On Friday, February 19, nearly 700 members of the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) attended the annual Members’ Day at UN headquarters for a series of panels and briefings on some of the world’s most pressing issues. These members once again proved themselves to be passionate advocates for strong U.S. involvement and leadership at the UN.
Among the many conversations that took place on Members’ Day, certain points came through especially loud and clear. Here are some of the top things that I heard:
1. Young people are ready – and eager – to be the leaders of today, not just of tomorrow.
One panel brought together the current and past four U.S. Youth Observers to the UN, along with the President Obama’s Liaison to Young Americans, Kyle Lierman. The five Youth Observers had sharp observations to share, namely that young people must start acting NOW to change the world, and that young perspectives are needed today in the highest decision-making arenas. As the current Youth Observer Donya Nasser said, “I’m a strong believer that ‘If you’re not seated at the table, then you’re on the menu.’”
2. Members are primed to take action and make real advocacy asks.
This year at Members’ Day, we partnered with Phone4Action, which provides live, real-time updates of advocacy actions taken at events. With their help, we sent nearly 1,000 messages to Members of Congress in support of UN causes, including peacekeeping, refugee relief, and the global goals – in a single day. Advocacy remains a cornerstone of UNA-USA and our members are as eager as ever – whether via phone or at our Lobby Day in June – to voice their support for the UN.
3. Refugee assistance is a top priority for our members.
One panel explored the current refugee crisis and included a young Syrian woman named Sana Mustafa, a student at Bard College and a refugee from her country’s civil war. Sana was given a standing ovation after she spoke eloquently of her and her countrymen’s struggle. “We will not be a burden on you. We want to contribute to your society,” she said, bringing many to tears. UNA-USA members then followed up with a firm advocacy action for more refugee support by texting and tweeting their Members of Congress via the Phone4Action platform.
4. Members helped to set the global goals – and now they’re ready to achieve them.
Our members have a long history of engagement with the new global goals: UNA-USA Chapters organized 50 consultations around the U.S. on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, driving more than 10,000 voters to the My World Survey and educating thousands. This input helped to create a more effective, sustainable, and inclusive development agenda. And now that the goals have been established, members are committed to strong U.S. leadership to achieve them. By texting and tweeting their representatives to support the global goals, members took another advocacy action for a key UN priority.
(Photo/Stuart Ramson for Better World Fund)