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24 April 2019

UNA-NCA Young Professional Career Dinner Series: A Focus on Choosing an Enjoyable Career Path

Written by Laura Blyler, Vice President of Young Professionals

On Saturday, April 6, 2019, young professionals and students gathered at the United Nations Foundation to participate in the semi-annual UNA-NCA Young Professional Career Dinner series.

This signature event is held every spring and fall and is an opportunity for young professionals to discuss global career paths and network with experienced professionals in their fields of interest. The Spring 2019 event kicked off with a networking reception, where around 80 participants and speakers had the chance to meet, swap business cards, and enjoy the beautiful views of the city from the terrace of the United Nations Foundation. Stephen Moseley, President of UNA-NCA, and Paula Boland, Executive Director of UNA-NCA, welcomed guests to the evening’s event, before turning over the stage to our keynote speaker, Ambassador (ret) Keith Harper, former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council and Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend, LLC.

Ambassador Harper, also the recipient of the 2017 UNA-NCA F. Allen “Tex” Harris Human Rights Diplomacy Award, addressed the crowd with timely and thoughtful remarks about his career path and the importance of U.S. leadership at the United Nations. Harper weaved stories of his own career journey with advice for a career path centered around issues that make an impact in the world.

Harper’s own career has been driven by two great interests, international relations and federal Indian law. He told attendees to choose the path you find most enjoyable drawing on a choice he made after law school to take a job at the Native American Rights Fund rather than at a big law firm, because he believed the path he wanted to be on was to litigate on behalf of Indian tribes. That choice led him to bring a case against the federal government for mismanagement of Indian trust funds which settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion. Harper went on to work as an advisor on President Barack Obama’s first campaign in 2007, a role which led to a position in the Obama administration and eventually to his appointment as the United States Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

To provide guidance and share lessons learned from his own career journey, Harper imparted four thoughts on career choices for young professionals:

1. Luck. You have to be prepared to accept the lucky opportunities when they arise.

2. Put yourself out there. People who are experts in their field are willing to help young people succeed. It is highly probable that they will want to engage with you if you just ask them!

3. Choose the path that you find most enjoyable.

4. Focus not on what you want to be, but rather focus on what you want to do. If you care about an issue, there are many different ways to impact that issue. There will always be new and innovative ways to work on issues that you care about.

Ambassador Harper left the audience with a final tidbit of advice centered on choosing a path that you find most enjoyable, “as you go through that journey to find out where specifically you want to make your contributions, you let your heart guide you. You follow that which you think is the kind of impact you want to make, and I guarantee you, you will find a way to achieve your objectives.”

Following Ambassador Harper’s speech, the participants broke out into small groups to attend their respective dinner topics. This year the event featured six different topics including Careers in the United Nations, International Development, Climate Adaptation and Mitigation, International Law, Refugees and Migration, and Careers in Women, Peace, and Security. During the dinner, participants had the chance to discuss changing career fields, working in an uncertain political climate and engaging in the workforce as a young professional.

Every year the UNA-NCA Young Professionals’ team is excited to connect mid-career and expert professionals with passionate young professionals to deepen the participant’s knowledge of the field from an insider’s point of view. The next career dinner will take place in the fall of this year and we look forward to seeing you there!

Join UNA-NCA today if you want to get involved with the Young Professionals program to help plan events like this!

23 April 2019

United Nations Association Hosts the Fifteenth Model UN Conference at State Department

Global Classrooms DC, the flagship education program of the UN Association of the National Capital Area, will host its 15thAnnual Spring Model UN Conference on Friday, April 26th at the U.S. Department of State. The conference is the largest partner event held at the Department of State, bringing together around 600 students, educators, volunteers, and guests. Throughout the rest of the year, Global Classrooms DC works with teachers and students in order to increase youth engagement in international affairs by means of improving public speaking, conflict management skills, critical thinking, and understanding of global issues.

This year’s conference welcomes our featured keynote speaker, Vivian Derryck. Vivian Derryck is the founder of the Bridges Institute, an Africa- focused organization that helps to strengthen African governance and leadership by forging trade and social development links between Africa and the rest of the world. Previously she served as Senior Vice President and Director of Public-Private Partnerships at the former AED, a U.S.-based non-profit which worked on education, health, and economic development in more than 125 countries. Vivian also served as the Assistant Administrator for Africa of the U.S. Agency for International Development as the senior government official directing foreign assistance to Africa. She has held a number of positions in both government and the non-profit private sector. Vivian has dedicated her life to sustainable development in education, political participation, conflict resolution, leadership development, and women’s leadership in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

Our students have taken full advantage of the opportunities provided by the conference, which not only expand skills like public speaking, negotiation, research, writing, and teamwork; but also lay the foundation for their growth as engaged global citizens. This year, the students will be discussing a variety of global issues and working together to come up with solutions. Representing countries from all over the globe, students will have the opportunity to focus on issues highlighted by organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). These topics include ending modern slavery, creating youth employment opportunities, promoting women in peace and security, developing better responses to natural disasters, and the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Attendees at this year’s conference will include students from DC, Maryland, Virginia, and Lebanon, in addition to diplomatic officials, local government, foundations, and business representatives. 

For more information, please contact Global Education Managing Director, Nicole Bohannon, at nbohannon@unanca.org

27 March 2019

The Future of UN Mediation, Peacebuilding, Sanctions, and Special Envoys Major Highlights and Recommendations

Overview: An initiative of Stimson, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and the United States Institute of Peace, the roundtable brought together former and current U.S. government and UN officials, scholars, policy analysts, activists, and practitioners to discuss the UN’s experience, over the past decade, with mediation, peacebuilding, sanctions, and special envoys.

The dialogue highlighted the first-hand experience of two American former UN Under- Secretaries-General for Political Affairs – Lynn Pascoe and Jeff Feltman – who led the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), now the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA). Victoria Holt (Stimson Distinguished and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs) moderated the dialogue. They spoke about their insights from major country and regional engagements, lessons from their diplomatic roles, and considerations for the United States going forward. Broadly, DPPA offers a unique set of tools (e.g., mediation, conflict analysis, sanctions), international reach (e.g., broad agenda, leadership of Special Political Missions, and field-based Peace and Development Advisors), and experience to international peacemaking and peacebuilding. However, that role is lesser known in Washington, D.C. and other major capitals.

The discussion also touched on the level of insecurity and international leadership today. At a time when the World Bank estimates that roughly two billion people are affected by fragility, conflict, and violence, UN tools are stressed. Crises in Syria, Yemen, and Libya demonstrate what can happen when there is a lack of unity among major powers in the UN Security Council to resolve a particular crisis situation and the humanitarian consequences. Overall, the event explored five main topics: UN-led mediation, peacebuilding, sanctions, Special Envoys, and reform, giving special attention to the relevance of U.S. foreign policy interests and values in connection with these issues.

UN Mediation

International mediation is a crowded playing field, where a well-supported United Nations can make a difference.

•    The UN has fewer resources than one might imagine for a global organization. In recent years, efforts have been made to strengthen political missions, with deployment of a record number of Special Political Missions, as well as Peace and Development Advisors.

•    While the UN consults broadly with governments and others with interests or leverage in specific peace and security matters, the U.S.’ global role ensures that the UN must consider American views and often rely on its capacity to help manage and resolve nearly all violent conflicts.

•    In the area of mediation, the UN can provide a range of different roles of support or leadership (as leadership options in any particular conflict are normally ad hoc in nature).

•    To be even more effective on mediation, the UN needs to expand its political presence worldwide, and here it will be important to place these capabilities on the UN’s Regular Budget (rather than rely on non-core, voluntary resources).


Conflict prevention is preferred, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy to do.

•    While it is widely recognized that it is better to prevent conflict, that doesn’t mean that success is easy to see. For example, UN efforts in Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, the Gambia, Burkina Faso, and the Republic of Moldova demonstrate mediation and peacebuilding success stories, where diplomatic efforts saved considerable sums of money.

•    The UN is good at mediation, but the demand exceeds the capacity – and the diplomatic pool and support needs to be strengthened. While most countries recognize that other conflict management tools (e.g., “boots on the ground”) are expensive, that doesn’t mean resources naturally flow to mediation before a crisis.

•    The U.S. generally privileges bilateral approaches to international mediation, and today more so. Participants noted that the U.S. will likely turn again toward multilateral approaches (based on a criteria, among other issues, of effectiveness and cost-saving).


If you want to achieve progress on mediation, work skillfully behind the scenes with UN Member States.

•    Progress with UN mediation often stems from working with Member States “below the radar.”

•    Guinea and Sierra Leone are mediation and peacebuilding success stories (and fortunately, the UNSC did not micromanage the Secretariat’s mediation activities).

•    It is difficult to work towards positive change when there are P5 countries (e.g., Russia) undermining your actions.

Does the UN maintain sufficient capacities and political support to conduct effective mediation?

•    In 2005, the UN established a Mediation Support Unit within the then Department of Political Affairs. In partnership with UNDP, DPA has deployed more than three dozen Peace and Development Advisers in the field, provides operational support and guidance to the Secretary-General’s new High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation, and over the past decade deployed more than 50 different kinds of Special Political Missions around the world. Even with these capacities, the UN is asked increasingly to play a mediation “support” and “facilitation” role to other lead actors (e.g., regional and sub-regional organizations).

•    Changing dynamics have made conflicts harder to mediate, as have diverging views across members states on and off the Security Council. Brussels and the EU view the world in different ways than the U.S., and this fissure among heretofore allies hampers directly efforts to call upon the UN to mediate a crisis (let alone to provide it adequate political support to ensure success). Where can we point to international mediation success stories in this “period of disruption”?

•    Today, the UN is doing a lot of mediation capacity-building with other actors (e.g., vis-à- vis the OSCE in eastern Ukraine), but there is a modest risk that the UN is being asked to mainly play a facilitation/support role and deprioritize its own engagement.

•    The UN has successful brokered local ceasefires, but its strength as a mediator comes, in part, from engaging non-governmental partners effectively. For example, in Libya, the UN Special Envoy, Ghassan Salamé, “subcontracted out” a town hall process to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD). HD was able to travel around the country and conduct town halls without the security footprint of the UN and without provoking the locals into talking about what they wanted from the UN (when the point was to get them to talk about what they wanted from their own government). Salamé could then get ideas from across the country and incorporate them into his plan.

UN Peacebuilding

Support for early warning and action (i.e., conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy) are critical peacebuilding activities of the UN, though they continue to face challenges.

•    Except for its field-based Special Political Missions and regional offices, the UN’s Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) does not have a full-time political presence overseas. While called on to anticipate and prevent crises, the DPPA does not have the reach of the US government and its embassies worldwide. DPPA’s early warning and action activities, among other core functions, would benefit from more eyes and ears on the ground (in country or, at the very least, at the sub-regional level).

•    To gain greater field understanding, DPA (and now DPPA) have worked over the past decade and more to become more operational and to develop more ground-based

tools. The Peace and Development Advisors, mentioned above, are shared with UNDP

and provide eyes and ears on the ground in political sensitive areas. DPA/DPPA has expanded its cooperation and liaison relationships with regional and sub-regional organizations. DPPA might also consider expanding its network of regional offices to have senior-level DPPA representation based full-time in a region or country to build-up both the credibility and institutional knowledge essential to conflict prevention and response to crisis situations (i.e., similar to the role performed by national embassies today.)

•    Better access to local political leaders is critical to success, and DPPA could learn from past examples – such as the UN, AU, and ECOWAS learned from its under-appreciated early warning and action efforts in Burkina Faso.

•    For example, the Security Council can undertake horizon scanning of potential conflicts (assessing early warning indicators), but countries often resist their own review or that of their allies (i.e., by the DPPA, or other parts of the UN system). Even with monthly briefings on Syria in the Security Council beginning in 2011, for example, the Security Council faced internal divisions that prevented taking joint action.


Information, intelligence, and analysis support structures for the UN progressed after the end of the Cold War.

•    UN cooperation with Member States can provide rich and timely analysis and information on various situations, and in the 1990s, following different approaches, there seemed to be a higher-level of analysis and information exchange between the UN and major capitals, (with such capabilities) including the United States, as there is today.

•    For collaboration of this kind to occur today, we might want to push for analytical knowledge that everyone (all Member States) can draw upon. Unfortunately, each time that the UN Secretariat has tried to be proactive in information gathering — Security Council horizon-scanning, periodic “situational awareness” briefings, internal policy meetings and discussions — member state representatives of countries, regions or issues in question raise objections, frequently to the Secretary-General himself. Without adequate UN analytical abilities and situational awareness, non-governmental organizations, such as the International Crisis Group, can sometimes provide Member States with better briefings than the UN.


When a crisis erupts, sooner or later the question turns to “what does the U.S. think”?

•    In most cases, UN officials in New York want to know Washington’s perspective, first and foremost, on a particular conflict (“the U.S. looms large in Turtle Bay,” remarked one participant).

•    In general, U.S. Government officials do not seek out the UN’s take on specific crisis as immediately as UN officials express concern for how Americans think. At the same time, the UN doesn’t fully realize the potential of America to contribute to the resolution of a conflict. The U.S. is the only UN Member State that can often times act, act fast, and make a real difference.


The UN Peacebuilding Architecture and preventive action continue to show promise while facing obstacles.

•    Though not large, the UN Peacebuilding Fund (which on average amounts to a few hundred million dollars at any one time and remains dependent on a small group of donors) is a great if limited mechanism for funding projects, such as building a police station as an element in efforts aimed at calming a conflict zone. In short, the Peacebuilding Fund seeks to link its activities (at least ostensibly) to broader peace and security strategic goals. In theory, it is also designed to facilitate “risk-taking” when no other bilateral and multilateral donors are able or willing to invest in a conflict-affected country.

•    With the exception of the strong leadership exercised by the Swiss in Burundi [I believe Switzerland still leads the configuration], Member State-led Peacebuilding configurations with the PBC have generally been a disappointment, not energizing tangible support for peacebuilding activities in the country of focus and often coming across as patronizing to the host country and UN field-based staff.

•    The U.S. often struggled to understand what the Peacebuilding Commission was trying to achieve in concrete terms. Was it all about supporting non-state actors and long-term enterprise?

•    Everyone loves the idea of prevention and bringing people together in support of Sustainable Development Goal #16 (promoting peaceful societies). In practice, what this means is that Member States support development, inclusivity, prosperity, and other elements of a healthy, peaceful society. This long-term prevention focus is non- controversial, even if there are often shortfalls in resources. But there are times when prevention requires urgent political intervention with those in a country or region who have the influence to provoke conflicts. Amidst accusations of “interference,” the consensus favoring long-term prevention breaks down when immediate conflict prevention efforts are needed.

•    The World Bank-United Nations’ recent Pathways for Peace report offers some innovative and common-sense recommendations for preventive action. However, officials in the Office of the Secretary-General were initially reluctant to embrace these proposed measures because Member States had not first “signed-on” nor did the UN possess a “legislative mandate” to pursue this new direction.

UN Sanctions

Sanctions remain an important, but less understood, part of the work of the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs

•    The UN sanctions committees are supported by independent groups and panels of experts, who are supported by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and report directly to the Security Council.

•    Information from experts’ reports, however, is not easily shared with UN Secretariat officials or member states not serving on the Security Council. That approach limited the use of the experts’ analysis and recommendations.

•    Consideration of better integrating Council expert reports and findings into longer-term conflict prevention, peacebuilding and meditation measures could be more effective.

•    The United States brought great attention to non-proliferation sanctions regimes, especially those focuses on Iran and DPRK.

•    Sanctions in Africa often were co-concurrent with UN-led peacekeeping missions, and had more direct relevance for the political strategies in those countries (e.g., DRC, Somalia, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Darfur, etc.) Those regimes seemed to get less high- level attention.

•    Especially with the increase in sanctions regimes against nuclear proliferation and terrorist financing, the Council needs to make sure that the U.S. and other UN Member States follow through on their pledges and commitments.


UN Special Envoys


A major problem facing Special Envoys is the “Programmatic Structure” of a field-oriented Special Political Mission

•    To be successful, a Special Envoy needs to attract funding for at least a five-year period. But, as shared by one respected Special Envoy from a recent UN field mission, it is impossible to achieve the equivalent of two generations worth of change in only five years.

•    Given the growth in Special Political Missions over the past decade, by 2017, 40% of the then Department of Political Affairs’ budget came from voluntary contributions (including a small USD $600,000 contribution from the U.S.).

•    However great a host country’s needs might be, Special Envoys should avoid taking on unrealistic and overly ambitious developmental projects in tight time-frames (e.g., rebuilding a host country’s education system).


Special Envoys, including the heads of UN peace operations, bring value to the US Government through their periodic visits to Washington.

•    In addition to their briefings in the Security Council, UN Special Envoys can provide American policy-makers uniquely grounded, field-based perspectives on a fragile and conflict-affected country/region. The U.S. can, in turn, often provide critical new/additional information on security issues.

UN Reform

Participants explored both new (and old) approaches to early warning monitoring.

•    One idea floated was to conduct intensive reviews on a region — on a monthly basis

by Member State representatives themselves, as a parallel effort to the UN’s existing internal Regional Quarterly Reviews. Member States could use timely analysis provided by DPPA to ask each representative, for example “what do we see about country X?” For instance, despite the likely pushback, it might have made sense to hold this type of

regional review prior to Kenya’s latest, somewhat unstable elections.


The Security Council, with analysis and advice provided by the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, needs to regularly reiterate to countries the case for coming before it, including the need to avert a larger crisis.

•    DPPA and the Security Council need new tools, including more effective ways of communicating, to gain Member States support for early action to prevent a crisis from accelerating. We need a strategy for better understanding states that are potentially vulnerable to political violence and terrorist activities, drawing on the best information and analysis available from within the UN system, Members States, and from capable non-governmental actors.

•    Colombia provides a useful example, as the UN was not the key player. Rather, by providing best practices (when asked) and targeted monitoring and reintegration assistance, the UN was recognized for contributing to confidence-building in niche areas, within the context of Colombia’s broader peacebuilding and disarmament efforts.


The worst part of the United Nations is its management.

•    America’s hyper-focus on ensuring that the United Nations does not cost too much money (and “doing more with less”) has come at the expense of investing in better management practices across the UN system.

•    Change management is difficult to implement within the UN because its leaders are too intransigent. Expressing hope for real change, participants noted the management reform proposed by Secretary-General Guterres and currently being implemented. Real change will come from someone willing to do “the dirty work”.

•    Given its ability to exert pressure and leadership elsewhere, the U.S. could expend capital on this reform without leading the UN Department of Management (e.g., at the expense of leading another, arguably more important, department such as DPPA, where the

Under-Secretary-General wields more authority to take action).

•    Where the UN is more field oriented, it can add real value. For the United Nations to remain relevant, it must be able to go beyond a capital city and really engage people within a fragile and conflict-affected country setting. Too often, missions lack resources to take this approach.

Concluding/General Points

The U.S.-UN relationship is vital to advancing U.S. values and interests, and it requires careful nurturing and respect for having Americans in senior UN posts.

•    In serving as an interpreter of US policy for senior UN leadership, American diplomats acting as the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs post, and other critical roles across the UN system, are is in America’s best interest (e.g., being well-positioned to advise the Secretary-General in saying “This is how that they might look at this issue in Washington” or “This is how you might convince the U.S.”).

•    Sometimes it is difficult for senior American policy-makers to notice that there are myriad competing interests among UN Member States on any given policy issue. Policy- makers in Washington should think strategically about how we can employ the UN and other international organizations better to advance American values and policy goals.

•    U.S. policy-makers should be planning for where the US should be in the next 25 years in a multilateral world (admittedly, something Washington doesn’t like to do).

•    With three Ambassadors focused almost exclusively on the Security Council, with only one each focused on management and budgets issues and the Economic and Social Council, respectively, the current and previous U.S. Administrations continue to give too much weight to the Security Council.

•    Another participant lamented that the United Nations doesn’t really exist in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) world; rather, the DoD cares about NATO.

•    While America diplomats participate in big debates that attempt to measure successes and failures of the United Nations, they, on the whole, still do not possess adequate knowledge about the UN, such as its actual costs, overall impact, and true worth in terms of advancing vital U.S. values and interests.




Bob Berg, Alliance for Peacebuilding and The Stimson Center Paula Boland, UN Association of the National Capital Area Esther Brimmer, NAFSA: Association of International Educators Todd Buchwald, Woodrow Wilson Center

Kristin Cordell, U.S. Agency for International Development Jim Della-Giacoma, All In for Development

Juan Diaz-Prinz, U.S. Institute of Peace


William Durch, The Stimson Center


Edward Elmendorf, UN Association of the National Capital Area Brian Finlay, The Stimson Center

Corinne Graff, U.S. Institute of Peace Keith Harper, Partner Kilpatrick Townsend

Elizabeth Hume, Alliance for Peacebuilding


Mark Lagon, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Ellen Laipson, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University Hardin Lang, Refugees International

Sarah Mendelson, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University Stephen Moseley, UN Association of the National Capital Area Cristina Petcu, The Stimson Center

Richard Ponzio, The Stimson Center and UN Association of the National Capital Area Uzra Zeya, Alliance for Peacebuilding

Eric Rosand, Prevention Project: Organizing Against Violent Extremism Linda Thomas Greenfield, Albright Stonebridge Group

Madeline Vellturo, The Stimson Center Howie Wachtel, National Security Council

Paul Williams, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University Jonathan Winer, Middle East Institute

Adam Wolf, Alliance for Peacebuilding

20 March 2019

Highlights from the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women

By Kimberly Weichel, Chair, UNA-NCA Advisory Council

I’ve just returned from participating in the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN, an extraordinary gathering of Gender Ministers as well as NGO leaders and policy makers from virtually every country. CSW is dedicated to promoting gender equality and the advancement of women, and each year shapes the global agenda for gender equality. Established by ECOSOC, the Commission is the UN’s principal policy-making body for women that monitors, reviews and appraises progress made at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels.

The Commission meets annually for 10 working days in March, typically the second and third weeks, which coincides with International Women’s Day and Women’s history month. Representatives of Member States gather at the UN to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide. Simultaneously, thousands of NGO leaders (this year around 8,000) meet in sessions throughout the 10 days to explore challenges, case studies, best practices, and solutions to many of the key issues facing women. This year’s theme focused on social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure, all of which greatly impact women.

This was my ninth year at CSW, and I’m always inspired by the courage and commitment of so many women who work in challenging situations with few funds against enormous odds, yet their spirits remain strong. We shared, discussed, laughed and sometimes cried together as we explored a wide range of issues that continue to face us.  Some of my highlights:

  • Secretary General Antonio Guterres led an interactive town hall describing the strides made on gender equality at the UN, championing women in peacebuilding delegations, and sharing specific programs to reduce the global pandemic of sex and labor trafficking.

  • A riveting panel by Women’s Rights Without Frontiers on their work to combat infanticide and forced abortions of baby girls and abuse of elderly widows in China. 

  • Women from the DRC talked about the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse there, and shared programs to provide education for men and jobs and support for women.

  • Voices from South Sudan, Peru, Nepal, and North Korea shared moving stories of children stolen for sex trafficking and steps they are taking to combat it.

  • A program on ways of combating the global problem of child marriage highlighted a successful program in Bangladesh using public service commercials to leverage social pressure.

  • A panel of clergy members discussed the church’s role in dealing with domestic and sexual violence, including when church leaders are the actual perpetrators.

  • Two North Korean women shared their harrowing journeys to escape the hardships in their country via China and eventually arriving in the US after many challenges.

  • A screening and panel from the Women, War and Peace films, led by Abigail Disney, highlighting an all-female cast of directors who presented four stories about women who risked their lives for peace in Northern Ireland, Gaza, Bangladesh and Egypt, changing history in the process. These films will be broadcast on PBS March 25/26 at 9pm.

CSW concludes with a set of agreed conclusions that contain concrete recommendations for Governments, intergovernmental bodies, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local level. The final report of the Commission is submitted to ECOSOC for adoption.

The good news is that around the world, women’s voices are rising to end silence and oppression, run for public office, lead community efforts, and take action. I felt inspired by all the courageous women I met at CSW who work tirelessly to make a difference, daunted by the work ahead of us, and hopeful that women’s voices and leadership continue to expand.

14 March 2019

With Renewed Vigor: Highlights from the 2019 Global Engagement Summit

By Andrew B. Doll, Managing Director of Programs and Membership

IMG_1207-2The United Nations Association of the USA is the country’s leading grassroots advocacy movement in the United States with over 20,000 members spread across over 200 chapters.  Their members are committed to global engagement and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in their local communities. This year’s Summit marked a record participation and commitment to building a strong US-UN partnership.

This year, under the banner of “Shared Partnerships – Shared Responsibilities”, previously known as “Members Day,” the Global Engagement Summit brought together over 1500 dedicated UN Advocates and over 100 universities in the United Nations General Assembly Hall to help strengthen our mission and resolve through high level keynote remarks and panel discussions on topics such as humanitarian response to the crisis in Yemen, the UN and partners on the ground, and the affect of local leadership on the SDGs.

As one of the largest chapters of UNA-USA, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) made a strong showing with over 50 IMG_2945leaders from across the generations, including Past-Presidents, staff, program assistants,  graduate fellows, and committee leaders.  Originally, from Japan and currently studying Education at the George Washington University, UNA-NCA Program Assistant, Aika Okishige, called the experience, “One of the most memorable experiences I have had in my life.”

Convening in the General Assembly Hall, in the seats of diplomats and world leaders, can be a surreal experience.  “Although I knew in advance that I would be attending the 2019 Global Engagement Summit,” said UNA-NCA Program Assistant Thomas Oggier, “I did not really process that fact until I was standing in the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The realization of the fact that I was in the focal point of the world’s leading multilateral institution, was truly an awe inspiring moment.”

The summit began with one of the most anticipated and inspiring moments as UN Secretary-General António Guterres walked onto the floor of the General Assembly Hall to meet, shake hands, and take photos with participants before his keynote address.  A highly respected, yet casual and approachable leader, the Secretary-General welcomed participants with a call for bolder climate action.  Today, I am asking for your help in sounding the alarm and highlighting the solutions,” asking all to make the topic trend via #ClimateAction.

Climate Action and change were recurring themes during the summit, not only during the plenaries, but also throughout the breakout sessions.  These sessions provided “an extraordinary opportunity because it connects you with inspiring speakers from all over the world,” said Program Assistant Marietta deJulio-Burns, who attended the Action Track session “Shared Action for Human rights: The UN and Partners on the Ground” featuring H.E. Mr. Milenko E. Skoknic Tapia, Permanent Representative of Chile to the UN, and Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs at the Trevor Project.  Such diversity of panelists truly provided an enriching experience by covering a wide range of issues within a limited time. Other panel topics IMG_1154included “Cities and the Sustainable Development Goals” moderated by former UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNA-NCA Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award recipient, Gillian Sorensen; as well as “Conflict Resolution and Humanitarian Response: Yemen,” and “Planet Earth: Partnering for Urgent Climate Action.”  Click on the session titles to watch the livestream of the Summit, or click hereto view other sessions.

Special sessions took place at lunchtime, including a workshop about the UN Universal Periodic Review Process and opportunities to engage members in domestic consultations this fall; and a session at the U.S. Mission to the UN to learn about careers in the Foreign Service. The Summit was followed by a happy hour jointly hosted by the Young Professionals from the Southern New York Division and UNA-NCA.

The Global Engagement Summit was an opportunity for UNA members – regardless of chapter – to recharge our batteries and be reminded of the importance of our work. But, it can’t end there.  With renewed vigor, the take away from the Summit must be to engage with our peers, our communities, and our leaders to advocate for sustainable policies and actions.  Learn what you can do with the Global Engagement Summit Action Guide.

13 March 2019

High Alert to Support Full UN Funding

By Stephen F. Moseley, President, UNA-NCA

This week, the Administration presented its Fiscal Year 2020 Proposed Budget to Congress for October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020. The budget proposed will dramatically reduce U.S. support of the core activities of the United Nations by nearly 25% and further proposes even greater reductions and elimination of US support of many of its operational agencies and other specialized agencies. Congressional leaders for foreign affairs policy and appropriations have already stated this week that the proposed budget is "dead on arrival", and that they will fight to ensure that the support for the State Department diplomacy remains strong. Additionally, they wish to secure resources to strengthen the UN and support the U.S. humanitarian and development aid both multilaterally with the UN and bilaterally with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). We need to increase and voice our support to stop such attacks on the budget of the UN and U.S. diplomacy and humanitarian aid.

This marks the third year in a row that the President has called for dramatic cuts in international affairs spending, effectively proposing that the U.S. wash its hands of leadership and responsibility for building peace, aiding the growing numbers of people in desperate poverty and dire health emergencies and instead, lower the U.S. level of support for peacekeeping forces. The budget also proposes a dramatic shift from the balanced effective organization of emergency humanitarian aid, which is carefully articulated between the delivery systems of the UN and the direct aid from USAID, and bureaus of the State Department. The Administration proposed a new agency under U.S. government control, which while sounding like a management improvement, would both jeopardize the global alliances and effective agencies of the UN, likely interfere with collaborative efforts with other major nations, and include a cut back of over 30% in funding of such humanitarian aid from the U.S.  The new agency proposal masquerades as a new effectiveness and efficiency plan, while in fact covering up the reality that this approach will put even more people at risk of starvation, poor health, and economic instability. Such actions are often the very ingredients that fuel terrorism and violence in many parts of the world and undermine national security interests.

The proposals and budget changes would roll back the improvements made in addressing world poverty over the past 25 years. It would place many nations’ plans at risk by lowering education opportunities, especially for girls, increasing the health risks of global pandemics, which cross borders to all countries. The threat to economic stability for many countries in not making advance investments through humanitarian and development aid and maintaining peacebuilding and peacekeeping to prevent wars from spreading or regenerating will only lead to the longer run need for increased resources in the decade ahead.

We know from recent polls that our own U.S. citizens consistently say that maintaining a strong UN and sound investments in American Diplomacy for collaboration with other like-minded countries are sound and essential investments for sustaining democracy and finding peaceful means to resolve and prevent conflict. These international investments in American diplomacy through foreign aid and UN support amount each year to less than 2% of the total U.S. budget and, within that small amount, U.S. funding for the UN programs is less than 1/4 of 1% of the U.S. annual budget. What could be more cost-effective? We also know that if the U.S. Department of Defense had to send U.S. troops to keep peace in the more than 16 UN Peacekeeping Missions operated by forces drawn from other countries, the cost to the U.S. would be more than eight times than it costs currently, and more American lives would be directly at risk.

For several years, UNA-NCA members have joined with other organizations and UNA-USA chapters from across the country to help Congressional Members more fully understand these important funding needs. With many new Members in the 116th Congress, the education about the roles and programs of the UN will be even more critical this year. Our Advocacy Committee has already begun these meetings, and we look forward to more members participating in and supporting this part of our mission.

Please read here the more detailed analysis of the proposed budget prepared by our colleagues from the Better World Campaign. To see an excellent overview of the top program priorities for the UN's work around the world, see their report this month titled "Promoting Peace, Projecting Strength: the U.S. and the UN in 2019."

08 March 2019

DMV Proclamations for International Women's Day 2019

District of Columbia Mayor's Office Proclamation


Montgomery County Executive's Proclamation


06 March 2019

UNA-NCA February Advocacy Visits

By Bonnie Worstell

Last week, experienced members of UNA-NCA’s Advocacy Committee and staff visited six offices in a two-day advocacy effort. The teams met with staff of representatives hailing from Maryland and Virginia to discuss the issue of fully funding UN assessed obligations, in anticipation of the approaching 2020 Omnibus Budget discussions. On Tuesday, advocates met with staff of newly elected Denver Riggleman (VA-5) and Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), followed by a visit with the staff of house veteran Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2). On Wednesday, they met with staff of newly elected David Trone (MD-6), house veteran Rob Wittman (VA-1), and newly elected Abigail Spanberger (VA-7).

Every three years, representation from each country negotiate the UN assessed dues for the UN Regular Budget and the UN Peacekeeping Operations. In late 2018, the U.S. completed its most recent negotiations on the “scales of assessment,” lowering our dues for UN Peacekeeping to 27.8% and maintaining 22% responsibility of the regular budget. However, legislation passed in 1995 limits Congressional appropriations to peacekeeping operations to no more than 25%. In the past, Congress has acted in a bipartisan matter to overturn the limitations 80 percent of the time.

However, in the past two years, the U.S. has failed to overturn this limit and has thus accrued over $500 million in arrears for UN Peacekeeping. Advocates visiting the offices asked that in addition to fully funding our existing obligations in 2020, and voluntary contributions to specialized agencies, the U.S. appropriate to pay back the arrears as well.

The visits with staff of the two newly elected representatives included a thorough introduction to UNA-NCA and its many programs and activities, as well as explaining our relationship with UNA-USA and the Better World Campaign and sharing personal experiences with the UN.

Rep._Riggleman_visitThe first visit on Tuesday was with Mr. Jason Eagleburger, Legislative Assistant for Foreign Affairs for Representative Riggleman (VA-5). During his career in the U.S. Air Force, the representative had encountered the work of the United Nations. After hearing the position of our advocates, Mr. Eagleburger shared that the representative supports a strong US-UN partnership. The team further discussed the Congressman's concerns about the continuing unrest in Haiti despite long-term UN Peacekeeping involvement.

Rep._Wexton_VisitSecond, the team visited with Mr. Mike Lucier, the Legislative Director for Representative Wexton (VA-10). UNA-NCA advocates were able to share more information about the work of the United Nations, and were delighted to hear that Mr. Lucier would be joining the UN Foundation in a visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York City that week to learn more. The program assistants, who joined the meeting, shared with Mr. Lucier their experience at the recent UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit, in which Secretary-General António Guterres underscored his dedication to serving youth globally.

UNA-NCA works to provide professional development opportunities for Program Assistants in many ways, including inviting them to join advocacy visits with Congressional staff. UNA-NCA’s spring interns described the experience as “a great opportunity to work on my public speaking,” and an opportunity to gain “more insight on what it means to be an advocate.”

Ruppersberger_visiThe last meeting on Tuesday was with Mr. Walter Gonzales, Deputy Chief of Staff for Representative Ruppersberger (MD-2). UNA-NCA has meet previously during past Hill visits with Mr. Gonzales on a variety of UN-related issues. Mr. Gonzales expressed his personal support of the UN, which included a UN Foundation sponsored visit to two recently successful UN conclusions of UN Peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. Besides discussing the issue of full funding, the team discussed possible future collaboration.

David_TroneThe next day’s first meeting was with Ms. Jessica Semachko, Legislative Correspondent for Representative Trone (MD-6). In this meeting, advocates explained the issues at hand while highlighting the Congressman’s ability to make a difference, given his position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Due to the Congressman’s interest in education, the advocates also provided more information about UNA-NCA’s flagship education program, Global Classrooms DC, and the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program.

Second, the team met with Mr. Chris Ragsdale, Defense Fellow, for Representative Wittman (VA-1). UNA-NCA volunteers discussed the value of UN Specialized Agencies as it pertains to their capacity to help accomplish the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A priority of Virginia’s first Rep._Wittman_visitdistrict is water and oceans, due to its position on the coast, thus, advocates discussed the efforts of SDG 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The team emphasized the importance of appropriating these “voluntary” contributions to the related UN Agencies concerned with the environment.

Lastly, UNA-NCA advocates met with Ms. Kara Benson, a Legislative Fellow handling Foreign Affairs for Representative Spanberger (VA-7). Ms. Benson emphasized the Congresswoman’s intention to work across the aisle to pass legislation in relation to her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Although the Congresswoman fully supports a strong US-UN partnership, volunteers underscored the value of the UN to the U.S. Research Rep._Spanberger_Visitin 2018 showed that the UN brought in $1.74 billion in contracts with American companies in 2017, including millions to Maryland, D.C., and Virginia.

The UN continues to be a vital partner for the U.S. by providing an occasion to promote American values abroad and working towards peace among nations. Studies have shown that a majority of voters (79%), across party lines, agree that the UN is needed today.

The challenges facing the global community have changed since the UN's creation, and the UN must evolve and adapt alongside these issues in order to adequately respond to the challenges facing the world. This is a prime opportunity for the United States to increase its support and demonstrate its leadership and values on the world stage. After all, our participation greatly enhances U.S. national security, diplomatic, economic and defense interests.

UNA-NCA invites members of our chapter who are interested but not yet engaged in our Advocacy Committee to contact our Vice President for Advocacy, Ellen McGovern, about getting involved in future advocacy opportunities. The committee aims to do Congressional visits quarterly in order to engage all of your Representatives with relevant issues relating to the UN, and fulfill UNA-NCA’s mission to “increase public understanding and support of the United Nations, encourage constructive U.S. leadership in strengthening the United Nations, and prepare present and future leaders to work for a better world, both globally and locally.”


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