UNAS - United Nations Association of Singapore
UNAS was established as a voluntary organization on 29th December 1969, four years after Singapore became an independent state and had joined the United Nations on 21st September 1965.
UNAS is registered as a non-government and non-profit organization. Within the United Nations system, UNAS together with other UN Associations affiliated to the World Federation of UN Associations (WFUNA) represents a People’s Movement in support of the United Nations. In this it is granted consultative status by the UN’s Economic and Social Council. NGOs granted consultative status with the United Nations in effect constitute the ‘Third United Nations.” The first being the permanent missions representing their respective governments at the United Nations and the second made up of the six main organs of the United Nations system namely, the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, the UN Secretariat and the Trusteeship Council.
The primary aim of UNAS as stated in its mission statement is as follows:
FOR PEACE WE SERVE.
Its inspiration to serve the cause of peace is best captured in the PREAMBLE to the CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS signed in San Francisco on 26th June 1945 which reads as follows:
The United Nations is the source and repository of International Law. Such laws in the form of treaties, conventions, protocols and judicial decisions made by the International Court of Justice ensure that states abide by them in their relations with each other be it political, economic or purely operational such rules and regulations pertaining to the use of the sea-lanes and air passages. As a country dependent on international trade, tourism and cross-border communication, it is important for Singapore to play its part in safe-guarding the proper, smooth and responsible observance of international law as upheld by the United Nations. In this way, there is peace, stability and predictability.
Equally important, is that the United Nations offers protection to small member states like Singapore in the light of potential attacks or invasion by states with territorial ambitions. As the moral authority defending “state sovereignty” and “non-interference” in the internal affairs of a state, the United Nations through the General Assembly and Security Council is duty bound to uphold and protect the two inter-twined precepts.
The various Specialized Agencies (such as WHO, UNESCO, ITU, IMF) of the United Nations; its Regional Commissions (ESCAP etc.) and its subsidiary bodies (such as UNDP, UNIFEM, UNEP etc.) are valuable sources of aid and technical assistance for developing countries Singapore was a major beneficiary of technical advice and assistance provided by the UN Development Fund (UNDP) in the early years of self-government in its overall development strategy. Since then Singapore has become a net donor – a change of role that is welcomed by the United Nations.
The activities and programs of UNAS are of two broad categories viz., (a) those EDUCATIONAL in scope and intent and (b) those aimed at providing HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE AND DISASTER RELIEF.
East Malaysia Cultural Understanding Visit
(March 2011) To better understand the various tribal and minority groups in East Malaysia, UNAS Youth Council recently conducted a visit to Miri and Kuching to learn about their culture and way of life.
For more information, please visit their website: www.unas-sg.org
My Reflections from Sarawak
I don’t usually write after trips or conferences, and this is my first attempt to do so.
It suddenly dawned upon me that time has passed so quickly during our trip to Sarawak. In our time here, we participated conferences, met new friends and understood cultures better.
I silently wished that time will pass faster for our Japanese friends who are now in distress from the massive destruction caused by the Tsunami. I made a short prayer that they would get through this crisis.
I realized that volunteer work is not easy. It comes with sacrifice. It comes with commitment. Some might see it as glamorous work. Some do it for to add space to their resumes. But whatever the case, we must hold true to our values on why we started volunteering in the first place - it is for people.
There are people who need help, and if we can, a little thought with the right action can create new ideas that can spur meaningful action. There will always be the critics that will make noise. But actions speak louder than words.
I am highly sceptical of people who say they are passionate about what they do. These are the type of people who don’t usually last very long in volunteer work.
Perhaps the word “passion” is used too interchangeably, and should not be misused because it comes with dedication and commitment. I find some people ignore the true meaning such a phase.
In Curtin University, Sarawak, I saw the budding of new friendship, partnership and ideas. The secondary school students that attended our conference were not only inquisitive; they are also sincere to learn, and keen to ride on new ideas.
During the appreciation lunch the following day, two middle-aged ladies came up to me and asked for help to raise the awareness for a palliative care center that takes care of final stage cancer patients. I sensed their deep sense of commitment to serving those in need, and at the same time felt a sense of helplessness to reach out to communities.
There, I was convinced that human networks can create information, build social identity and capital. And if there was one thing that social media could do – it was to help raise the awareness of people in need.
In this time, I worked with two photographers, Aram and Renz who came for a humanitarian cause. Their photos do not just tell stories. It shown a true reflection of the situation in context. Even though they yield different styles in photography, they had hearts that cared. I hope that they will continue to harness their interests to social development.
In one particular photo, I was reminded of my late grandmother. It was a photo taken by Aram in a remote village in Kuching, Sarawak. She has a kind face and a peaceful smile that could melt a metal heart of steel. In that smile, there was nothing superficial. She seemed so at ease with nature and herself. I hope I can age as gracefully as her.
After we finished our conferences in Miri, I headed down to Kuching for the Tomorrow Leaders Summit. There, I took part in a panel discussion with the theme based on leadership and the youth. There, I saw the passion and conviction from the youth of Sarawak. I also met up with bloggers, heads of social networks and social research companies. It was a different experience altogether, and I enjoyed their company.
I spoke about Social Capital and urged youth to engage in volunteerism, participate in networks and reap from its benefits. While the returns may be implicit, there will be a profound impact in different ways. Here, the concept of reciprocity plays a critical role. This is a dual-process that adopts the unceasing notion of sharing and empowerment.
There were differing opinions among the panel but I enjoyed the enthusiasm, dialogue and conviction from the audience.
Overall, the trip was an eye opener. I experienced a range of experiences, made new friends and felt a new sense of hope.
Yap Kwong Weng is the Secretary-General of the United Nations Association of Singapore.