Daily Archives: March 23, 2012

Today’s Defense with Congressman Barney Frank

On Thursday the 15th of March, I had the pleasure of going to see Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank at the Harvard Club on Commonwealth Ave. He was delivering a speech titled “The Deficit and Defense” and it was to an audience of around 100 individuals representing both the private and public sector.

Mr. Frank’s speech was geared towards explaining how our inflated military budget, which is currently around $700 billion including the war in Afghanistan, contributes to the national deficit, which is near $1 trillion, and the long term costs of servicing this debt. Our military spending is greater than the next 14 highest spending countries in the world and accounts for over 45% of all the worlds military expenditures. While Mr. Frank is a great supporter of our troops and wants them to have the absolute best equipment and weaponry available, it was clear in his talk that he firmly believes that today’s military strategy and structure is from an era that no longer exists.

The United States built up vast arrays of conventional weaponry (tanks, bombers, artillery, etc) during the cold war that was available in case the unthinkable happened. Today, our enemies have changed in a dramatic way. They are no longer confined by borders, international law, or concern themselves with the worries or desires of the international community.
Mr. Frank made it clear in his remarks that not only is there plenty of potential for savings and gained efficiencies at the Pentagon but that it will be of necessity as the United States is forced to make budget cuts in order to pay for the tremendous debt that has been accumulated over the years. Mr. Frank highlighted the recent effectiveness of international operations in Libya, Kosovo, and other involvements in several other conflict zones as proof that multi-nation coordinated action is the most cost effective and equitable solutions to most of the threats that we should expect in the decades to come.
The United Nations was put on center stage during the revolution in Libya and Mr. Frank could not stress enough how important it is that future engagements are handled in a similar manner. The United States did not enter by themselves, they did not commit to a never ending battle, and they did not enter without consulting the international community, creating clear objectives, and defining an exit strategy. This serves as a template for future administrations and is an extremely effective option for the United States and others as we embark on an more connected, boundless, and inter-dependent world.
At the end of Mr. Frank’s rousing speech I was fortunate enough to be able to ask whether he supported the United States funding UNESCO once again, regardless of their stance on Palestine, and he stated that he did and that he was hopeful funding for the UN would become a greater importance to the Congress over the coming years. While Mr. Frank is not expected to run for re-election and is hoping to have a quieter life with his husband in their home in Maine, I think it is clear that Mr. Frank believes in the importance of the UN now and it’s even greater importance in the future.
Here at UNA-GB, the advocacy committee will continue to engage our members and elected officials alike on supporting the UN and its mission.  We hope you join us!
– Nat Watson, UNA-GB Advocacy Co-Chair
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Una Noche de Comida Chevere!: Taste of Venezuela Recap

UNA-GB’s Young Professionals were eager to kick off the new year by coming together for the “Taste of Venezuela” to celebrate the unique cuisine and culture of the South American country. The evening combined the flavors, traditions, and hot political topics of Venezuela.

The night took place at Orinoco Kitchen in Harvard Square, their newest location of three. Everyone experienced a Venezuelan style three-course meal. Martha, the manager of Orinoco, was born and raised in Venezuela and was happy for us to sample some of her favorite dishes of home.

Special guest, Venezuelan Deputy Consul Ingrid Ramirez, got the conversation off to a quick start speaking about the food, culture, and traditions of Venezuelans. She entertained the group with a story about the most popular Venezuelan food, the “arepa”. Deputy Consul Ramirez then went into the upcoming presidential elections in Venezuela.

The diversity of the guests contributed their knowledge of and experience in other South American countries such as Columbia and Brazil. These viewpoints gave everyone more of a perspective by comparing countries.

Everyone took part in an interactive trivia game put together by Venezuelan, Nacy Lir.  A few facts learned: Venezuela is the 6th largest nation in South America and the price of gas is the lowest in the world at $.19/gallon.

The Venezuela natives were impressed by the authenticity of the Orinoco’s food, including Asado Negro, Polvorosa de Pollo, and Quesillo.  As a non-native, I was impressed by the taste too–I had Polvorosa de Pollo for the first time and would highly recommend it!  All in all it was una noche de comida chevere – a night of great food!

Next month, the Young Professionals will be hosting “On Tap: Women’s History Month,”  and discussing women’s rights issues on the international forefront on Wednesday, April 4. Also join us for our next Taste Of event to be scheduled in late Spring.   Stay updated via twitter!

-Olivia

A Year of New Horizons: Review of 66th UN General Assembly Opening

It’s been a busy couple of weeks as the United Nations welcomed the opening of its 66th General Assembly. The General Assembly opened its 66th session formally this week at its Headquarters in New York. Former permanent representative of Qatar to the UN, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, was elected as General Assembly president in June and gave the opening speech.

In his opening speech Al-Nasser stressed that the General Assembly is an opportunity for the international community to “define our place in this decisive moment in history,” and to “prove that we have the courage, wisdom and tenacity to seek creative and visionary solutions.” He also said that he was “deeply committed” to working with each member state to “build bridges for a united global partnership.”

On Wednesday Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff became the first woman to ever open a round of UN General Assembly speeches. In her speech President Rousseff touched on a wide range of topics including social inclusion and human rights guarantees. She also spoke about the need to reform the UN Security Council and supporting sustainable development – with a reminder that in June 2012 Rio de Janeiro will be hosting the next world conference on climate change.

On Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability held its fourth meeting in New York. The Panel was established in 2010 to examine how the globe can reduce poverty and increase sustainability development while protecting our planet.

On Wednesday President Obama spoke at the UN Security Council saying that although he believes there can be peace between Israel and Palestine, there is no shortcut to that peace. He also commented on the US’ opposition to the Palestinian’s bid. “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN,” President Obama declared. “If it were that easy it would have been accomplished by now.” Rather, President Obama suggested that the international community should keep pushing Israelis and Palestinians toward talks on the four impassable issues that have presented problems since 1979.

Despite President Obama’s speech, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, submitted an application for Palestine to become a United Nations Member State today. Mr. Abbas submitted the application to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN Headquarters in New York this morning.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the release of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal from an Iranian prison on Wednesday. Bauer and Fattal had been hiking near the Iranian-Iraqi border and a month later were convicted and jailed for spying allegations more than two years ago.

On Thursday, UNICEF welcomed a new agreement between the Republic of the Congo and Benin to protect children from child trafficking which has been a large problem in the region in recent years.

“With the signing of the agreement, a framework is now in place to assist the two countries to prevent, identify and assist child trafficking victims as well as to prosecute offenders,” Marianne Flach, UNICEF Country Representative in the Republic of the Congo said.

It is hard for UNICEF to come up with an exact number of children trafficked, but in 2007 the organization roughly estimated the number to be 1,800. Experts today say that the figure is actually much higher.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all remaining States today to “seize the moment” and sign and ratify the global treaty banning nuclear tests – with the goal of bringing it into force by 2012. Of the total 195 states, 182 have so far signed the treaty and 155 have ratified it. For the treaty to enter into force, ratification is required from the “Annex 2 States.” Of these States, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the U.S. have yet to ratify it.

“My message is clear: Do not wait for others to move first. Take the initiative. Lead. The time for waiting has passed,” Ban Ki-moon said. “We must make the most of existing – and potentially short-lived – opportunities,” he added.

As demonstrated throughout this week, the UN is an extremely important organization to global security and equity across the board. As a result it is important for us to continue supporting the organization in any way we can. Don’t forget to visit Let US Lead and tell Congress to oppose bill H.R. 2829 which threatens to cut U.S. funding to the UN. Want to go a step beyond signing a petition? Schedule an appointment to meet with your local representative over the Columbus Day recess!

Here at UNA-GB we are celebrating the opening of the 66th General Assembly as well with our 66 for 66 Campaign! Help us raise $3,300 to fund 66 students in honor of this anniversary of the UN. Only $50 provides food and materials for one child to change their perspective, engage in international issues, and build skills that will be relevant in college and their future career path. Help us nurture the next generation of global leaders! Donate today!

-Alexandra

Carol Fulp address teen delegates at RMUN 2011

Over 350 high school students from the Bay State, New England and Bermuda came together on Friday May 13th at Northeastern University to take part in the Regional Model UN Conference put on by UNA-GB and affectionately known as RMUN!  You can check out some of the on-site photos and updates if you search #UNAGBRMUN on Twitter and you can see more photos from the conference here.

Student delegates debating Sports for Peace and Food Security in the UNESCO committee were treated to a surprise visit from a pillar of the business and civic community here in Boston and one of President Obama’s US representatives to the United Nations, Carol Fulp.  Fulp also was the 2011 Leadership Award recipient at UNA-GB’s 2011 Consuls Ball (see photo below and more photos of the Ball here).

Ms. Fulp discussed the global importance of the role of sports international development strategies and gender equality.  Students were given an insider’s view of the vetting process that Ms. Fulp underwent before her confirmation was made official by Congress and stressed the importance of transparency and ethics to the group of teens, many of whom are aspiring diplomats themselves.

The Conference was a great success, with all committees submitting impressive resolutions!  Our world is in good hands with these future leaders!

-Jennifer

Consuls Ball 2011: Boston’s must attend global gala!

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UNA-GB’s Annual Consuls Ball is almost here, and you don’t want to miss out!  Celebrate Boston’s global leaders of today and tomorrow with us!

This highly anticipated event is Boston’s premier international gala of the year, bringing together well over 350 prominent members of the diplomatic, business, political, and academic communities across the Greater Boston area, set to be held this year on April 29 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. This is a very special opportunity for attendees to mingle and network with distinguished guests while supporting the Model UN Program, which empowers thousands of Massachusetts youth in urban areas to learn about critical global issues and to see the world from new perspectives. To celebrate this elegant, vibrant event, guests are encouraged to dress in black tie or national dress, network and converse with leaders in the Boston community, experience exceptional international cuisine, and dance the night away!  Watch the slideshow above and check out our Consuls Ball 2010 Facebook album to see past years’ activities and attendees!

The Ball honors Boston’s global leaders of today, including the Consular Corps of Boston, who represent over 50 Member States of the UN (one-quarter of all UN Member States), and who serve their nationals locally and facilitate economic development and international understanding between their countries and the US.  The night offers an opportunity to recognize and honor their service to the greater Boston area and is unique among Boston events in celebrating the many cross-cultural, business, and personal ties that enhance the city’s international character.

This year, Carol Fulp, SVP of Brand Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility for John Hancock Financial, will receive UNA-GB’s 2011 Leadership Award in honor of her outstanding contribution to the local and international community. Nominated by President Barack Obama in September 2010, Fulp is serving as a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-fifth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. We are thrilled to honor such an excellent example of a local leader making a global impact!

The Consuls Ball also benefits the global leaders of tomorrow – the money raised at the Ball goes directly to UNA-GB’s global education program, which serves over 70 Boston-area schools and reaches over 2,200 students annually, more than 1,000 of whom are from urban schools.   Model UN prepares students for academic and workplace success by teaching core 21st century skills, including negotiation, problem solving, public speaking, and analysis.  They learn to critically analyze an issue from a new perspective, offer tangible solutions, work with others to reach an agreement, and ultimately become leaders who inspire others. Model UN allows young people to gain perspective through participation, and therefore become informed, responsible and active global citizens.  UNA-GB’s program also helps bridge the achievement gap by expanding access to the life changing skills learned in Model UN to all students regardless of socioeconomic background, because we believe that all young people have the will and capacity to understand and address the complex issues facing the world today, and just need access to the right resources.

If that’s not enough, the Ball will have many special features throughout the evening, including:

All in all, the Consuls Ball is a unique, glamorous, and memorable celebration that is not to be missed!

Help us celebrate the rich diversity and international spirit in and around Boston, while also empowering the global leaders of tomorrow!

Come join us for an extraordinary evening on April 29, 2011 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston!!

Purchase your tickets now!

DETAILS:

Friday, April 29, 2011
7:00 PM Reception and Silent Auction
8:00 PM Internationally Themed Dinner and Program
Dancing and live music all night
Fairmont Copley Plaza
Black Tie Optional; National Dress Encouraged

We would like to extend a special thank you to our current 2011 Consuls Ball sponsors for their generous support and participation:

State Street Corporation
Shreve, Crump & Low
GGA Software Services, LLC
HULT International Business School
John Hancock Financial
Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc

If you are interested in joining us as a sponsor for the 2011 Consuls Ball, you can learn more here and contact us at 617-482-4587 for more information.

9th Annual Global Film Festival kicks off this weekend!

You’re invited!  If you’ve been looking for powerful, international documentaries depicting some of the very critical issues of the world, now is the time to buy your tickets for the films screening on September 24-25, and October 1-2, 2010.

On the first weekend (September 24 and 25), Friday night we’ll have two films: Sutura, a film about how women in Senegal are organizing to end the silence around rape and sexual violence in their communities; and Democracy in Dakar, a groundbreaking documentary bridging the gap between hip-hop activism, video journalism and documentary film focusing on politics in Dakar Senegal. This film explores the role of youth and musical activism on the political process following rappers, DJs, journalists, professors and people on the street at the time before during and after the controversial 2007 presidential election in Senegal.

Saturday evening’s film is Little Town of Bethlehem, which follows the story of three men of three different faiths, their lives in Israel and Palestine, and each man’s choice of non-violent action amidst a culture of overwhelming violence. The film examines the struggle to promote equality through non-violent engagement in the midst of incredible violence that has dehumanized all sides.

On the second weekend (October 1 and 2), Friday night’s film is Countdown to Zero which will sweep us into a scorching, hypnotic journey around the world to reveal the palpable possibility of nuclear disaster and frame an issue on which human survival itself hangs. 

On Saturday, we are fortunate to have a Sneak Peek of Cape Wind about the divisive controversy over the Cape Wind project, which will be replicated hundreds of times over as industrial-scale renewable energy projects are proposed for America’s deserts, ridge lines, and waterways.

After each film, filmmakers and/or experts will join us for a panel discussion, giving you a chance to discuss your viewpoints.

All films will screen at 7pm at the Harvard Kennedy School.  See our website at www.bostonfilms.org for film descriptions, schedule, venue, and ticket information.

Seating is limited, so purchasing your tickets as soon as possible is highly recommended.

Cheers,

Stephanie Sanchez
Film Festival Coordinator

The Dilemma of Displaced Persons

A month ago, brutal ethnic violence erupted in Kyrgyzstan between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks peoples. As a result of four days of blood and chaos, half a million people fled from their homes, almost 200 people were killed, and thousands were injured. These displaced persons are still left without clean water, medical care, and shelter.

30 days later, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are still 75,000 people in Kyrgyzstan without a home.

We have seen many refugee crises throughout history, with several taking place in the past 100 years:

Palestine: Countless individuals have been displaced since the Israeli war of independence in 1948.

Haiti: The earthquake of January 2010 has left 1.5 million displaced persons, the majority of whom are left to roam the streets.

Iraq: The war in Iraq has resulted in about 4.5 million displaced persons since 2003, many of whom have spread throughout the Middle East.

Colombia: The Colombian Civil War resulted in 4 million displaced persons.

Somalia: Countless Somali refugees have crammed into Kenya, unable to find homes, have been forced to face xenophobia in South Africa, and still struggle to make a new identity for themselves wherever they can, due to violence and corruption in their home country.

The list continues.

The issue of displaced persons continues to be a source of conflict for host countries, the refugees themselves, and the rest of the international community. One of the biggest problems that displaced persons deal with after a conflict is a lack of identity: Because of whatever disaster or conflict they have had to endure, they flee from their homes in a heightened state of fear and stress, liable to forget important documentation. In the Kyrgyzstan case, many displaced persons have completely lost birth certificates, passports, and any documents of land ownership. In terms of anything concrete in the official government world—they are no one.

Luckily, there are external agencies to assist the displaced persons, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has recently made an arrangement with the Kyrgyz authorities to reconstruct 550 homes in the affected area.

In addition, UNICEF has made great strides in creating safe spaces for children who have had to suffer through the violence. These communities allow youth to play, draw, sing, dance, and enjoy each other’s company—and more importantly not dwell on their dire situation. This has proven beneficial given that most of the refugees in Kyrgyzstan are in fact women and children. UNICEF is also providing funding to train teachers and psychologists to help the children recuperate.

Steps to heal and reassemble normal life have been taken in Kyrgyzstan, although there is still much to be done. However, the question remains why there are so many cases of displaced persons in the world that have not yet been addressed, months, years, even decades after the original conflict.

Hannah