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20 June 2018

A Statement on the Occasion of World Refugee Day

By Stephen F. Moseley, President, UNA-NCA

Every year on June 20th, we celebrate the UN World Refugee Day. This year, we must stand up and speak out for the human rights of the more than 65 million refugees and displaced people. Most of these, nearly 80%, are refugees who have had to flee their homes, towns, and countries because of violent conflict and warring parties where there is no end in sight. Every day, we see on TV or read in the front page headlines the horrors of their plight in camps, on boats, on unstable rafts trying to find safety, food, and shelter. The wars that underpin this tragedy are now fueled by not-so-hidden competing big powers, particularly Russia and the U.S., and many state or national governments battling both their own citizens, and terrorist groups. The world's refugee crisis is made even more difficult by the increasingly immoral and illegal treatment of refugees at borders which often ends with the incarceration of women and children, who are usually already separated from their husbands and fathers, for months at a time.

Now in the U.S., the current practice is a cruel approach of deliberately separating desperate mothers from their babies and young children by placing them in separate detention centers in the U.S. This week we now see that after separating them, the mothers are then deported, leaving their children in cages and detention centers run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrols. The President and the Attorney General have issued a zero tolerance policy towards these women and children who have crossed our border out of desperation from Central and South America. The President says they might be criminals or terrorists, yet the pictures of this tragic and inhumane treatment of women, babies, and children ages 2 to 15, show that these are just immigrants seeking asylum in accordance with our laws, even if they have tried to enter the country openly or at night across borders. Ironically, many of today's migrants seeking to live peacefully in the U.S. would have been welcomed in any prior administration provided they had the opportunity to make their case. They would have been allowed to keep their children close, and in most cases start a path to good lives, and been a welcome worker and neighbor to all of us.

The scar upon America for this inhumane process will run deep for years to come due in part to the explosive fuel that is added to every discussion or reasonable attempt to find a better solution for America and these desperate people. We are in direct violation of international law for protection of refugees which the U.S. and most nations in the UN have signed.

In the wake of our invasion of Iraq more than 15 years ago on the grounds of fake facts from an earlier administration, there is now a flood of conflict through the Middle East. From Iran to Iraq to Syria to Yemen to Turkey and Lebanon, the United States and its key allies are not responsibly addressing these issues. Indeed, for nearly four years we turned a blind eye to one of the most desperate tragedies for the Rohingya people who fled under conditions of deliberate genocide from the Myanmar government forces.

Sadly on June 19th, the eve of World Refugee Day, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States will immediately withdraw from membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council. This is a decision that effectively abandons the serious attention given to major human rights abuses and the considerable progress in reforming and improving the Council made by the U.S. since re-joining in 2009.  

Today, all of us throughout the United States, and those of us who vigorously support the work of the UN, its Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the High Commissioner of Human Rights, must make our voices known to the Administration, to Congress and our State leaders. We must ensure that the U.S., no matter the challenges, must create a better immigration policy that serves our nation. We can never forgo our common dedication to human rights for all, and to our country's founding principles of commitment to everyone's dignity. Our country is stronger for being the land of immigrants and freedom.

20 June 2018

2018 Annual Membership Meeting

On Friday, June 8th, over 100 members, volunteers, and staff of UN Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) met at the United Nations Foundation for the 2018 Annual Membership Meeting. Guests heard from UNA-NCA President Stephen F. Moseley on the 2018 Annual Report and progress of UNA-NCA in the last year. This year’s keynote speaker was Gillian Sorensen, former Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations, who spoke on the need for continued support of the UN and the work on the current refugee crisis. Three awards were presented, as well as the announcement of the new members of the UNA-NCA Board of Directors.
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20 June 2018

Refugees: Why They Are Not An Economic Burden

June 19, 2018
By Prof. Hartwig de Haen and Richard Seifman (Board Member of UNA-NCA)
Globally, there are over 22 million refugees. This number is growing, with the majority of refugees concentrated in the Global South. Whether the result of natural or man made catastrophic events, refugees are usually cast as economic burdens for host countries – yet the facts provide conclusive evidence that they are not.

It is time to recast the economic discussion on refugees based on sound science.

Often national or local media and politicians fix on incomplete data or an incident that reflects badly on the “outsiders,” skewing the common perception and government response to refugees. Anti-refugee sentiments expressed recently in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Slovenia, and the United States are examples of this.

Our search for studies that assess whether refugees generate costs or benefits for host countries indicates that this research is largely limited to developed country cases. Few examinations take both short- and long-term views to determine the costs and benefits of integrating refugees into society.

Typically, public expenditure is used to determine costs, e.g., processing, accommodations, and provision of basic needs, including health, education, and social welfare, for refugees during the first years after entry into a country. A long-term view would include the costs to and benefits received directly or indirectly from refugees by the state.
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19 June 2018

UNA-NCA President Stephen F. Moseley Remarks from 2018 Annual Membership Meeting

Welcome to Members, Officers and Board members - continuing and newly elected - AC members, loyal donors, and friends and relations of UNANCA. First, a thanks to our sister organization the UN Foundation and our parent organization UNA-USA for their kind support to host us once again in their lovely building here on Pennsylvania Avenue. I’d also like to recognize Chris Whately and Rachel Pittman, if they are present.

Our meeting this evening is to mark yet another year of great accomplishment by our UNA-NCA Chapter in meeting our mission to inform the public, engage our members, reach out to our policy leaders here in our area of Maryland, Virginia and DC in the Congress and the administration to support the strong continuing bipartisan and nonpartisan engagement by the US with the UN.

You will read, in this Annual Report being presented here, that your association has been very active in many ways with its programs and by advocacy to accomplish this mission while giving special attention to the UN's leadership in human rights, sustainable development, international law, youth and student engagement through our Global Classrooms programs and in our Young Professionals programs. Paula and I have jointly signed our letter of the year to thank you, our colleagues and supporters. I want to recognize and thank my predecessors presidents Don Bliss, Karen Mulhauser, Ed Elmendorf and Edison Dick (who is not here tonight) for their continuing great efforts and support of the work we do.
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07 June 2018

The UN, Human Rights and Russia: Part IV

By: The UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee 

This is Part IV of a IV-Part Series which will be released on a weekly basis, and will detail Russia's human rights record in the United Nations. 

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) considered Russia’s human rights record at its May 2018 session. This review took place as part of the UNHRC’s third cycle of reviewing all Member States’ implementation of international human rights commitments through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism established after the 60thanniversary United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) summit. Most of the issues discussed in the remainder of this paper are not so much about the human rights situation in Russia itself but about the interplay between Russia and the UN’s human rights system. If you missed the previous part of the post please read it here (LINK).  

UNOHCHRHow have different parts of the UN human rights system (including the OHCHR, treaty bodies and special procedures as well as the Human Rights Council and other intergovernmental bodies) reacted to the information and inputs they have received from various sources, including the authorities as well as civil society groups and individuals, about alleged human rights violations in Russia? How has the Russian Government interacted with different parts of the UN human rights system? Most of the issues discussed in the remainder of this paper are not so much about the human rights situation in Russia itself but about the interplay between Russia and the UN’s human rights system. If you missed Part III of the post please read it here

The recent UPR discussions of Russian human rights performance and ongoing consideration of the Crimea human rights case are relatively unusual instances of the UN’s formal intergovernmental machinery devoting detailed attention to allegations of human rights violations in the Russian Federation or previously in the Soviet Union. Prior to 2014, for example, neither the USSR nor Russia was ever the subject of a UN human rights resolution specifically referring to developments which Moscow considered to fall under its sovereign authority. (The UN did repeatedly if indirectly condemn Soviet human rights violations in Afghanistan following the USSR’s 1979 invasion of that country, and on at least one occasion the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted criticism of human rights violations in Poland when it was a Soviet ally.)

While the UN’s intergovernmental bodies have for largely political reasons been unable to adopt many human rights decisions relating directly to Russia or the USSR, the performance of Russia (and previously the USSR) has regularly been reviewed both by treaty bodies established through the main UN human rights instruments.  In more recent years, Russia has occasionally been scrutinized by ad hoc or special mechanisms and procedures established to consider specific human rights issues (torture, involuntary disappearances, religious intolerance, freedom of assembly and association) and in a few cases Russia even invited those with such special mandates to visit their country. 

The history of interactions between UN human rights bodies and Russia is summarized on OHCHR’s website, which also contains links to reports from these bodies (some of which have been quite critical).[1]In line with its standard practice, in advance of the May 2018 UPR Working Group session on Russia, the OHCHR also prepared a compilation of all UN information on Russia’s human rights situation that has been issued by UN bodies over the past several years.[2]UN treaty bodies have played a quite active and serious role in examining and commenting on Russia’s record. For example, the latest report of the UN Human Rights Committee (the treaty body overseeing implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR)[3]provides a very thorough and critical survey of key concerns and makes extensive comments / recommendations about Russia’s human rights performance (including its responsibility for violations in occupied areas of Ukraine and in the North Caucasus, as well as a range of thematic issues including torture and violations of the rights of LGBTI persons).[4]

It is notable, however, that Russia’s voluntary cooperation with UN “special procedures” has been limited and is now almost non-existent. For example, a UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges visited Russia in 2008 and 2013, issuing fairly direct and substantive reports, and a number of other mandate holders paid visits to Russia prior to 2014. However, the only recent UN human rights mandate holder allowed to visit Russia has come to address the issue of “Unilateral coercive measures” – a human rights “special procedure” opposed by Western countries, because it is intended mainly to criticize the alleged human rights impact of punitive sanctions (such as those imposed against Russia for its annexation of Crimea). Russia is not one of the 118 UN Member States that have issued standing invitations for any of the special procedures to visit their country without limitation;[5]in recent years Russia has either rejected or failed to respond to requests to visit the country issued by a range of UN mandate holders on such topics as torture, freedom of assembly, disappearance, human rights defenders, extrajudicial executions, and arbitrary detention.[6]

Finally, one indicator of Russia’s evolving approach to UN human rights machinery may be the evolution of its willingness to accept a long-term OHCHR presence in the country. The OHCHR website tells a story of expanding cooperation and even a joint program of activities between the OHCHR and Russia as late as 2007-2016, involving the presence in Russia of a Senior Human Rights Advisor and a small office representing OHCHR. The Russian Government advised the OHCHR in 2016, however, that the services of its office were no longer needed. The OHCHR reports, without comment, that “the function of the Senior Human Rights Adviser was discontinued in May 2016”.[7]

05 June 2018

Sustaining Access to Clean Water In Haiti

By Jordan Walker, Member, UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee

“Haiti is the poorest country in the West,” or “they have nothing” is so untrue and does not recognize the complexities of the Haitian people.

The United Nations has 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 6 is to ensure the availability and sustainability of clean water and sanitization to all. Since the tragic earthquake in 2010 that destroyed most of Haiti’s underground pipes, Haiti’s most urgent need has been access to clean water and health resources to treat and prevent Cholera. In 2010, UN peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti, and it spiked soon after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Since then, cholera has killed more than 10,000 Haitians, and and over 800,000 are still infected. Haiti on its own lacks the fundamental public health resources and funds to solve the issue on their own.

On May 23rd, 2018, Ms. Farah Faroul, a young Haitian-American and an active member of the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee shed light on the clean water crisis in Haiti by leading a discussion among four panelists who all take on an very active roles as part of the movement toward Goal #6. The panelists all have impressive professional roots in non-profit and grassroots advocacy organizations that attempt to educate and, more importantly, implement resilient change in Haiti’s infrastructure.

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31 May 2018

The UN, Human Rights and Russia: Part III

By: The UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee

This is Part III of a IV-Part Series which will be released on a weekly basis, and will detail Russia's human rights record in the United Nations.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) considered Russia’s human rights record at its May 2018 session. This review took place as part of the UNHRC’s third cycle of reviewing all Member States’ implementation of international human rights commitments through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism established after the 60thanniversary United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) summit. Most of the issues discussed in the remainder of this paper are not so much about the human rights situation in Russia itself but about the interplay between Russia and the UN’s human rights system. If you missed the previous part of the post please read it here

The UN’s Universal Periodic Review of Russian human rights performance 

UPR_InfographicHow have various stakeholders, including human rights defenders and other civil society groups, attempted to use the UN human rights system (especially the Universal Periodic Review mechanism) to draw attention to the human rights situation in Russia? How has the Russian Government reacted?

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31 May 2018

New co-Chair Spotlight: Sergio Martinez

Please meet our new Sustainable Development Committee Co-Chair, Sergio Martinez!

Sergio_Martinez_-_Headshot_PhotoSergio Martinez is an economist and young professional with more than five years of experience in evaluation, research and strategic analysis of development and business projects across multiple sectors. His projects have covered several areas concerning the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ranging from education and economic growth to peace and security, to clean energy and climate change. He is currently a research and data analysis consultant at the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie Impact) and Equilo – a web-based app for customized gender analysis and action plans, where he actively contributes to generating evidence-based policy-making strategies and development analytics tools for international development projects. 
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