Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Why MUN Matters - "The Most Rewarding Activity That I Have Ever Done"

By Susie Wang

Susie is a full-time graduate student at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She is now participating in an exchange program with the University of Sydney this fall to advance her professional knowledge in the Asia-Pacific region. Originally from Wuhan, China, Susie has had seven years of Model UN experience.


My teacher Mr. Ding introduced Model UN to me when I was a freshman in high school. Growing up in China, I did not care much about politics and barely knew anything related to international affairs. I just regarded Model UN as a good opportunity for me to improve my language skills and would like to challenge myself because it requires the participants to negotiate, give speeches, and write papers in English.

My first MUN conference was held here in Washington, D.C. At that time, I was intimidated by those American students. Although I never considered myself as a shy kid that is not willing to speak in public, it was still challenging for me to engage in the meeting because I did not really understand the language and all of the other delegates looked taller and stronger than me. I ended up skipping most of the sessions and having pizzas with my Chinese friends. As a little girl, who only craved for pizzas, I could never imagine that I would become a graduate student studying in the school that is located in downtown D.C. with a major of international affairs. I became who I am because of MUN.

When I went back to China after my first and embarrassing MUN conference, I decided to participate in several MUN conferences in China and started to introduce this activity to some of my classmates. As the leader of the MUN team in our school, I designed and facilitated MUN workshops to help the kids to get a better understanding about the MUN rules and procedures, as well as world affairs. I even wrote letters to their parents explaining how MUN can benefit their kids. I continued my cause of promoting MUN when I was in college and I started to go to those regional and national conferences where I met students from all around the country.

MUN turned out to be the most rewarding activity that I have ever done. Since I would regard each time representing a nation the chance to speak for the country after solitary researching, pondering and discussing, my participation into each conference would start at several weeks before the real meeting, if not immediately after the topic being revealed to us. Only with weeks of retrieving and studying as many important documents regarding the conference topic as I could reach would I be ensured a positive possibility of good performance. In addition to personal preparation, capacities of communication and teamwork were also indispensable, as the realization of the maximum common interests among the bloc could only achieve after bloc members working out a proper Draft Resolution and a satisfying plan to lobby the Draft Resolution together, and fulfilling a successful debate with the competing bloc. Throughout times of UN conferences, I did hone myself greatly in those abilities and being a leader more often than not in the blocs I belonged to, I also developed my leadership greatly.

On top of the development of my abilities, I received remarkable exposure to various topics relating to international relations, such as economic development, international security, environment protection, as well as disarmament. When preparing the meetings for those topics, I cultivated in myself a passion in international relations through the process of studying the international hot topics and of figuring out my thinking of solutions. In most of my attempts, I would apply the liberalism believing that the international community could keep an order in the constraints and coordination regarding international organizations and international laws, and states could coordinate their conflicts through channels including institutional arrangements, social interactions, trades, and contracts.

The past efforts to establish international organizations and norms have contributed to today's relatively orderly and peaceful situation: we can work together to face global problems. Being convinced of the significance of international organizations, I was looking forward to making my contributions to the cause. That is why I decided to study International Affairs in graduate school, regardless of the fact that it is such an unpopular major among my Chinese peers. MUN not only helped me to find the direction of my life but also shaped my personality. It encouraged me to not just be satisfied with what I got, but to care about the suffering of mankind. It inspired me to be kind, patient, and respect the opponent since I need to work with people from different backgrounds and with different interests all the time. I also got a lot of close friends, because MUN allowed me to meet people who are also interested in international affairs, public speaking, debates, and English (as a second language).

Now, I worked as a program assistant at Global Classroom DC, my team and I are working to design curriculums and workshops that introduce global issues and MUN to middle school and high school students. I am so excited to continue to be an advocator and educator for MUN and international affairs, and I firmly believe that it is beneficial to all.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Connecting With My Peers

By Takhmina Nasimova 

Takhmina is a Summer 2018 Program Assistant for the UNA-NCA Global Classrooms DC program. She is an undergraduate student at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, with a concentration in International Economics and Minor in Russian Studies.

Many ask me what it is like to be part of the Model United Nations, I always reply, “the Model United Nations is the conference that everyone must participate in at least once in their lifetime. The Model United Nations Conference helps young students to develop essential skills to succeed in life as well as to become active citizens of their country.” 

I immigrated to the United States together with my family when I was fourteen, a dangerous age when everything catches my attention and interest. At this point of life, it is important to be surrounded with right people and stay away from all the wrong temptations. Luckily, one of the teachers at my high school has started an International Studies Club that caught my attention. Already, at age fourteen I was into politics and international affairs due to its influence on my family’s and mine life. 

Way before moving to the United States my family was forced to leave our home country Tajikistan due to Civil War and move to Uzbekistan. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Political discussions would take place every family dinner since some of our relatives were still in Tajikistan. Questions like “How did international community react on the issue of Civil War in Tajikistan,” or “Who provided aid to Tajikistan…” would be asked constantly in our household and inspired me to become an advocate for human rights at the same time a representative of all people that are influenced by wars, natural disasters and epidemics. 

Back to my high school teacher, she did a great job of gathering all the students in an International Studies Club and introducing us with great activities such as the Model United Nations.  Some people say that the Model United Nations Conference is an unnecessary extracurricular activity that wastes students’ time.  However, I strongly disagree because I believe that the Model United Nations clubs and conferences help students to develop the skills that are often missed or replaced at public and private schools. For instance, during the club meetings, we would practice several skills and prepare for the conference. One of the most important skills that I learned during these club meetings are public speaking, negotiation and networking. It used to be extremely hard for me to participate in class discussions or accept others opinion on certain issues. But participating in different activities with my peers during the club meetings helped me to develop effective speaking, networking and negotiation skills.  

At my first conference, everything I learned during my club meetings helped me to network with different delegates, negotiate with nonnegotiable and stubborn delegates and be confidence to speak in front of the audience. Some may say that MUN is just a simulation of the UN committee and bodies; in my opinion, MUN is more than a simulation.  The Model United Nations is the whole new level of education that teaches young students about diplomacy and the importance of the international relations. In order to represent a country, students need to research and get to know the country’s policies, relations, priorities, and restrictions in the most accurate way. The Model United Nations was a first formal conference I attended. It was very intense but at the same time very effective in helping me to develop skills including leadership, teamwork, public speaking, negotiation, and writing.

After graduated from high school, I went to community college for my Associate Degree where with my professor’s help I was able to establish International Studies Club and even add the Model United Nations Conference at one of the political science course’s curriculum. In this course, we learned the international affairs concepts from textbooks but practiced the skills through participating at the International Model United Nations. I was assigned as the head of delegation because of my excellency in leadership and networking that I was trained in previous years of participation at the MUN Conferences. During the international conference, my delegation and I have met many different students from all over the world who were passionate about internal affairs of their countries and international affairs. By the end of the conference, my delegation was awarded distinguished delegates. 

I am thankful for my high school teacher for introducing me to such life changing conference -- MUN. Today, I feel honored to be part of the UNA-NCA GCDC as Program Assistant and work on designing and improving the curriculum for the middle and high school students. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Gaining a Different Perspective

By Megha Thomas 

Megha is a Summer 2018 Youth Intern for the UNA-NCA Global Classrooms DC program. She is a rising junior at Princeton Day School in New Jersey. She co-founded a club called Light-A-Mind, which is dedicated to increasing children’s access to education, and is an active member of her school's Model UN club.


After stumbling through my very first Model UN simulation at Princeton Day School in freshman year, I was convinced that Model UN was not for me. However, the Secretariat decided to give me a shot, and today, I could not be more grateful for that opportunity: the opportunity to learn, speak, and grow as a global citizen. 


Model UN quite literally opened my eyes to a multitude of perspectives that I never knew existed. First off, through Model UN, I have gained an inside perspective to the United Nations and seen General Assembly and Specialized Committees in action. Through moderated and unmoderated caucuses, question-and-answer sessions, and presentations, I have had the opportunity to listen and speak on numerous topics while stepping into a change-maker’s shoes and making changes of my own inside a committee session. 


Since my freshman year, I have attended 5 national and international conferences and have had a completely different experience in every one. Representing different countries have opened my eyes to what other countries around the globe think about real world issues, not just the United States’ stance. Although I may never again use my research on the number of refugees Iceland accepts annually or Algeria’s issues with food security, writing position papers and participating in committee sessions have made me a more educated, global citizen, and I definitely have a variety of fun facts to choose from when conversing on modern-day issues. 


Finally, and probably the most important, I have acquired an external perspective of how one person, or a group of people, can make changes to the world. Learning more about the Sustainable Development Goals and pressing worldwide issues has fueled my desire to brainstorm creative solutions and help those in need. This aspect of Model UN may not happen inside a conference room, but its roots and inspiration lie there. 


While Model UN may come off as a lot of debating, it truly is a team sport. Working together is crucial in Model UN and often turns into the best aspect of any conference. Forming blocs and alliances are often the foundations of friendship for me in any conference, and negotiating and compromising on solutions is the heart of the sport. Ultimately, Model UN has taught me about community, whether that be my PDS MUN team, the delegates in my committees, or our global community. Communities work together. 


The biggest piece of advice I can give to any first-timer in Model UN is to put yourself out there and take risks. It may seem intimidating to speak in front of a hundred people or make a controversial stance on an issue, but these steps help fuel your ideas to be out-of-the-box and original, along with making yourself stand out to other delegates. Truly, taking risks in Model UN ends up being like an experiment and helps you to believe in yourself. 


Model UN has made me stressed while writing clauses and scrambling to turn in a resolution paper on time, but it is also one of the most thrilling experiences for any globally-interested citizen; it’s never too late to start! I am truly grateful for every bloc, friendship, and committee session I have had in Model UN. Model UN has made me confident, a leader, and someone I am proud of.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Analysis: Trump, AMLO, & Immigration

By: Sara McNaughton, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

Migration is currently on the forefront of nearly every global leader’s mind. It was a topic President Trump promised to be tough on during his campaign, and since his election, it has caused a strain on the United States-Mexico relationship. The U.S. is one of many countries facing an influx of immigrants and refugees knocking on its door hoping to escape the conflict and war in their home countries.

Countries are addressing migration at a domestic level through varying means, the most popular of which appears to be nationalist policies that leave migrants uncertain of their future. Progress is indeed being made on an international level in an attempt to normalize how the world manages migration. In December, The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) will be ratified by all 193 UN member nations, minus the United States, displaying the ability to “[overcome] ‘mistrust’ and ‘difficult’ issues to draw up the first-ever migration pact.”

In the U.S., there is a growing negative rhetoric towards immigrants, particularly from Mexico, that has its roots in President Trump’s 2016 ‘America First’ campaign. Now, a year and a half into his tenure, Trump has been struggling to get a win in regards to immigration: he cannot obtain his desired funding from Congress for his wall (that he claimed during his campaign Mexico would pay for) and he implemented a controversial policy that separated thousands of children from their parents. He needs a break, and with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, he may have just received it.

In Mexico, citizens are fed up with the status quo. President Enrique Peña Nieto has been unsuccessful in improving issues such as a low GDP, poor wages, violence, and corruption during his tenure. What made AMLO stand out in the 2018 elections is, unlike the other candidates, he recognized the current system is not working and as a result is leaving people behind. He ran on a platform that encouraged bottom-up growth starting with the poor, and foreign policy that entails mutual respect between Mexico and the United States. His new approach to Mexican politics caused Mexico to experience the largest voter turnout in recent history, signaling that they are ready for change.

AMLO’s bottom up view of tackling economic growth and violence and corruption in Mexico is what appealed most to Mexicans. By changing the status quo for the lower class, creating more job opportunities and job training, increasing wages along the border, and providing more scholarships for youth, he will prompt change in two key areas. First, violence and corruption. With more opportunities for youth, they will be less likely to get involved with the cartels. The population is already becoming more organized and with improved social policies, they will continue to expect more transparency from the government. Second, economic opportunity. AMLO’s proposed policy changes will encourage more youth to reach for higher education and increase job opportunities. With a stronger working force, Mexico will become more attractive for international investment, fueling increased economic growth.

If López Obrador’s domestic agenda proves successful, there will be ripple effects on immigration. When combined, the improvement of the previous two points -violence and corruption and economic opportunity- will actually compliment Donald Trump’s immigration goals. Contradictory to the beliefs of the U.S. president, immigration is driven by need. When violence is present and economic opportunities are absent, a sustainable life remains unachievable. But when these issues are addressed, immigration will decrease. Through improving domestic conditions for Mexicans, it is AMLO’s hope “that Mexicans can work and be happy where they were born, where their family is, where their customs and their cultures are." If United States were to agree to the GMC, they would have the ability to combat domestic issues in Mexico at the same time. The agreement outlines provisions for timely and proper education for migrants and refugees. In addition, it aims to increase migrants’ “positive and profound contributions to economic and social development in their host societies and to global wealth.” These provisions equip migrants with the necessary skills to contribute to economic and social growth in the area in which they are living temporarily, but they will also take those skills back home. Their friends, neighbors, and family can then learn from them, increasing their contribution to domestic conditions from the bottom, up.

AMLO was extremely critical of Trump on his campaign trail and expects a U.S.-Mexico relationship based on mutual respect. Trump sent out a tweet congratulating AMLO after the election, showing signs of hope that this is a real possibility. Despite having ideologically opposite views, the two leaders share a common goal: decrease Mexican immigration to the U.S. AMLO has shown that he will be acting in the best interest of the average Mexican and will not tolerate exploitation. This puts him in a good spot to negotiate with Trump. If AMLO can show Trump that he is working on making the social and economic conditions in Mexico favorable for Mexicans to stay and live, then he will be in a position to ask the U.S. leader for something in return. Urging the U.S. to join the rest of the UN members in ratifying the DCM would seem like a reasonable ask for both sides. In which case, AMLO can ensure that Mexicans who continue to make the dangerous trek to the U.S. are treated fairly, and that their rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are respected. The agreement would not only warrant the prevention of human rights abuses to migrants, but would also provide support, additional resources, and multilateral funding to the host country, a factor that should be appealing to the U.S.

December 2018 will be a telling month for immigration. UNA-NCA President, Stephen F. Moseley said in a statement last week that “UNA-NCA gives special emphasis to the values of human rights for all, especially as we approach the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, 2018.” On that special day, the GCM will be formally adopted in Morocco. When this occurs, AMLO will be in the middle of his second week as the President of Mexico, as he takes power on December 1st. December 10th will also be the one year and one week mark of the U.S. resigning from GCM discussions. There is a lot to come in December, while the U.S. unfortunately remains on the sidelines once again. If in fact AMLO is the answer to improving livelihood in Mexico, he has the potential to decrease immigration to the U.S. and urge Trump to engage in the global effort laid out in the GCM, we can only wait and see.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Connect With New Friends and Solve Issues Quickly

By Jackson Malmgren 

Jackson is a Summer 2018 Program Assistant for the UNA-NCA Global Classrooms DC program. He is an undergraduate at American University majoring in international relations, and will focus on foreign policy. He brings with him five years of Model UN experience.


Model UN, much like the real United Nations, revolves around diplomacy. Diplomacy encompasses so many life skills, including creative thinking, problem solving, and negotiation, that cannot simply be taught in school. In elementary school, teachers encourage creativity and want students to ask why, but as kids get older, the curiosity fades. Model UN teaches kids to ask questions again. When representing a country, it’s not enough to say “we support refugees” or “we oppose nuclear weapons,” you have to ask why your country believes this. Trying to answer one question leads to more questions, more information about the topic, and a greater understanding of the country, its opinions, and the issue itself. 


I had a tough time getting used to this, I liked facts to be plain and simple and tell me exactly what I needed. During my first conference in my sophomore year of high school, I represented New Zealand on the United Nations Environmental Programme on the topic of deforestation in the Amazon. It is very difficult to find information on a topic that is half a world away, and I realized that I have to ask a lot of questions before I can truly understand an opinion. 


Each Model UN committee focuses on a general problem and gives delegates free reign to explore solutions. From combating money laundering in Europe to arms trafficking in Central America, Model UN encourages delegates to break down massive issues into dozens of smaller, solvable problems. Slowly, one by one, delegates discuss with each other potential solutions for each of the small problems. After analyzing all sides, groups begin to put pen to paper and craft elaborate, creative solutions to all aspects of a central issue. There are always going to be problems in life; Model UN gives people the skills to solve them. 


Two years later, I represented Ukraine on the Security Council. This placed me at a huge disadvantage, as this was at the height of the Russian intervention in Ukraine. Facing an adversary with a veto power, I focused on solutions that many other members were sympathetic to and would put Russia on the defensive end if they chose to move forward with plans of their own. A lot of analysis went into these solutions, we chose to host Syrian peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan because of similar cultural values, precedent, and neutrality. 


However, not everyone is going to agree on solutions to problems, or even that there is a problem at all. At this point, delegates negotiate with the goal of finding a solution acceptable by all sides. Sometimes these negotiations are successful, other times it simply does not work out and a new group emerges. In some cases, there is a limit to how many written resolutions there can be, and you negotiate with the other side usually late into the night, line by line, to weave together a cohesive resolution. 


In order to try out for my college’s Model UN team, I needed to participate in a practice simulation. I was given Japan in a General Assembly focusing on the North Korean nuclear crisis. While a great position, it meant that I would likely be following in the footsteps of other larger countries, something that I resolved not to do. While I stuck with my traditional allies, the US and South Korea, I talked with several southeast Asian countries and recruited a few to join our bloc. Because I was the one making connections with them, they wound up backing many of my ideas. This elevated me to a position where I could negotiate as a major player with the other big countries. 


Diplomacy is not about beating the other side, but painting an accurate picture of your country’s hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions, goals, culture, and overarching beliefs. Diplomacy is working with people representing literally every part of the world to find a solution to a problem that seems impossible. But like Nelson Mandela said, “it always seems impossible until it is done.” 


While I’m proud of my Model UN work, I’m even more thankful that it translated over into other aspects of my life. Model UN has given me newfound respect when I travel abroad and has undoubtedly propelled me forward in my international relations major. Model UN has helped me connect with new friends and solve issues quickly. 


There are other aspects about Model UN that are important; knowing how to speak on your feet, conduct extensive research, and defend your ideas are all worthwhile skills to learn for anyone in any field. However, in the end, the various diplomatic skills I have developed through Model UN are some of the most versatile and useful abilities I have. I would not be the person I am today without the Model UN experiences that have shaped me.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

UNMIL’s Success in Liberia

By: Bonnie Worstell, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

On Tuesday July 17, the Better World Campaign held a celebration at Rayburn House Office Building called “From Fear to Freedom: Celebrating UN Peacekeeping Successes in West Africa” to applaud the impact of the United Nations’ efforts in West Africa. Although the current U.S. administration has expressed distaste for the UN and has favored a policy of retrenchment, the president’s proposed budget cut of 30% directed towards international affairs was rejected by Congress. The event showcased the many accomplishments of the UN in Liberia, demonstrating that UN peacekeeping is worth investing in.

After 15 long years of building peace in a nation torn apart by two vicious civil wars, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) successfully completed its mandate on March 30, 2018. During its mandate, UNMIL worked alongside the Liberian government to improve and strengthen institutions to establish long-term stability. Some of the efforts initiated included the revamping of the Liberian National Police (LNP), assisting with the conduction of democratic elections, and addressing the Ebola crisis. 

A reliable, trustworthy national police force is a key institution, but the LNP were completely dysfunctional at the inception of UNMIL in October 2003. Their success was hindered by the seizure of police stations by rebel groups, rampant corruption stemming from bribery necessitated by a lack of salary from the government, as well as a lack of resources, training, and equipment. UNMIL began by launching the largest UN Peacekeeping disarmament campaign in history, resulting in the disarmament of 100,000 former combatants. Next, UNMIL, alongside the U.S. and Sweden, then successfully re-trained the LNP, ultimately reversing its bad reputation for corruption. Due to budgetary constraints, the force is seriously undermanned. However, as Liberia recovers economically, its capacity to grow the numbers of the LNP will expand.

Another key institution of long-lasting stability is democratic elections. UNMIL assisted Liberia’s government in conducting democratic elections by registering over 1.3 million voters and stationing peacekeepers at election sites to protect voters from election-related violence. The first election in 2005 resulted in the appointment of the first female head of state in the African continent’s history, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In the next elections, occurring in 2011 and 2017, UNMIL was far less involved in efforts to transition the responsibility onto the Liberian government. As a result, in January 2018, the nation saw its first successful transition of peace when George Weah replaced Sirleaf.

In 2014-2015 Ebola swept through western Africa, causing a health crisis that infected 28,000 and killed 11,000. UNMIL played a critical role in the immediate response as other international agencies mobilized, coordinating with the Liberian government to release an awareness campaign, increasing logistical effectiveness for testing and diagnosing victims, obtaining the necessary equipment, and training volunteers. The U.S. also played a vital role: the state established three diagnostic laboratories, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) contributed Ebola prevention kits to be distributed, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) assisted in the necessary task of assisting in safe burials to those who had succumbed to this deadly illness. Despite the tragedy causing numerous deaths and a wave of international panic, the response brought robust investment into Liberia’s public health infrastructure, increasing Liberia’s future capacity to deal with potential future health crises.

Liberia still has many obstacles to overcome including increasing their low human development index score, building much-needed infrastructure, addressing ongoing gender violence and discrimination, and recovering from their general lack of resources. However, making these improvements will be much more possible in a time of peace than a time of conflict. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will take the lead on assisting the ongoing work in Liberia. They intend to aid the new president’s goals of investing in “agriculture, infrastructure, in human capital, and in technology.” Weah also intends to focus on poverty reduction during his time in office. Despite the difficulties Liberia must yet address, the future is quite promising. Liberia has yielded many “firsts,” and has exceeded expectations in so many vital areas. With aid from the UN agencies such as UNDP and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and the promise of sustained peace, there is nothing Liberia cannot accomplish.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Monsoons and Myanmar: A Race Against Time



By: Bonnie Worstell and Sara McNaughton, UNA-NCA Program Assistants

Yet another day passes, and the current administration has failed to verbally acknowledge an extremely important human rights issue. This drove Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and the Senate Human Rights Caucus to hold a panel on International Refugee Day, June 20th, 2018, to highlight the issues surrounding the Rohingya crisis.

The Rohingya, a small Muslim minority population located in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, are one of the most repressed people in the world today. The Burmese government has systematically driven the Rohingya out of Rakhine State, which has been their home for centuries. As the government refuses to grant them citizenship and the accompanying rights due to them by the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law, the Rohingya consequently remain stateless. Although violence against the Rohingya has been constant during the last few decades, it has escalated significantly in the past few years. This violence includes the targeted killing, torture, and burning of entire Rohingya villages. Rohingya women and girls are particularly vulnerable to gender based violence, including rape intended to destroy reproductive systems and instill terror. Additionally, Rohingya are denied their ability to self-identify as Burmese since the government alleges that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

In retaliation to government violence and oppression, a small group of ill-equipped Rohingya formed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa). Arsa’s largest operation to date occurred on August 25, 2017 at a police station, resulting in the death of 12 Burmese officers. The security force’s counterinsurgency responded with disproportionate force, driving out an estimated 700,000 Rohingya from Myanmar and murdering 7,000 more.

In collaboration with several UN agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Bangladesh has been host to a bulk of the Rohingya refugees by setting up temporary facilities to receive, register, and distribute aid to refugees. Bangladesh has made significant sacrifices to accommodate the refugees, allotting a few thousand acres of land dedicated to temporary housing. Additionally, as monsoon season approaches, there is an enormous risk to ill-equipped shelters, especially those in more vulnerable locations.

Jana Mason, panelist from UNHCR, emphasized that the approach to the Rohingya crisis must be two dimensional: first, the immediate needs of refugees must be fulfilled in Bangladesh. Second, it must be realized that their return will take time. Therefore, the establishment of long term investment into economic, social, and cultural needs, in both Bangladesh and in the Rakhine State, is vital to the Rohingya’s lasting well-being.

On June 6th, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNHCR, and the Burmese government agreed upon a Memorandum of Understanding defining the desired end to be the return of Rohingya refugees to the Rakhine state. The means of implementing the conditions necessary for a safe and voluntary return is dependent on the coordination between the government and UN humanitarian agencies. Currently, according to a report by Refugees International, the “lack of clarity in coordination structure and lines of accountability among UN agencies has led to inconsistencies and delays in the provision of humanitarian services on the ground.” This coordination issue must be amended before moving forward, thus UN agencies are currently working on defining clearer leadership roles within their organizations.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also given the Burmese government a deadline of July 27 to respond to allegations of crimes against humanity against the Rohingya. The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, argues that since the refugees have been pushed into Bangladesh, a member of the ICC, the ICC will have jurisdiction over Myanmar, despite the fact that it is not a member.

The government of Bangladesh deserves international recognition and praise for providing Rohingya refugees a place to flee. But, despite its merits, the Bangladesh government has adversely effected the situation by their failure to recognize Rohingya as refugees, and denying them rights to justice, education, health services, and freedom of movement. Due to the lengthy process of creating the proper conditions in Myanmar for the Rohingya’s return, it is probable that they will remain in Bangladesh long term. Therefore, it is important for UN Agencies, member states, and donors to pressure the Bangladesh government to grant the Rohingya refugee status so that long-term refugee programs such as education and job skills workshops can be implemented. Then when the time comes to return, they will be able to reintegrate into society. Additionally, they must pressure the government to remove bureaucratic barriers that make obtaining project approvals, visas for aid workers, and registration for NGOs complex and prolonged. The elimination of these barriers will result in a more efficient and timely response.

The most pressing issue of the moment is the quickly approaching, unforgiving monsoon season in Bangladesh. Moderate rains have already caused temporary housing to collapse, resulting in a few deaths. Since the government has restricted durable material usage in building shelters, refugees have been given additional tarp and bamboo, but that alone is not enough to withstand the fury of monsoon season. Ultimately, coordination and bureaucratic issues need to be resolved so aid workers can get the Rohingya to higher ground and help build stronger shelters.

The recent U.S. involvement has been underwhelming. Aligning with the “America First” policy, the current administration has ceased to make any kind of comment regarding the Rohingya crisis. By pulling out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, U.S. global leadership continues to diminish with the loss of our voice on a key global stage.

We want to thank the panelists and hosts who organized the International Refugee Day Congressional briefing. In the midst of silence and lack of leadership coming from the current administration, your work needed now more than ever.