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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!

18 April 2016

UNA-NCA Members Learn to Advocate for Strong US-UN Partnership

IMG_0648Chris Whatley, Executive Director, UNA-USAOn Wednesday April 13, UNA-NCA held an advocacy training session for its members in Arlington, VA, offering an opportunity for them to learn more about advocacy, the congressional process, and UN issues in order to prepare to participate in future congressional visits on behalf of UNA-NCA.

The event featured a discussion of advocacy techniques and strategy led by VP of Advocacy Melissa Kaplan and Board Member Jeff Hoffmann, followed by an overview of the current state of UN issues by UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley.  There was also a Q&A session and advocacy role-play during which attendees learned more about the process of conducting a congressional advocacy meeting.

The advocacy training was a success, with a robust turnout and lively discussion.  UNA-NCA thanks those members who participated and looks forward to seeing you in future hill meetings!  We hope to hold another advocacy training session in the next few months for those who were unable to attend this time.  We will keep everyone posted as plans for this are finalized.

For those interested in learning more about advocacy, UNA-USA is hosting a leadership summit for members and Chapter leaders from across the country will convene in Washington, DC for inspiring grassroots training and topical conversation with members of Congress to support U.S. engagement with the UN. Attend the conference to add your voice to the conversation!

When: Sunday, June 12, 2016 - Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Where: National Education Association, 1201 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036

More information and registration is available here.

Also check out a Congressional Briefing Book from the Better World Campaign which highlights the important work of the United Nations and serves as a resource for advocacy efforts for a strong partnership between the US and the UN, in peacekeeping, non-proliferation, and countering violent extremism.

14 April 2016

Global Classrooms DC Model UN Conference: Next Generation of Leaders Find Their Voice

On April 8, 2016 over 600 students, educators, volunteers, and guests attended Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) Annual Spring Model UN Conference at the U.S. Department of State and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

Students grades 5 – 12 discussed some of the most pressing global challenges, representing United Nations (UN) Member States in committees including the Security Council, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This year’s topics focused on the current situation in Syria, World Heritage Site conservation, fair trade and sustainable supply chains, climate change, and nuclear non-proliferation.

The opening ceremonies began with remarks from the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area’s (UNA-NCA) President Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), followed by inspiring remarks from Andy Rabens, the Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues, at the U.S. Department of State in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Mr. Rabens encouraged the delegates to find their voice, and speak up, while sharing his own experiences participating in Model UN as a student. Debate was opened by Global Classrooms DC Student Secretary General Tima Mikdashi (read her letter to delegates here).

GCDC April 8 Students

Students dispersed into committee sessions, while educators and guests were invited to attend the GCDC Open House. UNA-NCA Executive Director Paula Boland, highlighted Global Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Obtaining a quality education is the foundation for improving people’s lives and sustainable development. While major progress has been made towards increasing access to education and basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, greater efforts are needed for achieving universal education goals.  For over a decade, our GCDC program has been working with some of DC’s most underserved students to improve their public speaking, teach conflict management skills, and expand their understanding of global issues while providing access to the resources of our nation’s capital. Ms. Boland also thanked sponsors and close partners including the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for their support to UNA-NCA and GCDC over the years. (Read remarks regarding April 8 from Mark Schlachter, Director for Public Affairs, Planning, and Coordination for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs).

GCDC April 8 The afternoon was filled by a Professional Development Workshop for teachers, where Director of the United Nations Information Center Robert Skinner discussed some of the resources available to teachers.

Closing ceremonies consisted of congratulatory remarks from UNA-NCA Director of Global Education, Megan Penn and words from Marti Estell, Division Chief of Recruitment Outreach, and Coordinator for the Diplomat in Resident Program at the U.S. Department of State, on how she began at the U.S. Department of State and the opportunities available to students. Ms. Mikdashi, GCDC Secretary General, closed the conference with position paper and committee awards for Honorable Mention, Outstanding Delegation, and Best Delegation. 

Numerous students, educators, guests, and volunteers shared how valuable it is to have an opportunity for students to voice their opinions, and prepare them for a global community. 

Thank you to all our speakers and a very special thank you for the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs and the Pan American Health Organization for continued support and hosting the event throughout the years. UNA-NCA also thanks the UN Federal Credit Union, and GCDC Spring Model UN Conference sponsors. Finally, a warm thank you to UNA-NCA and GCDC Staff, Program Assistants, and volunteers – this conference could not run without your support.

Full coverage of the Opening Ceremonies is available for viewing on YouTube or watch the video above.

Follow Global Classrooms DC on Twitter @GCDC_ModelUN for more coverage of the Model UN Conference on April 8 #GCDCMUN #IamModelUN

GCDC 2016 Sponsors

13 April 2016

Statement from UNA-NCA President on the Passing of Mostafa Kamal Tolba


One of the great values of the United Nations is that it  brings together the world’s best scientists and  professional experts on neutral ground to address complex global challenges that can only be resolved through international collaboration. This quiet, scientific based diplomacy is rarely noted in the media, but it happens every day, and from time to time, with outstanding success.

Thus, we note the passing on March 28th  at age 93  of the eminent Egyptian scientist, Mostafa Kamal Tolba, who led the delegation to the landmark 1972 Stockholm Conference which established the United Nations Environment Programme. Dr. Tolba served as Executive Director of the UNEP based in Nairobi for 17 years. He helped create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which successfully facilitated the global framework agreed to at Paris Conference last December.

Dr. Tolba will be remembered mostly, however, for his leadership in the fight against ozone depletion which culminated in the Vienna Convention (1985) and the Montreal Protocol (1987) and subsequent amendments. Generally heralded as the most successful environmental treaty ever,  the Montreal Protocol halted the depletion of the ozone by dramatically reducing the amount of chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals that were depleting the ozone layer and  increasing the incidence of skin cancers. Through quiet skillful scientific diplomacy, recognizing the  diverse capabilities of each country, Tolba brought every State, large and small, to the table, and 197 nations subscribed to the Convention.

Where leading experts put politics aside and work diligently to achieve common  objectives and shared values, “miracles” can happen—and they do every day among the unsung heroes of the United Nations.


Ambassador Donald T. Bliss
President, UNA-NCA 

05 April 2016

Press Advisory: Premier Model UN Conference at State Department

The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area will host its Global Classrooms DC 12th Annual Spring Model UN Conference on Friday,  April 8th at the U.S. Department of State and Pan American Health Organization.

Read our Press Advisory for more information about this annual conference!

05 April 2016

Highlights from the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations

On Wednesday March 30, 2016, the Alliance for Peacebuilding Women and Peacebuilding Affinity Group, National Capital Chapter of the US National Committee for UN Women and UNA-NCA hosted a panel on the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) that took place in March 2016 at the United Nations in New York.

A panel of CSW60 attendees shared highlights from the UN session and from the many concurrent NGO programs. Topics like women empowerment and education, gender parity in the work place and the involvement of governments, states and individuals in the implementation of the Global Goals were discussed. 

IMG_1698The moderator and first panelist, Kim Weichel, Consultant for UN Women, UNA-NCA Advisory Council member, and Chair of the Women in Peacebuilding Affinity Group, opened the discussion with a brief overview of her experience at CSW. Ms. Weichel shared how the sessions were tied to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. She emphasized that although Gender Equality is specifically represented by Goal 5, all Goals affect women and no progress will be made on them if gender equality is not present. During the CSW sessions, important dates including March 8th (International Women’s Day) were brought up to discuss progress on women’s empowerment and to create a concrete outcome document to better women in terms of health, economic activity, interfaith initiatives, countering violent extremism movements, and participation in civil society space. The sessions also encouraged launching response initiatives to gender–based violence, training workshops and income-based jobs for women.

IMG_1701Mahnaz Afkhami, President of Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP),  shared the background behind the transformation from the MDGs to the new Global Goals. She argued that while all Goals are important, the most relevant to Gender Equality fall between Goals 1 and 6. The implementation and planning of these Goals were facilitated by technology and communication. Nevertheless, governments and states need to show a little more concern by creating strategies, partnerships, collaborations and providing finances to work towards all the goals. At CSW, Ms. Afkhami focused on discriminatory laws within the family and the role of women in the household. WLP also discussed family laws for Muslim majority countries and the variations between civic law and Sharia law.

The CSW sessions were also aimed at creating awareness for egalitarian laws and the implementation of human rights around the world. Arts were incorporated into CSW as young poets spoke on human rights along with film and other forms of art & media.

IMG_1708Karen Mulhauser, UNA-USA Chair, UNA-NCA Past President, and founder of Consulting Women spoke on  the importance of gender equality, good governance, and peaceful and inclusive societies. “People need to be educated on the importance of the UN because we can’t solve the world’s problems by ourselves,” she argued. Ms. Mulhauser gave a brief overview of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a UN treaty signed by President Carter in 1980 that the Senate has not ratified or implemented. The Cities for CEDAW Initiative aims to implement CEDAW legislation in various US cities at the local level. This would involve a gender audit followed by action to address areas of gender disparity. True gender parity would generate $12 trillion worldwide. Ms. Mulhauser also stressed the importance of involving men in gender parity discussions, as, in her words, we are not going to reach gender equality until the men are on board. All the NGOs present at CSW learned how to better approach their governments and local authorities to support gender equality.    

UNA-NCA is grateful to the panelists for sharing their experiences from the CSW sessions, and to the Alliance for Peacebuilding and the US National Committee for UN Women for their partnership in this discussion.

Be a part of UNA-NCA's effort to advocate for Gender Equality and implement CEDAW in DC.

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