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Welcome! As president of the United Nations Association of Rochester, I’m pleased to welcome readers to the latest edition of the UNAR Communiqué. This issue features articles on a variety of topics, including Model UN and Great Decisions, two of our flagship programs.

I would like to thank our interns for their hard work in putting this exciting and colorful newsletter together. Enjoy, and thank you for your support of UNAR!

Warm Regards,

Richard Sarkis
UNAR President

The world

UNAR Program Spotlight:

The Great Decisions Program

Great Decisions is America’s largest discussion program on world affairs. The Foreign Policy Association’s Vice President Roger Mastrude launched the first Great Decisions group in Portland, Oregon, in 1954. Participants in the program meet in a group to discuss the most critical global issues facing America today, learning about each session’s subject by reading the appropriate Great Decisions Briefing Book and watching the accompanying DVD. This year’s topics include Middle East alliances, the Islamic State, migration, the Kurds, the Koreas, United Nations, climate change, and Cuba and the U.S. These discussions are a great opportunity for the common citizen and voter to discuss these crucial issues in an unbiased and open space. This year, these discussions are especially relevant because of the upcoming presidential election.UNAR has established Great Decisions discussion in four locations. On April 7th, the Irondequoit Library began a discussion open to the public, with sessions starting at 3:30, and occurring every otherThursday.

Discussions have been well attended, with roughly 10-20 participants at each session. People from many different backgrounds have taken part in the discussions, which provide the opportunity to tie in personal experiences and search for solutions to the issues at hand. We are pleased with the results of the discussions so far, and we look forward to the discussions to come. If you have any questions about the Great Decisions program, please contact Dr. George Toth at or Ms. Irene Likoudis at

–Irene Likoudis and George Toth, Great Decisions Co-chairs

Great Decisions program

Great Decisions program

UNAR Program Spotlight:

Model UN Conference 2016

The weekend of March 4th and 5th was filled with discussions of politics and international affairs, as high school students from across western New York met at St. John Fisher College for UNAR’s annual Model United Nations conference. The conference kicked off with the keynote address on migration and displacement by Bela Hovy, the Chief of the Migration Section at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Students then eagerly departed to their committee rooms where they spent the next two days discussing issues of national security, development, humans rights, equality and justice. The students worked nonstop to pass resolutions, building on their teamwork and leadership skills as they conversed and negotiated with delegates from other countries. The students also took the time to raise money through carnation sales and a “jar wars” competition between the committee groups. The funds will be donated to the International Rescue Committee, a global organization that provides development aid and relief in response to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, conflicts, and disasters.

Throughout the conference, the twenty-one different committees additionally took time to listen to presentations from guest speakers from the surrounding region. Speakers from local colleges and organizations related their firsthand expertise in various fields to the enthusiastic students, with discussions encompassing such diverse topics as politics in Africa and the Middle East, autonomous weapons systems, women and children’s health issues, and disaster preparedness, among others.

Even as the committees finalized their resolutions and reports as the conference drew to a close, the young student delegates were already buzzing with excitement for next year’s conference. The exceptional work and professionalism shown by the student delegates will no doubt prepare each of them for an excellent future in global affairs.

–Rachel Bruce, Model UN intern

Smoke stack

United Nations at Work:

The Paris Climate Talks

Between the dates of November 30, 2015, and December 12, 2015, representatives from 196 nations gathered in Paris for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The representatives produced the Paris Agreement, which is designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions as well as provide financing methods to help alleviate the economic burden nations face when shifting towards greener energy production (although this part of the agreement is not yet binding). On April 22, 2016, 175 parties (174 nations and the European Union) signed the Paris Agreement, and 15 countries ratified it. The agreement will only become effective when 55 countries that produce at least 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions ratify.

The principal objective of the talks was to limit global warming to below 2˚ Celsius, a number that many climatologists believe represents a threshold before catastrophic effects occur.  Given that China and the United States represent the two largest greenhouse gas emitters at 22.7% and 15.6%, respectively, gaining these nations’ approval is critical in order for the agreement to become international law.  However, this may prove more difficult than one would hope given what is at stake.  The Chinese economy is slowing, meaning there may be some hesitation to put further strain on economic growth through environmental reform.  With respect to the United States, the Republicans, who control the Senate, have historically been hesitant to enact environmental reform, which they see as a jobs killer.  Furthermore, the Supreme Court recently struck down President Obama’s regulations on coal-fired power plants, which was designed to be a staple of the way the United States will reduce emissions.  While these obstacles will present challenges, diplomatic pressures around the globe should force countries into the agreement.  With so much at stake it is hard to imagine a scenario where the Paris Agreement does not become law.

–Matt Brooks, UNAR intern

Hands across the world

UNAR in the Local Community:

The Rochester International Academy

Many residents living in the Rochester area are unaware that hundreds of refugees from around the globe are permanently resettled in the Rochester area every year. Newly arrived immigrants often turn to the Catholic Family Center, which offers the largest comprehensive range of family services in the Rochester area. This center helps to settle around 750 immigrants every year and provides services that help these families with their necessities as they adjust to their new lives in the States. Many of the people who are being resettled in Rochester happen to be children, who frequently come to the United States without speaking any English. This raises the issue of how to integrate them appropriately into the school system.The Rochester City School District came up with the idea to create a program with the mission of providing newly arrived English language learners with the tools they need to be successful at adapting to a new language, school, and country. This program is housed at the Rochester International Academy (RIA), a part of the Rochester City School District. Through my internship with UNAR, I had the opportunity to volunteer my time at RIA this past semester. During the time I have spent there I have had the chance to meet so many amazing kids from such diverse backgrounds. The students that I worked with were from countries all over the world, including Iraq, Thailand, Nepal, Mexico, South Africa, and Eritrea. I was amazed on my first day of volunteering when the teacher in the classroom that I was assigned to told me that her class was made up entirely of children who had been learning English for two years or less.

The students that attend RIA are not only exceptionally bright and eager to learn, but they have all learned English in a matter of a couple of years. Some of the children and teens that attend RIA had to endure some tough experiences like being displaced from their homes and being forced to move to refugee camps. It is truly amazing that even though many of these kids have had to endure so much at such a young age, they are still one of the happiest, funniest, and most motivated group of kids that I have had the privilege of meeting. My time at the Rochester International Academy has been so incredibly rewarding and I would highly encourage everyone that is interested to try and get involved in the RIA community.

–Katherine Star, UNAR communications intern

For more information on the Catholic Family Center and the Rochester International Academy, see:

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