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17 May 2016

Global Classrooms Students on the Road to Paris

On May 12, 2016 over 100 students, educators, volunteers, and guests attended Global Classrooms DC’s (GCDC) last Model UN Conference of the 2015 – 2016 academic year at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in Washington D.C.

88 students, grades 6 – 12, registered to represent Member States in the United Nations Environmental Programme to discuss the current and pressing issue of climate change. This event was part of the UNA-USA’s Road to Paris Leads through the Classroom Initiative.

PAHO_Photo_2The opening ceremonies began with remarks from the UNA-NCA Director of Global Education, Megan Penn, followed by Yizreel Urquijo, Chief Operating Officer of Education for Sharing, who discussed different ways to bring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the classroom. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Regional Administrator, Shawn Garvin, opened the conference with his keynote speech about the effects of climate change and the role of the EPA to protect to current generation. He posed a challenge to students to hold their peers accountable in order to protect their generation and environment.

image1As the students’ debate flourished, Ms. Penn led a room of educators in a Professional Development Workshop offering sustainable methods to engage students on international affairs through the resources made available by the UN and GCDC’s curriculum. After lunch, Yizreel Urquijo led the instructors through various hands-on techniques aimed at teaching the Global Goals. These interactive learning methods specifically targeted climate change and inspired them to create their own engaging games to bring back to their classrooms. With five draft resolutions presented by the students over the course of the day, three of these were passed recommending a number of solutions to climate change including nuclear energy. The collaboration seen between the students was the ultimate way to end the academic year for GCDC.

Thank you to all of the speakers, staff, and volunteers who made this last Model UN conference possible, as well as UNA-USA for their continued support. 

11 May 2016

UNA-NCA leaders elected to serve on the National Council

UNA-NCA is proud to announce that its Executive Director, Paula Boland, and Board member Kasara Davidson have been elected by our regional chapters to serve on the National Council of the United Nations Association of the USA. Both are long standing committed leaders who have contributed their expertise at the local, regional and national levels.

The Council of Chapters and Regions (CCR) consists of delegates from the 120 Chapters and Divisions in eleven regions around the country and is the democratic voice of the UNA membership in making decisions for UNA-USA.

The Steering Committee, elected by the CCR, consists of slightly more than 30 people based on the membership of the region and consistent with standard operating procedures. It meets twice a year, once during the June Annual Meeting and once in New York in early February; its working groups and subcommittees conduct business year-round by email and conference call in preparation for their semi-annual meetings.  In addition to overseeing these elections, the Steering Committee works on issues of membership, legislative advocacy, web and social media, external communications, education, WFUNA, and the Council of Organizations.  It makes recommendations to both to UNA-USA staff and to delegates at the Annual Meeting.  Regional Representatives also work with staff to assist chapters and to help resolve issues that may arise during the year.

Newly elected members will be inducted on June 13 at the UNA-USA Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. The Summit is a great opportunity to meet chapter leaders from across the country, share best practices and advocate for a strong US-UN partnership on the Hill. It’s not late to register!

11 May 2016

Members of the Healthcare Community Discuss Women's Health in DC

On Monday, May 9, 2016, UNA-NCA and its DC for CEDAW committee hosted the third in a series of public education forums to increase awareness of the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). These forums have been part of the Committee’s efforts to pass city-wide legislation in DC to protect women and promote gender equality.

Two previous forums – one in September 2015 and one in February 2016 – focused on specific issues that affect women: the rights of sexual assault victims and the gender pay gap. Monday night, speakers from the healthcare field addressed Women’s Health in the District of Columbia, examining why DC ranks 48th in the country in terms of women’s health, and why the HIV rate in the District is the highest nationwide.

IMG_20160509_181114140_HDRPhoto Credit: Annelise CohonKaren Mulhauser, UNA-USA Chair and Co-Chair of the UNA-NCA DC for CEDAW Committee, kicked off the discussion with a brief introduction of CEDAW and the Cities for CEDAW Initiative. Though CEDAW was signed by President Carter in 1980, it was never ratified by the US Senate, making the US one of very few states that have not adopted this “Women’s Bill of Rights.” As Ms. Mulhauser explained, when it became clear that the treaty would not be passed in the near future, the Cities for CEDAW Initiative was launched to encourage US city councils to pass the legislation at the city level. In DC, though all councilmembers endorsed the legislation last year, it has still not come to a vote. The DC for CEDAW Committee has therefore begun raising awareness by focusing on a number of issues.

Monica Palacio, Director of the DC Office of Human Rights, presented opening remarks, describing a number of protections that do exist for women in DC, including legislation that provides for pregnant workers, prevents discrimination based on choices about reproductive health, and allows for parental leave, among others. She also discussed briefly the duties and responsibilities of the Office of Human Rights.

Dr. Laura Meyers, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, stressed the importance of recognizing the disparity in access to reproductive health that exists across DC: although teenage and unintended rates have dropped significantly in recent years, this is not ubiquitous across all demographics. Women with high deductible costs or lacking insurance altogether are not accessing reproductive healthcare to the same extent as others. 

"There is no gender equity without full reproductive justice” – Dr. Laura Meyers

Ms. Dara Koppelman, Chief Nursing Officer at Mary’s Center, opened her presentation with a discussion of the work of Mary’s Center, which is to provide care for all, regardless of ability to pay. Ms. Koppelman discussed a number of factors that can inhibit a woman from accessing the care that she needs, focusing on documentation status and how that can affect a woman’s access to healthcare. She finally stressed the important connection between education and good health, and concluded that only through CEDAW or similar protection of women can the disparity of accessible care be corrected.

The evening’s final panelist, Khadijah Tribble, serves as Principal for Ground Game LLC. She focused on the demographics of HIV in DC. Currently, over 60,000 people in the District are living with the disease – the highest rate in the country. Most of these 60,000 individuals reside in Wards 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 – traditionally the less affluent areas of the District, and therefore housing the residents least likely to have access to care. The economic disparity here means that these people often have to make decisions based on money, rather than on their health. Furthermore, because of the stigma attached to HIV, and the fact that the most commonly infected individuals are men, women have often been excluded from the conversation about HIV treatment, and are not generally targeted for support. Ms. Tribble stressed the need for women to have spaces to discuss their HIV treatment that are equal to those provided to men. 

“We can get to an AIDS-free generation… We have the knowledge and the science, we just need the will to keep talking about it” – Khadijah Tribble

A lively question and answer session followed the panelists’ presentations, with audience members looking for more information about a variety of subjects, including abortion accessibility and the role of race; DC’s high rate of breast cancer, particularly in women of color; and the availability of mental health services.

The purpose of these forums is to increase awareness about the gender issues in DC. They are taking place in conjunction with our advocacy efforts and outreach to the DC Council, asking for a vote on CEDAW this year. Join our advocacy campaign to show our DC Councilmembers how much equality means to our community!

Many thanks to the wonderful speakers who shared their time and expertise with us on Monday night, to the DC Office of Human Rights for hosting this event, to the UNA-NCA DC for CEDAW Committee for their tireless work in organizing these forums, and to all the organizations who have signed on to support CEDAW.

09 May 2016

UNA-NCA President Looks Forward to the UN at 71

On May 4th, UNA-NCA President, Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), spoke to the Wednesday Morning Group in Bethesda on “The United Nations at 71: How well is it doing? How Can it be Strengthened?” 

Amb. Bliss stressed the importance of US leadership in making the changes that will enable the United Nations to respond effectively to the global challenges of the 21st century. He applauded US leadership in working for a more transparent and open process of selecting the next Secretary General and urged Amb. Powers to work with the other P-5 members of the Security Council to respect that process and select the most qualified candidate.

Bliss stressed the importance of US leadership in making changes in the way the Security Council does business and in its composition, enabling it  to achieve more effectively its primary mandate to maintain peace and security, especially in failed or failing states or in conditions of genocide and other atrocities. He also urged enhanced US support for UN Peacekeeping missions, ensuring better training, equipping and accountability. His complete remarks can be found here.

04 May 2016

UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Host Ambassador William Wood

On April 29th  2016, UNA-NCA’s Graduate Fellows Program held their last seminar at the Johns Hopkins University Rome building in D.C. 

The UNA-NCA Grad Fellows program wrapped up its final session with a discussion titled UN at the
IMG_2050Crossroads: A Discussion of the Decisions and Dilemmas facing the Incoming Secretary General. Director of the program, Dr. Laurence Peters opened proceedings with a description of the Fellows Program and an introduction to the moderator. Past UNA-NCA President and moderator Edward Elmendorf gave a brief history of the UN and introduced  the keynote speaker. Ambassador Bill Wood has an extensive resume in the Foreign Service, from 2003-2007 he served as The United States Ambassador to Columbia, and from 2007-2009 he served as the US Ambassador to Afghanistan. 

Ambassador Wood gave detailed insight into the Obama Administration’s current positon on the UN. Prior to being Ambassador to Columbia, Mr. Wood was Political Counselor at the U.S mission to the United 
IMG_2044Nations, where he was the chief U.S. negotiator in the Security Council. His extensive background in the Security Council brought practical examples to current UN situations and future forthcomings. Ambassador Wood concluded his talk by answering questions about the upcoming presidential candidates and their positions on the UN.

02 May 2016

UNA-NCA Hosts Reception to Honor Leaders and Supporters

On April 27th, 2016, UNA-NCA invited its leaders and supporters to a reception at the residence of Ambassador Esther Coopersmith.

An annual event to honor members of the Board of Directors and Advisory Council, as well as patrons and colleagues in government and in the international community, this reception is an opportunity to extend gratitude to those who enable UNA-NCA to carry out its mission to increase public understanding of the United Nations and support constructive US leadership there.

IMG_1994The reception included a presentation by Frank Vogl, President of Vogl Communications and UNA-NCA Advisory Council member. Mr. Vogl, who is co-founder of Transparency International, provided an overview of the history of fraud and corruption from the perspective of international organizations and the United Nations. Over the last half-century, he explained, the UN has moved from silence on corruption to adoption of the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2003, and the inclusion of the issue in the Global Goals for Sustainable Development last year. This, Mr. Vogl argued, is thanks to pressure from civil society groups.

Read Mr. Vogl's full remarks.

Mr. Vogl has recently published a book entitled Waging War on Corruption, and has also authored a series of articles focused on global corruption. More information about his published work is available here.

IMG_2002UNA-NCA’s Executive Director, Paula Boland, then introduced new Advisory Council member, Robert Skinner, who serves as Director of the United Nations Information Center in Washington, DC. Mr. Skinner discussed the changes that have occurred over the last twelve months, including the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the sexual exploitation and abuse by UN Peacekeepers, the December 2015 Paris Climate Conference, and the adoption of the Global Goals. Mr. Skinner also looked to the year ahead, arguing that 2016 will be a year of transition for the United Nations, particularly with the steps being taken to make the election of the next Secretary-General a more transparent process and with the upcoming US Presidential Election. In a brief Question and Answer session, Mr. Skinner touched on the role that young people will play in the UN, and the challenges the body faces in its hiring process and recruitment of youth. 
UNA-NCA is grateful to Mr. Vogl and Mr. Skinner for their time and expertise, to Amb. Coopersmith for opening her home, and to the people who make it possible for UNA-NCA to continue to educate and advocate for a better world through global cooperation. 

27 April 2016

Statement from Our President on the Selection of the Next Secretary General

An Historic Step: Opening Up The Process of Selecting the Next Secretary General

This month, the United Nations has taken an historic step to open up the traditionally secretive process of selecting the Secretary General.

For the first time ever, the nine men and women nominated  for the position  appeared before the General Assembly  to answer questions and offer their vision for the future of the United Nations in a very different world from the one 71 years ago when the UN Charter was negotiated in San Francisco. The Charter offers little guidance as to the responsibilities of the Secretary General in this highly decentralized,  sprawling, multi-faceted institution that the United Nations has become, and the eight previous Secretary Generals have approached the job with different strengths, weaknesses and priorities.

Given the global nature of the challenges of the 21st century, the choice of Secretary General has never been more important—indeed, the very effectiveness of the United Nations is at stake. Thus, the introduction of a more transparent process could not be more timely. How will the nine – and likely more—candidates strengthen the UN’s capacity for maintaining peace and security, advancing human rights and facilitating sustainable development through the coordinated efforts of government, civil society and the private sector?  How will the Secretary General bring greater coherence and efficiency to the multiple funds, programs and agencies and ensure the recruitment, retention and promotion of the best talent, especially women? These are the issues that are being addressed in an open forum for all to see.

The United States  has supported  a more open process, and we urge Ambassador Power to work with the other members of the Security Council’s P-5 to respect the process and select the most qualified candidate, leaving secret deal making and geographical limitations behind.


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

19 April 2016

Young Professionals Spring 2016 Career Dinners

On Saturday, April 16, 2016, UNA-NCA invited students and young professionals to participate in its semi-annual Young Professional Career Dinner series.

Career_Dinner_Spring_2016_PhotosThis 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 Spring 2016 Dinner Series kicked off with a networking reception at the United Nations Foundation, where the over 100 participants and speakers had the chance to meet and swap business cards. Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), President 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 the first keynote speaker, Donya Nasser, who serves as the US Youth Observer to the United Nations.

Donya_photo_with_quote_1Ms. Nasser, whose own enthusiasm is contagious, stressed the importance of finding passion in one’s work. She encouraged the young professionals in the audience to search for the thing that motivates them, and use it as a guide for their career paths. She also called upon them to “keep one arm toward the stars, and the other grounded to [their] communities.”

Holshek_quote_1Col. Christopher Holshek (ret.), who is a retired Colonel and former UN Peacekeeper, and currently Senior Fellow at the Alliance for Peacebuilding, served as the evening’s second keynote speaker. Col. Holshek, too, encouraged attendees to focus on their own communities, identifying community service as among the first steps on a pathway to global service in that it "builds our qualifications to function successfully at whatever vocations we seek. In finding good jobs, what separates you from others more than your technical skills is the content of your character, demonstrated through service to others. There are plenty of opportunities for that right there in your own community.”

IMG_6261Laura Blyler and Lanice Williams, co-chairs of the UNA-NCA Young Professionals Committee, closed the reception by discussing the work of the Young Professionals Committee, and then dismissed participants into their eight topical dinners. This season’s dinners focused on Careers in International Law, Careers in Sustainable Development, Careers in Gender Equality, Careers at the United Nations, Careers in Peace and Security, Careers in Human Rights, Careers in Communications, and Careers in Global Health. 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 Fall 2016 edition!

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