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United Nations Association of Centre County hosts UN Day dinner

By Arthur Goldschmidt
On Sunday October 21, the United Nations Association of Centre County gathered for dinner at the Ramada Inn in State College. The dinner was, according to chapter officers, the largest one to date. Gillian Sorenson served as key note speaker.
Sorenson spoke about empowering women in a changing world. She provided an overview of some of the specialized United Nations agencies that serve the needs of the world’s poorest people, especially women. She noted that women are increasingly represented among the UN’s leaders, due to some high-profile appointments made by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
She also said she hopes to live to see the day when a woman becomes UN secretary-general.
Sorenson also drew the audience’s attention to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which are now in effect. The United States has not signed either of these conventions.
During the question and answer period, she was asked why the US has failed to sign, and she explained that the two conventions are not likely to get the two-thirds vote needed in both house of Congress, due to opposition from political and religious conservatives.
Educated at Smith College and the Sorbonne, Sorenson served for twelve years as New York City’s Commissioner for the United Nations and the Consular Corps. She then served as special adviser for public policy for UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, where her duties included directing the UN’s global fiftieth anniversary observances in 1995.
Later she served Kofi Annan as Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations, from 1997 to 2003, responsible for outreach to non-governmental organizations and was the contact point for the Secretary-General with parliamentarians, the academic world, religious leaders and other groups committed to peace, justice, development and human rights.
According to Norma Keller, Vice President of the UNA’s Centre County chapter, more than 200 people attended the dinner, representing at least thirty countries.
Anatolian Fusion provided a short concert of Turkish music before the dinner.
After the dinner, funds were collected for Kiva, a nonprofit organization that provides small loans to people who lack access to traditional banking institutions and who wish to start or sustain business enterprises. Keller reported that more than 99 percent of Kiva’s loans have been repaid.