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26 January 2017

SAVE THE UN! Tell President Trump to Give Ambassador Haley a Chance.


We are expecting President Trump to sign Executive Orders tomorrow to drastically cut funding to the United Nations. These orders could also prevent the U.S. from supporting international treaties that affect several important American priorities, not the least of which is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We must take urgent action!


Reports indicate that the first of two draft orders calls for at least a 40% decrease in U.S. funding toward international organizations. These cuts would severely cripple UN agencies like the UN Refugee Agency, UNICEF, and the World Food Program. In addition, the order calls for switching how we contribute to the UN, which would lead to radical funding reductions and our withdrawal from the body we helped found. A separate draft Executive Order appears to preclude the U.S. from supporting international treaties designed to prevent discrimination of women worldwide at the very moment when there is a rising tide of support in America for gender equality.

If signed, these Executive Orders would directly contradict what U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said last week during her confirmation hearing: "You can never win with slash and burn techniques. That doesn't work."

Please urge President Trump to follow Nikki Haley's advice and not "slash and burn" UN funding! We cannot advance U.S. interests and push for reform at the UN without funding the organization.

UNA-USA encourages members to contact President Trump in four ways:

Now and always, we are thankful for your critical advocacy on behalf of the UN. Stay tuned for more advocacy updates.

-Chris Whatley,
Executive Director, UNA-USA



23 January 2017

Join the Human Rights Committee

UNA-NCA’s Human Rights Committee offers human rights activists and others committed to the fight for human rights locally and globally opportunities for engagement, advocacy, and learning.  Aside from membership in the United Nations Association, no special expertise is required of members – only the willingness to engage, to learn, and make a difference. The Committee organizes panel discussions and events, including the annual Human Rights Day program on Capitol Hill to celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in 1948.  If you are passionate about human rights and are eager to help, we would love to have you join our committee. The next committee meeting is on February 6th at 6 p.m. For more details please contact co-chairs Christina Hansen ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or Heather Hill ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Learn More



23 January 2017

Support a Strong US-UN Partnership

In response to proposed legislation to cut U.S. funding for the UN, Better World Campaign President Peter Yeo advises, "Withholding funding from the UN will significantly jeopardize America’s influence and ability to steer the international agenda." Despite the many benefits of the UN, "U.S. funding for the UN amounts to only 0.1 percent of the total federal budget. Working with our allies through the UN means that the U.S. can share the burden of solving global challenges – and doesn’t need to go it alone." Read Peter Yeo's full statement here

A bipartisan poll confirmed that more than 88 percent of Americans support active engagement at the UN. Furthermore, more than 67 percent of Americans agreed that the U.S. should pay our dues to the UN on time and in full.

Let’s make sure the Senate hears us loud and clear: Active engagement at the UN is in our national security interests. Sign this letter and Tell Your Senators to Fully Fund the United Nations. Learn more about Why Congress Must Oppose Efforts to Withholding Funding to the United Nations.

Learn More



23 January 2017

Advocate for the United Nations!

In response to proposed legislation to cut U.S. funding for the UN, Better World Campaign President Peter Yeo advises, "Withholding funding from the UN will significantly jeopardize America’s influence and ability to steer the international agenda." Despite the many benefits of the UN, "U.S. funding for the UN amounts to only 0.1 percent of the total federal budget. Working with our allies through the UN means that the U.S. can share the burden of solving global challenges – and doesn’t need to go it alone." Read Peter Yeo's full statement here

A bipartisan poll confirmed that more than 88 percent of Americans support active engagement at the UN. Furthermore, more than 67 percent of Americans agreed that the U.S. should pay our dues to the UN on time and in full.

Let’s make sure the Senate hears us loud and clear: Active engagement at the UN is in our national security interests. Sign this letter and Tell Your Senators to Fully Fund the United Nations. Learn more about Why Congress Must Oppose Efforts to Withholding Funding to the United Nations.

Learn More



04 January 2017

UNA-NCA President Rings in New Year and Welcomes New UNSG, Antonio Guterres

Dear UNA-NCA Members:

I hope you have had a peaceful holiday season and are refreshed and ready to work for a strong and constructive US-UN relationship, so essential to achieve world peace and a better world for all human beings. Please take note of Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ January 1st  Appeal for Peace.

The UN Foundation, the Better World Campaign (Peter Yeo) and UNA-USA (Chris Whatley) and others  have been working hard during this transition period to show the value and importance to the incoming US administration of strong US support for the United Nations. Please note my article published in Pass Blue, showing how the United Nations would greatly enhance the new US administration’s foreign policy. The President-Elect has stated that the UN has great potential and we agree. We at UNA-NCA plan through our programs and actions this coming year to show how this  potential can be harnessed to advance US national security, economic, diplomatic, military and humanitarian objectives. US support for UN peace keeping, peacebuilding and implementation of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement are critical to ending conflict, combatting the root causes of terrorism,  and creating a more stable global environment. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions as to how and to whom we should convey this message.
 
For those of you discouraged by some of the comments emanating from the transition and from Congress in response to the US  abstention from  Security Council Resolution 2334 of December 23, 2016 (intended to preserve the Israeli-Palestine two state solution),  it is worth remembering that in our democracy and at the UN,  it is the voices of citizens and civil society that makes good things happen. And those voices must speak out and be heard. Those of you who know my work  with Mark Twain will not be surprised if I close with a Mark Twain quote (with apology for the lack of gender neutrality):
 
          “In a republic, who is ‘the country?’ Is it the Government which is for the moment is in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant – merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is patriotic and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is ‘the country?’ Is it the newspapers? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command; they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousands; it is the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. “Who are the thousand– that is to say, who are ‘the country?’ In a monarchy, the King and his family are the country; in a republic, it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of the pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.”

Let our voices be heard.

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




14 December 2016

UNA-NCA Hosts Annual Human Rights Awards Reception

By Tselmegtsetseg Tsetsendelger, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee

On Thursday, December 8th, UNA-NCA hosted its annual Human Rights Awards Reception in the beautiful Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building. This event correlated with the 68th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Human Rights Day, celebrated on December 10th. The room was filled with people who were excited to celebrate the award recipients’ strong commitment to human rights while enjoying classical music by the DC Youth Orchestra.
_RLS1898 This year’s inspirational honorees shared their experiences working to advance human rights through their respective fields, positions, and organizations. They spoke honestly about the challenges facing human rights today, their experiences creating change throughout their careers, and their continued dedication to push for human rights. The reception began with opening remarks by Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), UNA-NCA President, and Robert Skinner, Director of the UN Information Center, who shared the message from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and talked about the UN global campaign “Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today.” This call to action set the tone for the rest of the reception, inspiring and empowering the audience to advocate for human rights.

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, came, as she said, from India to present the 2016 UNA-NCA Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award to her colleague and friend Felice Gaer.

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Ms. Felice GaerDirector of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the 
Advancement of Human Rights and the Vice-Chair of the UN Committee Against Torture, opened with an acknowledgement of the phenomenal work that Sohn had done in the development of international law and human rights. She also spoke about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reiterated Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote—“This is no ordinary time”—explaining that it is as relevant today as it was over 70 years ago. Furthermore, Ms. Gaer talked about the U.S.’s history on human rights and how all the rights from freedom of religion to freedom of speech are enshrined in the country’s foundation, emphasizing that they must be practiced and protected.  

“The destiny of human rights lies in the hands of us, for us to take action, for us to call on these issues, recognize, realize and implement.”
-Ms. Felice Gaer

Remarks by Felice D. Gaer can bee seen here.

Ambassador Robert R. King, Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights Issues at the State Department, presented the 2016 UNA-NCA F. Allen "Tex" Harris Human Rights Diplomacy Award to Mr. Eric Richardson.

_RLS2024Mr. Eric RichardsonPolitical-Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy for Libya, addressed the amazing work that Tex Harris had done in exposing the killing and disappearance of people in Argentina in the 1970s. He recounted three stories about his work with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to illustrate “how the Human Rights Council can do more than articulate standards and make concrete differences on the ground.” He described the UNHRC resolution on China and the nuances and successes of the work, atrocity prevention in relation to the UNHRC emergency session, and council action to address accountability specifically in Sri Lanka in 2009. These insightful stories explained the strength of the UNHRC and the importance of continued U.S. engagement.

Karen Mulhauser, former UNA-USA Chair and UNA-NCA President, presented the 2016 UNA-NCA Perdita Huston Human Rights Award to Ms. Ritu Sharma. 

_RLS2093 Ms. Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and former President of Women Thrive Worldwide, and Director of the Center for Gender and Youth at the International Youth Foundation, started her remarks with a nod to Huston, having read her work during her studies. Ms. Sharma shared her experience of living with women and girls who survive on less than a dollar a day; and how being able to advocate for others is a privilege. She pushed the audience to confront the current challenges facing human rights and US-UN cooperation. She also emphasized that, as coastal liberals, we need to understand the grievances of Middle America and work towards a brighter future with greater empathy.

“The global women’s movement owes a lot to the UN’s support, and its investment in movement building.” -Ms. Ritu Sharma

Mr. Jose Antonio Tijerino presented the 2016 UNA-NCA Distinguished Community Human Rights Award to the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). 

_RLS2136LAYC President and CEO, Lori Kaplan received the award on behalf of the Latin American Youth Center. LAYC exists to empower a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths’ social, academic, and career needs. Each year, LAYC serves over 4,000 youth and families through youth centers, school-based sites, and public charter schools. The organization truly embodies the phrase, “Think globally, act locally”.

“The LAYC was born out of a strong social justice movement and a commitment to human rights for all is imbedded in our fabric.”
-Ms. Lori Kaplan

Remarks by Lori Kaplan can be seen here.

UNA-NCA Executive Director, Paula Boland, closed the program thanking everyone who made the evening possible and quoting someone who was instrumental in the shaping of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

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You can view a photo album from the event here. Additional information about the event, bios, and articles from each of our awardees, can be found in the Program Book. If you are interested in learning more about our awardees, we encourage you to check out the Spotlight! interview series on the UNA-NCA blog.

We are very grateful to our sponsors, honorary chairs, photographers Elliott Lyles and Scott Chism, and Representative Donald S. Beyer, Jr. who provided the space for the Awards reception.

Congratulations to all of our awardees and we look forward to your active engagement in 2017!



06 December 2016

Press Release for 2016 Human Rights Awards Reception

 
 2016 Human Rights Awards Reception



December 8, 2016
5:15 - 8:00 pm

Registration closes tomorrow, December 7, at 9:00 am

United Nations Association of the National Capital Area to Host Human Rights Awards Reception on Capitol Hill in Honor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 71st Anniversary of the United Nations

Washington chapter of historic NGO to recognize four human rights advocates

Washington, D.C. – 6 December 2016 – The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) is pleased to announce that it will commemorate International Human Rights Day on Thursday, December 8, 2016 with its Annual Human Rights Awards Reception from 5:15-8:00 pm ESTat the Cannon House Office Building (Caucus Room), with a reception to precede the program commencing at 6:00 pm EST. UNA-NCA, in partnership with its Human Rights Committee, will recognize the outstanding work that individuals and organizations are doing to improve human rights in their communities and around the world.

At this event, three extraordinary individuals will receive the chapter’s highest awards: Ms. Felice GaerDirector of The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, will be presented with the UNA-NCA Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award by Navanethem Pillay, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ms. Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and Former President of Women Thrive Worldwide, will receive the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award presented byKaren Mulhauser, Former Chair of UNA-USA and Former President of UNA-NCA.

Mr. Eric Richardson, Political Economic Counselor for the U.S. Embassy for Libya, will be presented with the F. Allen “Tex” Harris Diplomacy Human Rights Award by Ambassador Robert R. King, Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights Issues, U.S. Department of State.

“I always wanted as a diplomat to find a way to explore and advocate for those fundamental freedoms for states in the developing world, especially with respect to rights involving the U.S. First Amendment and non-discrimination.  I have been fortunate to receive assignments, whether in Geneva working for the UN Human Rights Council or elsewhere, that allowed me to help implement our diplomacy in a way that was consistent with these very American values.”

Mr. Eric Richardson, Political Economic Counselor for the U.S. Embassy for Libya
Read the Spotlight on Mr. Richardson here.

UNA-NCA will present the Distinguished Community Human Rights Award to the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), a nationally recognized agency serving all low-income youth. This award will be accepted by Lori Kaplan, President and Chief Executive Officer of LAYC, and presented by Jose Antonio Tijerino, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

 “We will stay strong in our commitment to our values, diversity and inclusiveness. We will stay the course and continue to support our young people. This recognition for our work in the area of human rights is very important. It represents our commitment to standing for social justice issues, multi ethnic, racial, faith, gender and identity. Social justice work has been so much a part of our fabric since our inception.”

Ms. Lori Kaplan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Latin American Youth Center
 Read the Spotlight on Ms. Kaplan here.

This annual event that capitalizes on the achievements of those at the forefront of human rights is hosted by Honorary Chairs includingRepresentative Donald S. Beyer, Jr., our host on the Hill. See the full list of Honorary Chairs here.  

This program is also supported by the following institutional sponsors: Airschott, DC Youth Orchestra, Hansen Business Solutions, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, Latin American Youth Center, Northern Trust, United Nations Federal Credit Union, and Youth for Human Rights International.

Please visit the event page to learn more and register for this event. This is a ticketed event, open to the general public.

UNA-NCA
Established in 1952, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) is one of the oldest and largest chapters of the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA). Its territory includes all of the State of Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia.  With the help of over 1,000 members, volunteers, and supporters, UNA-NCA works to build public knowledge, to strengthen US-UN relations, and to aid the UN in achieving its goals.
   
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www.unanca.org
UNA-NCA is a Division of the United Nations Association of the United States of America



30 November 2016

Una Chapman Cox Fellow and U.S. Foreign Service Officer Luis F. Mendez Speaks at GCDC Conference

luis

On Friday, November 18, 2016, UNA-NCA's Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) Program hosted its Fall Model UN Training Conference and Professional Development Workshop at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The event began with keynote speaker Una Chapman Cox Fellow, and U.S. Foreign Service Officer Luis F. Mendez. The following is the full text of his speech to the students on his journey from Model UN to the Department of State, and the valuable lessons he learned along the way. 

Thanks for the kind introduction Paula.  And thank you to the UNA-NCA staff and volunteers for the organizing this wonderful event.  

Good morning.  How’s everyone feeling?  I don’t know about you, but I am feeling inspired.  Having been a Model UN participant for years, I know what you have to offer this world.   
 
I remember my first Model UN experience.  I have to be honest.  I was terrified.  I was assigned Burkina Faso, a country I knew nothing about.  I mustered the courage to deliver my opening points and I froze.  Yes.  Froze.  Zero. Nothing.  I eventually composed myself and yielded to the chair.  I remember feeling embarrassed.  How could I get through the rest of the conference?  But I did, winning the best delegate award in my committee. 
 
Fast forward a few years, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to represent a country where the impossible can become possible.  You see, my parents were immigrants from Ecuador.  My father a waiter.  My mother a seamstress.  My sisters and I didn’t have much growing up.  Yet, somehow/someway I became a United States diplomat – so don’t let anyone tell you dreams don’t come true.  We’re fortunate enough to live in the land of opportunity.
 
And in my travels as a diplomat, I have met some of the brightest children in the world, who sadly were never given that opportunity. They had the same talent, the same dreams that you do.  The difference wasn't drive or intelligence.  The difference was opportunity.   
 
Sadly, millions of children across the world do not have access to primary and secondary schools.  They will struggle to escape the cycle of poverty; earn lower wages; and will be more likely to contract HIV.  Because when children can’t go to school that not only affects their families’ health but the health, economy, and security of their countries. And in today’s interconnected world, all of that can affect the United States too.
 
This morning, I’d like to share a story of struggle and triumph that I hope will inspire you as much as me to be an advocate for change.
 
Meet Madeline. An 10 year-old girl from Cote d’Ivoire, where the average family lives on less than three dollars a day, and the country is still recovering from a long and bloody civil war.  Just a handful of the kids make it to secondary school.  Madeline is one of the lucky few.  She travels over two hours by foot each day, often in the dark. She dreams of being a surgeon and unlike many girls in her village has the support of her parents.  
 
I have met so many girls like Madeline across the world –- girls who are working to defy the odds and pursue their dreams and serve as an inspiration for other girls in their communities. 
 
So as you embark on today’s debate.  I want you to think of Madeline.
 
I want to conclude with three tidbits that I learned through my years as a Model UN delegate that I have turned to time and time again as a diplomat. 

1.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  As a diplomat I’ve worked on complex issues with no easy answers.  You will do the same today.  I urge you to be bold and ambitious. To not be afraid to fail.  I have many a times and that’s ok.  
 
2.  All voices matter.  Model U.N. will teach you to listen to the neglected voices.  As a diplomat, I’ve spent countless hours listening to refugees, to those in need, to Madeline.  Finding common ground and developing consensus begins with listening.  So listen, even if you may not agree. 
 
3.  You can’t change the world alone.  Model U.N. will teach you that you need allies/partners to push your agenda forward. Bullying your way around will not work, but empathy will.
 
So in closing, get to know each other, have fun, and as Ghandi would often say be the change you wish to see in the world.  Thank you!



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