Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Refugee Crisis

Join us for an Exploration of the UN's Role in Protecting Refugees

Enjoy our Annual United Nations Day Luncheon Program on Saturday, Oct. 18th

(Registration for our UN Day Luncheon is now closed. If you have reserved a seat for the luncheon, we look forward to seeing you on Saturday, October 18th)
To receive information about future programs and activities of our Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association, please be sure to sign up for our email list ... HERE. Thanks!

In June of this year, the UN refugee agency reported that “…the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.”
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It's no wonder. If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you know about the growing number of people fleeing from violence in Iraq, Syria, the Central African Republic, and elsewhere. And that doesn't count the surprising number of unaccompanied children who have crossed into the United States along our southwest border -- many of whom properly meet the definition of "refugee."

It's for this reason that our annual Oklahoma City observance of United Nations Day will focus on
the topic of "The Refugee Crisis."

You're invited to join us as we celebrate the 69th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations by exploring the UN's role in protecting refugees around the world.

Our annual UN Day Luncheon will be:

Saturday, October 18th -- 12 Noon
The Center
4325 NW 50th Street
Oklahoma City, OK   73112

Our program will feature three knowledgeable and informative panelists:
  • Dr. Imad Enchassi, president and founder of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City (ISGOC).
  • Joe Meinhart, Ph.D., director of the Oikos Scholars program at Oklahoma City University and co-director of the Social & Ecological Responsibility Initiative at OCU. 
  • Julie Lewis, director of Refugee Resettlement for Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City.

Priya Desai, president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association, commented on the topic of the panel discussion:
Jewish Refugees, 1939
In 1939, thousands of Jewish refugees escaped
Nazi persecution to the only place that was
open to them: Shanghai.
"The UN has had an historic role in addressing the problem of refugees around the world. After World War Two, an international consensus emerged regarding the proper treatment of refugees. As a result of that consensus, the nations of the world agreed to offer protection to people who have been forced to flee from their homes."

"Our panel discussion will examine how well we in the United States are living up to our obligations under international law. We will also explore the growing problem of refugees around the world."

Why focus on the refugee crisis at our UN Day Luncheon?

Well, for one thing, from a perspective of international law, the UN was instrumental in creating
the Refugee Convention of 1951 and its related protocols.

The Refugee Convention serves to describe the obligations of all nations to receive and protect people who have been forced to flee their homes because of war, conflict, “a well-founded fear of
persecution,” etc. The international consensus on the treatment of refugees evolved from the world’s experience with those fleeing from Nazi persecution before and during World War Two.

Additionally, the UN has a central role in responding to the international refugee crisis with
practical aid and assistance. Through the UN Refugee Agency – and with the support and cooperation of NGO’s like the Red Cross, etc. -- the UN helps to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid to refugee populations.

We think our program will be timely, informative, and interesting to many people in our community.

Our UN Day Luncheon program will also include the presentation of the UN Association's 2014 Public Service Award. This year's winner is Ms. Jacklyn Brink-Rosen, who works for the State of Oklahoma as a legislative assistant. Ms. Brink-Rosen will be recognized for her exemplary work in support of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and for her leadership and volunteerism on public policy related to hunger and food security.

Signing the Treaty
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states. The 1967 Protocol removed geographical and temporal restrictions from the Convention. To read more about international law related to the treatment of refugees, see the UNHCR website, here ...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Celebrate Peace with Us

"Peacemakers extending their journey of peace to the next generation"
Sunday, September 21st

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

In Oklahoma City, we will celebrate Peace Day with a special program at Oklahoma City University featuring:

With performances by singers from the Mercy School and a troupe from the "El Sistema" youth
orchestra of Oklahoma.

Sunday, September 21st -- 6:30pm
The Great Hall of the University Center
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder, OKC

This free program is co-sponsored by Joy Mennonite Church, the Oikos Scholars program of Oklahoma City University, the Center for Conscience in Action, the Peace House, the Oklahoma City group of Pax Christi USA, the Respect Diversity Foundation, and by your Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA.

Ban Ki-moon
"History has shown that, no matter how fierce, conflict can end, peace can prevail and reconciliation can triumph. On 21 September, at concerts around the world -- in major cities and small towns, in conflict zones and peaceful communities –- people will broadcast this essential message. They will celebrate the value of human diversity and the strength of our unity. 
"...I urge every peace-loving person to engage with their friends and neighbors, their community organizations and governments. Together, let us demand the right of peoples to peace."

--Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ebola Crisis Declared

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan
addresses the media after a two-day meeting of its emergency committee
on Ebola, in Geneva August 8, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Pierre Albouy

The Outbreak in West Africa Prompts an International Emergency --
Will Congress Continue Funding for the World Health Organization?

Sign the Online Petition to Your Member of Congress!

The Reuters news agency filed this report yesterday (August 8th):

(Reuters) - West Africa's Ebola epidemic is an "extraordinary event" and now constitutes an international health risk, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

The Geneva-based U.N. health agency said the possible consequences of a further international spread of the outbreak, which has killed almost 1,000 people in four West African countries, were "particularly serious" in view of the virulence of the virus.

"A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola," the WHO said in a statement after a two-day meeting of its emergency committee on Ebola.

The declaration of an international emergency will have the effect of raising the level of vigilance on the virus.

"The outbreak is moving faster than we can control it," the WHO's director-general Margaret Chan told reporters on a telephone briefing from the WHO's Geneva headquarters.

"The declaration ... will galvanize the attention of leaders of all countries at the top level. It cannot be done by the ministries of health alone."

(Read more at the Reuters website)

The purpose of the WHO statement was to promote vigilance and preparedness -- not to start a panic. The Ebola virus can be contained if it is detected in a timely fashion and if proper infection control techniques are used.

For a helpful discussion of the
epidemiology of the Ebola
virus, see this article from the
Mother Jones website: "Here's
the Science to Refute Right-
Wing Ebola Scaremongering"

Tara Smith, an epidemiologist and Ebola expert from Kent State University, notes that Ebola's high mortality rate does not mean that it can spread easily in a country with a strong health care system, like the United States.

Even so, increased measures are required to control the spread of the virus, and the need is not limited to West Africa. Tom Frieden,
director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told members of a Congressional panel yesterday that, "We are all connected and inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others who go from these three countries -- or from Lagos if it doesn't get it under control -- and are here with symptoms."

At moments like this -- when the need arises for international action to address a public health emergency -- there is no organization that is better prepared or more respected than the World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Health Organization has been a specialized agency of the United Nations since 1948. WHO's responsibilities include providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries, and monitoring and assessing health trends.

See a 2-minute video on YouTube titled, "World Health
Day at Heathrow Airport." It features WHO staffers
advising travelers about how to protect themselves
from vector-borne diseases. (YouTube link)
Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, WHO is governed by the World Health Assembly, which includes delegations from all 194 Member States of the United Nations. WHO is responsible for producing the World Health Report -- an indispensable resource for policymakers, donor agencies, international organizations and others with the information they need to help them make appropriate health policy and funding decisions.

Since its creation, the World Health Organization has played a leading role in the eradication of smallpox. Its current priorities include communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; the mitigation of the effects of non-communicable diseases; sexual and reproductive health; occupational health; substance abuse; and other topics.

Does Your Member of Congress Support the World Health Organization?

Maintaining America's support for the World Health Organization should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, we've got a Congress that is one of the least productive in our nation's history. It needs to be reminded (repeatedly) to take care of the public's business.

Additionally, where we live -- in Oklahoma -- we have more than one Congressman whose support for the United Nations is in doubt.
The work of the World Health Organization
(WHO) is vital to maintaining public health
around the world. Sign the online petition
at the link. Thanks!

For example, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (who represents the Tulsa area) told a Town Hall meeting earlier this year that President Obama “...uses foreign bodies, he uses, you know, the United Nations to change the laws in the United States.” (For the record, the president has not used the UN or any foreign body to try to change domestic laws).

On his Congressional website, Rep. Bridenstine asserts: "I support an independent foreign policy that is not restricted by international bodies like the United Nations." (Has Mr. Bridenstine been talking to Vladimir Putin?) 

Another example is 5th district Congressman James Lankford (representing Edmond, Oklahoma City, Seminole). Rep. Lankford, who is running for the U.S. Senate, has indicated that he favors surrendering U.S. leadership in the United Nations entirely -- which, presumably, would include withdrawal from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, etc. So, his vote in favor of funding the World Health Organization is not at all assured.

It goes without saying that these members of Congress need to hear from people like you and me.

To facilitate public action on this issue, the Better World Campaign has created an online petition: "Ask Congress to support WHO's work amid the Ebola crisis."

It allows you to send the following message to your member of Congress:

"With a second American infected with Ebola – a fatal virus that’s been rapidly spreading in West Africa – arriving back in the United States this week, it’s vital that Congress put its unequivocal support behind the life-saving work of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).
The United States of America is a leader in the World
Health Assembly, the governing body of WHO.
Unfortunately, some of our members of Congress
do not support American leadership in the UN.

"At a time of a global health crisis, the importance of an organization such as WHO transcends political or ideological differences. We can all agree on the necessity of tackling a disease outbreak such as Ebola before it impacts our own communities any further."

The petition urges your member of Congress to support the WHO’s work in combatting Ebola and other disease outbreaks by voting to pay our UN dues in full.

Our best chance of stopping the spread of Ebola is by standing together as a global community and doing our part to help the World Health Organization.

No matter where you live or who represents you in Congress, please sign the petition ...


"Ask Congress to support WHO's work amid the Ebola crisis."

... and share the message with your friends and neighbors.


Photo credit: Lutheran World Relief

Did you know?
92 percent of American voters believe it's important for the U.S. to both provide funds and be part of the decision making process for the World Health Organization.