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17 November 2016

What have the UN Sustainable Development Goals to do with Muslim Americans?

Dr. Iqbal Unus, a board member here at UNA-NCA,  has lead an extensive life and career on the evolving Muslim presence in America, gaining distinctive insight into its growth. He's provided the following thoughts on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and what they can do for Muslim Americans. The original blog post can be found here

What have the UN Sustainable Goals to do with Muslim Americans?

A lot that matters.

Such as caring for the neighbor in need, near and far. In today’s global village, the far away neighbor is as near as our newspaper, radio, television or just the social media. And what happens to that neighbor – far away, yet so close – is a matter of concern to us and affects our own welfare.

Whether it is world peace, or hunger and sickness, human beings are interconnected across political boundaries and cultural barriers. Transmission of disease, transfusion of ideas, transportation of commerce, all demand from us the responsibility to act globally even as we busy ourselves with matters of local import.

For over 70 years now the United Nations has been the hope and the channel for those who seek to care for the neighbor far away – in matters of peace, hunger, health, education and a myriad other things. The United Nations Association of National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), a non-profit association of members, volunteers, and supporters in the greater Washington area, dedicated to helping the UN achieve its goals – has worked “to build knowledge, understanding, informed opinion, and new ideas on the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and its relationship with the United States.” UNA-NCA has worked “with foreign policy and political decision makers, schools of all levels, and other organizations in the National Capital Area on such issues as conflict resolution, nuclear non-proliferation, global health, and sustainable development.” It has worked to “build public support for constructive US leadership in a more effective United Nations.”

Advocacy, outreach, education and networking are the four pillars of UNA-NCA’s work with the U.S. Congress, with universities and other non-government organizations, with schools students, and with young professionals. Through a variety of programs, UNA-NCA seeks to help the public at large understand and appreciate the work of the United Nations, and be motivated to act.

One area of focus that demands and deserves our attention is the commitment of the United Nation’s member nations to a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopted on September 25, 2015, these 15-year goals present “an unprecedented opportunity to bring the countries and citizens of the world together to embark on a new path to improve the lives of people everywhere, building a better world with no one left behind.”

From ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all across the world, each goal has specific targets to be achieved. And achieved they can be if all – governments, the private sector, civil society and people like us – do their part. Let’s tell everyone about SDGs, not only to widen the circle of those who care, but also to contribute to a sustainable future by taking necessary actions in normal everyday life. Here are some examples of what we can do: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction/

A word to the community leaders.

Your leadership is critical in motivating others to care for our neighbors around the world, starting by associating with the UNA-NCA. Please share your thoughts with your community to educate them about the critical need and purpose of the United Nations in today’s world, and encourage them to become members and participants in UNA-NCA.

Your leadership matters.

14 November 2016

You Can Now Buy Historic Book on UNA's History!

On November 1st, UNA-USA and UNA-NCA launched the release of UNA-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action. The book launch marked and celebrated the legacy of UNA's history, dating back to before the United Nations was even created.
jim_and_dulcie The groundbreaking book, first of it's kind, is now available for purchase. The book details the story of of the creation of the United Nations Association— the decades-long campaign to promote the UN to the US public, the role of Eleanor Roosevelt, the decline of popular support, Track II diplomacy with Iran and the Soviet Union, and much more. The book draws on a wealth of archival material and personal interviews to tell an honest, and long overdue, story of the UNA-USA's persistence, problems, and achievements.

(Lead author Jim Wurst along with editor and contributor on Eleanor Roosevelt chapter, Dulcie Leimbach)

Robert Orr, UN Undersecretary-General and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, said, "This volume not only serves as an authoritative history of an important organization, but also provides important insights into network-based organizing and governance as it is evolving today."

Laurence Peters, Director of UNA-NCA's Graduate Fellows Program, in his review of the book, said, 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."

UNA-NCA has limited copies of the book for sale at the discounted price of $20. If interested, please e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call the office at 202.223.6092. un_book_pic

Otherwise, the book is $27.50 and can be found on the publisher's website here.

09 November 2016

Statement of the UNA-NCA President on the U.S. Election

On behalf of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), we extend our congratulations to the President-Elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President-Elect, Mike Pence. In an incredibly close election, reflecting a divided nation, they are the winners of the majority of the Electoral College. The peaceful transition of power, the cornerstone of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, begins.

As President-Elect Trump and the 115th Congress (with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate) take office, our work at UNA-NCA to increase public understanding of the work and values of the United Nations has never been more important. With an experienced UN official and former head of State António Guterres, as the next UN Secretary-General, there is an opportunity to establish a strong working relationship between the US and the United Nations.

While President-Elect Trump’s views on the United Nations were not fully articulated during the campaign, his message of change included skepticism of US unilateral intervention in foreign conflicts and the need for fair and just international trade and commerce.  Resolving conflict without direct US military intervention and achieving fair and balanced trade relationships inevitably involves international collaboration and the application of universal standards and norms—a function of the United Nations and other international institutions.  

The Republican Party’s Platform provides that “international assistance is a critical tool for advancing America’s security and economic interests by preventing conflict, building stability, opening markets for private investment, and responding to suffering and need with the compassion that is at the heart of our country’s values.” Espousing a “strong commitment to international development and diplomacy,” the Platform highlights the Millennium Challenge Corporation as “an alternative means of keeping the peace, far less costly both in dollars and in human lives than military engagement.” The Platform embraces “foreign assistance programs and efforts as a catalyst for private sector investment to fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, and open new markets for American goods and services in a competitive global economy.”

The Platform reflects an ambiguity in the US-UN relationship. It recognizes that “the United States, through the founding of the United Nations and NATO, has participated in a number of international organizations which can, and sometimes do not, serve the cause of peace and prosperity.” It continues to advocate for “long overdue changes,” “full transparency in financial operations,” and against population programs, anti-Israel rhetoric on the Human Rights Council, and certain international agreements.

UNA-NCA agrees that greater efficiency, accountability, and transparency are needed at the United Nations, which is an imperfect but indispensable institution. US leadership has been important in reducing the anti-Israeli treatment in the Human Rights Council and must continue. A better understanding of the provisions in international treaties, such as the Law of the Sea, would demonstrate how ratification would protect US interests.

Whether it is providing humanitarian assistance to the victims of natural and man-made disasters, including the 70 million refugees and displaced persons, or providing food to 90 million hungry people in 80 countries, or ensuring the safety and security of international air travel, the UN serves the US national security interest in countless ways.

125,000 UN Peacekeepers in 16 conflict zones on four continents work to maintain peace and security in failed or failing states—which are breeding grounds for non-state terrorism. At one-eighth the cost of US boots on the ground, UN blue helmets are a cost effective alternative to sending US troops to places like Somalia, Lebanon, or the Golan Heights. Yet UN Peacekeepers must be better equipped and trained and held accountable for abuses and neglect. And the capacity of the UN to prevent conflicts and build the institutions that sustain the peace must be strengthened. These actions are in our national security interest and consistent with the agenda of change advocated by the President-Elect.

With strong US support, the United Nations, working with regional organizations like NATO, the African Union, the OAS, and ASEAN, can serve our national security interests more effectively than unilateral action. But this will require redirecting US foreign policy to work much more collaboratively to prevent and resolve conflicts, to maintain and build peaceful institutions, to supplement crisis response with long term strategies and planning, and to seek global agreement on the challenges of the 21st century.  

For, as the President-Elect made clear during the campaign, many of the issues facing the nation are truly global in nature. There is no dividing line between domestic and foreign policy. Job creation and economic growth, the strengthening of the middle class and creating ladders of economic opportunity for the poor in an age of growing income inequality can be achieved effectively only in the context of an interconnected global economy. Pandemics like Ebola and other communicable diseases like Zika, illegal immigration, nuclear proliferation, trade imbalance and fairness, cybersecurity, rising sea levels attributable to climate change, and the threat of terrorism can be addressed only through global negotiation and collaboration. The United States cannot solve these problems alone.

The President-Elect has advocated change in the foreign policy that has seen the United States bogged down in seemingly endless wars. For a foreign policy establishment schooled in the cold war, this will require unprecedented restraint: repairing our moral authority at home instead of seeking to impose our form of democracy globally, limiting military interventions to situations that are indisputably in the national interest, resisting the temptation to mediate every dispute, and avoiding the slippery slope sliding back into the cold war despite Russian and Chinese aggression.

This does not mean sitting on our hands while conflicts proliferate, crimes against humanity cause unconscionable suffering, and failed states become breeding grounds for non-state terrorism. It means strengthening, empowering and working through international institutions like the United Nations and regional organizations to resolve conflicts, maintain peace and security, promote sustainable economic development, and advocate for human rights based on universal norms. The United Nations is only as effective as the member states, and especially the permanent five members of the Security Council, enable it to be by funding it, empowering it, and holding it accountable. But when it is enabled, the UN speaks with the weight of the world community behind it. And members states listen, not always right away but eventuality and inevitably.

As the transition to the next Administration and Congress proceeds, there is an opportunity to demonstrate that a stronger, more efficient and effective United Nations can serve the US national interest. The United Nations can be much more than an ideological debating society or crisis response mechanism. This past year, the adoption of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development demonstrates how the UN can establish the architecture that enables member states to address the symptoms that underlie conflict and breed non-state terrorism. The Global Goals envision a strong partnership with the private sector and strengthening the rule of law, fully consistent with the statements of the Republican Party’s Platform on development assistance. And while it will require openness to science and natural evidence, the Paris Climate Change Agreement has also enabled States to work collaboratively with the private sector to reduce the threats to the planet.

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

09 November 2016

What's In a Story?

by Heather Hill, Co-Chair, Human Rights Committee

Last week, members and friends of the UNA-NCA celebrated an incredible legacy together at the book launching of UNA-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action."

The UNA-USA and its predecessor, the American Association for the United Nations, have been around since before the actual birth of the United Nations itself. Members and leaders over the years have made remarkable contributions to humankind through their input into and advocacy for the UN Charter and subsequent global policies and recommendations. They have also actively taken on issues of great consequence to the world today, tackling issues of human rights, of environmental accountability, of education and access and health.

UNA-USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action documents this outstanding legacy with pieces from previously unpublished letters, documents, images, and interviews. This project was initiated and directed by former UNA-USA President and CEO, Edward Elmendorf. James Wurst, a UN journalist and analyst of much renown, took the lead on writing, in collaboration with Dulcie Leimbach of Pass-Blue, who joined the project as editor and fellow researcher. The Tuesday night event included a reception, book signing, remarks from all the contributors as well as current UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley and UNA-NCA President, former US Ambassador Donald Bliss, and a panel discussion and question time with the audience.

"It's remarkable, the influence that individuals [in UNA-USA] had with almost no recognition," Wurst commented in his remarks. And indeed, the pages of the book teem with stories of tireless advocacy, wearying travel, and little reward beyond the personal satisfaction that UNA-USA members and leaders over the years found in their mission and their efforts. In fact, it is notable that at the beginning, the UNA-USA executive director had a number of meetings with President Roosevelt, working closely with him towards the creation of what became the United Nations.

One of the most wonderful aspects of the event was the clear understanding that this book will not be the "Complete" history of UNA-USA, but rather, an incredibly inspiring collection of stories leading up to these past few years. Already, there are more stories to be written and more currently unfolding as the chapters of UNA-USA are alive across the States and UNA's in different countries - span across the world. It was inspiring, not only to hear some of the stories from history at this event, which I promptly dived into, but to know that the room was full of people who are continuing this history. A UNA-USA history at Seton Hall University will enrich the history further with UNA-USA documents and transcriptions of interviews undertaken for the book. Further oral history contributions are planned. 

"You know it. You lived it. You made it happen. - This is your history," Wurst stated, and he is right. The book is surprising, fascinating, and deeply inspiring--and the time is still ours. UNA-USA is the story of absolutely ordinary people doing extraordinary things together. That's inspiring in itself, and that is why I am proud to be a member, proud to belong to such an auspicious group of dedicated civilians and public servants, and proud to be part of the legacy--the ongoing history--outlined in the book.



03 November 2016

Support a Global Classrooms DC Delegate!

With the help of over 70 volunteers from local universities and organizations, this past year Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) is seeing tangible benefits in our communities, particularly a rise in global consciousness among students in the DC Metro Area. The efforts by educators and students culminated in our Annual Spring Model UN Conference at the U.S. Department of State and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), where students had the opportunity to discuss complex global issues. Read more about the GCDC program in the 2015-2016 GCDC Annual Report.

Moving forward, we want to continue offering the next generation the skills needed to better navigate an increasingly complex and interdependent world. As a result, we are welcoming new staff and initiatives for the upcoming year.

Curriculum for 2016-2017

Students will discuss and learn about important international issues including access to primary education, rising sea levels (climate change), human rights of refugees, technology for sustainable city development, the situation in Somalia, and preventing violent extremism. Our annual Model UN conference at the U.S. Department of State will take place on May 2, 2017.

Luis F. Mendez

GCDC welcomes Luis F. Mendez, Una Chapman Cox Fellow, and U.S. Foreign Service Officer, to our team for the 2016 – 2017 school year. Luis recently served at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, and has overseas experience in Senegal, Morocco, and Ghana. During the school year, Luis will be discussing the importance of Model United Nations and serving as a mentor to selected schools, sharing his experience as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, and professional mentoring for students interested in pursuing similar careers.

GCDC: Support-a-Delegate

Last year, 43% of our students attended Title 1 schools in Washington DC, coming from low-income families and qualifying for reduced-lunch programs. We understand that individuals and organizations are stretched for resources and that learning extends outside of the classroom. These opportunities, including Model UN Conferences, are provided through GCDC to public and public charter school students in the DC area for little to no cost

Through our new initiative, Support a Delegate, new and loyal donors of GCDC can continue supporting students, educators, and classrooms in the DC Metro Area. Donation levels start at $20, and each donation through the Support a Delegate program receives a unique acknowledgement, including handwritten letters from students and educators, social media recognition, and invitations to our Model UN Conferences and other program activities.

Support a Student

For only $75 you can cover the cost of a student’s delegate fee for our Annual Spring Model UN Conference at the U.S. Department of State on May 2, 2017. This conference gives students the opportunity to discuss current international issues as a UN delegate, interact with over 500 students from different schools in the US and abroad, and strengthen their speaking, writing, and conflict resolution skills through Model UN.

How can I donate?

Every donation helps and is incredibly appreciated. Your support provides students unique opportunities to gain knowledge from experienced practitioners, and attend programs designed to strengthen key skills and test their knowledge of international affairs. You can donate online through Razoo or send a check made out to the "United Nations Association of the National Capital Area" or "UNA-NCA" Memo: GCDC Support a Delegate.

How can I volunteer?

We are always looking for volunteers to serve as Model UN Mentors, Classroom speakers, or support us at our Model UN Conferences. For more information please contact GCDC at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or 202.223.6092

We look forward to the upcoming year, and all of the new initiatives happening at GCDC.

02 November 2016

Fall 2016 Young Professionals’ Career Dinner Series

On Saturday, October 22, 2016, UNA-NCA invited students and young professionals to participate in its semi-annual Young Professional Career Dinner series.


This signature event is held every spring and fall and is an opportunity for young people to discuss global career paths and network with experienced professionals in their fields of interest. The Fall 2016 Dinner Series kicked off with a networking reception at the United Nations Foundation, where around 80 participants and speakers had the chance to meet and swap business cards. Paula Boland, Executive Director of UNA-NCA and Jessica Mueller, UNA-NCA’s Vice President of Young Professionals welcomed guests to the evening’s event, before turning over the stage to our keynote speaker, Ty Cobb, who is the Founder Director of HRC Global at the Human Rights Campaign.


Ty Cobb came to Washington D.C. as a kid from Texas with nothing guaranteed. He found himself as an intern at UNA. While in DC, he took jobs he didn’t want, did jobs that he didn’t want, and made himself available whenever possible. He joined the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) after serving as counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee of the U.S. Senate, where he worked toward passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. Ty then served as senior legislative counsel at HRC. In this role, he focused on federal advocacy related to a portfolio of issues including the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and passage of a LGBTQ-inclusive Violence Against Women Act. 


This season’s dinners focused on Careers in International Law, Careers in International Service, Careers in International Education, Careers in Public Health, Careers in International Journalism and Communications, Humanitarian Careers and Women in Entrepreneurship and Leadership. Several of these dinners were hosted in private homes around the DC Metro Area – including one in Maryland and one in Northern Virginia – while others were held at the United Nations Foundation. Professional speakers in each of these topics offered career advice and guidance, and shared personal stories of experience in their particular fields. Attendees were encouraged to ask specific or general questions about the field, and engage in conversation in a uniquely intimate and comfortable setting.

Did you join us on Saturday night? See if you can spot and tag yourself in our photo album!

Thank you to the United Nations Foundation for the use of its facilities, UNA-USA staff for their logistical support, our distinguished speakers for their expertise, the evening’s hosts and sponsors, including Windows Catering, and UNA-NCA’s Young Professionals Committee and volunteers.

The Young Professionals Career Dinners are hosted semi-annually: in the spring and fall of each year. We hope you’ll join us for the Spring 2017 edition!

02 November 2016

Statement from UNA-NCA President on the Progress of the Climate Change Agreement

Statement from the UNA-NCA President

On November 4th, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change will enter into force. The formal ratification threshold of at least 55 Member States and at least 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions has been exceeded in an extraordinarily short period of time. 

Maintaining the momentum is critical. Implementation of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, for example, should fully take into account both slowing the progression of, and adapting to the effects of, Climate Change. Take urgent action!

According to the Chinese proverb, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lest the euphoria surrounding the achievement of COP 21 in Paris begins to fade, it is noteworthy that several very significant steps have been taken on the journey to meet the challenging target of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels-- and the more aspirational goal of under 1.5 degrees Celsius:
  • Once in force, under the provisions of the Climate Agreement, withdrawal of a State is technically a four-year process—a factor that has been an issue in the US election.
  • On November 7-18th, the next round of climate talks (COP22 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) takes place in Marrakesh, Morocco; preliminary talks are already underway this week. Among the issues to be addressed: implementation of the Paris Agreement, financing technology transfers and adaptation to climate change, loss and damage resulting from climate change, updating science, gender issues, capacity building, and assisting the least developed countries and island states.
  • On October 14th, 170 States in Kigali, Rwanda, agreed to an amendment to the 1989 Montreal Protocol that would significantly reduce the greenhouse gas, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used in refrigeration under three separate timetables, thus preventing a rise in temperature of .5 degrees Celsius (.9 Fahrenheit) by 2100. Secretary of State John Kerry called this: “The single most important step we can take at this time.”
  • On October 7th, at its 39th Triennial Assembly, the 191-member International Civil Aviation Organization agreed to establish a Global Market Based Measure to offset aircraft CO emissions, which in addition to setting a CO2 standard for new aircraft, the development of biofuels and more efficient navigation systems will enable the industry to achieve its carbon neutral objective. Aircraft emissions account for between 2 and 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • On October 25th, the International Maritime Organization discussed a plan to limit CO2 emissions from international shipping, thus becoming the third sector not covered by COP21 to make progress on achieving the targets of the Climate Agreement.
  • On October 30, National Geographic launched the documentary "Before the Flood,” where Oscar winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio explores the topic of climate change, and discovers what must be done today to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet. You can watch the video here.

On November 4th, the United Nations Environment Program released a report stating that even with the Paris Agreement, the world will still need to further cut 25% from predicted 2030 emissions. You can read the report here.
Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area

27 October 2016

Looking at the Legacy of Ban Ki-moon and the Challenges Facing the Next Secretary-General



On October 18th, 2016, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) celebrated the 71st anniversary of the United Nations and UN Day with a program that set forth the accomplishments of Ban Ki-moon as the outgoing Secretary-General and discussed the challenges and opportunities of António Guterres, the newly appointed Secretary General and former High Commissioner for Refugees and Prime Minister of Portugal. The program was officiated by UNA-NCA president, Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), with keynote remarks from the Honorable Robert C. Orr and an engaging conversation with Dr. Esther Brimmer and Mr. Joshua Black. The program was supported by a large number of distinguished leaders and former ambassadors as part of our UN Day Host Committee. The event was sponsored and hosted by the National Education Association.

2Following a lively reception, UNA-NCA Board member Jill Christianson of the National Education Association, opened the program recalling the Mohawks’ belief in the seven generations; that we cannot move forward without acknowledging where we have been.

During his welcome remarks, Ambassador Bliss emphasized that “During this time of transition in the leadership of both the United Nations and the United States, the work of UNA-NCA has never been more critical. As it was in 1945, US leadership is essential to an effective and efficient United Nations, and that requires strong public and policymaker support for the UN’s mission.”

The Honorable Robert C. Orr, Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, served as under UN Secretary-General for Ban Ki-moon as special adviser for climate change, and also as part of the transition team from previous Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In Dean Orr’s eyes, we can’t underestimate the role leadership plays in shaping world events.

"Legacy matters. Leadership matters." The Honorable Dean Robert Orr on the legacy of Ban Ki-moon.
4Dean Orr summed up the legacy of Ban Ki-moon’s tenure as Secretary-General of the UN with two key contributions: the Paris Agreement on climate change and the framework on the Sustainable Development Goals. Upon taking office, Ban Ki-moon had asked Dean Orr if there was any issue on which the Secretary-General could move. Dean Orr responded that climate change was the number one issue that needed the attention and focus of the office. Despite not knowing much about climate change coming into office, Ban Ki-moon studied the subject relentlessly upon becoming Secretary-General. In his tenure, he strongly advocated for a global solution to climate change and was a catalyst for global agreements. “The seeds of Paris were sowed in Copenhagen.” Dean Orr said that without Ban Ki-moon and the leadership of the Obama Administration, there would be no climate agreement.
Ban Ki-moon also established a global transparent process to follow up 0n the Millennium Development Goals, inviting the participation the world’s citizens, civil society and the private sector in shaping the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs), which were unanimously adopted by the member states in the General Assembly in September of last year. The aspirational goals of the SDGs are much more ambitious than the MDGs. Both Ban Ki-moon and Dean Orr stressed that these goals must be achieved through a connected multi-stakeholder approach. Under Ban Ki-moon, the space for academia, business, and finance in “the room” has increased dramatically.

Additional contributions under Ban Ki-moon’s tenure include strengthening intergovernmental space for Human Rights and bringing Asia in from the cold. Ban revitalized Human Rights as a focus of the United Nations, including the establishments of the Human Rights Council and promoting the human rights and quality of LGBTQ individuals worldwide. A strong advocate for gender equality, he established UN Women to bring focus to the UN’s work in this area. Being Korean, Ban Ki-moon can be credited with bringing Asia into the largely Trans-Atlantic UN and bringing the UN to Asia.
When it comes to peace building and counterterrorism, we are much better off than we were a decade ago, but there is always more work to do. Dean Orr commented that “.500 is a great average in baseball, but horrible in war and peace.”
Looking forward, António Guterres faces the largest refugee crisis since WWII but he is highly qualified for the job as former head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Guterres will bring new energy to the problems in Syria and Middle East. As the world changes quickly, the UN must change accordingly. Internal operations and systems need to be strengthened. Geopolitics are changing. We need to bring all the actors into the fold; strengthening the UN’s commitment to security and investment. Guterres will need a highly innovative, multi-stakeholder approach to address such extreme threats to international peace and security.
5Dr. Brimmer, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, acknowledged several other concerns for Guterres as he takes office in January: member states shirking their duties; power competition between member states; and anti-globalization. She highlighted the importance of the US role in UN challenges and opportunities. “They [the Security Council] actually selected a former head of government,” further encouraging the rise of stakeholders. Dr. Brimmer also touched on the importance of evolution of the UN and the need of multilateral reform moving forward.
Mr. Joshua Black’s connections to the UN and the UNA go back 17 years when he was an intern for the UN Association. His interests and work have brought him full circle. He is now the Director of Multilateral Affairs at the White House on the staff of the National Security Council.
Black described the new transparent process of selecting the Secretary General and the way the White House assessed the experience and qualifications of the 13 applicants. While there were excellent women candidates, he felt that the Security Council consistently came together on the most qualified person for the job with substantial UN experience and the first former head of state to assume the post. He confirmed that there was not a backroom deal and that it was refreshing to see the US, Russia and the other Security Council members come together so quickly in consensus.
In the context of other US-Russia relationships, Black expressed concern that the rules of international conflict and engagement are being abused. Among the challenges for the next Secretary General, he stated that Guterres must address these issues of morality (i.e. attacking schools and hospitals, chemical/biological warfare, etc.).
Mr. Black articulated his hopes that the next administration will make us excited about the United Nations again and the ideas and the values of the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A thoroughly engaged audience asked a number of important questions, including efforts we can take to encourage a more cooperative, collaborative Security Council:

-How do we encourage a more cooperative, collaborative Security Council?

-In the face of an unprecedented call for a female Secretary-General, what will Guterres do for
gender equality?
In response to a question concerning Guterres’ efforts for gender equality in the face of an unprecedented call for a female Secretary-General, Dean Orr asserted that Guterres will be an important champion for women in the UN, but also recognized the amount of work that remains. “I hope people say: ‘Wow!’ He gets the issue on women.”
We must look for continued opportunities for collaboration and bring all parties together on common ground. The UN belongs to everyone.

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