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16 June 2015

Honor Violence in the USA: Another Reason to Ratify CEDAW Now

On June 10, UNA-NCA's DC for CEDAW Committee co-hosted a documentary screening of "The Price of Honor" and a discussion on "honor violence" at the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center.

Opening remarks were provided by Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), who discussed the importance of women’s rights and the continued need to invest in women.

Following her introduction, activist and co-creator of “The Price of Honor” introduction, an abridged version of the 2014 documentary, “The Price of Honor,” was screened. The film highlighted the case of Amina and Sarah Said, victims of honor killing in Irving, Texas in 2008. Following 7 years of dormancy, the case was picked up by the FBI after the premier of the film in Dallas.

Amy Logan, producer of the documentary, then moderated a panel discussion that spoke to the importance of comprehensive legislation and the need for 
a cultural paradigm shift to remedy the widespread problem of honor killing. Panelists included:

  • Naila Amin, American forced child marriage survivor
  • Xoel Pamos, activist and co-creator of “The Price of Honor”
  • Amy Logan, “The Price of Honor” producer, activist & author
  • Cynthia Helba, Westat researcher leading work on honor violence for DOJ
  • Stephanie Baric, Executive Director of the AHA Foundation
  • Jennifer McCleary-Sills, gender violence expert, International Center for Research on Women
  • Ruth Trotter, honor violence activist
  • Zainab Zeb Khan, global women’s rights activist; President of MALA
  • June Zeitlin, Director of Human Rights Policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

CEDAWphoto3Child marriage survivor Naila Amin’s personal experience in Pakistan highlighted the importance of distinctly defining honor violence, and addressing it as a global issue, not specific to one region or culture. According to the AHA Foundation, honor violence is typically seen in the form of physical or emotional abuse, sexual assault, rape or kidnapping - but it also includes female genital mutilation, forced marriage and in extreme cases, murder. In sharp contrast to other forms of domestic violence, honor violence is often condoned by families and communities, making it particularly difficult to identify and stop. Sadly, it often involves several perpetrators within the family or community.

Westat researcher Cynthia Helba informed attendees that lack of empirical evidence and awareness are major obstacles that honor violence projects face. To study this issue, it is important to bring cases to light, inform communities and women about what honor violence is, and change their attitudes about it. Stephanie Baric contended that mitigating honor violence would require a holistic approach involving community education, empowerment of women, and a change in societal values to address this issue. 

The resolution that coincided with the screening, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), functions as an “international bill of rights for women.” It provides a definition of discrimination against women, affirms women’s equality to men, and commits states to ensuring that women receive equal rights. At this time, only seven countries out of a total of 194 UN member states, have not ratified CEDAW—including the U.S., Iran, Somalia, and Sudan. CEDAWphoto2

House Resolution 145, sponsored and co-sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), calls on the Senate to ratify CEDAW. Ratification of CEDAW could mitigate issues like honor violence that are facing women and girls, create new legal standards in dealing with cases like Amina and Sarah Said, and advance women’s rights in the US and beyond. 

Special thanks to Ellie Van Houtte for donating her photography services, and to the following co-hosts of this event:

  • ICAN - International Civil Society Action Network
  • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
  • AHA Foundation
  • Jewish Women International
  • Muslim American Leadership Alliance
  • Muslims Facing Tomorrow
  • Never a Memory Foundation
  • The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  • UN Association of the National Capital Area, CEDAW in DC Committee
  • US National Committee for UN Women, National Capital Chapter
  • WIN – Women’s Information Network
  • Women’s Voices Now
  • YWCA National Capital Area

10 June 2015

2015 Annual Membership Meeting

The Annual Meeting of the UNA-NCA took place on Friday, June 5, with more than 100 members in attendance, including leaders from other UNA chapters.

Held at the United Nations Foundation building near the White House, the event Ambassador_Moose_delivers_his_remarksfeatured keynote remarks on the importance of peacekeeping operations by Ambassador George E. Moose, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at the US Institute of Peace, and UNA-NCA Advisory Council Member. In his opening speech, Ambassador Moose emphasized how the issues facing peacekeeping operations are political rather than logistical, and called on UNA-NCA members to advocate for greater US involvement in the UN.

Princeton_LymanFollowing keynote remarks, Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), President of UNA-NCA, recognized outstanding achievements of exemplary members of the organization. Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman received the Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award for his exemplary leadership and commitment to the vital work of the United Nations. 

RowsonRichard C. Rowson, UNA-NCA Board Member, received the Evelyn Falkowski Volunteer Service Award for his long-standing commitment and service to the organization. Mr. Rowson participated in the 1945 UN Charter conference in San Francisco, and has had a lifetime of involvement in UN issues.

The inaugural Richard and Anne Griffis Program Leadership Award was presented by the Griffis family and given to UNA-NCA’s Human Rights Committee. The award was accepted by committee chair Christina Hansen. The committee was recognized for its HRCactive engagement in UNA-NCA through its celebration of human rights leaders, organization of advocacy campaigns for the UN, and its spotlight on challenging topics. 

ReportThe Annual Meeting also saw the passage of amendments to UNA-NCA’s By-laws as a result of the changes to its governance structure, and presented the 2014-2015 Annual Report. UNA-NCA’s resolution on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), adopted by the Board of Directors, was also presented and discussed at the Annual Meeting.

The results of the 2015 Board election were announced, including:

    • President Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)
    • Vice President of Advocacy Melissa Kaplan
    • Vice President of Communications Sandra Coburn
    • Vice President of Education and Programs Jesse Nickelson
    • Vice President of Development Thomas Bradley
    • Vice President of Membership and Volunteer Engagement Vanessa Francis
    • Vice President of Strategy and Operations Melissa Wolfe
    • Vice President of Young Professionals Jessica Mueller

The new Directors-at-Large are Heather Lane Chauny, Raymond Friday, Christina Hansen, Jeffrey Hoffman, Susan Leahy, Wayne Pieringer, David Scotton, and Lyric Thompson. Jonathan Dromgoole from Georgetown University will serve as the Student Representative.

It was a pleasure to see so many dedicated members attend UNA-NCA’s Annual Meeting, including those from outside chapters who were in town for UNA-USA’s Annual Meeting. Special thanks to the United Nations Foundation for providing the excellent venue downtown, and to the United Nations Association of the United States of America for organizational support.

10 June 2015

UNA-NCA Advocates on Capitol Hill for the UN!

UNA-USA held its annual meeting this past weekend, from June 7-9, 2015. The meeting brought together hundreds of members from across the country and held a variety of panels, training opportunities, and advocacy resources for all chapter participants. On June 9, the last day of the Annual Meeting, members came together for UN Advocacy Day, a day where members met with elected officials to lobby for their support in the work of the UN. The day began with a breakfast and training session at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, located next to the Capitol. Once participants had a chance to meet with their group leaders and discuss their plan of action for the day, everyone walked to the Capitol to take a picture commemorating the annual day of advocacy.

IMG_1027Our members had the opportunity to meet with Congressional representatives from DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. The UNA-NCA team met with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Legislative Associate Jason J. Spear and discussed the importance of the UN's Peacekeeping caucus, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), human rights and sustainable development goals in international relations. Our discussion was well received and we thank Jason J. Spear for his time and consideration. UNA-NCA is excited to continue to advocate and support the work of the United Nations with the tools and resources our chapter learned and practiced at advocacy day.

05 June 2015


UNA-NCA's Board of Directors adopted the following resolution to support United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which was presented and discussed at UNA-NCA's annual membership meeting.

                              UNA-NCA UNESCO Resolution

Urging Congress to Pass General Waiver Authority Enabling the President to Allow U.S. Funding of Multilateral Organizations where the Palestine Liberation Organization or its Affiliates are Members where such a Waiver is in the National Interest; and will ensure U.S. participation and leadership in multilateral organizations;

WHEREAS, in 1990, Congress passed a law--Title IV of P.L. 101-246-- stating that “no funds to be appropriated by this Act or any other shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as a member,” and in 1994, Congress broadened this prohibition to encompass “any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have internationally recognized attributes of statehood;”

WHEREAS, in October 2011, UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a member state, triggering a cut-off of U.S. funding, significantly impacting UNESCO’s core programs as the U.S. accounts for 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget of $80 million dollars annually;

WHEREAS, in 2013, the U.S. lost its vote in the General Conference, the first time in history that the U.S. has lost its vote in an international organization of which it is a member, and this year will likely lose its seat on the Executive Board, essentially forfeiting U.S. leadership to countries that may not share our priorities and values on such key programs as universal basic education, free press, empowering women and girls, and preserving antiquities;

WHEREAS, U.S. leadership at UNESCO serves our national interest in countless ways, including: (1) Combatting Terrorism by fighting the illicit trafficking in cultural objects, thus limiting terrorist financing and through its Conflict Prevention and Countering the Appeal of Terrorism program which includes a combination of education programs targeting youth online and off and through outreach to the community; (2) the 22 U.S. World Heritage Sites and potentially many more that generate tourism and create jobs and sustainable local economies; (3) the Tsunami Early Warning System that facilitates international cooperation in disaster risk reduction, saving thousands of lives; (4) championing free press, the safety of journalists, and internet freedom, (5) empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through literacy and education, (6) scientific cooperation in addressing water resource planning and capacity building, and (7) instilling democratic values and transparency in nation building;

WHEREAS, the Palestinian Authority, faced with the breakdown in peace talks with Israel, may accelerate full membership in a variety of multilateral organizations to increase its international legitimacy and recognition, including the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization, and other international organizations;

WHEREAS, curtailing U.S. funding, influence and voting in multilateral organizations that facilitate international cooperation in achieving vital U.S. interests is self- defeating and damaging to our economic and national security interests; and

WHEREAS, absent of a general waiver authority, the President is unable to protect the national interest by assuring U.S. participation and leadership in multilateral organizations that protect the health, safety and security of Americans, and by advancing such U.S. values as free speech and press, religious tolerance, transparent and accountable government and science-based decision-making;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area urges the President to consult with the leadership of Congress to pass an amendment to P.L. 101-246 that would authorize the President to grant a waiver of the provision prohibiting U.S. funding of international organizations that grant membership status or its equivalent to the Palestinian Authority where the exercise of such waiver is demonstrably in the U.S. national interest.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the United Nations Associations of the National Capital Area urges Congress to amend PL 101-246 authorizing the President to grant a waiver of the provision prohibiting U.S. funding of international organizations that grant membership status or its equivalent to the Palestinian Authority where the President determines that the signed waiver is demonstrably in the national interest and so informs Congress. 


05 June 2015

Peacekeeping: The UN’s Essential Mission

Ambassador George E. Moose's Annual Meeting Remarks

Ambassador Moose delivered the keynote address  to the Annual Meeting on Friday, June 5, focusing on the importance of peacekeeping operations.

George-E.-MooseHe is currently the Vice Chairman of the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Board of Directors, was a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, where he attained the rank of career ambassador. His service with the U.S. State Department included assignments in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Europe. He held appointments as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Benin (1983-86) and to the Republic of Senegal (1988-91). From 1991 to 1992, he was U.S. Alternate Representative to the United Nations Security Council. In 1993, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, a position he occupied until August 1997. From 1998 to 2001, he was U.S. Permanent Representative to the European Office of the United Nations in Geneva.

In June 2007, he was appointed by the White House to the Board of Directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace, where he now serves as vice-chair. He also serves on the boards of Search for Common Ground, the Atlantic Council, and Elderhostel. Since 2009, he has been an adjunct professor of practice at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.

Moose has a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Grinnell College, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate of laws. He is married to Judith Kaufmann, a former member of the U.S. Foreign Service and a current consultant on international health diplomacy. 

05 June 2015

Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman Awarded the Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award

Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman was awarded the 2015 UNA-NCA Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award during this year's Annual Membership Meeting, and spoke on the importance  of the United Nations and to its role in US foreign policy.

Princeton-Lyman_0He served as United States special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan from March 2011 to March 2013. As special envoy, he led U.S. policy in helping in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Ambassador Lyman previously held the position of Ralph Bunche Fellow for African Affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He was also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. From 1999 to 2003, he was executive director of the Global Interdependence Initiative at the Aspen Institute.

Ambassador Lyman’s previous career in government included assignments as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1981-1986), U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria (1986-1989), Director of Refugee Programs (1989-1992), U.S. Ambassador to South Africa (1992-1995), and Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (1996-1998). From 2008 to 2010, he was a member of the African Advisory Committee to the United States Trade Representative. He began his government career with the U.S. Agency for International Development and served as USAID director in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 1976 to 1978.

Ambassador Lyman is a member of several boards, including the National Endowment for Democracy, the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative, and the board on African Science Academy Development for the National Academy of Sciences. Ambassador Lyman serves on the UN Association of the National Capital Area’s Advisory Council and has been an active member and supporter of the association.

Ambassador Lyman has a PhD in political science from Harvard University, and has published several books and articles on foreign policy, African affairs, economic development, HIV/AIDS, U.N. reform, and peacekeeping. Most recently he has published several articles on Sudan and South Sudan.

04 June 2015

UNA-NCA Richard and Anne Griffis Program Leadership Award

Richard and Anne Griffis contributed greatly to furthering the cause of the United Nations Association for decades.

Richard was a lifelong supporter of human and civil rights for all. He served as President of the Connecticut chapter and, after relocating to DC, was actively involved with UNA-NCA, serving in several leadership positions. As Vice President for Programs, he played a critical role strengthening the work of program committees and integrating the organization’s growing network of young professionals. During his last years at UNA, Richard served as Chair of the Human Rights Committee and contributed greatly to the success of the annual Human Rights Awards program, presented every December.

Much like her husband, Anne Hungerford Griffis was a longtime member and supporter of the United Nations Association. She served as co-chair of UNA-NCA’s UN Week Committee, and represented Church Women United on the Executive Committee of UNA-USA’s Council of Organizations in Washington, DC. Anne is remembered as a devout advocate for women and children’s rights, as well as a supporter of the UNA-NCA Global Classrooms DC program.

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!

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