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Advocacy News

Ask the Senate to ratify the UN Disabilities Treaty

July 17, 2014
One billion people with disabilities around the world need our help right now. That includes 57 million Americans — of whom 5.5 million are veterans with disabilities — who wish to serve, study, work and travel overseas.
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Schedule Your In-district Meeting Today

February 12, 2014
We need your help in making this a banner month for U.S.-UN advocacy.

2014 will be a challenging year for both the United Nations and the United States, but with your help we can address these pressing issues. Between the turmoil in places like Syria and South Sudan and ensuring an FY 2015 budget that includes vital UN funding, we need to make sure Congress knows a strong U.S.-UN relationship is more important than ever.
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Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force Writes Letter to President Obama on the Syria Crisis

September 27, 2013
This week, UNA-USA’s Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force wrote the following letter to President Obama concerning the situation in Syria:
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Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force Submits Human Rights Council Recommendations to John Kerry

March 1, 2013
Last week, UNA-USA’s Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force submitted recommendations to newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding bold initiatives that the U.S. should pursue during its second term on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Task Force developed the recommendations at a workshop on Feb. 11, where members discussed recent Council developments and opportunities for U.S. leadership on the organization.
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Stand Up For Disability Rights

December 3, 2012
On Tuesday December 4, the Senate is expected to vote on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is a treaty that enshrines the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities in international law.
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The Impact of the Palestinian Bid for Non-member Observer State Status on U.S.-UN Relations

November 28, 2012
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly requesting they be recognized as a “non-member observer state” rather than its present status of "observer entity."   On November 29, member states within the UN General Assembly (GA) voted on the resolution to change the Palestinian Authority’s status. This change in status will not result in the PA being able to vote in the General Assembly or become voting members of any UN committee. While the United States opposed this effort, it must not react in a retaliatory manner—such as withdrawing funding to the UN— which would drastically undermine American security, political, and economic interests.
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UNA-USA Awards Human Rights Advocates Paulo SĂ©rgio Pinheiro and Marlow Svatek

October 23, 2012
UNA-USA's Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force awarded Paulo SĂ©rgio Pinheiro with the 2012 Leo Nevas Human Rights Award and Marlow Svatek with the Leo Nevas Human Rights Young Advocate Award at a special luncheon at the Millennium Hotel in New York City.
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What Happened at the 21st Session of the Human Rights Council?

October 10, 2012
On September 28, 2012, the 21st Session of the Human Rights Council concluded its work.  Besides extending the mandate of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria for another six months, the Council also considered human rights developments in Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, and other areas.  The United States was also able to pass a resolution on the “Rights to Freedom to Peaceful Assembly and Association” and supported many other country-specific and thematic resolutions.
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What’s on Our Minds? U.S. Priorities at the 2012 Meeting of the UN General Assembly

September 13, 2012
This call was held on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 and featured Dr. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs, U.S. Department of State. After her presentation, Brimmer took questions from the audience for roughly 30 minutes. The call was moderated by Peter Yeo, Vice President for Public Policy at the United Nations Foundation, and Executive Director of the Better World Campaign.
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Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force Holds Private Briefing with Permanent U.S. Representative to the UN Human Rights Council

September 6, 2012
Felice Gaer, Chair, United Nations Association of the USA’s (UNA-USA) Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force, and Ryan Kaminski, UNA-USA Leo Nevas Human Rights Fellow, made the following statement following a briefing with U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council Amb. Eileen Donahoe. The Task Force, an advisory group of 13 distinguished citizens, established by UNA-USA in 2007, is vitally concerned about international human rights and the role of the UN and the U.S. in protecting those rights. 
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The UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council: A Dynamic Duo?

August 28, 2012
The United Nations General Assembly (GA) and Human Rights Council (HRC) are two bodies that work hand-in-hand to keep the diplomatic pressure on regimes that commit the most deplorable actions. Their recent actions regarding the dire situation in Syria is a perfect example of this relationship, as they continue to bring further political and diplomatic weight to bear on Syria’s few remaining geopolitical allies to change course. All of this occurs despite the often high level of criticism both bodies receive for being perceived as ineffective.
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Tell the Senate to Stand Behind for People with Disabilities

July 18, 2012
Take action today and call your Senator sitting on the foreign relations committee. Ask him or her to reaffirm America’s well-deserved position as a world leader on disability rights by voting in favor of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) during Thursday’s Foreign Relations Committee markup hearing.
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What's Happening at the UN Human Rights Council’s 20th Session

June 27, 2012
The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) opened its 20th session in Geneva last week, and in her opening statement to the HRC, U.S. Ambassador Eileen C. Donahoe outlined an ambitious list of U.S priorities for the three week session. The U.S. delegation will continue to work to build a broad coalition of support for freedom of expression online, press forward on country-specific mandates, and develop new thematic resolutions.
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A Quick Defense of the UN

June 25, 2012

Verena Borton from the Davis Chapter spotted an editorial extolling a number of misnomers about the work of the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and its role in Internet regulation. As it turned out, the editorial wasn't even written by staff at the paper, the Davis Enterprise, it was purchased from a national news service. The editorial was published on the final day of the 2012 UNA-USA Annual Meeting, where members received training and materials on how to respond to falsehoods related to the UN's role on different issues that appear in the press.

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Statement: Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force of UNA-USA Speaks Out Against Reported Assassination Plot against Asma Jahangir

June 8, 2012
NEW YORK – Following reports of a plot against the life of former UN Special Rapporteur and prominent human rights advocate Asma Jahangir, Leo Nevas Task Force Chair Felice Gaer issued the following statement on behalf of the Task Force:
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What’s Happening at the UN?

May 11, 2012
Amid concerns from the international community over the prospects of a “full civil war” in Syria, the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, said that the ongoing levels of violence and human rights abuses in the Middle Eastern country are unacceptable and the UN observer mission is possibly the only remaining chance to stabilize it.
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The Human Rights Council: In It to Win It

April 26, 2012
The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) certainly has its flaws, but it is in remarkably better shape than it was three years ago when the Obama Administration decided to run for a seat for the first time. Under the leadership of the Ambassador Eileen Donahoe, the U.S. has undeniably changed the dynamics within the body to make it a more credible and effective institution. Engagement at the HRC has advanced U.S. national interests and helped to restore the U.S.'s reputation as a global leader in human rights. Yet as its first term comes to an end, there are rumors that the U.S. may pull out of the race for re-election rather than risk defeat during a presidential election year at home. Though it faces tough competition, this is a winnable race for the U.S. and a second term is well worth the fight.
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A Showdown on LGBT rights in Geneva

April 4, 2012

Recently in Geneva, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held the UN’s first-ever formal discussion on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people. While the simple act of getting this issue onto the agenda of the world’s most prominent human rights body represents a victory for the LGBT rights movement, the manner in which the topic was framed—a panel discussion on “ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”—indicates how much work is ahead. Far from framing this as a discussion of “gay rights as human rights” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did in her Human Rights Day speech in Geneva, a number of countries (primarily in the Middle East and Africa) rejected outright a discussion of LGBT rights at the HRC and staged a walk-out.

 

The panel discussion (sponsored by South Africa and Brazil) was moderated by the Ambassador of South Africa and featured panelists from Brazil, Pakistan, Sweden, and the United States. National human rights institutions and civil society representatives also had the opportunity to speak and gave powerful statements.

 

As delegates were walking out of the HRC, the discussion commenced with a video message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which he boldly stated that an attack against LGBT individuals is an attack on the universal values of the United Nations. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay presented the UN’s groundbreaking study, which documents discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against LGBT people around the world. She urged countries to ensure that their laws protect their LGBT citizens and pushed for nations to decriminalize homosexuality, which is a crime punishable by death in some countries. According to Pillay, 76 countries retain laws that either criminalize same-sex relationships between consenting adults or are used to otherwise prosecute LGBT persons.

While LGBT rights organizations largely welcomed the panel as a first step in what promises to be a long battle for the universality of rights, the representative from Pakistan, who at this point had returned to the room, asserted on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), “We expect that this panel will be the last of its kind in the context of the Human Rights Council.” In the view of the OIC, “licentious behavior promoted under the so-called concept of sexual orientation” is against religious dogma and bringing the issue of sexual orientation into the realm of human rights will lead to “social normalization and legitimization of pedophilia.” Mauritania, on behalf of the Arab Group, made similar remarks, citing religious and cultural justifications, and Senegal on behalf of “most members of the African Group” referred to the importance of preserving social and cultural norms (i.e. homophobia) at the regional level.

 

Such statements were inevitable and were counterbalanced by strong positive statements by the panelists, the European Union, the U.S., Argentina (on behalf of Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay), and even Cuba. In response to the frequent and unyielding claims of cultural and religious considerations, these countries emphasized the powerful counter-argument that this is not about creating new rights, but a matter of ensuring that all human rights can be enjoyed by all human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This first panel discussion revealed just how deep the fault lines remain on this issue and as advocates regroup, they will likely consider a number of options to advance the issue. At this early point, many of these are aspirational, but further action on LGBT rights could include the creation of a Special Rapporteur to report on discrimination faced by LGBT individuals and make country visits; a follow up UN report with a more comprehensive analysis of the human rights challenges facing LGBT and intersex persons; and an experts seminar, which could provide the opportunity to engage on sensitive issues in a less politicized environment.

 

The highly politicized environment surrounding the panel discussion—which though formal does not directly result in any further action—underscores how high the stakes are on LGBT rights at the UN. Given the level of controversy this issue provokes in Western democracies, including the U.S., it is remarkable and commendable that the Secretary-General, High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a number of HRC Member States have taken on LGBT rights knowing that they would surely face direct opposition from groups on the basis of cultural and traditional values.

What to Watch at the UN Human Rights Council

February 23, 2012

Next Monday, the UN Human Rights Council will commence its 19th session in Geneva. The upcoming session is the longest of the year and will bring together the highest ranking diplomats from capitals around the world. Foreign ministers from the U.K., France, Sweden, and other European powers will join with their counterparts from Cuba, Russia, Iran, and dozens of other countries at the world’s leading human rights body. During a particularly tumultuous period for human rights, the Council’s agenda is jam-packed. As always, all sessions of the Human Rights Council are webcast with English translation.

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The Future We Want

February 16, 2012
This month's call was held on Thursday, February 16, 2012 and featured Larry Gumbiner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and Melinda Kimble, Senior Vice President of the International Bioenergy Initiative at the United Nations Foundation.
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