Thursday, April 20, 2017

UNA-NCA Young Professionals Spring Career Dinner

By Tselmegtsetseg Tsetsendelger, Director of Communications and Advocacy for UNA-NCA Young Professionals Program 

On Saturday, April 8th the Young Professionals of UNA-NCA held their bi-annual Career Dinner Series. The event started off with a reception at the United Nations Foundation where Robert Skinner, Director of the UN Information Center, was the keynote. Then the attendees of the evening left for their respective dinner. For this spring season, the Young Professionals had gathered career topics on the UN, Global Health, Sustainable Development, Communications and Advocacy, Refugees and Humanitarian Response, Gender and Advocacy, and International Law, Peace, and Security. Accomplished senior level and mid-career professionals present at the dinners included Sangeeta Rana, Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State, Lyric Thompson, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women, and Dawn Calabia, Honorary Senior Advisor to Refugees International.

The keynote speech that Mr. Skinner gave, set the tone for the rest of the night. He emphasized to the audience, a mix of recent graduates, young professionals, and professionals looking to change fields, that they should always pursue their interests and reminded everyone that careers don’t ever really take a straight line, but rather curve with different experiences and moments. Then Mr. Skinner gave the audience a walkthrough of his own past jobs and the path his career took. Mr. Skinner ended his talk with a short Q&A session, which included talking about failure, UNIC, and working in challenging climates.

I had the opportunity to attend the Careers in the UN discussion, which was the largest of the seven dinners. By the end of the event, I felt more inspired and appreciative of the frank and supportive answers that the speakers provided. The Careers in the UN dinner included Mr. Skinner as well as Fernando Flores, Program Officer at UNHCR, and Felipe Munevar, Head of Office of UNOPS. The three gentlemen shared the current hiring climate of the UN and gave practical advice and specific suggestions for the attendees. I really appreciated how the conversation was honest, and the speakers tried to be as transparent as they could about the hiring process in their respective organizations.

I am a big fan of the YP Career Dinner Series, this was the fourth one that I attended and every time that I go, it has given me inspiration and ideas on what I can do in the international field. I look forwarding to expanding my knowledge further at the fall 2017 career dinner!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rome International Careers Festival: Where Past Lessons Informed New Challenges

By Nicole Bohannon, Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) Program Manager

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Rome International Careers Festival and participated in their Rome Model United Nations simulation. Around 2,000 undergraduates, masters’ students, and young professionals took part in the programs, and came from every corner of the globe.

The entire festival consisted of four simultaneous programs: the Rome Business Game, the Rome Press Game, the Careers Seminar, and, of course, RomeMUN. I chose to represent Colombia in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to discuss access to primary education and youth employment opportunities. I was even lucky enough to have an enthusiastic partner, Claudio, who had never done Model UN before, but ended up loving every minute of it!

For nine hours a day, for three and a half days, I worked with Claudio to use all the strategies I have helped weave into the Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) curriculum as an intern and as a Program Manager. I researched, wrote, made countless speeches, negotiated, and advocated what I believed would work the best to bring together an amazing coalition of people. There were low points in the conference when no one was listening or interested in collaboration. But then there were high points, like when I led the charge in merging two massive resolutions between the group I helped form and the opposing alliance.

By the end of the conference, we saw the unanimous passage of a resolution that included compromises on a wide variety of topics. We crafted ideas about adult educational programs and recommendations that supported vulnerable populations pursuing education at all levels, in addition to creating an expert investment consortium and an international teacher exchange program.

I was proud of what my partner, my colleagues, and I were able to accomplish. On top of it all, Claudio and I won the Best Delegation award, the top prize in Model UN!

The Rome MUN conference reminded me how many important Model UN skills I have developed since I first started in tenth grade at 15 years old. Back then, I couldn’t talk to a group of ten people, let alone a committee of over 200 people. What surprised me is that the same fears I had as a teenager still affect me. At this conference, I was nervous every time I stood up to make a speech, or approaching a hostile.

But what I learned over seven years of doing Model UN was how to overcome that fear and instead speak up or take that risk. I cared about the ideas and policies I was talking about, and I have learned how to not let fear stop me from doing what I think is right.

I hadn’t been to a conference in over two years before attending the Rome International Career Festival. But the lessons never faded away. Recognizing how much Model UN changed and challenged me meant far more than a Best Delegate award.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Non-governmental Stakeholder Review of Climate Change and Sustainable Development Agenda

By Pari Kasotia
Deputy Director of The Solar Foundation, a member of the UNA-NCA Chapter and an active participant of the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee

On March 23, the President of the United Nations General Assembly convened a high-level event on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda in collaboration with the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As part of the process, the United Nations-Non-Governmental Liaison-Services facilitated a stakeholder Selection Committee for the evaluation of civil society and social entrepreneur candidates for speaking roles. Pari Kasotia, Deputy Director of The Solar Foundation, a member of the UNA-NCA Chapter and an active participant of the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee, was selected among a pool of highly qualified individuals by the President of the General Assembly and the Selection Committee to serve as the panelist for the afternoon session titled, “Implementing Solutions: Scaling up Implementations of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs”. Pari Kasotia shared the podium with highly influential dignitaries which included:

· Pei Liang, Negotiator, Department of Climate Change, National Development and Reform Commission, China
· Veronica Arias, Secretary of the Environment of the Metropolitan District of Quito
· Adnan Amin, Director-General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
· Markus Tacke, Chief Executive Officer, Siemens Wind Power
· Peter Wiklof, Chief Executive Officer, Alandsbanken Abp
· Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General (UNEP)
· Robert Kirkpatrick, Director, UN Global Pulse
· Carla Mucavi, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The opening session included remarks by the President of the 71st Session of the General, Assembly Mr. Peter Thomson who underlined the need for continued positive action and the need to bring them to scale to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Secretary-General António Guterres also emphasized the need for leadership that is backed by substance to address the looming threats of climate change.

Pari’s remarks touched on the role of the federal government in setting the goals and the policy agenda to take action on climate change but underscored the equally important role of the state and local governments and the civil society to bring about effective change, citing examples of states in the US such as California and the northeastern states for trailblazing and establishing cap and trade systems. Pari gave examples of her organization, The Solar Foundation, which is working incessantly to reduce market barriers of the solar sector and build the workforce to take on the new jobs of today and tomorrow. Pari also emphasized the crucial role of the private sector in demanding change and providing innovative solutions. Companies in the US such as IKEA, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and Whole Foods are staying true to their sustainability commitments and many African enterprises are implementing innovative solutions such as pay-as-you go solar services. Pari touched on the role of an active citizenry and civil society in demanding climate actions and holding their governments and other stakeholders accountable.

Pari concluded her remarks by emphasizing three key point: First, country governments and stakeholders should disseminate data which provides periodic updates on the progress being made. Second, countries need to establish baselines and benchmark any progress against those baselines. And last, governments, stakeholders, and civil society needs to provide transparency and accountability to their citizens to get them engaged and supportive in meeting the climate change agenda. 

Ending All Forms of Discrimination against Women: An Up Close Look in Annapolis, MD

By Kristen Hecht, Program Director, B.A. Rudolph Foundation

On April 1, 2017, the Annapolis Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority convened a community forum on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), an international treaty often referred to as the international bill of rights for women.

Representatives of Delta Sigma Theta introduced the program , provided background information on CEDAW, highlighted certain myths vs. facts of CEDAW, and stressed the point that the United States is one of only seven countries in the world that have not yet ratified CEDAW, including Iran and Sudan.

Following introductory remarks, keynote speaker U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) discussed the importance of recognizing women’s rights, emphasizing, “How a country treats its women is a prime determinant of its success.” As Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin explained the roles that the U.S. Senate and Foreign Relations Committee play in ratifying CEDAW. Ratification of the treaty requires support of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate, or 67 votes. And while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in July 2002 to recommend ratification of CEDAW, the Treaty has never come before the full Senate for a vote. Senator Cardin also discussed his previous and continued support of equal payment and advancement of his women, including his sponsorship of S.J. Res 5 - a joint resolution that would remove the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Following Senator Cardin’s remarks, the forum was comprised of three panels on issues that affect women disproportionately: human trafficking, employment discrimination, and education discrimination.

On the topic of human trafficking, Dr. Renee G. Murrell, Victim Specialist of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Baltimore Division, discussed services and support that the FBI provides to victims of crimes and methods it uses to combat human trafficking.

On the employment panel, Claudia J. Postell, Esq., Deputy Associate Commissioner of the Office of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity, Betty Smith, Founder and CEO of SBK2 Leadership Consulting, LLC, and Kristen Hecht, Program Director of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation highlighted current challenges facing women in the workplace, norms and stereotypes that perpetuate inequalities, and legal protections that are in place at the national level. Kristen Hecht discussed ways that CEDAW can be implemented at the local level despite it not being ratified nationally. In particular, she mentioned the Cities for CEDAW initiative, its effective implementation in San Francisco and other cities across the country, and the work that United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) is doing to adopt CEDAW in DC.

On the topic of education discrimination, Aaron Dorsey, Senior Program/Policy Analyst at the National Education Association highlighted inequalities that exist in educational opportunity, particularly when demographics of underrepresented people are taken into consideration. These inequalities perpetuate a “school to prison pipeline,” which can be combatted when schools and educators engage the community to meet academic, emotional, and social needs of all students.

The forum was concluded by closing remarks from Nas I. Afi and Michelle Schoonmaker, Social Action and International Awareness Chairs of Delta Sigma Theta. 

Highlights from the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

By Yi Ren and Ana Lucia Ancheta, UNA-NCA Program Assistants

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meets each year at the UN for two weeks in March. This year the theme was Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work. Each year, government representatives meet to share their countries' progress towards gender equality, and thousands of NGO leaders from all over the world meet simultaneously to share programs, projects, and successes around the theme.

On March 28th, UNA-NCA invited several panelists who attended CSW this year or in previous years to share their highlights from the wide range of sessions held at and around the UN. Panelists included Dr. Marisa O. Ensor from Georgetown University; Natko Gereš, Program Officer of Promundo; Karen Mulhauser, immediate past Chair of United Nations Association of the USA; and Kristen Hecht, Program Director of B.A. Rudolph Foundation. The moderator was Kimberly Weichel, Consultant with UN Women, UNA-NCA Advisory Council Chair, and Chair of the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s Women and Peacebuilding Affinity Group.

Dr. Marisa Ensor introduced the history of CSW and pointed out that only the achievement of gender equality could lead to the economic empowerment of women. From an academic perspective, she considered the CSW more informational than inspirational and spoke highly of the job Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) and the World Bank did in terms of advocacy.

Karen Mulhauser said that the gender equality situation in DC is better than most other communities nationally, but it is not enforced by legislation. Citing the McKinsey Global Institute, she noted that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women's equality.

Natko Gereš, as a male participant in the CSW, emphasized the importance of raising men’s awareness of gender equality and helping them form the proper way to treat women. He introduced some of Promundo’s accomplishment in this field as well. Promundo has involved youth from over 22 countries to question harmful gender norms, and for men around the world to discuss the benefits of involved fatherhood and shared decision-making, and the broader costs of violence and exploitation.

Kristen Hecht illustrated the urgent problems facing women globally, such as the global wage gap, higher unemployment, violence against women, and unsound legal protection for pregnant women.  Meanwhile, opportunities are parallel with challenges. There are programs aimed at getting 1 million girls into STEM, providing some of the highest paying positions that would benefit a great number of girls.

As an integral part of the global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without gender equality. The speakers and audience agreed that only when we work towards gender equality that the other goals will be achieved comprehensively. Gauging the progress of gender equity, through continued evaluations like CSW, will also be a sound mechanism to evaluate the status of global development.

Keeping It Real: Trump Plans to Cut Funding for Women’s Rights, What Can We Do to Stop It?

By Verka Jovanovic, UNA-NCA Fellow

In a world where child marriages are still a popular practice, where gender-based violence targeting predominantly women is too frequent and obvious to remain hidden behind closed doors, where women are still far from enjoying equality and equity in any sphere of public life, in that world, every woman, and man, who believes in the principles of gender equality and equity, can, and must find time for an additional duty:  the duty of advocacy for equality of all human beings regardless of how the society defines them by gender. We owe it to all the remarkable women in our lives.

     700 million women alive today were married as children.
     120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives.
     200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in 30 countries.
   70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
     Women who have been physically or sexually abused by their partners are twice as likely to have an abortion, depression, HIV …[1]

…and the list goes on. Some of us, have chosen to shape our professions precisely to address these issues. As part of the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program, we had the pleasure to discuss the dynamics of professional engagement of Ms. Lyric Thompson in combating the gravest issues affecting women and girls worldwide. Ms. Thompson is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). She is a passionate advocate for women’s rights both with the US Government and internationally.

March 31st, 2017 was a busy day for Ms. Thompson. She had just returned from the Capitol Hill, where she conducted one of her routine responsibilities - advocacy for continued funding for programs that  pursue greater gender equality by combating various issues that largely affect women and girls. Namely, as the Trump administration announced plans to reduce federal spending, funding for domestic violence programs such as Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), are under serious threat to be significantly reduced. If implemented, this funding reduction will be at the expense of providing vital resources to the victims of domestic violence, including safe shelter, legal services, transportation assistance, and child care.

Moreover, the new U.S. government leadership has planned not only to cut federal spending on internal structures and mechanisms for combating gender-based violence in the U.S., but also to reduce the funds that the U.S. has been devoting to the United Nations. Part of the U.N. funds is used to pursue global battles against gender inequality, against female genital mutilation, child marriages, and other discriminatory practices that violate basic human rights of women. The decision to cut funds normally allocated to the U.N., if implemented, would seriously affect gender equality programs and, consequently, impede achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which is aimed at “achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.” The U.N. would, consequently, have to perform under significantly lower capacities than planned in 2015, when the SDGs were set, making it harder for the goals to be achieved by 2030.

Nevertheless, despite active engagement of President Trump and his administration in proposing the budget cuts, the decision is not the President’s to make, argues Ms. Thompson. Any decision on reduction of funding of this type needs approval, or rejection by Congress. Voting on this matter is expected to take place in May 2017, when Congress will vote on the proposed budget for the upcoming year 2018. Consequently, advocacy is a tool that Ms. Thompson has been using to raise awareness on the Hill about the importance of continuous funding for global efforts pursuing the protection of girls’ and women’s well-being. Similarly, every U.S. citizen should put individual effort into fighting for the preservation of programs that keep women safer and healthier, thus contributing to a safer, healthier, and happier society as a whole.

If you are an American citizen, please take a minute and use the opportunity to tell the U.S. leadership that defunding U.N. would leave millions of women and girls without jobs and without protection from domestic and gender-based violence. Raise your voice for women and girls by contacting your Members of Congress, or by tweeting to them directly. Call the White House! Say out loud that you support women in their daily struggles for dignified life, free of violence and discrimination. Share with your friends on social networks how you have contributed to the protection of women’s rights and encourage them to do the same!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Association Visits Washington DC and Finds International Human Rights in Crisis

by A. Edward Elmendorf

Delivering a Global Justice lecture at Georgetown University’s Alumni House on March 15, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association Miana Kiai found human rights in crisis around the world. 

Introduced by UNA-NCA Leo B. Sohn Award Recipient and Georgetown University Professor Mark Lagon, Kiai called for people to show persistence in organizing. He observed that many NGOs in developing countries have an accountant and a lawyer, at donor request, and often a planner, but rarely an organizer. Yet he considered that the only profound changes in respect for human rights have come from persistent, organized effort from below, rather than above, in response to the demands of masses of people.

He was greatly worried by incursions on freedom of association under populist threats in many countries, mentioning Philippines, Zimbabwe, the United States and others. He spoke freely of China and Russia as being unresponsive to the requests of UN rapporteurs. Kiai lamented that only three percent of the UN budget is devoted to human rights, and asked rhetorically whether with such a small budget share human rights could be considered the third key pillar of UN activity.