Better World Campaign and UNA–USA Capitol Hill Series

November 22, 2011

This fall the United Nations Association of the USA’s Council of Organizations and the Better World Campaign (BWC) hosted a series on Capitol Hill highlighting current issues and the work of the United Nations. This series was attended by more than 200 congressional staff and other experts, and brought high level UN and U.S. officials to discuss: the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa; global security issues; Liberian elections; and the ongoing situation in Sudan and South Sudan.




The following is a synopsis of the sessions:

September 19:Somalia: Ongoing Political and Humanitarian Crisis with Augustine Mahiga, Special Representative for Somalia and Head of United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and Jana Mason, Senior Advisor for US Government and External Relations, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The discussion centered on Somalia’s most severe drought and humanitarian crisis in nearly 60 years. Mahiga gave insight into the current political situation, highlighting efforts of UNPOS, which supported the recent “Roadmap agreement” that was signed in Mogadishu. This agreement aims to bring stability to the fragmented country. Mason discussed the large humanitarian efforts by UNHCR to provide life saving protection and humanitarian assistance to the 880,000 victims seeking help in refugee camps.

October 11:United Nations Counterterrorism Efforts with David Scharia, Legal Expert of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate. Scharia discussed how the UN’s critical efforts work to support and amplify the reach of American counterterrorism efforts. He discussed how terrorism is a transnational threat that can only be addressed thoroughly and effectively through the combined efforts of the international community, including the United Nations and the United States.

October 26:Presidential Elections in Liberia: UN’s Critical Effort with Jordan Ryan, Assistant Secretary General and Director of United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) and Nannette Ahmed, Team Leader for the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The speakers addressed first round of presidential elections in Liberia on October 11, featuring 16 candidates including incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the run-off election between Winston Tubman and President Johnson-Sirleaf on November 8.  Jordan highlighted UNDP supporting the government in registering 1.7 million Liberians for the election, almost half of which were women. Ryan also discussed the technical support they provided the independent election commission, which implemented the elections. Ahmed focused on the peacekeeping mission, UNMIL, which supported the Liberian National Police by training and helping them prepare for both election days to provide safety and security at the polls. Both speakers emphasized that the elections were important to reinforcing the democracy in this fragile nation-state, as they are only the second democratic elections since the end of the civil war.

November 17:Sudan & South Sudan:United States and United Nations Engagement with Ambassador Princeton Lyman, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and Francois Grignon, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Lyman discussed the current situation in Sudan and South Sudan and the critical need for the U.S.  and the UN to stay engaged. He highlighted that this has been an important issue for both Republican and Democratic administrations, and continued support is needed to avoid war. He said that since 2003, the U.S. has invested $10 billion in supporting the peace process in Sudan. Grignon spoke on the three peacekeeping missions in the area, UN Assistance Mission in Darfur, UN Interim Security Force in Abyei, and the UN Mission in South Sudan. These missions are working to consolidate security, promote good governance, and facilitate access to critical humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations. Both speakers reinforced the need to address the unresolved issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement including the border demarcation, oil rights, ethnicity, and the ongoing violence on the border. These ongoing issues threaten to further unravel the fragile peace.  Both speakers amplified that the the U.S. and UN are working for the same goals of promoting peace and security in the region and it is important for both to stay engaged in the region.

As a long time supporter of the United Nations, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) sponsored the series and provided space on Capitol Hill.  The Council of Organizations will look to build on the success of the 2011 series with a robust program in 2012.

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