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09 November 2016

What's In a Story?

by Heather Hill, Co-Chair, Human Rights Committee


Last week, members and friends of the UNA-NCA celebrated an incredible legacy together at the book launching of UNA-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action."

The UNA-USA and its predecessor, the American Association for the United Nations, have been around since before the actual birth of the United Nations itself. Members and leaders over the years have made remarkable contributions to humankind through their input into and advocacy for the UN Charter and subsequent global policies and recommendations. They have also actively taken on issues of great consequence to the world today, tackling issues of human rights, of environmental accountability, of education and access and health.

UNA-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action documents this outstanding legacy with pieces from previously unpublished letters, documents, images, and interviews. This project was initiated and directed by former UNA-USA President and CEO, Edward Elmendorf. James Wurst, a UN journalist and analyst of much renown, took the lead on writing, in collaboration with Dulcie Leimbach of Pass-Blue, who joined the project as editor and fellow researcher. The Tuesday night event included a reception, book signing, remarks from all the contributors as well as current UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley and UNA-NCA President, former US Ambassador Donald Bliss, and a panel discussion and question time with the audience.

"It's remarkable, the influence that individuals [in UNA-USA] had with almost no recognition," Wurst commented in his remarks. And indeed, the pages of the book teem with stories of tireless advocacy, wearying travel, and little reward beyond the personal satisfaction that UNA-USA members and leaders over the years found in their mission and their efforts. In fact, it is notable that at the beginning, the UNA-USA executive director had a number of meetings with President Roosevelt, working closely with him towards the creation of what became the United Nations.

One of the most wonderful aspects of the event was the clear understanding that this book will not be the "Complete" history of UNA-USA, but rather, an incredibly inspiring collection of stories leading up to these past few years. Already, there are more stories to be written and more currently unfolding as the chapters of UNA-USA are alive across the States and UNA's in different countries - span across the world. It was inspiring, not only to hear some of the stories from history at this event, which I promptly dived into, but to know that the room was full of people who are continuing this history. A UNA-USA history at Seton Hall University will enrich the history further with UNA-USA documents and transcriptions of interviews undertaken for the book. Further oral history contributions are planned. 

"You know it. You lived it. You made it happen. - This is your history," Wurst stated, and he is right. The book is surprising, fascinating, and deeply inspiring--and the time is still ours. UNA-USA is the story of absolutely ordinary people doing extraordinary things together. That's inspiring in itself, and that is why I am proud to be a member, proud to belong to such an auspicious group of dedicated civilians and public servants, and proud to be part of the legacy--the ongoing history--outlined in the book.

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03 November 2016

Support a Global Classrooms DC Delegate!

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With the help of over 70 volunteers from local universities and organizations, this past year Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) is seeing tangible benefits in our communities, particularly a rise in global consciousness among students in the DC Metro Area. The efforts by educators and students culminated in our Annual Spring Model UN Conference at the U.S. Department of State and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), where students had the opportunity to discuss complex global issues. Read more about the GCDC program in the 2015-2016 GCDC Annual Report.

Moving forward, we want to continue offering the next generation the skills needed to better navigate an increasingly complex and interdependent world. As a result, we are welcoming new staff and initiatives for the upcoming year.

Curriculum for 2016-2017

Students will discuss and learn about important international issues including access to primary education, rising sea levels (climate change), human rights of refugees, technology for sustainable city development, the situation in Somalia, and preventing violent extremism. Our annual Model UN conference at the U.S. Department of State will take place on May 2, 2017.

Luis F. Mendez

GCDC welcomes Luis F. Mendez, Una Chapman Cox Fellow, and U.S. Foreign Service Officer, to our team for the 2016 – 2017 school year. Luis recently served at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, and has overseas experience in Senegal, Morocco, and Ghana. During the school year, Luis will be discussing the importance of Model United Nations and serving as a mentor to selected schools, sharing his experience as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, and professional mentoring for students interested in pursuing similar careers.

GCDC: Support-a-Delegate

Last year, 43% of our students attended Title 1 schools in Washington DC, coming from low-income families and qualifying for reduced-lunch programs. We understand that individuals and organizations are stretched for resources and that learning extends outside of the classroom. These opportunities, including Model UN Conferences, are provided through GCDC to public and public charter school students in the DC area for little to no cost

Through our new initiative, Support a Delegate, new and loyal donors of GCDC can continue supporting students, educators, and classrooms in the DC Metro Area. Donation levels start at $20, and each donation through the Support a Delegate program receives a unique acknowledgement, including handwritten letters from students and educators, social media recognition, and invitations to our Model UN Conferences and other program activities.

Support a Student

For only $75 you can cover the cost of a student’s delegate fee for our Annual Spring Model UN Conference at the U.S. Department of State on May 2, 2017. This conference gives students the opportunity to discuss current international issues as a UN delegate, interact with over 500 students from different schools in the US and abroad, and strengthen their speaking, writing, and conflict resolution skills through Model UN.

How can I donate?

Every donation helps and is incredibly appreciated. Your support provides students unique opportunities to gain knowledge from experienced practitioners, and attend programs designed to strengthen key skills and test their knowledge of international affairs. You can donate online through Razoo or send a check made out to the "United Nations Association of the National Capital Area" or "UNA-NCA" Memo: GCDC Support a Delegate.

How can I volunteer?

We are always looking for volunteers to serve as Model UN Mentors, Classroom speakers, or support us at our Model UN Conferences. For more information please contact GCDC at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or 202.223.6092

We look forward to the upcoming year, and all of the new initiatives happening at GCDC.



02 November 2016

Fall 2016 Young Professionals’ Career Dinner Series

On Saturday, October 22, 2016, UNA-NCA invited students and young professionals to participate in its semi-annual Young Professional Career Dinner series.

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This signature event is held every spring and fall and is an opportunity for young people to discuss global career paths and network with experienced professionals in their fields of interest. The Fall 2016 Dinner Series kicked off with a networking reception at the United Nations Foundation, where around 80 participants and speakers had the chance to meet and swap business cards. Paula Boland, Executive Director of UNA-NCA and Jessica Mueller, UNA-NCA’s Vice President of Young Professionals welcomed guests to the evening’s event, before turning over the stage to our keynote speaker, Ty Cobb, who is the Founder Director of HRC Global at the Human Rights Campaign.

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Ty Cobb came to Washington D.C. as a kid from Texas with nothing guaranteed. He found himself as an intern at UNA. While in DC, he took jobs he didn’t want, did jobs that he didn’t want, and made himself available whenever possible. He joined the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) after serving as counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee of the U.S. Senate, where he worked toward passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. Ty then served as senior legislative counsel at HRC. In this role, he focused on federal advocacy related to a portfolio of issues including the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and passage of a LGBTQ-inclusive Violence Against Women Act. 
 

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This season’s dinners focused on Careers in International Law, Careers in International Service, Careers in International Education, Careers in Public Health, Careers in International Journalism and Communications, Humanitarian Careers and Women in Entrepreneurship and Leadership. Several of these dinners were hosted in private homes around the DC Metro Area – including one in Maryland and one in Northern Virginia – while others were held at the United Nations Foundation. Professional speakers in each of these topics offered career advice and guidance, and shared personal stories of experience in their particular fields. Attendees were encouraged to ask specific or general questions about the field, and engage in conversation in a uniquely intimate and comfortable setting.


Did you join us on Saturday night? See if you can spot and tag yourself in our photo album!

Thank you to the United Nations Foundation for the use of its facilities, UNA-USA staff for their logistical support, our distinguished speakers for their expertise, the evening’s hosts and sponsors, including Windows Catering, and UNA-NCA’s Young Professionals Committee and volunteers.

The Young Professionals Career Dinners are hosted semi-annually: in the spring and fall of each year. We hope you’ll join us for the Spring 2017 edition!



02 November 2016

Statement from UNA-NCA President on the Progress of the Climate Change Agreement

Statement from the UNA-NCA President

On November 4th, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change will enter into force. The formal ratification threshold of at least 55 Member States and at least 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions has been exceeded in an extraordinarily short period of time. 

Maintaining the momentum is critical. Implementation of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, for example, should fully take into account both slowing the progression of, and adapting to the effects of, Climate Change. Take urgent action!

According to the Chinese proverb, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lest the euphoria surrounding the achievement of COP 21 in Paris begins to fade, it is noteworthy that several very significant steps have been taken on the journey to meet the challenging target of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels-- and the more aspirational goal of under 1.5 degrees Celsius:
  • Once in force, under the provisions of the Climate Agreement, withdrawal of a State is technically a four-year process—a factor that has been an issue in the US election.
  • On November 7-18th, the next round of climate talks (COP22 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) takes place in Marrakesh, Morocco; preliminary talks are already underway this week. Among the issues to be addressed: implementation of the Paris Agreement, financing technology transfers and adaptation to climate change, loss and damage resulting from climate change, updating science, gender issues, capacity building, and assisting the least developed countries and island states.
  • On October 14th, 170 States in Kigali, Rwanda, agreed to an amendment to the 1989 Montreal Protocol that would significantly reduce the greenhouse gas, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used in refrigeration under three separate timetables, thus preventing a rise in temperature of .5 degrees Celsius (.9 Fahrenheit) by 2100. Secretary of State John Kerry called this: “The single most important step we can take at this time.”
  • On October 7th, at its 39th Triennial Assembly, the 191-member International Civil Aviation Organization agreed to establish a Global Market Based Measure to offset aircraft CO emissions, which in addition to setting a CO2 standard for new aircraft, the development of biofuels and more efficient navigation systems will enable the industry to achieve its carbon neutral objective. Aircraft emissions account for between 2 and 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • On October 25th, the International Maritime Organization discussed a plan to limit CO2 emissions from international shipping, thus becoming the third sector not covered by COP21 to make progress on achieving the targets of the Climate Agreement.
  • On October 30, National Geographic launched the documentary "Before the Flood,” where Oscar winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio explores the topic of climate change, and discovers what must be done today to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet. You can watch the video here.

On November 4th, the United Nations Environment Program released a report stating that even with the Paris Agreement, the world will still need to further cut 25% from predicted 2030 emissions. You can read the report here.
Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)
President
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area



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. 



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