UNA-GP Members Discuss World Heritage at Annual Meeting

 Alex deBerardinis, for GPA -- Tenured, new and prospective members of the United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia (UNA-GP) gathered together on June 19 to discuss their upcoming plans as an association, budgetary concerns and the introduction of two new, distinguished board members. In addition to official UNA-GP business, the group received an eye-opening presentation from Zabeth Teelucksingh, the Executive Director of the Global Philadelphia Association, on Philadelphia’s efforts towards becoming a World Heritage City. Following Zabeth’s presentation, the group also heard from Ryan Kaminski, the current UNA-USA Leo Nevas Human Rights Fellow, who gave a brief talk on United Nations reform and UNA advocacy in general. It was a meeting filled with insightful topics, curiosity and, as always, lots of friendly and forward-thinking banter. 

Global Philadelphia’s World Heritage City Project

It was fitting that the member’s meeting began with a well-researched presentation on branding Philadelphia as a global city. Using such case studies as Lisbon and Cintra, two Portuguese cities involved in the World Heritage Project (Lisbon is attempting to gain recognition while Cintra already has the distinction), Teelucksingh clearly outlined how Philadelphia could improve its chances of becoming a World Heritage City through simple, accessible branding of its major historical attractions. By adding the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) logo, designating Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell as World Heritage sites around the Independence Mall area, Philadelphia can push forward towards the even larger distinction of being designated a World Heritage City. This presentation piqued the interest of many of the members in attendance, leading to lots of inquiries that concluded with Teelucksingh, on behalf of the Global Philadelphia Association, urging these members to spread the word into a rallying cry for all of Philadelphia’s citizens to engage in and contribute to the UNESCO World Heritage process.

United Nations Reform

Kaminski, the knowledgeable and well-spoken Leo Nevas Human Rights Fellow for UNA-USA, began his talk on United Nations reform by suggesting that the physical construction within the organization should, and is beginning to, mirror the structural reform of the United Nations as an institution. He spoke passionately about the ability of grassroots organizations like UNA-USA to have an input in the “post-2015 goals” which are set to replace the UN Millennial goals (set to expire in 2015). By visiting their website, anyone with access to the internet can vote on existing ideas and suggest new components for these initiatives. Whatley concluded his presentation with a remarkable statistic: despite the political gridlock within the United States, 88 percent of all Americans think the U.S. should take a leading role within the United Nations. As a result, he praised the continued efforts of organizations like the UNA-GP in helping make United Nations reform a reality.

UNA-GP Plans

The annual members meeting concluded with Christiaan Morssink, the Executive Director of the UNA-GP, speaking about the association’s plans for 2014-2015. He outlined the three major items on their agenda for the upcoming year: a renewed focus on incarceration within the United States, the United Nations Habitat Meeting in 2016 and upcoming collaboration with the National Constitution Center in an effort to present the United States’ Constitution in a more global context. While Morssink did concede that membership is low at the moment, he was optimistic that the UNA-GP “exists through collaboration” and is very much looking forward to renewed activism and participation in the upcoming year.

Photo courtesy of UNA-GP.