On the weekend of March 27-28 2022, the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization hosted their XVIth General Assembly in Washington, DC, United States of America. The GA was the first hybrid in person/remote Assembly in UNPO history.
The election of a new Presidency board and President was a key outcome of the latest General Assembly, showing UNPO’s commitment to democracy in its internal structures. Dr Edna Adan Ismail, the renowned Somaliland activist and midwife, was elected as the first woman President in UNPO history. She is also the first African President in 15 years and will provide extensive experience from her career in international health and peaceful advocacy for Somaliland’s cause for recognition.
The event kicked off on Saturday 26 March with our outgoing President Nasser Boladai expressing his joy at seeing the UNPO members gathered in person and online again after 2 years of the pandemic impeding much of the in person contact between different activists. Our host, the Shadow Senator for the District of Columbia, Paul Strauss, welcomed the members to the US capital – that as a member of UNPO has fought for the right to statehood and representation in Congress with adequate voting rights. The Senator highlighted that the parallels between the events instigated under former President Donald Trump on January 6th 2021 were not dissimilar to the coups that disempowered some of our more unfortunate members who live in dictatorships. It showed the fragility of democratic norms in the current political context and the importance of making Unrepresented peoples’ voices heard.
The General Secretary, Mr Ralph J. Bunche, gave his speech in the report of the Secretariat’s activities, outlining the change in advocacy strategies and the impact the Secretariat was having in multiple international fora. A moment’s silence was also held for all the members we had sadly lost over the last years. Special consideration was also reserved to the plight of Crimean Tatars given the brutal crackdown of their people following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year.
Members made their traditional statements updating the Assembly on the recent developments in their countries and the political struggles they face. Issues commonly raised by members included: the criminalization of self-determination movements and systematic persecution faced through state-sanctioned violence; the ongoing impacts of colonialism; attacks on and efforts to eliminate minority and indigenous culture, language, and identity; as well as the importance of upholding democratic values and need for greater recognition and cooperation with the UN and wider international communityThe members then worked together on resolutions on various international themes and issues that will be voted upon in the coming weeks.
The second day was dedicated to the election of a new UNPO Presidency. Dr Edna Adan Ismail was elected as UNPO President, alongside Vice-Presidents Dr Rubina Greenwood of the Sindhi World Congress and Elizenda Paluzie, President of the Catalan member, ANC. This makes it an all-women trio at the top of the Presidency for the first time in UNPO’s history. Edna Adan Ismail is one of the lead public health and anti-FGM activists in the world, but most importantly is a strong advocate of self-determination and her experience in working in international fora and as Foreign Secretary of the Somaliland government will be invaluable.
Our outgoing President Mr Nasser Boladai gave his closing remarks praising the changes in the organisation during his tenure and reaffirming his desire to stay a part of the UNPO family.
The full new Presidency board of UNPO is as follows :
President : Dr Edna Adan Ismail, Somaliland
Vice-President Elizenda Paluzie, Catalonia
Vice-President Dr Rubina Greenwood, Sindh
Member : Paul Strauss, District of Columbia
Member : Dolkun Isa, Uyghur
Member : Tina Muna Barnes, Guam
Member : Rigzin Genkhang, Tibet
Member : Ali Abdelzadeh, Iranian Kurdistan
Member : Tammy Breedt, Afrikaner
Member : Alex Thach, Khmer Krom
Member : Abdi Mahdi, Ogaden