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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


2019-2020 UNA-NCA Annual Report

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. 

21 May 2020

Global Classrooms Hosts PD Session for Educators

Despite the cancellation of the Spring 2020 Model UN Conference, Global Classrooms DC has remained committed to providing global education engagement opportunities for their network. In the effort to adapt, the GCDC team hosted a virtual Professional Development (PD) session via Zoom on May 14th for educators involved in the GCDC program. The PD session typically happens during the Spring Conference, and serves as an open forum for educators to build skills relevant to their Model UN programs. 

During the session, the Global Classrooms DC team welcomed educators from Cabin John Middle School, Muslim Community School, and Templeton Academy. The session focused on connecting educators involved in the GCDC program and setting goals for both the program as a whole and individual groups involved. It was an excellent opportunity for educators in the program to get to know each other, while also recognizing the opportunities and challenges that presented each of their individual groups. 

The session started off with a “speed-dating” style activity that allowed educators to build rapport with each other and discuss their involvement with GCDC. Some noted the immense growth of their own Model UN groups over the past couple of years with the GCDC curriculum, while others were fairly new to the program. The educators were also asked to share a global issue that they are passionate about, to which they recalled topics ranging from climate change to inter-state conflict to the failure of institutions. They also specified that their passions have increasingly been influenced by the students that they work with. 

Once the participants got to know each other, they gathered to reflect on their experiences and came together with the GCDC team to identify common goals for the program. The objective of this activity was to identify how collaboration can provide new ideas and perspectives while also inspiring solutions that are innovative and shared. As students are taught valuable life skills, like collaboration, through Model UN, it’s critical to ensure that educators use these same skills to focus on what they want their students to achieve from the program. 

By recognizing the various motivations that drive each Model UN program in the previous activity, the educators were able to engage in a collaborative process. As such, the educators came to the consensus that personalizing the experience for students is crucial for preparing them for their futures. By identifying the skills that each student wants to achieve, both educators and the GCDC staff can better tailor their experiences for success. One participant also identified the impact of speakers that work on issues directly related to the global topics discussed in the classroom. 

The session concluded with each educator creating a personal goal through a Google Form for their own Model UN group and encouraged to relate to the shared goal created. Once the next school year starts, the GCDC team will reshare the collaborative and individual goals with all of the participants. Overall, since the participants were both veterans of and new to the program, it was a great opportunity for them to learn from each other. The educators and Global Classrooms team engaged in meaningful conversations that will have a lasting impact on the ability of our future generation to discuss global topics. 

Didn’t have a chance to attend the PD session? Watch the full video here

19 May 2020

Congratulations to UNA-NCA's 2020 Graduate Fellows!

On April 27th, the 2020 cohort of UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows completed their semester-long examination of the United Nations system and its role in addressing the pressing global issues of our time. Led by UNA-NCA’s Nancy Donaldson, Tom Bradley, Soonhoon Ahn, and Ed Elmendorf, the 23 Graduate Fellows, hailing from twelve countries and nine universities, examined various global issues from the perspective of the UN, participated in weekly conversations with UN thought leaders, and collaborated with Soonhoon and volunteer mentors on their professional development. Over the course of 14 sessions, held on Friday of each week, Graduate Fellows studied such topics as reforming the UN system, financing the sustainable development goals, and meeting the challenge of climate. In addition to their readings and coursework, Fellows had the unique opportunity to conclude their weekly examinations with conversations alongside UN heavyweights such as Robert Orr, Special Adviser on Climate Change to the UN Secretary-General, and Patricia Beneke, professor at Georgetown University and former Regional Director for the United Nations Environment Programme, as well as NGO and government executives like Anthony Pipa, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and former chief strategy officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development and Micah Spangler, Director of Advocacy and Humanitarian Affairs at the Better World Campaign.

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the program was forced to adapt swiftly. While marquee events such as the Global Engagement Summit were cancelled, the management team stepped up to the challenge – moving the program to a virtual format while continuing to supplement the weekly curriculum with visits from prominent guest speakers. Likewise, Fellows continued to demonstrate their commitment to the program by remaining active, curious, and engaged throughout. Upon concluding the program, the Fellows offered high praise for the program. One Fellow noted that “the biggest strength of the program is the effort and passion everybody in the leadership team puts in. It shows how much you believe in us and are open to supporting us,” while another added, “Thank you very much for all your effort and motivation. You are a fantastic team! I am grateful to be part of the fellowship, and I hope I can stay connected with you.” Congratulations to the 2020 Graduate Fellows and to the UNA-NCA management team!





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