American Leadership in the SDGS: A Snapshot of UNA-USA in the Rocky Mountain Region
This blog directs your attention to the efforts of UNA-USA chapters in the Rocky Mountain Region of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Wyoming. Through Project Rocky Mountain Region, a signature program of the chapters that launched in 2019, UNA-USA members are addressing the needs of the most marginalized communities looking at access to broadband technology as a human right, and in support of SDG #4. This is their story.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDG)
In 2015, the United Nations, along with 193 member states ushered in the Global Goals – a blueprint focused on people, planet, peace, prosperity, and partnerships. These ambitious targets are scheduled to expire in 2030 when the world will pause to evaluate our success. While designed with the least developed nations in mind, the framework is also being used in the United States to address the needs of the most vulnerable right here, right now.
The United States of America (UNA-USA) is committed to localizing the Sustainable Development Goals and empowering communities to act for the global good.
CAREY BEAM, UNA-USA ALBUQUERQUE CHAPTER
TW: Tell us about UNA-USA Albuquerque Chapter.
CB: UNA-USA Albuquerque Chapter is a vehicle to unite and embolden people in our community to contribute to global conversations about our future as one human race. My involvement with the Albuquerque Chapter has been focused on meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals in largely ignored populations like isolated rural and indigenous communities.
TW: How have you managed to reach and engage rural and indigenous communities?
CB: Introducing UNA-USA and the SDGs in my rural community with a large indigenous population has been a subtle effort, starting with general informational presentations to the local school board and village council about the work being done to bridge the gap in broadband internet service. On behalf of UNA-ABQ, I worked with the schools to open up internship opportunities for students to contribute to the initiatives of UNA-ABQ by which they learned more about the SDGs and UN ecosystem. I organized an SDG book club program at the local public library for community members of all ages to participate. UNA-ABQ participated in the community celebration of National Public Lands Day by providing information about the SDGs and UNA-USA. I’ve reached out to members of nearby sovereign nations who are community influencers to present them with opportunities to learn more about the SDGs and support UNA-USA initiatives. I’m also working to identify an entity who can help to translate informational materials about the Affordable Connectivity Program into native Navajo and Pueblo languages. The hope is that, over time, regular small interactions such as these will build greater awareness and inspire more people to engage in deeper and more meaningful ways to achieve peace and prosperity for all.
TW: How does the US Government Describe the Affordable Connectivity Program on their website?
“The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.
The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.”
TW: In what ways has it been easy to form partnerships with supporting stakeholders, or what made it difficult to collaborate?
CB: In New Mexico, there are some unique factors contributing to the challenge of creating partnerships and collaboration. The state’s history encompasses European colonialism, systematic oppression of Native Americans, broken government promises and treaties, and a fierce sense of pioneer independence. There is deep-seated distrust and racism, in addition to cultural nuances that can be difficult to understand and overcome ahead of any progressive unification towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the topic of closing the digital divide to bring broadband infrastructure to ALL people is one that a majority of stakeholders can enthusiastically support regardless of class or creed. Aligning with other organizations across the state to include Tribal and civic governments, schools, public health agencies, industry associations, and others working on the universal broadband initiative has been a relatively easy entry point to discuss the SDGs and the work of UNA-USA.
PETER CORROON, UNA-USA UTAH CHAPTER AND NATIONAL COUNCIL REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE 2020-2022
TW: Why did UNA-USA Utah partner with UNA-USA Albuquerque on Project Rocky Mountain Region?
PC: We were looking for an important issue that faced our states in the Rocky Mountain Region, especially our rural areas. We decided upon Broadband because it addressed so many of the SDG’s including no poverty, good health, quality education, reduced inequalities and more! Broadband is really the new electricity. We may be able to survive without it, but we cannot thrive without it. Broadband can bring the world together in many ways and assist those in rural areas with challenges they face.
TW: Please share with us a few project milestones.
PC: Since we decided to team up as a region, we have created our own website, spoken at Utah and New Mexico legislative hearings, hosted a Broadband Virtual Summit, hosted Affordable Connectivity Plan (ACP) and are signing-up qualified individuals.
ROBERT MCNOWN, UNA-USA BOULDER CHAPTER PRESIDENT
TW: Tell us about UNA-USA Boulder Chapter and the connection to Project Rocky Mountain Region.
RM: UNA-Boulder Chapter has been in operation since the mid-1990s, working to advance the missions of the UN through advocacy, education, and special projects. We are especially proud of our humanitarian works, including fundraising to support landmine mitigation in Mozambique, education in Afghanistan, funds for schooling needs in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, promotion of Cities for CEDAW within Boulder County, and our current initiative with Project Rocky Mountain Region to enroll Afghan refugees in the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program.
TW: What was the nexus of Project Rocky Mountain Region? How did it come about and when?
RM: UNA-Boulder Chapter was initially attracted to Project RMR to participate in the campaign to extend broadband access to tribal communities. Our contributions to this initiative were limited, although we did bring in one speaker from Colorado for the Tribal Broadband Summit sponsored by Project Rocky Mountain Region. In addition, we were led by this project to adopt our own campaign to sign up Afghan refugees for internet access under the US Government’s Affordable Connectivity Program.
AMY BRYANT, UNA-USA BOULDER CHAPTER AND NATIONAL COUNCIL REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE
TW: We understand that Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Do you see an opportunity for Project Rocky Mountain Region to mitigate this problem?
AB: Covid-19 laid bare a lot of the inequities that were previously hidden from people outside of the communities affected. During lockdown, people relied heavily on internet access for work, school, and telehealth. Indigenous people were hit especially hard by the pandemic, so much so that the average life expectancy went from 71.8 years to 65.2 years, which is the same as Americans in 1944. This is due to Covid, but also structural and historical issues that results in higher rates of poverty which affects health negatively. Infrastructure is minimal in many of these communities which includes access to healthcare caused by lack of funding and transportation challenges to reach medical facilities which are often far away.
Our project to get internet access for Tribals lands is something we consider in our broadband efforts and how the internet can make telehealth more accessible to all to overcome barriers to medical treatment. In some cases, internet access is the determining factor in life-or-death situations as we’ve seen with this pandemic.
A LOOK AHEAD
In the months to come, UNA-USA Albuquerque, UNA-USA Utah, and UNA-USA Boulder Colorado will advance the mission of these chapters by producing a Public Service Announcement (PSA). The PSA will not only focus on the signature programs of the chapters, as it relates to refugees, access to broadband, indigenous rights, climate, etc., but will also serve as a promotional piece to further introduce the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) and the SDG framework to new audiences within the Rocky Mountain Region.
Serving as a resource to promote UNA-USA and advocacy in the region the above-mentioned chapters will utilize chapter infographics and the expertise of Spyhop to develop a dynamic video that captures the spirit of UNA-USA within the Rocky Mountain Region.
Upon completion of the PSA, chapters will collaborate with local radio and television stations to promote Project Rocky Mountain Region, the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for good, and UNA-USA as the largest network of UN supporters in the United States. With more than 272 million consumers of radio within one week, and 92% of Americans listening to radio, we plan to leverage touchpoints with college/university radio, public radio, podcast, public television, and other media channels to get the word out.
We are inspired by the many Americans who seek ways to make the world a better place. We invite you to learn more about UNA-USA at unausa.org, and to join our network of 200 chapters/20,000 members across the United States.
Betsy Bailey, President, UNA-USA Albuquerque Chapter
She is a former All-American, US National team player, and ‘alternate’ for the boycotted Moscow Games in 1980. She became the head coach, with the same team she played for, GSV-Porz Hennef. Her team won five consecutive national championships and gained respect through-out Europe. She was a pioneer in sport leadership within a friendly-foreign country.
In 2018 she returned to New Mexico and returned to Dale Carnegie®. Today, Betsy is her mother’s full-time caregiver and the current President of the UNA-USA Albuquerque Chapter. Her attention has focused on making mom happy and co-creating a better Albuquerque Chapter blueprint. Betsy is committed to exposing her community to the work of the United Nations and demonstrating how the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals serve the interest of New Mexico and the other 4-states that are a part of Project Rocky Mountain Region.
Carey Beam, UNA-USA Albuquerque Chapter
Carey followed an unconventional path to realize her true potential for leading teams and building communities, both inside and out of the workplace. Her passion for sharing stories and articulating complex ideas give her a well-rounded skill set to operate at all levels from the production floor to the boardroom. A passionate certified educator, Carey is accredited in public relations and has an extensive background in continual improvement and quality assurance.
Peter Corroon, UNA-USA National Council Regional Representative (2020-2022) & Utah Chapter Board Member
Peter Corroon has an extensive background in community leadership, commercial real estate and residential housing, construction, civic affairs, and small business development.
Mr. Corroon previously served as Mayor of Salt Lake County from 2005-2013, becoming the second mayor in Salt Lake County’s history. He also has served as the Chair of the Utah Democratic Party from 2014-2017.
Peter holds a law degree, a Master of Science degree in Real Estate Development and Finance, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
Robert McNown, President, UNA-USA Boulder Colorado Chapter
Robert McNown is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. He received his BA in Economics from UCLA and his PhD in Economics from UC San Diego. He held visiting faculty positions in Nepal (as a Fulbright Lecturer), China, Australia, and Vietnam (again as a Fulbright Scholar) and also on Semester at Sea.
Robert currently serves as President of the Boulder County chapter of UNA. His international experiences as an academic motivated him to join UNA-USA and to work with the Boulder County chapter, promoting the mission of the United Nations through advocacy, education, and special humanitarian projects. He is especially committed to the chapter’s projects to help fund a primary school in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, relief efforts for Ukrainians displaced by the war, and assisting Afghan refugees to acquire affordable broadband access.
Amy Bryant, UNA-USA National Council Regional Representative (2022-2024) & Boulder Chapter Board Member
Amy is a UNA-USA National Council Regional Representative, a board member of UNA’s Boulder Chapter, and is pursuing a Master of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver with an associate in psychology from the Community College of Denver. Amy experienced homelessness as a child and as a result is passionate about macro-level social work and collaborating with local communities to build equity through resources and opportunities. Amy has a background in research and program development and has created programming for DEAI initiatives and allocating resources to underserved populations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Troy Wolfe is Senior Director Partnerships & Special Initiatives at the United Nations Foundation/UNA-USA. Mr. Wolfe brings to the position more than 20 years of experience in education and diplomatic service involving bilateral, regional, and global issues. He has participated in negotiations regarding the major United Nations Civil Society Conference, Salt Lake City, UT, and national and international efforts to localize the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Additionally, he has worked in the humanitarian fields and served in the United States Peace Corps Suriname and Operation Crossroads Africa. Troy holds an M.A. in Communications, Computing & Technology from Columbia University, NY, and a B.A. in English with a minor in Education from Lincoln University, PA. Since 2020, he has been an advisor for Project Rocky Mountain Region, and has actively supported the efforts of the Chapter’s involved.
The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) is a grassroots network of Americans who support the vital work of the United Nations. For more than 75 years, UNA-USA has been in the forefront of empowering Americans to leverage the assets of the United Nations to advance world peace and understanding. UNA-USA members are finding innovative ways to interpret the SDG framework for local implementation.
Through our Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion commitments, UNA-USA is engaging a variety of stakeholders in solutions to issues that continue to plague our communities. We are developing partnerships and collaborations that build upon the expertise of local representatives, and are therefore, onboarding new advocates who themselves become champions for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
To learn more about Project Rocky Mountain Region, please contact Mr. Troy Wolfe at email@example.com