Friday, September 23, 2011

Please see our new blog

Hello everyone! Thanks for visiting.

I've transferred my blogging to the following address, and hope you'll visit and subscribe:

I'm now serving as president of the United Nations Association of the USA Southern New York State Division. The blog still includes materials on the UN, on global issues, on UNA-USA and on the Southern New York State Division. It now also includes materials from some colleagues.

Hope to see you there, or at our website: and our new Facebook page.

We also have a new Energy Project, led by Dr. George A. Garland. Visit or our twitter page: @UNAEnergy

Jeanne Betsock Stillman

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Only through pooling information from many relief sources can one start to understand what is happening on the ground in relation to the Haiti Earthquake, getting aid to Haiti, and the cross-border situation of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) of the United Nations is "the primary mechanism for interagency coordination of humanitarian assistance. It is a unique forum involving key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners." SEE

The IASC committee is chaired by the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), Sir John Holmes. The full members are the heads of the UN humanitarian agencies; standing invitees include Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, World Bank, International Organization for Migration, International Committee of the Red Cross, IFRC, Inter-Action, International Council of Voluntary Agencies (represented by World Vision International) and the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (represented by Oxfam). Nine Clusters were agreed, with a lead agency for each.

The Logistics Cluster of the IASC is an excellent source for daily news updates which give information on the logistics situation in Haiti and in the D.R. for Haiti, as well as other extensive information. See the website

The World Food Program is the lead agency for Logistics Cluster.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Brings Disaster to 9 Million

Writing can be therapeutic, and perhaps it's my way of mourning. We (my husband and I) daily view paintings of the Haitian people and countryside all over our home, from time spent in Haiti in the 1990s. We've seen the rolling hills, the beautiful natural settings, the barren mountains, the stalwart people who daily try to meet the challenges of life in the poorest country in the hemisphere. We know people who have died and places that have been destroyed. The infrastructure, never robust, is gone.

I've been too busy in the past week working on Haiti relief to write an article about the calamity and the needs faced by the Haitian people since the earthquake of January 12. By now we've all seen the television coverage. Notably, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN have brought it into our livingrooms. The major stations have had excellent coverage in the first week. Today we hear that up to 200,000 may already have perished, and that many more may die unless they receive proper medical care, water and food.

The U.S. and the American people have galvanized to try to assist. We see massive amounts of aid pouring in, although distribution systems are yet lacking. The United Nations and the U.S. 82nd Airborne are trying to work with remnants of the Haitian Government to restore a semblance of order - at least in relation to hospitals, food and water distribution, and security. Already on January 15 my husband met search and rescue teams from Poland who were en route from Santo Domingo, D.R., to Port-au-Prince. They were working under the auspices of the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG).

The faces of people, especially children - confused, frightened, hungry, in agony - are haunting. Destruction hit the slum of Cite Soleil, as well as my favorite hotel - Hotel Montana - on the way up the mountain from Port-au-Prince to Petionville, hospitals, schools, and the port. Port-au-Prince, home to over 2 million, suffered the greatest casualties, but the damage to the epicenters of Carrefour and Leogane have not really been assessed. I don't know what happened to the Episcopal Hospital in Leogane - a model for community service.

What we learned is that anyone can suffer broken limbs and lacerations, but also that people would die unless treated. Amputations have been a grizzly effect of need to help people survive over the possibility of quality of life in future. All - old, young, rich, poor, faced lack of medical teams, operating facilities, and vital supplies. - and suffered through "civil war medicine."

Yes, it has taken time for even the minimal of services to be organized. The United Nations MINUSTAH peacekeeping force suffered its own tragedy. Special Representative of the Secretary General, Hedi Annabi, and his deputy, Luiz Carlos Da Costa, Douglas Coates, the mission's Acting Police Commissioner, at least 70 peacekeepers have died and 140 are unaccounted for. Our friends at the United Nations have frantically sought information about colleagues. So have members of the Haitian Diaspora, with whom we have been working. Their loss is greater yet, with nearly each person having family members in the country.

Post-natural-disaster relief must be handled first and foremost by the large organizations prepared to do it: the United Nations, the World Food Program, UNICEF. We heard by the January 14th that the World Food Program was already feeding 3,000 in the port town of Jacmel, on the southern coast. The large private agencies - Mercy Corps, Salvation Army, Red Cross - are on the ground too. Still, there are enormous gaps. Dr. Sanjay Gupta personally went to the airport go obtain medical supplies; the supplies were already available in warehouses or out in the open, but distribution was poorly organized. 120 flights were arriving daily with food, water, relief supplies and personnel.

Notables - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, President Bill Clinton - have all come to assess the situation and to give assurance that aid is forthcoming. President Obama has pledged $100 million in American support, and Michelle Obama has sought to raise funds for the American Red Cross. Aid agencies, the U.S. Government, the United Nations, and the many many mission organizations and non-governmental organizations that are the backbone of Haitian life, are all trying to ramp up their abilities to provide supplies, personnel, road clearance and transport. This is a massive undertaking, hampered by an airport with a single runway and a seaport that will take weeks or months to re-open.

We've learned of diplomats being flown to Santo Domingo, and missionary flights that daily bring in supplies and remove 50 missionaries at a time. I personally know of a 19 year old college student, who was volunteering in a mission station in the hills above Petionville. Her family was gladdened to hear from her, the house where she was staying was not affected, and she was evacuated to the U.S. via one of the missionary flights to return to school. At the same time we hear of the exodus of people from Port-au-Prince to the countryside, including toward the Dominican border. From my experience with Afghan refugees in Pakistan, I know how problematic an influx of refugees would be to the neighboring country. We hear of plans to create tent camps away from the capital but within the Haitian border, so that distribution of relief can be systematized and so that clearing of rubble can begin.

The Dominican Republic, for its part, is serving as a staging area for aid to Haiti, for large meetings to assess needs and determine future multilateral actions, and also for providing immediate health care in overworked, stressed, hospitals and clinics in border towns. Tensions are likely to grow even more, as Haitians press into the relatively safety of the D. R.

Almost everything is left to be done. The outpouring of pledges of assistance from around the world must be translated into food, water, heavy machinery, doctors, nurses, architects, urban planners and educators. Journalists will be needed to keep alive the telling of the story and communicating the gaps in aid.
It will be important to control in some manner the outpouring of people who want to travel to Haiti to help. An article on the MSNBC website discusses the problems that occur when inexperienced but well-meaning people try to help. See: Disaster do-gooders can actually hinder help:

1) Continue to donate to the United Nations and to reliable non-governmental organizations with experience working in Haiti. The United Nations Association of the USA recommends giving funds to UNICEF, the World Food Program, the World Health Organization / Pan American Health Organization and the Central Emergency Response Fund.

2) Remember the ongoing needs, as days, weeks and months go by.

3) Remind policymakers of the crucial long-term actions that will be needed.

4) Support the United Nations and the UN System in its ongoing work in Haiti.

5) Learn about disaster relief from experts and from the following resources:

The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response

The Center for International Disaster Information

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How to Support the United Nations

If you're an American, or live in the United States, you have a great opportunity to support the work of the United Nations through membership in the United Nations Association of the USA. UNA-USA supports the UN through offering programs to the general public, giving individuals a way to learn about important global issues, and providing a way to advocate for vital actions by the international community and by the U.S. Government.

These are exciting times, with a US President and Congress willing to work multinationally, and winning the respect and admiration of countries around the world.

Why join? Because the United Nations is the only global body that brings together 192 countries for mutual understanding, interest, interaction and policymaking.

Why join? Because the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN Population Fund, the World Meteorological Organization, the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Development Programme, the UN Institute for the Training and Advancement of Women, and many other parts of the United Nations System help countries work on areas of mutual interests. WFP feeds refugees and starving children. UNICEF provides programs that help improve children's lives; FAO helps farmers with new agricultural methods and knowledge. The United Nations itself works through principal bodies including the Economic and Social Council, the Security Council and the General Assembly, to give voice to the opinions and ideas of countries around the world.

Why join? To become part of the global conversation!

Why join? To help all Americans to learn about the work of our country in the international arena, and to help the United States have a positive impact on multilateral decisionmaking, go to: and go to "Join us" -- fill out the form or print a .pdf, fill it out and mail it.

UNA-USA has many local chapters - if there is not one in your area, you can start a group or a chapter. If you area at a school or college, you can join or start a Student Alliance.

For information in Southern New York State, go to:

Best wishes for a better world in 2010. Be an active part of it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

US State Department Supports Adoption of CEDAW

The US State Department spokesman issued a press release on December 18th, the 30th anniversary of the UN's Adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, known as CEDAW, supporting its ratification by the US. Only the US and a handful of other countries have not ratified this treaty. Although Secretary Hillary Clinton's position has been known for some time, the press release should be good news to all who support CEDAW's ratification by the U.S. Senate. It is now important to make sure CEDAW gets on the agenda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by John Kerry, (D - Mass), who has indicated that he supports the bill. Senator Barbara Boxer, a strong supporter, chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues, where the bill will be debated.

According to the statement, "President Obama’s Administration views CEDAW as a powerful tool for making gender equality a reality. We are committed to U.S. ratification of the Convention and look forward to joining the countries that have adopted it as a central part of their efforts to ensure that human rights are enjoyed fully and equally by all people."

It takes 67 Senators to vote for ratification, and it will be necessary for strong grassroots pressure for this to be achieved in a political climate of partisanship.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Congresswoman Nita Lowey named International Family Planning Hero

l to r: Cecile Richard (PPFA), Reina Schiffren (PP HP), The Hon. Nita Lowey, Dr. Gill Greer (IPPF), Kathy Bushkin Calvin (UN Foundation)
I was very happy to attend a breakfast at the Rye Town Hilton in Westchester County, at which Congresswoman Nita Lowey received the first "International Family Planning Hero" award offered by the UN Foundation and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well as Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. About 90 community leaders, politicians and Planned Parenthood supporters attended. Brenda Smith, board member of UNA Westchester and former Superintendent of Schools of Mount Vernon, Noema Chaplin, board member of UNA Queens and I made up the UNA-USA contingent.

I had a chance to talk with Kathy Bushkin Calvin of the UN Foundation, Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, State Senator from my district (Greenburgh, Yonkers), Representative John Hall of the 19th Congressional District, Reina Schiffrin, President of PP Hudson Peconic, and Dr. Gill Greer, Director-General of IPPF. Adequate funding and U.S. support for family planning services and education, as well as linked issues such as women's economic rights and human rights, and education for women and girls, are very important to me.
I worked for many years as an international family planning consultant, beginning my career in family planning with Planned Parenthood's Washington office, and later worked in the IPPF Western Hemisphere Office in New York. I also consulted with the UN Population Fund. I'm a strong supporter of family planning- not only because for its implications for women's personal choice, but also for its impact on family health & economics and community & national development.

Through her position as the chair of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Lowey has worked to increase the level of funding for international reproductive health programs to an all-time high of $648.5 million in the Fiscal Year 2010 House Appropriations bill. The 2010 appropriations bill also expands funding for the UN Population Fund. Mrs. Lowey has also fought consistently against the Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush Mexico City policy that barred any foreign organization receiving U.S. foreign assistance from using its own funds or funds from other donors to perform abortions; advocate for the liberalization or decriminalization of abortion in laws and policies; or provide information, make referrals, or counsel women on the procedure—even in countries where abortion is legal. That policy was overturned by the Clinton Administration, reinstated by the Bush administration in 2001, and repealed by President Obama this year.