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07 August 2019

El Paso and Dayton shootings fueled by hate and violation of human rights and values

By Stephen F. Moseley, President, UNA-NCA

       The recent 24 hours of gun violence in El Paso and Dayton, confirms once again that hate speech against immigrants, and aimed at people of color by high political leaders is fueling behavior by American citizens. This violates both our laws and the human rights of people to be free from fear, violence, and persecution because of their race and ethnicity.  In these most recent shootings, by young white men, their motivations appear to build directly on the political rhetoric from conservative and right wing media. Sadly, these events and the increasing rhetoric of hate from our political leaders coincides with this historic moment: The conclusion of the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Declaration clearly addresses the rights of immigrants and refugees, as well as the rights of all people to receive equal treatment and opportunity to enjoy their personal freedom globally and within the USA. 

       Our responsibility as members of UNA-NCA is to help our citizens and policy leaders to understand the source and history of the human rights declaration that was so thoughtfully crafted with the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, and later adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. The Declaration states in its first three articles as follows:

  • Article l. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Article 2.  Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. 
  • Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

      For too long every outrageous incident of mass killing in public places has been accomplished with legal access to military style assault weapons that are easily obtained.  There are over 400 million weapons in the hands of American citizens and residents in the U.S. It has become clear that the combustion from weapons availability, the rhetoric about racial “invasion”, and the labeling of immigrants as “violent criminals and animals”, directly causes these horrendous incidents. These actions are caused by few people who are prone to believe that they have been given license to take violent actions suggested by their political leaders and hate based websites.

       This issue has grown to be an American epidemic. It requires a greater control of and lesser access to high-powered automatic weapons, more civil rhetoric by our community and policy leaders, and lifelong education about the responsibility of all people to respect each other’s differences in background, race, ethnicity, gender identity and language, all of which make up the unique diversity we should protect and treasure.

       Our 1,000+ UNA-NCA members in DC, Virginia, and Maryland along with the 20,000 UNA-USA members in 200 chapters across the country must stand together with citizens everywhere in schools and civic gatherings. This will foster a full understanding of these human rights principles and our common humanity to prevent violence, control gun ownership, help foster dialogue to counter violent rhetoric, and engender policies nationally and locally to promote a culture of peace in our communities.



07 August 2019

Voices of Middle Eastern Youth and the Call to Action

By Sadia Saba and Alexis Wright, UNA-NCA Program Assistants



       On July 24, 2019, UNA-NCA in partnership with New Story Leadership (NSL) and the Stimson Center presented a moderated discussion that brought the diverse perspectives of Israeli and Palestinian youth who have first-hand experiences with the UN’s work on the ground. The audience was joined by eight delegates, half from Israel and the other half from Palestine, from the New Story Leadership program. These individuals spoke about their experiences of living within a historically unbalanced region that is filled with religious and ethnic conflict, but yet these problems have not stopped them from maintaining such success within their native lands and abroad. Outside of being members of the New Story Leadership program, the delegates were all spending their summers on Capitol Hill working for various US Representatives as well as leading their own “Projects for Change” in order to work towards internal peace building between Israel and Palestine.

       Gilad Sevitt, a social entrepreneur from Jerusalem and Hiba Yazebek, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who is an aspiring-journalist, opened the event by delivering keynote speeches about their upbringing within the region. They told personal stories of maneuvering life in Israel and there were clear differences in the journeys from the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. Some of these differences included the exposure to gender based violence, public health concerns and inadequate access to education. However, a thread that weaved both stories together was the necessity of communication. 

       There are 1.8 million Arab Palestinians living in Israel, which consists of 20 percent of Israel’s population, yet many Jewish Israelis only speak Hebrew. As Gilad noted, miscommunication between the two groups are leading causes of fear and hatred. Deepening these divides, Palestinians and Israelis rarely have interactions with one another. One of the Israeli NSL delegates noted that she met a Palestinian for the first time when she was 24 years old in the United States. Moreover, a Palestinian delegate stated that the only times she had interactions with Israelis were at checkpoints, where Israelis were uniformed and militarized. 

       This led to a theme and the biggest takeaway for the rest of the night: the importance of communication in areas of conflict like this one. UNA-NCA’s Executive Director Paula Boland and Dr. Richard Ponzio, Senior Fellow of the Stimson Center led a discussion that emphasized this, along with the imperative of global leadership through institutions like the UN and storytelling to share perspectives. Gilad founded an organization called Madrasa, which teaches Jewish Israelis Arabic for free. Hiba spoke about her Model UN experience at a Hebrew university, and how the experience allowed her to find her voice and articulate arguments for complex issues. Since all of the delegates are interning on the Hill this year, they noticed that there are many perspectives missing in the chief legislative body, such as the personal anecdotes from people living in the region. Advocacy and legislation needs to be led by these stories. One of the Israeli delegates said that you don’t have to be “pro- any side”, you have to be “pro-conversation”. Stories can be spread across networks to maximize impact, which helps foster mutual understanding across the world. Global citizens need to build empathetic connections with those facing these injustices. The speakers emphasized the importance of international cooperation in this conflict and how the United Nations is the best equipped vehicle to do so. But on a deeper and personal level we must educate ourselves on the narratives of our neighbors in order to develop a true understanding for change.




07 August 2019

UNA National Capital Area Chapter Talks Human Rights on the Radio


Human rights are close to home. UNA-USA’s National Capital Area Chapter recently joined WPFW 89.3FM’s Taking Action show to talk about their chapter’s work to uphold human rights for all Washingtonians and all citizens of the world. This work starts with their local Universal Periodic Review (UPR) consultation. Listen and learn!

https://unausa.org/nca-on-the-radio/



05 August 2019

UNA Chair's Response to El Paso and Dayton Shootings

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17 July 2019

Students Develop Intercultural Competence, Academic Skills, and Global Awareness During Model UN Workshop


IMG_2214Early each morning from July 15th to 17th, students poured into the library at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, MD for the second annual Model UN Workshop hosted by Global Classrooms DC (GCDC). The workshop’s aim was to help students develop fundamental academic and life skills, and to prepare them to become active participants in Model UN simulations and global conversations. Participation in the workshop this year more than tripled, growing from 11 students last year to 36 students this year. Multiple nationalities were represented, as students from Vietnam, China, and the USA traveled to attend the three-day workshop. 

During the first morning of the workshop, students learned about the United Nations and its role in the global community. Students activated their background knowledge about the United Nations and gained a solid foundational understanding of various global issues and duties of major UN committees through discussing with their peers, watching informative video clips, and completing written activities. 

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After gaining a basic understanding of the United Nations, students moved on to learning about Model UN, its purpose, procedures, and key vocabularies. Next, students were given a chance to practice writing a Model UN position paper using the analogy of building a hamburger to learn and remember the most important elements to include. Students were paired into double delegations and assigned countries to represent on the topic of Migration. They used a background guide, information about how to research, and GCDC Program Assistants’ guidance to write brief position papers on the topic of Migration from their assigned country’s perspective. 

The afternoon of the first day was focused on specific skill development, especially on effective communication in small and large culturally diverse group settings. Students participated in a very engaging activity called “Sell Me Anything!” in which they actively tried to convince their peers to buy basic office supplies. After the activity, students had reflections regarding what contributed to a good speech and what habits to avoid during public speaking. Students then watched an inspirational speech by Malala Youfsafzai to cement their understandings of positive public speaking traits. They applied what they had learned in small groups as they practiced reading selected portions of Malala’s speech and received feedbacks from their group members. By the close of the first day, students had gained a clear understanding of the UN, Model UN, and how to speak effectively in public. They had also gotten to know their peers and had formed new friendships with students of different nationalities. 

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On day two of the workshop, students focused on the skills of negotiation and collaboration. They started the morning with and activity called “Alone on a Deserted Island”, in which they worked first in small groups and then as a whole class to prioritize and negotiate items needed if they were stranded on a deserted island. Students had a lot of fun reasoning to each other and defending their choices. They also got a chance to answer tough questions from the GCDC staff members regarding why they chose the items. After the activity, students were led to reflect on what techniques had helped them during the negotiation process, what didn’t work, and how to make sure all voices were heard during the process. Then, they further extended their negotiation skills and practiced collaboration during a second activity in which again they worked first in teams, then as a whole group, to design a menu for a fictional friend’s birthday party. They had to consider elements such as price, location, allergy restrictions and food preferences, then collaborate to create a final menu that the whole class agreed upon. 

Later during the second day, students practiced their negotiation and collaboration skills further as they wrote operative clauses and policy recommendations on migration from their assigned country’s perspective. After constructing a first draft, students presented their work and received constructive criticism from group members. Students used suggested guidelines to ask each other strong questions and challenged one another to think critically about their policy choices, then groups negotiated and collaborated to modify their clauses and policy recommendations. By the end of the day, students were expert negotiators and collaborators, and they had enjoyed applying their new skills through a variety of increasingly complex tasks. They had also improved their communication skills by talking to peers who had varying levels of English language proficiency and different perspectives on global topics.

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On the last day of the workshop, students participated in a mini-simulation similar to what they would experience at a Model UN conference. The topic of the simulation was “Migration in the World Today”. Student delegates delivered opening speeches presenting their country’s perspective on the topic, then spent most of the morning in various moderated and unmoderated caucuses to discuss possible solutions to the problem. During unmoderated caucuses, students formed two distinct blocs, grouping with other countries who they could collaborate with to create dynamic solutions. Students had the opportunity through these activities to utilize the skills they had developed earlier in the workshop, such as public speaking, negotiation, and collaboration. 

Next, students cooperated with other delegates to write on draft resolutions. Their writing skills were challenged as they attempted to write clear and compelling draft resolutions that might elicit support from other country delegations. Once students had completed two draft resolutions, they presented them to the committee and received questions. During the questioning period, students worked together to construct definitions, negotiate clauses, and finalize better solutions. In the end, students voted on the resolutions and experienced the gratification of a job well done when both resolutions were passed.

The conference was an incredible learning experience for students and staff alike. Students walked away with stronger skills in public speaking, negotiation, collaboration, writing, and communication. Meanwhile, they also gained experience in working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds who held different perspectives. Most importantly, they comprehended a global issue and experienced the satisfaction that came with working together to address global problems.

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01 July 2019

World Refugee Day Panel Discussion

World Refugee Day Panel Discussion

By Jordan Walker, Member, UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee

“The world does not support humanity on the basis of humanity alone.”

On June 20th, 2019, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area facilitated a panel discussion in honor of World Refugee Day, and to galvanize support for refugee relief efforts around the world. Panelists Dr. Sami Baloch Badini, a political asylee from Balochistan, and Egette Indelele, a refugee from Tanzania, spoke about their stories traveling to the United States, and the incredible adversity they faced both before and after their arrival.

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Mary Kate Vanecko, the Development Coordinator for Nothing but Nets, a malaria elimination campaign of the United Nations Foundation, facilitated the discussion. Her questions centered around themes of identity, acceptance, the concept of home, and what challenges refugees and asylum seekers face when defining all three in their own lives.

The first panelist, Egette Indelele, is a first generation and rising junior at George Mason University. Indelele was born and raised in a refugee camp in Tanzania and came to the United States in 2006. Her parents survived the Rwandan genocide, and her mother worked for the UN, helping other refugees to get into the same camp that they were able to get into. “There were people I knew who were dying in the refugee camp from malaria and starvation,” she recalled. Indelele is the President of George Mason UNICEF, and it is her life goal to help other refugees who are in similar situations as she was. She wants to go to Burundi one day to set up a homeless shelter for children.

The second panelist, Dr. Sami Baloch, is a psychiatrist and political and human rights activist from Balochistan, a country surrounded on all sides by Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the Arabian sea. Balochistan is the largest provincial state of Pakistan and provides Pakistan with most of its natural gas, coal, and minerals. For decades there have been several growing separatist movements and insurgencies advocating for Balochistan’s independence as a sovereign nation. Doctor Badimi fled Pakistan in 2011 to Saudi Arabia, and from there struggled to obtain a U.S. visa as a political asylee. While in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, he worked as a psychiatrist treating torture survivors, Afghan refugees, and victims of war. He finally arrived in the U.S. in 2015.  Dr. Badini was tortured by the Pakistan soldiers for his work as a political activist, and his life has been threatened numerous times. His goal was to come to America and talk about oppressed people and nations.

“Any person who seeks refuge, that is their last option.” Dr. Badini noted that it is almost impossible for most Balochistans to leave Pakistan, and that it was extremely difficult for him to leave, even as a doctor. As an asylee, Dr. Badini had to wait for his claim to refugee status to be approved by the United States government before he could enter, or have access to benefits, jobs, and housing.

Vanecko first asked both panelists to explain the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker.

Dr. Badini defined a refugee as someone who seeks refuge while still overseas, but does not become a refugee until permission to enter the country is granted. He defined an asylum seeker as “people like me who do not trust the government (of the place they wish to leave), and cannot seek refuge unless you physically escape and then apply for asylum in the destination country.” In other words, an asylum-seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated. Dr. Badini expressed his own concern with the immigration policies in the United States, where it is blatantly and increasingly difficult to enter as an asylum seeker or refugee, and the backlog of asylum seekers is increasing by hundreds of thousands every year.

“Asylum seekers (in the United States) used to have to wait three weeks while being prohibited from getting a job or seeking health benefits. Now, it takes three years to get an asylum interview in the United states. You are essentially homeless for the duration of that time.”

Along the same lines, Vanecko asked the panelists what they believe people are not talking about enough in light of the global refugee crisis.

“Pakistan is still violating human rights in that part of the world,” Dr. Badini stated.

Dr. Badini expressed that it is essential to recognize that refugees have completely different understandings of basic human rights.  For many refugees, “It is a luxury to feel safe,” he noted.

Dr. Badini spoke about the severe human rights abuses that the Government of Pakistan has committed against Balochistan political activists, including thousands of people who have been killed and/or tortured for speaking out against the government. However, there is very little advocacy for the people of Balochistan, or international attention directed at the human rights violations that are happening there.

“The world does not support humanity on the basis of humanity alone,” Dr. Badini explained. Unfortunately, the blatant human rights abuses committed by a government against its people is not always enough to provoke action from other powerful and resourceful countries.

Dr. Badini expressed his frustration with the United States’ interference in Pakistan, including selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, and introducing torture techniques to Pakistan soldiers who have adopted the same techniques with no constraint or global accountability.

Doctor Badini also spoke about the culture shock he faced when he was first adjusting to life in the United States, in 2015. Aside from learning English on his own, he jokingly recalled how it was difficult for him to adjust to social cues, like learning to make eye contact with everyone, which is not always appropriate in Balochistan. “Nobody wants to start from scratch,” he noted, “people just want to be accepted as they are.”

Vanecko asked both panelists to elaborate on their concept of ‘Home’, and how that idea has changed for them.

Indelele spoke first. “Home is where I feel accepted, not where I was born.” Indelele explained that she, too, did not know any English moving to the U.S., which was a challenge adjusting to life there. Indelele’s concept of Home is more of a feeling than a physical place. “For me, Church and family support was my home.” Indelele remembers being a little girl in the refugee camp, cooking with her grandma and selling shoes that she found with her grandpa. “It felt like home at that time, because I didn’t know better. If I didn’t help, I felt like we didn’t eat.”

For Dr. Badini, he has not really felt at home since he moved to the U.S. “It is a good house, but not a home.” He explained that it takes a long time to rebuild the trust and relationships that make a house a home. Dr. Badini was arrested at his home in Balochistan. He expressed the importance of peace as an ingredient to a true home. “We have to keep the house conflict free to make it a home for every individual,” he indicated.

Vanecko used both Panelists’ answers to shift to her next question, which was how can other people build trust with refugees from a low level, civilian point of view, when there is an overall distrust of the institutions and policies that exist beyond our reach?

Indelele said that the most important step anyone can take is to build awareness, ask questions and to get to know refugees.  She also mentioned that building trust goes hand in hand with feeling safe. In order to feel safe, humans need jobs, education, resources, and most importantly, a mentor.

“Humans want to trust. We have been trained not to,” Dr. Badini said, perhaps drawing from his professional background. He reflected on his own distrust of American cops, or men in uniform in general because of the trauma he endured on the border between Balochistan and Pakistan. It was hard for him to even trust the UN uniforms in refugee camps. “Trust takes a long time, and developing trust economically and holistically is difficult.”

When Vanecko asked both refugees how people can better educate themselves on refugee issues, Indelele said that she notices a lot of complacency in the U.S. “The problem with Americans is they are genuine in their feelings of compassion toward refugees, but they go on with their lives and think, someone else is doing it, someone else is stepping up.” The simplest way to get others involved, she said, is to communicate using the platforms that are available to us. For example, UNHCR’s #StepWithRefugees challenge has picked up thousands of followers on Twitter, and challenges people to take 2,000 steps to recognize refugees who move 1 billion miles every year just to find safety.

Dr. Badini faced the audience and said, “find a refugee and know them.” He emphasized the importance of identity, and taking the time to understand who other people are and where they come from. “The basic fight of life is developing and making known our identity.” He listed what he believes are essential components to an individual’s identity: language, a national identity, culture, and manners. These are components that many people share when they grow up in the same neighborhood, state, or nation. Yet, each of these shared components contribute significantly to an individual’s personality and sense of belonging.

Vanecko ended the panel discussion by asking both Dr. Badini and Indelele to tell the audience what drives them to get out of bed every morning.

Family is what drives Indelele. As a first generation and the oldest sibling in her family, Indelele refuses to let her siblings sleep in later than her (even if they are not physically there with her), to set an example for them. “If I stay in bed, what will my siblings think?” she said, grinning.

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Dr. Badini also spoke about family. “My father used to tell me there are three kinds of people: people that take others’ rights, people that take their own rights, and people that do not fight for their own rights.” Dr. Badini said that a good person fights for their own rights, and that is the person that motivates him to get out of bed and be every day.

This year’s theme for World Refugee Day is solidarity. Every twenty minutes someone leaves their entire life behind to escape war, persecution or terror. Like Dr. Badini said, when someone seeks refuge in a foreign country, it is truly their last option. Whether an individual is labeled as a refugee, asylum seeker, stateless person, internally displaced person, or returnee, they have given up or been stripped of a piece of their identity in order to feel safe. It is the community-lead effort in providing support, compassion, and unity that has the power to make a house feel like a home.

For more information on the Balochistan refugee crisis, see here: https://unpo.org/article/18643

 




26 June 2019

UNA-NCA Participates in UNA-USA Lobby Day


By: Bonnie Worstell, Development and Advocacy Program Manager, and Sean Coffey, Development and Advocacy Program Assistant

On Tuesday, June 11, 2019, over 500 UNA-USA members from all 50 states met with their Congressional representatives and staff in over 300 scheduled meetings. UNA-NCA members visited offices in our jurisdiction from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Members urged their Congressional representatives and staff to support full fundingfor the assessed U.S. dues to the United Nations’ regular budget, UN Peacekeeping, and specialized agencies. Additionally, advocates encouraged their representatives to also support paying UN Peacekeeping arrears incurred over the last few years as a result of Congress not lifting a 25% cap on peacekeeping. UNA-USA members connected these priorities to their own lives and stories, strengthening the case for Congressional support of a strong U.S.-UN partnership.

Of the 500 UNA-USA members participating in Lobby Day, half were under the age of 26. Amongst these youthful voices, UNA-NCA Program Assistants had the opportunity to add their voices to the mix. Alexander Oddo, Programs and Membership Program Assistant, said of his experience visiting representatives from his home states of North and South Carolina, “Lobby Day gave me new friends with novel ideas and new hope for a future where nations, rather than nationalists, are united.” Sean Coffey, Development and Advocacy Program Assistant, said after meeting with staff from Nebraskan offices that “Lobby day was my favorite part of the Global Leadership Summit, as we were given a first-hand perspective to the front lines of political advocacy by making our voices heard to our representatives about the significance of the United Nations.”

Virginia constituents were split into three different groups, one of which blended with D.C. residents. However, the three Virginia groups came together to visit the offices of Virginia’s Senators. The first two meetings of the morning were with Legislative Assistant Andrew Kalaris from Senator Tim Kaine’s office and Legislative Assistant Caroline Wadhams from Senator Mark Warner’s office. Both Senators are strong advocates for the United Nations, and Senator Kaine serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Mr. Kalaris emphasized that climate change prevention and mitigation was one of the Senator’s top priorities. Ms. Wadhams thanked UNA advocates for championing this cause, as “the work you’re doing really does matter.” When advocates bring important issues to the table, it allows their representative to fight for their legislative interests. After all, constituents are considered the bosses. 

In the afternoon, the first group visited with Molly Cole, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Gerry Connolly, and Mike Lucier who serves as the Legislative Director for Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton.  Both Legislators are strong supporters of the United Nations, and Representative Connolly serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The second group split off in the afternoon to visit Jason Eagleburger from Representative Riggleman’s office (R-VA-5). The group was encouraged to set up an in-district meeting to further discuss the issues and meet the Representative. A veteran, Representative Riggleman has seen first-hand the necessity for the United States to utilize the UN instead of getting involved in conflicts directly. The group also visited Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director Zach Cafritz from Representative Don Beyer’s office (D-VA-8). A long-time supporter of the UN, and signatory on a letter urging for the U.S. to fully fund peacekeeping, Representative Beyer clearly supports the efforts of UNA-NCA. Advocates finished the afternoon by dropping materials at Representative Rob Wittman’s office (R-VA-1). 

The third Virginia group started their afternoon meetings with Legislative Assistant Christina Ingram from Congressman Bobby Scott’s office (D-VA-3). Secondly, the group spoke with Legislative Assistant Lillian Adelstein from Delegate Eleanor Norton’s office (D-DC). Past president, Mr. Edward Elmendorf, discussed in detail about the outreach and programs UNA-USA organizes, as well as mentioning its history. 

Maryland advocates were split into two separate groups. The first group started Lobby Day by visiting Legislative Assistant Katherine Close from Senator Ben Cardin’s office (D-MD). Next, the group met with Travis Trejo from Congressman Andy Harris’s office (R-MD-1) and Legislative Aide Daniel Silverberg from Representative Steny Hoyer’s office (D-MD-5). For their final congressional visit, the advocates spoke with Legislative Assistant Jordan Blumenthal from 12-term Congressman Elijah Cummings’s office (D-MD-7). In addition, the team dropped off materials at Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger’s office (D-MD-2). The meetings covered several topics regarding U.S.-UN affairs, most notably the SFOPS bill which is expected to go to the Senate floor in the coming weeks. Within the group, there was a diversity of professional backgrounds coupled with various ethnic, racial, and geographic identities to present their own personal connections to the United Nations. 

The second Maryland group started at Senator Chris Van Hollen’s office (D-MD) to meet with Fellow Paul Warnke, a former UN intern. As Senator Van Hollen has been a strong supporter of the UN, and a recent speaker at the UNA-NCA Annual Meeting, advocates focused on providing resources for the Senator to engage other Members in Congress in better understanding the value of the UN to their jurisdictions. In the afternoon, the group met with Foreign Policy Fellow Brianne Klimas for Representative Raskin’s office (D-MD-8), in which they discussed the appropriations status of the SFOPS bill. They followed with a visit with Jordan Wolfe from Representative Sarbanes’ office (D-MD-3), in which they discussed a multitude of subjects ranging from the value of UN Peacekeeping to global health topics. Finally, the team ended the afternoon by dropping off materials at Representative Brown’s office (D-MD-4). 

With an estimated 500 advocates organized across generational, racial, gender, and political lines, Lobby Day embodied the grass-roots advocacy UNA-USA aims at mobilizing. UNA-NCA members connected their personal stories and knowledge to promote the values of the UN and to further solidify the relationship between the US and the UN. Many of the offices visited by UNA-NCA advocates were not a hard sell, but a celebration of the role that many of these Representatives and Senators have made in promoting a stronger US-UN partnership. 




24 June 2019

A Challenge to David Brooks and UNA Members


by A. Edward Elmendorf and Richard Seifman


In his June 13,2019  New York Times article entitled "Voters, Your Foreign Policy Views Stink", the Times’ senior columnist David Brooks wrote that " Americans simply want the US to look after itself", and not continue a  global leadership role in  the United Nations, the World Bank, and NATO, all  institutions created in the aftermath of World War II.  It is too bad that Brooks failed to reflect the views of more future voters in his article, nor examine wider public opinion in the United States on the United Nations.

Evidence suggests that, in emphasizing the situation today, Brooks ignored future voters:  Future voters want the US to do more than look after itself. The Eurasia Group Foundation survey cited by Brooks found that over one-third of American young people favor UN intervention in human rights abuses overseas. Promoting human rights is the most important foreign policy priority cited in the 2019 Harvard Institute of Politics poll of American youth. If Brooks had  attended  the  United Nations Association Global Engagement Summit in February 2019 attended by 1,800 people – largely youth - from across the country held in the United Nations General Assembly hall, with active participation by UN Secretary General Guterres, he would have understood that there is deep seated, growing conviction among young people that we as a country must actively engage in building positive collective international effort, whether with respect to climate change, containing infectious disease, promoting human rights, gender equality, decent treatment of those seeking asylum, or avoiding another world war.  On a more micro level, similar views were virtually universal among participants in the 2019 UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program. It brought together graduate students from the Washington DC area for a deep dive into UN issues ranging from threats to peace in Syria, to ravages of human rights in Myanmar/Burma, to actions in support of the UN’s Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.  

The views of young people are not alone in believing the US must do more than look after itself. Nationwide polling sponsored by the UN Foundation’s “Better World Campaign” (BWC) just found  (June 2019) that more than two-thirds of voters have a favorable image of the United Nations, versus less than one quarter unfavorable-- the highest favorable rating of the United Nations since BWC started its tracking in 2009.  Concretely, widespread UN support is reflected in the fact that Trump Administration budget proposals calling for major reductions in US contributions to the United Nations have been reversed by Congressional action – a striking inversion of roles which for many years had seen the Executive branch UN funding proposals substantially cut on Capitol Hill.  

While public opinion is positive overall, supporters of the United Nations cannot be complacent.   In the 1970s, popular support weakened following UN decisions unfavorable to US policies, reflected in a 1972 poll which showed respect for the United Nations significantly declining. This downward trend was reversed in part with rising optimism built on the ending of the Cold War and democracy on the ascendancy. Indeed, a poll showed respect for the United Nations growing, with a nearly 20 percent rise in support for increased US participation in the UN, from 1989 to 1991.  Nonetheless, in his 1999 book Mixed Messages, former UNA-USA CEO Ed Luck found support for the UN among the American people may be as shallow as it is wide.  

Now is a critical time for voices to be heard across the country in support for the UN.  In June 2019 the UNA-USA June 2019 Global Leadership Summit brought together 500 advocates from all 50 states for a record-breaking 322 Congressional meetings. This -is an example of how support can be garnered and demonstrated. But the message needs repeating on Capitol Hill, in Congressional offices, with local media outlets, and in social media, all across the country. 



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