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  • U.N. Association changes with the times


    Tom Durkin
    Nevada City Advocate

    While many may consider the United Nations a distant and largely ineffectual organization, the U.N. is the "only gravitational center" for global solutions, asserted Helen Williamson Feb. 20 at the joint meeting of the USA U.N. Association and the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains UN Association (UNA-USA & UUCM-UNA).

    "There are so many misconceptions about the U.N.," said Katherine Scourtes, the newly elected president of the Golden Empire chapter (Nevada County) of the Northern California region of UNA-USA.

    For instance, the widely misinterpreted Agenda 21 of the U.N. is not an evil conspiracy, she told the Advocate Feb. 24. It's simply a 178-nation agreement to leave to our children a livable, better world. "It has no force of law."

    She noted both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill signed off on the Agenda 21 accord for sustainable world development in the 21st century.

    The joint venture of UNA-USA and UUCM-UNA is to inform the public of the positive impact the U.N. is having on the world, Scourtes revealed.

    "The U.N. is not perfect," she conceded. 

    "It's just our best hope" of promoting peace, ending famine, sustaining our environment, improving world health and saving our children, she reasoned.


    Starting Tuesday, March 20, the joint UNA-USA and UUCM-UNA meetings will convene at 5:30 p.m. instead of 3:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains at 246 South Church Street, Grass Valley, Scourtes announced.

    A light-snack potluck social begins at 5 p.m., she said.

    "We want to make it easier for more young people and working professionals attend," she explained.

    The UNA-USA mission is strictly apolitical, she insisted. It's a forum to inform interested citizens of what is happening in world affairs.

    At the February meeting, the primary topic was explaining the history and current events of what is happening in the extremely complex and bloody conflict among the Syrians, Syrian rebels, Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, ISIS, Israelis, Russians and the United States.

    Scourtes explained the historical roots of the conflict, and Dave MacLeod of the UUCM-UNA board described the ruthless cross-fire war currently devastating the Mid-East.


    Although the agenda of the March 20 meeting had not been set as of press time, Scourtes noted that 2018 is the U.N. Year of Human Rights – and March is the month of International Women's Rights.

    Free copies of the U.N.'s 1948 "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" will be available at the March meeting. Although the almost 70-year-old document is still more of an ideal than a realization, it is the touchstone for valuing and protecting the rights of every human being on the planet.

    Because March is International Women's Rights month, the UNA-USA meeting will focus on that highly contemporary topic, Scourtes said.

    A native of Greece, Scourtes revealed, "I come from a culture where I had to 'belong to a man' before I could register my children for school or even go to a university myself."

    For those reasons, among others, Scourtes immigrated to the United States in 1974 and graduated from Sacramento State University. 

    Hoping to emphasize what unites rather than what divides the community, Scourtes said the March meeting will probably feature the positive and increasing impact educated women are having on the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


    Although it is the second largest component of the UN, UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) is not directly funded by the UN, Scourtes reported.

    UNICEF relies on voluntary contributions from governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), she said.

    UNA-USA is an NGO. Nevada County's Golden Empire chapter is a member of the Northern California region of UNA-USA, which has donated $30,000 to fund a school/classroom in a refugee camp in Kenya for the next 10 years, Scourtes said.

    "And we've raised another $8,000 toward a second school," she added.

    Regardless, the joint UNA-USA/UUCM-UNA meetings are free to the public, Scourtes emphasized. 

    The mission of the third-Tuesday-of-the-month meetings is to inform people and encourage civil discussion of world affairs, she said. Fund-raising activities are held separately, she said.

    As flawed as it is, with 193 member nations and territories, the U.N. is the world's best hope for global solutions to war, famine, poverty, health, education, human rights and the environment, Scourtes argued. "We all breathe the same air."

    Referring to Helen Williamson's assertion that the U.N. is "only gravitational center" for global solutions, Scourtes shrugged her shoulders and asked, "Who else?"

    Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada County. Contact him at tdurkin@vfr.net or www.tomdurkin-writer.net

    About the Photo: Katherine Scourtes, president of the Golden Empire chapter of the USA United Nations Association, presented the origins of the Syrian conflict to guests at a Feb. 20 meeting. The next USA-UNA gathering is scheduled for Tuesday, March 20, at the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains in Grass Valley.