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15 August 2016

UN Peacekeepers—A National Security Issue

The Washington Post has published a statement by UNA-NCA President addressing the role of UN Peacekeepers in protecting civilians in 16 conflict areas on four continets.

An August 7th Washington Post front page article “Where will we run this time?” describes the desperate conditions of 160,000 South Sudanese fleeing ethnic conflict and living in United Nations Peacekeeping camps. Perhaps inadvertently, the article also describes a serious US national security issue. 125,000 UN peacekeepers, the largest military deployment in the world, attempt to keep the peace and protect civilians in 16 conflict areas on four continents, many of them failed or failing states and therefore breeding grounds for nonstate terrorism. Unless Americans are willing to send US troops to Somalia, Mali, South Sudan, Lebanon and other hot spots, we must depend on UN peacekeepers to defend against conditions in which terrorism may take root.

At one-eighth the cost of US boots on the ground, peacekeepers are a bargain. For underfunded, undertrained, and underequipped peacekeepers to be up to the job, amidst charges of child and sexual abuse and neglect of duty, US and NATO support is required. The September 2015 summit at the UN, organized by President Obama, was a start with the US commitment to double the number of US military advisors and, in conjunction with NATO,  provide engineering, medical, intelligence and IED detection support. Some 50 nations from China to Colombia agreed to provide 40,000 new troops and police. Rules of engagement must be clarified to protect civilian populations.

Stronger, more effective and responsible UN Peacekeeping is an essential and cost-effective tool in preventing the conditions that give rise to nonstate terrorism.

Ambassdor Donald T.Bliss (ret.)
President, UNA-NCA

03 August 2016

Remembering Frank Hodsoll

Frank Hodsoll, a member of the UNA-NCA Advisory Council, succumbed to cancer on July 24.

Frank had a long and distinguished public service career. A lawyer educated at Yale and Stanford, he entered the US Foreign Service in the 1960s. Beyond serving overseas in Belgium, Frank had stints at the White House, the State and Commerce departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Under President Reagan Frank chaired the National Endowment for the Arts. He persuaded President Reagan to establish the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the Congress to enact the National Medal of Arts. His work on film and video preservation was recognized by the movie and television industries with an Oscar and an Emmy. Frank retired from federal service in 1993 as the first Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management & Budget.

Frank’s public service included time on the UNESCO committee responsible for selecting and overseeing UNESCO World Heritage Sites. More recently, in consultation with the Better World Campaign, he engaged in advocacy on Capitol Hill for a waiver of legislation adopted in the 1990s which made it impossible for the United States to pay dues and voluntary contributions to UNESCO once Palestine was admitted to membership. A presentation he made on UNESCO to the UNA-NCA Board while I was serving as president of UNA-NCA was widely praised. Frank will be widely and greatly missed.

A. Edward Elmendorf 
Former UNA-NCA President

"Frank Hodsoll was key among those and his leadership of the NEA will be remembered for the advances he initiated that made a true difference for artists, the arts, and all Americans."

--Jane Chu, National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Chairman

"Mr. Hodsoll emphasized making the arts more accessible to the public, increasing audiences for arts organizations and expanding arts education, a goal that has proved especially difficult to achieve."

--Bruce Weber, The New York Times

03 August 2016

Legacy Circle Spotlight on Karen Mulhauser

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 Karen Mulhauser:

unnamedKaren Mulhauser first became involved with UNA-NCA in the late 1990s when her good friend Perdita Huston, a UNA-NCA board member, kept inviting her to NCA events.  Upon Perdita's death in 2001, Karen encouraged NCA to become the fiscal sponsor for funds raised for an annual Perdita Huston Award to recognize "people who live the life and values of Perdita." For several years, Karen raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring international awardees to DC to receive $10,000 awards.  When asked to join the NCA board, she eagerly agreed.  Later, when asked if she would run for President, she agreed on condition that she could focus on gender equality issues -- and would never again be the youngest person in the room.  Afterwards, Karen began serving as Chair of national UNA-USA. In recognition of Karen's longstanding commitment and contributions, she received the UNA-NCA Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award presented at the annual membership meeting.

As President of Mulhauser and Associates, Karen has provided consulting services to nonprofit organizations, grant-makers and candidates since 1988, gaining many years of leadership experience as a board member and nonprofit CEO.  Before consulting, she directed the Center for Education on Nuclear War and an affiliated coalition, Citizens Against Nuclear War.  From 1975-1981, she was Executive Director of the National Abortion Rights Action League having first served as Director of NARAL's Washington office. Deeply committed to voluntary service throughout her life, Karen has served on over 35 nonprofit boards.  Until recently, she chaired the Advisory Council of Women's Information Network (WIN).  Since 1994, WIN has named its annual Karen Mulhauser Award for a woman who has done the most to mentor and support young, pro-choice, Democratic women. As an entrepreneur, she founded and was President of America’s Impact, a nonpartisan committee that identifies leaders with principled foreign policy positions and co-coordinates Trusted Sources, a voter engagement initiative for nonprofit groups. She also started and coordinates a network of over 870 self-employed women in the Greater Washington area called Consulting Women.

A 1965 graduate of Antioch College with graduate studies at Tufts Medical School, Karen trained as a biochemist and worked at Boston University and Albert Einstein Colleges of Medicine as a research associate before realizing she would rather work with people than with rats and rabbits. She taught high school chemistry and physics at the Cambridge School of Weston from 1967-1970, where she created a course on the social responsibility of scientists for students committed to science careers, and she initiated sex education programs. From 1970-73, she trained family planning professionals in federally funded programs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.

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.

03 August 2016

SG Watch

Follow our coverage of the Race for UN Secretary-General. We'll be posting updates as the race progresses as well as our own takes on what is happening. 

Follow the 1 for 7 Billion Campaign

The 1 for 7 Billion campaign urges Secretary General candidates to promote their views with transparency. The campaign calls for a selection process that looks past gender or region to find the best person for the position. Coverage is compiled for each candidate to be able to learn about them more easily.

Follow Coverage

UNA-NCA President's Charge to the UN Security Council

7/27/2016 As it becomes time for the UN Security Council to make a recommendation for the selection of the new SG, UNA-NCA President, Amb. Don Bliss (ret.) urges them to continue the open selection process. 

Read More

Open Debate for UN Secretary-General

7/6/2016 The first-ever debate in the race for UN Secretary-General began on July 11, 2016 in New York. Each candidate presented an opening and closing statement and interacted with moderators, ambassadors, and the audience to answer questions about four key points: human rights, peace and security, climate change and sustainable development, and the internal workings of the UN. This debate is a major step in the implementation of a more transparent selection process.  

Read More

The Race for the Next Secretary-General

6/28/2016 UNA-NCA Program Assistant Sydney Spencer writes about the ongoing race for Secretary-General. Spencer discusses the entire process of the selection of the UN's leader, current front-runners, the role of civil society, and the possibility of the UN to select the first female Secretary-General. 

Read More on UNA-NCA's Blog

The Field Grows and Shifts

Malcorra-600x402                Susana Malcorra, Argentina’s foreign minister and a former high-
                                         ranking UN official, is one of the latest
                                        candidates to run for Secretary General

6/9/2016 As current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's term winds down, campaigners are stepping up for the position. On June 7, the latest round of candidates appeared before an audience at the UN and the general public. A decision on final nomination is expected to be reached in late August or September.     

Read More

In Secretary-General Election Process, Does Job Description Outweigh Geography and Gender?

4/27/2016 In an unprecedented move to make the process of electing a new Secretary-General more transparent, nine candidates were publicly interviewed during the week of April 12. In individual two-hour sessions, the candidates - four women and five men - were questioned by UN member governments, organizations, and civil society representatives. Questions focused on candidates' qualifications and visions for the future of the UN, while also bringing up issues of transparency, accountability, as well as corruption and recent accusations of sexual abuse by peacekeeping troops.

Read a Statement from Our President

It's Time For a Female Secretary-General
2/23/2016 As current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's term winds down, a new movement has been assembled to support the election of the first woman for the position, after eight successive men have filled the role. The Campaign to Elect a Woman Secretary-General aims to search for and promote the most qualified female candidates, while at the same time involving governments and civil society to promote openness in a selection process that has long been secretive and private.

Read More

See the Questions Submitted for Secretary General Candidates

2/27/2016 The next UN Secretary General will be elected this year and, for the first time ever, candidates will be announced and interviewed publicly. The first series of interviews will be held April 12-14, and the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service accepted questions that were shared in person, through video or audio recordings, or verbally read aloud. The process for selecting the next Secretary General has become incredibly public and more accessable to the world.

View Submissions


27 July 2016

Statement from UNA-NCA President on the Security Council in the Selection of the New Secretary General


The United Nations General Assembly and its President Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark) are to be commended for the open process of vetting and selecting the next Secretary General. Member States have nominated 12 experienced candidates who have appeared before the General Assembly in a public forum to present their vision and answer questions, including questions from civil society. A 13th nominee is expected soon. This is a stark departure from past practice where the Security Council met in secret and presented its recommendation, often heavily influenced by the P-5 veto, to the General Assembly. Nominally exercising its Article 97 appointment power, the General Assembly routinely ratified the Security Council’s selection. This time the world gets a close look at the experience, priorities, strengths and weaknesses of some very thoughtful candidates.

It remains to be seen whether the Security Council will respect this process. The Council has met with the candidates which is a good start, but a secret straw vote was taken last week which is a step backward, even though the results were leaked to the press. The top three candidates apparently were Antonio Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Danilo Turk, former President of Slovenia and Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, and Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, the Director-General of UNESCO. There were a number of other well qualified candidates, including but not limited to Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, Susanna Malcorra, Foreign Minister of Argentina and former UN Chef de Cabinet, and Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change.

We urge the Security Council to make its recommendation in an open and transparent process, following the example of the General Assembly.

Factors such as geographical rotation and gender are appropriate considerations, however, given the global challenges facing the next Secretary General, it is essential that the most qualified candidate be selected. Chapter XV of the Charter offers little guidance on the role of the Secretary General, except to state that she or he is the "chief administrative officer." The eight men who have held the position have exercised their responsibilities differently and brought varied talents, strengths, and priorities to the job. Over 71 years, Secretary Generals have created a position of moral authority advocating  for peace and security and human rights, impartially mediating disputes among nations, and facilitating economic development.

A timely and relevant study of the styles, priorities and contributions of the eight Secretary Generals is found in a 2014 book, The United Nations Top Job, by Lucia Mouat, a former UN correspondent and editorial writer for the respected Christian Science Monitor. In recounting the crises faced, working relationships, lasting contributions, and the assessment of their peers, Mouat shows the importance of selecting a Secretary General with the experience, stature and skill to define her or his responsibilities in the complex UN system and challenging global environment.

Mouat recounts how each former Secretary General described the job: Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden--" the most impossible job on earth;" U Thant of Burma-- a  "moderator" and "mediator;" Kurt Waldheim of Austria-- a diplomat with a "close working relationship with member states;" Javijer Perez de Cuellar of Peru-- "guide, conciliator and impartial arbiter;" Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt--"humble servant of the Security Council;" Kofi Annan of Ghana—“moral authority” rooted in "fidelity to Charter principles;" and Ban Ki-moon of South Korea--"consensus-builder."

How do we wish the next Secretary General to describe his or her job? In the open, competitive process established by the General Assembly, we all have an in-depth look at how each of the candidates will answer this question. We would hope that the next Secretary General will serve as the “conscience” of the world, able to communicate a clear vision of the mission and priorities of the United Nations, and to reach out to all peoples, States and institutions in a fair and impartial manner guided only by the principles embedded in the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)

26 July 2016

UNA-NCA Engages Cypriot Students with the United Nations

On July 21, 2016, UNA-NCA teamed up with the Cyprus Friendship Program a program that brings Greek- and Turkish-speaking teenagers from Cyprus together to help them learn about each other and inspire them to work toward peace in their country. UNA-NCA invited twelve students to discuss “Youth Engagement in the United Nations,” and learn about how the United Nations can help bring about peace. CypriotKids The program started off with an opening address by UNA-NCA President Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), who introduced the students to the purpose and mission of UNA-NCA before diving into the background of the United Nations, pausing to pose questions and engage the students in thoughtful discussion and analysis. He asked whether or not the Peacekeepers in Cyprus were doing a good job. Wary at first, the Cypriot students began to open up and to talk about their experience with the Peacekeeping mission and impressions of Peacekeepers. Overall the agreement was that the island is better off with the Peacekeepers than it would be without. Ambassador Bliss ended by acknowledging that the UN is in need of some reforms, but that it is still an institution to be proud of.

Next, Tom McCarthy, the Maryland coordinator for the Cyprus Friendship Program, addressed the room, sharing insight into what the Cyprus Friendship Program does for young people from both the Turkish side of the island and the Greek side. The Cyprus Friendship Program is based on a similar program that ran in Northern Ireland where one teen from each side of the conflict met and stayed with a host family in the United States. The program cultivated friendships and mutual understanding, between the students themselves, and later between their families and friends at home.

image Students also heard from the UNA-NCA team, including Executive Director Paula Boland, Interim Director of Membership and Programs Emily Schaub, Global Classrooms Program Assistant Sydney Spencer, and former Global Classrooms Youth Team Member Elena Kervitsky. These speakers gave a rundown of UNA-NCA’s Global Classrooms® DC program and explained how Model UN increases knowledge of the United Nations and global affairs, while building confidence and public speaking and conflict management skills.  Model UN participants themselves, Ms. Spencer and Ms. Kervitsky discussed how Model UN puts students in the mindset of another nation and, in Ms. Spencer’s words, teaches people to “not judge people by what they look like, but to get to know people’s actual personalities.”

After an activity that challenged students to think about their own stereotypes and how they can affect how people think, we heard from Robert Skinner, Director of the UN Information Center. Mr. Skinner listened to the teens as they explained the program and praised them for taking part in it. He discussed the importance of such a program and what the UN can do to create peace in the area, explaining that the Peacekeepers in Cyprus are only there to ensure peace is maintained rather than to take steps to heal the divide and that he is excited to see Cypriots begin that healing process through the peace talks that are currently taking place between the two sides.
IMG_3656_1                             Robert Skinner, Director, UN Information Center

He went on to talk about the new Security Council members that have been elected and how the largest challenge that faces the United States is making changes to the Security Council. He also posed several thought-provoking questions to the teens. “If Cyprus will reunite, then they will need to resolve the forced migration, how can they do this? Would the UN stay to help manage the migration issue?”

UNA-NCA is grateful to the United Nations Information Center for the use of their space and Robert Skinner, for providing his insight and expertise. Many thanks also to the Cyprus Friendship Program and UNA-NCA Advisory Council Member Bob Schott for inviting us to be a part of this peacebuilding process.

12 July 2016

Global Goal 16 and Recent Violence in the United States

Statement from UNA-NCA President

From a UNA-NCA perspective, what might we contribute to the ongoing national discussion of the horrific events of this past week and preceding months, the  several assaults on law enforcement officers (including the deaths of five valiant Dallas police officers) and the rise in videos showing the  deaths of black men by police shootings?

Peaceful protests by Black Lives Matter elevate the national consciousness about the vestiges of our long history of racism embedded in the criminal justice system. Responsible protestors recognize the courage and dedication of police officers who risk their lives every day responding to the cries of neglected communities in our inner cities and rural areas. Yes, blue lives matter also. A shooting by a deranged gunman, whether at a peaceful protest or in a black church, does not represent a constituency, but the tragic consequences of their mental illness draws public attention to unresolved tensions that must be addressed openly and honestly. We  know that only when law enforcement and neglected communities work closely together, can we have any success in reducing the violence, crime, and terror that plague our nation, facilitated by easy access to guns.

Ironically Dallas was an example of the “best practices” in community policing, training and professionalism that needs to be replicated widely among the 12,000 police departments in the US. Indeed  “best practices” may be found in many developed and other nations that do not experience the levels of gun violence or have addressed racial tensions in their communities. Sharing “best practices” is key to the implementation of the United Nations Goals for Sustainable Development, especially Goal 16, “To promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” The wisdom of the General Assembly in unanimously adopting universal goals that are applicable to all States is apparent as we address the challenges of this past week.

As Americans we  tend to forget that the media attention at home of these tragic events reverberates around the globe. Our global partners question our credibility in advancing the values of the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although we are signatories to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, other States and their citizens may challenge our adherence to these universal norms. In our defense, it is fair to say that with the aid of a free press, we are open and transparent in dealing with our failings. If in doubt, read the Universal Periodic Review that the US presented to the UN’s Human Rights Council, where we describe in stunning detail the shortcomings of our criminal justice system and other institutions and our efforts to address them.

As we reflect as a nation on the events of these past weeks, we are mindful that we are part of a global community that is struggling with these kinds of challenges. We are all a work in progress, and as we share our experiences,  we can learn from each other. We can help sustain each other. We benefit from an aspirational architecture established by the United Nations in the Charter and the Universal Declaration and in Conventions, Covenants, Treaties, and Goals that express and codify  “the better angels of our nature.” As we carry forward the national dialogue, it is incumbent upon those of us in UNA-NCA to bear in mind the global implications, consequences, and obligations of the actions we take.

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

06 July 2016

Ambassador Samantha Power Urges Action in the Global Refugee Crisis

The Global Refugee Crisis: Overcoming Fears and Spurring Action

On June 29, 2016, the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, spoke at the United States Institute of Peace. She addressed the current refugee crisis which has displaced over 65 million people, the most since World War II. Ambassador Power highlighted the state of the current crisis, the consequences of inaction on the part of the United States, and measures the US is currently taking. 

State of the Current Crisis

Ambassador Power highlighted a drastic shift that has occurred in the past decade. Currently 80% of global humanitarian aid is funneled to countries where citizens are displaced by violent conflict, whereas only 10 years ago a majority of humanitarian aid was sent to those affected by natural disasters. Few countries have stepped up to help fund solutions to the ongoing refugee crisis, with the result that aid has been cut within Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Last year alone nearly 1.6 million Syrian refugees saw cuts in their aid and are now living on less than 50 cents per day. The United Nations is seeking $21 million to provide basic humanitarian aid, including increased education, safe drinking water, and maternal and prenatal care. Unfortunately, only a quarter of that figure has been met and the global community has instead seen additional cuts to educational programs, food delivery, and healthcare. States in general are reluctant to take in refugees for fear that the refugees will overextend their stay, but in fact 75-95% of refugees report plant to return to their countries of origin when conflict and violence cease. This reluctance places the burden of resettlement on a small number of countries, many of which suffer from their own instability and economic problems. 

What will happen if the US does not help?

Many Americans are advocating for the closure of US borders and further security measures against the immigrant population, particularly in response to recent terroristic activity. According to Ambassador Power, "ignorance and prejudice made bad advisors." It is essential in the aftermath of terrorist activity that we do not draw conclusions on an entire race or population if the United States refuses to help refugees, there will be an increase of pressure on small countries that are currently hosting large amounts of refugees. These countries are already under huge economic stress due to the rapid increase in their population and added pressure could lead to the collapse of their governments. In addition, statistics show that refugees will find a way out of their country even if countries are refusing their acceptance. Organized Crime Networks generated $5-$6 billion in revenue from 2015-2016 through their illegal transport and smuggling of refugees to the European Union. Barriers to entry only fuel corruption, strengthen illegal networks, and further perpetuate the narrative of ISIS that the West is at war with the religion of Islam.

US Efforts to Aid Refugees

The United States is currently scaling its efforts, specifically in Syria, and plans to accept 100,000 refugees in the years to come. Security and screening measures that use both national and international databases have been put into place; the are rigorous and can sometimes take up to an entire year to be completed. In addition, any refugee from Syria is subject to an additional layer of screening and interview process before being admitted to take residence in the US. To aid in resettlement, refugees that are accepted to the US are provided only $2,025 for their initial costs, including food, housing, and other essentials. They are required to pay back the cost of their plane ticket within their first three and half years of residence which helps ensure they pursue a job upon arrival. US President Obama will host a Leader's Summit on the Current Refugee Crisis with the goal of urging countries to increase their budget for humanitarian aid, open their borders to accept more refugees, and encourage those on the front-lines of the conflict to help refugees become self-reliant upon their resettlement. The United States will continue to increase its efforts to aid in the crisis and is adamant about reaching the goal of resettling 100,000 refugees. Private business can help the government acheive this by providing jobs, donating services, and teaching skills to refugees who arrive. The most effective way to curb this crisis is to focus on dealing with the violence at hand and not allowing fear to take over. "There is so much we are doing, but there is so much more we can do,"-Ambassador Power. 

Full remarks here.

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