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29 April 2020

First-Ever Cabin John MS Virtual Model UN Conference Proves To Be Successful

The pandemic has changed how Global Classrooms DC functions overnight. Through the disappointment of having to cancel the Spring 2020 Model UN Conference, our team has been working with various schools to support their efforts to continue Model UN.

As an example of how MUN clubs are adapting,  Cabin John Middle School hosted its first-ever online conference on Saturday, April 25. After being inspired by the success of the virtual Alice Deal Model UN Conference (ADMUN) on April 4, a fantastic group of parents from Maryland set out to create their own virtual experience with their students. Although they had never hosted a virtual session before, all of the parents – Audré Park, Shreelata Durbhakula, and Bouchra Araji – took on the challenge of hosting a conference with students from Cabin John, as well as Bells Mill Elementary and Alice Deal Middle School.

All students had been preparing for the GCDC Spring Conference, and had individual assignments for countries and committees they were intending to represent. To make the most of students’ work, Ms. Park, Ms. Durbhakula, and Ms. Araji hosted three Model UN committees based of the GCDC committees meant for April 2020: the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Over the Zoom platform, students from Cabin John Middle School served as the virtual Committee Chairs, running the session as if the students were convening together in person.

For the IOM committee, the student delegates discussed “Protecting Against Forced Migration Due to Conflict”. The group developed a singular resolution that focused on funding “existing and new peacekeeping groups” and utilizing social media to educate more people about migrants.

For the UNEP committee, the delegates had two competing resolutions. The students debated different methods to “Advance Responsible Consumption for Sustainable Growth”. One paper emphasized the use of renewable energy, especially in “[limiting] oil, coal, and natural gas implants; [enforcing] restrictions on the usage of non-renewable resources; [and investing] more money in geothermal and hydroelectric power sources.” The other paper discussed stopping pollution and reducing the use of fossil fuels.

Finally, for the UNDP committee, three resolutions came out of the delegates’ work, all brainstorming ideas on “Promoting Women’s Political Participation”. The first group created a Political Participation Among Women Programme (PPAWP), that will seek to establish an education program that assists women in participating politically. The second group emphasized educating the public on women’s discrimination in the workplace. The final group proposed “creating programs showing younger girls the positions of women in power” to inspire them to leader their own countries.

Over the course of the two and a half hours of committees, the students worked together, despite the inability to convene in person. The event will set the stage for future virtual sessions, within their own schools and outside of them, as well.

20 April 2020

US Leadership in Strengthening Global Institutions Needed Now More than Ever

By Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (Ret.)

With the rise of nationalism around the world and the closing of sovereign borders in response to the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) pandemic, global institutions are under attack. News reports and commentators are questioning whether we are reaching the end of the post-world war global architecture created by the United States and its victorious allies to promote peaceful cooperation in resolving conflicts and addressing crises. 

An April 16th Washington Post headline, for example, declares: “Global institutions built for this moment are floundering.”  Ironically, at a time when our greatest challenges-- from pandemics to climate change to a worldwide recession-- are global in nature, it is the United States that has been leading the retreat. The present administration has withdrawn from UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, nuclear and trade agreements, and the Global Compact for Migration, given notice of withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, threatened to withdraw from the World Trade Organization and the Universal Postal Union (among others), cut off funding for The UN Population Fund, the UN Relief and Works Agency (and other support for Palestinian refugees), and the Northern Triangle, threatened to substantially reduce funding for the International Civil Aviation Organization, foreign aid, humanitarian assistance, and diplomacy. Withdrawal from the international community simply leaves space for China, which now heads four international organizations, and other countries that are less able to bring the technological innovation and aspirational values of a free society and economy. The US retreat preceded the Trump Administration as exemplified by the abysmal record of the US Senate in failing to ratify universally adopted international treaties, including those protecting the rights of women, children and the disabled.

Inconceivably, the US now threatens to withhold funding from the World Health Organization in the midst of the worst global pandemic since 1918. Pandemics do not pass through customs or stop at border walls. A virus any place in the world is a potential threat to the United States. With a budget of only $4.2 billion, most of it from voluntary contributions, and 7,000 employees in 150 countries, the WHO sets international health standards, provides essential coordination, collects and disseminates critical information and provides technical, scientific and research support. It has no enforcement power. Its authority derives from the 194 sovereign states which are its members, and it is only as effective as its member states enable it to be. Like most human institutions, it has had its successes and failures. With active member state engagement, it can learn from its mistakes, such as its early failures in the response to the Ebola crisis in 2014-15 in West Africa. In 2019-20, it has responded robustly and effectively to the Ebola threat in the Congo, under circumstances where WHO workers face imminent danger from violence as well as the virus.

Where the United States, WHO’s largest contributor, has been actively engaged, WHO has had remarkable success—the eradication of small pox, the near-eradication of polio, great progress in the eradication of measles, dengue, tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. The United Nations vaccinates about half the world’s children. WHO also has strengthened health agencies in developing countries and addressed chronic disease such as heart disease and cancer, as well as obesity, food security, and substance abuse. 

Despite the inflated criticism that WHO was slow to recognize  China’s initial lack of transparency on the human to human transmission of the coronavirus, the fact remains that before the first virus case was identified in the US, China made public on January 12th the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus. This enabled WHO to develop a diagnostic test that was used in most nations, including South Korea and Thailand, which gave them an early start on containing the virus. Rejecting the WHO test, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed in its attempt to develop a “more sophisticated test” which substantially set back testing in the US. The WHO has not criticized either the US or China because that is not the way a UN organization fosters global cooperation. WHO has no authority to dictate the internal response of its sovereign members.

History teaches that active engagement by the United States is essential to the success of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. The US brings critical scientific and technological knowledge and innovation to the table. The international organizations provide a global response to a global crisis. While some 17 HHS/CDC experts have been fully engaged with WHO at the technical level and fully informed of developments in China, US representation on the Executive Committee at the policy level has been vacant. On March 19, 2020 President Trump nominated HHS Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir for the third time to serve on WHO’s Executive Committee. Giroir should be swiftly confirmed by the Senate because US leadership at WHO is needed at the coming World Health Assembly. The US can push for reforms such as early and transparent reporting of communicable diseases, a clear definition of Public Health Emergency and Pandemic, guidelines on preparedness such a stockpiling equipment, cooperation on scientific research, strengthening  the emergency response capacity, and increasing the contributions of states like China.

Instead of withdrawing from international organizations, the United States should be a leader through active engagement. Global institutions are needed now more than ever.

14 April 2020

COVID-19 and The World of Work

In it's recent report, "COVID-19 and the World of Work," the International Labor Organization detailed that the world of work is being profoundly affected by the global virus pandemic. In addition to the threat to public health, the economic and social disruption threatens the long-term livelihoods and wellbeing of millions. The ILO and its constituents – Governments, workers and employers – will play a crucial role in combating the outbreak, ensuring the safety of individuals and the sustainability of businesses and jobs.

Read the full report here and learn more about the work of the ILO on their COVID-19 and the world of work portal here.

13 April 2020

WHO is Not the Cause of COVID-19 Nor the Enemy. We Need It More than Ever for the Next Pandemic

By Richard Seifman, Independent Health Policy Consultant and UNA-NCA Board Member

It is unfortunate that your newspaper​-in editorials and opinion pieces-​ has chosen
this time of national crisis to point out what you perceive as political behavior by
the global technical agency that struggles to deal with infectious diseases in an
increasingly polarization world, with a Governing Board that brings their
displeasure without bringing the resources to allow it to measure up to the challenge​.
Exhibit A: Forbes on April 8th points out that the Trump Administration’s most
recent budget requested a reduction in the World Health Organization (WHO) U.S.
assessed financial contributions ​from $122.6​ million to an assessed contribution of
$57.9​ million. This is more than 50% and before significant recognition of the
covid19 threat across the country.

As to when the COVID-19 became a worldwide problem, it is worth remembering
that it was less than 100 days when WHO was notified by the People’s Republic
of China, a sovereign member State, of a new virus strain that posed a public
health threat of international concern. Also, worth recalling, in July 2019, well
before any evidence of COVID-19 had emerged, the U.S. Administration ended the
work of a key CDC medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s CDC. U.S. CDC
cooperation with China’s CDC had existed for 30 years (Dr. Anne Schuchat,
former acting CDC head and currently CDC Principal Deputy Director, worked in
China on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak). Given this
history, one can only imagine the difference that U.S. CDC epidemiologist on the
ground in December 2019 might have made.

While I hold no brief for China’s failing to alert sooner and be more transparent
about the outbreak, keep in mind it was not that long ago U.S. leadership thought it
was a minor distraction from our robust economy, and to this day our debate
continues over mandatory regulations regarding masks and social distancing. Nor
am I suggesting that WHO could not benefit from further reforms. In what will be
the post- COVID-19 era, WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly, as a
priority, should review member State infectious disease early reporting
requirements and consider more stringent obligatory rules when the Director
General must declare a “public health emergency of international concern” or
pandemic. This will require cooperation and concerted effort by Member States.

We know this can be done: One need only look at the response to the West Africa
Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016 in contrast to the 2019 Ebola outbreak in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.  WHO emergency teams were quick to risk
their health and lives and stay the course.  WHO was on the ground administering
new Ebola vaccines and treatment under very challenging circumstances, and
applying new technologies such as “the Cube” to better protect frontline health
workers, and making effective use of information management techniques. WHO's
coordination with-- yes, the U.S. and China—will mean this Ebola outbreak will
likely end in the very near future. Compare that to U.S. panic and economic costs
when very few came home from abroad with Ebola in 2014-2016, versus now? 

Vice President Pence often says, "we are all in this together".  He is right; but he
needs to think beyond our borders.  Next time when your child does not
have smallpox, or polio, or is not suffering from nutritional deficiencies, know it is
significantly due to the worldwide work of WHO.  Improvements yes, but let’s not
throw this institution out as technically weak and politically driven. There is no
doubt there will be another infectious outbreak, but no one knows where or when.
This is a special moment for the U.S. to lead by rising above partisan or anti-
globalist sentiments and put U.S. money, technical expertise and support behind an
improved WHO--so that we all do better next time.

13 April 2020

UNA-NCA Graduate Fellow Alumna Serves Her Country

Manuela Hernandez is a proud UNA-NCA 2019 Graduate Fellow. She is currently a first-tour Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She will work for the Consular Affairs section for the duration of two years. Manuela just completed her intensive Portuguese language training at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia to prepare for her job overseas. 

Manuela is a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow and prior to joining the State Department, she completed the Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) program at Georgetown University in May 2019. Prior to Georgetown, she worked in Munich, Germany for Kiron Open Higher Education, a non-profit that helps refugees access higher education through digital solutions. 

Originally from Florida, Manuela graduated from the University of Florida with majors in Economics and International Studies (with a focus on Europe). She has previously interned for the State Department at the U.S. Mission to the EU in Brussels and at the U.S. Consulate in Düsseldorf. Manuela has also interned at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency as well as the U.S. Congress; she consulted for the World Bank at the office of Agriculture Global Practice in the East Asia & Pacific Region.

07 April 2020

Raising our Voices on World Health Day

By Shayna Vayser, UNA-NCA Advocacy Associate

On April 7, UNA-NCA membership rallied for a World Health Advocacy Day of Digital Action. As our community has come to understand, the steady regression of US leadership in the United Nations has made it all the more difficult for member states to effectively collaborate in the global response to COVID-19.

Without full funding from the US, the efforts of implementing agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, IOM, UNFPA and UNHCR are severely undercut. According to a recent poll by the Better World Campaign, the majority of Americans believe that global cooperation is essential to a successful pandemic response- but the UN lacks sufficient resources and support.

As such, we used World Health Day as an opportunity to urge our members of Congress to support UN funding in forthcoming legislation. In preparation for our Day of Action, members participated in a Briefing and Training held on April 6 in collaboration with UNA-USA and the Better World Campaign to discuss the details of the UN’s response plan. Hundreds of people across the country have since written letters to Congress calling for Congress to invest in the UN and global health-but we’re just getting started.

It is now more vital than ever to hold our legislators accountable to the needs of their constituents; we must continue to advocate for the Global Goals for Sustainable Development through whatever means now available to us.

Picking up the phone and calling your Members of Congress is a quick and effective way to support the UN’s work on COVID-19.

To call your respective Members of Congress, please dial 855–466–4862. Once you dial this number, you will be asked to enter your five-digit zip code.

Afterwards, you will be prompted to press #1 or #2 to speak with your Senators and #3 to speak with your Representative.

Before calling, be prepared with a short script that covers the following pieces of information:

Who are you? Where you are from?

  • Sample Script: Hi, I’m [your name], a constituent and voter from [your town/county/city, state]. I am a member of the United Nations Association of the USA, a grassroots movement of Americans dedicated to supporting the vital work of the United Nations. My local chapter is UNA [chapter name].
Why you are calling?

  • Sample Script: I am calling you today to support the UN’s work on COVID-19 by paying our UN dues. Right now, the UN is leading and coordinating the global response effort to COVID-19 by supporting countries to prevent, detect, and respond to the pandemic. By fully funding the UN, we can assist people around the world, including Americans, at risk of infectious diseases, through the help of the World Health Organization (WHO). In today’s interconnected world, a deadly health threat anywhere is a deadly threat everywhere.
How has COVID-19 impacted your life?

Keep your message brief and to the point (no more than 2 minutes), and don’t forget to thank the staffer for their time!

You can also send a letter to your Members of Congress by signing this petition.

Share your efforts online and across social media using the hashtag #SDGsAtHome and #USAforUN and be sure to tag us on Facebook or Twitter @UNANCA.


31 March 2020

Thank You For Your Commitment and Support

Dear UNA-NCA Community,

I hope this email finds you well and adjusting to this unprecedented time and new way of living. The past few weeks have certainly been very challenging for all and many have been struggling in our community, the country and the world. The messages shared on several platforms have been encouraging and brought a sense of global unity in the face of adversity.

We are committed to keeping you informed and providing opportunities for continued engagement with our members and supporters. The current challenge has the potential of bringing us closer together and expanding our outreach within and beyond our jurisdiction. We are embracing this opportunity and discussing with partners and program leaders various alternatives for conducting our programming virtually.  

Global Classrooms DC: despite the difficult decision of canceling the annual Model UN Conference, our GCDC team is exploring alternative ways to bring our program to the students as well as professional development opportunities for teachers. We are very appreciative of the understanding and continued support of our educators, partners and supporters;   

Young Professionals: despite having to cancel the Spring Career Dinners, the team is working on launching a series of professional and leadership development opportunities for young professionals and students;  

UN at 75: UNA-USA has encouraged its chapters to engage in virtual consultations about the future of the UN. Other programming being assessed include Town Halls around relevant topics, engaging our network of experts and community leaders. UNA-NCA will have special programming in the fall to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.  

 - Advocacy: Now more than ever, we will continue to strengthen our efforts to build a strong U.S.-UN partnership through virtual trainings and outreach to our congressional representatives. We need our leaders to know that American support for the UN comes at an unprecedented time. In order to commemorate World Health Day on TuesdayApril 7, we're going to raise our voice. Join us for an Advocacy Briefing and Training on Monday April 6 from 5-6pm to prepare for our day of digital action. Register here

Last week, the Senate passed an unprecedented $2 trillion relief package to deal with the economic and public health effects of the coronavirus pandemic, by a vote of 96-0. While the vast majority of the package is focused on domestic spending—including relief for industries and small businesses, an expansion of unemployment insurance, direct payments to Americans, and a significant growth in spending on the health sector—the bill also includes a very modest $1.15 billion for the State Department and USAID.  See a USGLC summary here.  

Please note that our office will remain closed for the week ahead and our staff will continue to work remotely. The International Labour Organization (ILO) will have a briefing on the impact of COVID19 on employment and the world of work on April 2 at 10:00 am. Click here if you are interested in participating.

I want to end my message by quoting my 7-year-old daughter “Together we are better than Unicorns, Sprinkles and Rainbows.” I have no doubt we will get through this and come out stronger.

Sincere thanks for your leadership and continued support!

Your Executive Director,

Paula Boland

19 March 2020

Executive Director's Statement on Programming During COVID-19

Dear UNA-NCA leaders,

I trust you are well and keeping safe. The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique and unforeseen challenges for us leaders and the people and communities we serve. It is a scary time, both as we work to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and as we work to navigate organizational questions about how we will proceed in the coming days, weeks, and months.

We have been carefully monitoring the information and guidelines being made available regarding the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States. Read full recommendation here. The Global Health Council, lead by our Board member Loyce Pace, has compiled useful information and resources you can check out here.  

In order to do our part in the efforts to flatten the curve and impact of this virus, our office is operating remotely and we have postponed public events for the next several weeks while we look for alternative virtual options. The health of our members and staff is paramount, so while we apologize for this inconvenience, we believe it is the right thing to do at this time.

Most unfortunately, we had to make the decision to cancel our annual Spring GCDC Model UN Conference scheduled for April 21. We have come to this difficult decision after consulting with our partners at the U.S. Department of State, Pan American Health Organization as well as teachers, parents, and staffers. The GCDC team will offer optional classroom visits and/or video-call alternatives to help groups facilitate Model UN sessions, as well as virtual professional development for our educators

While we are very sad not to be able to host this very special convening, we know that the safety and health of everyone is the top priority.

In times like these, we must come together to work in partnership and use our creativity to carry out our mission of building a strong US-UN partnership and keep our community engaged.

With much appreciation to all for your continued support.

Paula Boland

Executive Director

UN Association of the National Capital Area


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