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
It’s time to celebrate human rights!
Human Rights Day was first declared on December 10, 1950, to celebrate and remind the world each year of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year marks twenty years since the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was created to carry out the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action of 1993. The UN calls this list of goals the “the most significant human rights document produced in the past 40 years”.
In celebration of Human Rights Day, UNA-GB wants to help inform its readers about both the history of human rights and the difficulties that arise when trying to define and uphold basic rights for the entire world.
History of Human Rights Day
Lessons learned from the failure to stabilize relations between powerful countries after WWI (and the huge amount of death and destruction that ensued) inspired countries to create an international governmental body, the League of Nations. However, it wasn’t until the end of WWII that the stage was set for the institutionalization of our current system of international cooperation. In 1945, the United Nations was born. One of the UN’s first tasks and top priorities was to create a universal set of standards to ensure that the human rights atrocities of the past decades would never again happen unchecked.
The 10th of December, 1948, is the date the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It outlines the basic human rights that should be guaranteed to individuals, starting at the most basic: the right to life and freedom. It describes the responsibility of society to ensure these rights, also including freedom of thought and speech, religion, association, and culture.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a major contributor to the commission that drafted the declaration. She had become an active voice for human rights domestically during her husband’s presidency, and was offered a position on the delegation to the UN after he died in office. After it was drafted, she vouched for the UNDHR to function as a moral call to action rather than a legal treaty. She wanted the language of the treaty to be easily understood by the general public, and hoped that it would rally the people to the world to take back their rights. Now, its provisions have been worked into most national constitutions since its creation, and have become accepted as international law.
UN Day would be announced in 1950, and has served to remind the world about the gains and ground yet to cover each year in the realm of human rights.
Focus: the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Nepal
Indigenous peoples are just one of many groups that are at high risk to become victims of human rights infractions. Indigenous people are defined in international or national legislation as having a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their cultural or historical distinctiveness from other populations that are often politically dominant.
It is difficult to determine whether or not a group is “indigenous;” the name can refer to a minority group, a society that falls outside of the realm of nation-state politics, a tribe or nomadic people, or any other group that has deep ancestral ties. In a world that continuously becomes more interconnected, there are many implications for populations that are not under the complete jurisdiction of classic societal frameworks or governments. These peoples tend to be at high risk for exploitation, marginalization, and other human rights infractions.
The Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities estimates that about 37% of the population of Nepal can be called indigenous peoples.
The Newa people, who have been the focus of a UN fellowship that strives to learn about and advocate for indigenous rights, are believed to have had huge impacts on the culture, architecture, and history of Nepal today. Their language, Nepal Bhasa, was the official language of Nepal between the 14th and 18th centuries. One of the gravest problems concerning all of the indigenous people of Nepal is the threat of disintegration of their language and culture.
However, the issue of cultural preservation is complex. For example, another group in Nepal, the Dalits, belong (historically) to the lowest caste in of society (they and similar groups are traditionally known as “untouchables” in both Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan). Discrimination against this group has undeniably caused human rights to be violated in many instances. How does one honor culture while also ensuring that the wishes and rights of these groups are represented in the international governing structure?
Other challenges concerning the land that indigenous people live on and their status in society are common. They are often victims of biopiracy when ancient foods, medicines, etc. are discovered and patented by foreign companies. In Nepal and India, this is particularly a threat in the realm of medicinal plants.
Nepal was the first country in South Asia to ratify the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169, which deals with the rights of indigenous peoples. The UN has taken a number of strides to help recognize the unique needs of indigenous peoples. The United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007, and an Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was established within the Human Rights Council.
What You Can Do This Human Rights Day:
1) Celebrate the Life of Nelson Mandela:
This year, celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, whose successes symbolize the difference that ethical leadership and activism can make when ensuring basic human rights are granted to a people. Mandela fought hard against discrimination and was deeply devoted to equality, and the outcomes of his battle against oppression were some of the greatest human rights successes of our time.
2) Get Informed:
- This Human Rights Day, pick an indigenous group and learn about it! Strike up a conversation with friends and share what you know.
- Check out this list of stories about some of the most prevalent Human Rights issues that face societies around the world.
- Read about Rajani Maharjan’s work with the Newa People in Nepal here
- Read the UN Declaration of Human Rights here
3) Recognize what we need to do next and remember how far we have come :
- A list of Human Rights Achievements can be found on the Human Rights Day website
4) Start a Conversation
- Take what you’ve learned and share it with a friend, classmate, colleague, or family member
- Join the conversation with @UNrightswire on Twitter (#UNRightsAt20)
- Like UN Human Rights on Facebook
Happy Human Rights Day!
Yesterday, UNA-GB held a teatime discussion with Dr. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations. In her role as Assistant Secretary, Dr. Brimmer leads the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which strives to advance U.S. interests through international organizations in areas including human rights, peacekeeping, food security, humanitarian relief, and climate change.
During the discussion, Dr. Brimmer spoke about the role of the U.S. in conflicts such as Libya, Mali, and Syria, to name a few. She also spoke about the changing nature of women and conflict. For example, there has been an increase in the number of women involved in peacekeeping operations. She also spoke about the creation of UN Women, which strives for gender equality. UN Women also deals with issues of human trafficking, human rights, humanitarian action, and peace and security.
Dr. Brimmer also offered insight on her personal experience working in her current position. She said that her most rewarding experience was in September 2009 when she spoke at the Human Rights Council on behalf of the U.S. It was at this session that the U.S. pledged to advance human rights and strengthen the Human Rights Council.
We would like to thank Dr. Brimmer for giving her time to talk to UNA-GB members. We are very lucky to have had her give her insight on her current role. Thank you, Dr. Brimmer!
Our next event is in a few days! Join Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB on Monday, March 4 for International Women’s Day. For more details, check out this link: http://wfiwd2013.eventbrite.com
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!
“Since the human race began, women have delivered for society. It is time now for the world to deliver for women.” -The Lancet
With the world’s population set to hit 7 billion by the end of this month (6,994,726,950 was the most recent population count at the time of this posting – check out the current world’s population counter here) our Women’s Forum event “Women, Population, and the MDGs” , was a conversation that is more timely than ever! The luncheon roundtable event featuring Jane Roberts was held on October 6th to a packed room of 60 attendees during a weekday noon.
Jane Roberts is a grassroots advocate who exemplifies the power of taking a single action and making a huge difference. She is the co-founder, with Lois Abraham, of the 34 Million Friends of the UNFPA project. Her contributions in the fields of population, development, the environment, and the human rights of women and girls have led to her recognition in 2003 by Ms. Magazine as one of their Women of the Year. In 2004, Women’s eNews selected her as one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. Along with Lois Abraham, Ms. Roberts was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the 1000 Peace Women Project under the patronage of UNESCO in 2005. In the same year, she published her first book 34 Million Friends of the Women of the World.
Ms. Roberts has traveled widely, and given public talks around the country in addition to extensive TV and radio interviews. In 2008, Ms. Roberts was named a Purpose Prize Fellow by Civic Ventures. She received the Global Citizenship Award from the United Nations Association of Southern California in 2009. In the same year, Jane Roberts and her 34 Million Friends of the UNFPA project were featured in the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Jane finished her speech with her radical grassroots proposal,
“When the world takes care of women, women take care of the world,”
leaving just enough time for our engaged audience to ask a few questions, focused on how to change the culture on the ground, how to engage men in the conversation, and what we can do to get engaged.
The call to action also included ways you can support UNA-GB’s work, including our current 66 for 66 campaign that is geared towards educating the next generation of global leaders to tackle the pervasive problem of gender inequality. Find out more here: http://www.crowdrise.com/unday2011/fundraiser/unitednationsassocia1
On October 24, 100 Boston area middle and high school youth will convene at the State House, stepping into the shoes of ambassadors from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, South Korea and Mali to debate solutions to the question: Why do global inequalities for women in education and employment persist and what can be done about it?
Help us provide this opportunity FREE OF COST to all the youth and donate now here: http://www.crowdrise.com/unday2011/fundraiser/unitednationsassocia1
Many Thanks as well to our two fabulous co-sponsors, JSI and Pathfinder International!
John Snow, Inc., and its nonprofit affiliate JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., are public health research and consulting firms dedicated to improving the health of individuals and communities throughout the world. JSI builds local capacity to address critical health problems, collaborating with local partners to assist countries, governments, communities, families, and individuals to develop their skills and identify solutions that meet their public health needs. JSI has implemented projects in 104 countries, and currently operates from eight U.S. and 81 international offices, with more than 500 U.S.-based staff, and 1,500 host country national field-based staff. Learn more here!
Pathfinder International’s mission is to ensure that people everywhere have the right and opportunity to live a healthy sexual and reproductive life. In more than 25 countries, Pathfinder provides women, men, and adolescents with a range of quality health services—from contraception and maternal care to HIV prevention and AIDS care and treatment. Pathfinder strives to strengthen access to family planning, ensure availability of safe abortion services, advocate for sound reproductive health policies, and, through all of our work, improve the rights and lives of the people we serve. Learn more here!
On October 24 the world will celebrate the 66th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. As we near this anniversary it is important to revisit the key missions of the United Nations, which centers around finding solutions to critical global challenges.
In 2010 the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) concluded with the adoption of a global action plan, which laid out Eight Millennium Development Goals, ranging from extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/Aids. Another one of the goals that has many ties to the rest is MDG 3, which focuses on Gender Equality. Achieving equal rights for women and girls is a big focus on the global stage currently, and recent headline news reflects this.
Islamic states, Saudi Arabia and Iran have all recently been criticized for their records with women’s rights. In the recent UN Watch Testimony to UN Human Rights, Iran and Saudi Arabia were listed as countries where women are deprived of their human rights.
The legal system of The Islamic Republic of Iran discriminates against women. Similarly, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women cannot drive and women are denied the right to vote and be elected to high political positions. Women, who don’t have the right to drive, however may gain the right to vote.
Recently, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah announced women will have the right to vote in local elections in 2015 and become members of the advisory Shura council. Two days after this announcement a court sentenced a woman to 10 whiplashes for violating the kingdom’s religious rules prohibiting women from driving. Usually police stop female drivers, and after they have them sign a pledge not to drive anymore, let them go. This is the first time when legal punishment has been ordered for the violation of driving ban in Saudi Arabia. The court acted after a women’s campaign launched on Facebook and Twitter emboldened by the Arab Spring that inspired women to get behind the wheel and drive. These contradictions are the results of an endless fight between the country’s conservatives and those who want to improve women’s situation.
The issue recalls a long time fight that still continues in Afghanistan. In 1928 King Amanulah and his wife introduced new reforms, which included: the abolition of burqa, mixed schools for boys and girls, and the country’s mullahs. Later, the country’s conservatives and mujahideen began attacking the government. Presently, the country’s conservatives continue rising up against reforms – which would give basic human rights to women in Afghanistan.
The presence of women in Afghan parliament is a show of democracy. In fact, women holding high-ranking political positions do not have the authorities provided by their positions. Women struggle to play a significant political role and they are continually excluded from peace and security processes as well as solving important issues. The most members of the parliament are warlords, the ethnic militias who fought against each other from 1992 to 1996, killing thousands of civilians. Human Rights Watch published a report called “Blood stained Hand” which referred to warlords as “the world’s most serious human rights offenders.”
Now the Afghan government is willing to sacrifice women’s rights in order to compromise with Taliban. According to Oxfam – women’s rights are at risk in Afghanistan. When the international troops withdraw, the government will continue its peace negotiations with Taliban, which will deprive women from some of their basic human rights, which they have regained in the past 10 years with the opening of schools for girls. The spread of insurgency, violence and a corrupted government have left, and will continue to lead, people with no hope of peace.
In Saudi Arabia, the voting rights itself can be a show. The country’s political system is not different from totalitarian regimes that have been overthrown by the Arab Spring revolution. Saudi Arabia was established in 1932 by King Abd-al-Aziz who united the country under his family’s rule. After his death in 1953 the political power has been in the hands of the royal family and thousands of its princes. For centuries the country has been isolated from the rest of the world and censored by the ruling monarchy. Now, through modern technologies, especially social media, people started have begun to realize that Islam has been used to impose the dynasty’s rules and to exploit the nation’s people.
The conversation about women’s rights in the Middle East, and throughout the entire globe, is an important one that we need to continue having. Our Women’s Forum focuses on many of these issues and will likely have some events coming up in the spring around women in the Middle East in particular so stay tuned!
In the near time, you can come celebrate the 66th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations with UNA-GB and help us keep the conversation going. One direct way to do this is to help support the next generation of global leaders learn about these important issues, with the UN Day Model UN mini-simulation at the Massachusetts State House on October 24 -where middle and high school students will debate Gender Inequality focusing on women’s education and employment opportunities worldwide. You can also hear a powerful UN advocate and female leader, Gillian Sorensen speak at our annual UN Day Luncheon on October 28. Tickets are on sale now!
Also, if you are more interested in focusing specifically on women’s equality join our Women’s Forum and come to our many interesting events held throughout the year!
As world leaders prepare to gather today for the United Nations General Assembly’s opening session, here at UNA-GB a brand new 66 for 66 Campaign has been launched. In connection with the opening of the 66th session of the General Assembly and in honor of the 66th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, our campaign focuses on providing 66 Boston-area high school students the unique opportunity to step into the shoes of diplomats at the annual UN Day Model UN Simulation at the Massachusetts State House on October 24.
“Now more than ever we need to invest in and nurture the next generation of global leaders” says Jennifer Irizarry, Education Director at UNA-GB. “Unfortunately, too many urban students do not have access to the life-changing resources offered through Model UN, so this campaign allows us to offer more students an opportunity to broaden their perspective, engage in international issues, and build skills that will be critical for college and workplace success.”
UNA-GB’s Model UN program is a college-preparatory program that exposes public school students to the work of the United Nations, the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and topics such as international economics, development and sustainability, while building leadership and negotiation skills, critical reading and writing ability, and public speaking prowess.
It only costs $50 to support one student’s participation in a Model UN, so the 66 for 66 Campaign’s total goal is to raise $3,300 to serve 66 students. The campaign will run up through Monday, October 24, when dozens of Boston-area public school students will come together at the Massachusetts State House in honor of the 66th anniversary of the UN to solve a critical issue in international development. Students representing diverse nations such as Afghanistan, Paraguay, and South Africa will participate in a Model UN simulation to debate solutions to gender inequality and answer the question: Why do global inequalities for women in education and employment persist and what can be done about it?
Want to learn more about and to support the 66 for 66 Campaign? Visit http://ow.ly/6sdrB! And invite your friends and family to join you today in investing in the global leaders of tomorrow!
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!