The Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI) hosted a milestone event on December 3-4th, its 50th Congressional Delegation to the United Nations Headquarters. Working with the House Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), seven Members and several staff participated in a series of meetings and briefings with senior U.N. officials (see participant list below).
The delegation arrived in New York on the evening of December 3rd and was received by HDI Board Director, Mark L. Epstein, for a working dinner at his residence. Participants were joined by other distinguished guests and U.N. 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. HDI’s Board Chairman Dr. AI Khalafalla gave introductory remarks and President Ralph L. Cwerman commented on the next day’s program.
On Friday, December 4th, the group started the day with a breakfast at the United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN). Ambassador Isobel Coleman briefed the Members on USUN’s structure and mission. The United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, joined the discussion and spoke about the ongoing political and refugee crises around the world and what the U.N. is doing to address those issues. The discussion was followed by a question and answer session during which the participants raised questions on topics like peacekeeping operations, oversight and reform, the Syrian conflict and the fight against ISIS.
After breakfast, the day’s program continued at the United Nations Headquarters with a tour of the Permanent Memorial to Honor the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. HDI Congressional Advisory Board Member, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), was the moving force in getting U.S. government support for this memorial. The first briefing at U.N. Headquarters was given by Mr. Christopher Coleman from the Department of Political Affairs and focused on conflict prevention, and resolution and mediation. Mr. Coleman discussed the importance of preventative diplomacy and how the United Nations acts as a mediator in conflict situations. He also stressed the need for strong and inclusive institutions that the U.N. helps establish on the ground for assistance with political reconciliation process and to strengthen the civil society’s involvement. Mr. Coleman briefed the participants on DPA’s efforts to work with those in power in any given location in the world to create effective institutions and to counter-balance potential marginalization of particular groups and rise of violent ideologies/movements.
The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, joined the participants and started his briefing stating that the main goal of the U.N. is to better the lives of people around the world. To elaborate on his statement, Mr. Eliasson went on to discuss the importance of universal sustainability efforts such as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change Agenda. The next topic was conflict prevention and importance of upholding the universal human rights. Mr. Eliasson stressed the need to deter mass atrocities form occurring by preventative measures and by giving society the necessary access to proper institutions such as schools, hospitals and community centers. The Deputy Secretary-General continued by stating that the biggest ongoing challenge to peace and security today is the conflict situation in Syria. Mr. Eliasson urged for the need of a united global effort to address the situation properly to avoid more proxy wars in the region, where other states interests may be involved and extremist narratives may be used to divide the societies and spread fear. In closing, the Deputy Secretary-General expressed his concerns with the biggest refugee crisis of our time and urged the participants to take all possible measures to help the displaced.
Mr. Hervé Ladsous, the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, was the next speaker. Mr. Ladsous briefed the delegation on the “blue helmet” missions around the world and the significant fiscal effort that is needed to sustain a successful operation. He mentioned that at the moment there are three main missions that address counter-terrorism efforts which are in Mali, Sudan and South Sudan, and the Congo. Mr. Ladsous stressed that the main effort of each of these operations is to stop internal conflict and create an opportunity for formation of a peaceful transition framework, but many obstacles remain such as violence by non-state actors and involvement of foreign actors intervening in neighboring nations’ conflicts. A question and answer session followed with more discussions on the DPKO’s efforts on global peace and security.
The day concluded with the participants proceeding to a working lunch at the U.N. Delegates’ Dining Room. HDI’s Board Chairman, Dr. Al Khalafalla addressed the lunch guests and introduced the lunch speaker-Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Šimonović, Head of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mr. Šimonović discussed the global refugee crisis and issues of Peace and Security around the world. Mr. Šimonović gave examples of some of the ongoing human rights violations and stressed the need of an international effort to maintain strict human rights standards. In that regard, he highlighted the importance of the U.N. Human Rights Council which is headquartered in Geneva. The discussion continued with a question and answer session on topics of LGBT rights and religious freedom. Mr. Šimonović concluded by stating that this year marks one of the lowest years in history in terms of the return of displaced persons to their homes.
Hon. Raúl Grijalva (AZ)
Hon. Charles Rangel (NY)
Hon. Bennie Thompson (MS)
Hon. Janice Schakowsky (IL)
Hon. Steve Cohen (TN)
Hon. Suzanne Bonamici (OR)
Hon. Mark Pocan (WI)
Mr. Michael Darner, Executive Director, Congressional Progressive Caucus
Mr. Glenn Wavrunek, Chief of Staff, Rep. Mark Pocan
Ms. Kelsey Mishkin, Legislative Director, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva
Mr. Trey Baker, Legislative Assistant and Counsel, Rep. Bennie Thompson
Ms. Maria Laverdiere, Legislative Assistant, Rep. Keith Ellison
Mr. Adam J. Abramson, Legislative Assistant, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke
Ms. Shannon Kellman, Legislative Assistant, Rep. Janice Schakowsky
Mr. Phillip Frank, Rep. Mark Pocan