which enables users to reach anyone with a mobile phone and transmit information, services, and goods regardless of network connectivity. FrontlineSMS and Ms. McDonald's groups efforts towards effective monitoring and evaluation, as well as ethical management of data have led to countless success stories in thousands of governments, clinics, schools, charities, and businesses in more than 135 countries around the world. 

For instance, Ms. McDonald highlighted how the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFATIV) empowered women to utilize FrontlineSMS and alert hotlines to notify authorities of rape abuses at Haitian refugee camps following the 2010 earthquake.  Additionally, during the 2007 Nigerian elections, the Network of Mobile Election Monitors (NMEM) utilized FrontlineSMS to send reports from booths to central hubs in order to prevent vote rigging. 

Ms. McDonald underscored that there are few impact studies available on inclusive technologies; thus, little if any, baseline data exists. As a result, evaluations often rely on anecdotal data. Furthermore, she contended that fundraising to develop new or existing measures is most difficult as funders are “distracted by ‘new and shiny’ things like drones.”

Robert Baker, who serves on the Innovation Unit as Operations Officer and Program Lead at the World Bank’s Open Aid Partnership Program, began his discussion by giving a brief descripion of the OAP Program.  The OAP Program brings together development partners, governments, civil society organizations, foundations, and the private sector to improve aid transparency and effectiveness. Their goal is to collect and open up local development data that engages citizens and other stakeholders. 

With the statement, “Leaving no one behind; leaving no phone behind,” Baker began his discussion, emphasizing the importance of mobile phones in addressing the issue of inclusion.  “Leave no one behind” is the first of the five big transformative shifts driving the Post-2015 MDGs in the High Level Panel report issued on 30 May 2013.  India, is a country with 1.2 billion people and according to Mr. Baker, 75% of that population owns  a mobile phone. Cell phone usage amongst the population is divied almost equally by males and females (89% men, 81% women). However, there continues to be a large gap in mobile phone usage between the urban areas and rural regions, the disparity is increasing exponentially as the economy declines in the rural areas.

Mr. Baker noted that improvements in strategies and processes allow computers, mobile phones and social media to access raw information and technology,which in turn enhance citizen feedback.  The ability to empower local beneficiaries and constituents to analyze data collected by the World Bank and other sources quantitatively and qualitatively is particularly important in countering any selection bias due data anonymization and other issues. 

Wayan Vota, Senior Mobile Advisor at FHI 360, also emphasized the need for inclusion and the need to build upon the resilience and entrepreneurship of local populations in developing countries.  While Ms. McDonald mentioned how distracting “new and shiny” technologies can be, Vota advocated for their adoption in developing countries, he argued that increasing dividends and opportunities realized by producers, suppliers, retailers and consumers would make it possible for non-traditional goods and services to thrive.  According to Mr. Vota, policies such as bans on imported goods and computers are encouraging adaptation of new conventional technologies. 

For instance, he shared that in Guinea, officials are using drones to monitor fields and crops in real time, in an effort to learn about planting patterns or agricultural needs. In many countries, drones are also being used  to fly medical supplies into areas in need. Sensors are making a difference as well. Sensors are attached to cook stoves to report unusual temperatures or smoke-related problems. Furthermore, sensors can be placed in open fields to test for moisture levels.  Moreover, local populations are leveraging access to 3D printers in order to make advancements in medicine – notably printing low-cost soft-tissue prosthetics and medical supplies.  The potential of 3D printers to advance global development and humanitarian challenges will expand dramatically as they become more sophisticated, affordable, and as a number of patents expire.

In regards to access of cutting-edge technologies in developing countries, Mr. Vota thinks we “need to be careful of our own consistent paternalism”, instead we must let go and allow the local populations in developing countries to “do it themselves, if they see the value in it”. Furthermore, Mr. Vota asserted that access to technology is not an issue in developing countries since “15% of the U.S. population don’t have phones and an even greater amount of the population do not have bank accounts”.  

In essence, even though many challenges still exist with amassing impact studies and standardized data, and more obstacles still persist with making changes in development and inclusive technologies, our speakers all believe that information technologies can advance social and economic contributions to the developing world.   

06 April 2015

GCDC Brackets for a Cause Ends Tonight with the Final Game of the Tournament

Thanks to everyone who participated, we had a blast!

The final March Madness game is tonight, and so far GCDC's Program Coordinator Nicole is in the lead of our bracket pool. Will her pick Duke win, or will Wisconsin come out on top? Find out the final results on GCDC's Facebook and Twitter pages tomorrow!

While our Brackets for a Cause fundraiser is coming to a close, things are getting exciting in the GCDC office as we gear up for our Spring Conference on April 28th. We want to thank all our of you who donated to help make our conference a success! Many students in the DC area will be able to take part in the conference thanks to your generous contributions. 

02 April 2015

Multilateral Spotlight: From the Post-2015 Development Agenda and Beyond

On March 31, UNA-NCA and the Honorable Esther Coopersmith hosted a Donor and Leader Appreciation reception featuring a discussion on the Post-2015 Development Agenda with issues ranging from climate change to internet freedom and beyond.

Our President Ambassador Donald Bliss (retired) introduced the speakers, Ms. Nerissa Cook from the Bureau of International Organization Affairs in the US State Department and Mr. George Papagiannis from UNESCO, after giving a brief recap of the past year as well as a preview of exciting upcoming events.

To illustrate the importance of collective action in establishing the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Ms. Cook echoed Truman’s address in 1945 to the UN Conference, affirming that we must all take responsibility to be “the Architect of a Better World.” Ms. Cook expressed that, despite challenges like the Syrian War, diminishing crop yield, and water security that currently face development, there are opportunities to take development to transformative levels. She emphasized various venues in particular that will affect the outcome of development, including the rise of violent extremism, poverty among youth, the internet, climate change and international finance. Ms. Cook advocated the establishment of an ambitious, actionable framework that will be evidence-based and data driven in order to capitalize on the opportunities as well as address the challenges posed by these venues. She also stressed the importance of resources mobilization and transparency in the process if the framework is to be achieved in the next 15 years, and suggested that the US would work toward a more manageable set of goals and priorities. During Q&A, Mr. Robert Berg of UNA-NCA's Advisory Council responded to Ms. Cook’s latter concern on the vastness of the current goals as written by suggesting that much of the technicalities of the SDGs might be worked out after the SDGs begin to be implemented, much as they did with the original Millennium Development Goals, and that the broadness of the SDGs now should not prevent US support.


Mr. George Papagiannis agreed that steps taken now will be the ones that shape the world in the next 20 years.  He argued for the important role that the US and UNESCO will play in that process, emphasizing the value of reestablishing US presence in UNESCO and addressing challenges such a process currently faces.  He argued that US involvement is vital in the discussion of issues like cultural heritage and education, issues that UNESCO addresses globally, and that lack of US presence in addressing these issues sends an unnerving message to the world. In order to address the current political challenge in bringing the US back into UNESCO, Mr. Papagiannis stressed the need to make the organization relevant on the local level for Americans.  He particularly suggested that the economic impact that the World Heritage Program has on local communities serves as a way to connect many Americans to the global organization. Mr. Papagiannis shared examples of jobs created in Illinois when Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site was initiated as a World Heritage site; it's inclusion in the program increased visitors by 10 times what they had been prior to inclusion. In essence, world heritage can transform the US community through jobs creation and a healthy, sustainable economy. UNESCO also oversees projects that improve water management systems, another tangible benefit to the US as water insecurity increases, especially in California's San Joaquin Valley. Mr. Papagiannis contended that UNESCO’s goals undoubtedly concur with the basic principles of the US.  Both Ms. Cook and Mr. Papagiannis expressed support for a broad waiver from Congress that would allow US involvement with UN agencies when determined by the executive to be of national interest and security for the US, with UNESCO as the primary UN agency needing US support at this time.


To paraphrase Mr. Papgiannis, we fear that, 20 years from now, we may not recognize the world we see if the US is not involved in shaping that world now through participation with the international communities in the various UN agencies. The dialogue was especially important for the leaders of UNA-NCA, validating our mission of educating members in the DMV region on critical issues faced by the UN and the need for greater US leadership on these issues.   We are sincerely grateful to our donors and leaders who help to make this mission possible, and to the Honorable Esther Coopersmith for hosting such an inspiring event.


01 April 2015

UNA Welcomes New Under-Secretary for Communications and Public Information

UNA leaders and UN agency representatives gathered on March 26 to welcome newly appointed Under Secretary for Communications and Public Information, Christina Gallach of Spain.

Ms. Gallach reviewed the goals for her department and stressed the importance of strengthening collaborations among the UN family and improving communications for a better understanding of the work the UN and its agencies around the word.  

The program ended with a farewell for UNDP Washington Representative, Will Davis, who will be leaving the UN after 10 years of service. 


26 March 2015

GCDC Brackets for a Cause is Underway as the Tournament Progresses to the Sweet 16.

We've been having a blast so far! Are your top picks still in it?

Thanks again to all who donated to GCDC Brackets for a Cause! The tournament's top 16 teams are about to face off, and so far UNA-NCA's very own Ashlee Ryan is leading the bracket pool. Keep up with our bracket pool's standings for the final rounds by following GCDC on Facebook and Twitter

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