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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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      • Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1)
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      • Jack Evans (Ward 2)
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      • Mary Cheh (Ward 3)
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      • Brandon T. Todd (Ward 4)
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      • Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5)
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      • Charles Allen (Ward 6)
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      • Yvette Alexander (Ward 7)
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      • LaRuby May (Ward 8)
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      • Vincent Orange (At Large)
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      • Anita Bonds (At Large):
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      • David Grosso (At Large)
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      • Elissa Silverman (At Large)
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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.




28 September 2016

Your Recap on the 71st UNGA

The following is an update on the September 13-27 events of the 71st United Nations General Assembly 
   On September 13th, the new President of the GA Peter Thomson took the oath of office and opened the 71st GA. The oath is part of a new resolution of the GA to make the president more transparent and trustworthy, such as requiring financial disclosures and swearing to a conduct code of ethics. Thomson emphasized the 71st GA will have a priority of ensuring progress has begun towards the SDG's. The Fijian diplomat has appointed a team solely dedicated to the implementation of the SDG's.
   The rest of the week was composed of summits and meetings, before debate opened on the 20th. At a ceremony in New York on September 16, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accepted a 1.3 million signature-strong petition that expressed solidarity with millions of refugees. This event was the culmination of a week of global broadcasts by UNHCR's celebrity supporters on Facebook Live encouraging people in every region to sign the #WithRefugees petition, which will remain active until all its goals are achieved.
   World leaders came together at the United Nations on September 19 for the first ever Summit for Refugees and Migrants. Here they adopted the New York Declaration. Part of the declaration was to start negotiations leading to an international conference and the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration in 2018. The declaration also meant a new effort to find new homes for all refugees identified by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as needing resettlement; and expand the opportunities for refugees to relocate to other countries through, for example, labour mobility or education schemes. The declaration strengthened the global governance of migration by bringing the International Organization for Migration (IOM) into the UN system. As called for in the Declaration, the Secretary-General also launched a new campaign called "Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All" to respond to rising xenophobia and turning fear into hope. Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, addressed the body, stating that, in addition to increasing funding for refugees, the Group has dramatically increased its data collection on migrants and has found, for example, that early intervention can have great impact, since half the number of existing refugees had been in their current situation for less than four years.
   The UN Private Sector Forum also took place on September 19. Secretary Ban Ki-moon emphasized the connection to the Refugee Summit, calling "on the private sector to combat xenophobia and discrimination in the workplace and communities, urging businesses to provide equal job opportunities for refugees and migrants, and invest in education initiatives for displaced youth."
   The United Nations envoy on youth unveiled the inaugural class of 17 youth leaders on September 19. These new youth leaders were then incorporated into several high level meetings throughout the general assembly. What will their role be moving forward?
Once debate began on September 20, each of the world's leaders highlighted their own specific goals or issues. The European Union and member countries spotlighted aid for refugees and conflict mediation. The Prime Minister of New Zealand stressed urgency of Security Council reform, pointing out that the crisis in Syria has shown the shortcomings of the work of the Security Council to provide a swift unified response. Denmark urged for greater UN transparency and trust.
   Central American leaders at the UN Assembly spotlighted the region's efforts to address transport and migration issues. Specifically, the President of Panama pointed out the completion this year of a project to expand the Panama Canal. The President of Brazil declared that the biodiverse country will be joining the Paris Climate Agreement.
   Southern African leaders stressed the importance of regional efforts, such as within the African continent through the African Union (AU), to realize a better and sustainable future for all. The President of Malawi underscored the promotion of youth development and called upon world leaders to follow the example of AU adoption of Demographic Dividend as its theme for 2017. Warning that corruption undermines achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, Nigeria called on all countries to sign up to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Burundi rejected the UN report on the country's human rights situation as 'purposefully and politically exaggerated, and will produce its own comprehensive survey on the issue in response. Kenya implored the UN Security Council to align the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the threat levels in that neighbouring country, and to provide adequate, predictable funding and other support for the Mission. They cited 65,000 refugees from Somalia, and pointed out that aid has diminished in the last year. Somali said that, with the help of AMISOM, Al-Shabaab now controls less than 10 percent of territory in the country.
   Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for global cooperation in attaining the SDG's and United Nations reform. They said the 2030 Agenda, to be successful, must include stable and predictable funding mechanisms and innovative approaches in financing for development. They also called for expansion of the 15-member Security Council to make it more democratic and for granting the Secretary General and Secretariat independence to uphold the purpose and principles of the UN Charter. The President of Yemen thanked the UN and said that with international support a "new Yemen" will emerge from the war.
   Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that some Western countries' supremacy and exclusiveness undermined equitable international cooperation, calling on world leaders to support Russian initiatives in counter-terrorism and disarmament.
   In his final address to the United Nations General Assembly as United States President, Barack Obama stated the UN has progressed greatly, but noted there needs to be a course correction. To do this, Obama stated there were four key corrections the UN needed to achieve: Make the global economy work better for all people; follow through on efforts to combat climate change; reject any forms of fundamentalism and racism; and sustain the commitment to international cooperation rooted in the rights and responsibilities of nations.
   China stated that while economic globalization has been a driving force for growth, it has also taken a toll on certain industries and requires measures to address such problems while "keeping the bigger picture in mind." Globalization is in line with interests of all countries. He cautioned against protectionism and voiced support for the open trade regime of the World Trade Organization (WTO), among other things.
   On September 26, International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, Ban Ki-moon spoke in length on continued efforts of proliferation, specifically noting that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea repeatedly defies these efforts.
   The United Nations Global Pulse Initiative announced a partnership with Twitter that will provide the UN with access to the platform's data tools to support efforts.



31 August 2016

UNA-NCA and IRC Silver Spring Provide Supplies to Refugee Children

UNA-NCA and International Rescue Committee Silver Spring Stand #WithRefugees in Washington DC

backpack6Since 1975, more than 3 million refugees have entered the United States. Over the years, the home country of refugees has varied. In the 1990s they primarily came from Europe following the situation in Kosovo and fall of the Soviet Union, recently refugees have primary traveled from Myanmar (Burma), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Somalia according to the PEW Research Center. Individuals have traveled to cities throughout the United States, including the DC Metro area, most without any belongings or supplies.

This summer, hundreds of UNA participants helped stuff 1,000 backpacks with pens, notebooks, and other school supplies for distribution across the United States. These backpacks are part of UNA-USA’s Back to School backpack project and will be given to refugee children ensuring they have basic supplies to support their learning as they head back to school this year. The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area partnered with the International Rescue Committee in Silver Spring, Maryland to help distribute 50 backpacks to school-aged children from Pre-Kindergarten to 12th Grade in the DC Metro area. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, and supports individuals whose lives have been changed and affected by them. The IRC Silver Spring office serves a diverse group of individuals originating from countries backpack3including Afghanistan, the DRC, Iraq, Syria, Islamic Republic of Iran, Ethiopia, El Salvador, and many others. The goal of refugee resettlement is to help new refugee families integrate and become self-sufficient members of their new community. These backpacks will help refugee children feel welcomed and prepared to succeed in school.

Through Global Classrooms DC (GCDC), UNA-NCA’s flagship education program, will also be teaching students grades 6 – 12 on the current and ongoing refugee crisis. Students will be learning about “Human Rights of Refugees and Immigrants” through Model United Nations (UN) during the 2016 – 2017 school year and simulate countries in the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Annual Spring 2017 Model UN Conference at the U.S. Department of State.

Currently, the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement since World War II. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that nearly 34,000 people are displaced from their homes every day. It is necessary for individuals and governments to help support refugees in their communities.

“We must stand together with the millions of men, women and children who flee their homes each year, to ensure that their rights and dignity are protected wherever they are, and that solidarity and compassion are at the heart of our collective response.” – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

International Rescue Committee – Silver Spring
Facebook: www.facebook.com/IRCSilverSpring
Contact us: 301-562-8633

Global Classrooms DC (GCDC)
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GlobalClassroomsDC
Twitter: @GCDC_ModelUN
Contact us: 202-223-6092 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Twitter: @Refugees #WithRefugees
Online: www.unhcr.org





31 August 2016

Recognizing Women's Equality Day

UNA-NCA Recognizes Women's Equality Day

This year, UNA- NCA recognized Women’s Equality Day by continuing its work with partner organizations and educating communities in the greater Washington, DC area on the importance of achieving gender equality. Celebrated annually on August 26th, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Since that time, women have begun voting more than men: almost 64% of eligible women voted in 2012, compared to almost 60% of men. And for the first time ever, a woman has been nominated by a major party for presidency in the 2016 presidential election.

Despite these advancements, gender equality has not yet been achieved. Meanwhile, just three U.S. Supreme Court justices, only 20% of Members of Congress and 24% of state legislators are women. Moreover, female CEOs run just 4.2% of Fortune 500 companies. Even when women are represented in leadership and management, they continue to be paid less than men for the same work. The gender pay gap is a reality for women across the board.

In 1979, the United Nations passed the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and it was signed the next year by President Carter. Nearly 40 years later, the U.S. Senate has not ratified CEDAW. This makes the U.S. one of only seven UN member states that has not ratified, along with Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Tonga, and Palau.

UNA-USA and many of its chapters have joined with other organizations to urge municipal legislatures to pass laws that implement the principles of CEDAW at the local level. A DC for CEDAW Committee consisting of UNA-NCA members and advocates from partner organizations has made strides for gender equality in the nation’s capital. In March 2015, DC Councilmember David Grosso introduced CEDAW legislation that was co-sponsored by all other Councilmembers. In 2015-2016, UNA-NCA convened three public forums to education people in the Washington, DC area on gender-related topics: sexual assault, women’s health, and transforming gender inequality in the workplace. While there has not yet been a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, UNA-NCA’s CEDAW IN DC ORGANIZERS remain fully committed and will continue to organize public education and advocacy meetings, and encourage members and supporters to be part of an online advocacy campaign. These conversations and programs are also taking root in Baltimore, Fairfax County, and Montgomery County.

In honor of the women who struggled to get the right to vote, UNA-NCA will not let our policymakers forget that we want gender equality. The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. What better way than to have our communities pass CEDAW legislation?

If you are interested in joining this effort, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



23 August 2016

UN’s Response to the Haiti Cholera Epidemic

Statement by UNA-NCA President


Pursuant to UN Human Rights Council Resolution 26/3, UN Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston, a New York university law professor, has issued a hypercritical report on the UN's response to the Haitian cholera epidemic allegedly introduced by Peacekeepers from Nepal in 2010. 

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has transmitted the report to the General Assembly and for the first time acknowledged the UN's complicity in the initial outbreak of cholera. The Secretary General has promised "a significant new set of U.N. actions" within the next two months to address the issue after consultation with Haitian officials and Member States.

The UN has not specifically admitted that it caused the epidemic and has not waived its immunity from legal action, and shortly after the Secretary General's announcement, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last Thursday upheld the lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit seeking compensation for Haitian cholera victims

It remains to be seen what specific actions the UN will propose. Whatever they are, they are likely to be very costly to the Member States of which the US is the largest contributor. Nevertheless, the Secretary General's acknowledgement comes at a critical time as UN Peacekeepers face intense criticism for abuses, misfeasance and neglect of duty in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali and other conflict areas.

With the rise of ethnic conflicts in failed and failing states and the upsurge in displaced populations, UN Peacekeepers, the largest military deployment in the world, are an essential, cost-effective alternative to US intervention in troubled areas that can be breeding grounds for non-state terrorism. Facing a crisis in credibility the United Nations must hold Peacekeepers accountable and Member States must provide the support needed to assure strong, well trained, well-equipped and responsible Peacekeeping missions.

UNA-NCA has consistently advocated strengthening UN Peace Operations and urged the United Nations to accept responsibility for any abuses or negligence. On February 26, 2014, the International Law Committee (ILC) organized a program on "Remedies for Harm Caused by UN Peacekeepers" at the American Society for International Law headquarters. ILC Member, Ambassador David Birenbaum (ret.), moderated an expert panel including a law professor, litigator, and former UN legal advisor. 

As a result of the program, the ILC drafted a Resolution which was approved by the UNA-NCA Board of Directors on May 14, 2014. The Resolution urged "the United Nations, notwithstanding its immunity, to establish a standing claims commission in accordance with its Status of Forces Agreement with Haiti or otherwise promptly provide an appropriate modality to address the claims of the Haitian victims of cholera." The Resolution further stated that the United Nations "which was founded to reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of the human person and to foster respect for international law, is not above the law, but is subject to accountability and is expected to provide effective remedies to those whom it harms." 

UNA-NCA remains fully committed to robust, accountable, and effective UN Peace Operations. We will continue to advocate stronger US and NATO support for Peacekeeping missions, building on President Obama's proposals at the successful UN Summit on Peacekeeping last September. And we will continue to urge the UN to accept responsibility where abuses or negligence may occur.

DonBlisssig 

Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)



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