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27 May 2015

Peace and Stability Event Explores Middle East Refugee Crisis

On May 21, in collaboration with the Institute of World Politics, UNA-NCA’s Peace and Security Committee and Human Rights Committee hosted a three panel discussion entitled, “Beyond Crisis Management in the Middle East: Peace and Stability in the Post 2015 Development Framework.” This standing room only event touched on three components of the refugee crisis in the Middle East: (1) understanding the problem from a regional and local perspective, (2) the international response, and (3) a public-private practitioner panel. 

Mr. Shelly Pitterman, Head of UNHCR, kicked off the event by highlighting a range of problems currently plaguing the Middle East from the loss of education opportunities to the spread of xDSC00863_-_Shelly_Pittermanenophobia. Mr. Pitterman emphasized that these problems can’t be contained merely with conventional humanitarian methods; instead, a multi-dimensional response is required. Mr. Pitterman concluded his opening remarks by calling for additional institutional framing for existinghumanitarian initiatives from organizations such as the World Bank. Video footage of the keynote address may be viewed online.

The first panel was moderated by Ms. Dawn Calabia, UNA-NCA Board of Directors, and focused on preventing the refugee crisis from becoming a socially destabilizing issue. Mr. Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugee International, began the discussion by detailing how refugees put pressure on state institutions and their public services. Mr. Gabauden concluded that this shouldn’t be a job for humanitarian agencies, but instead a responsibility of the host country. 

DSC00866_-_Nader_Al_Suhaim_Michel_Gabaudan_Dawn_Calabia_Shelly_PittermanMr. Nader Al Suhaim, Economic Counselor and Director of the Jordan Economic and Commerce Bureau, focused his remarks on the immense pressure on the Jordanian government. The refugee crisis in Jordan is demonstrated by the fact that 22% of the population, equivalent to 1.4 million people, is refugees. The major influx lies in the education sector, as there are currently 35,000 students being waitlisted for schools. His
biggest concern of the influx is the risk of a lost generation, which could create another wave of extremism in the region. 

Mr. Pitterman challenged the traditional narrative that refugees represent a problem for the fabric of society. He asserted that the solution lies in making refugees an asset to the host state by allowing them to utilize their professional skills.

The second panel, moderated by Colonel (ret.) Christopher Holshek Alliance for Peacebuilding, centered on DSC00873_-_John_Filson_Christopher_Holshek_Stefania_Piffanellithe transition from crisis to stability. Mr. Holshek launched the debate by emphasizing the need to build civil society with a bottom up approach. He argued that peacebuilding requires a long term strategic and generational approach; thus, a multi-year funding mechanism would be crucial. 

Mr. John Filson, Senior Policy Manager of Alliance for Peacebuilding, contended that peacebuilding should include development and security components. This includes tacking the worst symptoms of conflict and poverty and incorporating more trust in international engagement.

Dr. Stefania Piffanelli, Deputy Director of UN Information Center drew attention to the significance of preventive diplomacy in her remarks. Dr. Piffanelli argued that states descend back into chaos once peacekeeping forces leave because there is a massive gap in resources between peacekeeping and development. She admitted that the nature of politics makes it difficult to justify funding for conflict prevention, however she maintained that soft power is more productive than military power in peacebuilding since funding isn’t a sustainable solution. Mr. Holshek ended the discussion by stressing the need for a common framework between different approaches to peacebuilding. Video footage of the second panel may be viewed online.

The third panel, moderated by Albert Santoli, Faculty of Institute of World Politics, revolved around the role of public-private partnership in development. Mr. Santoli began by discussing the importance of NGOs as the bridge between public & pr
ivate sectors in addressing the gaps in communications. He also addressed the need to identify and eliminate destabilizing agents in conflicts by targeting their donors. 

Panelist Colonel (ret.) Michael Dziedzic, Fellow of World Engagement Institute reiterated this point and singled out criminalized states as the source of conflict. Mr. Dziedzic contended that a coordinated multilateral strategy is needed to address the critical risks created by the criminalized power structu
prevent the criminalization of the security force. Lastly, Mr. Dziedzic concluded his remarks by urging the UN to overcome its sensitivity to intelligence and utilize intelligence-based policing to identify and dismantle criminal networks.re. He also advocated for establishing metrics of performance to improve accountability and transparency in order to 

DSC00885edited_-_Michael_Dziedzic_Al_Santoli_David_WeissOur last speaker Mr. David Weiss, President and CEO of Global Communities, was able to shed light on how NGOs can use practical solutions to address the issue of food insecurity and to rebuild civil society in Syria. Mr. David Weiss maintained that the core approach must center on enhancement of community resilience, and more importantly, help the displaced population carry on their daily lives. The objective is to empower the community in preparation for the end of the crisis. In conclusion of the panel, he stressed the need for balance between security, development and community resilience. Video footage of the third panel may be viewed online.

The Institute of World Politics hosted a reception following the panel discussions, where UNA-NCA President Donald Bliss addressed the audience and underlined the urgent need for the US to reintegrate with UNESCO. Mohammed Alaa Ghanem, Director of Government Relations and Strategist of the Syrian American Council also had the opportunity to speak about the crisis in Syria. Mr. Ghanem shed light on the gravity of the Syrian conflict, and urged the community to lobby and advocate for US leadership in resolving the conflict.

We are most grateful to the Institute of World Politics for hosting this event. Special thanks as well to Dawn Calabia and Christina Morales for their input and assistance as well as Jeff Hoffman, Christopher Holshek, and the rest of the Peace and Security Committee for their hard work on the event!

27 May 2015

Discussion on the Deal with Iran

On May 19, UNA-NCA, in partnership with the American Society of International Law (ASIL), hosted a panel discussion entitled, “The Deal with Iran: The Emerging Agreement between Iran and the UN Security Council Permanent Members plus Germany,” at the Tillar House on Massachusetts Avenue.

image_4Mr. Wes Rist, ASIL Director of Education and Research, and Mr. Robert Craft, Jr., Chair of UNA-NCA’s International Law Committee, kicked off the event with opening remarks and speaker introductions. The discussion then began with Ambassador Thomas Graham providing an overview on Iran’s nuclear program, its implications on state relations and persisting technical issues. Former State Department legal advisor, Davis R. Robinson, spoke next, addressing the ambiguous legal nature of the agreement between Iran and the UN Security Council. Both Ambassador Graham and Mr. Robinson were able to connect the discussion to their own personal experiences in dealing with international arms control and State Department affairs.image_1 Before opening the floor to questions, Missy Ryan, Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post, emphasized the implications that a deal with Iran could have on the region and in particular, the Gulf States. Further, Ms. Ryan contended that although a nuclear agreement is important to the EU, it could trigger a potential nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The event concluded with a question and answer session between participants and the panelists. Video footage from the event may be viewed online.

13 May 2015

Human Rights vs. Foreign Policy Talk a Success!

On Tuesday, May 12, UNA-NCA's Human Rights Committee hosted an off-the-record, members-only event at the UN Information Center that was centered on human rights vs. foreign policy imperatives at the US State Department.

Featured speaker Dr. Wesley Reisser is an Officer in the Department of State’s International Organization Bureau’s Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Burt Wides, Esq., an advocate for human rights in China, Bahrain, and Vietnam, was in attendance and offered additional discussion points and participated in providing some answers during Q&A. The event kicked off with opening remarks by Dr. Reisser and then the floor was opened to member questions. Ms. Diane Cummings, a long-time volunteer of the Human Rights Committee, served as moderator. The discussion covered the State Department's and the U.S.'s approach to human rights issues worldwide.

We are very pleased with the large and diverse member turnout for this event! We want to thank all those who attended and of course, thank Dr. Reisser for giving UNA-NCA and its members this exclusive opportunity.

UNA-NCA occasionally holds members-only events as a perk to membership. Consider becoming a member today!

06 May 2015

GCDC Model UN Conference was a Success!

GCDC hosted over 600 students from D.C., Virginia, and Maryland at its annual spring Model UN conference on April 28th at the State Department and the Pan American Health Organization. 

Students debated global challenges while developing skills in public speaking, conflict-resolution, and critical thinking.  This year’s topics of focus were the Situation in Ukraine, Empowering Rural Women, Food Security, Climate Change, and Social Responsibility and the Private Sector.


The opening ceremonies kicked off with remarks from UNA-NCA President Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.) followed by an engaging conversation with Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Richard Stengel. Under Secretary Stengel encouraged the students to continue pursuing a global competency while sharing his personal experiences while working at Time Magazine. Debate was opened by the student Secretary General and GCDC Intern, Elena Kervitsky.
Students then dispersed into committee sessions to represent their countries in addressing some of the greater challenges facing thDSC_6459e world today.
While in committee sessions, teachers and guests were invited to attend the GCDC Open House and Teacher Training.
The days activities ended with the closing ceremonies awarding Best Delegate and Honorable Mention Awards to noted student delegations from each committee.
The conference was a celebrated success with many teachers and students sharing how much fun it was and how valuable it is to be a part of a program that gives students access to global education resources.

Special thank you to UN Federal Credit Union for their support!

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.   

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