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UNA-USA Annual Meeting: Dr. Robert Orr on Climate Change

June 13, 2014

By Weijia Li, UNA-SNY Energy Project

 

At this year’s UNA-USA Annual Meeting, I had the privilege of listening to a talk by the UN Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Robert Orr, who is also the most senior American at the UN. He focused on and stressed the significance of climate change, for several compelling reasons.

We cannot, he says, advance the Millenium Development Goals if climate change continues at this rate. Climate change affects every piece of the UN agenda and affects everything the UN is trying to do today for everyone, everywhere in the world. It is the underlying factor for peace, security, and development.

However, the UN needs the help of the US. The rest of the world also expects US leadership on climate change. So as Americans, we need to put forth rational energy policies that accelerate the use of renewables and to catalyze a clean energy revolution. Rather than wasting money on temporary fixes, we need to combat climate change directly. This will save us trillions of dollars in the future.

Every year that we delay action on climate change, the cost goes up for mitigating its effects. Even the Middle East has installed clean energy projects. I thought it was particularly compelling when Dr. Orr said, “If the Middle East can see the future, why can’t [the US]?”

The upcoming UN Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York will be the largest gathering of global leaders in history in one place. The Climate Summit is strategically scheduled to occur during this year’s annual Climate Week NYC and one year prior to the 2015 UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in Paris. It is stated that “by catalyzing action on climate change prior to the UNFCCC Conference, the Secretary-General intends to build a solid foundation on which to anchor successful negotiations and sustained progress on reducing emissions and strengthening adaptation strategies.”

My call to action for Americans is to write to your Congressman/woman and Senators to urge the US Mission to the UN to establish concrete goals at this year’s UN Climate Summit.

On a more personal note, I know that Dr. Orr’s wife Audrey Choi leads Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing and Global Sustainable Finance Group. With this in mind, I spoke with Dr. Orr after his talk and asked for his perspective on tackling climate change from the public/NGO sector vs. the private sector. He told me that the two are very different, but to be successful, we need to know both sides because both sides need to work together. This was reminiscent of a similar conversation I had with the Senior Policy Advisor on Energy to the UN Secretary-General.

What this means for all world citizens is that no matter what sector we identify ourselves in, we can make an impact to slow down climate change.

Division Holds Universal Periodic Review of U.S. Human Rights Record

May 27, 2014

Division Holds Universal Periodic Review of U.S. Human Rights Record

By Natalie Araya, Hastings High School Senior

On Wednesday, May 21, The Division held a consultation to provide an American grassroots voice in the Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. Record on Human Rights. The event took place at the UN Foundation Office in Manhattan.

The consultation began with a welcome from Jeanne Betsock Stillman, President of the Southern New York State Division. She introduced the speakers – Latanya Mapp Frett, Vice President – Global, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Sarah Elizabeth Porter, Development Associate at ECPAT USA; and Ryan Kaminski, Leo Nevas Human Rights Fellow of UNA-USA.  Mapp Frett’s presentation emphasized the importance of the interconnectivity between human rights and women’s rights. Mapp Frett concluded her presentation with information on recent US Policy advances, while stressing the importance of reflecting global values.

Sarah Elizabeth Porter defined trafficking, providing details on this generally overlooked issue specifically in America, as well as listing the goals of the ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) (UNA Queens Chapter) organization. Porter stressed the vulnerability of the youth involved in trafficking, as these young kids tend to be homeless, foster care children who are on the street without any type of support system. Porter also highlighted the increase of exploitation due to the Internet, concluding her presentation with details on the Safe Harbor Law, which states that anyone under the age of 18 in the sex trafficking industry must be considered a victim.

Following Porter’s talk, Ryan Kaminski presented background information on the U.S. Universal Periodic Review of 2015.  Kaminski gave details on the constructive assessment on the Human Rights records that all UN members go through as well as the implementation process in which a Stakeholder’s Report includes specific recommendations for each individual country. Kaminski also provided details on the first U.S. review, which occurred in 2011, where the U.S. received nearly 300 recommendations from other UN members.

After Kaminski’s presentation and a refreshment break, participants divided into two groups. Corinne Whitaker, independent reproductive rights consultant, facilitated the group that focused on advancing the rights of women and girls. Natalie Araya, Hastings High School senior, served as notetaker. Joan A. Levy, vice president of the Southern NY State Division and vice president of the UNA New York City (Manhattan) Chapter, who is also a board member of ECPAT USA, facilitated the group on human trafficking. Ammie Lin, a 2014 graduate of Adelphi University, served as notetaker.

Each group then concentrated on its topic, developing recommendations and specifics to include in the final Stakeholder’s report. After almost an hour, both groups rejoined to share their outcomes. Corinne Whitaker reported on the discussion on women and girls.  She began with the creation of categories to keep in mind when discussing the status of women and girls, which encompasses age, partnership status, schooling, health access, education, residence/citizenship, income as well as participation. The group also focused on the challenges that are presented when coming up with recommendations, as these recommendations must be specific in order to see implemented change. Whitaker stressed the importance of researching in order to find out if the proposed solutions are or can be backed up by bills. Moreover, the status of women and girls group discussed how to address these issues using various mechanisms. For example, in terms of education, many people agreed that the inclusion of human rights content in the core curriculum would be ideal. Other issues discussed included transition efforts, meaning engaging young experts and strengthening mentoring; the possibility of a convention for the rights of older women specifically; domesticating agreements; immigration reforms as well as reproductive rights.

Maria Almario, Co-chair and prior director at Partnership for the Eradication of Human Trafficking (PEHT) summarized her group’s discussions on trafficking victims, the importance of public awareness, education and accessibility; as well as the importance of policies and reliable sources of data. Almario emphasized the importance of all populations having access to their individual rights and the importance of establishing a systematic way to determine trafficking. She concluded her summary by stating the importance of having safe places to get victims who are identified rehabilitated.

The last speaker was the UNA Vice President for Hawai’i, Joshua Cooper, who is also the Director/Lecturer at Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights/University of Hawaii and a member of the Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force. Cooper spoke on the upcoming periodic review of the U.S. in May of 2015 (which is given 3 ½ hours), where any country can now ask a question of the U.S. (In the last review only up to 70 countries could sign up to ask questions). Cooper went on to explain the State Department’s involvement as well as the importance of not losing steam in between the May review and the September 2015 date, as the in the September date, the U.S. will attempt to implement all the ideas mentioned in May.

The meeting was a great success, with almost 30 participants fully engaged for the 2-½ hours duration of the consultation. The next step is for small working groups to write the groups’ recommendations to UNA-USA for inclusion in its report to the UN Human Rights Council. This consultation’s recommendations will join those of the Chicago UNA Chapter, which reviewed the U.S. actions on several treaties, and those of UNA Georgetown, which studied U.S. actions on LGBT rights. Additionally, members attending the UNA-USA annual meeting in Washington on June 8 will consult on the four topics. Results of all these consultations will be edited into a five-page report to the Human Rights Council.

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Sarah Elizabeth Porter, Jeanne Stillman, Latanya Mapp Frett and Lia Cairone

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Speakers- Latanya Mapp Frett, Sarah Elizabeth Porter and Ryan Kaminski

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Joshua Cooper

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Corinne Whitaker

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Discussion of Rights of Women and Girls

Speakers Inspire UNA Young Professionals at Annual Benefit.

March 10, 2014

Speakers Inspire Young Professionals at Annual Benefit

By Faye Nwafor, Benefit Committee Member UNA-SNY YP and Food Impact Writer

The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Midtown Manhattan played host on Saturday, February 2, to a gala night of inspirational talks entitled Advancing International Unity: An Evening Honoring Inspiration, Advocacy and Change. The event, organized by the benefit committee of the United Nations Association of Southern New York Young Professionals, of which I am a member, included an opening talk by Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The ambassador roused the audience of 200 with a poignant overview of her years of service, her notable tenure in Moscow and her longstanding role in U.S. diplomatic policy. Ambassador DiCarlo offered the young professionals in attendance a thorough appreciation of the changing political and economic landscape globally and provided insight into the true meaning of a career dedicated to service. She recounted overseas posts from decades past in which American foreign service workers were so understaffed they rolled up their sleeves to do everything from tend to laundry and make building repairs while juggling their official administrative duties. Ambassador DiCarlo shared the sense of responsibility inherent in being a representative of a country that is often sought after to solve many of the world’s challenges when she stressed, “U.S. leadership is essential for a successful United Nations.”

President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Caryl M. Stern, was one of the evening’s honorees and brought her trademark humor and enthusiasm to her address. The author of the book I Believe in Zero: Learning from the World’s Children, focused the room’s attention on the talent each individual has to create change. Stern reminded us of the plight of children around the world, including Syria, and noted our collective ability to prevent the suffering of even a single child. “18,000 children died today from diseases we can prevent,” Stern reminded the audience. “It’s just not ok.”

Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley, the founders of the viral good news website Upworthy, were also honored, as was the CEO of Malaria No More, Martin Edlund and the founder of nonprofit opportunities website, Idealist.org, Ami Dar. Dar regaled the audience with details for an upcoming initiative to link people across the globe for social good in ways never done before. His impassioned plea encouraging people around the world to connect with their neighbors as a way to find partners to do good hit home when he shared the story of how he and another civic minded entrepreneur, the founder of Meetup.com, found out they lived in the same building only after attending a networking event.

The landmark Hell’s Kitchen bakery, Cupcake Cafe, provided an assortment of floral decorated buttercream cupcakes which dotted the entryway of the evening affair. Leslie Goldman, V.P. for Program and Community Engagement at U.S. Fund for UNICEF remarked how beautiful the arrangement was while fielding questions from young professionals including Selena S. Martin, Senior Manager at American Express, on partnerships and organizational engagements.The evening brought cause minded attendees up close and personal with leaders at the forefront of international social change. Funds raised through the support of organizations including Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP,  Indulge New York, Mizu Sochu, Latham & Watkins, White & Case LLP, Kim Laudati Skincare, The Kati Roll Company, Lacoste, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP,  Manhattan Plaza Health Club and others contributed to a truly inspirational night celebrating leadership and social responsibility.audience w speaker cupcakes smallFaye and  Malaria speaker

Speaker Photos by DeRonn Kidd Photography

Photos 1- Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo addressing hall; 2- Cupcakes 3- Caryl Stern, President of US Fund for Unicef and Faye Nwafor; 4- Martin Edlund of Malaria; No More 5- Peter Koechley, CoFounder of Upworthy

UN Week – 10/28/13

March 10, 2014

UN Week 10/28/13

by John Carey

This blog entry is written by a member of our blogging community and expresses that expert’s views alone

Last week we talked about the unprecedented withdrawal of Saudi Arabia from the Security Council seat to which it had just been elected. I tried to stress how sought-after such seats are. Now there is a development that dramatizes how eager most governments are to sit on the UN’s top deliberative body.

Those countries guaranteed Security Council seats under the UN Charter are five in number, known as the Permanent Five, or Perm Five for short. The are the countries that led the way to victory in World War II over Germany and Japan, the US, the UK, Russia, China and France. But now there is another group, calling themselves “the G4,” consisting of two losers in that war, Germany and Japan, as well as two modern national power houses, India and Japan. They want to belong to the club, especially as new permanent members.

The G4 sweeten their membership campaign by also advocating a greater number of non-permanent seats than the present ten. They argued in a statement issued on October 22nd that, “it has been almost 10 years since international leaders committed themselves, in the outcome document of the 2005 World Summit, to an early reform of the Security Council.” They “would like to request . . . support, allowing us to intensify efforts to translate the existing agreement into concrete outcomes by 2015, when the United Nations commemorates its seventieth anniversary.”

The Foreign Ministers of the G4 argued that, “almost 70 years after the creation of the United Nations, reform of the Security Council is long overdue. They agreed that difficulties of the Security Council in dealing with international challenges, including current ones, have further highlighted the need for United Nations Security Council reform to better reflect geographical realities of the twenty-first century and make the Council more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and thus to further enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions. * * * They also reaffirmed their view of the importance of developing countries, in particular Africa, being represented in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of an enlarged Council.”

The four Foreign Ministers made a practical suggestion when they “expressed their commitment to continue to work in close cooperation and in a spirit of flexibility with other Member States and groups of Member States, in particular the African States, in genuine text-based negotiations.” (emphasis added). Surely anyone who has engaged in serious negotiations, whether in diplomacy or in business or other fields, knows that talking alone is not enough; words need to be put down on paper and signed onto, or else nothing has been finalized.

This was brought home to me very graphically in the early 1980s when a client was to meet with parties from a thousand miles away to work out a contract of some magnitude. The meeting was to take place at Newark airport, where our opposite numbers would be arriving. What would happen all too often in such a situation was that the executives on each side, with advice of their legal counsel, would talk back and forth and finally shake hands on what they thought was a deal. Then it would be, “leave it to the lawyers to write up what we have agreed on.”

The trouble with that scenario was that the lawyers would do their best to protect their clients with defensive wording that might cause more annoyance than it allayed. I was determined to avoid that self-defeating situation at Newark that day. I wanted to persuade my clients to call for text-based negotiations. So I loaded into my car the 26-pound Kaypro computer, the first of a number I have owned over the years, and my equally weighty printer. These I lugged into a small room adjoining the conference room.

I reminded my clients that, thus equipped, we and our opposite numbers could save a great deal of lawyers’ time and expense by simply having whatever either side proposed immediately put in writing with copies for each participant to peruse.

I am sorry to say that my computer and printer sat unused. The executives shook hands and clapped each other on the back while “leaving it to the lawyers to put the deal in writing as soon as possible.” Predictably, the lawyers found a number of issues that the executives had not thought of or agreed on. So, much time was lost and much unnecessary expense incurred. The executives had declined the opportunity to use text-based negotiations.

So let it not be, at the UN, on Security Council enlargement or any other issues of note. If we look at the Charter and consider what steps would be involved in actually enlarging the Council, we can see what the D4 are up against. Article 108 specifies that Charter amendments require a vote of 2/3 of the Members of the Assembly and ratification by 2/3 of the UN members “including all the permanent members of the Security Council.” Therein lies the rub. When are the US, UK, Russia, China and France likely to give up any of their remarkable privileges? I submit that this will happen when Hell freezes over, and not before.

A study should be made, for academic purposes if none other, to see if in the history of the world countries have given up, short of having been conquered, any privileges remotely comparable to those of the Permanent Five in the UN Security Council.-

UN Week – 10/21/13

March 10, 2014

UN Week 10/21/13 – by John Carey

This blog entry is written by a member of our blogging community and expresses that expert’s views alone.

Saudi surprise.

          An unprecedented event took place last week, after the election of new non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. The following were elected by the General Assembly, for prized two-year terms starting in January: Chad, Chile, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

Soon after being elected, Saudi Arabia rejected the post for which it had lobbied over many months. According to the October 19-20 Wall Street Journal, the Kingdom had even sent a dozen diplomats to Columbia University to study diplomacy.

Said the Journal, “Saudi Arabia has armed rebels in Syria to defeat President Assad’s government, which in turn has been heavily supported by Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival. Saudi frustration that the U.S. won’t act militarily peaked in recent weeks when the U.S. pulled back from intervening militarily in Syria in favor of a plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.”

Suggestions that snubbing the Security Council was the decision by  the Saudi king alone bring to mind the question how far a US president can constitutionally go in making foreign policy decisions all alone. We might recall that in the time of President George W. Bush, the US declined to run for a seat in the UN Human Rights Council. This decision must have been finally made by him alone. He could have agreed with this stance or reversed it. The Department of State can run US foreign policy, but only on behalf of the head of the Executive Branch. Congress can grant or deny funds, use the power of investigation, and grant or withhold treaty ratification, but go no further.

The Gulf Co-operation Council has backed Saudi Arabia’s rejection of its seat on the UN Security Council, praising the Gulf nation’s call for reform. In a statement released on Saturday, the GCC Secretary General, Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, “underlined the importance of Saudi Arabia’s call for the realisation of a fundamental reform of the Security Council’s system,” reported Qatar’s state news agency, QNA.

In addition, the news agency also reported the Qatari government’s support of Saudi Arabia’s stance. “The state of Qatar agrees with the reasons outlined by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to turn down a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council,” QNA reported, quoting an official source from the Foreign Ministry.

Meanwhile, other Arab nations appealed to Saudi Arabia to reverse its unprecedented decision to reject the seat. Arab UN ambassadors made the appeal on Saturday after an emergency meeting following Friday’s surprise announcement by the Kingdom to decline the seat in a display of anger over the failure of the international community to end the war in Syria.

Saudi Arabia’s leaders should “maintain their membership in the Security Council and continue their brave role in defending our issues specifically at the rostrum of the Security Council,” said a statement released by Arab states at the UN. It added that it was crucial for Saudi Arabia to represent the Arab and Muslim world on the council “at this important and historical stage, specifically for the Middle East region.”

Many diplomats and analysts have said the Saudi protest was a message to the United States that it wanted a tougher stance on Syria and was angry that Washington had opened contacts with Iran. The Kingdom has been angered by the increasing rapport between Washington and Iran, Saudi Arabia’s old regional foe, which has taken root since President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Administration of Justice in the UN

          A report of October 14th, A/68/5340, from the Advisory Committee on Administration and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), noted that the case load of the Office of Staff Assistance increased 60 % from 2011 to 2012, which “could be explained by a number of factors, including a large number of de facto class action cases, better record-keeping within the Office and increased awareness among staff of the Office’s existence and role.” Id. at 3/13. I assume de facto class action cases consist of the confluence of a number of claims raising similar issues.

“The Advisory Committee affirms the importance of lessons-learned guides on the Tribunals’ jurisprudence for managers, and expects that the lessons learned will produce concrete results in managerial actions.” Id. at 4/13. The concept of “lessons learned” is in wide use at the UN, more than anywhere else that I am aware of. Perhaps in some people’s eyes, wrongly in my view, admitting that you have learned a lesson implies ignorance before the experience.

The true nature and purpose of what the UN calls the administration of justice is revealed in the following quotation: “The Advisory Committee is of the view that an interim independent assessment of the formal system of administration of justice is desirable at this juncture to evaluate the functioning of the system to date and to ensure it is meeting its objectives as a mechanism to effectively resolve labour disputes within the Organization.” Id. at 5/13. When we in the US speak of “labor disputes” we generally mean a struggle between management and organized labor, not a single worker’s problems with the boss.

Finally, “The Secretary-General states that preparation of the code of conduct for external [legal] representatives is under way and will be ready for presentation at the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly.” Id. at 6/13. Since the 68th General Assembly has only just begun, the issuance of such a code of conduct is hardly in the offing. Time will tell whether it will deal primarily with ethical conduct or with a broader range of activities on the part of outside legal counsel.

UN Week – 9/3/13

September 3, 2013

This blog entry is written by a member of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

OBAMA PASSES THE SYRIAN BUCK

John Carey, Editor

          President Truman famously said that the buck stops at the White House. President Obama has shown how to share the buck with Congress. He confounded his Congressional foes when he asked them if they wish to go to war with Syria. A military attack is war, and absent self defense it cannot today be carried on without UN Security Council approval.

          It is Congress that, under our Constitution, has the power to declare war. If they declare it, the Commander-in-Chief wages it. If they now say no to war, his hands will be tied just like those of the British Prime Minister. But even if circumstances allow Obama to attack Syria under US law, there remains the question whether international law would permit it.

          The possibility of a war of revenge has been mentioned, to punish Syria. Such a use of force has no support in international law. But what about the doctrine of responsibility to protect, known in UN circles as R2P and given muted support rhetorically in recent years? Read more…

Uniting for Youth – August 5, 2013

September 3, 2013

This blog entry is written by a member of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

Uniting for Youth: Interactive Dialogue on UN Youth Initiatives with Mr. Ban Ki-Moon

by Raina Kadavil,  Intern with UNA-SNY and junior at White Plains High School

The chance to participate in a formal United Nations conference at fifteen is wonderful.  The chance to participate in such a conference with the UN Secretary-General is rare.  The chance for a fifteen-year-old to participate in a conference with the Secretary-General that aims to integrate youth voices into the global initiative for change is priceless.

Rainaphotocropped            On the morning of August 5th, 2013, I was fortunate to have the chance to attend the conference “Uniting for Youth:  Interactive Dialogue on UN Youth Initiatives” at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.  I was one of hundreds of students from all over the U.S. and all over the world.  Also present by videoconference were students from schools in India, Lebanon, Brazil, Belgium, and Nigeria.  All of whom had their own experiences and opinions, and their own, individual voices to be heard.  Youth representatives from Amnesty International and Global Poverty Project, among many other organizations, came to the United Nations to speak out and be heard by its highest ranking official – Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. 

Read more…

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