West Triangle Chapter, UNA-USA

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The West Triangle Chapter of USA-UNA
Online Text Version

May 2013

Presidentís Letter

Fellow UNA-WTC members, last month I informed you that, due to renovation work at Carolina Meadows, your Board of Directors had to consider changes to the venue for our UNA activities in our September 2013 Ė May 2014 season. In that context and in light of a number of other factors, the Board was also considering other changes to the number and type of Chapter activities.

As the Board did not wish to finalize any changes without input from the membership, I called upon you to volunteer to participate in one of four working groups (identification of speakers/programs, identification of possible event venues/formats, improved ways to publicize events/attract new members and preparation and distribution of the newsletter).

Sadly, I must report that the response to this appeal has been underwhelming with less than a handful of volunteers coming forward. It will not, therefore, be possible to establish the foreseen working groups and the Board will have to proceed on its own as best as it can.

I plan to invite those who did volunteer to participate in the upcoming meetings of the Board and share their knowledge and views with us. At this time, I can anticipate that it is likely that there will be significantly fewer events in the next year and that they will take place in different venues.

Despite these changes, I believe that we can maintain our mission to promote and educate about the United Nations and I urge you to continue your support of the UNA-West Triangle Chapter.

Lunch & Learn to Meet May 15 for Last Session Of Year

The United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) are central to international cooperation and the maintenance of global peace and security. Both are supranational organizations established after World War II to address major issues of peace and international cooperation. Both are critical, indeed, indispensable to the future peace and well-being of the world. But despite their pivotal roles in the global schema and name-recognition, what they do and how they affect the common person remain a cipher to most people.

Klaus Larres, Krasno Distinguished Professor of History at UNC, an expert on contemporary transatlantic relations and the impact of American global hegemony, will discuss the two organizations and their significance at our final Lunch and Learn meeting on May 15, in a talk he has titled "The EU and the UN: Are They Still Relevant: Peacekeeping, the Euro Crisis and other Matters? " (Note: our meeting will be a week earlier than usual). Reservations should be made by May 10 via $18 check made to "UNAWTC" and sent to Warren Glick, 83203 Jarvis, Chapel Hill 27517 .

UN Backs Women

The UNís Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.

This year UNA-USA members attended the 57th session of the Commission (CSW57) as UNA-USA delegates from 4 Ė 15 March. Delegates came from Chapters in California, Iowa, North Carolina, Utah, Washington, D.C. and New York to participate in the international civil society conversation on Violence Against Women and Girls. The delegates, each possessing a unique perspective, brought something entirely fresh and new to UNA-USAís engagement with the UN.

In addition to UNA-USA, representatives of governments, inter-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector and UN partners collaborated on the outcome document of the two-week session, which ended with an agreement adopted by more than 130 Member States on the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. It urged governments to translate the outcome of the "historic" gathering into concrete actions to protect and promote women's human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Lunch and Learn and Newsletter May Disappear

As Greg Flood noted in his President's Letters in April and elsewhere in this Newsletter, Carolina Meadows has informed us that it will be unable to accommodate our Lunch & Learn sessions from September 2013 to May 2014. For more than fifteen years, these meetings have been a major feature and center point of the West Triangle Chapterís mission to promote and educate about the United Nations. They were designed to satisfy both the physical (Lunch) and intellectual (Learn) appetites of our members.  The focus was exclusively on global current events, featuring speakers, mainly from local universities but also from the United Nations, the United States government and diplomats from other countries. The series was the only continuously running one of its kind in the Triangle for many years.

Equally, if indeed not more important, the volunteers from the Chapter who have organized our Lunch and Learns for the last fifteen years feel itís time for them to relinquish their leadership roles in favor of new leadership. This dilemma pertains, as well, to our monthly newsletter. However, regrettably, there has been virtually no response from the Chapter to our appeals for volunteers. This is disappointing, to say the least, for it means that neither the Lunch and Learn meetings nor our Newsletter, The West Triangle World, can continue in their current formats.

But the Chapterís Board of Directors believes that our mission is too important to abandon. We, like the great majority of our members, were alive during World War II and saw (some of us first hand) its horrors and we're determined that they should never be repeated. We also witnessed the establishment of the United Nations, which was founded to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war," and some of us have personally participated in the humanitarian efforts of the world body to improve the living conditions and expand the freedom of peoples in all countries.

Therefore, the Board has decided to see what alternative measures can be put in place to continue the Chapter's work. The Board is, therefore considering replacing Lunch and Learn with  new outreach-cum-education activities aimed at our current members and the general public, especially students in the West Triangle area. While maintaining our focus on international affairs and the UN, the new activities could include various "one-time" activities such as an international film festival, a celebration of UN Day, a commemoration of Human Rights Day and/or International Womenís Day, etc.

But to do this, Chapter members need to step forward and reaffirm their commitment to advance the principles of the United Nations which they made when they first joined UNA by participating actively in these activities. If you agree to be one of them, please let Greg know. If thatís not possible, regrettably, the United Nations may, at least metaphorically, disappear from the Triangle scene. The power to make sure this doesn't happen lies with our members.

Education Outreach
By Jean and Tuck Green

World View, based on the UNC-CH campus, provides study abroad opportunities as well as two day-long spring seminars and fall symposia on international relations for the stateís educators. The topics of this springís seminars were "Latin America and North Carolina" and "Europe in Crisis: Dispelling Myths about the European Union." We provided a table top display about UNA-USA and our Chapter. In addition, we provided the following materials for the roughly 300 educators in attendance:

  • Our brochure on "What Every American Should Know about the U.N."

  • A list of web-based resources for teaching about the U.N.

  • An organization chart of the U.N. System together with a rationale and description of the Millennium Development Goals.

  • A flyer about Model United Nations 

Model U.N. Club News

Frank Felicelli, advisor of the Club at Cedar Ridge High in Hillsborough, reports that four of his students were recognized at the Johns Hopkins University Model U.N. Conference. One, a freshman, earned a gavel as best delegate. Frank will award gavels to his graduating seniors at Senior Awards Day. One of those seniors is Claire Johnson, who was a Contest winner several years ago as a freshman.

William Snoeyink, President, and Kathryn Miller, Advisor, for the Carrboro High School Club, report that two students earned Honorable Mentions at the Ivy League Model U.N. Conference, which was attended by over 3,000 delegates.

The Co-President of the East Chapel Hill High Club, Yuyi Li, reports Club members won awards at both the Duke and UNC Model U.N. Conferences. Yuyi is another Contest winner.

Chapel Hill High School Club members participated in Dukeís Conference, according to Club Advisor David Bennett

If you would like to support this Committeeís work, please check off "Education Outreach" on the Lunch and Learn Registration form and send your donation in together with your Lunch fee. Suggestions? Please contact us at cgreen17@nc.rr.com.

The United Nations and 21st Century Youth
By Jasmine Chen, Outreach Intern

For the 2013 Model United Nations at Chapel Hill conference, the Secretary General chose the theme '21st Century Problems for a 20th Century Institution.' America's college students, in my experience, think of the United Nations as an increasingly irrelevant institution. The disconnect between the U.N. and college students falls into two categories: lack of education and lack of outreach.

I must emphasize that this article is based off my personal experience only. I have not been able to find any polling data on young adults and the U.N., so everything I write hinges on anecdotal evidence.

I am personally well-versed in the UN's structure and procedures from years of involvement with model UN. However, due to differences in school curricula, many American youths do not know that General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, that the Permanent Five Security Council nations have veto power or the name of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Additionally, a movement in U.S. conservative politics vocally overstates the U.N.'s jurisdiction, inciting fear about U.N. encroachment on U.S. sovereignty with plans such as Agenda 21. Misinformation is at the core of the divide between the U.N. and America's youth: they are not educated about the U.N., and what they hear in the media is negative and inaccurate.

The good news is model UN is a growing activity for high school students. Enter 'United Nations' and 'students' into Google and model UN conferences dominate the search results. This is important because students become familiarized with the U.N. at a young age and it becomes part of their long-term general knowledge. However, at the college level, model UN has evolved far outside the auspices of the United Nations. The most popular and prestigious college conferences, such as those hosted by the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia, are 'crisis simulations.' This means that committees are based on any body from the present-day cabinet of the U.K. to the Afghan Northern Alliance in 2001 to the royal court of the Qin Dynasty. The brightest college students prefer these small, dynamic committees to the massive and rigorously ruled General Assembly committees of high school model UN.

In my opinion, the U.N. can improve its youth engagement by addressing its education and outreach deficiencies. The U.N., though flawed in many ways, is still the first and only legitimate world forum. Students should learn about it. I believe the U.N. should develop stronger relations with universities. Several schools, including Columbia University and Seton Hall University, have academic programs about the U.N. (though no degrees or majors are offered in U.N. studies). The U.N. should promote programs like these and increase them by giving more schools access to its facilities and meetings.

U.N. bodies actually have strong internship programs, which are direct routes to careers in the U.N. The internships are unpaid, but in the current job market this is very common and does not deter people from applying. The issue is publicity. It could advertise these opportunities through university career websites and media that young people use, such as Twitter.

The U.N. should also consider starting a program like the European Union Centers of Excellence. Universities with strong European studies programs can receive the designation of E.U. Center of Excellence and receive grants from the E.U. UNC-Chapel Hill is an E.U. Center of Excellence, but it has no courses about the U.N. The incentive of funding would encourage universities to adopt U.N. studies programs.

UN No Help in Israel - Palestinian Conflict

(As part of our effort to keep our members informed about the issues addressed by our Lunch and Learn speakers, the following article summarizes the talk of our March Lunch and Learn speaker)

Shai Tamari, Associate Director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East, spoke about the long-festering Israel-Gaza relationship, at our March Lunch and Learn meeting. Born in Israel and an expert on the conflict, he explained the complicated relationship between Israel and Gaza. He pointed out that, although the UN is responsible for meeting the needs of the 1.1 million refugees in Gaza, it has been powerless to help resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which centers on conflicting claims of political sovereignty and land. Aggravating the substantive issues is that Israel and the Palestinians have framed their political positions in religious terms, thereby freezing them and immunizing them to political resolution by compromise.

However, part of the problem - in some ways more resistant to resolution - is a fundamental structural conflict within the UN which aligns the General Assembly, which comprises all UN member nations effectively on one side in support of the Palestinian position, and the Security Council, which contains the UNís major veto-wielding powers, in particular the United States, which support the Israeli position on the other. The result has been the longstanding stalemate we see today. This issue, which is inherent in the UNís organizational structure, has played a critical role in preventing the compromises required to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian differences.