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Inauguration Day 2013

ImageToday is an exciting day for all Americans as this year’s inauguration marks the 57th quadrennial Presidential Inauguration. President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden will be sworn-in for their second term in office.  The swearing-in ceremony at our nation’s capitol “represents both national renewal and continuity of leadership.”

The theme for this year’s inauguration is “Faith in America’s Future.” It was chosen to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the placement of the Statue of Freedom atop the new Capitol Dome in 1863. Moreover, it celebrates the perseverance and unity of the United States. The theme will be widely used for the official Inaugural Program, Luncheon, to name a few.

ImageInauguration Day not only includes the swearing-in ceremonies but it also includes other events. Some events that will be taking place on this day include: Morning Worship Service, Procession to the Capitol, Swearing-in Ceremonies, Inaugural Address, Inaugural Ball, Inaugural Parade, among others.

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To read more on Inauguration Day check out this link to the official website: http://www.inaugural.senate.gov

*To see more pictures check out this link: http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/21/politics/obama-inauguration/index.html?hpt=po_c1

“A Bad Bill for Everyone”

“At a time when the U.S. and United Nations are working together to address the world’s most pressing challenges — from humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa and Haiti, to political crises and violence in Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Afghanistan — it’s more important than ever that America maintain its longstanding commitment to global leadership and engagement.” This quote comes from The Better World Campaign’s  “Let US Lead”  petition. The petition is a  place where individuals can go to show their support for the United Nations and their feelings on a new bill (H.R. 2829), recently introduced in Congress, that threatens to cut U.S. funding of the UN.

The bill, introduced by the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and 57 co-sponsors, is being called a “Bad bill for everyone,” by the Economist, while CNN has referred to it as a “temper tantrum,”. To put it simply, the bill threatens to make substantial cuts to UN funding as well as all funding to agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme.

The piece of legislation, or “United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act,” puts much of the good that the UN does throughout the world – such as feeding children impacted by famine and disease, and taking care of refugees – in serious jeopardy. Likewise, the bill would devastate US leadership within the UN, damage critical US national interests, alienate US allies, and put heavier costs on US taxpayers. If passed this new legislation wouldn’t just be harmful to US interests, but it would cause serious detriment within the UN. Such damage would mostly be due to the fact that since its founding the UN’s biggest contributor has been the US. Currently, the US funds 22% of the UN’s regular budget and more than 27% of its peacekeeping budget. Of the UN’s $22.3 billion budget, the US paid $6.4 billion. Because of the US’s continued high involvement and investment into the UN, its withdrawal of support would severely inhibit the organization’s ability to follow through on its commitments.

So why was this bill even introduced if it has the ability to be so harmful to the UN? First, Ros-Lentinen has been a critic of the UN for a long time. She believes the UN has been continuously plagued by scandal, mismanagement and inaction. Thus, her legislation, if passed, would withhold US funds to the UN if the organization does not change its funding systems so that dues are paid on a voluntary basis rather than an assessed one as it stands now. Specifically, as proposed by the bill the UN would have two years to phase in funding reform before the US withholds funds. After those two years the US would begin by withholding half of its contributions to the UN regular budget if less than 80% of the UN’s budget is not funded voluntarily at that time.

The second issue that Ros-Lehtinen has with the UN is its potential to support a Palestinian statehood proposal. She explained to her colleagues that the purpose of her bill is to also avoid a Palestinian self-declared state which she believes would “short-circuit the negotiating process, and would severely undermine opportunities for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” As a result her bill includes funding cuts to UNRWA, the agency that administers Palestinian refugee camps in the occupied territories and neighboring Arab countries. UNRWA’s budget for the fiscal year 2011 is currently set at $230 million. In this portion of the bill there is currently no condition attached to the cuts, Ros-Lehtinen simply wants to cut off funding to UNRWA.

As the Economist reported, the reality of the situation is that threats of funding cuts will most likely not be a deciding factor as to whether or not Palestinian statehood will be recognized. Rather, a Palestinian statehood proposal will be voted on in the UN’s General Assembly where, as it stands now, the 2/3rds vote in favor of recognition is likely to be met. However, Ghana, India, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Eritrea, France and the Dominican Republic are likely to not change their votes because of the US’s threat to cut off funding to UNICEF – a huge supporter of their states.

In an interview with The Cable on Wednesday, September 7th Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) said that Ros-Lehtinen’s bill was “ill-advised” and “probably dead on arrival.” Berman said he can never see this bill becoming an actual law.

“I think there are some radical proposals here,” Berman said. “I understand the frustration with a number of the U.N.’s actions and I share her frustration and anger at many of them. But the U.N. does tremendous amounts of good work. If you wipe out the funding base of the U.N., as her proposal does, you get the bad stuff but you will eviscerate the good things they are doing.”

Likewise, the White House has openly spoken negatively about the bill, saying that President Obama and his administration opposes the legislation, and although it is believed within the administration that the UN does need reform, this is not the correct way to go about it. Instead the White House suggests that the U.S. work with the UN to continue to make it stronger and more flexible.

Now more than ever is a grassroots movement supporting the good work of the UN important!    Visit Let US Lead today and tell Congress to oppose H.R. 2829 by signing the petition.  Encourage your friends and family to do the same.  You can also schedule an in-person meeting with your member of Congress during the Columbus Day recess (Oct. 13-30). To receive more information on these issues, contact Roger Nokes at UNA-USA for talking points and meeting materials. This is a great way to really ensure that your voice is being heard during this crucial time for the both the UN and America.

If you want to get more involved on advocacy in the Boston area,  UNA-GB invites you to join us at our Annual Meeting (September 28) where our programs and priorities for the year will be discussed in depth. It is a fantastic opportunity to get connected on these issues and network with other like minded global citizens in the area – register here today!

From Main Street to Capitol Hill: 2011 UNA-USA Annual Meeting Recap

Last week I joined UNA-USA members and staff from more than 60 chapters across the country to raise awareness about the United Nations and the critical role it plays in advancing American national security and foreign policy goals during UNA-USA’s Annual Meeting in Washington DC.  The Annual Meeting agenda focused on how we can continue to strengthen support for the work of the UN at the grassroots level.

UN Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, and UNA-USA Executive Director Patrick Madden at the 2011 UNA-USA Annual Meeting.

The week’s meetings were particularly exciting, because it was the first Annual Meeting since UNA-USA officially joined the United Nations Foundation family.  A number of new faces were on hand, including former Senator Timothy Wirth, President of UN Foundation, and Kathy Calvin, CEO of UN Foundation.

Conversations emphasizing “focus” and “change” dominated the Annual Meeting.  Many of the speakers drove home the need to focus on the work of the UN and how we can better advocate for a strong US role in promoting global cooperation.  Our support for the UN is imperative to peace.  As Ambassador Rice so eloquently put it, “Now more than ever, Americans’ security and wellbeing are inextricably linked to those of people everywhere. Now more than ever, we need common responses to global problems. And that is why the U.S. is so much better off—so much stronger, so much safer and more secure—in a world with the United Nations than we would be in a world without it.”  In her keynote address at the conference, Ambassador Rice also highlighted the immense change going on in the world, seen most clearly in the Middle East.  She encouraged everyone to “break out of old habits and find new answers to 21st-century challenges.”

The partnership between UNA-USA and UN Foundation seems well-positioned to find new ways to leverage the strengths of each organization, creating a powerful synergy and focus of missions.  UNA’s grassroots outreach, combined with UNF’s grasstops mobilizing and campaigning, creates a real opportunity for progress. While it’s true that change never comes without growing pains, UNA members and leaders expressed excitement about gaining access to strong UNF campaigns like GirlUp and Nothing But Nets, and the elevated co-branding opportunities that exist between the two organizations.

In addition to meeting the UNF key players, those in attendance heard from UNA-USA’s new Executive Director, Patrick Madden.  Madden set forth a strong vision for the future of UNA’s work and partnerships.  He also challenged us to grow our local membership, engage young professionals in our programming, and expand our advocacy efforts.

One of the highlights of the meeting was the chance to take up Madden’s call to action to advocate for the UN, and foreign affairs as a whole.  On Tuesday, all of us UNA members went to the Hill to meet with our respective congressional members My Massachusetts counterpart, Alma Morrison, and I deftly navigated all 3 House buildings and 2 of the 3 Senate buildings to meet with staffers from the offices of Reps. McGovern, Capuano, and Lynch, and Sens. Brown and Kerry.  We shared our concerns and wishes regarding US engagement on global issues and made sure our elected officials knew these issues are important to us and our fellow UNA-GB members, their constituents.  It was clear that with drastic budget cuts looming, now more than ever our elected officials needed to hear about our values and priorities directly from us.

I came away from the 2011 UNA-USA Annual Meeting inspired to take action more concretely and to continue to mobilize the greater Boston community on the issues that matter to the UN.  As the oft-repeated mantra goes, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”   It is imperative for us to act now.  I look forward to more fully engaging with UNA-USA, UNF, and the UN, as we work together towards stronger and more successful action and messaging!  I sincerely hope you join us!

-Kaitlin Hasseler, UNA-GB Program Manager