VAccording to the UN, human rights is a cross-cutting theme in all its policies and programs in the key areas of peace and security, development, humanitarian assistance, and economic and social affairs. Nearly all UN bodies and specialized agencies are involved with protecting human rights.

UNA-NCA centers the important work of promoting and protecting Human Rights through the chapter’s Human Rights Committee (HRC). This highly active committee meets monthly to address pressing human rights issues through educational activities, advocacy, and activism. Based in the capital city, the UNA-NCA HRC is uniquely situated at the intersection of local, national, and global stages, and the committee works across all of them.

A diverse group of UNA-NCA members who share an interest and/or background in Human Rights related issues make up the committee, pooling their individual resources, expertise, and experiences to hold vigorous conversations, plan events, launch initiatives and respond to current Human Rights-related matters.

Promoting

Human rights begin “in the small places, close to home,” as Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, and the UNA-NCA HRC works hard to bring the resources, advances, and successes of human rights work globally to the national and local stages. This includes promoting human rights both through celebratory activities as well as educational events and thought leadership.

The committee plans and executes on 6 - 10 activities each year, which vary depending on current events and the committee makeup. These include two annual events led by the UNA-NCA HRC that promote human rights broadly, the Human Rights Awards and the Eleanor Roosevelt Happy Hour.

Human Rights Awards

The Annual Human Rights Awards ceremony is an electrifying event honoring Human Rights champions and highlighting their work. Among honorees are individuals, professionals, and organizations, with criteria for the awards focusing on diplomacy, gender issues, local initiatives and more. Honorees are nominated by the public and vetted through a UNA-NCA HRC subcommittee and the Executive Council of the UNA-NCA Board of Directors. This inspiring event is typically held with a special reception in the evening, but actually originated as a luncheon. The UNA-NCA HRC works closely with the office staff to inform the honorees, procure sponsorships, develop a series of promotions, meet with and interview all finalists, manage media, and host the event program. 

Eleanor Roosevelt Happy Hour

This celebratory, lighthearted event is a highlight of the season, set on or around Eleanor Roosevel’s birthday--complete with a birthday cake and some photo-booth fun! Frequently co-hosted with other committees (such as the Young Professionals or the Sustainable Development Committee), the event invites everyone in UNA-NCA as well as non-members for a night of networking and celebrating the human rights we enjoy today, and light remarks from notable guests. 

Other events and activities to promote human rights over the years have included an LGBTQ+ panel celebrating pride month, events focusing on the future of the UN and human rights, publications on the Articles of the UDHR, and more.

Protecting

Throughout the year, the UNA-NCA HRC also addresses current local, national, and global events and moments, tapping into the expertise of committee members and their colleagues. Because they are tied to current issues, these are not typically annual projects, however some have spanned several years:

Universal Periodic Review

The UPR is a mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council and includes reports from the UN and the countries under review, as well as “shadow reports” submitted by civil society members and organizations. The UNA-NCA committee has authored a white paper, hosted several events analyzing the reports (such as those on China and Russia), and most recently, embarked on a nearly two-year process of submitting our own shadow reports to the UN on the state of human rights in the national capital area. This process included hosting a “what is human rights” open engagement event in DC, a series of three open-invitation workshops across the city, a survey, a radio segment, multiple partnerships, and outreach to embassies around Washington DC. It culminated in an invitation to participate in an offsite event during the UPR session in Geneva. Although that side event was ultimately cancelled due to COVID-19, the UPR session was held virtually six months later and committee members were present online.

CEDAW

The UNA-NCA HRC has had a DC for CEDAW subcommittee turned ad-hoc committee that works at the local and national level to get DC to ratify CEDAW and, ideally, get the USG to ratify it, as well. Innumerable articles have been written, events hosted, and advocacy has been done over the years to this end.

Other events and activities of the committee over the years have included applying for and winning a StandUp4HumanRights Grant to map forward from violence against women, holding a panel on election observation, participating in round-table human rights discussions at the US State Department, and much more.

All committee members are expected to participate in committee meetings regularly and encouraged to identify, plan, promote, and participate in events, outreach, and advocacy throughout the year.

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