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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.

29 March 2016

Statement from UNA-NCA President on Recent Terror Attacks

From the President of UNA-NCA

The tragedies in Lahore and Brussels are beyond our ability to comprehend. UNA-NCA sends our condolences to the families of the victims and to our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Belgium.

The increasing number of terrorist attacks around the globe should rededicate us at UNA-NCA to our mission of promoting global cooperation in addressing the challenges of the 21st century. Clearly there is an immediate and urgent need for increased cooperation in sharing intelligence and using technology including social media to combat the "appeal" of terrorist organizations primarily to young men who feel alienated and without hope in the states where they reside.

Equally as important is the work we are doing to increase public understanding of the United Nations' Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Governments at all levels, civil society, and the private sector must work together to address the root causes of alienation and lack of hope and opportunity - extreme poverty, ethnic and religious conflict, income inequality, educational opportunity, and access to good jobs, among others. As you know, this continues to be a major undertaking of UNA-NCA. We need to relate our work on the Global Goals to our efforts to strengthen the United Nations' capacity to meet its central mission of maintaining peace and security. Through such efforts, we can, over time, reduce the threat of failed and failing states as breeding grounds for terrorism and increase the opportunity and hope of all alienated populations, wherever they may reside. While we must be vigilant in addressing the symptoms, we cannot ignore the root causes as well.


Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)

23 March 2016

Legacy Circle Spotlight on George A. Garland

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

Gifts may be made monthly, under wills, or in other ways. This spring, we will be introducing Legacy Circle members to other UNA-NCA supporters. This week, meet Dr. George Arthur Garland:
GarlandHDDr. George A. Garland, president of the Southern New York State Division of UNA-USA, actually began his affiliation in 2000 with UNA-USA as full-time Executive Director of UNA-NCA. 

During his four-year tenure, membership climbed significantly as NCA became one of UNA's largest chapters. The young professionals group grew and began engaging in leadership opportunities, with its voice heard on the Board by Elizabeth Latham and Paula Boland who expanded YP's outreach at the local and national levels.

Recalling his UNA-NCA service in Washington, George said, “One of my most satisfying experiences was working with my predecessor, Evelyn Falkowski, a valiant volunteer. One of her many efforts to help underwrite the Chapter’s wide-ranging programming was to buy a DC condo and contribute the rents to UNA-NCA.  Eventually I assisted her in selling it. She donated the $300,000 profit to the Chapter--doubling our endowment.  During your Annual Membership Meeting, NCA bestows a service award named in her honor.” 

George made deep, lasting friendships during his NCA tenure. He worked closely with OC Oroku, his volunteer office manger and the Chapter’s first website creator. George recalls the many hours OC and he worked with Board Chair Andrew Rice and leaders Anne Hale Johnson, Edison Dick, and Ed Elmendorf producing the Chapter’s first fundraising auction, moving the office from a small basement room to a Connecticut Avenue townhouse, even overseeing student volunteers from several countries. NCA volunteers initiated Global Classrooms and Model UN projects in DC public schools. 

In 2004, Dr. Garland became UNA-USA’s full-time Executive Director for National Membership, and in 2008 he joined the Southern New York State Division as a volunteer. Prior to his affiliation with UNA-USA, he completed a 34-year career as Policy Analyst with US Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC.

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

21 March 2016

Statement from UNA-NCA President on UN Reform


Whether it is providing humanitarian assistance to a record number of refugees, facilitating a global agreement on climate change, coordinating the attack on the Ebola pandemic, destroying chemical weapons in Syria, or maintaining peace and security in failing states which are breeding grounds for terrorism, the United Nations is in the news every day.

As the United Nations commands increasing attention for its efforts to address the truly global challenges of the 21st century, inevitably its weakness and vulnerabilities are also revealed. That is the job of the media. And so we read stories of the abuse of UN Peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, a corruption scandal involving the past president of the General Assembly, a seemingly unaccountable and fragmented  bureaucracy, and the failure of the Security Council, subject to the P-5 veto,  to achieve peaceful solutions to intransigent conflicts, atrocities and aggression.

In an organization as complex and diverse as the United Nations, flaws and failures are inevitable.  It is how we address them that counts. I have often said that we at UNA-NCA are not cheerleaders. We work hard for a stronger, more effective and efficient United Nations. In this regard we have a three pillar strategy.

First,  there are many proposals for reform from eminent world leaders, which we applaud, and the UN is adopting some of them.

Second, we strongly advocate for constructive US leadership at the UN, which continues to make a huge difference in advancing human rights, improving peacekeeping operations, promoting merit-based recruiting and promotion, streamlining the bureaucracy, fighting nuclear proliferation, and facilitating sustainable development, among other initiatives.  Engagement through the UN must be fundamental to US foreign policy.

Finally, we must ensure that the next Secretary General, to be selected this year, has the qualities and experience to strengthen the United Nations, to address its flaws and vulnerabilities, to advance human rights, work effectively with the Security Council to maintain peace and security, and facilitate global cooperation by governments, civil society and the private sector in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this regard, we invite members of UNA-NCA to submit questions to be asked of the candidates for Secretary General. Questions can be submitted online, to Twitter or Instagram with #UNSGCandidates or emailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  prior to the March 27th deadline.


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

08 March 2016

Welcome to UNA-NCA's New Ambassadors

Originally developed in 2011 and re-introduced last year, the UNA-NCA Ambassadors Program works to increase awareness of and membership to our organization. 

Ambassadors serve as official representatives of UNA-NCA, serving as a resource for attendees to events and sharing knowledge about the organization, advocacy, membership, and volunteer needs. Read more about the UNA-NCA Ambassadors Program!

Welcome to our new ambassadors!
Houra Taheri
has been a member of UNA-NCA since 2014.  A former UNA-NCA graduate fellow, Houra is currently a doctoral student at Howard University studying nutrition with a focus on maternal/child health. Fluent in Farsi and English, Houra’s goal is to become an International Nutritionist for the UN. As part of her ambassador role, Houra recently attended UNA Member Day in New York.                                                                 
Esther Goldschlager
 has been a UNA-NCA member since 2015. Ester hold a juris doctorate in law and is interested in art and cultural heritage law, global development and human rights.  She also is a contributing writer to the Ms.  JD blog, authoring profiles on inspiring women attorneys.



Aurelie Ngo
, long time member of UNA-USA and since January 2015 of UNA-NCA is a research economist and pursuing a second masters degree in public policy at Georgia State University.  An aspiring diplomat and global leader, Aurelie has conducted numerous research and evaluations studies on behalf of various international organizations including the UN Development Programme and the International Rescue Committee.  Aurelie also founded the UNICEF Campus Initiative at Georgia State University and has participated in programs at the World Bank and the UN Institute for Training and Research.


Michael Onyemelukwe 
has been a member of UNA-USA since 2014 and recently became a member of UNA-NCA.  An investment advisor for Morgan Stanley, Michael works with corporations, institutions and nonprofit organization to provide development employee retirement plans and management endowments, trusts and estates.  Michael’s interest in international affairs includes being the co-founder for Nzuko Royal Women, an organization focused on women’s empowerment and poverty reduction in West Africa.  Michael is also involved the Rotary of Club of Washington DC’s international service committee and has served as a fellow for the French Embassy.


Daniela (Dani) Prigozhina
, a new UNA-NCA member, is a government affairs fellow for the Partnership for Public Service.  She attended the University of Minnesota majoring in economics and political science.  While at UM, Dani started the Russian Speaking Student Association and participated in numerous human rights activities including development of the World Without Genocide Summer Institute for High School and College Students.

08 March 2016

UNA-NCA Acts on Affordable Clean Energy

On March 3, 2016, UNA-NCA and its Sustainable Development Committee held a panel discussion on Action for Affordable Clean Energy, co-hosted by Leaders in Energy.

IMG_1504The discussion encouraged local-level actions to achieving the commitments determined by December’s Paris Climate Agreement, in particular through Global Goal 7 - making affordable and clean energy universally accessible. UNA-NCA Director of Membership and Programs Kristen Hecht welcomed the evening’s participants, and introduced the co-chairs of 
the Sustainable Development Committee, Gautam
Sharma and Kenneth Lemberg. Both co-chairs encouraged attendees to engage with the ongoing pledge campaign – promising to make some personal change to help reduce their carbon footprints – and through social media. Janine Finnell, founder of Leaders in Energy, stressed the importance of connecting thinkers in DC with those around the world.

IMG_1517Moderator Michelle Moore, CEO at 
Groundswell, opened the discussion by posing a series of questions to participants: how many have solar panels on their homes? how many follow a vegetarian or vegan diet? how many use electric forms of transportation? Polling the audience in this way, Ms. Moore listed just a few ways individuals can make local-level changes in their personal and professional lives to impact the climate on a global scale.

The first panelist, Mr. Reid Detchon, Vice President for Energy and Climate Strategy at the United Nations Foundation, began his presentation by looking at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which, Mr. Detchon said, represented the first step in committing the world to preventing manmade climate change. However, the Rio Declaration did not define what this meant, or how countries would intervene. Globally we have struggled with these questions ever since, until they were finally and conclusively answered by 2015’s Paris Climate Agreement. Key parts of this latest 
agreement include universality – rather than dividing the world into rich and poor actors, as in previous climate discussions, every country has some responsibility under the Paris Agreement – and the integration of climate and development, as evidenced in Global Goals 7 and 13 – affordable clean energy and climate action. This, Mr. Detchon concluded, is promising. “We will progress to a clean energy system! Now the question is – how fast?”

IMG_1539Dr. Theresa Sabonis-Helf
, professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College, described the Paris Agreement as “the first truly poly-lateral international treaty” in which nations, companies, cities, and individuals were involved. She discussed the US Department of Defense’s commitment to reducing its enormous level of greenhouse gas emissions, but stressed that changes need to come from individuals as well as from governments. She challenged attendees to reduce their personal emissions by 17% by 2020 and by 28% by 2025.

IMG_1545Mr. Mark Tidwell, founder and director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, acknowledged the huge achievement in 198 countries coming together and agreeing on commitments to end manmade climate change, but stressed the importance in now turning these commitments into solid actions. He discussed specific policies and programs in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, including an upcoming campaign for a carbon tax in the District, and challenged attendees to become socially engaged.

IMG_1565The evening’s final panelist, Mr. Mark Davis, founder of WDC Solar, spoke about his experience installing solar panels and training others to do the same.  His goal, he said, is to “empower citizens and make our community more climate resilient.” Mr. Davis offered steps individuals can take to do this, including smart thermometers, efficient lights, and weatherized doors and windows.

Ms. Moore then led a question and answer session, in which she invited questions from the audience and posed them to each of the panelists. Participants asked about personal and professionals methods of engaging with Goal 7. Panelists drew on changes they have made in their own lives and workplaces, while also touching on the role of small businesses and action at the state level in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. As the discussion wrapped up, Mr. Sharma and Mr. Lemberg encouraged attendees to make a personal commitment to Goal 7 and the Paris resolutions. Check out the commitments they made and photos from the event on UNA-NCA’s Facebook page!

Attendees and individuals interested in climate action and clean energy are invited to continue their engagement on these issues by making a personal pledge to Goal 7. Complete your pledge card today and email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or share with us on social media: @unanca and join the conversation: #ParistoDC and #Goal7.
IMG_1550UNA-NCA is grateful to the speakers for offering their time and expertise, the United Nations Foundation for providing the venue, UNA-USA for its logistical support, Leaders in Energy for co-hosting, and the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee for organizing the event.

Check out our photos from the evening!

24 February 2016

UNA-NCA Participates in Annual Members' Day at the United Nations

On Friday, February 19, UNA-NCA joined UNA-USA members from around the country for the 8th Annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference.

Members’ Day at the United Nations is an annual opportunity, exclusively for UNA-USA members to gather at the UN Headquarters in New York City and hear from expert panelists about the most pressing issues facing the UN and the global environment. This year, Jeanne Betsock Stillman, Past-President, UNA-Southern New York Division (UNA-SNY), served as Conference Co-Chair and called the Conference to order. Current UNA-USA Executive Director and Conference Co-Chair, Chris Whatley presented opening remarks, discussing the important work of UNA chapters nationwide, and especially of their growing presence on college campuses. A welcome address was given by Cristina Gallach, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, who spoke on the Sustainable Development Goals adopted last fall. The Goals, Ms. Gallach said, were a consensual, global agreement that it is time to reduce inequality, end poverty, and tackle climate change. The Paris Climate Agreement, less than three months after the adoption of the Goals, represents the deepest and most universal commitment to sustain the climate to date, and is proof of tangible work toward the achievement of the Goals.

Keynote speaker, Ambassador Sarah Mendelson, U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, brought up the importance of bridging the gap between humanitarian aid and development initiatives. The upcoming World Humanitarian Summit, to be held in Istanbul in May 2016, will serve as a forum for sharing what is and is not working within the ongoing humanitarian response, and it will be critical to examine how to reorganize that response so it is demand-driven and individual-focused. Similarly, the new development agenda, for the first time, is inclusive of all countries, not only those in the developing world, and will force all states to address their own issues. Particularly evident in Goal 16, humanitarian and development needs are inextricably linked, and each must be met in connection with the other.

Paris_Panel_Quote_with_Photo_1The first session of the day, entitled “Post-Paris Leadership for climate Change,” was moderated by George A. Garland, President of UNA-SNY. Panelist Nilda Mesa, Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, discussed the sub-national actions being made to protect the climate, namely through the OneNYC plan. Urbanization, Ms. Mesa explained, has increased the need for action to come from cities. Austin Schiano, Partnerships Director at Give Me 5, discussed the Paris Climate Agreement, praising it as a substantial, quantitative commitment to action, and noting the role it gives Medium Income Countries to be funders of climate protection. Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of 350.org, cited the growing movement around climate change as the reason that the Paris Conference last December was so successful. Mr. McKibben’s colleague Jamie Henn, Strategy and Communications Director and Co-Founder at 350.org, continued the conversation arguing that this is a “people’s movement,” where individuals are demanding action.

RefugeesModerator S. Ilgu Ozler, President of the Mid-Hudson Valley UNA-USA chapter, opened the second panel with a brief discussion of the ongoing refugee crisis. This issue, she argued, cannot be addressed merely through a humanitarian response - it demands a political solution as well. Too many refugees are housed in too few countries, putting too much strain on already-stressed host governments in the developing world. Refugees need to be resettled in countries that can afford to care for them. Fabien Dubuet, Representative to the United Nations from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)’s International Office, discussed the temporary measures that MSF is taking to mitigate the crisis. Kevin Schumacher, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at OutRight Action International, spoke to the trials faced by LGBTI refugees, who are persecuted not only by their home governments, but also by their families and society, with the result that they become refugees with no support system. The panel concluded with a very moving account from Sana Mustafa, herself a refugee from Syria and now a student at Bard College. Ms. Mustafa shared her personal experience and stressed the importance of mental and emotional support.

Live coverage of the morning sessions is available here.

Youth_Observers_1UN Foundation President and CEO, Kathy Calvin, delivered the welcome address for the afternoon sessions, in which she described the role of UNA-USA in building support for the United Nations and in advocating for the US to take a strong leadership role within the organization. She gave over the floor to the first afternoon panel, which featured the four US Youth Observers to the UN and was moderated by Kyle Lierman, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and President Obama’s liaison to Young Americans. Donya Nasser, current Observer, Jackson Dougan (2014-2015), Tiffany Taylor (2013-2014), and Brooke Loughrin (2012-2013) discussed their experiences. Each Observer highlighted the importance of encouraging young people to find their passion and use it to power their involvement on global issues.

The next panel, with moderator Rachel Bowen Pittman, Membership Director at UNA-USA, focused on the Sustainable Development 
Goals and the development agenda for the next 15 years. Ms. Betsock Stillman returned to the stage to serve as a panelist, and discussed the local and global perspectives taken on by the Goals. The Honorable Teta Banks, President of the Houston chapter of UNA-USA, continued in this vein and stressed the importance of building local partnerships to tackle global issues. Ambassador Alice M. Dear, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. representative to UN/DPI, discussed the Sorority’s history and current programming. The fourth panelist in this session, Gabriela Taveras, President of the UNA Seton Hall University chapter, discussed her campus activities to promote the Goals, particularly in giving students with diverse backgrounds a forum for engaging together on them.

Empowered_1The day’s final panel, “The Security Council Permanent 5: Division and UN Drift,” featured Jeffrey Laurenti, Board Chair of the UNA Princeton/Trenton Area Chapter, as moderator, and panelists Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN, and Ambassador Dina Kawar, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN. The two representatives discussed their diverse perspectives on the Syrian refugee crisis, and then moved on to discuss feasible reform to the structure of the Security Council, and the Permanent Five in particular.

Live coverage of the afternoon sessions is available here.

Throughout the day, attendees were called to join a number of advocacy campaigns by tweeting at their representatives. In this way, participants encouraged action on climate change, thanked Senators Cardin and Corker for support of refugees, called for support of the global goals, and asked for full funding for UN Peacekeeping.

We are very grateful to UNA-USA, who hosts this exciting event each year, and to each of the speakers for their time and expertise. Access to Members' Day is just one of many opportunities available to our members. Join today! We hope to see you for Members’ Day 2017!

Check out a photo album from the day! 

24 February 2016

Legacy Circle Spotlight on Susan and Firoze Rao

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

Gifts may be made monthly, under wills, or in other ways. This spring, we will be introducing Legacy Circle members to other UNA-NCA supporters. This week, meet Susan and Firoze Rao, two of the Legacy Circle's earliest members:

IMG_0079When I was a child growing up in a small North Carolina town, our church participated for years in an alternative Halloween activity called Trick or Treat for Unicef.  I’ve been interested in the UN since then.  However, Firoze and I were unfamiliar with the UNA until Evelyn Falkowski asked us to join, which shows that our best recruiting tool is being a member and encouraging others to join.

I knew Evelyn from a couple of other organizations where we were both active.  Evelyn said she thought I should meet some UNA-NCA members so I signed up for Firoze and myself.  At that time, Jonathan Dean was very active, and I joined his Peace and Security Task Force.  Jonathan was a wonderful chair, and we had interesting meetings and produced a good report.  UNA-NCA also undertook to raise funds in conjunction with DC public school students to clear minefields in Mozambique.  This was an exciting project and we were happy to be involved.

Evelyn was right, we’ve met some very interesting people in UNA-NCA and through it have become even stronger supporters of the United Nations.

- Susan Rao, Member of the UNA-NCA Legacy Circle

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

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