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20 July 2020

Mourning the Loss of a True Champion for Human Rights


As we commemorated Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18th, another champion and advocate for human rights left this nation and earth. Throughout his life, Congressman John Lewis was an example of someone who truly walked the talk and was deeply committed to social justice and equity, helping shape the civil rights movement and keeping it alive until today.     

Congressman Lewis was a follower and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses and --at the age of 23 -- was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.

“If we do not get meaningful legislation out of this Congress, the time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington… We must say, ‘Wake up, America, wake up!’ For we cannot stop, and we will not be patient.”

Despite many attacks and beatings, Congressman Lewis never lost his activist spirit, taking it from protests to politics. He was elected to the Atlanta city council in 1981, then to Congress six years later. Once in Washington, he focused on fighting against poverty and helping younger generations by improving education and health care. Known as ‘the conscience of Congress’ he brought in a new era in the struggle for equality in America, and in recent years became a moral compass during political turmoil.

The UN Association is committed to keeping Congressman Lewis’ legacy alive, standing up and advancing human rights at home and around the world. Our mission of educating and advocating for a strong US-UN partnership has never been more critical and needed to achieve racial justice.

The UN Association of the USA and its chapters around the country extends its heartfelt condolences to Congressman Lewis’s family, his colleagues in Congress and friends.

Let’s honor Congressman Lewis and the many lives and sacrifices made through decades and take the movement to the next level. Now is the time to bring lasting peace and human rights to all!

Paula Boland

President, UN Association of the National Capital Area
National Council Chair, UN Association of the USA



09 July 2020

2020 UNA-NCA Annual Membership Meeting







On Wednesday, June 24th, UNA-NCA held its Annual Membership Meeting which focused on the state of the organization, featured a panel discussion on racial injustice at the local and global levels, welcomed newly elected Board Members, and thanked outgoing leaders.
 
The meeting began with opening remarks from UNA-NCA Board Chair Stephen F. Moseley.  He welcomed the attendees and proceeded to discuss how this year’s annual meeting was unique compared to previous ones, having been presented in a virtual format. Noting that 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, while much progress has been made during this time, there is still much work that needs to be done in several areas for a more sustainable world.  Moseley stated that it is crucial, now more than ever, that we “make a better world through the multilateral, mutual cooperation among all peoples and nations to make a global reality that fully respects everyone’s human rights.” Moseley emphasized the local and global need to address the pain and suffering of people of color who have been systematically discriminated against in what is thought to be a modern age of progress and tolerance. This notion was further discussed later during the panel discussion.  
 
UNA-NCA President Paula Boland thanked our leaders on the Board, Executive Committee, Advisory Council, Program Committees as well as our volunteers, donors and staff for their incredible hard work and support this past year and particularly during this unprecedented time.  “While scary and filled with uncertainty, we stacked together and creatively adjusted our programs to virtual platforms; brought new programming and expanded our reach within and beyond our jurisdiction.  Seizing the moment and opportunities in the midst of challenges has certainly been our motto and it has served us well.” UNA-NCA’s mission of educating and mobilizing Americans for a strong U.S.-UN partnership along with over 20,000 UNA-USA members across the country has never been more relevant. “This is the decade of action to achieve the Global Goals working in partnership at all levels.”

UNA-NCA strived to bring the global-local dimensions throughout its programming and advocacy efforts. This past year saw a variety of timely and well-attended programs addressing the climate agenda, human rights, peacebuilding, and public health and more recently through our new Coffee Chat series which continues to experience record participation. UNA-NCA’s Global Classrooms DC Program, Graduate Fellows Program, and Young Professionals Program continued to have a strong year by utilizing virtual sessions and programming. Our Human Rights Committee produced two shadow reports, one on the state of human rights and another on the state of gender in D.C., which were submitted as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. UNA-NCA participated in UN75 consultations in our jurisdiction and district meetings.

UNA-NCA is in a solid financial position, had a balanced budget in 2019, strengthened its operational reserves significantly, and long-term investments. We had important staff transitions and built a strong team. Our Governance Committee worked diligently on updating the Bylaws to reflect current and best practices and to the Nominating Committee brought an outstanding and diverse group of new leaders. UNA-NCA will continue to work diligently and stand up for the UN while the UN is standing up for the world.

UNA-NCA Director-at-Large and President and Executive Director of the Global Health Council Loyce Pace moderated a discussion about the state of human rights, locally and globally focusing on racial injustice.  The panel participants included: Tonia Wellons, President of the Greater Washington Community Foundation; George Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bread for the City; and Oona Nelson, rising senior at Howard University and UNA-USA National Council Representative. All the panelists and the moderator discussed their own experiences and perceptions of racial inequity in the United States as a person of color. When asked what role should the UN be playing for the US in this trying time, Wellons stated:

“I think the opportunity is thinking through our connected struggles globally and the return to the principles and ideals that this country was founded on.  Was the implementation flawed? Of course, because it did not include native or indigenous or African American people in the ideals or the framing. But the framing in itself has a unique opportunity to really live out its true, core value. But until then, the UN and the international community needs to hold us to account in order for us to really push forward meaningful change…  everything in international development is local as much as it is global. When you are doing work, you are doing it at a community level. The systems that you’re trying to impact and effect are all the same systems.”

When asked for further insight, as someone who works on human rights issues daily, Jones responded:

“There’s a saying about racism in America, ‘we didn’t invent it, but we perfected it,” … Yes, the rest of the world has every right to call America out, because we have portrayed ourselves as a beacon of freedom, equality, and justice. We’ve always fallen short of that… the truth about racial equity is that we all have to start at home and talk about what’s going on in our own lives, in our own households, in our own countries, and in our own organizations.”

When asked what is the call to action in order to confront and address racism, Nelson responded:

“We need to recognize our potential, educate ourselves, and not stay complacent with the status quo. The racial and economic elite take advantage of how people like to stay complacent. We each have a special gift and our own power. We have to tap into that power in order to do what we need to do to help make the world a better place. We must do our own part to drive our future forward.”

After listening to the responses of the panelists, Pace was able to reflect on her own life and stated:

“I really appreciate the historical context that each of you brought to the conversation. My mother picked cotton and she integrated her high school. I turn to her sometimes, in these moments, and I ask, ‘how are you managing this? How should I manage this?’. She went through all these things growing up in Tennessee and my father in Alabama. They have seen some things. This idea that we don’t have to be in despair, we can certainly be exhausted because it has been a long period. Yet, there is so much we can learn from the people who traveled this road before us.”

The discussion not only touched upon what the UN should be doing in light of the issues that have occurred in the U.S., but also about what people can do on an individual level to initiate change in their own communities.

UNA-NCA Vice Chair of Communications and Nominations Committee Chair Sultana Ali presented the results of the 2020 Board Election. To begin, the reelected Directors-at-Large who will be continuing their terms are Patricia Beneke, Renee Dopplick, Michael Onyemelukwe, and Richard Ponzio. The newly elected Directors-at-Large are Supriya Baily, Ambassador Steven McGann, Audré Park, and Aaron Sean Poyton. The newly elected officers are Board Chair-Elect Jill Christianson, Vice Chair of Advocacy Gayatri Patel, Vice Chair and Secretary Dawn Calabia (continuing for a second term), and Co-Chairs of the Advisory Council Ted Piccone and Nancy Donaldson. The newly elected Student Representative is Nursena Oktem, from Georgetown University. Learn more about our new Board members here.  

Board Chair Moseley then thanked the outgoing Board Members Dr. Diane Adams, Heather Lane Chauny, Michael R. Marsh, Ellen McGovern, Oona Nelson, Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe, Kimberly Weichel, and Melissa Wolfe for their excellent work and service for UNA-NCA.

UNA-NCA ensures continuity and effective leadership by electing a Board Chair-Elect whose first year in office coincides with the last year of service for the current Board Chair. Board Chair-Elect Jill Christianson plans to look forward and work to ensure that UNA-NCA is a, “nimble, strong, efficient organization that also then is fully inclusive and addressing social justice and anti-racism issues.” Christianson wants to play to our structural strengths. She pledges to learn by listening, being a part of, and sharing her network with the organization to continue to grow.

Board Chair Moseley’s closing remarks focused on the remarkable work and progress UNA-NCA has been able to accomplish and the many opportunities ahead to strengthen our impact.  Moseley concluded, “there are plenty of us, plenty willing, plenty ready to work together and collaborate to address major issues.”



09 July 2020

SEXTORTION: A Crucial Humanitarian-Corruption Challenge






The Partnership for Transparency (PTF) and the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) jointly hosted a virtual forum on July 1, 2020. The purpose was to investigate sextortion, a pervasive yet underreported and underrepresented form of corruption and gender-based violence. 

The event was introduced by Paula Boland, UNA-NCA President, who described the issue succinctly: “Sextortion, or sexual extortion, involves an abuse of power in return for any form of unwanted sexual activity. Sextortion is not limited to region or industry, and it has long been a silent form of corruption, hiding in plain view. Until recently, it was never discussed or recognized as a distinct phenomenon within either the corruption framework or the framework of gender-based violence.” 

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of all forms of Violence Against Women specifically determines that gender-based violence refers to any physical, sexual or physiological harm perpetrated unto women. The Sextortion Forum intended to provide greater insight into how sextortion qualifies as a violation of this Declaration, how vulnerable communities are specifically targeted, and the tenable manifestation and impact of this issue on the ground. 

 Guest speakers included:

  • Dr. Ortrun Merkle, Researcher, United Nations University, Graduate School of Governance, the Netherlands. 
  • Francisca Chinelo Ekwonu, Monitoring, Evaluation and Compliance Officer at the Centre for Social Awareness, Advocacy and Ethics (CSAAE), founder of “New Girl On Campus, Nigeria.
  • Nancy Hendry, Senior Advisor at the International Association of Women Judges, Washington DC.
  • Marie Chêne, Research Director, Transparency International, Berlin, Germany.
  • Dena Shayne, Equal Justice Works Crime Victims Justice Corps Fellow at the Amara Legal Center, Washington DC.
  • Indira Sandilya, Board member PTF India, Advisor PTF, Washington DC.

The discussion was moderated by Shayna Vayser, UNA-NCA Managing Director of Advocacy and Policy Strategy, and by Frank Vogl, Chair, PTF Board of Directors.  

The panel’s experts stressed that while sextortion manifests itself in many ways, the common feature is quid pro quo. It is the blunt abuse of power by men who place (primarily) women in positions where if they refuse sexual demands, their lives could be shattered. Examples include women who make it to universities and then face professors who require sex in exchange for passing grades; women farmers who cannot secure financial credit or seeds without facing demands for sex; women in countless workplaces whose employment may hang in the balance as bosses extort sex; and women who are placed in similarly impossible situations as they are abused for cyber-pornography. 

The International Association of Women Judges has been striving to build public awareness of sextortion for more than a decade, but this crime remains largely in the shadows. Crucial to raising its profile and placing it on the priority agendas of official governmental organizations – from the UN to the European Union to the World Bank to bilateral aid donors – are hard facts. The panelists underscored that obtaining hard data is incredibly difficult– one cannot simply put out a poll asking random members of civil society if they have been a survivor of sextortion. Furthermore, stigmatization and fear of retribution may dissuade survivors from coming forward. 

Panelists noted that a broader effort is being made to obtain data, to conduct surveys, to develop research with hard evidence, and to increase the files of individual stories from around the world. However, lack of data alone has not solely inhibited the inclusion of sextortion on public policy agendas. Most governments and international institutions are male-dominated. Systemic patriarchy continues to influence governmental inaction and can potentially exclude sextortion from prioritization. This is in part due to the gendered power imbalance, which leaves women disproportionately at risk of sextortion whilst also more likely to be excluded from legislative decision-making.  

Still, in some countries, scandals have grabbed media headlines and prompted greater discussion, notably in urban areas and on college campuses. But, almost universally across middle- and low-income countries, rural areas are not seeing any meaningful changes, allowing sextortion to flourish.  

Activists, as the panelists stated, are increasingly working to find ‘safe places’ to protect women. Physically safe places for abused women and (and in some countries young boys) are needed; economically safe places for potential victims where they can get the primary necessities of life such as food, shelter, and health; and socially and legally safe places are essential where sextorted persons can tell their story without fear of retaliation.

In a number of countries, women who are caught in sextortion or are especially vulnerable to it may seek legal redress. In the U.S. and in some other countries there are laws that can offer some support – but in many countries, the laws against corruption solely relate to extortion for cash and, if there is a quid pro quo in the arrangement then women rarely find the law a comfort. Federal legislation that mandates recourse for sextortion can provide survivors with choices yet may not guarantee compliance of law enforcement. What happens when, as in many cases of corruption, the enforcers are also the perpetrators? A legal approach is not nearly sufficient- social welfare counselors are no less important and still a rarity when cases of sextortion surface.

The discussion ended with a conversation about the way ahead- is there hope?

The unprecedented wealth of new research and efforts – such as this event – to build public awareness offers the greatest hope that the sextortion issue will be taken as seriously as it should be by governments and many others in the public and private sectors who could wield enormous influence in curbing a crime that plays out daily in every nation. Please see all the links below for further information.


Learn more about Sextortion:




24 June 2020

UNA-NCA 2019-2020 Annual Reports

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2019-2020 UNA-NCA Annual Report
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2019-2020 GCDC Annual Report



24 June 2020

GCDC Hosts Second Virtual Model UN Conference with Ronald Reagan Middle School

Although the pandemic has restricted the ability of the Global Classrooms DC team to host in-person Model UN sessions, our leaders of tomorrow remain committed to solving today’s global issues. 

On June 18th, the GCDC team hosted our second virtual Model UN committee session with students from Ronald Reagan Middle School. Despite never debating in a virtual setting before, the students  took on the challenge wholeheartedly. Using the work originally intended for the Spring 2020 Model UN Conference, students convened in an International Organization for Migration (IOM) committee and discussed “Protecting Against Forced Migration Due to Conflict.” 

Over the course of an hour committee session, the students worked together to produce two resolutions. One paper identified the need for improved immigration systems and policies and the necessity of “an adequate number of resources (food, water, and medical supplies), as well as sanitary supplies, bathrooms, and showers” to help prevent the spread of diseases, like COVID-19, amongst migrants. The second paper focused on identifying sources of “funding from other countries to … help improve the quality of life in certain countries affected by migrant crises.” 

Despite not being able to convene in-person, the students engaged passionately and worked together to find solutions to the issue of forced migration. The session showed the GCDC team the resilience and commitment our students have to changing the world.




04 June 2020

The Complexity of the UN 75th Birthday and Global Grief

By Stephen F. Moseley, President, UNA-NCA

Dear Friends, We had planned that this year, the 75th anniversary of the UN, 2020 would be an opportunity to review the organization’s history and progress since its establishment in 1945 at the end of the Second World War.  There is much to celebrate across the UN’s past 75 years: the maintenance of peace and security, the promotion of social and economic development, the championing of human rights, and now its ability to commune nations so that they may collectively address the challenge of climate change. On the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary, the UN Secretary General has called upon the world’s citizens and leaders alike to review and recommend the ways to strengthen the UN between 2020 and 2050. 

Amidst a year intended for reflection, planning, and celebration, the Covid-19 pandemic has upended our lives. In almost every community, this pandemic has disproportionately attacked the most vulnerable – the elderly, the poor, and people of color suffering from chronic illnesses that are directly attributable to enduring generations of systemic discrimination. The actions and rhetoric from both our national leaders and local police departments over the past week have crystalized just how much further we have to go before we acheive the UN’s charter and mission of respecting the human rights of all people. 

While we have witnessed significant progress by public health systems globally, regionally, and nationally in response to epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, polio, SARS, and MERS, we now realize that these tools and capacities succeed only when leaders of countries bring to bear a spirit of collaboration.  Our leaders must recognize that the technical and scientific knowledge – developed and maintained by their own institutions – must be made available for open and transparent exchange through and with UN agencies such as World Health Organization. As we have learned in past epidemics, when mistakes are made due to either political or self-interested actions, they must be admitted and addressed, for the benefit of all nations. During COIVD-19, unfortunately, blunders, misunderstandings, and mistakes have undermined the benefits of multilateral collaboration.  To date during this crisis, US decision-making has thwarted greater collaboration – the most clear evidence being the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization, a dramatic and destructive course of action that will have profound impacts upon global public health.  This, in the midst of a pandemic, and without any thoughtful or open assessment. 

This pandemic has also exposed our nation’s historical and lasting systems of racial imbalance in economic opportunity, education, housing, and employment. Deaths during the pandemic among minority groups are 50% higher than for white Americans, while the economic impact has had a devastating impact upon their economic stability and safety, many of whom work in the service economy as front-line workers supporting the health and safety of us all. These citizens deserve fair and just treatment of their human rights. 

In the midst of this pandemic, the ugly face of broad racial and economic injustice has burst forth once again with the visible murder of George Floyd in broad daylight by Minneapolis police. A murder, a strangulation –  a black man pleading for a breath while showing no resistance.  No wonder that millions of American citizens reject, and protest, against this and so many other wrongful killings of black men, women, and youth across the nation. 

While some taking part in the protests have violent intent, most participants are peaceful – peaceful but enraged at the epidemic of police violence. This administration, and the president himself, show no understanding of, or empathy for, the racial injustice around them, offering only threats,  condemnation and taking unconstitutional military actions against our own citizens. The mostly peaceful protests that have erupted across the nation in more than 100 cities are a plea to bring an end to both the killings and to a discriminatory judicial system that has dismissed almost all of the police killings of black citizens over the past three or more decades.

UNA-NCA’s mission is to champion the foundational values of the UN as a forum for peacemaking and as an entity capable of deploying peacekeeping forces around the globe, as well as to advocate for the US to meet its financial obligations to the UN, including the World Health organization, Human Rights Council, and support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Failure to act on these interrelated needs, can bring about the greater susceptibility of the most vulnerable people both here and abroad.  

This year we proudly celebrate the UN’s accomplishments while recommending improvements for the future of the UN. The UN has great support among American citizens and unusually bipartisan support in the Congress. The US has been, and can still be, one of the world’s great nations by being a concerned and compassionate multilateral partner that works with others to address our global challenges.





02 June 2020

UNA-NCA Stands in Solidarity

 

“Lasting peace can only be built on the premise that all people have equal rights and dignity.”

-United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 

 

This has been a traumatic week for our nation. We write to you today to both reflect on these national tragedies and reaffirm our commitment to the safety and well-being of our members and community. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others have brought to the surface racial inequities that continue to impact our society. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionately devastating impact on the health and economic status of our communities of color. It has also confirmed what we already knew—that deep racial disparities continue to exist in our nation. 


The creation of the United Nations institutionalized the notion that all persons are entitled to the same rights and dignity. Our work to defend the United Nations is a reflection of our communal belief in these guiding principles and a recognition of the importance of international solidarity and cooperation to forge a better future. 


As our communities across the country continue to demand justice, we maintain our work to realign the United States with the democratic principles of the UN. To stray from her framework is to stray from the fundamental ideology and to forget the lessons of the previous century. The United Nations was forged in the shadow of atrocity and genocide, representing a global will for a more just society. We stand in solidarity with those who continue the struggle for equity across the world and in our own neighborhoods. We reaffirm our commitment to preserving and defending universal human rights, whether that is the right to the highest attainable level of health or the right to life. 


We stand in solidarity and in demanding an end to this injustice. Black lives matter now and always. We will continue to raise our voices in favor of universal human rights; we will work to defend the World Health Organization in its campaign to provide healthcare to the world’s most vulnerable and seek to dismantle systems of oppression and disenfranchisement. We are committed to building a world in which bigotry and xenophobia do not exist.


Stephen F. Moseley, President

Paula Boland, Executive Director

United Nations Association of the National Capital Area


 



01 June 2020

Statement on Nationwide Protests

by Hon. Teta V. Banks, Ed.D. 
Chair, National Council United Nations Association of the USA Member, World Federation of UNAs 

The United Nations Association of the United States of America extends our condolences to the family of George Floyd and all other victims of racial violence. As we advocate for human rights, we condemn those who deny those rights to any men and women - in this case, to men and women and children based upon the color of their skin. The protests, demonstrations, and riots we now see in the streets of our nation are demands for justice and change. The cry, once again, is “No justice, No peace.” While we advocate for civic action, we know that violence begets violence. However, we also know, as Dr. King stated that “violence is the language of the unheard.” And we know that the struggle for civil rights in America has continued into the 21st century. 

In the midst of the year in which we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Charter, we find ourselves in mourning and in outrage at a convergence of pandemics- the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic of racism. While we were yet in “shut down” as a country and as a world due to the novel coronavirus, the ever-present pandemic of racism ignited again the smoldering embers of 400 years with the murder of an African American man, George Floyd, by law enforcement in Minneapolis. The anger, frustration, and pain lay bare the soul of America’s original sin of slavery and its centuries-old aftermath. The convergence of this social cancer with the COVID-19 that has killed over 100,000 Americans, with a disproportionate number of African Americans, bears witness to the social disparities that now translate into medical vulnerabilities and precious lives lost. 

Our reality is a conundrum far beyond a Dickensian dualism. 

In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic with over 100,000 Americans dead and more than 3 million people dead worldwide, in the midst of CDC and NIH reports as well as African American scholars noting and explaining the impact disparities of the novel coronavirus on populations of people of color based on historically continuous systemic inequalities, in the midst of a fabricated friction attacking the World Health Organization, in the midst of a continuum litany of African American individuals’ deaths/murders at the hands of a nation’s law enforcement ( individually and collectively), and now in the midst of demonstrations, protests, and violence in our cities throughout our nation, we find ourselves forced to see “more clearly” and see ”anew” the realities that are our America. 

And we see this reality in a dichotomous lens. Our nation is touting the great step into space once more since a decade with the SpaceX venture to the International Space Station via public-private Tesla-NASA partnership, the United Nations is commemorating its 75th anniversary after its Charter that proclaims never again the “scourge of war” for succeeding generations with the commitment to protect human rights in that historic Universal Declaration of Human Rights document, nations throughout the world are in the midst of strategizing and implementing the Agenda 2030 of the Sustainable Development Goals that address every element that impacts sustenance of human life and our planet. 

We are forced to see more clearly the good, the bad, and the ugly. But we have seen this before. Yet, today with the “urgency of now” we must not only see but act. We must not only advocate but commit. We must not only be a voice but be a vehicle of change. Gandhi told us, “Be the change you want to see.” 

How each of us chooses to be the change will be our decisions. For our UNA members, we can choose the ballot, we can choose the advocacy actions, we can choose education. We can choose to march, to teach, to speak the truth to power, to pen the ideas of change, to be social change agents. Whatever the means, we refuse to be the “unheard.” Individually and collectively we, as UNA, have a charge to keep. That charge is written into the very document creating the existence of the United Nations. It reads: “We the Peoples of the United Nations determined... to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war ... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person...” 

In these times of conflict, in these wars, let us stand strong in the faith of our founding document. Let us not waver nor falter in our commitment to human rights for all. Let us not be bowed nor bent to inhumane ideologies. Let us not fear to uphold the higher laws of humanity. Let us reaffirm that the UNA stands for human rights. We stand for justice. We stand for the future of humanity. 




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