Thursday, October 24, 2013

UN Day 2013 UNA-Dane County at University House: Vince Kavaloski named Global Citizen; UW profs Neeson and Martinuzzi mark UN International Year of Water Cooperation

Over 100 gathered for UN Day at University House (photo: Dan Nordstrom)
A packed multi-generational house came together at UNA-Dane's 2013 Celebration of UN Day, held at University House on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Guests had the opportunity to meet UW students participating in the Model UN Program, Millennium Development Goals Awareness Project and Gen UN programs.  The family friendly event for all ages included a supervised children’s play area.

2013 Global Citizen Dr. Vince Kavaloski
UNA-Dane Board member Sara Friar (co-director, Center for Global Education at Edgewood College) presented Edgewood's Dr. Vince Kavaloski with the 2013 Global Citizen of the Year, for his leadership role in teaching hundreds of students about the work of the UN, and for his longtime involvement with the UNA.

Dr. Thomas Neeson, of the UW Department of Limnology, and Dr. Sebastian Martinuzzi, of the UW Agriculture School's Dept of Forestry and Wildlife, gave a presentation resonant with themes related to the United Nations 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation.

Excellent food from a variety of cultural traditions was served, and live music was provided by Daithi Wolfe, Clocks in Motion, and Joseph Elder.

This is the first time that UN Day has been marked with a reception on the UW campus, and the consensus was that the event was a great success.  The event was co-sponsored by: UW-Madison Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program, UW International Student Services - Millennium Development Goals Awareness Project, Edgewood College Center for Global Education, and SERRV International.

UN Day 2013: Report from Milwaukee, including events featuring UN Ambassador and Milwaukeean Joan Prince

We had a wonderful week of activities here in Milwaukee – especially with our Milwaukee-grown ambassador to the UN - Joan Prince, who gave talks at UWM, the Rotary Club and at the City Hall with Mayor Barrett, Nic Kovac, Chief Flynn and many attendees this morning. We also enjoyed hearing from the wonderful youth who participate in our city’s great Model U.N. programs. Thanks to those who spoke at Whitefish Bay City Hall and the Unitarian Church on Astor Street.

Join our Milwaukee United Nations meetings the second Saturday of every month at 10 am for exciting programs that focus on changing the world – and our city.  We meet at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 19th and W. Wisconsin.

In honor of UN Day (and every other day) I hope you give this wonderful little 10 minute video a watch.  Envision the better world we could have.  Help us work toward it.

Debbie Metke

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

UN Day 2013 Celebrated This Week: Two Women and So Many Others Who Made a Difference

Members of the United Nations Association-USA gather together at UN headquarters in New York to celebrate the UN's 68th birthday, as well as the 70th anniversary of the creation of the UNA-USA.  Details about Wisconsin-based celebrations are at the end of this article.

We're living through complicated and difficult times, and it's easy to become discouraged about the challenges now facing our globe.

However, this week includes October 24th's UN Day, when supporters of the United Nations come together to celebrate and acknowledge the opportunities for peace and global common cause that epitomize the reasons for which the UN was founded 68 years ago this month.

It's a time to revel in the powerful things that can happen in the face of collective action that embraces a view of worldwide community.  And it's also a time when the we remember the enduring power of the individual to inspire and bring about worldwide global change.

Syria Epitomizes Both our Fears and Our Hopes for the UN

As recently as late this summer, the U.S. and Syria seemed to be at an impasse, as the U.S. contemplated military action in response to the allegation that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons against its own people. Russia and China and other allies of the current Syrian regime seemed to be steadfast in their opposition to UN intervention that might lead to a lessening of the profound suffering that had accompanied a growing civil war.

UN Peacekeepers in Syria begin inspections for chemical weapons
And then, seemingly out of the blue, a compromise was floated on the floor of the United Nations Security Council.  Under the proposal brought forth by a previously obstructionist Russian government, UN inspectors would oversee the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapon stores, achieving the goals that had been purported to underlie an American military intervention, but by peaceful means.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.  And increasingly over the summer, a cross-section of the world's nations had been exerting more and more pressure on Syria and its allies to change course. This was echoed by concerted action of citizen's groups like the UNA-USA. This helped build the foundation for the change that eventually became real at the level of the UN.

Of course, what may be a solution to the problem of chemical weapons still doesn't address the larger problems facing the people of Syria and its regional neighbors, who are being torn apart by the death, destruction, and dislocation of thousands of refugees that come with the unimaginable scourge of this civil war.  But, whatever else is happening, it's an important beginning.

And it's the kind of progress that wouldn't be possible if there hadn't been a forum like the UN where the world's nations could come together to discuss global problems, and then act together in common cause.  In Syria, as in many other troubled corners of the world, the problems are extreme, and the solutions won't be easy in coming.  However, thanks to the UN, there is hope.

The UN: A Forum Where Individuals Can Also Inspire World Change

Two weeks from now, on November 6th, members of the United Nations Association-USA will come together in New York to mark the 70th anniversary of our organization, which preceded the creation of the UN itself by two years.  Teenager Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot at last year by the Taliban for advocating education of girls, has been selected for the UNA's prestigious Global Leadership Award this year.

Eleanor Roosevelt in her pioneering role as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
Seventy years ago, the American Association for the United Nations, UNA-USA's predecessor organization, grew out of the League of Nations Association in 1943. Then as now, the organization's role was to encourage a productive and peaceful approach to U.S. involvement in the UN.  One of the organization's original board members was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was soon to make history as an early US Ambassador to the UN.  Upon the completion of her ambassadorial term, she showed up at the door of the new group, asking for the chance to do what she could do to support them.

This was the quiet beginning of a major campaign in which Mrs. Roosevelt carried the message of AAUN across the country through personal appearances, recruitment speeches and fundraising efforts. She was elected Chair of the Board of Directors of AAUN in 1961, a position where she continued to work tirelessly until her death in 1962.  (Two years later, in 1964, the AAUN merged with the US Committee for the United Nations, thereby creating the United Nations Association of the United States of America, or UNA-USA.)

As history acknowledges, Eleanor Roosevelt was not only one of our nation's most popular and accomplished First Ladies, she was a fundamental force in the creation of an effective and inclusive United Nations, one that reflected the highest aspirations of American democracy on a worldwide scale.  She accomplished this on a daily level by simply putting one foot in front of the other, and humbly offering to do what needed to be done, in the process, inspiring countless millions of people to do the same.

Pakistani activist for women's education Malala Yousafzai speaks before the UN in September of this year.

Seven decades later, the young woman increasingly known to the world as simply "Malala," is making her own difference, echoing the primary role young people have always played in movements leading to substantial worldwide social change. Her courage and integrity--and her eloquent expression of the ideals underlying the necessity of worldwide support for female educational opportunities--have served to pave the way for a highly-energized and effective worldwide movement.  Last year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared November 10 as Malala Day. He has also referred to her as a "daughter of the United Nations."

Wisconsin-based Traditions and UN Day Celebrations

Susan McGovern and George McGovern
 Earlier this year, under the leadership of UNA-Dane, the WI Division and the Milwaukee chapter came together to honor the memory of former Sen. George McGovern, the beloved father of longtime WI Division president Susan McGovern.  McGovern, a longtime advocate of efforts that worked to eradicate hunger worldwide and nationwide, had served as a special UN ambassador in connection with this work, which continued until his death at 90 a year ago.  The two McGoverns, both George and Susan, epitomize the leadership and vision that so many have brought to their work on behalf of the UN and the UNA over the years.

John Quinlan (second from left) accepts award for UNA-WI
In this tradition, in June of 2013, the Wisconsin Division was one of three statewide organizations to be awarded the "Well-Worn Advocate Award" for individual, chapter, and division advocacy around the issue of passage of the International Treaty on Disability Rights at the UNA-USA annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Over the next several days, we'll also be marking these important anniversaries in Madison and Milwaukee.

In Madison, UNA-Dane County supporters will gather on Thursday, October 24th at 5:30pm at the University Club at 803 State Street, for a reception featuring great food, music, and special programming, including an emphasis on the UN's important role in developing water resources.  See .

Details of UNA-Dane's Oct. 24, 2013 UN Day event (click on image to enlarge)
In Milwaukee, longstanding traditions will repeat with an early morning gathering at City Hall, that will include the raising of the UN Flag, and a series of speeches by UNA President Gary Shellman and other local leaders. This will also be echoed in other suburban communities.  (Details on this will follow in an updated version of this blog shortly.)


In closing, I will always treasure my own participation in February of this year at the annual UN member annual meeting at UN Headquarters in New York.  Almost 3,000 people were in attendance from all over the US and beyond, including a broad diversity of young people, who constituted almost a third of the participants.  Panel after panel of international experts and activists discussed world challenges in a way that was surprisingly upbeat and filled with hope.

UN annual member meeting at UN headquarters, February 2013

It was an important reminder that, even as the U.S. experiences a time of seeming government paralysis and a resulting cynicism about our future, other folks around the world continue to strive on, with innovative approaches that emphasize collaboration and global action on behalf of the common good.  And rather than being weighed down by the current dysfunction of their elders, American young people were universally resolute that they were committed to these same efforts to building a better world.

It bears repeating: such efforts won't be easy.  But thanks to the thousands of ordinary people who've invested in the mission of the UN over the years through groups like the UNA-USA, and its counterparts worldwide, there is hope.  There are possibilities.  There is common action, on both a national and individual scale.

And today, as always, the actions of the Malala's of the world remind us that each of us can make a difference, too, each in our own way.  Happy Birthday to the UN and to the UNA-USA!

--Submitted by John L. Quinlan, WI Division President

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

2011 Wisconsin Division Statewide Conference in La Crosse on the United Nations and International Law

When:  Saturday, April 16, 2011
10am to 4pm

Where: Viterbo University, La Crosse

Keynote Speaker:  Professor David J. Scheffer
"Challenges of International Law at the U.N."

Students may attend free!  Please register using contacts below.

Professor Scheffer is on the faculty at Northwestern University Law School, where he is Director of the Center for International Human Rights.  He was the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues from 1997-2001, and led the U.S. delegation in the U.N. talks establishing the International Criminal Court.  During his ambassadorship, he negotiated and coordinated U.S. support for the establishment of international hybrid criminal tribunals.  Dr. Scheffer headed the Clinton Administration's Atrocities Prevention Inter-Agency Working Group from 1999-2001.

Dr. Wolfgang Schmidt, was the longtime chair of the Wisconsin Governor's Commission on the United Nations until Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently cancelled the commission.  Over the lunch hour, he will lead a discussion on possibilities for maintaining the work of the Commission in some way within a new format.

After lunch, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in discussions on the following topics:

  • The International Criminal Court
  • UN Security Council and Nation Creation
  • The UN Security Council's Responsibility to Proect (R2P) in Lybia
  • International Law and Nuclear Arms
For more information and to download the registration form, please write to or phone 608-441-1994.

Monday, March 28, 2011

US and UN Intervention in Libya: Humanitarian Necessity or Misguided Adventurism; neither or both?

At the March 25 board meeting of the United Nations Association-USA Wisconsin Division, those in attendance engaged in a vigorous and thought-provoking discussion about the implications of UN and US military intervention in Libya.We resolved to continue the dialogue here, and hope that others will join in, too.

This newly-created blog will serve as a forum for discussion of international justice issues related to the UN, and US foreign policy.  We'll also link to other related sites, and be place where you can find out about upcoming speakers and other events.
For right now, please consider weighing in on the situation in Libya.  Did the potential humanitarian concern about the slaughter of innocents justify this action?  Was the reaction too little, too late?  Does this represent a third front in the U.S.'s misguided attempts to achieve its foreign policy goals in this part of the world?
And in the bigger picture: why didn't US and other world diplomats anticipate the pro-democracy uprisings now occurring all across North African and the Middle East?  Is U.S. foreign policy equipped to support these nascent movements, even if they may be hostile and resentful of past U.S. foreign policy?  How is Barack Obama behaving differently than his predecessors (most notably G.W. Bush) in both the tenor of his remarks, and his actions?
Please join in our conversation by commenting below.  First time visitors to blogspot or blogger may need to complete a brief registration process by following the prompts.
UNA-WI board members have suggested the following links: 
Short article on Time online re Susan Rice's role in Libyan intervention, posted on national UNA website
"Libya Intervention Threatens the Arab Spring," article by Phyllis Bennis on
NY Times:  Samantha Power's role (in concert with the US' Representative to the UN Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) in persuading President Obama to act to prevent a slaughter of the anti-Gaddaffi rebels in Libya

Video from the 2011 "Ending Wars: New Practical Ways for Peacebuilding" Conference in Brookfield, WI

2011 Peace Conference
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“Ending Wars: New Practical Ways for Peace-Building” was the theme of the 7th annual peace conference to be held on Sunday, March 27th from 2:30 – 5:30pm .  The conference is free and all are invited to attend. The featured speaker is Dr. Sharon Welch, Professor of Religion and Society at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.  Welch is a member of the International Steering Committee of Global Action to Prevent War and is the author of four books, including Real Peace, Real Security: The Challenges of Global Citizenship.  Respondents include Julie Enslow, Milwaukee Community   Peacemaker at Marquette University Center for Peacemaking and Dr. Gareth Shellman, former intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army Security Agency.  All those attending were invited to engage in a Deliberative Dialogue to weigh the pros and cons of ways to end  wars and to forge a practical way forward.

Major conference sponsors were Candlelight Coalition and Unitarian Universalist Church West. Co-sponsors include Catholics for Peace and Justice, Peace Action-Wisconsin, Peace Seekers of Washington County,  the WI Network for Peace and Justice, and  Veterans for Peace.

Please note:  due to the death of her husband on Friday, Julie Enslow was unable to attend, and George Paz Martin filled in for her as a respondent.  Please hold Julie and her family in thoughts and prayers.