March 25, 2012
The first event of the day was a working breakfast hosted by the United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN) U.S. Ambassador and Representative for Management and Reform to the United Nations, Joseph Torsella, discussed the importance of reform in the United Nations as well as the United Nations role in advancing U.S. foreign policy goals within the international system. The delegation also was able to hear from USUN’s Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs, Courtney Nemroff, who explained U.S. positions on the many religious freedom resolutions now under consideration in the U.N. General Assembly.
Following the breakfast, Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Political Affairs, the highest ranking U.S. diplomat in the United Nations system, presented the Staff Delegation with an overview of the United Nations and specifically discussed the successes of U.N. peacekeeping activities. He explained that if the U.N. were not to undertake these activities many of them would fall to the United States, at a high cost in resources and lives. Ambassador Pascoe also highlighted the U.N.’s work in combating drugs, terrorism, and human trafficking.
Ms. Shireen Said, U.N Development Program Policy Advisor for Human Rights was the next speaker. She explained to the delegation that her office does not have a normative or monitoring mandate, but rather follows the course laid out by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Ms. Said spoke about how human rights and religious freedom are central to sustainable human development. She detailed her office’s role in providing support to national partners, strengthening national institutions, and ensuring human rights principles are integrated into all UNDP programs.
The final briefing of the morning was conducted by U.N Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt , via Skype from his office in Germany. It was a lively discussion with the congressional staffers asking questions about the current situations in Nigeria, Egypt, and Iran. Dr. Bielefeldt assured the delegation that he wanted to hear the views and opinions of the U.S. Congress and expressed appreciation for its interest and support.
The delegation then toured the United Nations Secretariat and General Assembly buildings to review the state of the current renovations. This was followed by a working lunch with U.N. Permanent Representatives from Vietnam, the Holy See, and Iraq as well as diplomats from the U.N. Permanent Missions of Myanmar, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Tajikistan and Saudi Arabia. During the lunch, Ms. Donnette Critchlow, a representative of the Republic of Guyana and the Vice-Chair of the United Nations Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Third Committee addressed the delegation. Ms. Critchlow gave an in-depth presentation on the role of the Third Committee’s work in the area of religious freedom.
Joe Sheehy Legislative Director, Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Algene T. Sajery Democratic Staff Director, House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights
Dan Harsha Professional Staff Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee
Miriam Keim Policy Analyst, Representative Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL)
Laura Finch Executive Assistant, Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL)
Elizabeth Hoffman Legislative Assistant, Representative John Carter (R-TX)
Kara Spencer Legislative Assistant, Representative Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
Jon Baselice Legislative Assistant, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Stephanie Hammond Legislative Assistant, Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ)
Rebecca G. Ulrich Legislative Assistant, Representative Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
Blair Bjellos Legislative Assistant, Representative Ted Poe (R-TX)
Jason Lemons Legislative Assistant, Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Kristine Michalson Legislative Assistant, Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Carson Middleton Legislative Assistant, Representative Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA)
Isaac Fong Legislative Assistant, Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA)
Kelly Stone Legislative Assistant, Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Alex Tiersky Congressional Research Service
Matthew Weed Congressional Research Service
Marie Okabe United Nations Information Center
William Davis Washington Representation Office, United Nations Development Program
Dr. C. Reynold Verret Provost, Wilkes-Barre University
Andy Miller Head of the International Studies Program, Wilkes-Barre University