GFDD Greets UNA-USA Executive Director at August Edition of GFDD Global RoundtablesAugust 29, 2014
For the August edition of its online broadcast program “Global Roundtable,” Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) sat down with Chris Whatley, the Executive Director of the United Nations Association of the United States (UNA USA).
The session focused on the important role played by civil society organizations in advancing the work of the United Nations (UN) and the role they could play in the post-2015 development
Opening the discussion, GFDD’s Executive Director, Ms. Natasha Despotovic, asked Mr. Whatley to explain the role of UNA USA both in Washington DC (DC) and New York City (NY). Mr. Whatley explained that the UN was made up a variety of UN agencies, Member States and
administrative units. In light of this complex structure, he stressed that the key duty of UNA USA in DC, is to make sure that US government institutions understand why the UN is such an important international policy tool. Given that the UN is headquartered in NY he explained that the organization also needed a presence there to ensure it could stay abreast of the latest international policy developments. Mr. Whatley finally commented on the role of the US Congress in influencing the work
of the US Mission to the United Nations. He stated that UNA USA on one hand had to mobilize individuals on UN issues at the grassroots level and on the other hand motivate congress to remain engaged with the UN. As part of this commitment, Mr. Whatley stressed that UNA USA aims to highlight the frontline achievements of the UN to US media and US politicians, so as to set aside misapprehensions about what the UN does. He explained that by putting forward the plight of communities in war torn
countries and the work of the UN’s peacekeeping forces in those areas, UNA USA looked to engage Americans in the work of the UN and see it in a different light.
Thanking GFDD for being a committee member of the UNA USA Council of Organizations, Mr. Whatley explained that a petition was now being prepared in collaboration with Members of Congress asking for President Obama to be present at the UN’s Climate Summit this September and for the US
government to put forward bold commitments on climate change issues.
Ms. Despotovic next turned the discussion to the UN’s development agenda and the draft Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Mr. Whatley viewed the SDGs as “the most important and impactful global policy decision that is going on right now”. Commending GFDD for rightly focusing the international
policy work of the foundation on this issue, he stressed that more people need to get involved in this process. He stated that UNDP had put forward a call to action for all Member States to find out what their populations thought should be the priorities in this new agenda. Mr. Whatley pointed out that UNA USA had answered this call, by conducting survey across the USA with the help of its regional chapters. Stressing that the difference with this new set of development goals was that it
would be agreed on a universal basis, he explained that the agenda will deal with inequality in all countries, including developed and developing countries. For this reason, Mr. Whatley emphasized the importance for UNA USA to ensure that the regional issues that affect developed states like the USA are also taken into account (be it food security or poverty reduction goals).
Highlighting the arrears to the UN of the US’s peacekeeping dues, Mr. Whatley warned that the US was once again looking at a risk of
looking to not be supportive of the US. As a result he explained it was up to UNA USA to show why certain members of US Congress should be more supportive of the UN’s work.
Concluding with a reference to the celebration of the UN and UNA USA’s 70th anniversary, Mr. Whatley expressed content with the achievements of both organizations to date. He stressed the importance for Americans and the international public to stay engaged with the UN and the
issues it strives to move forward (be they public health, climate change or poverty eradication issues).
About Mr. Whatley
Throughout his career, Mr. Whatley has held several high level positions on Capitol Hill. Prior to joining UNA-USA, he served as Washington Office Director and Deputy Executive Director of The Council of State Governments (CSG), representing elected officials in all 50 states and the six territories in Washington D.C.,
forging ties between American states and their counterparts in Canada and Mexico, and serving as an appointed advisor to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Prior to joining CSG, Chris served as a program officer and field representative for the International Republican Institute (IRI), leading a wide range of international election observation missions and technical assistance programs in Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. He began his career as a Research
Assistant for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), studying the demobilization and reintegration of former combatants in Zimbabwe following the Lancaster House Agreement. Mr. Whatley’s current responsibility entails advocating for UN causes and educating the next generation of UN supporters in the USA.
The session will be structured as an interactive discussion between Chris Whatley and Natasha Despotovic, GFDD Executive Director, and will be streamed on
the Foundation’s website.
About the United Nations Association of the United States (UNA-USA)
UNA-USA is a membership organization dedicated to educate the American people about the United Nations. For 70 years UNA-USA has worked to accomplish its mission of informing, inspiring and mobilizing Americans to support the principles and vital work of the UN, strengthening the UN system, promoting constructive US leadership in that
system and achieving the goals of the UN Charter. Forming a strategic alliance with the UN Foundation in 2010, UNA-USA continues to pool talents to increase public education and advocacy on the work of the UN.
About GFDD Global Roundtables
In close association with the United Nations, the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the UN, GFDD organizes regular meetings with UN Ambassadors and other prominent figures in the international
community in an effort to spread the news, knowledge and understanding of other countries, global issues and work of different UN bodies to its audience in the Dominican Republic, the US and around the world.
The regular series,”GFDD Global Roundtables” is also a part of GFDD’s program to support the work of the United Nations and, as a non-governmental institution affiliated to it, contribute to the visibility and understanding of its