UNA-GB is excited to announce the formation of a new volunteer Advocacy Committee! Nathaniel Watson and Heather Cochran, who are co-chairing the committee along with Alma Morrison, are looking forward to working with UNA-GB and it’s global network and dedicated members.
Over the coming months we will be working to help keep you abreast of all the important issues that you need to be aware of and that need our support. It is important that we remain vigilant and work with other organizations, both public and private, to promote the goals of the United Nations.
With so many worthy causes, we need your help. The more involvement and support we garner from you the more we can get done. Whether it be reaching out to your local town officials, writing a letter to your Governor or simply joining the conversation and helping us find ways to make our world a better place, we’re counting on you! Over the coming months we will be highlighting different issues that need your support.
Currently, the future of America’s relationship with the UN is at stake. H.R. 2829 is a bill offered by Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) that would change the United States funding of the UN from a percentage of GDP to a voluntary basis. This would not only diminish the United States representation in the UN but it would set a precedent that could compromise the overall effectiveness of the UN as a whole. On Thursday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a companion bill that would allow the U.S. to fund only those UN programs that is supports. This could severely undermine the equitability of the UN and put the interests of smaller Nations in jeopardy that would strain multi-national relations outside of the UN.
Please take the time to let your opinion be heard and contact your congressmen and women.
Want to read more about this bill and its consequences? Click here!
Meet our Leaders:
Nathaniel (you may call him Nat) studied Political Science at Boston University and now works in the financial industry downtown. He has only been a member of UNAGB for just 6 months but has a passion for international relations and is a strong believer in the importance of the UN’s role both globally and locally.
Heather studied International Human Rights and has a Master’s degree
in Social Work. She currently works in the nonprofit industry. She has
a strong passion for human rights and women’s rights. She would like
to continue to work towards helping to advocate for the UN’s
One of the most publicized issues this summer has been the arguments on Capitol Hill over the debt ceiling. The political stalemates have been so much on the forefront of the public agenda that other dire issues, such as the famine in the Horn of Africa have been somewhat overshadowed. However, the two issues are linked more than one might initially think.
As most are aware at the end of the day on August 2nd, Congress finally came to an agreement on the debt ceiling debate which avoided the detrimental U.S. default. What is known about the agreement is that it cuts almost $1 trillion, however, what hasn’t been made immediately visible is the precise details of such cuts. We do know that important programs for the poor – throughout the globe – are at serious risk. It is also important to be aware of the appropriations bill that was passed by the House for the State Department and Foreign Assistance. Within this bill were cuts to the UN’s regular budget and UN peacekeeping. The simple truth is that if the bill is passed by Congress and signed into law, the UN will return to its previous state of cycles of debt. Cuts to the UN’s budget detrimentally impede the organization’s ability to aid in foreign catastrophes such as the current humanitarian crisis in the Eastern Horn of Africa – with Somalia suffering the most from the drought-induced famine.
In his op-ed, U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia writes: ” “from terrorism to the threat of pandemics, the United States faces challenges that are beyond the power and financial means for any single nation, no matter how powerful, to address alone. Our contributions to the UN enhance our national security and our foreign policy priorities, save dollars while growing jobs and our economy and strengthen our leadership in the international community.” And as Massachusetts’ own US Senator, and ardent foreign relations advocate, John Kerry so eloquently put it, “We can either pay now to help brave people build a better, democratic future for themselves or we will certainly pay later with increased threats to our own national security…This is not time for America to pull back from the world. This is a time to step forward.”
The UN and the U.S. are currently making substantial efforts to help the about 11 million people directly affected by the famine. Efforts include:
- UNICEF is working to help over 250,000 children from Somalia who are suffering from acute malnutrition. They have already provided 8,300 bags of nutritional supplies to 2,800 children. The goal is to reach 70,000 children within the next six months and to provide them with nutrition and water.
- As of late, World Food Programme is reaching 1.5 million people in Somalia and is scaling up to reach an additional 2.2. million in the previously inaccessible south of the country. Airlifts to Mogadishu began earlier in the month to bring special nutritious foods to malnourished children.
- UNHCR – through its partners – has delivered emergency assistance packages to benefit 15,000 internally displaced persons in Somali camps. The organization plans to distribute 7.500 additional packages in the upcoming weeks.
The U.S. is currently the largest donor to the UN and to the relief in the Horn of Africa – what will happen if important funds are cut from such initiatives? It’s important that we stay engaged and involved in the coming months in order to demonstrate to our representatives in Capitol Hill just how important our international commitments are.
That is why we hope you will join UNA-GB and our fellow chapters around the country in engaging in dialogue with our elected officials this fall. We will be in touch with ways to take action and specific asks that will be good to make, especially when your representatives are on fall recess. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be involved more in depth on these advocacy efforts.
Also, if you want to learn more about the crisis in the Horn of Africa and what we can do to make a difference, on September 12th UNA-GB is co-sponsoring the DocYard’s screening of Rain in a Dry Land, a film which provides an eye-opening look at what it means to be a refugee in today’s “global village.” Purchasing tickets to view the film, which chronicles the lives of two Somali Bantu families, is a great way to get educated more on what refugees face in the transition process. There will also be information shared about how you can help end the famine crisis in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
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.
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