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03 October 2019

Universal Periodic Review Stakeholder Reports

The Universal Periodic Review (or UPR) is a process set forth by the United Nations Human Rights Council that strives to improve the human rights situations in all of the member states of the UN. A rotative system is set in place so that, while reviews occur every year, each member state is reviewed every five years. The United States of America is set to be reviewed next on May 11th, 2020, during the 36th Session.  You can learn more about the United States' last review in 2015 here.

In striving for the most effective and comprehensive approach to the review of the human rights situation on the grounds of these member states, varying stakeholders at the national and international level contribute information to the leading reviewers. This information includes a report from the government of the nation itself that is being reviewed, as well as reports from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (Read more about these aforementioned processes here). 

At the local level, participation by civil society is also encouraged, as this information likewise includes reports prepared by non-governmental stakeholders that feel as though they have recognized a pressing issue that perhaps has not been recently addressed in a review of the country, and could potentially be left out of being addressed in a forthcoming session. The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) compiled a Stakeholder Report that was submitted in September of 2019 in efforts to inform the May 2020 review. This review drew on the strength of the organization’s innate essence as a grassroots group to emphasize the relevance of four key themes that individual nationwide stakeholders felt as though must be addressed by the UN. These themes are: “...the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees; gender equality and combatting human trafficking; the right to water; and the human rights of older persons.”

Beginning in early 2019, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) teamed up with other D.C.- based NGOs in an effort to conduct a similar survey of key National Capital Area-specific human rights concerns. In order to find out what issues D.C. area residents believed to be the most pressing in terms of human rights in the capital area, a public survey was conducted. It concluded that housing and homelessness emerged as the greatest human rights concern, followed by poverty and inequality, and D.C. statehood. Community roundtables were then held to discuss these specific issues further, and additional research was supplemented by the George Washington University Law School International Human Rights Clinic (GW IHR Clinic) in the conducting of formal studies on these problems. 

This past week, the results of these studies culminated in the submission of two formal reports to the OHCHR to be considered as part of the UPR for the United States of America in Geneva in 2020. 

One report is entitled Gender Equity in Our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C., United States of America, and was prepared by the UNA-NCA along with the Gender Justice Project (GJP) at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law). This report draws attention to five key human rights concerns pertaining to gender equity in the D.C. area. These concerns address all women, girls, and the LGBTQ community, but primarily center around low-income women and women of color, and include homelessness, lack of income security, lack of appropriate health care, alarming levels of gender-based violence, and mass incarceration.

The other report was prepared in conjunction with The DC Human Rights City Alliance (DCHRCA) and the George Washington University Law School International Human Rights Clinic (GW IHR Clinic), and is called The Situation of Human Rights in the District of Columbia as Concerns the Lack of Statehood and Voting Rights as well as Entrenched Inequality and the Lack of Affordable Housing. This report recommends sustainable housing reform in D.C., as well as the passing into law of Congressional legislation H.R. 51, which would lead to the creation of the District of Columbia as the nation’s 51st state, thus eliminating human rights concerns over a lack of federal representation as well as local autonomy for residents of the D.C. area.

Read the Full Stakeholder Reports Below:

Gender Equity in Our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C., United States of America

The Situation of Human Rights in the District of Columbia as Concerns the Lack of Statehood and Voting Rights as well as Entrenched Inequality and the Lack of Affordable Housing

Read the Full Press Release Here.

21 September 2019

Peace Day: Building Peace Pays

By Chic Dambach, UNA-NCA Asvisory Council Member; and Kimberly Weichel, UNA-NCA Advisory Council Chair

On Saturday, September 21 we celebrated the International Day of Peace. Peace Day was established by the United Nations in 1981 to “commemorate and strengthen the ideals of Peace both within and among all nations and peoples."  This is an opportunity to reflect personally and collectively on how we live peace in our families, communities, workplaces and in our world, and to take specific corrective steps where needed.

Virtually no one disputes the value of peace, yet we still hear the common refrain that war is inevitable, and some still contend that war is good for the economy. We rarely hear the affirming truth that peace is good for the economy, or that peace can be inevitable. Peace could also be deemed patriotic. In fact, we know it is. Consider the evidence.

Multiple studies have confirmed that the curve of human history has been towards peace. Wars and war-caused casualties have declined dramatically over the centuries and even more so since the world wars and the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, contrary to popular mythology - war is not good for anyone’s economy. If it were, the US would have been thriving while we fought two large wars, yet the economy collapsed, and the tax payers have been saddled with trillions of dollars in additional national debt. 

The Institute for Economics and Peace has calculated that, “The economic impact of violence to the global economy was $14.1 trillion in 2018… This is equivalent to 11.2% of world gross domestic product or $1853 per person. If the world decreased violence by only 10%, an additional 1.48 trillion could be directed to other economic activities.” Oxford University economist Paul Collier in The Bottom Billion writes, “Civil war tends to reduce growth by around 2.3% per year, so the typical seven-year war leaves a country around 15% poorer than it would have been.” Business suffers, people suffer, and government suffers.

The obvious corollary is that peace pays. The Global Peace Index (GPI), developed annually by the Institute, shows the multidimensional nature of peace by identifying key drivers, measures and economic benefits of peace. The 2018 Index shows that 86 countries became more peaceful in the past year, and that over half of the world enjoys a stable peace. This demonstrates that differences were resolved effectively without warfare, showing that war is not inevitable. Furthermore, the most peaceful countries correlate with the most prosperous, not to mention the happiest societies. The top 40 on the GPI correspond closely with the World Happiness Index top 40. People like to do business and live in peaceful countries. Who knew!

So, if living in peace produces prosperity and happiness, why not invest in the systems and structures that build peace? The GPI includes a detailed analysis of the factors that enable societies to grow. It is known as positive peace, which means “the capacity for a society to meet the needs of its citizens, reduce the number of grievances that arise and resolve remaining disagreements without the use of violence.” The infrastructure of peaceful societies is based on well-functioning government, sound business environment, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbors, free flow of information (a free press), high levels of human capital (quality education), low levels of corruption, and equitable distribution of resources.Research shows that positive peace creates an environment that leads to many other positive social and economic outcomes.    

Granted, building the pillars of peace can be a heavy lift, but it is easier and less costly than fighting wars – by far. As we celebrate the International Day of Peace, societies and governments the world over have an opportunity to reorder priorities and commit to building a more peaceful world. Why not?

Chic Dambach is President Emeritus, National Peace Corps Association, former President, Alliance for Peacebuilding, and a member of the UNA NCA Advisory Council.

Kimberly Weichel is a peacebuilder, cross cultural trainer, citizen diplomat and women’s leadership specialist who has worked for 25 years building bridges of understanding. She is Chair of the UNA NCA Advisory Council. This is one of the chapters in her new book Our Voices Matter: Wisdom, Hope and Action for Our Time. www.kimweichel.org.

27 August 2019

Ready for A New School Year After A Summer of Preparation and Hard Work

On August 26, Global Classrooms DC launched registration for the 2019-2020 school year – a day that the GCDC team has spent the entire summer preparing for.

Every year, the GCDC team evaluates all of the responses and feedback that schools and teachers have given throughout the year. This includes evaluations from the Model UN conferences in the fall and spring, as well as in-depth, midyear discussions that Nicole Bohannon, the Global Education Managing Director had with educators.

Armed with constructive criticism, starting in early June, GCDC goes through every activity, hand-out, and guide in the year-round program. They made all necessary changes, whether it's a typo or a more foundational issue that needs to be addressed. In addition, the GCDC Program Assistants conduct intensive research on the new topics that students will learn about for the upcoming school year. Overall, it takes all three summer months to update and publish the final materials across 8 units for the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition, the GCDC team ran a successful Model UN workshop in July 2019. The workshop's aim was to help students develop fundamental academic and life skills, and to prepare them to become active participants in Model UN simulations and global conversations. Participation in the workshop this year more than tripled, growing from 11 students last year to 36 students this year. Multiple nationalities were represented, as students from Vietnam, China, and the USA traveled to attend the three-day workshop.

Lastly, GCDC has confirmed several key partnerships that will enhance the upcoming school year for our students. For the second year in a row, GCDC will be working with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). With the ILO, they will be sponsoring a topic for the Spring 2020 Model UN Conference, hosted at the U.S. Department of State and Pan American Health Organization. IOM will also be sponsoring a topic for the Spring 2020 Conference, and highlighting the issue of "forced migration due to conflict".

In a new partnership, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will be sponsoring the conference, and participate in supporting students inside of the UNEP committee.

GCDC is launching into the upcoming school year with plenty of excitement! We are looking forward to the Fall Model UN Training Conference taking place on November 14, 2019 at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This year, we will be focusing on Malnutrition in a World Health Organization (WHO) committee. While hunger and malnutrition can be interconnected, they are two very different issues. One of the biggest differences is time: hunger is a temporary issue, but malnutrition is long-term issue. Malnutrition is when someone does not have access to healthy food for a long time, and the body cannot get the important nutrients it needs, causing serious health problems. Every country suffers from some form of malnutrition, whether it be obesity, stunting, overweight problems, or undernutrition. The health, social, and economic costs of malnutrition are high, but there are many possible solutions to help end malnutrition that students will debate in this committee.

16 August 2019

Inaugural International Youth Peace Forum


UNA-NCA in partnership with the Confucius Institute U.S. Center provided support and helped to foster a global learning community for the inaugural International Youth Peace Form– “Amplifying diverse voices from around the world.”  This conference provided a space for exceptional young people to share their stories, their perspectives, and their voices.

Capitol_Group_PhotoThe International Youth Peace Forum brought together 17 university students from nine countries to reflect on issues of global peace in a weeklong workshop in Washington, DC where they attended lectures and panels and participated in discussions and activities.  The students, who come from Ireland, China, Israel, South Africa, Germany, France, Japan, the United Kingdoms and the United States discussed conflicts in their home countries and solutions for creating peace as well as building bridgesUSIP_Simacross their different communities and cultures.  The student participants were recommended from the global ConfuciusInstitute network which currently includes 537 Confucius Institutes in 157 countries. They all have strong interest in conflictresolution, and represent a diversity of unique viewpoints and voices.

Along with the lectures and presentations, participants had the opportunity to visit centers of global thought and diplomacy in Washington, DC, including the U.S. Capitol, United States Institute of Peace, UN Information Center, Embassy of South Africa, NPC_Lunchthe African Union House, and the UN Foundation.  The goal of this conference was not to only train future peacebuilders, butalso to enable the participants to construct community-based peacebuilding projects in their local neighborhood, university, region or country to beimplemented over the course of the next year following the forum.

Meet the Participants

07 August 2019

El Paso and Dayton shootings fueled by hate and violation of human rights and values

By Stephen F. Moseley, President, UNA-NCA

       The recent 24 hours of gun violence in El Paso and Dayton, confirms once again that hate speech against immigrants, and aimed at people of color by high political leaders is fueling behavior by American citizens. This violates both our laws and the human rights of people to be free from fear, violence, and persecution because of their race and ethnicity.  In these most recent shootings, by young white men, their motivations appear to build directly on the political rhetoric from conservative and right wing media. Sadly, these events and the increasing rhetoric of hate from our political leaders coincides with this historic moment: The conclusion of the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Declaration clearly addresses the rights of immigrants and refugees, as well as the rights of all people to receive equal treatment and opportunity to enjoy their personal freedom globally and within the USA. 

       Our responsibility as members of UNA-NCA is to help our citizens and policy leaders to understand the source and history of the human rights declaration that was so thoughtfully crafted with the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, and later adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. The Declaration states in its first three articles as follows:

  • Article l. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Article 2.  Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. 
  • Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

      For too long every outrageous incident of mass killing in public places has been accomplished with legal access to military style assault weapons that are easily obtained.  There are over 400 million weapons in the hands of American citizens and residents in the U.S. It has become clear that the combustion from weapons availability, the rhetoric about racial “invasion”, and the labeling of immigrants as “violent criminals and animals”, directly causes these horrendous incidents. These actions are caused by few people who are prone to believe that they have been given license to take violent actions suggested by their political leaders and hate based websites.

       This issue has grown to be an American epidemic. It requires a greater control of and lesser access to high-powered automatic weapons, more civil rhetoric by our community and policy leaders, and lifelong education about the responsibility of all people to respect each other’s differences in background, race, ethnicity, gender identity and language, all of which make up the unique diversity we should protect and treasure.

       Our 1,000+ UNA-NCA members in DC, Virginia, and Maryland along with the 20,000 UNA-USA members in 200 chapters across the country must stand together with citizens everywhere in schools and civic gatherings. This will foster a full understanding of these human rights principles and our common humanity to prevent violence, control gun ownership, help foster dialogue to counter violent rhetoric, and engender policies nationally and locally to promote a culture of peace in our communities.

07 August 2019

Voices of Middle Eastern Youth and the Call to Action

By Sadia Saba and Alexis Wright, UNA-NCA Program Assistants

       On July 24, 2019, UNA-NCA in partnership with New Story Leadership (NSL) and the Stimson Center presented a moderated discussion that brought the diverse perspectives of Israeli and Palestinian youth who have first-hand experiences with the UN’s work on the ground. The audience was joined by eight delegates, half from Israel and the other half from Palestine, from the New Story Leadership program. These individuals spoke about their experiences of living within a historically unbalanced region that is filled with religious and ethnic conflict, but yet these problems have not stopped them from maintaining such success within their native lands and abroad. Outside of being members of the New Story Leadership program, the delegates were all spending their summers on Capitol Hill working for various US Representatives as well as leading their own “Projects for Change” in order to work towards internal peace building between Israel and Palestine.

       Gilad Sevitt, a social entrepreneur from Jerusalem and Hiba Yazebek, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who is an aspiring-journalist, opened the event by delivering keynote speeches about their upbringing within the region. They told personal stories of maneuvering life in Israel and there were clear differences in the journeys from the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. Some of these differences included the exposure to gender based violence, public health concerns and inadequate access to education. However, a thread that weaved both stories together was the necessity of communication. 

       There are 1.8 million Arab Palestinians living in Israel, which consists of 20 percent of Israel’s population, yet many Jewish Israelis only speak Hebrew. As Gilad noted, miscommunication between the two groups are leading causes of fear and hatred. Deepening these divides, Palestinians and Israelis rarely have interactions with one another. One of the Israeli NSL delegates noted that she met a Palestinian for the first time when she was 24 years old in the United States. Moreover, a Palestinian delegate stated that the only times she had interactions with Israelis were at checkpoints, where Israelis were uniformed and militarized. 

       This led to a theme and the biggest takeaway for the rest of the night: the importance of communication in areas of conflict like this one. UNA-NCA’s Executive Director Paula Boland and Dr. Richard Ponzio, Senior Fellow of the Stimson Center led a discussion that emphasized this, along with the imperative of global leadership through institutions like the UN and storytelling to share perspectives. Gilad founded an organization called Madrasa, which teaches Jewish Israelis Arabic for free. Hiba spoke about her Model UN experience at a Hebrew university, and how the experience allowed her to find her voice and articulate arguments for complex issues. Since all of the delegates are interning on the Hill this year, they noticed that there are many perspectives missing in the chief legislative body, such as the personal anecdotes from people living in the region. Advocacy and legislation needs to be led by these stories. One of the Israeli delegates said that you don’t have to be “pro- any side”, you have to be “pro-conversation”. Stories can be spread across networks to maximize impact, which helps foster mutual understanding across the world. Global citizens need to build empathetic connections with those facing these injustices. The speakers emphasized the importance of international cooperation in this conflict and how the United Nations is the best equipped vehicle to do so. But on a deeper and personal level we must educate ourselves on the narratives of our neighbors in order to develop a true understanding for change.

07 August 2019

UNA National Capital Area Chapter Talks Human Rights on the Radio

Human rights are close to home. UNA-USA’s National Capital Area Chapter recently joined WPFW 89.3FM’s Taking Action show to talk about their chapter’s work to uphold human rights for all Washingtonians and all citizens of the world. This work starts with their local Universal Periodic Review (UPR) consultation. Listen and learn!


05 August 2019

UNA Chair's Response to El Paso and Dayton Shootings


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