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Members of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA, who attended this years’ conference held on Friday,  February 10, had the privilege of taking part in something quite historic for Members’ Day: This year access was granted for the event to take place in U.N. General Assembly Hall. 

There was clearly an added air of excitement in the grand General Assembly Hall as approximately 900 individual members and guests filed in to take their places, and settle in on what promised to be a fine day of presentations from the podium by an “A” list roster of distinguished speakers.

The anticipation this year was heightened, as the keynote address was delivered by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Quetelet  Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University.

In addition to Dr. Sachs’ teaching duties, he is a distinguished author – most notably The End of Poverty: Economic PossibilitiesFor Our Times – and has been a special adviser to several U.N.  Secretary-Generals.

As Dr. Sachs stepped to the podium and began his presentation, he started by indicating that addressing an event like Members’Day was “fun for him”, and he commended the like-minded individuals in attendance for their efforts on behalf of the work of the U.N.

Professor Sachs’ address titled, “The U.N. in an Era of GlobalInstability”, highlighted the added importance of the U.N. in a world that is interconnected. As the professor noted, “every crisis can spread…every good idea can spread”; therefore, it is paramount for nation-states to work together to prevent crisis and to ensure good ideas reach all corners of the globe.

In a world reduced in size by technology, transportation, and telecommunications, issues such as the spread of disease, terrorism, money laundering, and environmental degradation respect no borders; thus, a fully engaged United States in the U.N. is vitally important.

There is a shared responsibility of each nation to manage the global commons, the distinguished lecturer said, and furthermore to effectively share in the global public goods.

The noted author and commentator continued to cite examples of the importance of the U.N.’s work, specifically pointing to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five Point Plan for the New Year.

The plan covers the following areas:  Sustainable  development. ·         Preventing and mitigating conflict. Building a world that is safer for all, with a special emphasis on human rights. Supporting countries in transition. Support youth and women.

As a Professor of Health Policy and Management, he knows all too well the importance of improving global public health and especially noted the significance of ending deaths from five (5) diseases in particular: malaria, polio, pediatric AIDS, tetanus, and measles.

Professor Sachs concluded his remarks this day with a discussion of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to the world’s foremost development economist, there are four (4) pillars of SDGs:  ·         Ending extreme poverty        Facing environmental challenges         More inclusive democracies More honest, transparent, and participatory governance

It certainly appeared from the ovation that Dr. Sachs received at the close of his presentation that the audience members were emboldened. One definitely was left with the impression, following the professor’s remarks, that members would rejoin their chapters with a renewed energy, and would begin to take the necessary action on the issues discussed.

The keynote address set the stage for the remainder of the day in what proved to be very informative panel discussions.

Following Dr. Sachs, a lively presentation ensued moderated by Jeffrey Laurenti, a Senior Fellow with The Century Foundation. The panel discussion was titled, “The Security Council: Assertiveness and Restraint in the Security Council’s Maintenance of Peace”. The two guest panelists were Rosemary A. DiCarlo, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative, United States Mission to the United Nations and Colum Lynch, U.N. Correspondent for the Washington Post and writer of the “Turtle Bay” blog for Foreign Policy online

Their discussion centered on the continual political dialogue in the Security Council and how agreements are reached, or not reached in some cases, in response to the constant conflicts permeating our world today.

Mr. Lynch touched upon the competition for world news and the changing media landscape. Ambassador DiCarlo did mention something very noteworthy that would characterize the ongoing debates within the Security Council quite well. She said, “Your adversary today is your ally tomorrow.”This summed up their discussion nicely.

A peacekeeping panel followed moderated by Peter Yeo, Vice President for Public Policy, United Nations Foundation and Executive Director, Better World Campaign. The title of this panel was “20th to 21stCentury – Evolution of Peacekeeping” and the panelists  included Susan Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for the U.N. Department of Field Support and Ugo Salinas, Senior Political Affairs Officer for Europe and Latin America Division for the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra referenced peacekeeping as the “flagship of U.N.”The composition of peacekeeping is large and complex and aside from the U.S. military U.N. peacekeeping is the largest operation.

She continued by saying that bringing global partnerships together for peacekeeping purposes is quite a challenge. The U.S., she added, can contribute significant technological expertise to peacekeeping operations that would only increase the efficiency of its operation.

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, (D – NY), gave the afternoon keynote address. Her address was aptly titled, “The Importance of Strong U.S. Engagement with the U.N.”, as the Congresswoman is one of the Hill’s biggest U.N. supporters, and has worked vigorously to assure that U.S. funding to the global body continues.

Representative Lowey emphasized that she will continue to fight for the U.N. and looks forward to working with UNA-USA in this regard.

The day concluded with one last panel, “The Future We Want: Emerging issues around Rio +20 and the Millennium Development Goals Beyond 2015”,moderated by Dr. Padmini Murthy, Global Health Program Director at New York Medical College.  The objective of this panel focused on the upcoming Rio +20 Conference taking place in June in Brazil. Representatives from several different NGOs weighed in on what they felt were most important for Rio +20 to  achieve.

There were a number of topics mentioned including, but not limited to, the following:  ·         Green  jobs        Energy  access ·         Sustainable agriculture ·         Sound waste management Sustainable cities     Oceans and their sustainable  management Disaster preparedness

It can be said with confidence that the annual Members’ Day was successful, and for those members who had the opportunity to participate and listen, the experience was very enlightening. 

It is certainly the hope of all that more will attend future conferences and events to highlight the importance of the U.N. in our world today. There is truly strength in numbers.


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