On Friday, October 30th, the Humpty Dumpty Institute organized one of its largest Congressional Staff Delegations to date (see participant list). The staff delegation took place while the Third Committee was in session and focused on how the U.N. addresses the issue of religious freedom.
The day started with a working breakfast at the United Nations Delegates Dining Room. Mr. John Sammis, ECOSOC Minister Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, spoke on issues relating to religious defamation and the corresponding implications on freedoms of speech. Also discussed was the priority given by the United States to the issue of violence against women, which culminated in the adoption of the UNSC Resolution to combat sexual violence in armed conflict while the United States served as President of the Security Council.
Principal Officer in the Strategic Planning Unit of the Executive Office of the Secretary General Dr. Eva Busza and Senior Political Affairs Officer Josh Lincoln were the next speakers, and discussed current priorities of the Secretary General. Dr. Busza and Mr. Lincoln discussed the U.N’s role in the current global economic crisis. Once the working breakfast concluded, the staffers went on a tour of the United Nations building where they had the opportunity to visit the UN General Assembly and learn more about the U.N.’s history, as well as its well-documented Millennium Goals.
After the conclusion of the tour, U.N. Special Rapporteur for Religious Freedom Ms. Asma Jahangir was the next briefer, and spoke about the challenges facing the binding Resolution on Religious Defamation which is pending before the U.N. General Assembly. Ms. Jahangir’s briefing was followed by Mr. Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director for the New York office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who spoke about the general international legal framework for human rights and the current direction the UN is taking with respect to human rights. Mr. Mokhiber acknowledged the strengths and weaknesses of the HRC and why it is important for the United States to be a part of the Council.
The briefings were followed by a working lunch. Guest speakers included Zahid Rastam, First Secretary, Malaysian Mission to the U.N., in his capacity as Vice Chair of the Third Committee of the General Assemly; W. Cole Durham, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University; Suhail Khan, Senior Fellow, the Institute for Global Engagement; Dr. Peter Petkoff, Oxford University, Society for Law and Religion. In addition, Representatives from the Missions of Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and the Netherlands also attended the luncheon.
Assad Akhter Rep. Pascrell (D-NJ)
Robert Bacon Rep. Ryan (D-OH)
Paul Berkowitz Minority Staff Director/Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight
Marissa Doran House Committee on Foreign Affairs (Majority)
Kate Fox Rep. McIntyre (D-NC)
Ben Gielow Rep. Ehlers (R-MI)
Helen Hardin Rep. Wamp (R-TN)
Elizabeth Hittos Rep. Bilirakis (R-FL)
Allison Hollabaugh Rep. Smith (R-NJ)
Jacki Pick Rep. Franks (R-AZ)
Tina Ramirez Rep. Franks (R-AZ)
Melody Reis Rep. Lofgren (D-CA)
Jessica Rodgers Rep. McDermott (D-WA)
Jennifer Shapiro Rep. Cleaver II (D-MO)
Joanna Swirszcz Rep. Snyder (D-AR)
Tim Tarpley Rep. Poe (R-TX)
Shanna Winters House Committee on Foreign Affairs (Majority)
Luisa Blanchfield CRS
Craig Kuehl USUN
Jordie Hannum UN Foundation
Karen Smyth UNIC