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06 July 2016

United Nations Human Rights Council

Between June 13 and July 1, The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) met for its 10th anniversary and 32nd session where the Council discussed a number of human rights resolutions put forth by member states. Nine resolutions were passed by the close of the session, including a resolution to create the first global level envoy position focused on the human rights of LGBTQ people. The envoy will advise the UN's 193 member states on the protection of LGBTQ people's rights and safety in their nations as well as advise the Human Rights Council on other ways to protect LGBTQ rights. The resolution passed after many hours of debate and multiple amendments that attacked the original resolution by a vote of 23 states in favor, 18 against, and 6 abstaining.

The Council also passed resolutions and texts on multiple other critical issues, such as the human rights of internally displaced peoples, violence against women, the impact of arms transfers on human rights, access to medicines and on capacity building in public health, mental health and human rights on the impact of discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The resolutions passed this week by the UNHRC aim to make the world safer and more just for everyone, regardless of sexuality, gender identity or nationality.

Refer to blog by Dr. Wesley Reisser, Senior Foreign Affairs Officer, Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, International Organization Affairs Bureau, United States Department of State.



28 June 2016

Brexit Reflects a Disturbing Trend

Statement from UNA-NCA President

What do the UK referendum on Brexit, the rise of nativism elsewhere in Europe, and the anti-trade and anti-immigration rhetoric of the US presidential campaign have in common?  They may well reflect a larger global schism. President Obama suggested as much at Stanford last week when he addressed the “changes and challenges raised by globalization.”

We face unprecedented global issues in the 21st century—an integrated world economy fueled by free trade and  global corporations that transcend sovereign regulation, the disparate impact of climate change, the proliferation of nonstate terrorism in failed and failing states, health pandemics, a refugee and migrant crisis, a powerful internet that can be used for good or evil, and population growth unaccompanied by economic and job growth—to name but a few. These issues can be addressed effectively only through  global cooperation and dialogue among sovereign states, regional organizations, civil society and the private sector.

Few of us grasp the extent of-- and irreversibility of –the  rapid pace of change, which inevitably creates anxiety,  and winners and losers. While younger generations may eagerly embrace change, older generations may be less adaptable.  The benefits of globalization may disproportionately accrue to those with the education and skills to adapt to new opportunities as well as those who benefit from the strength of diverse communities. The back lash is felt globally in the rise of ethnic and religious conflict, the assertion of state sovereignty and national identity as an antidote to global integration, and frustration with the inability of governments to respond to the changing needs of those left behind.

What does this mean for UNA-NCA as we work for constructive U.S. Leadership in the United Nations and other international organizations? Let me suggest a few ideas for further contemplation [and action].

·        Recognizing the essential global nature of the  challenges of the 21st century, we need  to increase public understanding and support for US Government engagement in the work of the United Nations and other international organizations in facilitating international collaboration among governments, civil society and the private sector.

·        The Global Goals for Sustainable Development represent a universal consensus on what needs to be done to address the underlying causes of gross inequality, conflict, and oppression. The U.S. should be a leader in implementing these Goals internationally and locally, taking into special account those displaced by or unable to adapt to globalization.

·        The U.S. should work to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations, enhancing its transparency and accountability, and ensuring that it listens to the people as well as governments.

·        The U.S. should strengthen regional organizations in which it is a member and encourage the United Nations to work more closely with regional organizations such as NATO, the EU, the African Union, ASEAN, and the OAS, among others.

·        As a leader in innovation and diversity, the U.S. can help rededicate the United Nations to the values of its Charter and ensure that the benefits of an integrated global community accrue to everyone, that no one is left behind.

At a time of increasing anxiety at the pace of change at home and abroad, UNA-NCA  can help raise public understanding of how, with U.S. leadership,  the United Nations can more effectively ensure that the benefits of globalization are extended to everyone, and not just the privileged few. Join UNA-NCA to help raise public awareness. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's statement on Brexit can be found here

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



21 June 2016

UNA-NCA Participates in Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

LeadershipSummitOn June 12-14, UNA-USA held its annual Leadership Summit and Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. The Summit, entitled “The U.S. and the UN in 2016,” brought together hundreds of members from chapters across the United States to learn about advocacy, partake in panels led by experts, and to provide networking opportunities between members from across the country. The Summit culminated on June 14, when members gathered to advocate for a strong partnership between the United States and the United Nations.

Advocacy Day began with a breakfast at the National Education Association (NEA) where team leaders led training sessions before leaving for their respective Congressional visits. UNA-NCA members had the opportunity to meet with Congressional representatives from Washington, DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia and discussed three important issues: full funding of the United States’ peacekeeping dues, robust support for the UN refugee agency, and the UN’s “Education Cannot Wait Fund.” Representatives were also encouraged to work with the UN to achieve the recently adopted Global Goals for Sustainable Development. UNA-NCA’s members were well received and encouraged by the opportunity to bring  issues that they felt strongly about to the attention of  our nation’s policymakers.

UNA-NCA is appreciative of its opportunity to meet with Congressional representatives and excited to continue to advocate for a strong partnership between the UN and the United States. Individuals interested in getting involved with UNA-NCA and its advocacy work are invited to become a member of the organization and then join UNA-NCA’s Advocacy Committee!

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21 June 2016

Open Letter to the Members of UNA-NCA on the Refugee Crisis

On June 20thWorld Refugee Day—the United Nations announced a new record—not the kind of record that we can be proud of.
According to the UN  Refugee Agency’s  Global Trends Report, 65.3 million people have been displaced by world conflicts (about the population of France), including nearly 100,000 children traveling alone, fleeing gangs, war and persecution. And this doesn’t count those displaced by earthquakes and other natural disasters. More people have crossed that bridge than at any time in recorded history. Whether it is the civil war in Syria, Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, the Islamic State in Iraq, drug gangs in Central America, oppression in Eritrea, fleeing Boko Haram in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and  Chad,  ethnic cleansing in South Sudan, Burundi or the Central African Republic, among other conflict areas, multitudes have left their homes, their communities, their work, their roots, and their traditions, as they face an unknown future. Some 41 million are displaced in their own country. More than half the displaced children are out of school,  and we run the risk of losing a generation of educated and skilled workers.

 The United States  historically has resettled more refugees than any other country. We have agreed to take 85,000 refugees this fiscal year, 10,000 of them from Syria (although only 2,805 have been resettled so far). The US is the largest  donor of humanitarian assistance, exceeding $6 billion last year. As thousands attempt to cross the Mediterranean each day, with tragic reports filling the airways of boats capsizing and children drowning, there are strong advocates that the US should take in many more Syrian refugees. Given the political climate in the United States—the fierce  opposition of some members of Congress and State Governors and the incendiary  campaign rhetoric—there are limits on what the US government can do, as Assistant Secretary Richard stated so regrettably at UNA-NCA’s Annual Meeting.

 There are, however,  important steps that we as Americans can take to support the assimilation of Syrian refugees at home and to improve the conditions under which they live abroad. Of course, there is much we can do as individuals in our communities to welcome refugees and to support the underfunded UN agencies, the UN Refugee Agency, the World Food Program, UNICEF, and others. We can support Secretary Kerry’s  tireless efforts to negotiate a political settlement that will enable the refugees to return to their home country. For that reason, enabling them to stay in close proximity, where the language and culture are familiar, would facilitate their return.

The education of children in resettlement areas is a huge challenge, and UNA-USA has proposed an Adopt A Future Campaign. Of course, UNA- NCA members are free to participate as individuals in this program.  However, we at UNA-NCA need to decide what our Chapter can do to address this crisis of the 21st Century. Should we consider, for example, involving the area schools in our Global Classrooms program in support of the UNA-USA initiative? We should have a program ready to go by the time President Obama hosts the Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis at the UN General Assembly in September.

To think through these challenges and make recommendation to the UNA-NCA Board, I am looking for volunteers to serve on a Refugee Crisis Steering Committee. If you would like to serve on this Steering Committee, please email me at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . I hope to hear from you.

Thank you for your support and commitment.

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




21 June 2016

UNA-NCA Participates in UNA-USA’s 2016 Leadership Summit

From June 12th to June 14th, UNA-NCA members joined with hundreds of UNA-USA members from around the country to hear from different speakers regarding global issues and their relationship with the UN.

                                      HandsupUNA-NCA members participating in breakout sessions at the Annual Leadership Summit

From June 12th to June 14th, UNA-NCA members joined with hundreds of UNA-USA members from around the country to hear from different speakers regarding global issues and their relationship with the UN. The Summit started on Sunday at the National Education Association (NEA) with a networking breakfast while members could peruse various exhibits from schools and organizations. After introductions, Robert Skinner, Director of the UN Information Center gave a keynote address, followed by remarks on the Global Goals.
leadership1UNA-NCA Executive Director Paula Boland participates in a panel on Chapter Effectiveness
The  morning breakout sessions included a talk on the new UNA-USA Refugee Initiative, a global health panel entitled, “World War Z—Beyond Ebola: UN foundation Global Health Initiatives,” and two sets of Global Goals Roundtables. UNA-NCA leaders facilitated several of the Global Goals roundtables, including Laura Blyler (co-chair, UNA-NCA Young Professionals), Jill Christianson (Director at Large, UNA-NCA Board of Directors), A. Edward Elmendorf (Past President and co-chair, Sustainable Development Goals Task Force, UNA-NCA), and Steven F. Moseley (President-Elect and co-chair, Sustainable Development Goals Task Force, UNA-NCA).

backpacksAttendees pack backpacks for the 1 Million Backpacks Initiative, benefiting Refugees without educationEveryone regrouped for an intergenerational lunch, where Phil Gwok from BridgeWorks, LLC addressed connecting and uniting different generations. He offered strategies for improving inter-generational communication and collaboration. During the afternoon, UNA-NCA leaders participated in several panels. Executive Director Paula Boland, part of the “Five Principles of Chapter Effectiveness” panel,  spoke on Board development and engagement, sharing UNA-NCA's efforts to build a strong Governance Committee whose year-round activities range from identifying and recruiting new Board members to educating and engaging them in the organization's work. UNA-NCA Director of Membership and Programs Kristen Hecht spoke on the “Good to Great” panel on UNA-NCA’s Career Dinners, and Dr. Laurence Peters on UNA-NCA's Graduate Fellows Program, and Young Professionals Co-Chair Lanice Williams moderated the Young Professionals Career Roundtable. Yoobi and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. then presented their partnership on the 1 Million Backpacks Initiative to help displaced peoples. Following dinner, members could attend a screening of ALL RISE: Journeys to a Just World.


Amb._Tracey_JacobsAmb. Tracey Jacobson speaking on the recent U.S. shift toward multilateral foreign policyOn Monday, members started the morning with networking over breakfast. Following breakfast, Peter Yeo, the Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy for the United Nations Foundation, introduced the morning’s keynote speaker, Ambassador Tracey Jacobson. Ambassador Jacobson has been a career member of the Foreign Service, and spoke on the recent U.S. shift toward multilateral foreign policy. She also encouraged support of the other states on the UN Human Rights Council and how to affect change, even though the U.S. is currently not on the Council. After the address, Ambassador Jacobson answered numerous questions from the audience on her job and the future of the U.S.’s partnership with the UN.

For the first breakout session of the day, attendees chose between “Beyond Beijing 20: Women’s Voices and Visions” and “Challenges MuelhouserKaren Mulhauser speaking on how to address gender inequalitiesand Choices: Peace and Security.” In Beyond Beijing, women leaders, including past UNA-NCA President Karen Mulhauser, spoke on how to address global education inequalities in order to achieve the Global Goal of Gender Equality. At the same time, a panel of peace and security leaders from the Better World Campaign and the White House spoke on how UN Peacekeepers play a vital role in keeping world peace.

Following a short break, members attended either “Beyond the Road to Paris: Actions for Climate Change” or “Nobody left Outside: Refugee Issues Panel.” During the Climate Change session,  panelists spoke on how both the public and private sectors can work to prevent climate change. In the refugee panel, Shelly Pitterman, the UNHCR Regional Representative for the USA and the Caribbean, and Sana Mustafa, a Syrian Refugee, addressed the refugee crisis and the challenges that many refugees face.

PanelDirector of Membership and Programs Kristen Hecht and Dr. Laurence Peters speak on Professional Development OpportunitiesDuring lunch, Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of UNF, spoke on the positive benefits that UNA-USA and UNF have on U.S.-UN relations. She then took questions from the audience on the work of UNF and the UN. Following her talk, Better World Campaign and UNA-USA staff addressed the nature of Advocacy Day by providing materials and structure for raising concerns on U.S. support of the UN. Following the Advocacy Day planning, French Ambassador to the U.S. Gérard Araud, spoke on his work as a past French Representative to the Security Council, on reaching foreign agreements, and climate change prevention. UNA-USA staff Troy Wolfe and Wesley Rogerson then introduced new mini-simulation material that has been used by the U.S. State Department for Model UN programs around the country and within our own Global Classrooms  DC program.

Moving from the National Education Association, where the day’s events had been held, members rejoined at the United States Institute of Peace to enjoy an evening reception and hear from Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard on her work in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. This closed the day’s events, in time for members to get up the next morning for Advocacy Day on the Hill.

imageDuring the Summit, elected representatives of the UNA-USA National Council were officially installed to represent UNA-USA's regions. UNA-NCA Board member Kasara Davidson and Executive Director Paula Boland will be representing the Mid-East Region, alongside Teena Halbig from the Kentucky Division, and Diane Adams, representing Alpha Kappa Alpha. Karen Mulhauser was recognized for her effective leadership and the Honorable Teta Banks from the South Central Region was elected Chair of the National Council.

Thank you to UNA-USA for putting together this event for members nationwide and in the National Capital Area, and to all the guest speakers for taking the time to increase our understanding of U.S.-UN relations.




16 June 2016

The Unsung Heroes of the United Nations

The United Nation’s 17 Specialized Agencies are the unsung heroes of the UN system, working 24/7 to facilitate harmonious global standards of safety, health, security, travel, trade  and communications, among others. UN agencies care for the most vulnerable of the world’s population— the poor and the hungry, refugees and the displaced, minorities and the oppressed, and victims of ethnic and religious conflict and gender discrimination.

Air travel is a prime example. Global standards have made international flying the safest form of transportation. You are safer on that flight than you are traveling to and from the airports. It is not serendipity that aircraft and international airports are safe and the pilots and ground control communicate efficiently in the same language. This is due to the 72 years of standard setting by the now 191 member states  of the International Civil Aviation Organization (FAA) in Montreal.

Yet rare accidents do happen, and ICAO ensures global cooperation in finding the root causes and taking steps to ensure they do not happen again. In recent years there has been a greater emphasis on identifying problems before there is an accident and taking preventative measures.

After the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines  Flight 370 over the Indian Ocean in March 2014, ICAO took bold action under the skilled leadership of the Director of the Air Navigation Bureau, Nancy Graham, a US citizen and former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Associate Administrator. ICAO expedited the creation of a Global Flight Tracking System.  [UNA-NCA held a program urging Global Flight Tracking in June 2014 featuring Nancy Graham as a keynote speaker.] Although the new system will evolve over several years, the fact that agreement on a schedule of implementation has been achieved demonstrates, in my judgment,  the effectiveness of expert US citizens in UN organizations. We have the technology to ensure that no commercial flight ever again simply disappears over international waters.

Despite the most expensive search in aviation history—over $100 million— MH 370 has not been found. Nor have the so-called black boxes (flight data and voice recorders)  which would provide essential information on the cause of the crash, which remains a mystery. It took two years for French ships to find the black boxes after the crash of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. Sometimes recovery of the recorders may be delayed by hostilities in the crash site as was the case of Malaysian Airlines 17 shot down in eastern Ukraine, and the delay in finding the data and voice recorders from EgyptAir 804 means we cannot determine whether terrorism was the cause.  The search is a race against time since the batteries in the black boxes stop sending signals in about 30 days.

The enormous cost of these searches, the enduring pain of the victim’s families as they await information about the cause of an accident, and the inability of ICAO, industry  and governments to take corrective action to protect future flights all compel an expeditious reexamination of the data collection and transmission procedures. The black box system, introduced in the 1960’s, is antiquated, expensive and inadequate in an era of real time data streaming.

US leadership is again essential to modernize the use of data recorders. For starters, the battery life can be extended to at least 90 days as proposed by European Aviation Safety Organization, and recorders could be designed to eject during a crash,  float in international waters, and be detectable from the air. Standards can be phased in by applying them initially to commercial aircraft in overseas flights. Ultimately, however, some form of live streaming of data to a beacon or other temporary storage system should be required. Pilots must be assured that their privacy will be protected and airlines need to understand  that the additional equipment cost will be far less than the cost in human suffering, delayed corrective safety and security measures, and government searches. Cooperation of the International Telecommunications Union will be necessary in providing the necessary broadband.

Seeking agreement of 191 member states can be a very time consuming process, but US leadership, bringing the enormous technical expertise of the FAA and private industry to bear, can accelerate the process and address the concerns of the airlines and the pilots. Now is time to move forward.

Ambassador  Donald T. Bliss (rtd)
[Former US Ambassador to ICAO]
DonBlisssig




15 June 2016

Statement from UNA-NCA President on Mass Shooting in Orlando

From the President of UNA-NCA

Last Sunday morning we awoke to the horrific and heartbreaking news of the worst mass shooting in the history of our country. We at UNA-NCA offer our deepest condolences to the victim’s families and friends and the City of Orlando. We hope for a speedy recovery of the survivors from the injuries and trauma resulting from this tragedy.

We may never fully comprehend the twisted motives of the shooter—whether indoctrination by the evil ideologies of terrorism, hatred for the LBGT community or some form of self-loathing or mental instability—likely some combination of the three. We do know that the loss of so many innocent lives in such a short time span-- as was the case in Newtown, Aurora and San Bernardino--  was perpetrated by a military-style automatic weapon, easily obtainable in the US marketplace.

As Americans we respond with shock and grief. As members of UNA-NCA, we are reminded that in our interdependent world, Americans are not immune from acts of terrorism, hatred, violence, atrocities, and mental illness. Nor are we immune from  false ideologies and hatred of those who are culturally different whether spawned here at home or around the world.  Fear does not respect sovereign borders. No wall can keep fear out—only tolerance and respect for diversity.

Despite the progress we are making toward realizing the values of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights— working for peaceful and tolerant communities and reaffirming our “faith in  human rights” and “the worth and dignity of every human person”-- there will be significant setbacks along the way. The valor of the first responders and law enforcement, the lines of people giving blood, and the selfless acts of those targeted by the shooter in helping each other in Orlando  all attest to the fact that most Americans respond with courage and selflessness to such setbacks.

We take comfort in the fact that the United Nations is setting forth a counter terrorism narrative, advocating for the rights of the LBGT community and has adopted Global Goals to guide our work toward a better world. US leadership has been critical to the UN’s recent progress in each of these areas, but the tragedy in Orlando reminds us that the challenges are universal. We have much to do here at home to reduce the violence, hatred, conflict, and mental illness which continue to plague our society.

At UNA-NCA, we are uniquely positioned to advance the UN’s universal values and Global Goals in our communities. We can work for equal rights and safety for the LBGT community and other vulnerable groups. We can work for reasonable gun control that keeps weapons out of the hands of killers, would-be terrorists,  and the mentally ill. We can counter the false ideologies of terrorism by building diverse, inclusive communities that enable each person to be respected and reach their potential. Orlando reminds us that progress is not guaranteed. It is hard work, and it is best achieved when we realize that we are part of a richly varied and  interconnected global community in which, despite our differences, we share common values.

DonBlisssig 

Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)



15 June 2016

2016 Annual Membership Meeting

The Annual Meeting of UNA-NCA took place on Thursday, June 9, with more than 100 members and chapter leaders in attendance to celebrate the organization's accomplishments over the past year!

IMG_2396On June 9, UNA-NCA held its 63rd Annual Membership Meeting at the United Nations Foundation Headquarters. Members gathered to hear remarks from Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), President of UNA-NCA and keynote speaker, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard on "Meeting the Humanitarian Challenges of the 21st Century". Three awards were presented to chapter leaders along with the announcement of the 2016 Board of Directors election results

President Bliss opened the Annual Meeting by recognizing the recent and forthcoming changes for both the United Nations and the United States of America this year, highlighting the ongoing refugee crisis and upcoming election of the President of the United States and selection of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. President Bliss continued by presenting the 2015-2016 UNA-NCA Annual Report, and invited members to further their involvement in the organization by joining its various program committees.    

Anne_Richard_2President Bliss then welcomed keynote speaker, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard. Assistant Secretary Anne Richard remarked on the global displacement crisis of refugees and emphasized the importance of the United States government in providing humanitarian aid and opening its borders. She discussed key topics from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, how countries share responsibility, and how to protect women's rights. She reported that the Summit will be followed by two more high-profile meetings set to take place in September: when world leaders gather for the UN General Assembly and when President Obama will host a Leaders' Summit focused specifically on the needs of refugees. In the months between now and then, the President will be asking governments to make concrete commitments that will meet the needs and objectives of today's humanitarian crisis. The Assistant Secretary concluded by thanking UNA-NCA in its pursuit to help the planet and citizen. See full remarks.

IMG_2392Three awards were presented throughout the evening: the Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award, the Evelyn Falkowski Volunteer Service Award, and the Richard and Anne Griffis Program Leadership Award. The Johnson Family presented the Arthur W. Johnson Award to the Honorable Constance (Connie) A. Morella for her exemplary leadership and commitment to the vital work of the United Nations. 

tomUNA-NCA Executive Director Paula Boland presented the UNA-NCA Evelyn Falkowski Volunteer Service Award to Thomas Bradley, Vice President of Development, and Vanessa Francis, Vice President of Membership and Volunteer Engagement, for their outstanding volunteer service and commitment to the work of the United Nations. Both Tom Bradley and Vanessa Francis are longstanding members of UNA-NCA.

SDGs_Task_Force__leaders_and_Roger_Griffis__2016_UNA-NCA_Annual_Meeting_1The Griffis family presented the final award - the Richard and Anne Griffis Program Leadership Award to UNA-NCA's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Task Force. Led by A. Edward Elmendorf and Stephen F. Mosley, the entire task force was recognized for its efforts to advance the Global Goals for Sustainable Development both locally and globally, and its successful integration of the SDGs throughout all of UNA-NCA's program committees.

The annual meeting was followed by a festive reception in which people with diverse backgrounds in the UNA-NCA community mingled, discussed topics of common interests, and shared their own stories from the organization throughout the year. Guests were invited to take pictures with their favorite Global Goal for Sustainable Development (view the photo gallery on UNA-NCA's Facebook papge).

It was a pleasure to see so many dedicated members attend UNA-NCA's Annual Meeting. Special thanks to the the United Nations Foundation for providing the excellent venue downtown, and to the United Nations Association of the United States of America for their organizational and logistical support.  




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