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Today’s Defense with Congressman Barney Frank

On Thursday the 15th of March, I had the pleasure of going to see Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank at the Harvard Club on Commonwealth Ave. He was delivering a speech titled “The Deficit and Defense” and it was to an audience of around 100 individuals representing both the private and public sector.

Mr. Frank’s speech was geared towards explaining how our inflated military budget, which is currently around $700 billion including the war in Afghanistan, contributes to the national deficit, which is near $1 trillion, and the long term costs of servicing this debt. Our military spending is greater than the next 14 highest spending countries in the world and accounts for over 45% of all the worlds military expenditures. While Mr. Frank is a great supporter of our troops and wants them to have the absolute best equipment and weaponry available, it was clear in his talk that he firmly believes that today’s military strategy and structure is from an era that no longer exists.

The United States built up vast arrays of conventional weaponry (tanks, bombers, artillery, etc) during the cold war that was available in case the unthinkable happened. Today, our enemies have changed in a dramatic way. They are no longer confined by borders, international law, or concern themselves with the worries or desires of the international community.
Mr. Frank made it clear in his remarks that not only is there plenty of potential for savings and gained efficiencies at the Pentagon but that it will be of necessity as the United States is forced to make budget cuts in order to pay for the tremendous debt that has been accumulated over the years. Mr. Frank highlighted the recent effectiveness of international operations in Libya, Kosovo, and other involvements in several other conflict zones as proof that multi-nation coordinated action is the most cost effective and equitable solutions to most of the threats that we should expect in the decades to come.
The United Nations was put on center stage during the revolution in Libya and Mr. Frank could not stress enough how important it is that future engagements are handled in a similar manner. The United States did not enter by themselves, they did not commit to a never ending battle, and they did not enter without consulting the international community, creating clear objectives, and defining an exit strategy. This serves as a template for future administrations and is an extremely effective option for the United States and others as we embark on an more connected, boundless, and inter-dependent world.
At the end of Mr. Frank’s rousing speech I was fortunate enough to be able to ask whether he supported the United States funding UNESCO once again, regardless of their stance on Palestine, and he stated that he did and that he was hopeful funding for the UN would become a greater importance to the Congress over the coming years. While Mr. Frank is not expected to run for re-election and is hoping to have a quieter life with his husband in their home in Maine, I think it is clear that Mr. Frank believes in the importance of the UN now and it’s even greater importance in the future.
Here at UNA-GB, the advocacy committee will continue to engage our members and elected officials alike on supporting the UN and its mission.  We hope you join us!
– Nat Watson, UNA-GB Advocacy Co-Chair
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Resolution 2012!

Our work here at UNA-GB is rooted in the founding principles of the United Nations – universal peace, international security, and respect for human rights, to name a few, and as we enter 2012, we are filled with hope and anticipation in this season of new beginnings.  Last year, we kicked off 2011 by sharing the top UN Resolutions of the previous year as a connection to the new year and theme of resolution making, and we thought it was a tradition worth continuing!  This is our New Year’s Resolution, or Resolution 2012!

It is our sincere wish that this coming year be filled with stories of health, equality, and opportunities for positive development, and we will continue to do all that we can to inform, inspire and mobilize the greater Boston community around critical global issues. 

Check out our list of key 2011 UN resolutions below and post in the comments section what issues you hope to see the UN address in 2012!

Resolution 1999 (adopted July 13, 2011) welcomed the membership of the newly formed South Sudan.

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan declared its independence from Sudan and became its own country.  It was then admitted into the UN as the 193rd member state.  In support of South Sudan’s formation, the UN announced its new mission, the UNMISS UN Mission in Southern Sudan that will specifically focus on the development of the new country.  The Security Council voted unanimously to set up a new United Nations mission to help Africa’s newest nation consolidate peace and lay the foundation for longer-term state-building, conflict prevention and economic development.

Resolution 2009 (adopted Sept 16, 2011) created a United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

One of the more violent clashes and uprisings amid the Arab Spring this year was in Libya, and with an unanimous vote to adopt resolution 2009, the Security Council affirmed a leadership role for the United Nations in international efforts to support a nationally led process aimed at building a democratic, independent and united Libya.  The Council decided that the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) would be to assist Libyan national efforts to restore public security, promote the rule of law, foster inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, and embark on constitution-making and electoral processes.  Learn more here.

UNESCO approved a Resolution allowing the member state bid from Palestine at the end of October, sparking a wide controversy that led to the removal of US support for UNESCO.

On Monday, October 31, the full United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) membership voted 107 to 14 with 52 abstentions to accept the Palestinian Authority as a full member of UNESCO.  Due to an existing U.S. law dating back to the 1990s, the U.S. is prohibited from funding any UN entity that gives full membership to Palestine. UNESCO’s vote led the U.S. to cut all funding to UNESCO, which amounts to approximately 22% of the total UNESCO budget.  Discussions are on-going as to how to navigate the impact of the US’ defunding, and sets the stage for continued debate, as Palestine promises to renew its bid for membership in the General Assembly and Security Council.

Resolution 66/137 (adopted December 19, 2011) affirmed the power and necessity of human rights education (something we at UNA-GB are DEEPLY committed to!).

On a busy day in the General Assembly, with over 60 resolutions being adopted, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training was passed. This declaration was originally adopted by the Human Rights Council by resolution 16/1 earlier this year in March.  Reaffirming the call of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, which was held in Vienna, for all States and institutions to include human rights, humanitarian law, democracy and rule of law in the curricula of all learning institutions, the Declaration says that everyone has the right to know, seek and receive information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Declaration specifies not simply what one should learn about human rights, but also how (“through human rights, which includes learning and teaching in a way that respects the rights of both educators and learners”) and also why (“for human rights, which includes empowering persons to enjoy and exercise their rights and to respect and uphold the rights of others”).

The adoption of this new Declaration also offers educators and policy makers an occasion to reassess national policies and priorities in the light of international standards.  It affirms the belief that human rights education is not only the entitlement of every human being, but also a necessity for responsible global citizenship.  Since building a strong network of global citizens is our mission at UNA-GB, we are very excited about this Resolution!  One of our flagship programs is our human rights education program for youth, our comprehensive Model UN program, serving more than 3,000 6th-12th graders in the Boston area each year.  We look forward to strengthening ties with other human rights educators as this resolution gains momentum.

Resolution 1987 (adopted June 17, 2011) recommended the appointment of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to his second term in office.

Adopted by acclamation at a closed meeting, the Council recommended to the General Assembly that Mr. Ban Ki-moon be appointed for a second term of office from January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2016.  Ban’s election was uncontested and nations had approved of his decision immediately.    His appointment was subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly.

Ki-moon is the world body’s eighth secretary-general and the first from Asia since U Thant, from what is now Myanmar, who served from 1961 to 1971.  Upon his election, Ban indicated that ending violence in the Sudanese region of Darfur and tackling climate change were among his top priorities. There has been progress on both fronts, including a recent vote to create an independent state in southern Sudan and evolving negotiated frameworks to address global warming, though significant challenges remain.

Ban has also found himself and the United Nations at the forefront of many crises that few anticipated in 2006. The past year, especially, has been tumultuous given the massive earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan; the wave of popular unrest in the Arab world; and the continued fallout from the ongoing global economic crisis.  As Ki-moon’s 2nd term begins today, one major agenda item is sustaining the effects of the Arab Spring.

And the National Action Plan (NAP) for Women, Peace and Security, complete with an accompanying fact sheet and Executive Order, was introduced by Secretary Hilary Clinton on December 15, 2011, in support of the landmark Resolution 1325.

The NAP is the outcome of a process that began over a decade ago with the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which encouraged the UN and its member states to integrate a gender perspective in all aspects of peace and security. In October 2004, a subsequent Security Council Presidential Statement called on the “development of national action plans” to further implement Resolution 1325. Before the US’s NAP, thirty-two other countries had already released their own NAPs.

The document makes the compelling case for why it is in U.S. national interest to integrate a gender-based perspective in foreign policy decisionmaking. In countries where women and girls have equal rights and opportunities, there is a strong correlation with economic prosperity and peace. The NAP also includes a workplan for all relevant U.S. government agencies, as well as the creation of an interagency review mechanism to track progress through 2015.  This development is particularly exciting, as we have a strong commitment to gender equity issues and have a robust Women’s Forum program throughout the year.  We hope to focus more on these issues in 2012, so stay tuned!

This list is only a sampling of the hundreds of resolutions adopted in 2011.  See the full list of Resolutions from the 65th and 66th General Assembly sessions and the Security Council.  As both the President of the GA and SG Ban Ki-moon have expressed, 2011 was a year of remarkable advances and improvements, and emphasizes the importance of a global governing body like the UN, which is able to respond to natural disasters, support democracy, and uphold the universal principles of human rights and peace-building.

What Resolution would YOU write in 2012 if you had the chance??

Thank you for all you’ve done to support our work this year and we look forward to all that 2012 has in store!  We’ll do our best to keep you informed and engaged as the UN’s 2012 agenda unfolds.

Happy New Year from the UNA-GB team –Lena, Kaitlin, Jennifer, Rebecca, Ann and our awesome interns!

This Day’s For Africa!

On May 25, 2011, the world celebrated Africa Day. This year marked the 48th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963. On July 9, 2002, OAU was succeeded by the African Union, whose aim is to promote economic, social, and political integration, and democracy on the continent. Even though the Organisation of African Unity no longer exists, May 25th continues to be commemorated as Africa Day.

This year’s Africa Day came at a time of momentous political change on the continent, as evidenced by the recent events in North Africa and Côte d’Ivoire.  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon celebrated the Day in Ethiopia, where the African Union is headquartered. Emphasizing this year’s Africa Day theme, “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development,” Secretary-General Ban remarked that despite substantial progress in education and economic growth, inequalities are prevalent in Africa, and that the youth of Africa continues to face challenges when it comes to finding decent jobs and participating in the decision-making processes. The Secretary-General also emphasized that sustainable economic growth and the judicious management of the earth’s resources can only be achieved through the empowerment of young people.

In addition to S-G Ban Ki-moon, those present in the commemorative event at the African Union Headquarters included the Chairperson of the African Union, Mr. Teodoro Mbasogo, and the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. In celebration of Africa, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be offering a number of events, including film screenings, art exhibitions and debates, with special attention paid to the role of women and young people.

—Smriti

Carol Fulp address teen delegates at RMUN 2011

Over 350 high school students from the Bay State, New England and Bermuda came together on Friday May 13th at Northeastern University to take part in the Regional Model UN Conference put on by UNA-GB and affectionately known as RMUN!  You can check out some of the on-site photos and updates if you search #UNAGBRMUN on Twitter and you can see more photos from the conference here.

Student delegates debating Sports for Peace and Food Security in the UNESCO committee were treated to a surprise visit from a pillar of the business and civic community here in Boston and one of President Obama’s US representatives to the United Nations, Carol Fulp.  Fulp also was the 2011 Leadership Award recipient at UNA-GB’s 2011 Consuls Ball (see photo below and more photos of the Ball here).

Ms. Fulp discussed the global importance of the role of sports international development strategies and gender equality.  Students were given an insider’s view of the vetting process that Ms. Fulp underwent before her confirmation was made official by Congress and stressed the importance of transparency and ethics to the group of teens, many of whom are aspiring diplomats themselves.

The Conference was a great success, with all committees submitting impressive resolutions!  Our world is in good hands with these future leaders!

-Jennifer

Protecting Cultural Heritage

There are 890 properties, ranging from geographical locations to spectacular landmarks, spread throughout 148 countries, which are currently designated as World Heritage sites.

These locations give a nation a sense of pride and add to its identity. They can often bring economic success in the form of thousands of eager tourists flooding in to catch a glimpse of whatever majestic site the country hosts. They are “chosen because they have outstanding universal value…and are symbols of dialogue, peace, and reconciliation.” (UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova)

However, World Heritage sites are slowly decreasing in number as globalization, conflict, climate change, and natural disasters eradicate their distinctiveness.

In fact, last year UNESCO removed from the list the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany due to its new acquisition of a four-lane bridge straight through the center, as well as the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman due to insufficienct efforts by Oman to conserve the area.

The earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, Polish flooding, fires in Uganda, and the recent landslides in Peru have already proven the drastic effects that the environment can have on ruining sites. These disasters have attracted the attention of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), demanding action to protect any still-intact locations.

UNESCO Director-General Bokova explained on July 25th at the latest meeting of the World Heritage Committee, that when these cultural treasures are destroyed, the human spirit of the country is damaged, as well. It is imperative to preserve the chosen sites in order to protect the people.

There are many commonly recognized areas that do not seem in danger in the immediate future, such as the Greater Barrier Reef in Australia or the Great Wall of China. However, there are also lesser known properties in areas torn apart by conflict and disaster such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and more recently Haiti, that need to be addressed.

Before the January earthquakes, the World Heritage Committee had been considering putting several sites in Haiti on the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, the natural disaster wreaked havoc on these cultural jewels (including the 17th century city of Jacmel or the National Palace and Palace of Justice in Port-au-Prince), effectively eradicating any possibility to be chosen.

At the latest meeting of the World Heritage committee, scheduled to end on August 3rd, members have been discussing how to best preserve and reconstruct landmarks destroyed by such natural disasters. The Committee will consider reconstruction of buildings, ecological preservation, and damaged urban areas. They will also decide how to restore the lost knowledge and beauty of museums, art galleries, archives and libraries.

Go to the World Heritage Committee’s website for a complete listing of the World Heritage Sites.

Thanks!

Hannah

UN Continues Working Tirelessly in Haiti

While it may not have maintained dominant coverage on the 24-hour news networks, the United Nations’ relief efforts in Haiti remain in full force.

Just over six months after the 7.0 earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation in January 2010, destroying the country’s infrastructure and killing an estimated 230,000 people, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced July 27 that the UN is hoping to reach an additional 500,000 children in the ravaged nation in a second round of emergency immunization.

The 7.0 earthquake hit the Caribbean nation on January 12, 2010.

Among the illnesses being vaccinated against are diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, rubella, and polio. Haiti is considered by UNICEF as one of the nations where children are at the highest risk for contracting of these dangerous diseases.

In addition to providing health care, UNICEF and its partner organizations are providing water to 1.2 million people and food to an estimated 550,000 children and women.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) also recently announced on July 22 that they have assessed more than double their initial target of 100,000 buildings in Haiti for structural damage. With the help of the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the United Nations have been working closely with the Haitian government in the recovery and rebuilding process.

The destruction caused by the disaster continues to dominate Haiti's landscape.

These announcements come on the heels of international football superstar and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel Messi’s visit to Haiti, during which the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year visited a homeless camp and attended UNICEF meetings. In addition, the Barcelona player met with troops from his native Argentina serving the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Argentine football superstar and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel Messi meets with children in Haiti.

Additionally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recently launched “A Book for a Child in Haiti,” collecting French-language books in an effort to jumpstart the educational system for “internally displaced persons (IDPs)” in Haiti.  The program is also working to forge relationships between Haitian and French schoolchildren.

However, in spite of all the efforts, there is still much work to be done. Over 800,000 Haitians are living in tents with no access to clean water or sanitary conditions. Almost 500,000 buildings have been deemed unlivable and still need to be removed, and education and health facilities have yet to sufficiently recover from the disaster. UNICEF reports that over 1,200,000 children are being exposed to exploitation and abuse amidst the disorder and turmoil.

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) is spearheading the expansive relief effort, providing food, agricultural support, and both short- and long-term solutions to the island nation. This work is even more critical with hurricane season fast approaching and threatening the already fragile Haitian infrastructure.

Show your support and Help Haiti Rebuild by donating to the WFP’s Haitian relief efforts and stay informed by visiting their Haiti Emergency website.

-Patrick

There is work left to be done in the rebuilding process in Haiti.