Daily Archives: January 27, 2014
On November 1, 2005, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 60/7, declaring the 27th of January to be the annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. While the atrocities committed will forever be remembered as a dark period in global history, the resolution itself uses the 27th of January to reaffirm the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the proclamation that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms regardless of race, religion, or any status.
Each year, the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is observed through a different theme, highlighting the struggles and deeply evoked emotions from the dark period. Through these themes, the UN is able to recall the tragedies and violations of human rights that occurred during the Holocaust, explicitly demonstrating how detrimental hatred, bigotry, racism, and prejudice can be. Furthermore, the event serves as an opportunity to encourage global awareness and education, taking away lessons for future generations to learn about the Holocaust with the goal of preventing future travesties from occurring.
This year’s theme, “Journeys through the Holocaust”, reflects on the different passages of the Holocaust, revisiting the process of losing individual rights and freedom through incarceration within the concentration camps, where victims were held in contempt up until the moment of liberation, when the concentration camps were closed by Allied Forces. This journey captures the rollercoaster emotions Holocaust victims faced through their morose experience within the camps, only to be reinvigorated with new life once they were rescued. The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme look to use this years theme as a ‘guiding force’ for future generations to better understand the struggles of genocide, and to emphasize the fact that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and security of person.
The key note speaker for this years Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in NYC will be Academy Award winning Director and USC Shoah Foundation founder, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg, well-known for his contributions to the film industry, is also highly regarded for his contributions to human activism. The Shoah Institute for Visual History and Education was founded in 1994, after directing Schindler’s List, Spielberg was inspired to capture video testimonies from Holocaust survivors before they would be lost forever. This years ceremony will mark the 20th anniversary of the partnership between the USC Shoah Foundation, and The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme.
Why Should you learn more about the Holocaust?
The Holocaust was one of the greatest tragedies in the history of mankind, with the result of the murder of one third of the Jewish people, alongside countless members of minority groups. The aftermath of the tragedy truly puts into perspective how dangerous hatred, racism, and bigotry can be. Therefore, It is important to raise awareness about the Holocaust, to further prevent future acts of genocide from occurring as much as possible.
“My hope is that our generation, and those to come, will summon that same sense of collective purpose to prevent such horror from happening again anywhere, to anyone or any group,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks at the Park East Synagogue Memorial Service in honour of the victims of the Holocaust.”
-Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon
Learn More about the Holocaust
To become better informed and promote global awareness of the Holocaust, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme is partnering with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to make a new film resource and educational package available to educators around the world in all United Nations official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
In addition, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum offer more information on the Holocaust on the link below:
– Shivam, UNA-GB intern
Despite the dreary weather on Monday, UNA-GB launched a fantastic week of programming. Staff and interns took a field trip to Harvard Business School where the 2012 Model UN Summer Institute’s first session kicked off, with nearly 50 6th-12th grade students from around Boston and the country coming together for an intensive week-long program focused on global diplomacy and leadership.
Across the quad, in Spangler Hall, UNA-GB staff, Advisory Council members, and Board officers gathered for our annual Advisory Council luncheon. This year we were pleased and honored to welcome Ambassador Robert Pelletreau and his wife Pamela as our special guests.
Pelletreau has impressive and timely expertise in the Middle East, having served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs as well as Ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain throughout his 35 year career in the Foreign Service. Upon leaving government, he joined the international law firm of Afridi & Angell , and in 2002, along with his wife, became Co-Director, of Search for Common Ground in the Middle East. Mrs. Pelletreau was an active volunteer of UNA in New York, and since moving to the Cape this year, has become more involved with UNA-GB.
The luncheon opened with an energizing introduction from UNA-GB President Richard Golob, who spoke enthusiastically about the Advisory Council and their role as ambassadors to the Boston community. Council Member Peter Smith echoed Richard’s comments, describing the crucial role of the Advisory Council as not only spokespeople for UNA-GB overall, but also specifically as avid supporters of our Model UN global education programming.
Ambassador Pelletreau spoke next, giving all those gathered at the table a clear, organized and engaging update on the current status of political changes in the Middle East, while also bringing in charming personal anecdotes; he opened with a story about playing squash with former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. During his remarks, he shared 4 general observations on political uprisings in the last year or so:
- globalization of communications
- the key role of a slumped global economy
- a shift in demographics due to a huge youth population
- and the rise and influence of Islamist parties.
Pelletreau stated that a combination of these factors was the catalyst for the uprisings, pointing out that in an increasingly globalized world where news access is everywhere and stories can spread like wildfire, it is harder to cut your citizens off from the rest of the world. Ambassador Pelletreau gave his take on what the future may look like in this region, and in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria specifically, saying that while much is unclear, fighting is likely to continue. As a final wrap up to his informed commentary, Pelletreau shared another anecdote, this time about Henry Kissinger’s legendary trip to China in 1971, during which Premier Zhou was asked about the implications of the French Revolution – he replied that it was “too early to say”. All those in attendance laughed at the irony, and with understanding that issues as complicated as those currently faced in the Arab world will indeed take time.
After a brief time of Q&A, Executive Director Lena Granberg updated the Council on UNA-GB programming so far this year, particularly highlighting the successes of our Model UN program, now serving almost 3,000 6th-12th grade students in the greater Boston area. (To catch up on recent UNA-GB events or upcoming programs visit the website). Ann Kirby, who works on educational development at UNA-GB, gave a brief introduction to the Model UN Summer Institute, which teaches 6th-12th graders the values of debate, teamwork, and public speaking while engaging in simulated negotiations on real-world global challenges.
The Advisory Council members then had a chance to sit in on one of the Institute’s sessions to experience the impact of this transformative college-preparatory program firsthand. The students were finishing up an exercise through which they established a working definition of human rights for use in their simulations. This was followed up by an engaging and entertaining public speaking exercise where they had to go around the circle, state their name, the names of those before them, and an activity/like they have. It provided much fodder for discussion about the importance of active listening and ways to remember key facts when speaking.
It was great to see various aspects of UNA-GB come together in one place, and to see our mission come alive through the Summer Institute. Teens from the Greater Boston Area as well as active community members, professionals, and former ambassadors were all laughing and learning together. And no amount of torrential rain could dampen the inspiration felt around both the work of the UN and UNA-GB’s work to empower the next generation of global leaders that afternoon!
Wondering how you can join in? Check out how to get involved on our website!
Our newest blog series is about to start–Get Educated, One Topic At A Time! Learn about a variety of global issues and countries around the world as we highlight each week the work of one of our Education Department Interns , who are hard at work creating Topic Guides covering everything from Child Poverty to Foreign Direct Investment for our classroom-based Model UN program. Check out the first post below and check back each Monday for the next post in the series.
While the International Criminal Court (ICC) is making headlines today for issuing an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, international law and justice reached another milestone recently. On Friday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda issued the first conviction of a woman on the charge of genocide under international law.
The woman, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, served as family minister for the Rwandan government during the Rwandan Genocideof 1994. Nyiramasuhuko directed and aided militia groups in attacking members of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority.
The genocide, which the Rwandan government covertly supported at the time, took place over the course of 100 days in 1994 (April-July) and resulted in the deaths of about 800,000 individuals. The relationship between Rwanda’s two ethnic groups – the Hutu and the Tutsi – had been violent and contentious for decades. Prior to European involvement in sub-Saharan Africa, the minority Tutsi population dominated the Rwandan elite and established a monarchy. The Germans and Belgians, who administered Rwanda before and after World War I respectively, preserved this system and limited the opportunities available to the majority Hutu population for decades.
However, after World War II and the beginning of decolonization, the Belgians pushed for reform in Rwanda but faced resistance from the Tutsi. By the late 1950’s, the Belgians had called for elections in Rwanda, which led to the rise to power of the majority Hutu. Following independence from Belgium in 1962, the dynamic between the two groups reversed as the Hutu dominated the political elite via their huge majority. Under Hutu rule, Tutsis were required to carry identification cards (eerily reminiscent of the Nazi policy of Jewish identification), were limited to a small percentage of public sector jobs, and faced widespread discrimination in the private sector.
From the 1960’s to the 1990’s, anti-Tutsi violence routinely broke out in Rwanda, resulting in thousands of deaths and a massive flow of Tutsi refugees to Rwanda’s neighboring countries. Although the Rwandan government officially condemned this violence, evidence suggests that it actually supported it in some cases. By the 1990’s, evidence suggests that the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government began covertly training and arming Hutu militias (known as the Interahamwe, “those who stand together”) to attack Tutsis inside Rwanda. The anti-Tutsi Rwandan Genocide in 1994 was largely carried out by such groups and it is these groups that Nyiramasuhuko has been convicted of aiding.
The United Nations faced enormous criticism regarding its response to the genocide. Despite the fact that the UN had 2,500 armed peacekeepers in Rwanda in 1994, they did not intervene to stop the violence. In fact, members of the UN Security Council (including the United States) actually voted to reduce the number of UN troops in Rwanda in response to the violence. The resulting devastation marked what is quite possibly the UN’s greatest failure. Today, a Tutsi leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which fought the Rwandan government and ended the genocide, is President of Rwanda. He has controversially banned the use of the terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” in any official capacity to avoid inflaming past tensions.
Ever since, the UN has gone to great lengths to learn from its mistakes in Rwanda rather than hide from them. International intervention since Rwanda has been more frequent and more effective. Most recently, the UN Security Council approved measures to protect civilians from government-led massacres in Libya, which NATO has taken responsibility for carrying out. In addition, the UN created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which has convicted over two dozen individuals for their roles in the genocide. Nyiramasuhuko is the latest Rwandan official to be convicted. The ICTR demonstrated that international tribunals can be effective, and influenced the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has jurisdiction over all its member states to convict individuals for crimes against humanity, in 2002. Although the United States is not a member of the ICC, it did support a UN resolution that referred Moammar Gadhafi to the ICC, which has since indicted him.
Although the Rwandan Genocide will forever live on as a painful stain on history, its legacy serves as a constant reminder of the tragedy of genocide and how the international community should respond to prevent them in the future. Next year, the UNA-GB will help further the UN’s mission to educate the public about genocide with a simulation of the crisis leading up to the Rwandan Genocide at our annual Regional Model United Nations conference.
– Nicholas Blake, Education Intern
Working with a mission to inform, inspire and mobilize Americans to support the principles and vital work of the United Nations, advocacy is one of the works focused on at UNA-USA. It is important for us to engage our citizen rights to encourage our elected officials and our government to be active participants in global diplomacy and peace-building. The 2011 Advocacy Agenda for the United Nations Association focuses on four core issue areas:
- Securing US-UN funding;
- Advancing human rights through the UN;
- Encouraging US ratification of international treaties;
- Supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
UNA-USA with Better World Campaign are working to coordinate activities in these four areas to maximize the overall advocacy impact in the future, and it is our goal as the Boston chapter to share ways YOU can engage in these campaigns!
UN funding: UNA-USA is working with Better World Campaign to strengthen the U.S. – UN relationship. There recently have been signs that members of the Congress may propose ways to reduce or commitment to the UN. H.R.557, The United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, would shift the funding mechanism for the regular budget of the UN from an assessed to a voluntary basis. The bill has more than 100 co-sponsors and is expected to be brought up for a vote in committee and on the House floor. It is our responsibility that the members of the Congress are encouraged to vote against this bill.
Human Rights: Human rights work is one of the key focus areas of the UN. Under the Obama administration in May 2009, the U.S. was elected to a three-year term on the Council with a full-time US ambassador appointed to the council. With the upcoming mandated review in March 2011, which will examine the Council’s performance over its first five years, members of Congress should be encouraged to play a constructive role in advising the Obama administration about ways in which the Council can be improved.
International Treaties: Prospects are decidedly mixed for United States ratification of several longstanding international treaties in the 112th Congress. The new senate contains many incoming senators who have little knowledge of the treaties that await ratification by the United States but will quickly become aware of the controversial issues surrounding them. The new configuration means that Senate approval treaties will only occur by reaching across party lines. During the 111th Congress, there were important developments in support of treaty ratification, such as Senate approval of New START. It will be critical to build momentum toward Senate votes on pending treaties in the context of the Obama’s administration’s ongoing commitment to seek US ratification of such treaties.
Millenium Development Goals: Although the September 2010 world summit at United Nations Headquarters reassured governments’ support for meeting the MDGs by 2015, the U.S. commitments may be challenged due to a stringent budget and the global financial crisis. However, extensive recent polling sponsored by the UN Foundation shows that solid majority of the American public supports the MDGs and the role for the U.S. in meeting them. UNA-USA chapters just concluded many successful local UN Day 2010 events which focused on the importance of the MDGs and UN Foundation programs hope to inspire activism in support of the MDGs in local communities and to recruit new UNA-USA members.
You can read the complete Advocacy Agenda here. Stay updated as we all work together to strengthen the U.S.-UN relationship, and our global diplomacy as a whole. Real change happens when we choose to act. We look forward to working together with you this year!