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26 July 2016

UNA-NCA Engages Cypriot Students with the United Nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 July 2016

Global Goal 16 and Recent Violence in the United States

Statement from UNA-NCA President

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

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

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

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

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

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

06 July 2016

Ambassador Samantha Power Urges Action in the Global Refugee Crisis

The Global Refugee Crisis: Overcoming Fears and Spurring Action

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

State of the Current Crisis

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

What will happen if the US does not help?

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

US Efforts to Aid Refugees

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

Full remarks here.

06 July 2016

United Nations Human Rights Council

Between June 13 and July 1, The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) met for its 10th anniversary and 32nd session where the Council discussed a number of human rights resolutions put forth by member states. Nine resolutions were passed by the close of the session, including a resolution to create the first global level envoy position focused on the human rights of LGBTQ people. The envoy will advise the UN's 193 member states on the protection of LGBTQ people's rights and safety in their nations as well as advise the Human Rights Council on other ways to protect LGBTQ rights. The resolution passed after many hours of debate and multiple amendments that attacked the original resolution by a vote of 23 states in favor, 18 against, and 6 abstaining.

The Council also passed resolutions and texts on multiple other critical issues, such as the human rights of internally displaced peoples, violence against women, the impact of arms transfers on human rights, access to medicines and on capacity building in public health, mental health and human rights on the impact of discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The resolutions passed this week by the UNHRC aim to make the world safer and more just for everyone, regardless of sexuality, gender identity or nationality.

Refer to blog by Dr. Wesley Reisser, Senior Foreign Affairs Officer, Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, International Organization Affairs Bureau, United States Department of State.

05 July 2016

Employment Opportunities

Vacancy Announcement

United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA)

Title:                Manager, Programs and Membership

Status:             Part-time (4 days/week)

Supervisor:      Executive Director

Start time:       Early to mid-August 2017

Salary:             Commensurate with experience

Location:         Washington, DC

Issue Date:      June 2017                                          



  • Manage annual events and program calendar
  • Secure and coordinate speakers, venues, catering staff, and other vendors to organize annual events
  • Attend UNA-NCA events and provide on-site support for registration, event logistics, management, etc.
  • Serve as office liaison and staff coordinator to program committee leaders and officers
  • Oversee event registration process and communication with attendees before and following events
  • Continuously develop new methods for capturing new event attendees to increase attendance and program revenue
  • Provide support for the Graduate Fellows Program including reviewing applications, conducting interviews, and coordinating venue and speakers
  • Assist in the development of annual program budget
  • Track and provide data on events and programs for annual reports, grant proposals, and other purposes as requested


  • Manage, create, and supervise content for social media accounts including Twitter and Facebook
  • Create and manage content for website
  • Provide content for and oversee creation of weekly e-newsletter
  • Track user engagement and data analytics with various communications platforms
  • Assist in creation of reports, sponsorship packages, and fundraising campaigns
  • Develop content for and produce the organization’s Annual Report under the guidance of the Communications Committee
  • Serve as organization point of contact for communication and program development with partner organizations for joint programs and cross-promotion


  • Manage membership database
  • Liaise and coordinate with parent organization’s membership team
  • Facilitate data entry of reports from parent organization into own user system
  • Develop new strategies to build membership base and increase membership retention
  • Provide quality customer service in order to ensure a positive membership experience
  • Engage members in the work of UNA and its program committees
  • Develop and maintain consistent communication strategy with members to include membership welcome, membership renewal reminders, and other critical touch points


  • General office duties including, but not limited to:
                        Supply ordering

                        Coordination of large print jobs

  • Recruit for and run internship program; directly supervise 3-4 interns on a semester basis

  • Provide vital administrative and programmatic support to upper management and Board of Directors

Minimum Requirements

Bachelor’s Degree

Experience with membership/CRM database(s)

Proficiency with Microsoft Office, especially Word and Excel

Experience with websites (development, maintenance, and/or posting new content)

Experience with social media platforms

Customer service experience

1+ years of event planning experience

1+ years of office experience

1+ years of supervisory experience

Strong writing and communication skills via email, phone, and face-to-face

Ability to thrive in a fast-paced environment with changing priorities

Ability to work on a team with multiple key players and to effectively communicate with high profile stakeholders

Preferred Qualifications

Master’s Degree

Experience working with a non-profit membership organization and volunteer leaders

1+ years of grant-writing and fundraising experience


Interested applicants should send their resume, cover letter, brief writing sample, and at least 2 professional references (Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF format only) referencing the position in the subject line to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by July 15, 2017. Applications can also be mailed to UNA-NCA, Attn: Paula Boland, 2000 P Street NW, Suite 630, Washington, DC 20036. No phone calls please.

UNA-NCA will review applications upon receipt and may not await the closing date to make a final selection. We thank all individuals for their interest in UNA-NCA; however only those selected for interviews will be contacted.

28 June 2016

Brexit Reflects a Disturbing Trend

Statement from UNA-NCA President

What do the UK referendum on Brexit, the rise of nativism elsewhere in Europe, and the anti-trade and anti-immigration rhetoric of the US presidential campaign have in common?  They may well reflect a larger global schism. President Obama suggested as much at Stanford last week when he addressed the “changes and challenges raised by globalization.”

We face unprecedented global issues in the 21st century—an integrated world economy fueled by free trade and  global corporations that transcend sovereign regulation, the disparate impact of climate change, the proliferation of nonstate terrorism in failed and failing states, health pandemics, a refugee and migrant crisis, a powerful internet that can be used for good or evil, and population growth unaccompanied by economic and job growth—to name but a few. These issues can be addressed effectively only through  global cooperation and dialogue among sovereign states, regional organizations, civil society and the private sector.

Few of us grasp the extent of-- and irreversibility of –the  rapid pace of change, which inevitably creates anxiety,  and winners and losers. While younger generations may eagerly embrace change, older generations may be less adaptable.  The benefits of globalization may disproportionately accrue to those with the education and skills to adapt to new opportunities as well as those who benefit from the strength of diverse communities. The back lash is felt globally in the rise of ethnic and religious conflict, the assertion of state sovereignty and national identity as an antidote to global integration, and frustration with the inability of governments to respond to the changing needs of those left behind.

What does this mean for UNA-NCA as we work for constructive U.S. Leadership in the United Nations and other international organizations? Let me suggest a few ideas for further contemplation [and action].

·        Recognizing the essential global nature of the  challenges of the 21st century, we need  to increase public understanding and support for US Government engagement in the work of the United Nations and other international organizations in facilitating international collaboration among governments, civil society and the private sector.

·        The Global Goals for Sustainable Development represent a universal consensus on what needs to be done to address the underlying causes of gross inequality, conflict, and oppression. The U.S. should be a leader in implementing these Goals internationally and locally, taking into special account those displaced by or unable to adapt to globalization.

·        The U.S. should work to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations, enhancing its transparency and accountability, and ensuring that it listens to the people as well as governments.

·        The U.S. should strengthen regional organizations in which it is a member and encourage the United Nations to work more closely with regional organizations such as NATO, the EU, the African Union, ASEAN, and the OAS, among others.

·        As a leader in innovation and diversity, the U.S. can help rededicate the United Nations to the values of its Charter and ensure that the benefits of an integrated global community accrue to everyone, that no one is left behind.

At a time of increasing anxiety at the pace of change at home and abroad, UNA-NCA  can help raise public understanding of how, with U.S. leadership,  the United Nations can more effectively ensure that the benefits of globalization are extended to everyone, and not just the privileged few. Join UNA-NCA to help raise public awareness. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's statement on Brexit can be found here

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

21 June 2016

UNA-NCA Participates in Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

LeadershipSummitOn June 12-14, UNA-USA held its annual Leadership Summit and Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. The Summit, entitled “The U.S. and the UN in 2016,” brought together hundreds of members from chapters across the United States to learn about advocacy, partake in panels led by experts, and to provide networking opportunities between members from across the country. The Summit culminated on June 14, when members gathered to advocate for a strong partnership between the United States and the United Nations.

Advocacy Day began with a breakfast at the National Education Association (NEA) where team leaders led training sessions before leaving for their respective Congressional visits. UNA-NCA members had the opportunity to meet with Congressional representatives from Washington, DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia and discussed three important issues: full funding of the United States’ peacekeeping dues, robust support for the UN refugee agency, and the UN’s “Education Cannot Wait Fund.” Representatives were also encouraged to work with the UN to achieve the recently adopted Global Goals for Sustainable Development. UNA-NCA’s members were well received and encouraged by the opportunity to bring  issues that they felt strongly about to the attention of  our nation’s policymakers.

UNA-NCA is appreciative of its opportunity to meet with Congressional representatives and excited to continue to advocate for a strong partnership between the UN and the United States. Individuals interested in getting involved with UNA-NCA and its advocacy work are invited to become a member of the organization and then join UNA-NCA’s Advocacy Committee!


21 June 2016

Open Letter to the Members of UNA-NCA on the Refugee Crisis

On June 20thWorld Refugee Day—the United Nations announced a new record—not the kind of record that we can be proud of.
According to the UN  Refugee Agency’s  Global Trends Report, 65.3 million people have been displaced by world conflicts (about the population of France), including nearly 100,000 children traveling alone, fleeing gangs, war and persecution. And this doesn’t count those displaced by earthquakes and other natural disasters. More people have crossed that bridge than at any time in recorded history. Whether it is the civil war in Syria, Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, the Islamic State in Iraq, drug gangs in Central America, oppression in Eritrea, fleeing Boko Haram in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and  Chad,  ethnic cleansing in South Sudan, Burundi or the Central African Republic, among other conflict areas, multitudes have left their homes, their communities, their work, their roots, and their traditions, as they face an unknown future. Some 41 million are displaced in their own country. More than half the displaced children are out of school,  and we run the risk of losing a generation of educated and skilled workers.

 The United States  historically has resettled more refugees than any other country. We have agreed to take 85,000 refugees this fiscal year, 10,000 of them from Syria (although only 2,805 have been resettled so far). The US is the largest  donor of humanitarian assistance, exceeding $6 billion last year. As thousands attempt to cross the Mediterranean each day, with tragic reports filling the airways of boats capsizing and children drowning, there are strong advocates that the US should take in many more Syrian refugees. Given the political climate in the United States—the fierce  opposition of some members of Congress and State Governors and the incendiary  campaign rhetoric—there are limits on what the US government can do, as Assistant Secretary Richard stated so regrettably at UNA-NCA’s Annual Meeting.

 There are, however,  important steps that we as Americans can take to support the assimilation of Syrian refugees at home and to improve the conditions under which they live abroad. Of course, there is much we can do as individuals in our communities to welcome refugees and to support the underfunded UN agencies, the UN Refugee Agency, the World Food Program, UNICEF, and others. We can support Secretary Kerry’s  tireless efforts to negotiate a political settlement that will enable the refugees to return to their home country. For that reason, enabling them to stay in close proximity, where the language and culture are familiar, would facilitate their return.

The education of children in resettlement areas is a huge challenge, and UNA-USA has proposed an Adopt A Future Campaign. Of course, UNA- NCA members are free to participate as individuals in this program.  However, we at UNA-NCA need to decide what our Chapter can do to address this crisis of the 21st Century. Should we consider, for example, involving the area schools in our Global Classrooms program in support of the UNA-USA initiative? We should have a program ready to go by the time President Obama hosts the Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis at the UN General Assembly in September.

To think through these challenges and make recommendation to the UNA-NCA Board, I am looking for volunteers to serve on a Refugee Crisis Steering Committee. If you would like to serve on this Steering Committee, please email me at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . I hope to hear from you.

Thank you for your support and commitment.

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

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