Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sharing Passion and Ideas for a Better World: The Final Meeting of the 2017 Graduate Fellows with UNA-NCA Leadership

by Yulia Krylova, UNA-NCA Fellow

On April 24, UNA-NCA Fellows attended their last meeting during the 2017 Graduate Fellowship Program where we had a wonderful opportunity to meet former, current, and future Presidents of the UNA-NCA who shared their perspectives on how to be actively involved and contribute to making the UN stronger and more effective.

It is symbolic that for our final meeting the UNA Fellows gathered together at the Historical Home of Stewart R. Mottt. Mott purchased this house in 1974 to host various activities and projects of the Fund for Peace. Since that time, the house’s premises have been used by various nonprofit organizations for meetings, events and ceremonies. As its official website indicates, “given Stewart Mott’s philanthropic interests, it is not surprising that most of the regular occupants of 122 Maryland Avenue are progressive in nature.” On this particular day, UNA-NCA leaders shared their progressive ideas about the UN and a critical role that a new generation could play in making it stronger, more powerful and effective. At the beginning of this meeting, Hanna Hayden, Director of Membership and Programs, told us about the UNA Young Professionals Program. With more than 120 UNA-USA grassroots Chapters across the country, young professionals have a wide range of opportunities to contribute their efforts and energy to making a better world. 

In his presentation, Stephen F. Moseley, UNA-NCA President Elect, focused on the UN role under the current US leadership. Speaking about the impact of the new Administration on the UN’s work, Moseley observed that there are many serious concerns, including official statements diminishing the UN to just a club “for people to have a good time,” de-prioritizing human rights issues home and abroad, and the lack of reverence for existing principles and agreements regarding free and open trade. Yet, Moseley offered his optimistic perspective about the relations between the UN and the new Administration that will soon realize enormous benefits of the UN and multilateral cooperation on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the US economy and society.  In this respect, Moseley called on all of us to participate in the process of advocacy for the UN and SDGs. In his words, “every citizen on Earth has a responsibility to help make SDGs a reality” in his own country and in our global community.

In her speech, Karen Mulhauser, former UNA-NCA President, stressed the importance of promoting the women’s agenda for the UN and supporting gender equality globally. She focused on two critical issues: the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW) and the Women Peace and Security Resolution. CEDAW was adopted in 1979 and was ratified by all Member States, except for six countries, including the US, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tonga, and Palau. Mulhauser encouraged us to participate in the advocacy process at the municipal level in cities, counties, and towns across the US to adopt policies that implement principles of CEDAW. As Mulhauser’s article shows, several US cities that have already passed this legislature demonstrate its positive impact on gender equality at the local level.  Another important UN’s Resolution on Women Peace and Security was adopted by the Security Council in 2000 to mitigate the disproportionate impact of armed conflicts on women and to increase their role in peace negotiations. It is well-documented that women bring a stronger element of diplomacy and thinking about future generations to the process of peacebuilding activities and conflict prevention. In this respect, Mulhauser encouraged us to contribute to the work of the US Civil Society Working Group (CSWG) on Women, Peace and Security that was created in 2010 to support the US Government’s efforts in the adoption of a National Action Plan (NAP) focused on women.

Ed Elmendorf, who served as both President of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) and President of its largest local Chapter of the National Capital Area, identified several lessons for Graduate Fellows concerning our roles in making a better world.  As one of the contributors to the recent book entitled The UN Association USA: A Little Known History of Advocacy and Action, he drew our attention to the fact that as members of the UNA, we are part of the organization with a very distinguished history. The UNA was founded in 1943, with two key goals to educate the public about the UN system and to encourage the active participation of the US in this organization. A huge amount of projects and programs within the UNA are based on volunteering. One prominent example is Eleanor Roosevelt who personally volunteered to advance the work of the UNA because she strongly believed in the role of the UN in promoting global peace and the importance of US leadership in this process.  Elmendorf lamented that often voices of some UN’s critics are stronger and more passionate than voices of its numerous supporters. In this respect, Elmendorf encouraged us to voice ourselves to support the UN and share our passion with other people. 

In their closing remarks, both Ambassador Donald Bliss (retired), current President of the UNA-NCA, and Tom Bradley, Vice President for Development, focused on advocacy, reforms, and leadership. Recognizing that US leadership is critical for the UN, they suggested that advocacy would become a central part of our mission. They also pointed to various ways to reform the UN and improve its work. They infused us with optimism that as future leaders, we can make the world a more peaceful and prosperous place to live. Summarizing the meeting, Laurence Peters, the Director of the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellowship Program, indicated that we have a profound responsibility to inspire other people and make them understand and feel our passion and commitment to the UN and our globally interdependent world. This is critically important because there is nothing more contagious than passion.