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Inspiration, Perspiration, and Celebration: 2012 UNA-USA Annual Meeting Recap

This year’s UNA-USA Annual Meeting just wrapped up last week, and was a great success with more than 150 UNA-USA members from 63 Chapters and 31 states coming together in Washington DC from June 10-12 for Chapter development sessions, briefings at the U.S. Department of State, and Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.  We had an impressive showing by Boston members this year; along with staff member Kaitlin Hasseler and Board Member Alma Morrison, we had 5 members actively participate in the conference.  Read their recaps of the activities below.

UN Foundation President Tim Wirth and Dan Sullivan at the UNA-USA ’12 Meeting

Dan Sullivan, former Young Professionals chair and current UNA New England Region Steering Committee Member:
The state of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) is strong and vibrant. UNA members met for the annual meeting in our nationʼs capital June 9-12th as a unified cadre of committed citizen ambassadors representing the principles embodied in the United Nationsʼ mission. Newly elected CCR-Steering Committee representatives assembled Saturday for dinner and their first official meeting.

Alma Morrison, UNA-GB Board Member and outgoing CCR Chair (far left), with Patrick Madden, UNA-USA Executive Director, and additional chapter members.

A palpable energy was evident in the Westin DC City Center Hotel on Sunday as members convened for the first time since the UNA-USA-UNF merger was finalized last year.  The meeting opened with Executive Director Patrick Madden and our very own Alma Morrison, outgoing Chair, Council of Chapters and Regions presiding over the annual business meeting and awards ceremony. Alma was recognized for her extraordinary, selfless allegiance to UNA-USA throughout a challenging time. She is a legend and a hero to all UNA-USA members and we are immensely proud of her at UNA-GB.

The morning continued with a regional breakout session and working lunch. UNA-GB members, along with Alma and UNA-GB staff member Kaitlin Hasseler met with leaders from the two Connecticut chapters to share programming successes, ideas on membership and retention, and the possibility of hosting a joint event in the coming year. The great Gillian Sorensen (who we were thrilled to have as a keynote speaker at our UN Day Luncheon last Fall) discussed with us some of the myths and misperceptions of the UN and why she commits her life to serving as an “advocate, debater, and defender” of the United Nations. Aaron Sherinian, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations at the UN Foundation presented on utilizing online media strategies for chapters while Laura Giroux, Membership Director at UNA-USA and Andrew Cornelius of the UNA-USA Denver chapter gave a presentation on how to retain members and attract young professionals.

The UN Foundationʼs newest campaign, Shot@Life, champions the cause of vaccines
in the fight to save childrenʼs lives in the developing world.  Director Devi Thomas spoke of how to effectively advocate for global vaccines. Chapters seeking advice on how to integrate Model UN programs were able to meet with Global Classrooms staff and chapter leaders in the afternoon.

Young Professionals Happy Hour at the UNA USA 2012 Meeting

On Sunday evening, the UNA-National Capital Area Young Professionals hosted a happy hour attended by over 40 UNA-USA members of all ages to share appetizers, cocktails, and conversation on UN news and chapter activities.  Following the happy hour, a film screening of Iron Ladies of Liberia was showcased at the hotel.

On Monday, members were treated to a spectacular, unique opportunity to enter the State Department for a day of high-level meetings and a memorable luncheon in a hallowed, historic venue, the Benjamin Franklin Dining Room. The morning began with a panel discussing Agenda 21 and how to battle the misperceptions rampant now. We were then regaled by one of Americaʼs legendary diplomats, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, on peace and security and the state of the UN Security Council. Concurrent sessions followed on human rights and reproductive health. The elevators filled as we rode to the luncheon in the famed Benjamin Franklin Dining Room, taking time to savor the many paintings and artifacts displayed there and to walk out on the veranda overlooking Washington with the enormous Stars and Stripes and State Department flags waving proudly in the June air. United Nations Foundation President and former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth and Reid Detchon, Vice President, Energy and Climate, UN Foundation spent the luncheon informing us of the key energy and climate issues surrounding the Rio+20 Conference and the historical progress made since 1992. The day at State concluded with a terrific overview of U.S.-UN relations by Dr. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, U.S. Department of State. Dr. Brimmer need be thanked for so kindly setting up our luncheon.

The meeting culminated Tuesday with an early breakfast at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation before our march on the Capitol to wear out our soles promoting legislation to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, compel Congress to ensure the U.S.
seeks a second term on the UN Human Rights Council, and that congressmen support the Senate Appropriations bill which includes full funding of the U.S. monetary obligation to the UN. Meetings with house and senate staff took place throughout the day with a lunchtime break in the Kennedy Caucus room to hear from John Danvers, Foreign Relations Committee Staff Director to Chairman John Kerry, U.S. Senator (D-MA). UNA-GB representatives articulated the agenda with poise and precision, meeting with the offices of Congressmen Tierney, Lynch, Capuano, Markey, and Keating as well as the offices of Senators Brown and Kerry. Staff welcomed us with open arms, open ears, and open support for our advocacy acumen. The day was a great success for UNA-USA as members passionately sought support from their congressional delegations to maintain a robust U.S.-UN partnership keeping with the recent data from two prominent, national nonpartisan polling companies showing that 86% of Americans support a strong U.S.- UN relationship.

The 2012 UNA-USA Annual Meeting concluded Tuesday afternoon as members made
their way to trains, planes, buses, and automobiles for their journey back home. After
four days of inspiration, perspiration, and cerebration the state of the UNA-USA is the
most vibrant it has ever been. Bringing UNA-USA and the United Nations Foundation together has fostered a new, vigorous pursuit to advocate for and defend the work of the UN and its role in the international arena. On behalf of myself and UNA-GB, thank you to all who made this meeting a tremendous success. Let us continue the vital work of informing citizens, educating students, and serving as dedicated citizen ambassadors of
the United Nations. The work goes on.

Below is additional feedback and the opinions of our other volunteers that attended the conference!

UNA-GB members Immaculate, Ritah and Virginia (L-R) outside the State Department’s renowned Benjamin Franklin Room.

Immaculate Nansubuga:
“I joined the UNA-USA early this year and I am greatly honored to be a part of the largest network of UN supporters in US history.  I was so fortunate to attend the 2012 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, where I enjoyed not only the talks and discussions on some of the recent world’s most pressing challenges, but also I was greatly inspired by the various speakers, staff and chapter members of the UNA-USA whose impeccable dedication, passion and support for UN was explicit in numerous ways.  Our meetings with Members of Congress were smooth, thanks to Kaitlin, Alma and Daniel who delivered the keynotes and asks with just the right mix of hard data, examples and opinions.

I learned a lot about how the UNA-USA connects people, ideas and resources to help the UN solve some of the major global problems.

I also learned the reasons why it is more important than ever for the US as a nation as well as each individual who wants to see a better world, to show our continued support for the UN, goals and objectives.”

Ritah Nakandi:
“My objective of attending the conference was to broaden my knowledge of UN’s activities and familiarize myself with its progress in the global affairs. From the speeches and discussions, I was able to identify UN’s input especially with the MDG’s and its advocacy for Congress’s continued support of UN’s activities in the future. It was such a great experience for me to enlighten UN’s contribution in the world especially by demonstrating it’s progress in the Millennium Development Goals. I was mesmerized by UN member’s enthusiasm in implementing UN’s goals like the SHOT@life which captivated me.  Most importantly, the people have high energy and their loyalty to the UN mission is an everlasting selfless act that is a worthy call that I will always be drawn to.  I learned the significance of member engagement and how it consolidates one to have successful outcomes. This empowerment makes us, the UN members feel as one and as a family striving for a common goal and always be hopeful. It was such an informative and fruitful experience for me and I was really blown by the ambiance of the places that I never thought I would even get a chance to visit.”

Virginia Kinene:
“It was a great pleasure meeting you at the conference. As a new member of the UNA-GB, i found the conference very informative. I gained first hand information about the organization’s mission, objectives and how the organization is of great value to society through it’s development  goals such as, ensuring child education is promoted and its significant achievement so far, as reflected in the statistics.

I too enjoyed the great presentations and discussions conveyed by the the various UNA and State representatives on interesting topics such as awareness on human rights and the mechanisms for establishing standards in human rights, communication mechanisms, and the various advocacy methods, among other topics.

It was also an amazing experience meeting great personalities of both the U.N and the State and to also have made professional relationships with people from diverse regions and culture.”

Martin Ssekyewa:
“It was an honor to have such a great opportunity to meet with UNA-USA members from almost all states, people who have devoted their time, experience, and money to sacrifice for the good of humanity. I believe that this meeting was about the common good for all humanity. I had a chance of exploring the millennium goals which do not only favor Boston, but the whole planet and even back to the community where I came from in Uganda.

I have learned to work together with others in order to address the global issues and to find ways how to help my community here in Boston and back home in Africa. From the conference I learned new skills of being a model citizen; I am now well aware of the means I can use to bring back harmonious co-existence and harmony between the environment and man, because without the existence of one, the other is affected. I was so excited to learn how UNA has incorporated the millennium goals for all groups of people despite of their origin, race, gender and color, to work together as a one family.

According to my knowledge, the UNA programs have contributed a lot toward the National Development Plan, with a focus on equity and inclusion, peace, recovery, population and sustainable growth, to mention but a few. I encourage all people to join and support the UN Missions.”

Thank you to Dan, Immaculate, Ritah, Virginia, and Martin, who attended the event on behalf of the UNA-GB! We greatly appreciated your comments, feedback and participation in the event! And we hope we can see exponential growth at next year’s UNA-USA meeting as well!

Learn more about this year’s Meeting, see photos and video, and access post-conference materials (powerpoints, handouts and more!) here.

Celebrating World Environment Day with a Boston Corporate LEEDer

Tomorrow, June 5, UNA-GB is teaming up with John Hancock Financial to celebrate the 40th anniversary of United Nations World Environment Day and its theme, “Green Economy: Does it include you?”

The annual World Environment Day was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972 as a way to raise awareness about environmental issues. UNEP focuses on several areas ranging from environmental governance to disasters, conflicts, and climate change, and encourages global citizens to care for our environment in order to improve our quality of life. World Environment Day serves to personalize environmental issues and urge civil society to realize that it is our responsibility to take action. Not only is WED a celebration but it is also an opportunity to come together and initiate change in support of sustainable lifestyles and development.

More specifically, this year WED will hone in on issues of green economies– economies that are low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. UNEP suggests that because  a green economy is socially inclusive that means that we as global citizens are integral in making a change, that it is not only up to businesses and policy-makers; this is where the bulk of this year’s theme comes into play.

These questions arise just as the UN is gearing up for the Rio+20 conference, taking place June 20-22. The conference marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon acknowledges World Environment Day as the perfect opportunity to prepare for Rio+20 and to reflect on how we fit into green economies (read his official statement here).  World leaders and thousands of participants from governments, NGOs, and the private sector will convene  to discuss “priority areas” including green economy and its role in poverty eradication. For more information on this topic, check out Rio+20’s green economy resource and this Guardian article on green jobs and how they can help lift workers out of poverty. And to get involved take a look at Rio’s page on engagement.

UNA-USA has sprung into action by responding to efforts to ban UN’s Agenda 21 and encouraging members to let their voices be heard and write letters to editors. Additionally, the UN Foundation has established Rio+Social and the 6 Minute Speech project as a way to connect to the event through social media- an easy way to get involved! Both organizations are hosting a live web conference on June 22 @ 1 PM EST to get an insider’s look at Rio+20’s sessions (RSVP here).

With all of those options there are still more opportunities to help! UNEP challenges us all to join in the WED  and Rio+20 action by not only asking ourselves how we can be included in promoting sustainable development but also by simply organizing a neighborhood clean-up, planting a tree, or even walking to work.  More than 8,400 WED activities, including Tuesday’s program at John Hancock, have been registered at UNEP’s global 2012 WED website.

This year John Hancock Financial’s headquarter offices at 601 Congress Street in downtown Boston became the first existing building in New England to become LEED certified at the platinum level by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) At UNA-GB’s event, John Hancock Financial will be recognized for its environmental commitment and leadership. Our hope is to encourage other corporations in the Boston area and beyond to take similar steps such as striving for the greener rankings as John Hancock did or by supporting environmental efforts elsewhere in their company or surrounding communities.

Although the event focuses on corporate action, we must not forget this year’s WED theme; does the green economy include you? We should ask ourselves what we can do to be more involved in environmental issues. UNA-GB will be volunteering with the Boston Harbor Association on Tuesday by cleaning a park near John Hancock at 12:30pm.

UNA-GB is also deeply committed to educating the next generation of global citizens about environmental sustainability beyond just World Environment Day – through our Model UN program this past year, more than 600 students have debated environmental topics, including clean water, green building and sustainable development.

What will you do to celebrate World Environment Day? What actions will you take to support the environment on June 5? And on June 6th and beyond? A great first step is to join us for World Environment Day on Tuesday. Hope to see you there! You can also check out how else you can support the planet with 50 Ways to Help.

Boston Event details recap:
Tuesday, June 5
Event at John Hancock Financial, 601 Congress Street
10:15-10:45 AM- Tour of John Hancock’s new LEED certified building
11:00-11:30 AM- Brief speaking engagement with UNA-GB Board President Richard Golob and State/city environmental officials.
12:00 pm- John Hancock vendor fair
12:30-1:30 PM- Park clean-up with Boston Harbor Association (To participate in the clean-up, email info@unagb.org your name!).

-Jessica P

Haiti 2 Years Later: Measured Progress & Hope

Today marks the two year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. On that day, hundreds of thousands of Haitians lost their lives and were injured while millions became homeless when the 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  Two years later, they are still struggling to rebuild their country and get back to normal, everyday life.

The international community, including the UN, has been integral in the recovery, relief and rebuilding process that still continues today.  Over the last week, many journalists and commentators have looked at the current situation on the ground in Haiti. Our national office, UNA-USA, has added to this dialogue via our online magazine, The InterDependent, which you can read here to learn more.

While Haiti has made great strides in the past two years, an emphasis needs to be put on moving Haitians from camps to permanent residences. According to the International Organization for Migration (IMO) report released in July 2011, nearly 500,000 people are still living in 800 camp sites in earthquake-affected areas of Haiti after two years.

A system has been created by the Haitian government as well as aid groups to offer a $500 voucher to camp occupants that can find permanent residences with access to water and marked safe to live in by the government. The voucher is valued at the average year’s rent in Haiti and will allow tenants to get back on their feet once again. The only stipulation that applies is that camp occupants must destroy their old tent as stated by the IMO.

In an effort to fully recover, Haiti is moving towards its transition phase to concentrate on reconstruction, debris removal, and the creation of jobs. Rebeca Grynspan, the Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) believes that,

“It has been a major challenge since that we know that Haiti still needs a combination of humanitarian support… but slowly the emphasis and allocation of resources is shifting towards recovery and reconstruction.”

With that being said, UNDP is responsible for creating 300,000 temporary jobs thus allowing 60,000 Haitian families the opportunity to rebuild their livelihoods. “This is the largest job creation programme we have in the world… 90 percent of the labour force employed in the execution of UNDP projects is Haitian,” Grynspan said.

The recovery phase will take many years, but numerous results have already been observed on the ground over the past 12 months: 50 percent of the debris removed, more than 300,000 jobs created, 60 percent of TB patients cured, 400 hectares of land reforested and 2,000 metres of gabion walls erected, according to the UNDP.

See the video below detailing more of the progress made by Haitians supported by UNDP.

While there is so much more work to be done, progress is being made and will continue to be made, with national Haitian institutions, the UN, other international NGOs, and the United States working collectively to develop a plan for a more vibrant Haitian economy. Check out Huffington Post’s top ten successes of Haiti in the past two years to see the continuous efforts that need to be made and share with us the programs/successes/visions you have for the future of Haiti.

-Alyson R.

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

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

Speak Out in Support of the UN this Week!

Although Washington may seem like a world away to many, it is surprisingly easy to voice your concerns to elected officials. We would like to draw attention to this week’s Congressional Recess and invite you to participate with us in UNA-USA’s National Advocacy Week 2011. This week is an excellent time to visit the local offices of your members of Congress  to discuss the priorities outlined in the 2011 UNA-USA Advocacy Agenda.

The reality is that we are entering a difficult period in our country’s relationship with the UN.  We must raise our voices to let our elected officials know how important the work of the UN is to us, and how the US’ support matters.  At an address to the World Affairs Council of Oregon last week, Ambassador Susan Rice stated that “Main Street America needs the United Nations, and so do you and I, especially in these tough economic times. America can’t police every conflict, end every crisis, and shelter every refugee. The UN provides a real return on our tax dollars by bringing 192 countries together to share the cost of providing stability, vital aid, and hope in the world’s most broken places.”  Ambassador Rice is not alone in her thoughts.  An October 2010 survey found that 72 percent of Americans support paying our UN peacekeeping dues in full and on time, but the Continuing Resolution just passed by the U.S. House of Representatives does just the opposite – it cuts funding for the UN regular budget by $80 million and slashes UN Peacekeeping by $228 million from the FY2011 budget.

Your voice is needed now more than ever.

As you prepare to voice your concerns please utilize UNA-USA’s advocacy tips for writing letters, scheduling visits and other useful suggestions concerning where and how to begin. Remember each meeting, simple letter, phone call, fax or e-mail from a constituent represents your voice as a concerned voter that would have otherwise gone unheard.

By joining your fellow UNA-USA activists around the country during National Advocacy Week, you can make a tangible impression on your elected representatives of the strong public support that exists for working through the United Nations.  As the violent clashes in the Arab world this past week show, a global body working for peace, human rights, and conflict resolution is needed now more than ever!

-Katie

Members Day at the UN: Activism and Idealism Unite

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.

-Margaret Chalupowski

Become an advocate for the UN in 2011!

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:

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!

-NaEun

Boston’s Meet and Greet with UNA-USA President

A cozy back room in one of Boston’s oldest gathering places was the perfect setting for the most recent event held by the United Nations Association of Greater Boston.  On the evening of Friday January 14, 2011 guests bundled up and braved the elements to attend the networking meet and greet with Edward Elmendorf, President of UNA-USA.

The event, held at the Union Oyster House, was a successful gathering of voices from many corners of the globe. There was a warm excitement in the air that encouraged connections. Among the wide array of attendees were members of the UNA-GB Board and Advisory Council, community members and students. As a guest I could not help but feel humbly nostalgic as we gathered to share ideas and hopes for a more peaceful global community in the heart of the city that hatched a revolution for freedom.

During the second half of the event Elmendorf called on his 40+ years of experience in foreign affairs to provide guidance and inspiration to listeners. He spoke to the group about the role of the UN, the United States and each individual as we shape the 21st century. He called attention to the mission of the UNA and the many influences affecting global policies today.  He especially emphasized the importance of each person and the power of a united cause.  One direct way for us to get involved on a local level is to become advocates for a stronger UN and stronger foreign affairs policies.  Elmendorf shared UNA-USA’s advocacy agenda for 2011, which included the 4 core issues of securing US-UN funding, advancing human rights through the UN, encouraging US ratification of international treaties; and supporting the Millennium Development Goals.  These are issues that we all can take on and work to gain support for among our friends, family, and elected officials.

Following his speech Elmendorf addressed many thought-provoking issues raised by event goers during a question and answer session. He responded to both criticism and praise for the UN. One suggested book he recommended was Thomas Weiss’ “What’s Wrong with the UN and How to Fix It”, as well as UNA-USA’s official publication “A Global Agenda: Issues Before the UN.” In closing he provided advice to those interested in increased involvement on the local, national and international levels.

Overall the meet and greet was a great kick-off to the 2011 year! We are excited for what’s in store this year and hope you’ll join us, and join the conversation on how we all can engage on issues of international significance today, tomorrow and in the future!

-Katie