Watch UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts give impassioned speech at the United Nations

On June 20, 2014 at the  United Nations, NGO representatives from all over the world had an opportunity to provide input on the UN’s 2015-2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Once confirmed, these goals will be the UN’s official sustainable development mandate for the next 15 years.

While there was already language in the goals meant to protect “the marginalized and people in vulnerable situations,” there was no explicit mention of LGBTQ human rights, which we believe will in reality exclude LGBTQ persons from these significant policies. 

In his speech, Bruce addresses this issue by making specific recommendations aimed at including LGBTQ people.



As you will see, Bruce’s speech was the only one to garner  enthusiastic applause. We are so proud!

Watch the video here

His speech begins at 38:15

Still Fighting to Bring Back Our Girls: The State of the Girl Child in Nigeria and Around the World


On June 9th, Kechie’s Project organized a panel discussion entitled, “The State of the Girl Child in Nigeria.”

Several UU-UNO Interns attended the event at the UN Church Center in order to garner more knowledge about this human rights topic.

Kechie’s Project is a non-profit organization that actively engages in the important task of empowering girls globally through education. Their programs are very unique and specific; they empower high school students in Harlem, New York by holding leadership conferences and workshops.

logo bigThrough a cultural exchange program, these young New Yorkers are able to communicate and mentor Nigerian girls  who have received scholarships and academic materials from Kechie’s Project. This event was developed as a reaction to the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian female students by Boko Haram, a terrorist fringe group based in Northeastern Nigeria.


Love Reaches Out Globally at UUA General Assembly!

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 10.21.47 AMFind yourself in the Global U/U Story at UUA General Assembly in Providence where we’ll be blessed by the presence of more than 30 honored guests from a dozen countries.  Each of our international partners brings inspiring news to share about how the Global U/U Story is changing lives around the world.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 10.17.14 AMA great place to begin is at Booth #304 in the exhibit hall at the Convention Center: that’s where you’ll find the he International U/U Village in Providence!  Meet and talk with leaders from all of the organizations that participate in the Coalition of U/U International Organizations and many of our international partners.

And, please join us for public events organized by the Coalition organizations:

Tuesday June 24

Event: Collegial Conversation at UUMA Ministry Days: The Global U/U Story and Your Ministry  |  RICC Ballroom E

Wednesday June 25

Event: GA Opening Celebration & Introduction of International Guests  |  RICC Plenary Hall

Thursday June 26

Workshop: Reaching Out in Love Through Intercultural Competency  |  RICC 557

Worship: Love Reaches Out Around the World |  RICC 555-556

Event: Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Gala |  RICC Hall C  |  RSVP Required

Friday June 27

Event: UU Partner Church Council (UUPCC) Annual Meeting & Luncheon  |  Biltmore Hotel Garden Room  |   Purchase Tickets

Event: International Association for Religious Freedom Reception |  Biltmore State Suite B

Workshop: Beyond Borders – Implementing Intercultural Conversations |  RICC Ballroom BC

Saturday June 28

Event: UU-United Nations Envoy Breakfast | Providence Biltmore Salon 6

Event: International Women’s Convocation Annual Breakfast & Meeting | Biltmore Hotel Renaissance Salon | Purchase Tickets

Event: Introduction of International Guests, Presentation by Coalition of UU Organizations & 30th Anniversary of UU Holdeen India Program Speech | RICC Plenary Hall

Event: UU Holdeen India Program 30th Anniversary Celebration | Biltmore Grand Ballroom

Event: UU-United Nations Office Greeley Sermon Award Ceremony | Biltmore L’apogee 17

Homophobia in Nigeria: Film Screenings and Panel Discussion


On June 5, 2014, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) hosted a film screening and panel discussion on homophobia in Nigeria.

The program began with opening remarks by Director, Bruce Knotts, around the importance of this issue and the UU-UNO’s role in advocating for human rights and social justice.

Community leaders, students, asylum seekers and asylees alike attended this event at the UN Church Center to come together on this issue.

IMG_8430The issue, according to UNO Director Bruce Knotts, is that “LGBTQI Rights need to be contextualized in the larger movement for human rights.” As UU-UNO Intern Ray Firmalino explains it, if one is “bullied, thrown out of school, beaten, and arrested when they, for example, seek HIV treatment, states are barring a whole class of people from basic human rights” such as life, liberty, property, education and health care. (more…)

UU-UNO Director invited to the White House to discuss Global LGBT Human Rights

white house


I received the following invitation last week:

You are invited to a White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights, to be held on Tuesday, June 24th, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. EST.

We are pleased to announce that Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, will deliver keynote remarks. Participants will engage with senior Obama Administration officials on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to protect and promote the human rights of LGBT individuals internationally.  The forum will also provide an opportunity to discuss how the faith community, private sector, philanthropic organizations, HIV and health advocates, and the broader human rights community can partner with the Administration in this important work. (more…)

Respect, Protection, and Sustainability: UN Indigenous Forum 2014

logoStarting May 12th, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues convened for the thirteenth time at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The ten day forum focuses on a spectrum of indigenous issues including economic, social development, environment, culture, health, education, and human rights. The first six sessions of the Indigenous Issue’s Forum had an overarching theme. After the sixth session, the forum decided to alternate sessions focusing on policy discussion one year, and the next, implementation. Only the sessions, every other year, which focus on policy discussion, have a theme. This year’s theme was, “Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: articles 3 to 6 and 46″. 

While the United Nations meets to discuss the issues this year, many side events are open to nongovernmental organizations and visiting groups. The UU United Nations Office had the opportunity to attend many of the side events on topics ranging from sustainable development of indigenous people’s land, to indigenous women’s role in conservation, to Russian indigenous education, and even indigenous peoples’ opinion on the progression of indigenous rights in Latin America. (more…)

“Veil of Silence” Film Screening and Panel Discussion on LGBTQI Rights in Nigeria

logo The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office Invites YOU to a film screening of “Veil of Silence“.

Veil of Silence

             Film screening at 1:15pm followed by panel discussion at 2:30pm


Habeeb Lawal—Filmmaker, Veil of Silence

Bruce Knotts—Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office

Selly Thiam—Founder of None on Record


Let us come together and break the veil of silence surrounding the LGBTQI community in Nigeria

Thursday, June 5, 2014

1:00pm to 4:00pm

United Nations Church Center

777 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017

10th floor


Free and open to all!

 Visit the event page on Facebook!

   Co-Sponsored by


NGO Committee on Human Rights










Join the UU-UNO at General Assembly!

2014 GA logo

Please join the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office during our General Assembly 2014 Events!


UU-UNO Director, Bruce Knotts, will be speaking at LGBTQ and Immigration – An Intersection of Human Rights, hosted by UURISE, on Thursday, June 26th, from 12:30pm-1:45pm (Program #2), at RICC-Hall D.

While the DOMA ruling is welcome, we can’t let it overshadow discrimination of LGBTQ immigrants in detention and the community. LGBTQ immigrants seeking refuge from persecution find limited protection in US immigration law.  We consider current limitations of immigration laws, and how UUs can blend LGBTQ and immigration reform advocacy.


Beyond Borders: Implementing Intercultural Conversations, hosted by the UU-UNO will be held on Friday, June 27th, from 5:00pm-6:15pm (Program #7), at RICC-Ballroom BC.


“Think globally, act locally”. Panelists will address promoting cultural and spiritual inclusion and the importance and value of understanding.  We invite participants to look at their strengths in human rights and climate justice and encourage them to further strengthen their efforts by extending their passions to a global stage. Teresa Cooley, Bruce Knotts and Kamila Jacob will be speaking.


The Dana Greeley and Blue Ribbon Awards Reception will take place on Saturday, June 28th, from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, at Providence Biltmore L’Apogee 17.

2013 Dana Greeley Sermon Award winner, Dylan Debelis
2013 Dana Greeley Sermon Award winner, Dylan Debelis

The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office will extend our gratitude to the Blue Ribbon Congregations for their hard work in achieving this status.They have successfully held a UN Sunday service or event, made a congregation donation or committed to an annual budget line, and had 15 or 5% of their members donate as individuals to the office, and have an envoy or envoy team.

The Dana Greeley Sermon Award winner will be announced and refreshments will be served.


The Envoy Breakfast will be on Saturday, June 28th, from 7:00am to 8:30am, at the Providence Biltmore Salon 6.

This is a unique opportunity to meet UN Office staff as well as envoys.  Come with your whole envoy team if possible. This is an opportunity to share your work with others and exchange ideas to enhance your Envoy toolbox! Aspiring Envoys are also welcome. RSVP Required (below).



Meet Isaac: An Every Child is Our Child Volunteer in Ghana


I had the privilege of meeting Nanleeb Ishmael Isaac during our annual site visit to Ghana in February.  He is our newest volunteer for our Every Child is Our Child program and works closely with our program monitor.  Isaac is 26 years old and comes from a family of 9.  He is from Nakpanduri, in the Northern Region of Ghana.  Both his parents are peasant farmers and he describes them as “wonderful parents who would do everything they can to get all of us to school!”  He studied business and accounting before going to University for development studies, where he pursued a B.A in integrated community development, graduating in 2013.

Isaak, Bruce, one of our ECOC children and his caretaker
Isaak, Bruce, one of our ECOC children and his caretaker

When I asked Isaac about ECOC it was evident that he is very passionate about the program, women’s education, and the wellbeing of orphaned and vulnerable children.  Isaac described ECOC as the “most interesting community based program” he has come across since completing his education.  “I want to volunteer for this program because it is my goal and objective to help empower women and promote girl child education and the alleviation of extreme poverty among women in the rural poor. There is a saying that ‘when you educate a man you educate an individual but when you educate a woman you educate a whole nation’.  Women empowerment should be seen as a global issue because when women are empowered through education they will be able to change the world for the better.”

We are delighted to have someone as passionate, intelligent and hardworking as Isaac on our team and we wish him the best of luck as a volunteer and as he begins his career as community developer!

You can help our students achieve their education goals by making a generous donation. Please contact the UU-UNO office if you and/or your congregation has interest in further engaging with this program!

By Maria Militano, Every Child is Our Child intern September 2013- May 2014.  Maria visited the ECOC project in summer 2013, February 2014, and will return in summer 2014.

UU-UNO April 2014 Director’s Letter

logoReligious Freedom

Most of the time, we see religious freedom invoked to protect conservative religious views.  However, Unitarians and Universalists have a long and pioneering history of supporting religious freedom, because our progressive views have never been shared by the majority.

Lately, I have been advocating religious freedom which is violated by the anti-LGBTI laws passed by Uganda and Nigeria.  Even before the Ugandan law had been officially put in force, the Ugandan police questioned our Unitarian Universalist minister in Uganda, Rev. Mark Kiyimba, for over two hours.  He was asked why he and his UU congregation were supporting homosexuality.  Before this incident and immediately after it, I had extensive conversations with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and the United States Department of State about the need to enforce religious freedom for progressive religious practices which are under threat by the newly enacted laws in Nigeria and Uganda.  I made the point that our faith does not promote any particular sexuality, but rather is welcoming and affirming to all regardless of sexuality. (more…)