On February 11, 2011, several of the UNA-GB members traveled to New York to participate in the 3rd Annual United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference and Members Day held at the United Nations Headquarters. UNA-USA activists from around the country had an opportunity to meet and discuss headline-making issues of the day as well as the future of the organization with members of the UNA-USA Council of Chapters and Divisions Steering Committee and with the members of the Council of Organizations. The conference was the first official event marking new strategic alliance between UNA-USA and the UN Foundation. The aim of the alliance is to strengthen the role of grassroots information and influence on U.S. foreign policy.
After inspiring and thought provoking keynote speeches presented by A. Edward Elmendorf, Executive Director of UNA-USA, and by Mike Beard, Director of Better World Campaign launched by the UN Foundation, the vibrant and enthusiastic audience gathered in the largest Conference Room of the North Lawn Building, had an opportunity to hear presentations moderated by seven panels of experts. The focus of discussions lead by the rotating panels, reflected the main current concerns of the global community: ongoing upheaval in the Arab World, energy and climate change, new dimensions of global health and gender issues, Africa’s transformation in the 21st century, and last but not least, the question whether a negotiated settlement regarding Afghanistan is feasible.
During the lunch break attendees who were willing to skip their meal could choose between two competing sessions. One focused on discussing paths to a career in international affairs, and one devoted to developing UNA chapter-building skills.
The event was a valuable learning experience despite the fact that, due to the tight schedule with no build-in breaks, it was difficult to satisfy the need for networking with other participants of the conference, or to make it to the UN cafeteria, without missing some parts of the presentations. The sheer number of outstanding panelists and speakers representing all main fields of human endeavor, diverse national and cultural background, and vast personal and professional experience, was a pleasure to watch, learn from, and interact with.
Those of us from UNA-GB, who made an effort to be in New York this time, are already signing up for the 2012 UNA-USA Members Day.