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08 September 2021

USAID and the Transformation of Developing Countries

A Review of The Enduring Struggle – The History of the U.S. Agency for International Development and America’s Uneasy Transformation of the World, by John Norris

By A. Edward Elmendorf and Richard Seifman, Members, UNA-NCA Board of Directors

This is an important book for those who care about the world, and the role of the United States and the United Nations in our common future.  Commissioned by the USAID Alumni Association which instructed the chosen author, John Norris, to produce an independent and unvarnished assessment of American foreign assistance, both good and bad. The book does this and could not be more timely.

At this moment the United States is deeply emmeshed in two unfolding disasters, namely Afghanistan and Haiti, both of which have long histories of U.S. foreign assistance and USAID engagement.  U.S. leadership is being questioned and challenged at home and abroad, as is U.S. foreign assistance and in particular USAID. Given this backdrop, it is particularly fortunate that the current USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, is someone who is knowledgeable and has broad experience and vision, including past service as U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN.

In the book, Norris documents key achievements of USAID, including its pivotal roles in funding, generating, disseminating, and applying knowledge related to  maternal and child health, including oral rehydration therapy (ORT), Vitamin A, breastfeeding, as well as breakthrough research in agriculture leading to the Green Revolution.

For some readers, the journalistic tone of Norris’ book will be seen as a strength.  Missing was the more analytic approach of World Bank and UNDP publications, with graphs, charts, and boxed essays. That said, the book deals extensively, perceptively, and effectively with USAID’s major weaknesses and strengths.

One clear weakness - of USAID but not of Norris’ book - is the unpredictability of USAID long term program funding. It is subject to the vagaries of the Congressional authorization and annual appropriations process.  This presents a major constraint on client reliance, trust and effectiveness. For example, while AID may develop five-year programs with countries or regions, each year these are "subject to the availability of funds from Congress", sometimes with shorter-term Continuing Resolutions. From the recipient's perspective, this uncertainty reinforces a natural tendency for developing country leaders to stress the immediate because they cannot rely on U.S. multi-year commitments.

More broadly, Norris admits, at least implicitly, that U.S. foreign assistance has been dominated by domestic politics, domestic issues, and powerful economic interests. Indeed, “the Enduring Struggle” is replete with instances in which USAID has suffered repeatedly from being caught in the ups and downs of changing administrations and USAID Administrators. Beneficiary country perspectives have often been secondary. In today's world one might ask: What are the costs today in continuing in this manner? What and when do others do better in garnering more trust? In the increasingly complex donor and geopolitical world of today, can the US do better in its foreign assistance?

The current disasters in Afghanistan and Haiti inevitably raise questions about the United States role, and more specifically, that of USAID, in ‘nation building’– a concept that seems to have become so questionable in public discourse that it must be surrounded with quotation marks. While much of the Norris book deals with nation building in the broadest sense, it is striking that the term is not used in the manuscript and is not to be found in the Index.  Yet the concept underlies the book’s title – ‘the Enduring Struggle,’ and its subtitle ‘America’s Uneasy Transformation of the World.’  Such language tends to overstate the matter, yet the idea cannot be avoided. Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, Senegal and Ghana, must be seen as American success stories in nation building, and in each case, USAID played an important role. But USAID was also present in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt, overshadowed by military assistance and influence, to be sure. What is clear is that each country circumstance is different, but why and when the U.S. decides to intervene must be looked at in terms of past failures and success, and make hard judgements.

USAID started operations at the time of post-World War II independence of former colonies but long before the sweeping globalization of the late 20th century. Assumptions about what is needed, and presumptions have changed over time.  These will change over time, but nation building must be a continuing and responsible element of United States long-term engagement, especially not only in politically, economically, and socially fragile countries, but also in the wider world.

Norris observes that the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were ‘transformative,’ as reflected in the subtitle of his book, but hardly discusses the MDGs and the U.S. important role in them. He gives some attention to the current and much more ‘transformative’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, he underscores the role of Obama Administration officials in their negotiation.

We wish Norris had given greater attention to the role played by USAID in international organizations. USAID has and continues to provide significant influence, funding, and guidance to the full raft of UN specialized bodies, including UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, WFP, UNHCR, UNFPA, and FAO. This has also been the case with respect to international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the regional development banks and specialized funds, where the Treasury Department leads the U.S. Government but USAID is a very active and critical contributor. Whether providing concepts, reviews, responses, or seconded personnel, USAID has also been a major contributor to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Indeed, USAID played a major role in its foundation, and in encouraging other countries to institute development cooperation programs and join the DAC.

Many of the key USAID players in “The Enduring Struggle” have long associations with UNA-NCA.  This could be a reason for UNA-NCA to organize a public forum stimulated by the book, if UNA-NCA program leaders are ready to take the initiative and organize such an event.

26 August 2021

International Day against Nuclear Tests—August 29

This Sunday, August 29, is the annual International Day against Nuclear Tests, a day designated by the United Nations General Assembly to increase awareness about the devastating effects nuclear testing poses to humans, animals, and the environment. The day is an opportunity for civil society activism to drive global action on nuclear disarmament and a nuclear-weapons-free world, as we heard earlier this month during UNA-NCA’s joint event with All Souls Church, Unitarian of Washington, DC on Toward a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Ethics, Social Justice, and Civil Society Activism [watch the video, read the summary, and discover resources]. 

In his keynote remarks, René Holbach from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) described how eliminating nuclear weapons and ending nuclear testing are among the UN’s highest priorities for disarmament. 

“The nuclear menace is once again on the rise,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in last year’s message for the Day. “A complete ban on nuclear testing is an essential step in preventing the qualitative and quantitative improvement of nuclear weapons and in achieving nuclear disarmament.” 

The Day reflects the power of civil society activism. The date of August 29 commemorates the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear-testing site in 1991 in response to a strong social movement in Kazakhstan demanding an immediate stop to nuclear testing.

Want to be part of this year’s global activities to commemorate the Day? Discover advocacy opportunities suggested by panelists and compiled by UNA-NCA Peace and Security members in the summary for our August 3 event on Toward a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Ethics, Social Justice, and Civil Society Activism

The United Nations also provides the following opportunities for you to engage and take action in support of ending nuclear testing.

#StepUp4Disarmament Youth Campaign

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) invites individuals aged 18 to 29 to walk or run 8.29 km on August 29 as part of its #StepUp4Disarmament Youth Campaign and to share their voices online about what disarmament means to them and their communities. Participants who register online can download special “race bibs” and will receive a certificate. 

UNODA Web Talk: Stories from Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On August 27, UNODA will host speakers from the international disarmament community, academia, and civil society to share stories from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This free event is open to the public and will be held online via Microsoft Teams. Register today

25th Anniversary of Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty 

The UN has been urging countries to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) during this 25th anniversary year of its adoption so that a global ban on nuclear explosions can enter into force and become legally binding worldwide. The treaty prohibits nuclear explosions underground, underwater, on land, and in the atmosphere. At last month’s CTBT Science and Technology Conference, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi stressed the importance of the CTBT in his remarks: “The ban on nuclear testing is not a treaty of the past but a treaty of the future.” Did you know its global monitoring system data are also used to support natural disaster warnings and research on climate change? Learn more on the CTBTO website. Explore which countries have ratified the treaty using this interactive map. Take a virtual tour of the Semipalatinsk former nuclear test site.

UN Stamps for the 25th Anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty

The UN will issue a special event sheet of 10 stamps to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Look for the stamps beginning August 27 on unstamps.org.

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going within UNA-NCA

How are you commemorating the Day? Would you like to contribute a quote or perspective on nuclear disarmament or ending nuclear testing for use in a future UNA-NCA Express article? Send your contributions of up to 200 words to: rdopplick@unanca.org

24 August 2021

Toward a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Ethics, Social Justice, and Civil Society Activism

By Adam Wolf, Chuck Wooldridge, Pauline Placide, Patrick Realiza and Micayla Costa

Organized by the UNA-NCA Peace and Security Committee in partnership with the 

UNA-NCA International Law Committee and All Souls Church, Unitarian of Washington, DC

“The voices of civil society continue to form important conversations on nuclear disarmament to this day.” - René Holbach, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA)

The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), through its Peace and Security Committee and International Law Committee, hosted a panel discussion, entitled “Toward a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Ethics, Social Justice, and Civil Society Activism” on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, in partnership with All Souls Church, Unitarian of Washington, DC. The event took place virtually and welcomed panelists and participants from across the United States and Japan. The panel was moderated by Mr. Melvin Hardy, President of the Millennium Arts Salon, and Ms. Karen Mulhauser, UNA-NCA Past President and UNA-USA Past National Council Chair.


UNA-NCA Board Chair Jill Christianson formally welcomed all attendees to the program by acknowledging the event’s primary organizers and sponsors. Upon mentioning the subject matter for the evening, she then briefly noted her undergraduate days at the University of Massachusetts and cited a fellow student who was a former reporter sent to Hiroshima, Japan who understood the interconnectivity of people and society.

Ms. Christianson further emphasized the power of citizens, including faith-based organizations such as the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) that actively works in conjunction with the United Nations to promote a more peaceful and just world. She then highlighted several key activities and initiatives that UNA-NCA currently undertakes year-round such as advocacy-related Congressional efforts, strategic programming aimed at the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), DC for CEDAW, the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program (GFP), working with UN-based institutions, and the Global Classrooms DC program to name a few.

Lastly, Ms. Christianson encouraged all non-members to highly consider membership, which would further allow them to partake in these important global issues. Immediately, following her remarks, Mr. Patrick Realiza, Co-Chair of the UNA-NCA Peace and Security Committee formally introduced the next speaker for the evening, Reverend Rob Keithan.

Reverend Rob Keithan welcomed participants on behalf of All Souls Church Unitarian (ASC) to the inaugural event jointly sponsored with UNA-NCA, emphasizing the topic of eliminating nuclear weapons was both timely and necessary. It marked nearly 76 years since the dropping of the atomic bomb by the United States on Hiroshima.

He emphasized that ASC has historic ties with Japan that began in 1947. The children of ASC and the students of Hiroshima’s Honkawa Elementary School responded to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons through the beauty of children’s artwork, known as The Hiroshima Children’s Drawings (1947). The documentary film “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” reverberates with the message of the triumph of hope over despair.  

He finished by noting the importance of partnerships and the promise of the emerging ASC - UNA-NCA collaboration to support global, multilateral solutions for not only peace and reconciliation but for a host of critical humanitarian issues such as the climate crisis, racial justice, LGBTQI rights and many more. 

Framing the Conversation:

Ms. Karen Mulhauser and Mr. Melvin Hardy were introduced as the co-moderators of the panel and invited panelists to elaborate on the theological, moral and ethical questions associated with nuclear weapons. Mr. Hardy began the conversation by noting Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter (Fratelli Tutti) of October 3, 2020, presenting the Roman Catholic case for the immorality of the nuclear weapons eco-systems.  He asked a framing question:  Can we move from St. Augustine's "Just War Theory" to what Marie Dennis of Pax Christi refers to as "Just Peace?"

Noting her experience in disarmament advocacy, such as her leadership of a 2-day conference during the first summit meeting of President Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, Ms. Mulhauser showed her previous experience in advocacy. She added that it was and still is important for civil society to educate the general public so nuclear weapons are better understood and politicians are held accountable. Her framing question for the panel was: Is it possible to totally destroy all nuclear weapons and how does the general citizen help bring about that change?

What the experts say:

René Holbach, Programme Manager Officer, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs

Mr. René Holbach opened his remarks by emphasizing that the UN and the nuclear age were born almost side-by-side, with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki taking place only a few months prior to the UN Charter’s ratification. Their destructive power shows that nuclear disarmament is not a fantasy but a pressing reality, and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has taken a stance that the total elimination of nuclear weapons remains the UN’s highest disarmament priority.

Mr. Holbach underscored that nuclear disarmament negotiations at the UN have coincided with advocacy efforts from civil society, as evidenced by the largest ever anti-nuclear protest in the U.S. having taken place in New York in 1982 during the second special session of the UN General Assembly on disarmament. 

Mr. Holbach then transitioned into the deep risk to humanity that nuclear weapons posed and the humanitarian consequences of their use. He commended civil society, with leadership by the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, for pressing these humanitarian concerns and catalyzing negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The coming year will be pivotal for addressing nuclear disarmament with both the postponed Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference and the first meeting of States Parties to the TPNW happening early in 2022. Mr. Holbach ended his remarks by stating that the role of civil society through raising awareness and advocating for progress will continue to be crucial in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

To learn more about nuclear disarmament at the UN, please visit: https://treaties.unoda.org and https://education.unoda.org

Bruce Knotts, Director, Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations

Mr. Bruce Knotts opened with an assertion that the Pope declares, “the attainment of nuclear weapons as immoral.” After highlighting his philosophy of religious peace and how it ties into nuclear disarmament, he asked a simple question: “If missiles were launched against the United States, would it be immoral to retaliate?” He argued that it would, emphasizing it would be devastating to enter a nuclear war with Russia as it would end human life. 

As American citizens, Mr. Knotts emphasized that we hold our elected officials accountable, influencing where they ultimately spend tax dollars. We have to press our members of congress and ask them about their stances and vote accordingly. 

The importance of U.S. policy cascades into international policy, as Mr. Knotts notes with the TPNW which was not signed by the United States, Canada, nor Japan, a country devastated by a major nuclear bomb. He gave the example of the U.S. using its stance on nuclear weapons and position as allies of Japan and the Netherlands to influence their governments not to sign it.

Aside from advocacy, Mr. Knotts offered different methods individuals can take to stand against nuclear weapons during the Q&A. This included looking into socially responsible investment options, such as funds that do not support companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons. He also suggested that we take “small steps, if not big steps,” and supported smaller policies that could reinforce nuclear disarmament, such as no-first-use policies, in which nuclear weapons states agree to never use their nuclear weapons unless in retaliation to another nuclear attack.

Hiroyo Murayama, Program Coordinator, Religions for Peace Japan

When asked about nuclear weapons and if they should be used, Ms. Hiroyo Murayama stated that simply nuclear weapons cannot and should not be used because all life is precious. Working with Religions for Peace Japan (RFP), one of the main missions since its establishment in 1970 is the belief that all life should be cared for and cherished.

When asked about the Hibakusha or survivors from the atomic explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and the children of those directly affected by nuclear weapons she said to hear the testimonies of those affected can be tough but that there is an importance in the sharing of their stories to make it known what the nuclear weapons can do to people firsthand. She says another important part of her work and a way that we can work towards nuclear disbarment would be making sure that there is awareness of the issue.

Ms. Murayama said one of the ways RFP in Japan is working towards nuclear disarmament is by using social media as a platform to put out reliable information on the Issue for the general public. The more people are aware of the issue the more involved people will be on the topic. 


Mr. Chuck Wooldridge closed the program by offering to the audience the idea of imagining a nuclear weapons free world and if then perhaps the world could consider committing to take action. The recent UN Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons along with the messages of the speakers this evening have given hope. He further reminded the audience that each one of them could do something about this. In this connection, he personally invited participants to join in one of the other upcoming events. Lastly, Mr. Wooldridge also shared a number of relevant links to advocacy-related resources that could further equip attendees to take action following the conclusion of the event.

Follow our experts on social media:

Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations - @UUOfficeUN

René Holbach - @UN_Disarmament

Religions for Peace - Facebook: @religionsforpeaceintl Twitter & Instagram: @religions4peace

Advocate for a nuclear weapons-free world:

During the panel, we learned a lot from our speakers about the importance of actively engaging with the public and elected officials to push advocacy for nuclear disarmament. Below is a mix of advocacy resources provided by our panel and members of the Peace and Security Committee for you to explore:

Get involved with civil society

Check out the All Souls Church Unitarian Heiwa Peace Project: http://all-souls.org/heiwa/

Contact the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office: uua.org/un    

Contribute to the Disarmament Times Publication: Disarmament Times

United Nations public awareness campaigns

“What if Spesterra” Video Challenge: https://www.youth4disarmament.org/spesterra-video-challenge

#StepUp4Disarmament Youth Campaign: https://www.youth4disarmament.org/news/stepup4disarmament-youth-campaign

Knowledge and Best Practices

UNA-NCA Youth Advocacy Toolkit: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EiYtwpGA-TwXWKuDGViCw5abHV5F4lqm/view

Learn how you can build grassroots support on nuclear disarmament policy: https://jointheban.icanw.org/build_support

Learn how to leverage social media for nuclear disarmament advocacy: https://jointheban.icanw.org/social_media

Petitions to explore

The following are resources for our members who may wish to take action immediately. UNA-NCA doesn’t necessarily endorse the stance of each petition.

Union of Concerned Scientists - Petition calling for the Biden administration to reform nuclear weapons policy: https://secure.ucsusa.org/a/2021-05-18-a-petition-biden-action-nuclear-weapons

Friends Committee on National Legislation – Don’t fund new nuclear weapons petition: https://fcnl.quorum.us/campaign/34562/

Mayors for Peace – Petition calling for countries to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: https://www.ssl-z.city.hiroshima.jp/pcf/signature_en/index.html

The Atom Project - Petition for a nuclear weapons free world: https://www.theatomproject.org/100K/


04 August 2021

Graduate Fellows Program Annual Report


Read the Annual Report Here

28 July 2021

The Biden-Harris Administration's Approach to Foreign Affairs

By Hank Burke-Manwaring, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

On Tuesday July 20th, UNA-NCA, in collaboration with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP) held a moderated panel discussion that delved into expectations of the Biden-Harris Administration’s approach to foreign policy and international organizations such as the United Nations. The Panelists also reflected on Biden’s successes since his inauguration.

The two panelists for the discussion were UNA-NCA’s Advisory Council Member Ambassador Sarah Mendelson, Distinguished Service Professor of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and head of CMU's Heinz College in DC, and Ted Piccone UNA-NCA Advisory Council Chair; Chief Engagement Officer at the World Justice Project.

The panel started off looking at the Administration’s impact in broad strokes. Ambassador Mendelson discussed four topics that the Biden Administration has addressed thus far. First, she has looked at issues such as social and racial justice and have begun the new task of linking the work on those issues both at home and abroad. Second, there has been a focus for the Administration on combatting the rise of authoritarianism, with special focus on the interference of China and Russia in other countries. And “When they talk about Russia it is about a form of hybrid warfare.” This hybrid warfare has become a threat as seen in many places such as Libya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Third, there is also a strong focus on elevating the combat against corruption which goes hand in hand with the fight against authoritarianism. She pressed that the administration needs to make sure we are not creating and enabling an environment for corruption through our financial institutions. And finally, she felt that the Administration has responded boldly to the emergencies they inherited, especially regarding climate issues, and COVID-19.  

Ted Piccone mentioned Biden’s key phrase “America’s back” in reference to the United States working its way back into the international community. He proclaimed that the Administration was off to an “overall encouraging start” to reviving America’s role on the world stage with bilateral and multilateral channels amid a tremendous crisis. He praised the Administration for actions such as rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, committing funds to COVID vaccine distribution, and renewed support for the United Nations Population Fund and United Nations Human Rights Council. He also noted that with Congress in democratic hands, future support of international organizations looks promising in the years to come.

Diving more in depth on the multilateral approach of the Biden Administration, Ambassador Mendelson noted that all the actions mentioned previously by Piccone “somehow related to the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs). She also mentioned that what puzzled her was that the Administration has many policies that they have rolled out that dovetail into the SDGs, however the actual SDGs themselves have seldom been mentioned. In addition, she pointed out that there has been no discussion of a voluntary review of America’s progress with the SDGs, which is how countries measure their success in sustainable development. She questioned why this was the case given that “the Obama-Biden Administration helped shape the SDGs.” However, she did mention that many cities, universities, and even the state of Hawaii have been working on sustainable development, and how to make it effective. She sees this as a positive change in the United States, because by having domestic support for sustainable development, it gives leverage to make Congress prioritize sustainable development both domestically and internationally.

Ambassador Mendelson did warn that while this progress on sustainable development is positive, we are running out of time to make changes that we need to make during this Administration. One of the tasks that remains is to start naming ambassadors. She said that Congress is slow to admit people into ambassador roles, however she qualified “that some of the slowness is because the Administration is really focused on making sure the candidates are diverse” as they want the U.S. Department of State to be representative of the US population.

Mr.  Piccone went on to discuss The United States and their involvement in the Human Rights Council (HRC). He stated that the United States’ involvement in the HRC “has become increasingly politized here in the United States. And has become a bit of a political football between the Administrations (Republican/Democrat).” He also spoke about the current issues with the HRC membership. One of those issues was the fact that authoritarian regimes have been elected to the Council. Another issue he found important was the inherent bias towards Israel, as it is the only standing item on the HRC docket. He believes at the Israel bias worsens when the United states is not a part of the HRC council.  

The last issue mentioned by Mr. Piccone was the rising power of China. He stated that “when the US walked away under Trump, what happened? China and its allies filled the void.” This is the first time that we've seen China go on the offensive on the international stage. It is introducing resolutions to undermine the role of the HRC, which could potentially weaken the success of the Council. Along with China's influence in the HRC there's also using its economic power to influence other countries interaction. One example of this he mentioned was regarding China using vaccine diplomacy to influence countries to quiet down on their criticism of their treatment of Uyghurs. Ukraine was one of the countries who's on the list to sign a statement that was critical of China, however after receiving vaccinations from China they removed themselves from the list of signees. Piccone, while critical of China and their actions on the international stage, did clarify then in order for us to be critical of them, The United States must too be willing to go under the scrutiny of the HRC.

From there, Ambassador Mendelson picked up on the issue of universality. She mentioned that while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to us all, it may be difficult to implement in our country. However, she stated that “universality is as relevant today, as it was, I would say in 1948.” She also made note of the fact that the international issues of security during the Cold War times are not the same issues as today. Today, international issues need to be focused more on socioeconomic issues, development, and the full spectrum of the SDGs.

Regarding the United States regaining power on the international stage, Ted Piccone said that the United States has to “practice what it preaches,” it needs to not only drive for international support of democracy, but also be a prime example of a successful democracy. Piccone said that we have been in a democratic landslide, with January 6th being the low point. So, we as a country have work to do to show evidence of our resilience and self-improvement. He finished the panel by saying that we have the multilateral systems in place with things like the SDGs, and the voluntary national reviews, now it is time to comply with them.

From there, the event moved from the panel discussion to a Q&A session. The first question asked was “Are there any spillovers of Biden’s policies on Russia and China that protects religious freedoms for locals in both countries?” Ambassador Mendelson in response touched on Secretary Blinken’s response to the Chinese persecution of the Uyghurs. Piccone picked up on that point and said that the United States and other democratic countries need to step up to impose sanctions on China as it’s a religious freedom, as well as a cultural, linguistic, and historical minority protection issue. He did also note that he found it surprising that the Islamic conference states have been quiet on the defense of Uyghurs.

The second question posed to the panelists was “a lot of the discussion focused on international development. The FY 2022 [budget] also discusses a lot of increases in humanitarian assistance funds. Do either of you have thoughts on that regarding the Biden administration?” Ambassador Mendelson responded, talking about the paradigm shift in aid implementation towards focusing on the needs of the local communities. She pointed out that often what we think local groups need is not what they want, nor need, as she showed with her example of Syrian refugees in Southern Turkey.

The next question, regarding the impact youth can make was “What do you think are the most general ways for young people such as YPFP and UNA-NCA members who are already engaged in this work to push the Biden administration to comply with the SDGs as well as implement them in our own communities?” Ambassador Mendelson said that one way was to show support for bills in Congress that support the SDGs and show them that these issues matter to the youth of our country.

Next came a question regarding a critique of the United Nations, “Can you speak on the reforms that need to be made by the United Nations and the multilateral system to become more relevant in a post-COVID system?” Piccone took the lead on this question mentioning the re-election of António Guterres as Secretary-General of the United Nations. He said that in Guterres’s first term he was dealt a weak hand with the combination of a lack of support from the Trump Administration, as well as Russia and China making it difficult to make any impactful change. But Piccone is hopeful for success in Guterres’s second term. Ambassador Mendelson on the other hand mentioned the need for reform of the UN Security Council. While she did not have an answer to how to fix it, she mentioned United Nations General Assembly’s growing frustration with the lack of efficiency as evidence for the need to change.

The final question of the night touched back on Israel asking, “What would you suggest the U.S. do to address the UNHCR’s bias against Israel?” Piccone suggested that Israel be treated like any other country, as opposed to simply a constant item on the docket. Ambassador Mendelson said that in her time in New York she saw the anti-Israel bias as intense and widespread.

In Ambassador Mendelson’s closing remarks, she implored the young people listening to understand that the scope of international relations is becoming more and more fluid, and that the SDGs are crucial to prioritize. Piccone finished with a warning that China is a serious competitor on the international stage that poses a direct threat the universal human rights, the United Nations, and multilateralism.

23 June 2021

Annual Membership Meeting 2021

By Mackenzie Norton, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

On Tuesday, June 15th, UNA-NCA held its Annual Membership Meeting. This event featured a discussion with UNFPA Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, as well as a presentation of the Annual Reports, announcement of the newly elected members to the Board of Directors, granting of the annual awards, and a live piano performance by Graduate Fellow Alumna Keren Yang. 

The program opened with remarks from outgoing Board Chair, Stephen F. Moseley. Mr. Moseley spoke on the turbulent past year we experienced through the pandemic, and how UNA-NCA has been a source of community and support for members, volunteers, and staff. He shared the fact that UNA-NCA’s membership now consists of 64% people under 40 -- a statistic that shows both the passion of young people for global issues and the promising future of the organization. Before introducing UNA-NCA’s President, Paula Boland, he left on a hopeful note, touching on the incoming changes brought with the Biden Administration and the reignition of collaborative spirit between the United Nations and the U.S.A. 

Paula Boland then introduced Dr. Natalie Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). She noted that although so much progress has been made, currently more than 760 million people are living in extreme poverty. Sexual and reproductive health issues are a leading cause of death for women, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the moderator, Paula then moved on to asking Dr. Kanem a few questions about her work at UNFPA. 

Paula began by asking Dr. Kanem to share the efforts of UNFPA in response to the pandemic. Dr. Kanem explained how UNFPA has over 5,000 members working in 150+ countries and was one of the first to “sound the alarm” when they understood a pandemic was coming that was going to involve movement restrictions. She described how because of the pandemic women were unable to go about the course of daily business and girls were kept home from school, leaving them vulnerable. The UNFPA accurately predicted that during the pandemic, gender based violence, loss of agency, child marriage, and genital mutilation, could increase. In order to address this, UNFPA worked with local, women-led organizations that they had existing relationships with to build shelters for people in need overnight, create hotlines, and figure out early logistics through working with governments. 

The second question asked what it means to the organization that the Biden-Harris Administration had resumed funding to UNFPA after a four year lapse. Dr. Kanem described how financial support is so important and they are grateful to the Biden Administration for reaffirming that women’s rights are human rights. However, while the U.S. is returning to its stance of support for the UN, in many ways it never left. The past four years were a difficult period with challenges to sexual and reproductive health, but the U.S. has always led when it comes to women’s rights. Although they had to be creative and find new ways of working, UNFPA’s team in Washington worked hard to preserve their goals. Going forward, the tremendous influence that the U.S. yields will be on the side of the most vulnerable girls, which is essential for the future.  

Next, Dr. Kanem was asked what the relationship with the U.S. means to UNFPA beyond funding. Dr. Kanem explained how the strong relationship with the U.S. is important through evidence and data from the census, as they often assist developing countries with updating and creating censuses. Beyond a monetary relationship, their collaboration with the U.S. is a partnership to strengthen the developing world. In practically every instance where the U.S. is working in the developing world, UNFPA is a partner, making sure women’s choices are respected. Dr. Kanem noted that the symbolism of the Biden administration making efforts to be more inclusive carries a lot of power. While the money is very important, especially in places like Yemen and Syria, having the issues of justice spotlighted by the leadership of the U.S. is essential in defending the rights of the most vulnerable people.  

The following question asked what UNA members can do to help UNFPA. Dr. Kanem answered by noting that “the world needs the UN and the UN needs you...Whether you are persuading someone in your family, mentoring someone else, standing up in front of the school board -- the idea of solidarity among people is part of the hope I carry.” She advocated for people to stand up and speak out whenever given the chance, and to continue to engage in important dialogue and participate in organizations like UNA-NCA, calling the support of UNA-NCA’s members a “beacon of light.” 

Next, Paula asked Dr. Kanem: “The UNFPA was created in 1969, what makes UNFPA relevant today?” Dr. Kanem described reviewing their trajectory for the Nairobi summit a few years ago and how UNFPA has changed over time. When UNFPA was created, population control discourse was prevalent, however, it became the vision of the organization that population was about people, not the numbers, and a consensus developed around women and couples having the right to decide how many children they want. Midway through the Cairo International Conference, they also had something new -- one of the first women high-level leaders of the UN who invited NGOs to fully attend the conference, a transformative decision. Dr. Kanem then talked about the beliefs and goals of UNFPA, such as promoting women’s local leadership and making contraceptives available to women around the world. According to her, “it comes down to an issue of choice.” The UNFPA is also working to address sex based violence through prevention and helping survivors to heal. 

Dr. Kanem was then asked to share the highlights from her recent humanitarian trip to Yemen. She explained how Yemen is in its seventh  year of conflict, leaving the population exhausted, with specific fatigue placed on women. Every two hours a pregnant or delivering woman dies. With the security situation, women cannot safely get to health centers. Dr. Kanem described the conversations she had with many Yemeni women and the terrible experiences they have suffered through. With the additional financial support from the Biden Administration UNFPA hopes to be able to reopen clinics and provide reproductive care and contraception to the millions of women in Yemen asking for it.  

Finally, Paula Boland concluded the discussion by asking Dr. Kanem to share insights on UNFPA’s recent multi-year strategic plan. Dr. Kanem explained how the plan consists of three overarching goals. First, to ensure that there is a serious effort towards contraception and family planning, meaning zero unmet needs for family planning. Second, ending preventable maternal deaths and the tragedy of womb damage (fistula) during prolonged labor. This also includes working against child marriage as many of the deaths that occur during childbirth are due to girls giving birth at a very young age. And third, focusing on gender based violence, including putting an end to the expectation that women will suffer in silence, including trafficking and femicide, and giving women the chance to speak up. 

After thanking Dr. Kanem, Stephen F. Moseley then returned to present the Annual Reports, now available on UNA-NCA’s website. Highlights included membership growth to over 1,000 members this year, increased engagement from young people, a growing number of partners, and a variety of successful programs both in person and online. Mr. Moseley then went on to thank all of the members, corporations, and organizations that made generous donations this year, as well as the families that work to provide millions of dollars a year for UNA-NCA’s endowment. Because of these contributions, UNA-NCA is more financially stable than it has ever been. Finally, he concluded with a hopeful look into the future as the return to normalcy continues and staff can finally begin going back to the office. 

Next, Vice Chair of Strategy and Operations, Lauren Terrell, announced the results of the Board of Directors election. She began by thanking the nomination committee, led by Nominating Committee Chair Kristin Hecht, for their extensive work finding the best candidates and focusing especially on the diversity and equity of the board. She shared that the new demographics of the board consist of a balanced gender composition, 50% aged 18 to 44, 11% Asian, 28% Black, 11% Hispanic, 6% Middle Eastern, and 44% white. A variety of sectors are also represented within the newly elected board, including education, corporate, government, foreign policies, NGOs, philanthropy, international development, and international relations. Lauren Terrell then announced the newly elected slate, consisting of Jill Christianson as Board Chair, Sultana F. Ali as Vice-Chair of Communications, Timothy Barner as Vice-Chair of Finance, Thomas Bradley as Vice-Chair of Programs, Kristen Hecht as Vice-Chair of Membership & Volunteer Engagement, Ambassador C. Steven McGann as Vice-Chair of Development, Lauren B. Terrell as Vice-Chair of Strategy & Operations, and Lanice C. Williams as Vice-Chair of Young Professionals. Elected Directors-at-Large include Brian Griffey, Christina Hansen, Louis Henderson Sr., David M. Luna, Katherine Marshall, Abbey Ogunwale Ph.D, D. Yvonne Rivers, and Richard Seifman. Elected student representatives include Thomas Liu as the undergraduate representative and Maekara Keopanapay as the graduate representative. 

After thanking the outgoing board members and congratulating those newly elected, the program then transitioned to the first of two beautiful piano performances by Graduate Fellow Alumna Keren Yang, who performed live from Seoul, South Korea. Her first piece was her own arrangement of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. 

Next, the annual awards were presented. The Evelyn Falkowski Volunteer Service Award was given to Kristin Hecht, the Vice Chair of Membership and Volunteer Engagement, who also worked with the Membership Committee and Nominating Committee. The Richard and Anne Griffis Program Leadership Award was presented to the Graduate Fellows Program, and accepted by Co-Directors A. Edward Elmendorf and Nancy Donaldson. Finally, the Arthur W. Johnson Leadership award was granted to Stephen F. Moseley for all of his hard work as Board Chair over the past four years. 

The event concluded with closing remarks from the newly elected Board Chair Jill Christianson. She praised the success of the variety of programs run by UNA-NCA this year, including Coffee Chats, Global Classrooms, and the Model UN program. She referenced the current issues that we are facing, stating that “our collective strength within UNA-NCA can only be stronger and we can continue to be nimble and efficient by keeping our eyes on the equity factors that play out in our neighborhoods and around the globe.” Jill thanked all of the staff, volunteers, and members who have contributed to all of the successes of the organization this year. She ended the program by looking to the future, noting how “as we embrace our diversity and reckon with our identity as an intergenerational, multi-racial, gender inclusive organization, we are stronger.”  

The program closed with a second piano performance by Keren Yang of a special arrangement of Franz Liszt’s “Rhapsodie Espagnole” (Spanish Rhapsody).

16 June 2021

UNA-NCA Is Proud To Present The 2021 Annual Reports


UNA-NCA 2020-2021 Annual Report

Global Classrooms DC 2020-2021 Annual Report

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