29th Congressional Staff Delegation to United Nations Headquarters

On Monday, July 13, 2009 the Humpty Dumpty Institute organized another edition of its signature Congressional program. Six Members of the Freshman Class of the United States Congress, joined by ten senior staffers, attended a day of briefings at United Nations Headquarters (see photos on right). The Members of Congress attending were:

Rep. André Carson (D-IN)
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA)
Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA)
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT)
Rep Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR)
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL)

Despite having just returned from a mission to Burma, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon personally briefed the delegation. The Secretary General spoke at length of his sincere desire for dialogue with the U.S. Congress. He stressed to the Freshmen Members the importance of understanding the operations of the U.N. system and how U.N. priorities and those of the United States are often on parallel tracks, citing both the vigorous U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world and the U.N. emphasis on the rights of women and children. He reminded the group that the United Nations was largely a creation of the United States. The Members of Congress raised the issues of U.N. reform and anti Israel rhetoric in the United Nations. Mr. Ban Ki-moon assured them that he was working diligently on these concerns and stated his commitment to transparency in U.N. operations and his desire that the United Nations be a fair and honest broker in the Middle East. The Members of Congress expressed their appreciation to the Secretary General for his time and all thanked him for his frank talk.

The day had begun with a working breakfast at the U.N. Millennium Plaza Hotel at which HDI President Ralph Cwerman discussed the importance for a vibrant engagement of the United Nations by the U.S. Congress and explained how The Humpty Dumpty Institute works to bring the two together. The Vice-Chairman of Humpty Dumpty Institute’s Board of Directors, William Rouhana, stressed the importance of the United Nations to U.S. foreign policy objectives and stated that “through dialogue comes mutual understanding and productive cooperation”. Finally, former Chair of the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and current member of Humpty Dumpty Institute’s Board of Directors, Benjamin Gilman explained how through a better understanding of the United Nations system, Members of Congress could more effectively design legislation.

The first briefing of the day was by the senior U.S. diplomat in the United Nations system, Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. Under Secretary for Political Affairs. Ambassador Pascoe gave an overview of how the United Nations functions and its relationship with regional organizations (e.g. OAU, EU, etc.). The Under Secretary stressed that the United Nations is impartial but not neutral That is, it does not take sides in disputes, but remains a “norm driven organization” and functions with a code of justice and human rights. As an impartial body, the United Nations is now working to bring the different parties together in both Iraq and Somalia. However, as a defender of women rights and religious freedom, the United Nations has become a target of international terrorist groups and is currently under active threat by Al-Qaeda.

Ambassador Pascoe was followed by Ambassador Anda Filip of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU). Ambassador Filip discussed how the IPU provides mechanisms of exchange among national legislative bodies, and urged the Members to consider U.S. Congress involvement in IPU programs. After Ambassador Filip’s presentation, the delegation was given a VIP tour of the United Nations headquarters, with the Members being escorted on to the floor of the United Nations Security Council. Upon returning to the briefing room in addition to hearing from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon the delegation was addressed by Ms. Deborah Saidy, Special Coordinator of the New York Office of the World Food Program and Sir John Holmes, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Ms. Saidy and USG Holmes both discuss the need for the cycle of poverty and food dependence to be broken. Mr. Holmes discussed specific operations of the United Nations in providing relief assistance in both war torn areas and those struck by natural disasters. These presentations gave the delegation a better understanding of the need for food security as well as emergency relief. Many remarked that they now better understand the background of The Humpty Dumpty Institute’s school feeding programs in Laos and its current assistance to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Sri Lanka.

The delegation proceeded to lunch at the U.N. Delegates Dining Room where they were given an in-depth overview of U.S. Administration priorities in the United Nations by the U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff. The conversation centered on how the United States could best work within the United nations system to achieve foreign policy goals and continue the on-going reform process.

The Freshmen Members who attended The Humpty Dumpty Institute’s 29th Congressional Delegation gained an encompassing overview of the United Nations. Upon his return to Washington D.C., Rep. Andre’ Carson issued a press release calling the United Nations “crucial for lasting peace and economic stability.” (Click here for full press release)

Funding for this program has been provided by the United Nations Foundation
For more information, please contact Capera Clement at capera.clement@thehdi.org
or Alma Manzo, alma.manzo@thehdi.org