The Latest from UNA-NCA

December 20, 2023

Write up of the 2023 Human Rights Awards

On December 6th, 2023, UNA-NCA hosted our annual Human Rights Awards Ceremony at the National Education Association. This year’s celebration was special as it marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We were incredibly delighted to present awards to four outstanding individuals and one organization who are working to improve human rights in their communities and around the world.

December 19, 2023

My UNA-NCA Journey

I began my journey at the UN Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA)-an organization dedicated to mobilizing support for the UN’s vital work - as a young professional. It was through my volunteer experience that I found an outlet for my passion for international cooperation and an appreciation of the need to advocate for a strong U.S. leadership role in the international community.

I was fortunate to have had access to quality education and opportunities while growing up in Latin America. At an early age, I benefited from living abroad and learning from other cultures. This made me value the important work of the UN in promoting access to quality education for all, particularly for women and girls, and the incredible impact that investment has over time in strengthening communities and lifting them up from poverty.

I started my journey with UNA-NCA’s Young Professionals (YP), leading its Latin America Committee initially and then elected to serve as YP Chair on the Board of Directors. During that time, I strengthened the participation of young people through leadership and professional development opportunities, initiated partnership collaborations with local groups and the Pan American Health Organization, launched new programs and expanded membership.

After volunteering for a few years, the chapter hired me as its program director. I worked closely with leaders and partners through programming aimed at providing quality education, advancing human rights and bringing understanding on relevant global issues and their impact at the local level.

Becoming the organization’s chief executive was not something that I had planned or envisioned as I thought I would go back to practicing environmental law. However, the opportunity came my way and I benefited greatly (and still do!) from the advice and mentoring of long-time leaders.

During the past years, we strengthened the organization’s diversity, developed and nurtured strategic partnerships, expanded programs such as our Global Classrooms Model UN, which is implemented year round in DMV area schools; launched new initiatives like Global Goals at Home; and strengthened our advocacy efforts at the national and local levels, successfully influencing budget appropriation processes and passing legislation to advance the principles of CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) in the District of Columbia.

Among my fond experiences, are the annual participation at the United Nations in NY, representing UNA-USA in several forums and as a delegate to the World Federation of UN Associations, and serving as UNA-USA Regional Representative and National Council Chair.

What I treasure the most about being a UNA member is its intergenerational engagement, the chance to interact and learn from likeminded individuals, the opportunities for leadership development as well as mentor and being mentored.

UNA-NCA provides a platform for members and leaders to advocate for important issues such as global peace, sustainable development, and human rights. Whether you are a new or current member, I strongly recommend you get actively involved with the chapter. We have several committees and programs you can lend your expertise and help grow. There are always opportunities to lead and start new projects if you have the commitment and willingness to make things happen!

December 13, 2023

By: Kate Lovas, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee Co-Chair

South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence (GBV), with women being killed by their partners at a rate five times higher than the global average. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 16 Days of Activism against GBV campaign, it is important to spotlight activists like Ncazelo Ncube, founder of PHOLA, who utilizes innovative approaches to address and reduce GBV. 
Through her work, Ncazelo helps GBV survivors become agents of social change in their personal lives, families, and communities. During a discussion hosted by the World Bank Group Women for Development Alliance, Ncazelo shared how she is familiar with the disadvantages women generally experience and has found inspiration. While working for the Nelson Mandela Children Fund, she grew a stronger desire to change the lives of those disadvantaged, especially women and children. Ncazelo has admired the courage displayed by women who face many hardships but continue to get up each day and show up for their families and communities. She draws inspiration from images of women walking long distances with buckets on their heads, adding that she feels like she is carrying one in many ways.
Miguel San Joaquin, founder and film director of POLO, captured Ncazelo’s inspiring work through the Caravan of Joy and Tears. POLO is a global nonprofit film production platform dedicated to amplifying transformative stories about inspiring women, emphasizing social impact, and prioritizing low and middle-income nations. When asked why he filmed Ncazelo’s story, Miguel explained how she uses African-tailored solutions to address African problems. Understanding the root causes of GBV and pursuing local solutions rather than just trying to fit solutions drawn from other parts of the world is essential. Miguel described how he could not stop thinking about how someone could grow from a child to someone later in life who would beat a woman. With the topic of GBV being tremendous in South Africa and the question weighing on his mind, Miguel chose to highlight this story.
It is important to consider GBV in the context of the UDHR, a document that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings. As stated in Article 3, everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of persons. Victims of GBV are denied this essential right and are often robbed of feeling safe in their own homes. GBV can affect every aspect of a woman's life, from their physical and mental health to their community involvement. It is also essential to remember GBV risks in humanitarian responses to growing conflict seen around the world, as women can be at greater risk in crisis scenarios. Article 5 states that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. This, too, can apply to GBV since women should not be subjected to this inhumane treatment that can have both short and long-term effects. The 75th anniversary of the UDHR, accompanied by Miguel’s documentary, provides an opportunity to remind the world that women have the right to feel secure in their everyday lives.

December 4, 2023

Interview with UNA-NCA's 2023 Community Award Honoree: Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative, Director Kristin Henning

By: Nyla Campbell and Kate Lovas, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee Co-Chair

We had the privilege of conversing with Kristin Henning, a trailblazer in youth advocacy. As a recognized figure in the fight for children's rights, she graciously shared insights into her journey, offering a glimpse into her unwavering commitment to the well-being of children. Finding inspiration and a guiding force is crucial in pursuing justice for children. Professor Henning's story unveils a narrative of passion, dedication, and relentless devotion to youth advocacy. Join us as we explore the transformative moments and impactful initiatives that have shaped her career. 

Professor Henning's journey into youth advocacy began during her time in law school, where she encountered a mentor who would leave an indelible mark on her career—Jean Koh Peters, a distinguished specialist in child advocacy. Peters' compassion, subject matter expertise, and unwavering dedication became a source of inspiration for Professor Henning. Their connection spurred a desire to contribute meaningfully to children's welfare, although the path ahead remained uncertain. Guided by Peters' influence, Professor Henning entered the legal arena committed to youth advocacy. The realization that there was a need for representation in delinquency cases became a pivotal moment in her journey. Because her law school professors encouraged students to be leaders and address the gaps in representation, Professor Henning began her 26-year career advocating for children's rights. 

Faced with the stark reality of the racial disparities in the justice system, she recognized the urgent need to address racial biases within the legal system. The challenge of continuing the work without addressing the broader racial justice issues became too significant to ignore. Professor Henning's commitment led her to engage in direct representation and policy reform, training, and research to tackle the racial justice issues associated with youth advocacy. In her workshops on recognizing biases, Professor Henning acknowledges the resistance in the room and understands that some individuals may be unaware of their biases. She advocates for collaboration and finding common ground, urging a collective effort to identify and address biases within the system. Her aim is to reduce resistance and foster a deeper understanding of children's shared experiences, regardless of race and class. 

Professor Henning’s commitment extends beyond direct representation, as evidenced by her collaboration with the Gault Center to develop and host the Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP), now known as YDAP. This program, born out of a critical need for specialized training in representing children, aims to equip youth defenders with essential knowledge and skills, emphasizing that “every child needs a childhood.” She also collaborated with the Gault Center to develop the Racial Justice Toolkit for youth defenders, making another tangible impact in challenging racial inequities within the juvenile legal system. Discussing her leadership role in youth advocacy, Professor Henning drew parallels to experiences in international human rights by emphasizing the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in addressing global challenges faced by children. 

She sees racial justice as the most pressing challenge concerning the future of juvenile justice. Addressing the significance of race in legal questions is imperative for dismantling biases, and there is a need for laws and interpretations that account for the realities of race in society, offering a pathway to a more equitable juvenile justice system. Kristin Henning's journey is a testament to the transformative power of mentorship, the importance of proactive leadership, and the necessity of addressing racial justice in youth advocacy. Her unwavering dedication to the well-being of children and commitment to challenging biases have made her a guiding light in pursuing justice for the most vulnerable members of society.

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November 20, 2023

Interview with UNA-NCA's 2023 Emerging Leader Award Honoree: Amanda Strayer

Interviewed by Beth Akiyama & Blog Written by Ian Sloan

Throughout this interview, UNA-NCA’s 2023 Emerging Leader Award recipient Amanda Strayer covered various topics on her work before and during her current tenure as a Supervising Staff Attorney for Accountability at Human Rights First, where she advocates for the effective use of targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses around the world. She is also an alumnus of Georgetown University Law Center from which she graduated with a Doctor of Law degree and a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies.

November 15, 2023

An Interview with International Organization Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Ms. Allison Lombardo

By Kate Lovas, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee Co-Chair; and Spencer Kitchen, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee Member

We at UNA-NCA had the honor to sit down with the 2023 F. Allen “Tex” Harris Human Rights Diplomacy Honoree, Allison Lombardo, Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS), Bureau of International Organizations, U.S. Department of State. DAS Lombardo gave us an inside look at how she built a career advocating for human rights by keeping people at the heart of policy.

November 15, 2023

An Interview with UNA-NCA's 2023 Perdita Huston Human Rights Award Honoree: Stephanie Ortoleva

By Karen Mulhauser, UNA-NCA Past Board Chair; and Kate Lovas, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee Co-Chair

We at UNA-NCA had the honor to sit down with the 2023 Perdita Huston Human Rights Award Honoree, Stephanie Ortoleva, International Human Rights Lawyer and Activist.

November 14, 2023

David Luna, Co-Chair of the Peace and Security Committee, UNANCA

In today's global violent armed conflicts and violent spaces of insecurity, women are among the most vulnerable and adversely impacted people in our societies including in Ukraine, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti, and other hotspots around the world.

November 8, 2023

2023 Young Professionals Career Dinners in International Law, Human Rights, and Gender Equality

By Cesar Fernandez, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

On October 28th, 2023, the UNA-NCA Young Professionals (YP) Program hosted their semi-annual Career Dinner Series. This in-person series focused on Careers in the United Nations, International Law, Human Rights, Gender Equality and Advocacy, and Technology for Development. Part of the Young Professionals Career Dinner Series, discussions featured various professional individuals working in these respective fields. The speakers within this event offered inspirational guidance toward students and young professionals, sharing important perspectives and personal stories with respect to their fields.

October 26, 2023

A Celebration of UN Day: An Interview with UN Assistant Secretary-General Angelique M. Crumbly

By Angela He and Autumn Buckley, Assistants to the President

The United Nations (UN) stands as a beacon of hope and progress in our world, and its mission to maintain peace among nations is more indispensable than ever. In an enlightening interview with Angelique M. Crumbly, the Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant Administrator at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the significance of increasing awareness about the UN's mission becomes evident.

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