The Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI) hosted its 48th Congressional Delegation to the United Nations on June 18th and 19th, 2015. Eight Members of the House of Representatives and staff participated in a series of meetings and briefings with senior U.N. officials included the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Members of Congress arrived in New York on the evening of June 18. Mr. Mark L. Epstein (HDI Board of Directors) hosted a working dinner. The Members were joined by HDI Board Directors and UN ambassadors to discuss the relevance of Humpty Dumpty’s U.N. programs and their goal of promoting dialogue between the U.N. and the U.S. Congress. Board Chairman Mr. William J. Rouhana, Jr. gave introductory remarks and President Ralph L. Cwerman commented on the next day’s program.
On Friday, June 19, Members of Congress started the day with a working breakfast at the United States Mission to the United Nations. Ambassador David Pressman gave the participants an overview of USUN’s structure and mission. The United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, joined the group shortly after to discuss the ongoing political and humanitarian crises around the world and what the U.N. is doing in that regard. The discussion was followed by a question and answer session during which the participants raised topics on peacekeeping operations, oversight and reform, the Iranian negotiations, and Middle Eastern affairs.
After breakfast, the day’s program continued at the United Nations Headquarters with a briefing by Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, the Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post 2015 Development Planning. Ms. Mohammed discussed the goals that have been set by the U.N. Secretary General including further investment in local government institutions, domestic resource mobilization and public-private partnerships. These goals are meant to address the sustainability aspect of the assistance that the United Nations provides via its missions throughout the world. Ms. Mohammed also spoke about the need to address the infrastructure gap in the developing world as well as the need to help countries with tax reform for improved fiscal policy and to stop the flow of illicit resources. In conclusion, Ms. Mohammed stressed the importance of improving accountability and oversight for the U.N’s sustainable development efforts to be efficient and transparent.
The next speaker was the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Mr. Anthony Lake. Mr. Lake gave an overview of UNICEF’s mission and spoke about his role as Director. He highlighted the results of recent studies that have helped UNICEF plan their efforts more efficiently. The first study showed that working in disadvantaged areas was cost effective as positive results and progress achieved outweigh the additional costs necessary for such efforts. The second study, about early childhood development, found that up to 3/4 of what a child consumes goes to the development of the brain which means that around 160 million children have stunted brain development due to lack of nutrition, the primary source of energy. Mr. Lake used these study results to show that proper targeted research and attention to detail help define UNICEF’s goals and subsequent efforts to address the needs of children around the world. On the financial side, Mr. Lake explained that UNICEF’s budget is mostly made up of voluntary contributions with a third of contributions coming from private donors. To address transparency of the organization, UNICEF posts its internal audits online for contributors to see what they are paying for. Mr. Lake concluded by saying that with approximately 230 million kids living in areas of armed conflict, UNICEF’s efforts become undermined and he hopes for more political stability for the agency to succeed.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Hervé Ladsous was the next speaker. Mr. Ladsous detailed the Peacekeeping numbers: 125,000 Peacekeepers participating in 15 missions worldwide with a budget of $8.4 billion. Mr. Ladsous said that “although that is a large figure, it only constitutes 0.4% of consolidated military spending in the world.” He also noted that efforts are being made to create a leaner and a more sustainable force that could lead to a 16% cost reduction per soldier and accounting oversight on contracts. Another important issue addressed was accountability of Peacekeepers, specifically in light of recent child abuse scandals. Mr. Ladsous stated that “although the U.N. mandate does not allow for disciplinary action against individual blue helmets, the agency does exert as much effort as possible for the country of origin to discipline wrongdoing properly and efficiently, although such efforts rely fully on the legal system of the respective state.” To address the issue of sexual abuse, the agency is also taking strategic steps such as recruiting more women peacekeepers. Mr. Ladsous continued by discussing the current obstacles of peacekeepers in their mission to provide stability and in that regard, non-state actors and violence exerted by them have the worst impact on the effectiveness of the agency’s mission. A question and answer session followed with a more detailed discussion on the Peacekeeping budget.
The United Nations Secretary-General, the Honorable Ban Ki-moon joined the Delegation at noon. Mr. Ban Ki-moon started off by denouncing violent extremism around the world and expressed his condolences in light of the tragic shooting of nine victims in Charleston, SC on June 17, 2015. The U.N. leader went on to discuss the Global Warming issue and the U.N.’s efforts on addressing climate change. He reiterated his appreciation for the current U.S. administration’s support in this regard and commended President Obama for agreeing to open the next climate summit in his efforts to address the issue of climate change. Mr. Ban Ki-moon urged Members of Congress in attendance to be involved in climate change discussions with hopes that the United States continues to lead the world in this regard. Mr. Ban Ki-moon took the time to reiterate his support for a diplomatic solution to Iranian negotiations and expressed hope that these negotiations will yield a viable agreement. The Secretary-General went on to discuss current political crises in Ukraine and in the Middle East followed by a question and answer session.
Afterwards, the participants proceeded to a working lunch with various U.N. ambassadors and diplomats. HDI’s Board Chairman, William J. Rouhana, Jr. addressed the lunch guests and introduced the speaker-Mr. Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mr. Šimonović discussed the human rights situation in Sudan as well as LGBTI and Religious Freedom issues around the world. He also discussed the role of the New York human rights office and explained how it has been expanding since the establishment of the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights position in 2010.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL)
Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-GA)
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)
Rep. Robin L. Kelly (D-IL)
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)
Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI)
Mr. Duron Marshall, Chief of Staff, Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence
Mr. Richard McPike, Chief of Staff, Rep. Mark Takano
Mr. Matt Lee, Legislative Director, Rep. Ruben Gallego
Ms. Sarah Arkin, Senior Policy Advisor, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Mr. Abdul Henderson, Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus
Friday June 19 Program
8:00AM Working Breakfast at the United States Mission to the United Nations. Meeting with Ambassador Samantha Power, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Opening Remarks by Ambassador David Pressman, Alternate Representative of the United States to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs.
9:15AM Briefing by Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post 2015 Development Planning
10:00AM Briefing by Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF
11:00AM Briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Hervé Ladsous
12:00PM Meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General, Honorable Ban Ki-moon
1:00PM Working Lunch with Various U.N. Permanent Representatives and other Diplomats Remarks by Mr. Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Head of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR