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Moving Forward Together, Learning from Each Other

June 24, 2013|by Karen Mulhauser, CCR-SC Chair
It was inspiring to see so many UNA-USA members from around the country attend the 2013 Annual Meeting earlier this month. This was my first Annual Meeting as Chair of the Council of Chapters and Regions (CCR), a position which allows me the privilege of working with regional representatives who make up the CCR-Steering Committee, along with national and local leaders. I enjoyed talking with many Chapter leaders and welcoming many young professionals (YPs) and students to the Annual Meeting. The representation of YPs at the meeting grew to nearly a third of total attendance!

Based on feedback from last year, this year’s conference brought Chapter leaders into the planning process, and involved an increased number of Chapter leaders on panels. There were sessions built to enhance Chapter capacity and membership growth/retention, as well as sessions covering the most pressing issues facing the United Nations, including achieving the Millennium Development Goals, human rights, and women’s empowerment. We honored some of our most outstanding members with awards, and used the time we had together as a way of sharing best practices. It was inspiring to see Chapters gather with those inside their regions and beyond to learn from each other and find solutions to common challenges such as market size.

The opportunity to learn from each other was present throughout the meeting, and I think we all went home believing that in recent years, UNA-USA has become more intergenerational and more collaborative, which has strengthened our ability be effective advocates and advance the vital work of the United Nations.

Day one offered an opportunity for Chapters that have Global Classrooms or other Model UN programs to share experiences and show others how they might integrate Model UN in their communities. One highlight was an Intergenerational Model UN simulation, which brought together UNA-USA members of all ages and engaged them in actively trying to solve the same problems the actual UN faces. 

Another major highlight was Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, where we set a new record with more than 100 meetings with members of Congress and their staff.  Many UNA-USA members experienced direct advocacy for the first time and will be involved with in-district meetings during Congressional recesses.

I was inspired to learn during this time about the United Nations Foundation and UNA-USA’s plans to educate and mobilize awareness about the Post-2015 Development Agenda. I find the following quote from the High-Level Panel Report on Post-2015 particularly resonates:

“Our vision and our responsibility are to end extreme poverty in all its forms in the context of sustainable development and to have in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all.”

The Post-2015 report suggests we can eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 with an approach that integrates five broad, interconnected elements: moving from a goal of reducing extreme poverty to ending it; halting the pace of climate change and environmental degradation through sustainability; transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth; recognizing peace and good governance as core elements of well-being, not optional extras; and forging a new global partnership based on a common understanding of our shared humanity. I encourage you all to read the  High-Level Panel Report for a deeper look at their recommendations.

I am thrilled that UNA-USA Chapters have a great opportunity to lead conversations in their communities about the post-2015 MDG Agenda through official consultations. Later this month, Chapters will receive applications to apply for one of the funded consultations. If your Chapter isn’t selected for a funded consultation you may still add to the conversation!  Later this year, Chapters will receive a toolkit that includes best practices for holding these discussions. The results of all consultations will be collated into a final white paper that will be presented to the United Nations.

Stay tuned. But in the meantime, see how you can get involved right now.

We also saw a transition in the UNA-USA Executive Office during the Annual Meeting, with Patrick Madden departing as Executive Director. I have enjoyed a very productive working relationship with Patrick and the capable staff at the National Office.  I have appreciated the opportunity to be a liaison between what happens at headquarters and what happens at the Chapter level. We will miss Patrick, but he has shepherded UNA-USA well during the alliance with the UN Foundation, and we are in good shape. I now enjoy working with Deputy Executive Director, Mary-Frances Wain, who is leading the organization during its period of transition to a new director.  

As representatives of Chapters and Regions, the CCR Steering Committee will be increasingly important.  Steering Committee members will work with Chapters in their Regions to maximize our efforts at the local level to help Americans understand the importance of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and other vital UN issues. What is most striking about the High-Level Report is how it clarifies that all elements of poverty eradication are interdependent, and that the goal to eradicate extreme poverty can only be accomplished in a sustainable way – not addressing climate change could compromise the entire agenda.

President Obama embraced this concept at the Brandenburg Gate on June 19 when he spoke of addressing the world’s problems, peace and justice and climate change.  Regarding climate change, he said, “This is the global threat of our time…we are also citizens of the world.  And our fates and fortunes are linked like never before…for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late.  That is our job.  That is our task.  We have to get to work.”

Yes, UNA, we have work to do.

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