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27 October 2016

Looking at the Legacy of Ban Ki-moon and the Challenges Facing the Next Secretary-General

 

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On October 18th, 2016, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) celebrated the 71st anniversary of the United Nations and UN Day with a program that set forth the accomplishments of Ban Ki-moon as the outgoing Secretary-General and discussed the challenges and opportunities of António Guterres, the newly appointed Secretary General and former High Commissioner for Refugees and Prime Minister of Portugal. The program was officiated by UNA-NCA president, Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), with keynote remarks from the Honorable Robert C. Orr and an engaging conversation with Dr. Esther Brimmer and Mr. Joshua Black. The program was supported by a large number of distinguished leaders and former ambassadors as part of our UN Day Host Committee. The event was sponsored and hosted by the National Education Association.

2Following a lively reception, UNA-NCA Board member Jill Christianson of the National Education Association, opened the program recalling the Mohawks’ belief in the seven generations; that we cannot move forward without acknowledging where we have been.

During his welcome remarks, Ambassador Bliss emphasized that “During this time of transition in the leadership of both the United Nations and the United States, the work of UNA-NCA has never been more critical. As it was in 1945, US leadership is essential to an effective and efficient United Nations, and that requires strong public and policymaker support for the UN’s mission.”

The Honorable Robert C. Orr, Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, served as under UN Secretary-General for Ban Ki-moon as special adviser for climate change, and also as part of the transition team from previous Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In Dean Orr’s eyes, we can’t underestimate the role leadership plays in shaping world events.

"Legacy matters. Leadership matters." The Honorable Dean Robert Orr on the legacy of Ban Ki-moon.
 
4Dean Orr summed up the legacy of Ban Ki-moon’s tenure as Secretary-General of the UN with two key contributions: the Paris Agreement on climate change and the framework on the Sustainable Development Goals. Upon taking office, Ban Ki-moon had asked Dean Orr if there was any issue on which the Secretary-General could move. Dean Orr responded that climate change was the number one issue that needed the attention and focus of the office. Despite not knowing much about climate change coming into office, Ban Ki-moon studied the subject relentlessly upon becoming Secretary-General. In his tenure, he strongly advocated for a global solution to climate change and was a catalyst for global agreements. “The seeds of Paris were sowed in Copenhagen.” Dean Orr said that without Ban Ki-moon and the leadership of the Obama Administration, there would be no climate agreement.
Ban Ki-moon also established a global transparent process to follow up 0n the Millennium Development Goals, inviting the participation the world’s citizens, civil society and the private sector in shaping the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs), which were unanimously adopted by the member states in the General Assembly in September of last year. The aspirational goals of the SDGs are much more ambitious than the MDGs. Both Ban Ki-moon and Dean Orr stressed that these goals must be achieved through a connected multi-stakeholder approach. Under Ban Ki-moon, the space for academia, business, and finance in “the room” has increased dramatically.

Additional contributions under Ban Ki-moon’s tenure include strengthening intergovernmental space for Human Rights and bringing Asia in from the cold. Ban revitalized Human Rights as a focus of the United Nations, including the establishments of the Human Rights Council and promoting the human rights and quality of LGBTQ individuals worldwide. A strong advocate for gender equality, he established UN Women to bring focus to the UN’s work in this area. Being Korean, Ban Ki-moon can be credited with bringing Asia into the largely Trans-Atlantic UN and bringing the UN to Asia.
 
When it comes to peace building and counterterrorism, we are much better off than we were a decade ago, but there is always more work to do. Dean Orr commented that “.500 is a great average in baseball, but horrible in war and peace.”
 
Looking forward, António Guterres faces the largest refugee crisis since WWII but he is highly qualified for the job as former head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Guterres will bring new energy to the problems in Syria and Middle East. As the world changes quickly, the UN must change accordingly. Internal operations and systems need to be strengthened. Geopolitics are changing. We need to bring all the actors into the fold; strengthening the UN’s commitment to security and investment. Guterres will need a highly innovative, multi-stakeholder approach to address such extreme threats to international peace and security.
 
5Dr. Brimmer, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, acknowledged several other concerns for Guterres as he takes office in January: member states shirking their duties; power competition between member states; and anti-globalization. She highlighted the importance of the US role in UN challenges and opportunities. “They [the Security Council] actually selected a former head of government,” further encouraging the rise of stakeholders. Dr. Brimmer also touched on the importance of evolution of the UN and the need of multilateral reform moving forward.
 
Mr. Joshua Black’s connections to the UN and the UNA go back 17 years when he was an intern for the UN Association. His interests and work have brought him full circle. He is now the Director of Multilateral Affairs at the White House on the staff of the National Security Council.
 
Black described the new transparent process of selecting the Secretary General and the way the White House assessed the experience and qualifications of the 13 applicants. While there were excellent women candidates, he felt that the Security Council consistently came together on the most qualified person for the job with substantial UN experience and the first former head of state to assume the post. He confirmed that there was not a backroom deal and that it was refreshing to see the US, Russia and the other Security Council members come together so quickly in consensus.
In the context of other US-Russia relationships, Black expressed concern that the rules of international conflict and engagement are being abused. Among the challenges for the next Secretary General, he stated that Guterres must address these issues of morality (i.e. attacking schools and hospitals, chemical/biological warfare, etc.).
 
Mr. Black articulated his hopes that the next administration will make us excited about the United Nations again and the ideas and the values of the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A thoroughly engaged audience asked a number of important questions, including efforts we can take to encourage a more cooperative, collaborative Security Council:

-How do we encourage a more cooperative, collaborative Security Council?

-In the face of an unprecedented call for a female Secretary-General, what will Guterres do for
gender equality?
 
In response to a question concerning Guterres’ efforts for gender equality in the face of an unprecedented call for a female Secretary-General, Dean Orr asserted that Guterres will be an important champion for women in the UN, but also recognized the amount of work that remains. “I hope people say: ‘Wow!’ He gets the issue on women.”
 
We must look for continued opportunities for collaboration and bring all parties together on common ground. The UN belongs to everyone.



26 October 2016

Kingdom of Norway Awarded for UN Advocacy for LGBTQ Rights


On October 21st at Arlington Unitarian Universalist Church, the United Nations Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UNO) bestowed its annual award on the Kingdom of Norway for its longstanding support of United Nations advocacy for LBGTQ rights. UNO has long worked with the United Nations to advance human rights, including the rights of  LGBTQ community, and Norway has long supported UN human rights advocacy and funded the United Nations staff working on this issue. UNO Director, Bruce Knotts recounted UNO’s sometimes lonely advocacy over the years.  The award was accepted by Norway’s Ambassador to the United States, Kare R. Aas, who spoke eloquently about Norway’s commitment to human rights. UNA-NCA was represented by its president, Ambassador Don Bliss (ret.)



26 October 2016

UN Day Celebration at the Residence of the Colombian Ambassador


c1On October 20th, UNA-NCA celebrated UN Day again at the beautiful residence of the Ambassador from Colombia near 
DuPont Circle. In partnership with the Embassy Series and the Colombian Embassy, UNA-NCA dedicated the concert program to the United Nations 71st Anniversary. Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzon spoke about Colombia’s longstanding support of the United Nations, as an original signer of the UN Charter. He expressed appreciation for the UN’s support of the peace agreement signed  between the government and the FARC, despite the recent public referendum which rejected the agreement by a half percent. The peace process continues, however.

Jerome Barry, Director and Founder of the Embassy Series, then introduced UNA-NCA’s president, Ambassador Don Bliss (ret.), who congratulated Colombia’s president, Juan Manual Santos,  for his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, affirming that world  peace is the primary mission of the United Nations. Ambassador Bliss then pointed out that the previous Tuesday the UN Security Council had directed the new UN Mission for Colombia, as requested by the Colombian president,  to assist in maintaining the continuation of the ceasefire, and that the Security Council members had called for all the parties to continue the momentum to see the peace process through to completion.
 
c3Bliss then described the work of UN peacekeepers globally and the work of the United Nations in providing humanitarian
assistance to 70 million refugees and displaced persons and others in need due to manmade and natural catastrophes, in advancing economic development through the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, unanimously approved by the General Assembly, and in advocating for human rights, including the rights of women and the LBGT community. Recognizing that with the appointment of a new Secretary general and the election of a new US president and Congress, this is a critical time of transition in US-UN relationships, Bliss welcomed support for UNA-NCA’s programs to increase public awareness of the importance of US  leadership and that of other strong democracies like Colombia in ensuring the effectiveness of the United Nations in future decades.

The Ambassadors’ remarks were followed by a splendid concert by Colombian artists, guitarist Nilko Andres Guarin, Guitarist,  and Melanie Genin, Harpist, who played a diverse repertoire that included several Colombian classical composers and traditional bambuco dance music. As demonstrated by the Embassy Series diversified programs, music is indeed the international language.

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20 October 2016

Amb. Don Bliss (ret) review: Strengthening the United Nations' Peace and Security Mandate

Here is an advance copy of an article by our President, Amb. Don Bliss (ret.) which will appear in the November issue of The Ambassador's Review, a publication of the Council of American Ambassadors, of which Don is a member of the Board of Directors. This article is about strengthening the UN’s peace and security mandate and represents his views and not the official position of UNA-NCA. Please feel free to share it with your colleagues while referencing.

Read the article here. 



12 October 2016

Laurence Peters Writes Review for "UN Association-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action"

UN Association-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action, by James Wurst
Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc. 2016

By Laurence Peters, UNA-NCA Fellows Program Director

UN Association-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action should be essential reading for anyone who wants to go beyond our common and superficial accounts of the United Nations. It becomes apparent from Wurst's detailed and scholarly narrative, the World War II leaders who founded the UN could not have done so, and kept it going, without the support of a broad swathe of public opinion that supported their aims and objectives in forming the world body in the ashes of World War II. For them, it was clear that America's failure to support the League of Nations together with its isolationist foreign policy was directly responsible for the resultant horror and suffering that occurred between 1939 and 1945. They also knew that if the new organization was to work and achieve its goals that it could not be seen by the public as a way to cement a pax americana but had to be truly constituted as a world body. This meant that the public had to be made aware of a broader vision for the body requiring the mounting of an unprecedented political and educational campaign to support the UN as a means to end the scourge of war and to prevent a cataclysmic confrontation between the two superpowers of the time, the US and the USSR. Enter the American Association for the UN (AAUN), the predecessor organization to the UNA-USA. What Wurst does remarkably well is to show how UNA-USA has been a vital element in keeping US public opinion on the side of the new body, as the organization was forming, after the body started to lose some of its luster in the 1960s, and beyond as it began to grapple with the realities of the cold war and beyond.

The book reminds us that the UN's existence and continuing relevance depend to a remarkable extent on the support of American public opinion. For several reasons, the US remains the world's indispensable power both from an economic and military perspective and its membership on the P-5 means that it can strongly influence the UN Security Council as we have seen in the case of Iraq to see issues from its perspective in a way that no other nation can. A third reason is that the UN is housed in New York City symbolizing the fact that the US was the power that pushed for its creation from the beginning as it had done with respect to the League of Nations before the US Senate felt otherwise and rejected ratifying its Charter to the world's dismay and great cost. No historical understanding of the UN is thus complete without a reference to the way UNA-USA, through its affiliate chapters, has attempted to ensure that US public opinion both understands the need for the UN and supports its more than $3 billion contribution to the organization. To uncover that history requires the skills of both a journalist and a historian as much of the source material lies in what historians like to call fugitive documents--pamphlets, minutes of meetings, obscure archival material, and interviews with original founding members such as 94 year old Dorothy Robbins-Mowry who started working with the League of Nations Association (LNA) on education programs in 1942 and later worked on the first Model UN program.

The book is divided into two sections – The first chapters follow the decade by decade growth of UNA detailing the work of various officers and committees, and the second part is a reflective look at some major themes such as the involvement of the private sector, UNA's involvement in human rights, and UNA's education programs. The two approaches complement each other nicely but there is some overlap. Each chapter is scholarly but the early narrative-based chapters are on the whole far more readable and accessible to a non-scholarly audience than the later ones that sometimes get too mired in the source material to be of much benefit to the non-specialist. There are also some gaps in coverage, one would, for example, like more information on the significant contribution of UNA-USA to the development and establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the further contribution the association made to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The real value of the book is to provide us with a very detailed portrait of how vital UNA-USA has been to the US, maintaining its involvement in an organization that throughout much of its short history had to navigate its way through some serious ideological headwinds that often threatened US support. It's clear that UNA-USA has been fortunate in its choice of leadership. From the very early days the organization has been blessed to have some remarkable men and women at its helm and many chapters of the book highlight in some detail their various skill sets and accomplishments. Chapter one for example, allows us to glimpse the greatness of two of the organization's' founding members, Clark Eichelberger a former League of Nations Association executive, and James Shotwell a US delegate to the 1919 Paris Peace conference and the author of the charter of the International Labour Organization (ILO). We learn how these two different personalities worked together to achieve their objectives to found a world body that could effectively succeed the League of Nations and cajole President Roosevelt as well as those within his inner circle concerning the idea's viability. The narrative is able to reveal, by detailing the work of UNA-USA's forerunner organization, the League of Nations Association (LNA), what is often not appreciated that the work of expanding American's basically isolationist view of the world predates the UN.

The two men most closely identified as being there at the creation, Eichelberger and Shotwell were closely tied in to the foreign policy establishment, and to most critically FDR whom Eichelberger met eight times between 1936 and 1945 seeking to engage him on the issue of creating an international organization. As a measure of his success, the new president after Roosevelt's death filled his first cabinet with Wilsonians--Cordell Hunt as Secretary of State and Undersecretary Sumner Welles among others. From the start, Eichelberger and Shotwell were painfully aware of the reasons why the League of Nations failed and were eager to make sure that any new organization avoided the same mistakes. At the front and center of their minds was the need to build support for a broader and more international American outlook. During the 1930s and 40s, they were active in helping to create a range of organizations such as the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA) and worked to defeat the neutrality acts. Both Eichelberger and Shotwell knew that in order to stay viable they needed to ensure any movement behind an alternative to the League needed to be both nonpartisan, and grassroots based.

What also comes through this history is how important human rights were to the rank and file of the American Association for the UN. If there was one unifying emotion that united people across the globe it was the revulsion to the genocidal efforts of the Axis powers to wipe out entire non-Aryan peoples and to commit devilish atrocities to achieve their ends. This meant that governments could not be trusted to preserve these rights and that they had to be enshrined in the UN Charter and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It meant too that in the first years of the organization's existence that decolonization had to be high on the agenda. "Freedom," Eichelberger memorably wrote, "cannot be rationed." It became startlingly clear to the big powers at the 1945 San Francisco meeting that self-government of their former colonies was now an inevitable part of the global community they had agreed to become part of, and they had again in Eichelberger's words signed onto the "eventual doom of the colonial system" by signing onto the Charter. None of this of course was a foregone conclusion, and Wurst properly describes the specific UN-related impact of figures such as William E B. Dubois, head of the NAACP, in uniting global public opinion against former colonial powers being licensed to continue their old exploitative systems in the post war period.

Despite the fact that by September 1947, 85 percent of people viewed the UN favorably (according to Gallup polling in 1947), many feared that as the cold war set in the fledgling organization would lose support. Much of the work of the AAUN was to continue to help the US resist the calls of isolationism and to help frame an acceptable view of internationalism that could not be branded as too liberal or partisan for the times. Wurst shows us how this challenge was met by discussing the way a roster of celebrities were employed to make sure that Americans retained their positive image of the UN. Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Myrna Loy, and the incomparable Danny Kaye with respect to UNICEF were all employed to make sure that people regarded the UN in a favorable light. Even Oscar Hammerstein II, the composer of musicals that celebrated international understanding such as The King and I and South Pacific, was able to give a rousing defense of the UN to Edward R Murrow. The AAUN never got branded as "Red" and in fact went on the offensive calling for the UN Charter to be used as legal authority to decide two important Supreme Court racial discrimination cases. In both cases the Supreme Court upheld the AAUN view and ruled that restrictive covenants that barred African Americans from owning their own homes in certain areas were indeed unconstitutional.

We learn more fascinating episodes in the life of the UNA and its predecessor organization the AAUN in a subsequent chapter contributed by Dulcie Leimbach, a fellow of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). Leimbach writes that when Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the US mission in 1952 she almost immediately showed up for volunteer work at AAUN's New York headquarters causing Clark Eichelberger, the organization's executive director, to "almost fall off his chair." She worked for nearly 10 years as a volunteer helping Eichelberger double the number of chapters--her vision was to "bring to the people of the United States a fundamental knowledge on all UN activities." As well as raising funds for the organization, speaking, lobbying the Congress, and recruiting powerful names to the AAUN board, she continued to write her My Day column! It was an incredible workload driven by her passionate desire to make the UN not just her husband's great legacy, which it was, but her own as well. Her aim was always a bipartisan effort to "get more truthful information about the United Nations into the hands of the people and to get what help we can from the people's organizations." Leimbach helps us see in this chapter how Roosevelt saw the AAUN in expansive terms as a "mass membership organization" one that should include labor unions as well as local civil society.

The Eleanor Roosevelt period from 1953-1962 witnesses the growth of the citizen organization as it wove itself deeply into the country's political fibers managing to build to a membership organization of more than 42,000 members. The organization was a stable part of the political firmament and ready to deal with the challenges posed by the 1970s which increasingly involved the US not willing to pay its dues to the UN, due in part to the General Assembly vote equating Zionism and Racism. The UNA opposed the resolution but the anti-UN sentiment that it spawned made the effort a highly challenging effort for everyone involved. Enter Ambassador Elliot Richardson, who held the chairmanship of the UNA-USA Board. Equipped with impeccable brahim and Republican foreign policy credentials, he helped fend off some of the worst of the right wing attacks and helped preserve most of the US contribution to UN funding. Among the innovations following the standoffs in funding in the 1980s and 90s was the "Day on the Hill." It was the brainchild of John C Whitehead, a former Reagan appointed deputy secretary of state, and the director of the UNA office in Washington, Steven Dimoff. It worked brilliantly for both sides, allowing motivated UNA members from far and wide to lobby their Members of Congress and allowing their representatives in turn to grasp the passions that the UN stirred in their constituents. The next major event in UNA-USA history was the gift for UN causes made by Ted Turner who was moved to provide one billion dollars the amount that the US was in arrears for its share of UN contribution as a result of Senator Jesse Helms refusal to approve UN funding. Wurst tells the story of how, because the funds could not be given directly to the UN, the UN Foundation had to be created to receive the donation

Among the many insights the book provides into some dark historical corridors is the way UNA-USA led the way to ease tensions between the US and the Soviet Union. The idea begun in the late 1960s was to host a "Parallel Studies Program" in which experts would discuss key topics such as nuclear nonproliferation. Other innovations followed, including scholarly symposia and the United Nations Year of "Dialogue Among Civilizations" that took advantage of the Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Khatami a multilateral initiative aimed at better understanding on a number of important issues including terrorism and international security in a post 9/11 world. The effort required a significant amount of UNA-USA participation and opened up some intriguing possibilities that UNA-USA might want to attempt in the future. The turn of the century saw UNA-USA support a range of creative ideas to support key UN humanitarian issues that resonated with their members, a notable success in this area was the movement to clear and ban landmines. Landmine kits were distributed to 177 chapters and divisions.

In the later chapters that address thematic elements, including "Leadership Challenges across the Decades," important but more in house issues are addressed such as the perennial issue of fundraising, the sometimes vexed relationship of the national office to the local chapters, and the negotiations that led to the creation of the alliance between the UN Foundation and UNA-USA. Other chapters focus on UNA-USA's education outreach, which started earlier than most people might have thought. The first annual school essay competition began in 1945 when 1,400 public high schools enrolled in the contest and developed rapidly but then was phased out after reaching its nadir in the 1980s with the award of cash prizes. Only the UNA Global Classroom program has managed to withstand the test of time and has remained the core activity of some UNA chapters as Model UN programs. A last chapter in the history book provides more detailed information on the alliance between the UN Foundation and the UNA-USA and suggests that time will work its magic and the alliance will more effectively represent the views of UNA-USA members. In that same chapter are useful reflections on the generational shift in membership that currently confronts the organization. As Chris Whately, the executive director of UNA-USA, reports a concerted effort to increase youth membership has worked, with 60 percent of its current 14,000 members younger than 25. The chapter ends on a hopeful note--that the organization's consistent vision from the beginning, "the promotion of internationalism in the United States, with the United Nations as a primary vehicle for the country's foreign relations" has been a success. The UNA has been blessedly free from controversies effectively straddling the line between supporting the UN and supporting a more traditional, bilaterally oriented foreign policy. It continues to reach out to schools and colleges and has become more diverse reflecting the nation's changing demographics. The organization now more strategically picks its targets concerning where it wants to focus its considerable energies--as the idea of the UN as a single global institution that can save mankind from extinction no longer excites people as much as viewing the UN's work in terms of single issues such as the fight against climate change.

At the close of reading this volume that runs to 336 densely written pages, one is left with a feeling of gratitude to a wide variety of Americans who volunteered to become part of this organization that is still going strong 70 years after its founding. Those teaching the UN or international diplomacy would do well to put this volume on their own and their students' reading list because it presents a much fuller picture of the way an institution as large as the UN has depended on ordinary men and women for its survival and growth. It shows the way three generations since the organization's founding have responded to the particular American challenge of ensuring the UN survives for another 70 years and can effectively fulfill its mission to end the scourge of war.



11 October 2016

Advocate for Gender Equality in DC

Be a part of UNA-NCA's efforts to implement CEDAW in the District!

The UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was signed by President Carter in 1980 but has not yet been ratified by the US Senate. The United States remains one of only six UN member states to have failed to ratify the Convention.

UNA-NCA and its DC Committee on Cities for CEDAW are organizing an awareness and advocacy campaign combined with a series of public education forums to encourage citywide legislation to ensure equality for women and girls in the economic, political, social, and cultural arenas. The first public education event was held on November 10, 2015, and examined the rights of sexual assault victims in the District of Columbia. The second forum was February 9 and covered employment equality, equal pay, and the Family and Medical Leave Bill. The third in the series is on May 9 to address health issues, including reproductive health, infant mortality and HIV.

In the meantime, you can join our efforts to advocate for gender equality. We hope there will be a hearing before the DC Council Judiciary Committee and a vote this year, but this is only possible if we show how much equality means to our community!

We have written several sample letters that you can send to your councilmembers. To determine what Ward you live or work in, check out this map. At Large councilmembers represent all Wards.

For DC Residents:

 For Non-DC Residents:

      • Letter 3 should be sent to any councilmembers from non-DC residents who work in the District or are otherwise interested in the legislation.

Join us on Social Media

You can also help us spread the word on Twitter and Facebook using @unanca and #DC4CEDAW. Tweet directly at your councilmembers to tell them you support CEDAW in the District:
      • Phil Mendelson (Chair)
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06 October 2016

UNA-NCA President Makes Statement on new UN Secretary-General


You have probably heard in the news that the Security Council has recommended Antonio Guterres as the next Secretary General. As a former Prime Minister of Portugal and for ten years (until last December) UN High Commissioner of Refugees, Guterres is highly qualified for this position. He has led in every straw poll conducted by the Security Council. The General Assembly will now vote on the appointment.

There are some who are disappointed that the Security Council has not recommended a woman for Secretary General, and there were several highly qualified women who were proposed by their governments and appeared before the General Assembly in this unprecedented transparent process. Both the United States and Russia had initially expressed a preference for a woman candidate. A late entrant, Kristalina Georgieva, spoke eloquently to UNA-NCA members recently at a program cosponsored by the US Institute of Peace. However, after considering the vision statements and testimony of a large group of well qualified candidates, the Security Council, including all P-5 members, agreed that Guterres represented the strongest choice. His record as a Prime Minister and as High Commissioner for Refugees (facing the enormously challenging surge of refugees and displaced persons) demonstrates strong leadership skills, a commitment to uplift the most vulnerable populations, and an advocate for human rights. Guterres has indicated that he plans to appoint women to key positions at the UN as was his practice at UNHCR.

The Security Council is to be commended for respecting the transparent process initiated by the General Assembly, a stark departure from past secretive practices. The announcement was made by Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Representative on the Security Council who holds the presidency during the month of October. Russia yielded on its preference (following the past practice of geographical rotation) for an Eastern European, of which there were many qualified candidates, and even supported a candidate from a NATO member. Despite the strong differences these days among the P-5, it is gratifying to see that a consensus was reach early and apparently easily, paving the way for a smooth transition.

Guterres is well known and liked by co-workers at the United Nations, including former Under Secretary Robert Orr, the keynote speaker at the UNA NCA celebration on October 18th at the National Education Association. Orr is uniquely qualified to offer insights on Guterres approach to what the first Secretary General, Trygve Lie called "the world's most impossible job."

Don Bliss

Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)
President,
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area



04 October 2016

UNA-NCA Hosts Event on Advancing Human Rights in China

On September 27, 2016, UNA-NCA and Freedom House held the event -- Advancing Human Rights: The United Nations and China.

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UNA-NCA President Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret) gave welcoming and concluding remarks.

Dr. Yang Jian Li, President of Initiative for China, Dr. Xiao R. Li, and Dr. Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Right Watch participated in a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Mark P. Lagon, Professor from Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Main topics discussed by panelists included: How does China position itself in the UN? What kind of UN mechanism can help advance human rights in China? What multilateral effort within the UN can call attention to the human rights situation in China?

Dr. Mark P. Lagon began his moderation by saying that he hoped this panel discussion could provide some of the useful tools of the UN to raise up the voice of civil society activists and defenders of human rights. During the panel discussion, most panelists stressed that in the past 40 years, China’s posture of its human rights issues has been primarily defensive but this trend may change given the fact that China has been more involved in global issues in recent years.

Dr. Xiao R. Li shared several stories that demonstrated the severe deterioration of human rights in China. Dr. Yang Jian Li pointed out that generally speaking, the people of China have very positive views and high expectation of the UN and its leading role in global affairs but most Chinese people don’t know much about the UN human rights mechanism, through which they can be helped.

Dr. Sophie Richardson took a different perspective and mentioned that UN agencies with their country offices in China are incredibly restricted of what they are allowing to do in China regarding human rights issues. The best way to advance human rights in China which was agreed by most panelists, is to educate Chinese people about the UN human rights mechanism and advocate the need for collective democracy to stand up for human rights in China.

We are very grateful to all the panelists for sharing their insights and experience, and to Freedom House for its partnership.

To watch the event video, click here.

See all the photos for the event here.

Photos are courtesy of Daniel Gong, Initiative for China.




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