Our UN Day commemoration, held on October 30 and entitled “Syria’s Refugees: The UN and Global Community Response,” provided a valuable exploration of one of today’s most profound humanitarian challenges. While the civil war in Syria has proven intractable to international mediation and intervention, the UN and the global community are deeply involved in helping over two million Syrian refugees and its five million internally displaced persons. Our chapter wanted to engage our community to better understand the complexities of refugee issues, how the UN serves as the world’s major player in addressing refugee crises, and the critical function of non-governmental organizations, like Save the Children.
Some 60 UNA members, NGO representatives, professors, students and other interested parties gathered for a panel discussion with representatives from academia, the UN, and the NGO communities. We were honored to have a panel of dedicated experts who included:
Maryellen Fullerton is an internationally recognized expert on refugee law, author of seminal texts on the subject, and a professor at Brooklyn Law School. Professor Fullerton led off our event with an overview of refugees in history, describing the development of world norms and laws that govern the rights and treatment of refugees.
John Solecki is senior policy advisor with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New York. Mr. Solecki has served in with UNHCR in Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and UNHCR Geneva headquarters, as well as longer missions in Lebanon, Liberia Sri Lanka, Yemen, and recently in Syria. Mr. Solecki’s presentation was a highly engaging overview of the work of UNHCR, its origins, scope of operations, and present work as it relates to the conflict in Syria.
Gary Shaye is senior director of humanitarian operations and trustee relations for Save the Children. Mr. Shaye has spent 37 years with the organization in numerous capacities, including country director in Haiti and Bolivia, preceded by 14 years as vice president for international programs. At our UN Day panel, Mr. Shaye was joined by Abby Safirstein, Save the Children’s associate director of humanitarian operations. With Syria’s estimated one million child refugees, it was inspiring to learn about Save the Children’s efforts to protect, feed, and provide medical treatment to the many children and families they serve.
The event was held at the Brooklyn campus of the Long Island University in cooperation with LIU’s UN Graduate Certificate Program Club.
Sixty-four years ago on 10 December 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global expression to protect the rights of everyone worldwide. UNA-USA members and others across the world celebrate this milestone with Human Rights Day.
UN Day in Brooklyn Draws Dozens to Hear Global-Health Experts on State of Millennium Development Goals
The panelists agreed that there have been important world health improvements since the MDGs were established in 2000 with a 2015 deadline. For instance, infant mortality declined from 11 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011; also as of 2011, AIDS-related deaths had declined by 24% from their peak in 2004. But bigger advances, particularly for women’s health and reproductive rights, remain critical to the MDG’s aim of reducing extreme poverty worldwide.
Brooklyn’s UN Day gathering, with a networking reception, was co-sponsored and hosted by the United Nations Graduate Certificate and the Honors programs of Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.
WHAT: UN Day discussion & reception with global health experts, drinks and snacks provided – NO CHARGE
WHO: Ian Pett (UNICEF), Peter Navario (UNAIDS), and Adam Deixel (International Family Care)
WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 7 pm – 9 pm
WHERE: Brooklyn Campus, Long Island University
The Brooklyn Chapter of the United Nations Association, with the U.N. Graduate and Honors programs at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus, will host a special UN Day event addressing world health and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
A panel discussion and reception will take place on UN Day, Wednesday, October 24, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University, near Flatbush and DeKalb avenues. The event is free and open to the public.
The panel will evaluate progress and challenges for the health of women and children and for curbing HIV/AIDS and other diseases in the developing world. Scheduled panelists are Ian Pett, chief of health systems and strategic planning in the health section of UNICEF headquarters, Peter Navario, strategy and policy advisor for UNAIDS, and Adam Deixel, director of communications of Family Care International.
We are thrilled that these leaders in world health will join this important discussion on UN Day. Despite gains, we are far from reaching global health targets; mortality and morbidity rates are unacceptably high in much of the world. We hope this event can increase public awareness and support around the very achievable health targets of the MDGs. The MDGs are an eight-point road map (including three specific health goals) with measurable targets and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. World leaders at the United Nations agreed to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
On Monday, May 7th, 2012, the UNA Brooklyn Chapter held a meeting to screen the documentary called The War Against War, a Culture Project production directed by Fisher Stevens. The documentary was followed by an exceptional discussion with Kieran Dwyer, Chief, Public Affairs Section, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support. The meeting was held at the Brooklyn Campus of the Long Island University.
The War Against War presents a compelling overview of UN peacekeeping, showing its practitioners in a heroic light. The documentary presents dramatic footage of UN military, police and civilian personnel in action; a conversation at a NYC restaurant among seasoned UN peacekeeping veterans, interspersed with commentary footage by Secretary Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN leaders. The focus of the documentary is on MINUSTAH, the UN Stabilization Mission In Haiti before and after the tragic earthquake of January 2012.
The U.S. media so often focus on the mistakes and failures of UN peacekeeping. The War Against War presents a fair narrative that counters this negative coverage. It brings home the point that UN peacekeepers are often deployed into the middle of violent inter and intra-state conflicts, situations laden with all forms of the worst human misery, victims of brutal violence, rape, poverty and hunger. Peacekeepers are often working where the traditional state has broken down, where gangs, warlords and criminals are in charge. Usually when people go into such dire circumstances to help other people they are considered heroes.
One UN official in the documentary pointed out the fact that UNPROFOR, the UN Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia is often remembered for its failures when in fact that conflict was notable for the fact that there was virtually no starvation. The reason being UN peacekeepers made sure 3.5 million people were fed for the duration of the war.
While we’re all so discouraged about the cholera tragedy in Haiti, putatively the fault of UN peacekeepers not practicing proper sanitation, this film reminds us that it was UN efforts that brought stability to Haiti before the tragic earthquake and after. The fact stands that the UN went where it was needed and helped millions of Haitians.
While the documentary was interesting, informative and uplifting, the discussion with UN official Kieran Dwyer was even more inspiring. Mr. Dwyer began his remarks by asking attendees what they wanted to discuss. People wanted to know about how decisions were made to launch a new peacekeeping missions, force protection, training peacekeepers in local culture, and new policies to end abuses by peacekeepers on local populations. We all just wanted to hear about Mr. Dwyer’s peacekeeping experiences.
In answering questions, Mr. Dwyer shared his experiences working in a variety of peacekeeping missions. Recently returned from his position in Afghanistan as the Director of Strategic Communications at the United Nations Assistance Mission In Afghanistan (UNAMA). Mr. Dwyer told us about the dangers experienced by many UN personnel in Afghanistan and the new tactics used by terrorists to reach their targets. For instance, since the outer protection of UN offices and housing has greatly improved, the goal of terrorists is now to get “inside” the residences to achieve the maximum number of killings. Several of Mr. Dwyer’s colleagues and friends have been killed over the years so for him none of this is merely academic.
Mr. Dwyer, an Australian national, began his career as a human rights advocate working with Center for Transitional Justice and Oxfam. These interests led him to support self-determination for East Timor in the mid 1990s and finally to successive missions for the UN in helping East Timor transfer to Independence.
We were honored to have Mr. Dwyer meet with our chapter and thankful to the UN Public Affairs Section/DPKO/FS for arranging his attendance. We also thank the Culture Project for allowing us to screen The War Against War.