Educating and Advocating on the UN

July 20, 2011|by Patrick Madden, UNA-USA Executive Director

Just a week or so ago, the world and the UN welcomed a new nation to its ranks – South Sudan. This doesn’t happen every day; in fact it’s been five years since Montenegro became an independent state. As divided politics and war wane and ultimately peace and stability prevail, the UN is the international institution that gives an equal voice to new states among the world’s superpowers and developing countries across continents and oceans.


South Sudan is the latest example of how the UN continues to be relevant across the globe. Yet, in the United States, awareness and understanding of the UN’s work is marginal at best. Sadly, American media coverage of world affairs, even in large cities, is nearly nonexistent. Smaller towns and communities lack local resources to keep citizens aware and knowledgeable – this is where UNA-USA comes in.

My experience has shown me that there is a thirst for international engagement locally. Citizens in all corners of the country are interested in what is happening around the world, learning how it is affecting the U.S. and what individuals can do to become a global citizens. In some instances, their curiosity is satisfied through Web sites and online news clips, but for most individuals that’s not enough. UNA-USA chapters bring the global conversation to the local level. UNA-USA members demonstrate a continued passion and pursuit to educate and advocate for the UN across the country. (Despite mainstream media’s vaccuum coverage of the UN, members and the general public can enjoy regular news and opinion updates at our online magazine – The InterDependent.)


This fall, on October 24, we will mark the 40th anniversary of UN Day. The day recognizes the birthday of the UN, when in 1945 a majority of its founding members ratified a treaty setting up the world body. (UN Day was formally established in 1971.) This is our moment to show communities across the country why the UN matters on Main Street. This is our moment to give a local voice to a global solution we believe in.


Pick an issue the UN is working on: Haiti reconstruction, peaceful election transition, climate change, Model UN, peacekeeping, human rights, trade, the empowerment of women, education, hunger, global health, economic development, international justice – the list goes on and on. Choose an issue and develop a public program in your community to foster a UN-centered dialogue. Invite your local media to cover it. Ask students to debate the issue. Encourage members of Congress to emcee the event. Tell your mayor to make a UN proclamation. Bring in a range of other community-based organizations to co-host the program with you. Make an impact by showing those around you how important this is to you, to your community and to our country.


This is not only for chapters, but a call to action for individual members as well. What if all 12,000 UNA-USA members committed to one public action on October 24 to mark this important day? Blog. Tweet. Skype. Like UNA-USA online. Host a dinner. Grab coffee with friends. Volunteer at an internationally focused nonprofit. Speak at a school. The list is endless, just as our passion to raise global competency is endless within the U.S. Give the time on October 24. The UN needs our help to get the word out and build a better world.

Labels: From the Executive Director, World Bulletin