As Houston is the most diverse city in the United States, it also boasts as being the home of one of the oldest and largest chapters of the United Nations Associations in the country – the UNA Houston Chapter. It is the only organization that has as its main mission to promote the mission and vision of the United Nations.
This year, the UNA-USA is at the forefront , with other chapters throughout the world, of commemorating the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This great humanitarian document was championed by the late Eleanor Roosevelt who also championed the creation of the United Nations Association.
On October 24, 1945 the United Nations was chartered. On Dec.10, 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. In 1954, Mrs. Roosevelt organized the Houston Chapter of the UNA, in the midst of segregated conditions which she challenged and demanded an integrated public forum.
The United Nations is an international organization currently made up of 193 Member States. The purposes of the United Nations are to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace; to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) is a membership organization dedicated to educating, inspiring and mobilizing Americans to support the principles and vital work of the United Nations, strengthening the United Nations system, promoting constructive United States leadership in that system and achieving the goals of the United Nations Charter.
UNA-USA works closely with the United Nations Foundation and its sister organization, the Better World Campaign, to strengthen the U.S.-UN relationship. In 2018, the UNA-USA includes over 25,000 members, 240 chapters, and at least 50 collegiate charters. Programs include: Refugee Initiative entitled Adopt-A-Future that supports educational programs for refugees, Gen UN programs for youth and young professionals, Youth Observer to the UN, UNA Women that addresses gender equity and safety issues, partnership programs with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Advocacy Programs and in-district and congressional office meetings with legislators, Global Engagement Summit at the UN Headquarters with diplomats and UN officials, Leadership Summit in Washington, DC with U.S. Department of State officials, UN officials and experts in international affairs.
The Houston Chapter, established in 1954, is one of the oldest and largest of the chapters throughout the United States. It encourages individuals to make a global impact at the local level, with the motto “Think globally, act locally”. Its educational and humanitarian programs focus on supporting the national initiatives, as well as local initiatives including teaching students about international affairs through Model UN/Global Classrooms programs, clearing minefields in formerly worn-torn nations, building schools and water wells in deprived areas, providing immunization for children, educating the public about the United Nations, developing cultural understanding through our cultural dinners and “Dialogue with Diplomats” programs, and teaching conflict resolution.
UNA Houston Chapter’s annual events include the UN Day Gala, International Women’s Day, Human Rights Day, World Refugee Day, and Houston Citizenship Month. In addition, its advocacy programs include direct meetings to discuss issues and actions with city, state and federal officials.
The UNA-Houston Chapter has been the recipient of several local and national awards for its programs, including the “G7 Outstanding Non-Profit Organization Award” by the Houston International Development Corporation, and the “UNA-USA Communications Award.” UNA-Houston is expanding its programs and outreach as we provide citizen action to ensure human rights.
By Hon. Teta V. Banks, Ed.D., National Chair, United Nations Association of the United States of America