Monday, December 31, 2012

The Long View

by Dorothy Messenger

In October 1945, shortly after the end of World War II and at the time the charter of the United Nations was being signed, I was a young housewife in Denton, Texas.  We had just gone through the trauma of the war, and I remember the hopeful feeling that a peaceful world was on the way, and that the United Nations would make a difference.  For all these years since 1945, I have been a staunch supporter of that organization.  Some time after we moved to Edmond in 1992, I was delighted that there was an Oklahoma City chapter of the UNA-USA to which I could belong.

The UNA-USA mission, which draws me to want to help, is:

"We are dedicated to educating, inspiring and mobilizing Americans to support the principles and vital work of the United Nations, strengthening the United Nations system, promoting constructive United States leadership in that system and achieving the goals of the United Nations charter."

There are many things I like about being a member of our chapter.  I appreciate the fact that its membership includes persons of many ethnic backgrounds and persons of different religious faiths.  The membership is inter-generational and represents a variety of vocations and opinions.  I’m grateful that the UNA-USA affords me an opportunity to become better informed about the activities of the United Nations and the whole world scene.  It’s good to be a part of an organization where all the members obviously share a love of our nation and of the world and want to have a part in helping our nation to live up to its highest ideals.

Being a member of the UNA-USA is extremely important to me because it makes me feel I am part of a huge, centuries-old movement of humankind, a movement of people who are convinced that there are better ways than war for settling national disputes.   Even as long ago as 1795, according to an article I read about the League of Nations, Immanuel Kant had proposed the idea of a league of nations to control conflict and promote peace between nation states.  After the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, the Concert of Europe was developed in an attempt to maintain the status quo between European states and thus avoid war.  All through the years since those earlier days, there have been movements and organizations whose purpose has been to avoid war and to discover ways that the nations of the world can work together for the benefit of all. The road to a method of avoiding war has been a long one,  and I feel that the United Nations is our current hope.

I’m reminded of a meditation by Oscar Romero, a priest in El Salvador, who was shot and killed because of his work with, and protection of, the poor in a time of brutality and political upheaval in his country.  He reminds us that change is often not quick and that unswerving commitment will be required.  I’m quoting here a few lines from that meditation:

            It helps now and then to step back and take a long view. . . .
            This is what we are about:
            We plant seeds that one day will grow.
            We water seeds already planted, knowing that they
                        hold further promise.
            We lay foundations that will need further development.
            We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our
            We cannot do everything and there is a sense of
                        liberation in that.
            This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
            It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step
                        along the way. . . .

Being a member of UNA-USA helps me to feel that I am a part, even though just a small part, of this huge movement of humankind toward a peaceful, caring world community.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Criticisms Continue

We're committed to opposing Senate Bill 23 in the 2013 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. The proposed new law is built upon a false premise. If SB23 succeeds, it would result in some very pernicious consequences for the people of our state. It would prohibit state agencies, cities, counties, state universities and public libraries from investing in an array of resources from United Nations agencies and certain non-governmental organizations.

The first editorial opinion on Senate Bill 23 was published today by the Tulsa World. Here are some key excerpts:
It seems almost preposterous, but there are still people out there who sincerely believe there is a plot by the United Nations to take over the United States and evidently Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, is one of them. 
The latest conspiracy theory making the rounds on the Internet is the U.N.'s Agenda 21, which is seen by some, including Anderson, as a way for the U.N. to somehow gain control of our land and dictate how it can be used. 
Anderson plans to introduce Senate Bill 23, calling for a legal ban on city membership in groups tied to the Agenda 21 proposal....
Agenda 21 is a nonbinding document that is a comprehensive plan of global, national and local action to preserve the environment. It deals mostly with bike trails, mass transit, sustainable farming and energy conservation. That hardly sounds like a devious plan to take over the world.... 
We'd like to believe that the upcoming session of the Legislature would deal with the myriad of serious problems facing this state. If this legislation is any indication, that, sadly, is likely far too much to hope for.
Read more at the Tulsa World website. 

The next comment is from an engineer in our state's aerospace industry. He offers his take on Senate Bill 23:
First, it goes against the Governor's vision of Oklahoma's technological future.  As an engineer in the aerospace industry, I rely on technical data from all over the world - including NATO and UN organizations - to keep Americans safe in the skies.  This whittles away at the capability we are trying to build.  We like it here, but this kind of "support" is disheartening.
Second, it flies in the face of the outstanding academic institutions we have here.  OSU agricultural research is world recognized.  In addition, we boast one of the best Engineering programs in this part of the country.  OU's partnership with the National Severe Storms Lab has no other equal. Millions of dollars in research grants come here from around the world. This bill tells all of these institutions, "We don't want you here because you are scientists." If the bill were to pass as law, and defeated in appeals (I would expect constitutional concerns), our universities would be forbidden to access critical information they need to continue the amazing work they do.
Don't forget this is also the center of the FAA universe with the Mike Monroney Aeronautical center.  The Air Force Logistics center is here.  The list of corporations employing educated technical professionals can go for pages.  Again, "We don't want you here."
Third, this is the OPPOSITE thing you would want to do if you didn't trust, or were hostile to, international research.  You have to have academic peerage.  Researchers MUST be able to review other researcher's works to ensure the science is accurate.  By banning this, you remove the ability of scientists to question it.  Note that none of these legislatures have much of anything to do with scientific careers, which is even more disheartening.
--James Beauchamp

Eric Heinze is a professor at the University of Oklahoma:
I am a professor and researcher of international relations, specifically international organizations and institutions, such as the United Nations. While I also have my opinions about the United Nations, it’s agenda, and efficacy in world politics, as an analyst and educator, the only way I can seek to advance knowledge and understanding of these institutions and how they operate — for good or bad — is if I am able to access the information that they produce.  The proposed legislation would seek to ban our state universities from purchasing a variety of research reports, datasets, and other information from entities tied to the United Nations, such as the World Bank, UNICEF, and scores of other UN-affiliated bodies that produce massive amounts of information on a variety of global issues. This would severely curtail access to this information by those studying and working on solutions to the world’s many problems, as well as stymie the advancement of knowledge about how international organizations are thought to affect world politics.  Such a law would be disastrous for the free flow of information, for the ability to produce knowledge, and would have detrimental effects on Oklahoma businesses operating in a global economy.
--Eric Heinze, Ph.D.

Friday, December 21, 2012

More Testimony

Following up on our article of December 20th ("Consequences"), we are using this space to publish reader comments on Senate Bill 23.

We're inviting students, public employees, teachers, librarians, and members of the public to
tell us how potential limitations on access to United Nations reports and resources would effect
their pursuit of knowledge.

Our first comment is from a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma:

"I recently completed my doctoral dissertation on UN peacekeeping operations from 1991-2007 at the University of Oklahoma. Without access to the UN and other NGO's data, through the Oklahoma Library and other resources, I would not have been able to complete this degree and research project. The UN and related subsidiaries have an immense amount of data and research ranging from security, health, climate and human rights issues. To limit our access and abilities to effectively share this knowledge is not only prohibitive to progress, it reverses it. As the United States continues to slide down the international rankings in a number of educational indices, you would think we would embrace access to valuable information, not restrict it."
--Jarrett Jobe

Our friend Christiaan Morssink offers a few more considerations ("in no way in order of importance," he says):

"a. American agricultural schools and farmers and  businesses are deeply involved and earning money via the FAO and its programs.
"b. Almost all graduate schools in the country use the UN System for research, internships, PhD dissertations, sabbatical programs, international conference planning and knowledge discrimination. Without the UN's involvement around accreditation, how do you know which universities and which research to take seriously. How do you attract foreign students and foreign investments if you want to foresake the network that makes this all possible?
"c. The threat of health (care) crises worldwide is monitored by CDC, PAHO ( an arm of the WHO). We are deeply involved in worldwide prevention programs, including here at home that needs to rely on a global system. Stepping away from the UN on this point is like saying we can control viruses to respect our borders.
"d. Protection of  American journalists, promotion of democracy, export of American culture, including the promotion of tourism to the shores of Oklahoma (tongue in cheek) is in no small measure the work of UNESCO.

"In light of the interconnectedness of the economies of the world, the health care systems, the trade systems, the communication technology, the diplomacy requisites, etc. it is not only ignorant or stupid to declare the UN a 'verboten' entity, it is plain dangerous for the welfare of Oklahoma and the U.S. We are capable of being a really serious constructive leader in world affairs, especially in providing stewardship of this earth, but these anti-UN laws makes a mockery of that."  
--Christiaan Morssink

Ron Burkard, a retired program manager who now lives in Oklahoma City, adds this comment:

"During my 40 year career in international development as an employee of both CARE and World Neighbors I have managed programs for U.N. agencies such as the World Food Program and UNICEF and have first-hand experience coordinating with those and other agencies such as the United Nations Development Program, World Health Organization and others, both in the nine countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa in which I lived and worked and in a number of others.  The world is a better place because of the United Nations and it's various agencies.  While imperfect as all human creations, we need the U.N. and should be supporting, not attacking it.  I find it hard to understand what could possibly motivate clear-thinking Americans to be opposed to the U.N. and the high ideals for which it stands."
--Ron Burkard

The Respect Diversity Foundation, well-known in Oklahoma, for its educational activities and extensive speakers bureau, has offered this statement:

"Human rights activists, civil rights leaders and other speakers for the Respect Diversity Foundation (RDF) gain valuable information through reports from UNESCO and other UN organizations.  It has been noted that often, after an RDF educator speaks to an assembly of middle and high school students, the bullying incidences go down.  Every form of information that helps our educators teach character building lessons is a good thing.  Let’s embrace the good work of the United Nations." 
--Joan Korenblit
Executive Director
Respect Diversity Foundation

Klint Alexander, an attorney, expands our thinking on this subject to include a comment about the benefits that UN-affiliated organizations bring to the American business community:

"Regarding your anti-Agenda 21 measure, keep in mind that the WTO, the IMF (bailout central), the World Bank and WIPO are all UN-affiliated institutions.  Is it realistic for farmers or oil companies operating abroad to not order reports/summaries concerning trade restrictions in foreign countries, especially US-China trade disputes on currency manipulation, IP piracy, or dumping, or recent retaliatory sanctions imposed by the WTO against the EU for banning American hormone-treated beef? Do OK taxpayers wish to know whether the IMF is approving American tax dollars to bailout Greece, Ireland and possibly Spain? The World Bank's dispute settlement arm - ICSID - is the number one place for multinational corps based in the US to go to resolve their investment disputes all over the world and by preference of American oil and gas investors to seek compensation when their assets are expropriated / nationalized in Venezuela or Africa. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a single place for a US patent holder to file a patent registration in multiple countries without having to go to each country to file, paying separate lawyers' fees and registration fees for each country. 
"The List goes on and on ......." 
--Klint Alexander 

Katy Hansen points out that "Agenda 21," the supposed reason for SB23, poses no threat to Oklahoma communities:

“'Agenda 21' was formulated and adopted 20 years ago by 178 nations who came together to consider how to improve our environment. It includes goals, objectives and suggested activities.  This document is neither an international law nor a treaty or even a resolution.  It is not legally binding.  Agenda 21 has no legal authority or precedent over any state or local government or over any citizen. American diplomats helped negotiate the document, and President George H. W. Bush accepted it on behalf of the United States."
--Katy Hansen

Did You Know? 

In the library catalog at Oklahoma State University's Edmon Low Library, there are over 4,000 books and articles related to the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. 

A search of the online catalog of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries yields 1,275 entries related to the UN's World Health Organization

An author search of the University of Oklahoma's online library catalog shows nearly 700 books and articles by the World Meteorological Organization

Thursday, December 20, 2012


In previous articles, we have shown how Senate Bill 23 -- Senator Anderson's proposal to limit access to knowledge and resources related to Sustainable Development -- is based on a false premise. (For example, see our article on "The UN and Property Rights").

Today, in this article, we tackle the question: What consequences will Oklahoma suffer if Senate Bill 23 passes?

To begin this analysis, let's take a look at the terms of the bill that Senator Anderson proposes to put into law. Here's the operative language in Section 1, Paragraph C, of his measure:

"C. Since the United Nations has accredited and enlisted numerous non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations to assist in the implementation of its policies relative to Agenda 21 around the world, the State of Oklahoma and all political subdivisions thereof shall not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, or receive funds, contract services or give financial aid to or from any non-governmental or inter-governmental organization as defined in Agenda 21."

There are two troubling aspects of this language.

One is the poorly-defined scope of the prohibition on commerce with "non-governmental or inter-governmental organizations defined in Agenda 21." We can be fairly certain that UN agencies are included in the breadth of "inter-governmental organizations" that are targeted by this legislation. But, what about the non-governmental organizations that the bill refers to? Exactly which NGO's are "defined" in Agenda 21?

In this copy of Agenda 21, the value of NGO's is recognized in Chapter 27. (For example, there is an acknowledgement that, "Independence is a major attribute of non-governmental organizations"). There is also a general reference to "Partners for Sustainable Development." But, we don't find a simple list of the numerous NGO's that have supposedly been "accredited and enlisted" by the United Nations. Does such a list exist?

The other troubling aspect of Paragraph C is that Oklahomans would lose access to so many valuable resources if this prohibition is enacted.

Think about it.

Oklahoma State University boasts a world-class College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, which has emerged as one of the top agricultural institutions in the United States. Should OSU be prohibited from "expending any sum of money" to purchase and receive reports from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization?

The School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma is the largest such program in the nation. It is in the top ten of all atmospheric sciences graduate programs in the nation. It enjoys a solid reputation for scholarship and teaching. Should OU be prohibited from purchasing and receiving reports from the UN's World Meteorological Organization?

The Oklahoma Department of Labor strives to enforce our state's Child Labor Law -- a mission that is similar to the International Labor Organization, a UN agency. Should State Department of Labor employees be prohibited from attending conferences that are sponsored by the ILO?

Here's testimony from a recent graduate student at OSU:

"As a recent graduate student from Oklahoma State University it is truly disheartening to hear about the legislation that prohibits use of state funds to access UN resources.  It is imperative for us to take action against a measure that would hinder educational resources vital to many student's academic success.  I have personally, relied on documents from the United Nations Development Index, the World Health Organization and the UN Library to provide imitable facts about infectious disease, impoverished communities and developmental issues relevant to my area of study. It is this knowledge that helps bring awareness and an understanding of real world problems."
--Juliet Abdeljawad

In a very real sense, Senate Bill 23 has an anti-science aspect to it -- and it has an anti-knowledge flavor, as well.

If SB23 becomes law, it will make it more difficult for state and local employees to learn from global experts. It will put Oklahoma students at a disadvantage compared to learners in other states. Ultimately, the citizens of our state will suffer the consequences.

The United Nations Association of the USA has a high regard for the sound judgment and the professionalism of the state, county and municipal government employees who serve our state.

We believe that the Oklahoma Legislature should not try to micro-manage our cities, counties, and universities with a sledge hammer. Rather, the members of the Legislature should trust our public service professionals to faithfully perform the jobs they carry out for the people. Their work should be judged by results. Senate Bill 23 should be rejected.

Do You Have Testimony to Offer?

Have you used resources from the United Nations to help you in school, work, etc.?
Tell us your story. We will publish it here.

Bill Bryant, President
Oklahoma City Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Anti-UN Measure Pre-Filed in Oklahoma Legislature

Senate Bill 23 Would Prohibit Universities and State Agencies from Purchasing Reports or Resources from the World Meteorological Organization, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNESCO, the World Food Programme, and Any Other "Non-Governmental or Inter-Governmental Organization Defined in Agenda 21"

Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) has pre-filed a bill in the Oklahoma State Senate that would prohibit cities, counties, and other public agencies from pursuing sustainable development activities that can be traced to the United Nations' Agenda 21 initiative.

The measure is Senate Bill 23, and a copy of the bill can be found here ...

... The bill is virtually identical to one passed in the 2012 session of the Alabama legislature.

Paragraph C of Senate Bill 23 would prohibit state and local agencies from purchasing any resources or contracting for services from a broad array of international organizations.

It appears that Senate Bill 23 was drafted in cooperation with Rep. Sally Kern, who convened an interim study on this topic earlier this year.

Senator Anderson has served in the Oklahoma Legislature since 2004. He was re-elected in 2008 and 2012 without opposition.

Watch this blog for further information and analysis of SB 23.

To join with other Oklahomans who are opposed to Senate Bill 23, please join the Jeane Kirpatrick Society.


The Jeane Kirkpatrick Society

Join our Award-Winning Advocacy Team

In 2012, our chapter of the UN Association was recognized for our efforts to advocate for American leadership in the United Nations. We scored a great success when the Oklahoma Legislature failed to pass an anti-UN resolution that was introduced by State Rep. Charles Key.

In 2013, we are expecting more challenges and opportunities.

For example, we'll have a chance to advocate for ratification of several human rights treaties that are languishing in the U.S. Senate. The Senate's recent failure to pass the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was widely criticized (with good reason). There is a possibility that the treaty will be brought up for reconsideration in the 2013 session of Congress. We will call upon Senator Coburn and Senator Inhofe to faithfully represent the good sense viewpoint of Oklahomans -- rather than the narrow philosophy which has animated their votes so far.

Meanwhile, at the State Capitol, State Rep. Sally Kern has threatened to introduce a bill aimed at squashing state and local government efforts to pursue sustainable development activities -- such as those described in the UN's "Agenda 21" initiative. Her bill would have dire consequences for state agencies struggling to respond to drought, disease, and other environmental stresses. We will lead an advocacy campaign aimed at educating our state legislators about the good work of the United Nations and the many ways it contributes to our health and well-being right here in Oklahoma.

If you aren't familiar with Agenda 21, we urge you to read this "Short History of the UN's Efforts to Protect our Future" ... HERE.

We're building an active advocacy team -- a capable group of volunteers who are prepared to contact our elected representatives with phone calls, letters, emails, etc. We have dubbed our advocacy team the "Jeane Kirkpatrick Society" (named after the first woman to serve as our country's Ambassador to the United Nations).

To read a short biography about the life of Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, see our UNA-OKC website ... HERE.

Are you interested in serving in our Jeane Kirkpatrick Society? It doesn't cost anything to join. You can sign up here ...

Constant Contact Survey Form

Members and friends of the United Nations Association are welcome to become a part of the Jeane Kirkpatrick Society.

We need you! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The UN and Property Rights

by Bill Bryant, President
Oklahoma City Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

A small minority of our neighbors has waged an intense battle against the efforts of the United Nations to support the sustainable development of our planet. In particular, they have keyed their criticism on the UN's Agenda 21 initiative.

The Anti-UN Crowd has been small but vocal. Their opinions seem to be inflamed by a dysphoric vision of the UN as a tyrannical superpower bent on world domination. They see a monster where none exists.

Sadly and incredibly, as we have seen, they have been able to influence policy makers at the state and local level. The latest example is an Alabama law that received unanimous approval in the 2012 session of the Alabama legislature. Gov. Bentley signed the law last June.

The premise of the Alabama law is an unfounded assumption that Agenda 21 is designed to limit or destroy property rights and to take away the due process rights that all of us enjoy. You can read more about the Alabama law here.

I don't know where this assumption comes from. The United Nations was founded upon the stated goal of reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, of promoting social progress, and achieving "better standards of life in larger freedom."

The issue of property rights has been addressed repeatedly by the United Nations. There is a long-standing historical context for the UN's commitment to protect the fundamental right of people to own and use property.

The historical context for this commitment has three chapters.

Chapter One is the world's common experience of the brutal suppression of human rights by the Axis Powers in World War Two. You know about the history of this era. The confiscation of property by the Nazis is well-documented. For example, you can refer to this book: "Robbing the Jews: The Confiscation of Jewish Property in the Holocaust, 1933–1945," by Martin Dean. See a synopsis here.

At the conclusion of the war, after the signing of the UN Charter, the member states of the United Nations drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration was the thoughtful and deliberate reaction of the nations of the world to the "barbarous acts" of the Second World War which, in the words of the Declaration, "have outraged the conscience of mankind."

Among the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is this one:

"Article 17.
" (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with   others.
" (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property."

This Declaration by the United Nations has been constantly remembered and referred to in subsequent UN documents (even in the Agenda 21 report).

Chapter Two is the history of de-colonization that occurred in the years immediately after the founding of the United Nations. One of the common issues for many newly-independent nations was how to deal with the legacy of property confiscation by the colonial powers.

Within this context, it is easy to understand how UN member states and UN agencies have remained focused on the importance of property rights -- because so many UN nations have suffered from the effects of past abuses. This is a topic that we in Oklahoma can relate to, particularly with regard to the property rights of Native American people. (Think of Angie Debo's celebrated book, "And Still the Waters Run").

Chapter Three is the UN's more recent concern for the development of poor nations -- an effort that has focused particularly on the empowerment of women and families. In this regard, experts in economic development have noted that property rights have an important relationship to poverty reduction. For example, a 2009 paper published by the UN's Department of Economic & Social Affairs has this statement:

"Property rights do play a fundamental role, not only in increasing economic productivity, but also in raising the social standing and dignity of those who have them. Strengthening the property rights of poor people can therefore make important contributions to poverty reduction. Not surprisingly, the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor recommended property rights as the second pillar of legal empowerment, after access to justice and the rule of law."

(Source: DESA Working Paper No. 91, "Property Rights for Poverty Reduction?" by Ruth Meinzen-Dick)

All of this serves to illustrate that the United Nations has a strong historical commitment to the protection of individual property rights. This commitment is not in any way diminished by the UN's goals related to sustainable development.

The 2013 session of the Oklahoma Legislature will convene next month. We anticipate that an Anti-UN measure will be filed like the one that passed in Alabama. We'll know more in the next 3 - 4 weeks.

We're prepared for a vigorous debate. In the meantime, please consider joining our advocacy group, the Jeane Kirkpatrick Society, and you'll be among the first to be notified when action is required.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Our 2012 Human Rights Day Proclamation

Whereas, the United States of America is a proud supporter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and

Whereas, American Presidents since Harry S. Truman have issued proclamations regarding the celebration of Human Rights Day on December 10th of each year; and

Whereas, President Barack Obama has called upon the people of the United States to mark December 10th as Human Rights Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities; and

Whereas, President George W. Bush encouraged all Americans to "celebrate the rights bestowed upon all by our Creator;" and

Whereas, President Ronald Reagan observed in 1985 that the United States "will never cease to be in the forefront of the noble battle for human rights;" and

Whereas, the State of Oklahoma has been blessed with a rich tradition of great defenders of human rights such as Chief Standing Bear, John Hope Franklin, Governor Henry Bellmon, Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Clara Luper, former Secretary of State Hannah Atkins, and many others; and

Whereas, the citizens of Oklahoma should welcome the opportunity to participate in all activities related to Human Rights Day;

NOW, THEREFORE, We the members and friends of the United Nations Association proclaim December 10, 2012 as

"Human Rights Day” 

in the State of Oklahoma

Human Rights Award Winners Announced

13 Champions are Recognized, including 3 Members of the United Nations Association

December 10, 2012 -- The Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance has announced the winners of its 2012 Human Rights Award. The winners include:

1. Clyde Snow
2. Roosevelt Milton
3. Father Paul Zahler
4  David Puente
5  Bill Bryant
6. Christine Byrd
7. Joan Korenblit
8. Michael Korenblit
9  Blanca Sumner
10. Hodrick Steele
11. Father Stanley Rother, Posthumous
12. Hans Brisch, Posthumous
13. Iris V. Santos Rivera, Posthumous

The list is headed by well-known forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow, the namesake of the Clyde Snow Social Justice Award that is given biennially by the OU Women's and Gender Studies Program.

During a long and celebrated career, Dr. Snow worked tirelessly to investigate the deaths of people who were victimized by violent regimes operating in violation of basic human rights. In places like Argentina, Croatia, Colombia, and Guatemala, Dr. Snow helped to recover humanity for thousands of victims and their survivors.

From the website of the Clyde Snow Social Justice Award: "In 1992 Clyde Snow served in Geneva as a U.S. Delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.... Dr. Snow's 1998 testimony [regarding war crimes in the former Yugoslavia] was the first testimony given by a forensic expert witness before a UN War Crimes Tribunal."

Here is a partial list of other notable award winners: 

Roosevelt Milton -- President Emeritus of the Oklahoma City and Oklahoma chapters of the NAACP.

Father Stanley Rother, a Catholic priest and missionary to Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. Father Rother's memory is celebrated in print and film. He was murdered by a death squad on July 28, 1981.

Father Paul Zahler, an internationally-known advocate for people with disabilities. He is the founder and director of the National Institute on Developmental Delays, which has served persons with disabilities of all ages for more than 30 years. Father Zahler is also a faculty member at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee.

David Puente, a leader in local efforts to restore the Manuel Perez Park at Sw 14th & Harvey Ave. in Oklahoma City. The park, which has suffered from vandalism in recent years, is named for Manuel Perez, who received the Medal of Honor during World War II. Puente is a recognized leader of the hispanic community in Oklahoma City.

Hans Brisch, Chancellor Emeritus of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Bill Bryant, president of the Oklahoma City Chapter of the United Nations Association.

Joan and Michael Korenblit, co-founders of the Respect Diversity Foundation, whose mission is to teach tolerance and respect for all people. The Respect Diversity Foundation helps students, teachers, parents and others to explore diversity through the arts. It also helps to promote Holocaust Education to a national audience.

Joan Korenblit serves as a volunteer director for the OKC Chapter of the United Nations Association. She and her husband, Mike, are members of UNA-USA -- as is Bill Bryant.

Mr. Bryant expressed his personal appreciation for the recognition represented by the award. "I am pleased to accept this award as an advocate for the good work of the United Nations, which has been a champion of human rights for people around the world since 1945."

"The United Nations Association of the USA seeks to promote American leadership in the UN, including American leadership in efforts to guarantee the basic human rights of all people as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

"The members of the UN Association are proud to work with the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance in support of these goals," Bryant said.

A ceremony to announce the recipients of the 2012 Human Rights Award was held today at the State Capitol in the Chamber of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Human Rights Day at the State Capitol

December 10, 2012

As you probably know, the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission (OHRC) was abolished earlier this year. We have been wondering what would become of the annual Human Rights Day celebration that is traditionally held at the State Capitol.

We're happy to report that a new non-partisan group, the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance, has stepped in to pick up this aspect of the work of the old OHRC.  (In fact, the new Human Rights Alliance includes several people who once served as commissioners of the old OHRC).

Here is a short announcement about the event (snagged from the website) ...

Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance
Requesting Nominations for Human Rights Award 
Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance
Human Rights Day
December 10, 2012
11:00 am
Oklahoma State Capitol / House Chamber
Reception: 4th floor Rotunda / 12:00 Noon
Please RSVP if you plan on attending so we can make sure we have enough food for all attendees.
The final day for nomination is 12/1/12 nominations may be e-mail or mailed to:
Wilfred Santos Rivera
3209 South Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73129

... As part of the Human Rights Day program, the OK Universal Human Rights Alliance will honor an individual who has contributed to human rights in our state.  The nominee will be an individual who has served the cause of Human and/or Civil Rights.

If you're a member or friend of the United Nations Association, we encourage you to attend the ceremony on Monday, December 10th. (Be sure to email Wilfredo so that he will know you're coming).

We hope to see you there! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Future We Want

A Short History of the UN's Efforts to Protect our Future; and 
Our Determination to Tell the Truth About "Agenda 21" 

You know about "Agenda 21" -- the outcome document from the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development.

In its day, Agenda 21 was a cutting edge achievement. It still is.  It was a clarion call for action at international, national, regional and local levels. The non-binding action plan outlined a comprehensive series of steps that could be taken to protect the Earth's natural environment and implement strategies for the sustainable development of human communities.

The Preamble of Agenda 21 described the challenges posed by uneven development and increasing pressures on fragile ecosystems:

"Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this on its own; but together we can - in a global partnership for sustainable development."

It is remarkable to think of the changes our world has seen since 1992. In terms of environmental protection, we have invested in new forms of sustainable energy. Wind turbines have popped up across our landscape. Hybrid automobiles have been brought into the marketplace. (The first Prius went on sale in Japan in 1997).

In terms of disparities related to poverty, hunger, illness, etc., the nations of the world made a bold commitment to address these problems when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted at the UN's Millennium Summit in 2000. As a result, measurable progress has been made to improve the health of people around the world and to improve the status of people threatened by extreme poverty.

In the years since 1992, Agenda 21 has been reviewed and modified at least three times at various UN-sponsored meetings and conferences.

For example, in 1997, the UN General Assembly held a special session to appraise the status of Agenda 21.

In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit 2002) convened in Johannesburg, South Africa. The nations of the world affirmed the UN commitment to "full implementation" of Agenda 21, alongside achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other international agreements.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development met under the banner, "Rio + 20." It was the UN's largest and most inclusive Earth Summit so far. At the end of the conference, businesses, governments, civil society and multilateral development banks announced hundreds of voluntary commitments to shape a more sustainable future for the benefit of the planet and its people.

As an outcome document, the 2012 conference produced a report titled, "The Future We Want."

The 53-page document calls for a wide range of actions, among many other points, including:

  • launching a process to establish sustainable development goals;
  • detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development;
  • taking steps to go beyond GDP to assess the well‐being of a country;
  • focusing on improving gender equality;
  • stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy; and
  • recognizing the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development. 

You can find a copy of the "The Future We Want" here ... PDF.

We think it is important for Oklahomans to understand the significance of the various sustainable development conferences that have been convened by the United Nations during the last two decades. We think people should have a general understanding that the global community is moving forward to address the most difficult development issues of our times. Progress is being made, and the UN is being responsive to the expressed needs of businesses, governments, and civil society.

A Final Note:

As you know, a small group of Anti-UN Activists have emerged to oppose the world's efforts to create a sustainable future. Lately, they have been alleging -- without any evidence -- that Agenda 21 is designed to limit or destroy property rights and to take away the due process rights that all of us enjoy.

In response to their disparaging criticisms, we did a search of "The Future We Want" to determine what it has to say about property rights. We found 5 references to "property" in the report. Mostly, the document expresses support for intellectual property rights. But, it also makes this statement with regard to individual property rights:

"240. We are committed to equal rights and opportunities for women in political and economic decision-making and resource allocation and to removing any barriers that prevent women from being full participants in the economy. We resolve to undertake legislative and administrative reforms to give women equal rights with men to economic resources, including access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, credit, inheritance, natural resources and appropriate new technology."

It is an implicit statement in support of the right of individuals to own property -- and for women, in particular, to have equal access to property ownership. Equal access to economic resources is an important goal for the sustainable future we seek.

If you read or hear any zany-sounding rumors alleging a UN effort to eliminate property rights, please be sure to let us know. We'll do our best to counter the craziness.

Bill Bryant
President, OKC Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Our Beleaguered Governor

We had a very good UN Day Luncheon last month. The food was good. Our audience seemed to appreciate the panel discussion about the crisis in Syria. It was great to see such a diverse group of people -- all with an interest in the values and good work of the United Nations.

One of the missing elements of our Luncheon was the annual reading of the UN Day Proclamation. Traditionally, Oklahoma Governors have signed an official proclamation recognizing United Nations Day. Last year, we had a group of people read portions of the proclamation, and it was a very positive highlight of our program.

This year, though, Gov. Fallin declined to sign a UN Day Proclamation. We reported about this in an earlier blog post.  

Evidently, the Governor was trying to avoid a controversy.  She received harsh criticism from some far-right political activists when she signed the 2011 Proclamation. For example, see this bitter attack from The Oklahoma Truth Council which compared her action to the "lies" and "broken campaign promises" of a "professional politician."

Well, sometimes, controversy seems to be part of the landscape. And, even when one tries to avoid it, it jumps into your path nevertheless.

Consider what happened this year when Gov. Fallin made a deliberate decision not to sign the UN Day Proclamation. Was she greeted by glad shouts and cheers of joy by the far right-wing chorus?

Nope. Rather, she was criticized again by a misinformed right-wing blogger who failed to notice that the 2012 UN Day Proclamation went unpublished. Oblivious to the facts, this blogger accused Gov. Fallin of being an "airhead" for issuing a UN Day Proclamation "...for the second year in a row."

Here's an excerpt from his October 16th blog entry ...

... which also uses accusations of "un-American" and "ignorant" to describe our Governor.

Gov. Fallin is our friend. We think she made a mistake when she failed to issue a UN Day Proclamation this year. But, we would never resort to ad hominem attacks to make our case. We like to think we're too classy for that. And, the Governor deserves more respect.

We always hope that Gov. Fallin will use the power of her office to govern with wisdom. We don't think she should ever be swayed by political bullies.

By the way, if you'd like to see a list of Executive Proclamations that have been signed by Gov. Fallin this year, they are published on the website of the Oklahoma Secretary of State ... here ... where you can even search the Proclamations signed by previous governors, by year and topic.  Pretty neat, huh?

Friday, October 12, 2012

An Important Contest

Reflecting the Sway of Anti-UN Voices, 
Governor Fallin Decides Not to Issue an 
Official Proclamation of United Nations Day

Oklahoma is not a "battleground" state when it comes to Presidential politics. We know who is going to win our electoral votes, and it won't be the Kenyan Socialist.

(Kenyan Socialist. That's a joke. We have the highest regard for President Obama, and we honor his birthright of American citizenship)

But, even though our presidential politics are very predictable, there is a political question in our state that is hotly contested and which is fundamental to our future.

The question is how our state government will facilitate Oklahoma's development as an integral part of the global economy. Will our governor and legislature promote Oklahoma as a place where international commerce and investment is welcomed, where the rich cultural diversity of our people is honored, and where international law and global institutions are respected?

Or, will they hew to an insular path -- where narrow, parochial interests are embraced and global engagement is scorned?

This is an important, consequential issue for our state.

The shape of this contest can be seen in various expressions of public opinion -- especially in the way our state government has formulated its official attitude toward the United Nations.

The recent history of our state in this regard is mixed.

In 2009, our Legislature marked the UN as a target of official discredit. The State Senate concurred with a House resolution opposing U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The resolution relied on fear tactics to suggest (falsely) that the United Nations would take over the State of Oklahoma's budgetary process. The resolution had no substantive effect on the public policy of our state.  But, it served notice of a new, combative stance toward the United Nations.

The demonization of the United Nations continued in the 2012 legislative session when another resolution was introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. This one called for the United States to withdraw completely from the United Nations. The resolution got a "do pass" recommendation from a House committee before it ultimately fell by the wayside.

(Read about our efforts to oppose this bill ...

In some other respects, Oklahoma has a proud history of supporting global engagement in general and the United Nations in particular.

For example, Governor Henry routinely signed a UN Day Proclamation, and he made honorary appointments of prominent Oklahomans to "chair" our state's observance of United Nations Day.

(See Gov. Henry's 2006 proclamation ... HERE).

Last year, Gov. Fallin continued the tradition of issuing a UN Day Proclamation. Her 2011 statement about UN Day recalled the legacy of Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, our nation's first female ambassador to the United Nations (and a native of our great state).

This year, however, we have been notified by the Governor's office that a 2012 UN Day Proclamation will not be forthcoming. Evidently, Gov. Fallin received some pushback from the Anti-UN Crowd -- the small group of people in our state who have an irrational fear of the United Nations as an enemy of America.

Never mind that the Governor signed a proclamation last year. Never mind that 12 American Presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike, have reaffirmed our country's support of the United Nations. This year, Gov. Fallin is listening to the small minority of Oklahomans who prefer to run away from the big, bad United Nations.

We haven't had a chance to visit with Gov. Fallin about her decision. So, I don't want to comment on her thinking or her motives. All we know is that last year she was willing to express official support for the celebration of United Nations Day. This year, she is not.

It is more evidence of the contest in which we are engaged here in the Sooner State.

The United Nations Association of the USA is a national membership organization that is dedicated to informing, inspiring, and mobilizing the American people to support the ideals and vital work of the United Nations. Please join our efforts.

Become a member today.

Free Lunch Offer

Are you a high school or college student who is interested in attending the UN Day Luncheon sponsored by tee United Nations Association of Oklahoma City? Don't have enough money for a ticket? Well, have we got an offer for you! Thanks for the generous support of a UN Association member, we have a limited number of FREE TICKETS available for students. You can claim your ticket by registered in advance. You can register online at our website ...

... and you'll be welcome to join us on Saturday, October 20th. Look for the Free Ticket offer, and you can sign up to enjoy an informative program and a pleasant meal. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Brilliant Festival

The Pinwheels for Peace festival wrapped up about 8 o'clock last Friday night, and I am happy to report that it was a great success.

More than 500 people filtered through the University Center at Oklahoma City University. (We know this because our friends at the Shinnyo-En Foundation donated 500 t-shirts to give away at the festival, and the t-shirts were completely dispersed by the end of the program. If you see anyone wearing a t-shirt with a colorful message on the front about "6 Billion Paths to Peace," you can bet the wearer was a probably a visitor to our Pinwheels event).

Students from area schools participated in various ways. For example, some students enjoyed a class on Japanese culture sponsored by the Japanese American Society of Oklahoma. Origami and Anime were featured. Haiku, as well. Other students walked through a peace labyrinth. They also helped to plant a garden of pinwheels on OCU's main lawn.

Throughout the day, I observed random people stopping to make their own pinwheels as a "DIY" activity. I recall seeing a modestly-dressed woman with a head covering who made a pinwheel and planted it with the others. Little children hopped around the display. Sometimes they blew gently on the blades of the pinwheels, coaxing them to spin. Countless photographs were taken by people passing by. (You'll see some of these photos appearing on our Facebook page soon).

By 5pm, more than a dozen co-sponsoring groups had set out an array of literature and give-away items about their purposes and activities. Our local chapter of the UN Association had a display table, of course. Also the Wesley Center at OCU, the Interfaith Alliance, the Respect Diversity Foundation, the people of the Baha'i Faith, and many more. One of our exhibitors brought a pair of beautiful raptors -- an eagle and a white hawk from the SIA Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative. They were a special attraction.

At 6pm, the performances began in the Great Hall. April Nelson ("Miss OCU") and Michael Allen were the emcees. An estimated audience of 200 applauded the talent of singers and dancers from various traditions. Steve McLinn was our most capable producer / composer / performer. A pre-program drum circle warmed up the crowd.

We couldn't make this event happen on our own, of course. It truly was a collaboration by many like-minded organizations. Lots of volunteers gave their personal time to make it a success.  I won't try to list the names of everyone who helped.

I'm also very happy to report that our friends at OCU seemed to be pleased with the celebration. It is a popular event with many students and faculty members. We are very fortunate that OCU is willing to host the program, and I think we will be invited back next year with even greater involvement from all of the 'Stars' at OCU.

Our Pinwheels festival is always offered on September 21st, the International Day of Peace.

Coincidentally, it occurs each year at the same time that the General Assembly of the United Nations is re-convening for a new session.

You have probably been hearing the news reports about heads of states -- presidents, prime ministers, and so on -- who have brought their annual messages to the UN's General Assembly.

I think it is quite fitting that as the delegates of nearly 200 nations are convening in New York City, millions of people around the world are silently breathing their hopes for peace into the air.

Bill Bryant
President, OKC Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pinwheels for Peace - September 21st

6th International Day of Peace Pinwheels for Peace Festival 
Oklahoma City University 
Friday, September 21, 2012

The Festival kicks off at 5:15pm with a Drum Circle

Students and other community members throughout the greater Oklahoma City area will participate in the 6th Annual International Day of Peace Pinwheels for Peace Festival being held this year at McDaniel University Center at Oklahoma City University. 

As in previous years, we'll enjoy live music, multicultural performances, activity booths, pinwheels, and fun. Around the OKC metro area students are creating pinwheels representing peace and harmony as part of the Pinwheels for Peace Project. This project was the idea of 2 Florida art teachers in 2005. 

This project has become an international celebration and a way for art students to show their contribution to the United Nations’ International Day of Peace.  Some of these works of art will be on display in Oklahoma’s Largest Pinwheel Garden during the festival on September 21.

Performances at the Celebration: 
Kicking off the event will be a drum circle beginning at 5:15 pm outside of the Great Hall. You are invited to bring a drum and join the fun!  
Meet the live Eagles from SIA: Comanche Nation Ornithological Initiative.  
Inside hear the beautiful tunes of the Oklahoma University Student Doctorial Woodwind Quintet playing indoors. 
Beginning at 6:00 performing groups will include Clips & Hips Dance Studio, Junior Miss Asia - Angela Zhu, Linwood Elementary School Choir, Mayan School of Dance, Dove Science Academy Folkloric Dancers, Marie Leslie- Japanese dance, Celtic Cadence Irish dancers, Seeworth academy - Major I.M.P.A.C.T.S Choir

Display and Activity Tables will provide information from our sponsor groups promoting peace within ourselves, among groups and with our environment.  Displays will provide families with information about cultivating peace within and without. You will also be able to create your own pinwheel for peace.

In today’s world, peace needs to become more than just a word.
Today’s students are bombarded with television images, video games, and magazine articles/ newspapers that give importance to conflict and war. It is our hope that through the Pinwheels for Peace Festival, we can help the students make a public visual statement about their feelings about war /peace /tolerance /cooperation /harmony /unity and, in some way, awaken the public and let them know what the next generation is thinking. 

For more information about this event, visit or like us on Facebook

To learn about Pinwheels for Peace projects throughout the world, visit

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Our Support for Human Rights

Senator Tom Coburn has written to us saying we can't count on his support for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We're disappointed, of course. But, we understand that Dr. Coburn has a more limited perspective on human rights than we do. He is not alone in that regard.

In contrast, the UN Association has been a long-time supporter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most comprehensive and most recognized statement of human rights in our world today. Each year, along with people around the globe, we are proud to co-sponsor various human rights-themed events -- like our annual observance of Human Rights Day (December 10th).

Our support for the Universal Declaration is informed by the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which recognizes that people possess unenumerated rights not specifically mentioned in the original document:  "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

It also grows out of our appreciation for the long struggles of women, racial minority groups, immigrants, workers, and others who have had to assert their right to be given equal consideration in society.

Dr. Coburn denies that people have fundamental rights such as the right to an adequate standard of living (a point he made in his letter to us). To Coburn and others with his philosophy, people should not expect to enjoy the right to an education or to earn a living through their labor -- liberties that Coburn calls "positive rights" -- because these rights are, in his words, "...incompatible with the Constitution’s definition of rights."

Well, obviously, that is a point of disagreement with our good senator.

Dr. Coburn's view is contradicted by the assessment of every American president since Harry Truman (who issued the first Presidential Proclamation for Human Rights Day on December 10, 1949).

In his Proclamation, President Truman stated that "the attainment of basic rights for men and women everywhere is essential to the peace we are seeking."

Truman's words were echoed most eloquently by Ronald Reagan in his Human Rights Day proclamation of 1985:

"We pray that one day all nations of the earth may share with us the joys and rewards of living in free societies, and we resolve not to rest from our labors until the most noble longings of the human spirit, those for freedom of belief and expression, are fully realized."

Last year, President Obama added his voice:

"In the 63 years since the global community came together in support of human dignity and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our futures have grown increasingly interconnected.  We have a stake not only in the stability of nations, but also in the welfare of individuals.  On this anniversary, we recognize human rights as universal, and we stand with all those who reach for the dream of a free, just, and equal world."

Although Senator Coburn's limited view of rights may be out of step with modern American presidents, it does seem to be a sincere expression of his political philosophy. For example, it is consistent with an opinion he expressed at a Town Hall meeting in Tulsa earlier this month when he questioned whether Medicare and Social Security are legitimate functions of the federal government.

"If you look in the Constitution," Coburn asked the Town Hall attendees, "where is it the federal government’s role to do that? That’s number one. Number two is the way I was brought up that’s a family responsibility, not a government responsibility."

We respect Senator Coburn's right to hold his beliefs, even though we politely disagree with him.

We believe Americans in the 21st century deserve much better. We support the full scope of human rights as described in the Universal Declaration.  And, we will never retreat from our goals of peace, basic rights for men and women, and the full realization of "the most noble longings of the human spirit." 

We hope you will join us!

"The advance of freedom is the story of our time, and new chapters are being written before our eyes." 
--President George W. Bush
Human Rights Day, 2006

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Coburn Town Hall Meetings This Week

Senator Tom Coburn has announced four more Town Hall meetings with constituents. Each of them will take place on Monday, August 13th:

Sapulpa Town Hall
Collins Building (2nd Floor)
317 E Lee
Sapulpa, OK 74066

Stillwater Town Hall
Wes Watkins Center
207 Wes Watkins Center
Hall of Fame and Washington
Stillwater, OK 74078

Perry Town Hall
Exchange Bank (Horizon Room)
523 Delaware Street
Perry, OK 73077

Ponca City Town Hall
City Hall, Commission Chamber
516 E Grand Ave
Ponca City, 74601

If you're able to attend any of these meetings, please ask Dr. Coburn to support the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Bill Bryant, President
Oklahoma City Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Will Senator Coburn Support Liberty?

Discussions Continue on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Have You Called Senator Coburn's Office Yet?  202-224-5754

The U.S. Senate went into recess until after Labor Day without taking any action on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

During August, discussion about ratification of the treaty will continue -- but it will take place in our own communities in Oklahoma rather than in the halls of Congress.  We expect the treaty to be a topic at some of the Town Hall meetings that Senator Coburn will host this week.  You can see his Town Hall meeting schedule here ... He is planning for meetings with constituents in Tulsa, Vinita, Grove, Claremore, Poteau, and McAlester.

So far, we haven't found any statements from Senator Coburn promising that he will vote for ratification. But, we think he will be supportive.  Here's why.

First, Coburn is a champion of individual freedom.  We know this because he has written about his commitment to protecting liberty.  This is from his website:

"Liberty and freedom for the individual... are what make the United States and our Constitution unique in the history of man. America, like no other nation before, is founded on the principle that the individual has basic rights that are granted by our Creator that no government may take away or compromise."

Also, Senator Coburn issued a report last month that praised the work of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services for its efforts to help people with disabilities gain employment.  So, we know he is a supporter of equality in the workplace -- one of the major goals of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Second, Senator Coburn has a well-known reputation as a budget hawk.  We think he will be pleased by another feature of the CRPD: "The treaty comes at no cost to the United States."  

Those are the words of former Senator Bob Dole, writing in the Salt Lake City Deseret News. You can read the full text of Senator Dole's commentary here.

Mr. Dole, who has lived with a disability since World War Two, has thought deeply about the benefits of the CRPD.  He points out that the treaty not only helps to protect the rights of people with disabilities.  It will also expand the market for accessibility devices:

"In fact, it will create a new global market for accessibility goods. An active U.S. presence in implementation of global disability rights will promote the market for devices such as wheelchairs, smart phones and other new technologies engineered, made and sold by U.S. corporations."

This is an angle that might appeal to Dr. Coburn, who was the manufacturing manager at the Ophthalmic Division of Coburn Optical Industries during the 1970's. We think he knows a thing or two about the value of assistive technology.

If you get a chance to attend one of Dr. Coburn's Town Hall meetings this month, please ask him to support the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  And, please report to us on the Senator's answer.


Bill Bryant
President, OKC Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Good News for Rights Advocates

The Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is on Course for Ratification in the U.S. Senate -- Maybe This Week! 

Calls are Needed to Senator Coburn ... (202) 224-5754

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) came up for a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, and it won easy approval.  By a 13 to 6 margin, the treaty gained bi-partisan support, and Senator John Kerry (chairman of the committee) indicated that he will seek a vote of the full Senate within days.  

A 2/3 vote in favor of the treaty is needed for ratification.

To our knowledge, Senator Coburn has not taken a public position on the CRPD. He is not generally known as an advocate for people with disabilities, yet he has spoken favorably of some international agreements -- particularly those that serve to protect intellectual property rights. So, there is a possibility that he will vote "yes" on the CRPD.  (Senator Inhofe disappointed us by voting against the treaty when it received a hearing in the Foreign Relations Committee).

To contact Dr. Coburn, you can use the webform that appears on his website:

Or, you can call his Washington office directly ... 

(202) 224-5754

When you contact Senator Coburn, please feel free to mention these three points:

(1)  This treaty will help bring the rest of the world up to American standards -- guaranteeing that disability is not an arbitrary barrier to employment, education, etc. 

(2)  The Foreign Relations Committee is recommending that the treaty be ratified with a reservation stating that, “current United States law fulfills or exceeds the obligations of the Convention.” 

(3)  Another reservation adopted by the committe states that the treaty does not address “the provision of any particular health program or procedure,” meaning the treaty doesn't create any new abortion rights beyond the duty not to discriminate against people with disabilities.

The third point is particularly important since some treaty skeptics have raised opposition to the treaty on the grounds that it recognizes the right of equal access to reproductive health services. The Foreign Relations Committee has tried to make clear that the treaty's reference to reproductive health is intended to cover the full range of health services in this category -- including fertility treatments, etc. -- without singling out any procedure for special consideration. 

Your action on this treaty will help to assure ratification by the United States Senate. 

Moreover, it will help to protect the rights of people with disabilities around the world -- including the rights of Americans traveling abroad. 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's in the CRPD?

In a previous article, we encouraged all of our members and friends to call or write Senator Inhofe urging him to support the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In passing, we mentioned that there is some opposition to the Convention -- even though the treaty enjoys broad support from the American public. 

In the interest of educating about the purpose and contents of the treaty, we would like to offer this item-by-item analysis of the objections that have been raised by treaty opponents.  Here is our response to an article published by the Home School Legal Defense Association, a group that is focused on policy advocacy. 

We call this article:

Ten Specific Reasons Why We Support
The Convention on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities

A response to an article published at

Any remaining state sovereignty on the issue of disability law will be entirely eliminated by the ratification of this treaty. The rule of international law is that the nation-state that ratifies the treaty has the obligation to ensure compliance. This gives Congress total authority to legislate on all matters regarding disability law -- a power that is substantially limited today. Article 4(5) makes this explicit.

For more than 20 years, our nation has recognized that the rights of people with disabilities transcend state boundaries, and so federal laws have been written to effectively promote and defend those rights.  Few people want to go back to the time before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The requirements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are completely congruent with present American law.  That is why the treaty has the bi-partisan support of prominent Americans, including former President George H.W. Bush, former Senator Bob Dole, Senator John McCain, and many others. 

Article 4(1)(a) demands that all American law on this subject be conformed to the standards of the UN.

Section 4(1)(a) of the treaty does *not* refer to "standards of the UN." Rather, the States Parties agree "To adopt all *appropriate* legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation' of the rights recognized in the convention...."  (Emphasis added). 

All States Parties (nations which sign the treaty) agree to "ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities...."

Article 4(1)(e) remands that “every person, organization, or private enterprise” must eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. On its face, this means that every home owner would have to make their own home fully accessible to those with disabilities. If the UN wants to make exceptions, perhaps they could. But, on its face this is the meaning of the treaty.

American laws on disability rights are among the most progressive in the world, and we do not expect any changes as a result of joining the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Convention has *no* requirement for individual home owners to retrofit their houses to make them fully accessible.  Rather, under this section of the treaty, the United States and other nations will agree to "...take all *appropriate* measures to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability by any person, organization or private enterprise." (Emphasis added). The treaty recognizes the concept of "reasonable accommodation" -- an idea that most Americans are familiar with.  It is a legal concept that is well-developed under United States law.  

Article 4(1)(e) also means that the legal standard for the number of handicapped spaces required for parking at your church will be established by the UN — not your local government or your church.

There is no place in the Convention that refers to the number of parking spaces that must be made available to people with disabilities. Under the treaty, the U.S. government will be responsible for implementing appropriate measures to protect the rights of people with disabilities.  The UN has no authority under this treaty to directly enforce rules about parking spaces.  It does not revoke or remove the authority of local governments to establish reasonable regulations in this regard. 

Article 4(2) requires the United States to use its maximum resources for compliance with these standards. The UN has interpreted similar provisions in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to criticize nations who spend too much on military issues and not enough on social programs. There is every reason to believe that the UN would interpret these provisions in a similar fashion. The UN believes that it has the power to determine the legitimacy and lawfulness of the budget of the United States to assess compliance with such treaties.

Article 4 of the treaty describes the "general obligations" of each State Party. Under the treaty, the United States will agree to take measures to achieve the "full realization" of the rights of people with disabilities. Within this context, the treaty recognizes that full implementation may occur "progressively," and there is an explicit recognition that nations are constrained by "available resources." Under the treaty, the UN has no authority to dictate the budget of the United States or any state or local government within our federal system. 

Article 6(2) is a backdoor method of requiring the United States to comply with the general provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This treaty enshrines abortion rights, homosexual rights, and demands the complete disarmament of all people.

The treaty does not incorporate the requirements of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women -- which is entirely separate from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Section (2) of Article 6 reads as follows: "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the present Convention." 

Article 7(2) advances the identical standard for the control of children with disabilities as is contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means that the government -- acting under UN directives —- gets to determine for all children with disabilities what the government thinks is best.

Additionally, under current American law, federal law requires public schools to offer special assistance to children with disabilities. However, no parent is required to accept such assistance. Under this section the government -- and not the parent -- would have the ultimate authority to determine if a child with special needs will be homeschooled, attend a private school, or be required to accept the program offered by the public school.

Article 7 of the treaty addresses the topic of "Children with Disabilities."  Section (2) of this article states: "In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." 

The "best interest" principle is widely accepted by U.S. courts, as it is a protection against child abuse as well as undue government interference.  In the context of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it should be noted that the treaty also provides protection for parents and guardians.  For example, Article 23 of the treaty addresses, "Respect For Home and the Family." 

Article 23(4) provides: "States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. In no case shall a child be separated from parents on the basis of a disability of either the child or one or both of the parents." 

Article 24 of the treaty ("Education") establishes the principle that all people with disabilities have the right to an education, and this right should be realized "...without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity." So, to the extent that an able-bodied child may enjoy an education at home, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will serve to equally allow a child with a disability to enjoy the same privilege.

The United States, as a wealthy nation, would be obligated to fund disability programs in nations that could not afford their own programs under the dictates of Article 4(2). This is what “the framework of international cooperation” means.

As previously noted, Article 4 of the treaty describes "general obligations" of State Parties.  It does not lay out specific requirements for how international cooperation must take place. The concept of "international cooperation" is addressed in Section 32 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and it includes a list of suggested measures which nations could agree to pursue -- but none of these measures are described as mandates.  And, in any case, the treaty provides that each nation is responsible for fulfilling its own obligations under the treaty.  

Also, under the principle of national sovereignty, the UN has no authority to dictate the budget of the United States nor of any other member state of the United Nations. 

Article 15’s call for a ban on “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” is the exact same language used in the UN CRC which has been authoritatively interpreted to ban any spanking by parents. It should be noted that Article 15 is not limited to persons with disabilities. It says “no one shall be subjected to … inhuman or degrading treatment.” This means that spanking will be banned entirely in the United States.

The complete text of Article 15 is: 

"Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his or her free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.

"States Parties shall take all effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." 

The prohibition on "inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" appears in several laws, treaties, and international agreements. For example, an identical phrase appears in the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has been American law since 1994.  In this sense, Article 15 does not add any new requirements that we have not already agreed to.  

As to an interpretation under the "UN CRC" (the Convention on the Rights of the Child), it should be noted that the monitoring and enforcement mechanisms of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are entirely separate from the enforcement mechanisms of the CRC.  The CRC treaty is monitored by a UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. In contrast, the monitoring and enforcement mechanisms of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are the responsibility of an 18-member Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities -- with members elected by the State Parties.   

The powers of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are limited to receiving reports from member countries, reviewing those reports, and making its own periodic report to the UN General Assembly.  The Committee is authorized to "...make suggestions and general recommendations based on the examination of reports and information received from the States Parties." 

Article 25 [sic] on Education does not repeat the parental rights rules of earlier human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. This is an important omission. Coupling this omission with the direct declaration of “the best interest of the child” standard in Article 7(2), this convention is nothing less than the complete eradication of parental rights for the education of children with disabilities.

The topic of Education is actually addressed in Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Article 24 does not repeat the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights because these covenants are explicitly acknowledged in the Preamble of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  

Furthermore, Article 4(4) of the Convention provides this explicit assurance: "Nothing in the present Convention shall affect any provisions which are more conducive to the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities and which may be contained in the law of a State Party or international law in force for that State. There shall be no restriction upon or derogation from any of the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized or existing in any State Party to the present Convention pursuant to law, conventions, regulation or custom on the pretext that the present Convention does not recognize such rights or freedoms or that it recognizes them to a lesser extent." 

The members of the Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association urge all our neighbors and friends to examine the text of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: 

We ask you to review the provisions of the treaty. Evaluate them based on your own experience with respect to the needs of people who struggle with a disability. 

Then, contact our Oklahoma senators (Sen. Coburn and Sen. Inhofe) and share your independent judgment with them.