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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]

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.


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.  

07 June 2016

2016 Board of Directors Election Results

UNA-NCA is delighted to confirm the election of the following candidates for vacant positions on our Board of Directors. 

Officers (2-year term):

  • President-Elect:  Stephen F. Moseley                                            
  • Advisory Council Chair: Kimberly Weichel                              
  • Vice President, Finance and Treasurer: Timothy Barner
  • Vice President and Secretary: Susan Leahy                                            

Directors-at-Large (3-year term):
  • Sultana Ali
  • Jill Christianson
  • Olumide Elegbe
  • Jud Nirenberg
  • Thomas Riesenberg
  • Dr. Iqbal Unus
  • Jodi-Kaye Wade

Kristen Cheriegate from The George Washington University will serve as the Student Representative (1-year term). 

UNA-NCA wishes to thank the following individuals for their service on its Board of Directors: Jonathan Dromgoole, Dr. Mary Futrell, Abigail Pereira, Richard C. Rowson, and Kim M. Watson.  

Bios for all Board Members may be accessed here

These results will be announced at the 2016 UNA-NCA Annual Meeting June 9, 2016. 

31 May 2016

Legacy Circle Spotlight on Tom Bradley

UNA-NCA enjoys a Legacy Circle of members who offer support through planned giving of sums large and small.

Gifts may be made monthly, under wills, or in other ways. UNA-NCA is introducing members of its Legacy Circle to other members and supporters. This week, meet Tom Bradley:

Tom Bradley’s involvement with UNA-NCA began through the Model UN program.  He heard about an opportunity in 2006 to work as a volunteer with high school students in Washington, asking them to give their best efforts thinking about solutions to global challenges.  Over the years, he worked with teenagers at Benjamin Banneker and Eastern high schools, and discovered how interested they are in working on the world’s problems.  His awareness of UNA-NCA began with the Model UN program and the full-year Global Classrooms DC program that prepares students to participate in the annual Model UN Conference.  He has continued to work as a mentor and policy advisor in the Model UN program.

Tom has been involved in other UNA-NCA programs as well.  He was the Virginia area chair for three years, and then in 2013 became the vice president for resource development, working to help ensure UNA-NCA has the financial resources to sustain and enhance its programs.  He also has helped UNA-NCA’s Young Professionals by helping to sponsor the YP career dinner series for the last five years.

Tom joined the Legacy Circle to ensure that his financial contributions will continue to support UNA-NCA for years to come.  He is a retired US Air Force officer who had a second career in consulting and in non-profit management.  He currently is a graduate student at George Mason University, majoring in peace operations; with the inspiration of UNA-NCA members Karen Mulhauser, Ed Elmendorf, Don Bliss, and Steve Moseley, among others, he decided that he could have one more career, this time working to help countries escape from the ravages of civil war. 

Learn more about the Legacy Circle, or contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Co-Chairs of the UNA-NCA Legacy Circle.

24 May 2016

UNA-NCA and Ambassador Keith Harper on US Engagement with the UN Human Rights Council

On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, UNA-NCA, its Human Rights Committee, and the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) sat down with Ambassador Keith Harper, US Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, for an informal conversation about the United States’ engagement with the Human Rights Council and the UN’s human rights program in general.

Ambassador Keith Harper, US Representative to the UN Human
Rights Council (Left) and Amb. Donald T. Bliss (ret), President, UNA-NCA

Ian Houston, Executive Director of the AFSA, welcomed attendees and invited them to participate actively in the conversation with Ambassador Harper. UNA-NCA President Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.) highlighted that the day marked International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and pointed out that this is an important year for both the US and the UN, given that the US will welcome a new President and Congress, and the UN will select a new Secretary-General. Against this backdrop, President Bliss introduced Ambassador Harper.

IMG_2194Ambassador Harper began by explaining the transformations seen by the Human Rights Council as the United States grew as an active leader there, noting that the Council became more effective in achieving its goals. He provided a brief overview of the changes that came about due – at least in part – to US involvement, looking specifically at its activities in Israel and Sri Lanka.

President Bliss asked Ambassador Harper to describe what he found most surprising upon arriving in Geneva; the Ambassador answered that he was impressed with how much could be – and was being – accomplished, quietly. He also spoke about the high level of respect that many countries have for the institutions in the United States, regardless of our perception of how the rest of the world sees our country. Questioned about the United States’ own human rights record, far from perfect, Ambassador Harper responded that acknowledging this actually builds the country’s credibility on the topic. He encouraged human rights actors to be candid in discussing that record, as it can serve to open conversations about human rights challenges other member states face.

IMG_2196In that same vein, President Bliss pointed out that the United States has yet to ratify a number of important human rights treaties – including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. President Bliss wondered how the US could be a serious leader in the world of global human rights while refusing to become party to those Conventions. Ambassador Harper replied that, though he would like to see many ratified, the issue is not serious because the United States is largely in compliance through its own domestic law.

A lively question and answer session with audience members – from students to recent graduates to seasoned professionals – followed Ambassador Harper’s conversation with President Bliss. President Bliss concluded that, given Ambassador Harper’s inspiring experience with the Human Rights Council and his confidence in the difference US leadership has made there, constructive US engagement in all areas of the international policy can help the United Nations more effectively achieve its vision.

A blog post with more information on this event is available here.

UNA-NCA is very grateful to Ambassador Harper for his time and remarks on Tuesday evening, to the American Foreign Service Association for its partnership in organizing and hosting the event, and to the UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee.

Follow Ambassador Harper on Twitter @USAmbHRC . Statements on the next Human Rights Council Session beginning Monday June 12 can be found here

18 May 2016

A Week of Human Rights Highlights in DC

Adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights reached new heights in the nation's capital this week.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, made the rounds in Washington, DC. The High Commissioner, who took office on September 1, 2014, is the first Asian, Muslim, Arab, and Prince to hold the position. UNA-NCA Executive Director and UNA-NCA President Amb. Donald T. Bliss (ret.) attended a dinner on Monday, May 16, 2016 with Mr. Al Hussein, whose passionate commitment to the values and norms expressed in the Universal Declaration shown brightly. His activist agenda is tempered by a realistic appreciation of the realities of global challenges and an understanding of the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the struggle for universal human rights. His allusions to literature and philosophy were profound. We are fortunate to have a High Commissioner with his background who can bridge the chasm between various cultures and traditions as we seek common understanding of universal norms.

May 17, 2016 was "International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia," and the world witnessed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declaring that "Human Rights are for everyone, no matter who you are or whom you love." UN leadership on this issue, greatly encouraged by the United States, is as remarkable as it is critical, given the continuing criminalization of homosexual acts in many Member States, and even the ugly debate within the US on recent federal guidance on transgender students.

Also on May 17, UNA-NCA showcased the effectiveness of US leadership on human rights as Amb. Bliss (ret.) interviewed Amb. Keith Harper, US Representative on the Human Rights Council, at a program co-sponsored by UNA-NCA and the American Foreign Service Association. Harper, the first Native American ever appointed as a US Ambassador, demonstrated how the decision of the US to engage constructively in the Human Rights Council has transformed its work and enabled it to highlight and advance human rights from Sri Lanka to North Korea.

In a year when the United Nations will select a new Secretary-General and the US will elect a new President and Congress, it is most valuable to demonstrate in concrete terms the importance of strong US leadership at the United Nations.

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