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The United Nations Forum on the Question of Palestine : 70 Years after 1948 — Lessons to Achieve a Sustainable Peace



“We are the only people in the world held responsible for the security of its occupier.”

  • Hanan Achrawi, Palestinian Legislator

On this day, May 17th, the Forum began with a moment of silence for the dozens of lives lost, including those of children, amid the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14th, 2018. Occurring during a critical turning point in the history of Israel-Palestine relations, the opportunity to discuss their fate, and what must be done, has come. 

“What Happened in 1948?”

The forum began with a panel of speakers who specialize in Palestine and Palestine-Israeli relations, specifically in their history. Panelists informed the stakeholders and observers of the series of events that caused the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, the occupation of Palestine by Israeli communities, and ultimately the discrimination of the Palestinian people from 1947 until today. The speakers stressed the importance of understanding history in order to change the future, but that change required responsibility. 

Historian Ilan Pappé:

“Any peace process that ignores what happened in 1948 must involve these three components: acknowledgement, accountability, and acceptance” 

The forum continued on the topic of displacement within and outside of Palestine. Pointed out by In January 2018, there were a total of 230,000 displaced Palestinians and of those, 60% of them have been displaced more than once. As a result of the occupation, 50,000 infrastructures in Palestine have been destroyed, including schools and humanitarian aid buildings. 

International Lawyer Francesca Albanese: 

“No status and no rights were guaranteed to refugees in general without the case of the Palestinian refugees. It didn’t really exist before.”

Speakers compared the situations between Palestine and Namibia, noting that it took 20 years for Namibia to gain recognition from South Africa. Professor Susan Akram pointed out that without a  similar strategy to that of Namibia, Palestine won’t be able to obtain their right to self-determination. There are several factors to consider for the creation of a Palestinian state, especially concerning those born in exile.

Israeli Politician Yossi Beilin:

“We have more and more Arab doctors, Arab professors. We want an Arab minister and the move is too slow.”

The Forum on the Question of Palestine informed us about the intersecting factors that challenge the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Each panelist shared their insight, highlighting the importance of education in matters in order to work toward a sustainable future without neglecting a crucial past.



The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, meeting with the civil society before the end of his term

On May 11th,  Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein ,current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights held a brief meeting with the UN staff and NGO members concluding the end of his service term.

Zeid Ra’ad, who  is the sixth High Commissioner leading  the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the first Asian, Muslim and Arab to ever be in this prestigious position, gave his overview on ups and downs of closely working and rigorously fighting for the human rights. During his speech he noted complex systematic challenges of the Security Council in addressing the Syrian Refugee Crisis followed by abusive chemical attacks aimed at civil society members that are still left within Syrian borders. Not only did he mention difficulties of tackling with pressing global issues, but also lack of coordination between regional powers that weaken the  UN’s ability to  assist in crisis moments.

Nonetheless,  he highlighted positive shifts in some sovereign states where there was fear of state collapse as in case of Ethiopia where has been with UNOHCR mission recently: ” A country at pivot point of collapse was able to transform into a strong build-bridge between educated youth and government.”  However, the transformation was sealed in raising literate and argumentative youth able to analyze and participate in the daily life of the civil society they are residing in, and this comes with zealous persistence and support given to  the youth.

More notably, the High Commissioner stated  the importance of using comprehensive language accessible and applicable to general public over advanced terminologies that are only designed for legal purposes. Having accessible information on human rights, its core values and concepts would accommodate them better when faced with challenges and abuse of human rights rather than having ideological knowledge about it.

As CCNY NGO Youth Representatives, it has been an honor for us to attend such an impeccable event filled with discussions on the global issues whose core victims are humans whose rights and dignity have been deprived or abused by authoritarian regimes.

” At times the pressing issues may seem to be at the brink of pivotal point, but with the right assistance and unbowed independent body to stand up for the human rights, we will reach to more constructive and positive outcomes as long as states are willing to acknowledge and co-ordinate in battling these issues.”

He concluded by stating: ” In truth there is a power!”




Careers in Diplomacy

img_3721CCNY International Studies Program, Model United Nations Club, and CCNY NGO to the UN invite you to a presentation about careers in diplomacy. Please join us for an evening with Usha Pitts, the U.S. Department of State Diplomat in Residence at City College.

Usha Pitts’ most recent post was as the U.S. Consul General in Recife, Brazil. Her previous assignments included tours in Russia, Cuba, Panama, Italy, and Austria. In total, she has 19 years of service with the U.S. Department of State. As a former employee of the World Bank and U.S. representative to two UN agencies, Ms. Pitts will share her expertise on careers in multilateral institutions and the international public sector. At CCNY, Ms. Pitts also teaches a course called “Practice of Diplomacy.” She holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts, the George Washington University, and the Naval War College.

The event will take place on May 3 (Thursday) at CCNY NAC 1/201 from 5:00- 7:30pm.

Also joining us will be Michael Cruz to talk about his Peace Corps experience in Peru.

Michael graduated from Hostos Community College and the City College of New York. He is a recipient of the Colin L. Powell Partners for Change Fellowship in international development. Currently, Michael is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ascope Province, Peru.

Here is the link to RSVP:

Global Compact for Migration- Second Round

This week the process of revising and reviewing ” Zero Draft Plus” has started at the UN Trusteeship Council. Intergovernmental negotiations will last till the end of the current week providing opportunities for states present  at the session hearings to express their concerns and comments on the revised draft which will be further amended. From the first day the procedure of analyzing every sovereign states’ position  and remarks  has increased the stakes of challenging legal and moral frameworks. Co-facilitators of the Second Round, namely Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations and Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations, have raised the questions specifically pointing out the crucial necessity of defining certain legal terminologies related to migration, migrants, refugees, stateless people and IDP.

What’s more interesting is that while states  such as Japan, Singapore, the EU, Australia, Lichtenstein, Sweden, Lebanon,Palestine, Russian along with many other fellow ones expressed clear insistence on keeping  consensus on legal distinction between the terms such as refugee and migrant, majority of them pointed out their willingness to uphold the 1951 Refugee Convention , the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and New York Declaration. Numerous requests have been made to keep refugees only in Global Compact on Refugees which will be presented by UNHCR via its annual report to the General Assembly in 2018. Also, the growing concerns of conflicting terms has been recognized to put refugees and migrants in danger as they attempt to cross the borders.

The main tone of the past two days has reflected on key areas where states advocated  for the next revised draft to contain: international laws for protections of migrants , the principle of non-refoulement, obligations and regulations under the Global Compact on Migration.

Even though international recognition of every state’s sovereignty  has been crucially regarded by co-facilitators, there has been universal urge to consider the individual and case-by-case factors under which people on the move find themselves trapped in dangerous situation or facing a fate of being trafficked by smugglers. Not to mention the fact that they reminded the states to bear the responsibility of saving lives in danger and rescue at sea.

Stay tuned for upcoming briefings on Global Compact on Migration!


International Women’s Day 2018

On March 8th, the CCNY NGO Youth Representatives joined the United Nations conference celebrating International Women’s Day 2018.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres gave a speech announcing that gender parity has been achieved within the UN in the leading branches of the organisation such as the Senior Management Committee.

The theme of this year is “The Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”, which echoed the conference that will take place at the UN on the 12th and 13th of March.

Nevertheless, this year, International Women’s Day comes after an unprecedented movement fighting for women’s rights, equality, and respect, and against gender violence that was largely covered during the conference.

Movements like “MeToo”, “Balancetonporc”, and “End Marry Your Rapist Laws” who enable women to speak about their experience of gender violence were represented in the GA Hall.

“We are at a tipping point for the world”, said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women whilst talking about year 2017 as a real eye-opener.

As the movement against gender violence began in Hollywood, the UN invited actresses Reese Witherspoon (Academy Award–winning actor and activist) and Danai Gurira (Black Panther, Tony-nominated playwright, actor and activist) to be part of the conference.

The different speakers presented concrete actions to fight gender inequality and gender violence.

Danai Gurira insisted on educating the next generations to an equal representation of men and women in society, as she does playing a General in the film Black Panthers. She also encouraged all those who have attended, as well as viewers from beyond, to speak out for those without a voice.

With “Times Up”, Reese Witherspoon aims to raise funds to create safer working environments for women and an end to tolerance toward sexual harassment.

Julie Bishop, the Australian Minister of Foreign affairs, shared her desire for women from the Pacific regions in politics, and is establishing a program to pair potential Pacific female leaders with Australian female leaders.

All the speakers insisted on the fact that there is still a lot of work to do. Therefore, the upcoming 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is the key event to follow to see the United Nations action plans are regarding women’s rights!

Global Compact for Migration Zero Draft


As a first assignment for 2018, the CCNY NGO team had the opportunity to sit in on the intergovernmental consultations and negotiations on issues related to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. Over a span of three days, 49 delegates from Member States took turns in conveying their stances on the current migration issue and outlining any changes they deemed necessary for the Zero Draft of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) to be effectively representative of all migrants.

While the Zero Draft of the GCM serves as a great foundation for Member States to work from, demonstrating a step in the right direction, there were many concerns amongst members about language (irregular vs. regular migration and migrant vs. refugee), implementation, and follow-up/review. As a result, these negotiations have been extended for another set of rounds that will begin on March 12th and continue on a monthly basis afterwards. Stay tuned and follow the CCNY NGO on their journey through the negotiations process!

UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit

From our student Aichatou Nimaga on UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit:

On February 23, 2018 I attended the UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit at the United Nations. My passion to become a diplomat of my home country, Mali has led me to attend numerous events related to making reforms in society. The UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit consisted of important individuals giving speeches, specific individuals holding panels related to their career, Q&A’s from the audience and networking opportunities. It commenced with the Executive Director, Chris Whatley thanking everyone for attending the summit. There was 1,500 attendees, by far the largest amount of attendees ever. One quote that Chris Whately stated that resonated with me is “International Relations is not a 3-credit course, it’s the narrative of your story”.

Concentrating in International Relations, this statement hit home. If my passion is to make reforms around the world, and understanding International Relations will help me, then Chris Whately statement is true. We then had Munira Khalif speak to the youth in the room. The summit ranged from college students to council advocates from all around the nation. Representation matters, seeing an African,Muslim, WOMAN today at the UN obtaining this position as the official youth observer led a pathway for me! This assured me that I can obtain that position one day.

Munira Khalif also said a quote that resonated with me as well. “When you empower women, you don’t only empower women, you empower communities”. Women undeniably run the world, and once placed in position in power there is differences made in the community. Minoring in women studies, I plan to create my own organization that will mentor young women in school to encourage, empower and uplift these women so they can do anything they want to do. The ultimate goal is equality, peace, women empowerment, & education for all. Being apart of this summit and being able to hear about various topics such as Climate Change, Response to Refugee Crisis, Private Sectors to even social media, allowed me to expand my knowledge on everything that I’ve known.

My favorite panel held was The Global Goals Refugee Crisis. The fact that this issue is ongoing and not resolved is relevant today. It’s so unfortunate that this crisis has to take place, especially in this day and age, but the purpose of the panel is to shed light on this matter and actions we can take to make sure this doesn’t occur again. Refugee’s are not a burden to a country, even though they are portrayed as this. Just like New York City is an example of a melting pot, NYC is filled with different culture, beliefs, food, and more. There is also a misconception that the only way that crisis like this can come to an end is by the UN and NGOs to resolve this. UN Refugee Agent, Grainne O’ Hara, stated they can’t do this alone. Hearing this argument go back and forth, I came up with the question to ask UN Refugee Agent. My question was “Being a sophomore at City College and taking a course called Response to Refugee Crisis, what can I do or better yet, the youth do to contribute to this crisis? It does get discouraging to hear about crisi like this and feel like one can’t do anything except sign a petition”. Grainne answered “Though it does get discouraging, the best thing to do is to spread awareness in school, communities and so forth”. This was the last panel leading to the closing plenary. Overall, I am glad that I attended this eight hour summit. Knowledge is power and I genuinely feel that I learned more of how the UN operates and networked to my power.

Aichatou NimagaUN Podium Aichaa.jpg

The “Arria Formula” meeting of the UN Security Council

The Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations hosted an “Arria Formula” meeting of the Security Council this past Friday. The topic of discussion was “Preparing for the security implications of rising temperatures.”

Representatives from all over the world spoke about taking responsibility in addressing climate change. Climate change creates major global issues, such as, mass displacement, increased economic obstacles, heightened immigration dilemmas, and the like.

Each representative made compelling arguments on how not one country can do this alone, but that we need to form partnerships to tackle a problem that is not going away. As one representative stated:

If we don’t take this seriously and work towards a global solution, we won’t have a planet to live in to focus on the other SDGs of the 2030 Agenda.”

The meeting was very telling, that although some countries haven’t taken climate change seriously in the past, it is now an issue that can’t be ignored. The countries involvedin the meeting are no longer ignoring the issue at hand, but are willing to take action in becoming part of the solution to the difficulties that climate change has (and may) cause.

Human Rights Day at the UN

To celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt (played by Susan Marie Frontczak) took us back in time by reciting the UDHR in character. She then held a private conference, expressing the painstaking hours it took to create such a document, especially with all of the countries involved needing to agree on the language. Fifty-eight different legal systems were considered when writing the UDHR.

When speaking of the atrocities of war, she stated that:

“It’s harder for a country to settle its differences sitting across from each other at a table than it is to start a war.”

Eleanor also voiced her concern with the great danger that the Declaration could be used for countries to pass judgment on one another. She conveyed that we shouldn’t pass judgment, but point the finger at ourselves to see how we can improve.

After speaking for approximately two hours, Eleanor conducted a Q&A session. The questions were answered as if it were still 1948. At the very end of the Q&A Frontczak broke character to make a closing statement about the atrocities that still go on today. She left us feeling hopeful that we can still make a difference, whether on a local or international level.

World AIDS Day “The Right to Health”

World AIDS Day, co-organized with UNAIDS was held at the UN last week. The topic of discussion was “The Right to Health” and how to partner with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.

The HIV epidemic has evolved over the last 30 years, and although much progress has been made, there is so much that needs to be done.

Today, more than 40% of HIV infected people are being denied the most basic health services. This includes adolescent boys and girls, young women and displaced individuals.

UNAIDS wants to remind us that “Everybody Counts!” Providing quality healthcare that is available to anyone, no matter where they live, especially in places that are most affected, is imperative. When it comes to denial of services there needs to be a zero tolerance policy.

At the briefing, the panelists discussed some solutions to make progress. One was education. Keeping girls in school will decrease the risk of acquiring HIV considerably. Another was regular testing. 1 in 3 people living with HIV do not know they have it. Gender equality was another. Women who are empowered and have their human rights respected, the HIV positive number for them goes down.

World AIDS Day was a positive experience and brought a higher level of awareness to everyone than they had prior to attending.