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11 February 2021

GCDC Educator Professional Development Workshop Provides Tools for Model UN Success

On February 3, 2021, Best Delegate, a global Model United Nations education organization, graciously hosted the Global Classrooms DC Professional Development (PD) workshop virtually. The PD workshop, hosted yearly by GCDC, serves as an opportunity for educators to gain a deeper understanding of Model UN to set their students up for success during simulations. With support from the Rotary Club Foundation of Washington DC, the one hour session welcomed middle and high school teachers from private, public charter, and public schools in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as from schools across the nation in New Jersey, Kentucky, and Minnesota. 

Using Best Delegate's How to Prepare for Virtual Model UN Conferences on Zoom Guide, the session focused on the 10 steps to prepare students for virtual Model UN simulations and the upcoming GCDC Spring 2021 Model UN Conference. Model UN serves as an opportunity for students to be curious about the world around them and learn about UN actions and global issues. In simulations, students are assigned countries to represent and advocate for on different issues – just like in the real United Nations. The activity is also one of the most effective ways to teach students critical skills, including writing, negotiation, researching, and public speaking. As a member of the GCDC Community, the year-round program, educators gain access to a full school year of 8-unit curriculum on UN policies, procedures, and global affairs to prepare the students. 

For the purpose of the workshop, participants were presented with the topic of “Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” in an UN Office for Outer Space Affairs committee. The session began with a breakdown of how to best approach researching the committee topic using the information included in a background guide. In Model UN, this guide serves as an introduction to the issue that delegates are debating. The background guide oftentimes includes key topic areas that students will focus on during committee.

Since students serve as delegates for one country during a Model UN simulation, the session next covered best practices in researching country profiles, as well as brainstorming resolutions for the topic. In breakout rooms, educators were encouraged to come up with their own solutions on the topic presented in the beginning of the session, as well as how they would share information about the research process with their students. During the discussion, one participant noted that it is important for students to have a model for a successful international solution, such as the sustainable development goals, so that they are able to analyze why those particular solutions have been effective.

The Model UN Professional Development session concluded with an overview of how to prepare students for success in a Model UN committee. Using the information outlined about the research process, educators were presented with best practices for opening speeches and creating resolutions. Through the one hour workshop, both new and seasoned Model UN coaches felt confident that they would be able to use the information learned from the session to help their students prepare for success in future Model UN conferences.

Missed the workshop? Watch the full video here.

28 January 2021

UNA-NCA Welcomes the Biden-Harris Administration and US Re-Engagement on the Global Stage

The UNA-NCA Board of Directors and staff congratulate and extend a warm welcome to President Biden and Vice President Harris for their active and prompt engagement to serve the needs of all Americans through domestic and foreign policy initiative supported by outstanding appointments to the Cabinet and senior policy teams.  

Those of us in the UNA-USA family are committed to engaging our members and communities towards the renewal of close working relations with our congressional representatives for positive and cooperative support of the United Nations. At this time of crisis with COVID-19 raging across the U.S.-greatly impacting our economy and families' wellbeing, we see how important it is for the U.S. to be playing a leadership role along with other countries through multilateral means. Our opportunity to find cooperative economic ties for intertwined global and national economic growth, to join in the Covax collaborative for vaccine development, manufacturing, and distribution to countries, both rich and poor, and to find new approaches to lower the temperature of major threats to peace and security, are essential for our own well-being across America. 

The immediate actions by the Biden-Harris Administration in just its first week have demonstrated a stark difference to their predecessor’s stance on multilateral affairs.  From rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, to continue active membership and support of the World Health Organization, and launching an active and immediate effort to give asylum to and process qualified immigrants from all countries including people of Islamic faith, among many more actions, demonstrate to our citizens and those around the world that the US is committed to reengage as a leader and partner on the global stage. 

This week has been instrumental in forming the Biden-Harris Administration’s foreign policy and national security teams.  On Tuesday, Anthony Blinken was confirmed as Secretary of State, bringing a lifetime of excellence in foreign affairs, and yesterday was the confirmation hearing for the US Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Linda Thomas-Greenfield who also brings extensive diplomatic experience in Africa and other parts of the world.  Also former US Ambassador to the UN and former National Security Advisor to President Obama, Susan Rice, has joined the new Administration as head of the Domestic Policy Council. In addition, former US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, will lead the US Agency for International Development, and serve on the White House's National Security Council. 

These appointments reflect the recognition by the new Administration that our domestic and foreign policy issues are intertwined, demonstrating the need for highly qualified public officials who think constructively about US common needs along with the interests for peoples’ well-being everywhere.

The UNA-NCA agenda for 2021 for full support and positive engagement of the US in the international community, including its fair share of financial support, is fully aligned with the new Administration’s priorities. Our programs will emphasize the development and growth of our youth and young professionals in understanding foreign affairs and the UN and building skills to become agents of change.  UNA-NCA has and will continue to accomplish this through its Global Classrooms DC, Graduate Fellows, and Young Professionals programs, all of which have been adapted to effective virtual platforms. These programs continue their partnership collaborations with several UN agencies, State Department, NGOs as well as area schools and universities.

Our advocacy programing is helping engage and train new advocates to join in concert with our officers, board members, and advisory council members to be effective "ambassadors" to our Congressional delegations and to our community at large about the critical needs for UN support and partnership with the US. Increased contributions are made on relevant topics through the Coffee Chat Series as well as briefing memos and blog contributions. 

Our ongoing programs in Peace and Security, Sustainable Development, Human Rights, and International Law reflect the interlinked themes of the 2030 Agenda embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This monumental agenda was in large part possible due to the leadership of the Obama Administration, and we will continue to carry on that legacy with the involvement and commitment of the new Biden-Harris Administration. 

UNA-NCA will, through a year-long research project on all 17 SDGs, map the status and challenges for our DMV jurisdiction. This project will help us understand and interrelate the common local and global goal needs and relationships. We will also continue to stress in our advocacy outreach to Congress and to our state and local officials the opportunity and benefits of the integrated multisector approach needed to make immediate improvements in our citizens’ lives locally and to realize the actions and investments needed for sustainable changes.

In welcoming the new Biden-Harris Administration we want to continue to reach out to our members, leaders, young professionals, and students to say that your interests and devotion to a sound and constructive US-UN engagement are the guiding principles behind our programs and initiatives which are increasingly aimed at engaging our colleagues across gender, race, ethnicity, origins, and generations. Our programming will remain virtual as long as needed to ensure the good health and safety of everyone. Please continue to communicate and participate with us regularly. 

20 January 2021

Results - UN75 - Global Conversation

The UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, saw UN75 as an opportunity for the organization to listen to the people it serves.

Throughout 2020, the UN carried out its most ambitious effort to date to consult the global public, working closely with UN offices at the regional and country-level, as well as partners from all sectors. It asked people what they most want for the future – and what they most fear. It also asked about their expectations of international cooperation and the UN in particular. 

The results were communicated through the following reports:

13 January 2021

Walking for Freedom: Experiencing Venezuelan Displacement Through a VR Lens

Panel Discussion on the exodus of Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela
By Amy Olejniczak, Sustainable Development Committee Member


On December 17, 2020, the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and its nonprofit partner USA for IOM facilitated a discussion about the displacement of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, following the presentation of Walking for Freedom: A Venezuelan Story at the Global Migration Film Festival.

Walking for Freedom: A Venezuelan Story is an immersive 360° documentary short describing the journey of Venezuelan refugees and migrants across the Simón Bolívar International Bridge that links Venezuela and Colombia. The film encourages viewers to quite literally walk a mile in the shoes of refugees and migrants from Venezuela and experience their heart wrenching plight as they walk away in search of new opportunities.

The exodus of Venezuelans is the largest in recent history of Latin America and the Caribbean. Over 5.4 million Venezuelans are living outside of their country as of November 2020. That number is expected to reach 6.2 million worldwide by end of 2021. Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador are their main host countries. A number of difficulties surround refugees and migrants from Venezuela, including decreased income, greater health risks, familial losses, pandemic-related challenges, and increased gender-based violence. 

IOM Washington Chief of Mission Luca Dall’Oglio opened the event, which took place on the eve of International Migrants Day. He highlighted the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the precarious conditions facing Venezuelans across the region. The film’s production team then participated in a panel discussion to discuss their experiences filming and the current situation. Maria Moreno, Head of Operations and Private Sector Engagement for USA for IOM, moderated the panel.

Carlos Macher, Director of Walking for Freedom, shared that he hopes to “represent and portray a story that needs to be shared and told in a 360-degree way to open our eyes to the reality before us and is growing.” 

Executive Producer Juan Pio Hernandez’s drive is sharing the Venezuelan story and changing the narrative around refugees and migrants. Juan Pio says that the imagery in the documentary short “helps the audience conceptualize this place. With virtual reality, we don’t have a frame anymore… it bridges the gap of being there.”

Macher describes his experience filming at the Simón Bolívar bridge, noting “an artificial bridge has been built and you can see the difference at the yellow doors. As a Peruvian, it is heartbreaking seeing two countries and populations who are historically friends so divided.” He remembers going to the border and the remains of trucks offering aid blocked from entering Venezuela.

This is the epicenter of the crisis. The filmmakers experienced the solidarity in the stories of those who give this movement depth and purpose firsthand. Hernandez says the experience was very emotional and seeing the country’s destruction has been difficult.

Hernandez describes life for Venezuelans in their own country. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed even more opportunities to continue to help. The production team was filming in May and June of 2019.

The situation has worsened since this period. Moreno emphasizes that from the UN’s perspective, there is currently a massive inter-agency emergency response underway in an attempt to assist about 3.3 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Refugees and Migrants Response Plan 2021 calls for $1.44 billion to address the increasingly urgent health and socioeconomic-related needs.

Viewers can visit walkingforfreedom.org to see and share the film. The production team calls for action from all: Funding is needed. The crisis is worsening every day. Macher encourages viewers and advocates to commit to action where they can and beyond. It can be as simple as “sharing a post on Instagram or a link to the film.” He adds, “let’s focus on resilience and let’s talk about contributions Venezuelans bring to our society.” 

In closing remarks, Tom Bradley, UNA-NCA Vice Chair of Programs echoes, “let’s work for Venezuelans, advocate for them, support them, resettle them, and make their lives better. They are willing to work to make their lives better – we just need to give them the chance.”

For more information on the film, please visit: http://www.walkingforfreedom.org/ 

06 January 2021

Brian Urquhart (1919 - 2021)

By Ok Pannenborg, UNA-NCA Advisory Council

Credit: UN Digital Archives 

A giant of international relations and universal peace has left us

Last Saturday one of the most consequential leaders of the world's international system in the 20th century passed away at the venerable age of 101. Brian Urquhart arguably was the most accomplished global peace arrangement implementor the world had in the second half of the 20th century and may well join the historical pantheon of the great and the good, next to presidents, economic and social leaders and thinkers, world religious leaders and philosophers and kings. While most of these were or are national or issue-specific protagonists who achieved global recognition, Urquhart was a global leader by nature. As the number 2 at the U.N. for many years, he was seen and respected as a shepherd of the world's international order and system, as a global representative of the world community. While he was born British, he became the quintessential universal leader whose nationality and origin were felt to be irrelevant. His early joint learning experience with Indira Ghandi whom he was in class with at primary school gave him an early feel for the diversity of perspectives that would guide the shape and reach of the international system following the Second World War and emergence of the newly independent states from colonial rule. 

Brian Urquhart's significance lay in his unparalleled ability to implement and bring to fruition the newly minted values, norms and standards embodied in the multitude of United Nations' treaties, conventions and arrangements. Recalling the unique importance of conceptualizing and elaborating the new world ideas, postulates and standards agreed upon in the charters and covenants of the United Nations by such luminaries as Cassin, Malik, Chang, Falk, Myrdal, Röling, Abi-Saab, Galtung and many others, it was Urquhart who subsequently became the prime mover to actually translate these into practice in the real world of major conflict, national political contentions and geopolitical risk. Concepts such as universal peace, individual or collective self-defense, equal rights and self-determination, prohibition of use of force, non-intervention in domestic affairs, war crimes, and human rights and fundamental freedoms are all lofty ideals and currently globally accepted standards, they can remain distant in the letter of international law if not actually applied and regionally, nationally or locally enforced: it was here that Brian Urquhart set the gold standard and showed that these had meaning in the real world and should and could become an integral part of a more peaceful and better human condition. 

His military experiences in WW II, his sense of humor in combination with his phlegmatic calm in crisis, his irreverence and his understatedness guided his successes in lowering temperatures and successfully preventing conflict and war from the 1950s into the 1980s in the Middle-East (Suez, Lebanon, Cyprus, Sinai, etc.), Africa (Congo/Katanga, Namibia, etc.), Asia (Kashmir, etc.) and many other places, all the while overseeing the U.N.'s peace-keeping forces and their deployment (the U.N. 'blue helmet' was among his ideas to ensure they could be distinguished from other forces).

Appropriately, his work and approaches on behalf of the greater good and interests of the world community as a whole, as brought together under U.N. auspices, were recognized by the awarding of the Nobel Prize in 1988 to the U.N. Peace Keeping Forces. 

As students and practitioners of the principles of the United Nations and its Associations around the world -and in particular our U.N. Association here in the U.S. Capital Area- we will miss Brian Urquhart as our shining light of 'can do': while continuing to further develop deeper and better understanding and codification of U.N. ideals and values, we will remember him for a long time to come as the best 20th century champion for implementing these principles in practice among all conflict parties involved, with understanding, humor, tolerance and flexibility but equally with determination and mutual-interest-convincing, for those communities whose well-being and future often is dependent on their actual application.

See BBC radio piece by Mark Mallock-Brown here (45.00 minutes in).

05 January 2021

Our Condolences on Rep. Jamie Raskin's Loss

The Board of Directors and staff of the UN Association of the National Capital Area wish to express our deepest condolences to Representative Jamie Raskin (MD-8) for the recent loss of his beloved son at age 25 to depression.  

Rep. Raskin announced his son's death on New Year's Eve and the family launched The Tommy Raskin Memorial Fund for People and Animals that will benefit the charities he championed, including the Helen Keller Institute and Animal Outlook through the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

The family published an emotional tribute describing Tommy as "a radiant light in this broken world."  The Raskins detailed Tommy's lifelong penchant for helping others, describing him as a "daring outspoken defender of all outcasts and kids in trouble" who "always made time for the loneliest kids in class" at every stage of life.

There are no words to describe the unbearable sorrow the family, friends, colleagues and community must feel. This is a reminder of the need for greater attention to mental health as we work on building a more sustainable future for all.

23 December 2020

Happy Holidays from UNA-NCA

As 2020 draws to a close, we reflect with gratitude on the many lessons learned and are hopeful for what lies ahead. 

This has been an unprecedented year full of challenges and hardships for everyone. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop UNA-NCA from being there for its members and supporters, and it didn’t stop our leaders and staff from pushing through and overcoming obstacles to succeed.

We were tested, perhaps like never before, and through it all we've been reminded of our strength and resolve. In record time, we successfully transitioned our programming to virtual platforms, significantly increasing our outreach and visibility within and beyond our jurisdiction.

This year:

  • UNA-NCA enhanced its digital advocacy capabilities during the pandemic and conducted several virtual meetings with legislators. Over 800 people were engaged in the new “Coffee Chat” series that brought together corporate leaders, policy experts, and UNA-NCA members to explore the SDGs in a virtual roundtable format. Snapshots was introduced with significant blog contributions, policy briefs and SDG spotlights. See more here
  • UNA-NCA’s Global Classrooms DC program adapted its curriculum for online learning, conducted monthly virtual Model UN committee sessions, renewed its partnership collaborations and executed an entirely virtual training conference engaging over 130 participants on the topic of access to vaccines and affordable medicines. See more here
  • UNA-NCA’s Young Professionals Program offered virtual career and mentoring opportunities, and the Graduate Fellows Program grown significantly both in its demand and participation as well as the quality of the program’s offerings.
  • To mark the UN’s 75th anniversary, UNA-NCA held public consultations on how the UN must evolve to meet today’s challenges. A UN75 Consultation Report was submitted to the UN Secretary-General for review during the United Nations General Assembly. Two high level programs on the future of the UN and the SDGs took place in October, involving members of congress, diplomats and UN leaders.  
  • Our recent Human Rights Awards was a resounding success, celebrating inspiring human rights leaders and reaching a record number of participants and sponsors. You can watch the video here

I am amazed not only at how much we have been able to accomplish but at the solidarity, compassion, and resilience demonstrated through the adversity of 2020. We have endured much, taken on more than we may have thought possible, and held our heads high through it all. 

On behalf of everyone at UNA-NCA, I wish you and your loved ones a safe and peaceful holiday season and New Year.

With much appreciation,
Paula Boland
UN Association of the National Capital Area

Consider supporting UNA-NCA this holiday season. DONATE HERE!

21 December 2020

Global Classrooms DC: Year in Review

Curious what GCDC has done to transition Model UN programs online in 2020? Check out major highlights below!

Virtual Programming

Although the Spring 2020 Model UN Conference was cancelled, the GCDC team quickly transitioned to an online model in March. We quickly began offering virtual Model UN committee sessions using topics meant for the Spring Conference, as well as a Professional Development session for our educators. In addition to translating our Model UN programming virtually, we also adapted the entire year-round program in the summer so that it could be facilitated virtually, including distance learning guidance for all activities and a guide for conducting Model UN on a virtual platform. 

Monthly Virtual Model UN Sessions

Beginning in September, the GCDC team held monthly 1 hour virtual Model UN sessions centered around the mini Model UN simulations included in the GCDC Year-Round curriculum. Over the course of 4 months, GCDC executed 5 virtual sessions for schools signed up for the program, as well as workshops with individual schools, with a total attendance of 96 students across all 5 sessions. Each session focused on critical skills necessary for success in Model UN, including an overview of Model UN basics and a deep dive into public speaking. We also brought UN experts directly to virtual classrooms and held a session in partnership with the International Labour Organization focused on this year’s Spring Conference topic on Occupational Safety & Health.

Of the 51 students surveyed across the 5 sessions, 96% reported that they would like to attend another Virtual Model UN session. We look forward to the sessions we have prepared for the spring, including a webinar with the International Organization for Migration!

Fall 2020 Model UN Training Conference

The GCDC team successfully held our annual Fall Model UN Training Conference virtually for the first time! Over the course of three committees, 125 students from 11 schools debated issues related to the topic of  “Access to Vaccines and Affordable Medicines.” This year’s conference also featured a special-edition crisis committee, where delegates were faced with an Ebola outbreak. As a result of the conference, of the 94 students surveyed, 92% reported having a better understanding of the conference while 79% felt more confident applying problem solving and leadership skills in a group setting. Read more about the Fall 2020 Model UN Training Conference here.

Planning for the Spring

Despite the challenges that 2020 has brought to the program, we are impressed by the resilience of our students, educators, and parents. Looking into Spring 2021, the GCDC team is currently planning our annual Spring 2021 Model UN Conference, virtual Model UN sessions and webinars, and a Professional Development with Best Delegate. We look forward to working with you all in the Spring. Whether it be hybrid or virtual, we are ready for 2021!

Want to learn more about Model UN? Watch our Intro to Model UN webinar here.

Interested in GCDC? Learn more about the program here.

Stay connected with GCDC! 


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