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10 January 2018
Renewing UNA-NCA’s commitment to US engagement with the UN for long term Peacebuilding, Development, and Human Rights
By UNA-NCA President Stephen F. Moseley

Dear colleagues and friends of UNA-NCA,

As the 2018 New Year begins, I am hopeful that our work together will be able to improve the tenor of the debates in politics surrounding the US engagement with, and support for the United Nations. In my 50 some years of adult lifetime work US engagement at the governmental and NGO levels, our connections across the world have undergone many radical changes in purpose and mission. Throughout most of these years, under both Republican and Democratic leaders, the US government along with the majority of our citizens have maintained a commitment to contribute to improving people’s lives and opportunity for positive social and economic development. Importantly, even when we have had sharp political differences with a particular country, the US has been relatively generous with both treasure and talent, with a view that working together across borders and exchanging ideas across cultures has both a near term and long term mutual benefit. These benefits include national and individual opportunity, peacebuilding, poverty alleviation, and the effect of fostering US values of human rights and dignity for all.

At a minimum, the US has been steadfast in generous support of humanitarian relief efforts, including famine relief even in North Korea in the 1990’s.  Whenever US engagement is not planned and measured for mutual human benefit, the resulting interactions often cause conflict or outright warfare and build new barriers between people, cultures and nations which can take decades to overcome. As a rich country, our economic and social investments around the world in education, health, entrepreneurship, training, encouragement of democratic ideals, attempts at peacebuilding and peacekeeping have been usually well received. This is especially true when these actions have been planned and conducted in a full partnership with the people of the country, and in concert with other donor governments and agencies with common and collaborative agendas. 

History has shown that unilateral social and economic development assistance by the US often fails to provide lasting mutual benefit, just as unilateral political or military interventions seldom succeed, even if seemingly for a good cause.  When America decides to “go it alone” or pursue America’s interests “First” and outside of lasting partnerships, it is often a signal that the objective lacks the support of the international community and thus may do more harm than good. This lesson has taken years to be learned, respected and practiced.  All too often even recent history of other nation’s disastrous unilateral actions are disregarded. In deciding on a near unilateral invasion of Iraq 15 years ago, in 2003, our political leadership failed to recognize the lack of success by similar British efforts only a few decades earlier. Likewise, in the ongoing military battle in Afghanistan, our political leadership has apparently ignored the historical underpinnings of fiercely independent cultures and origins of the different parts of the country, as well as the historical interests of neighboring countries. 

Fortunately, from 2012 through 2015, world leaders under UN auspices and with strong participation by the US, paused to assess and reflect together with input and advice from millions of private citizens around the world, about the cumulative knowledge gained from some 60 years of development experience. This reflection provided an opportunity to make future global development investments more effective and efficient in meeting the great global challenges of alleviating mass global poverty and the underlying causes that prevent global peace.  For the first time in human history, a near universal set of goals and plans for their implementation was reached and agreed upon by all nations in the world (except Syria and Nicaragua at the time).

These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or the 2030 Goals), to be achieved from 2016 through 2030, recognized that the principles for success of the goals and plans needed to emphasize individual human DIGNITY; inclusive opportunity for economic PROSPERTY for all; fair governance and JUSTICE for all; a focus on PEOPLE to include health and knowledge for all, including all women and children; protection of the PLANET through an international pact to minimize climate change by carbon pollution; and to foster new governmental, business  and non-governmental organization PARTNERSHIPS among and with all nations, local neighborhoods  and societies. Importantly the goals and these principles have been planned to be applied universally in all countries, rich and poor including our USA, and by all sectors. Further, the Goals were designed to be interconnected, supporting and influencing one another, and to leave no one behind. They allow cities, communities and organizations to align with the SDGs and measure localized progress using the goals to create social change from the ground up.  

This backdrop gave new meaning and shared purpose for improving people’s lives with the engagement of both rich and poor countries, and in a mutual pact for implementation by business, local and national governments, NGOs, faith based institutions, and a huge range of local citizen led groups around the world. At the heart of the 17 Goal effort, are seven key goals for saving our environment and lessening the degradation and threats of severe climate change; four key goals about economic growth that would narrow the chasm between the very rich 10 percent, and the majority of struggling families and workers; and five key goals that directly address poverty, education, health, hunger, human rights and women’s rights, and justice and Peacebuilding. They were designed with the final goal of building new institutional partnerships within and between countries.   

In many ways all of us associated with UNA-NCA have, through the SDG process, participated with the citizens in all countries, to update and refine the Agenda for Action to strengthen the United Nations now entering its 73rd anniversary in 2018 and the 70th anniversary of the 1948 signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 2018.

Now at the start of 2018, the citizens of the world and a majority of our own citizens across the country are worried that the US government, with the largest economy on earth, is backing away from championing these critical commitments. They fear that the US will abandon its commitment to improving social, economic, environmental and human rights for global peace and prosperity, both abroad and in our own country. Recent National independent polls show more than an 80% approval by our fellow Americans to remain firmly engaged with the UN, especially for humanitarian, development and peacekeeping needs, where the US is the single biggest contributor, albeit at a cost of less than ¼ of 1% of our national budget.  

Our work together at UNA-NCA throughout this year 2018, will focus on building with even more urgency, the commitment and understanding of these universal goals for the wellbeing of all our own people in the US and in our local neighborhoods, and for their interaction with others to do the same in all countries of the world. We will increase our devotion to our mission to strengthen, and even offer recommendations to reform the UN by conducting and expanding our programs that engage students and youth in our Global Classrooms Model UN program, our programming on Sustainable Development, Peace and Security policy, Gender Equality, Human Rights, International Law, advocacy- education work nationally and locally, conducting our Young Professionals career development programs, and continuing our UN Graduate Fellows Programs for graduate students from the surrounding universities in Maryland, Virginia and DC. Championing global and domestic attention and actions to support all peoples’ Human Rights, will be the overarching theme for all of our programs in 2018- Standing up for Human Rights.  

I well recognize that reading the headlines and current stories any day of the week over the past year can be depressing as we face the seeming lack of attention and understanding in the White House and among key Cabinet officials about the country’s essential long term leadership in global affairs. Particularly lacking is an understanding of the need to support fair and equitable opportunity for social, economic and environmental progress for all, including meeting the urgent and growing humanitarian crises and conflicts causing the largest number of migrants and refugees in the world today since World War II.

Nonetheless, I believe and have hope for forward positive thinking and engagement on these issues and the actions we can take together and individually, to keep making progress for all. Disregarding history can lead to repeating mistakes and growing new problems in international affairs.  Fortunately, there is now also a fact based record of the historical trend and benefits that accrue to the world by keeping a steady course of investment globally and locally in human needs for social, economic and environment improvement.

A good healthy perspective on these goals and their progress over time from the 1960’s to date, and going forward, can be found in reading the following books, articles and reports: 

1. The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World, book by Steven C. Radelet, an American Economist, now Director of the Global Human Development Program at Georgetown University, and former policy leader at the State Department, USAID, and the Brookings Institution;

2. The New York Times Op- Ed, January 7th, 2018, titled “Why 2017 Was the Best Year in History”, by Nicholas Kristof (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/opinion/sunday/2017-progress-illiteracy-poverty.html);

3. Our World in Data website, with calculations by Max Roser an Oxford University economist (https://ourworldindata.org/);

4. Enlightenment Now, a new book forthcoming this month by Steve Pinker, a Harvard University Psychology professor, noted in the NY Times by columnist Nicholas Kristof (https://www.amazon.com/Enlightenment-Now-Science-Humanism-Progress/dp/0525427570/ref=sr_1_1/145-9732511-7751262?ie=UTF8&qid=1515604266&sr=8-1&keywords=enlightenment+now);

5. Remarks to the Global Humanitarian Policy Forum, December 13, 2017, Amina Mohamed, UN Deputy Secretary General (https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/dsgsm1122.doc.htm);

6. The remarks made by the four UNA-NCA Human Rights honorees on December 7, 2017 (https://spark.adobe.com/page/tPvVHxmBETOKi/);

7. Congress and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A Lawmaker’s Perspective on Strong U.S. Leadership in the United Nations and on Climate Action, program held on August 8, 2017 on Capitol Hill (http://unanca.org/news-events/news/980-congress-and-the-sustainable-development-goals-sdgs-a-lawmakers-perspective-on-strong-us-leadership-in-the-united-nations-and-on-climate-action);

8. Diplomatic Perspectives of the Sustainable Development Goals, program held on September 25, 2017 at Georgetown University (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWzXwMrzsgg&list=PLPGObohwEsSlMCRfiH6LUYIIZNM1Ifi_U); and

9. Reform and Strengthening of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Would Serve Important US National Security Interests, report by the UNA-NCA Peace and Security Committee issued on November 2017(http://unanca.org/news-events/news/1033-unpko-and-us-national-security-interests)

10. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017 – United Nations publication (https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/files/report/2017/TheSustainableDevelopmentGoalsReport2017.pdf