For more than two years I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel around the U.S. to meet with Chapter leaders and passionate UNA-USA members. I’ve been a part of the launch of new Chapters – extending the reach of the UNA-USA network. Along with staff and regional volunteer leaders, we have hosted an array of meetings, events, conference calls, and posted a generous number of articles, posts, and tweets online about the incredible impact of the United Nations and its programs.
With each trip and local encounter, I continue to be impressed by the energy of our members, the enthusiasm of our Chapter leaders, and the commitment of our national volunteer leaders – giving thousands of hours of time and financial resources to ensure the UN’s message is carried forward. UNA-USA’s members have a globalist view of the world and see how the UN, the U.S., and rest of the world need each other. All this makes me think of the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Being a UNA-USA member is a journey.
From time to time, we are reminded that it’s not always easy being an outspoken supporter of the UN in the U.S. But I have some new inspiration. It’s not a new poll or report, but a global force – hundreds of thousands of citizens – who walk in your shoes in their home countries. At a recent World Federation of UN Associations (WFUNA), I had the chance to listen to UNA leaders from other countries and hear about their priorities and programs. Here’s a sampling of their work…
- UNA Armenia hosts Responsibility to Protect and human rights programs for politicians and journalists and continues to host anti-human trafficking programs for students and NGOs.
- UNA Australia runs a global leadership program for business executives and hosts meetings with corporations looking at human rights issues.
- UNA Austria leads weekly lunch programs around foreign policy issues and works with youth on advocacy outreach.
- UNA Canada is a leader in anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion programming in Canada and has developed a leadership program to engage business, law, and engineering graduate students.
- UNA China runs a number of Model UN programs and trainings for students interested in foreign service careers.
- UNA Georgia focuses its public programs on democracy building and has worked this theme into its Model UN programs.
- UNA Ghana is bringing together former UN employees to use as speakers around the country and is focusing a range of programming on women’s empowerment.
- UNA Hungary hosts a UN Academy where academics submit papers on international policy issues and selectees present their papers at an annual meeting.
- UNA Norway developed a list of 71 recommendations on how its government could better engage the UN, and is facilitating public dialogues about the recommendations, and also hosts foreign policy debates.
- UNA Russia hosts a gathering of regional governors to discuss best practices in sustainable development.
- UNA South Africa has developed a diplomacy course and human rights training for university students and is expanding its Model UN program.
- UNA South Korea hosts a traveling lecture series and a leadership camp for students.
- UNA Spain is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year by hosting an art exhibition and peace concert along with a popular Model UN conference.
- UNA Venezuela hosts an on-going human rights seminar.
- Three UNAs are taking the Better World Campaign/UNA-USA’s “Thank a Peacekeeper” campaign and replicating it in their countries.
These are just some of the work of other UNAs around the globe, and these short summaries certainly do not represent all of the programs these UNAs run nationally or locally.
This list of UNA activity isn’t just impressive; it’s staggering. On any given day, in any part of the world, the UN is hard at work, and so are citizens, building awareness, advocating for UN causes, and engaging youth. In other words, you are part of a global movement of citizen leaders demonstrating the vast impact of the UN’s humanitarian efforts and peacekeeping missions.
Many of you know by now, my professional journey will take me to another organization in June. I will leave UNA-USA and the United Nations Foundation to lead a national foundation in Washington, DC. My time at UNA-USA has been very rewarding and I will take with me countless experiences, friendships, as well as an array of facts, figures, and examples of why the UN is such a vital international organization to the U.S. and the world. Thank you for your energy and dedication to our work and our mission.
In photo: WFUNA’s 206th Meeting of the Executive Committee in New York. Credit: World Federation of UN Associations