On September 13, 2020, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) celebrated its association with the UN-DGC during a webinar titled “An Informative Meeting on ATAA’s Association with the UN Department of Global Communications” (UN-DGC). The webinar was organized by ATAA Committee on UN Relations and participated by local Turkish American organizations.
The online program was moderated by ATAA President Gokhan Ozalp. In his opening remarks, Mr. Ozalp stated that the ATAA should focus on the changing needs and expectations of the new generation of the Turkish-American community. The ATAA should reach out to the youth and ATAA’s association with the UN DGC opens new horizons and brings exciting projects in life, in which the young Turkish-Americans would be involved. Mr. Ozalp invited the presidents and the board members of all Turkish-American organizations and youth at large whether a member or not to join and work with the ATAA’s Committee on UN Relations. Mr. Ozalp made his point clear that he aims to enhance the future ATAA programs to align with the UN, in connection with the UN 2030 Agenda with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) along with the Decade of Youth Action.
Chair of ATAA Committee on UN Relations and New York Region V.P. Bircan Unver*, provided an overview of the United Nations’ history, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Civil Society at the UN, Sustainable Development Goals, and #UN75 Survey. Ms. Unver also introduced the UN Days that are relevant to the ATAA’s mission and vision.
Provided overview created enthusiasm and interest for engagement among the Webinar attendees, as many showed interest in UN-related Programs and the UN’s ongoing Agenda and Programs.
Below questions and comments were received from the attendees:
Dr. Bulent Basol, Chairman, Board of Trustees, ATAA: “Would ATAA need to coordinate or oversee the postings made by ATAA’s chapter organization for programs related to the UN? Or, Can the component organizations announce or organize their independent UN-related programs? Would that create an issue?”
Ms. Unver responded to Dr. Basol as follows: “As long as the UN emblem is not used in any UN-related announcement and/or program, it will not be an issue. However, if the component organization wants the program or announcement to be reflected in the UN-DGC, or aims to be included in its UN-DGC Weekly Announcements, the best way to go with this is to collaborate with the ATAA and prepare a joint event. Because of its official association with the UN DGC, ATAA can reflect it to the UN. Ms. Unver also suggested that even if an NGO is not associated with the UN but likes to support the UN Programs, this NGO can use the related tags and hashtags that also can pave the way towards the UN DGC association process.
About the second part of the question, “Can the component organizations announce or organize their independent UN-related programs?”, they certainly can organize and post it on their website and/or social media pages. However, if it also aims to be included in ATAA’s list of the UN-Related programs and potentially to be reflected the UN-DGC for its Weekly Announcements along with to be considered for the two-year mandatory report of ATAA’s to the UN as the associated umbrella organization; accordingly, all UN-related events should be reported to Ms. Yucel Tavolara, ATAA Midwest V.P., on behalf of the UN Committee, and as the Chair of the Membership Committee.
Dr. Sema Basol, Co-Founder, Turkish Women Initiative, California: “Can you share the rules and policies with us in writing such as usage of the logo, social media, preferred language, etc.?”
Ms. Unver responded to Dr. Basol as follows: “Each associated NGO / Civil Society has to follow the Rules and Procedures of the associated UN entity such as the UN – Department of Global Communications.” For the usage of UN and SDGs related logo, Ms. Unver suggested the following link, which is also preferred by the UN-DGC:
In response to the language: “It can be both in Turkish and English. However, if ATAA and/or its component organizations aim to be included in the UN-DGC’s Weekly Announcements, the language should be English since Turkish is not one of the six official languages of the UN. Ms. Unver referred to the International Day of Mother Language event, in which, The Light Millennium, ATAA, and Turkish Women’s League of America (TWLA) had collaborated and both languages were presented.”
In response to the Social media: “Each UN campaign and/or SDG related post and related hashtag can be different. Thus, it needs to be verified with the UN-Civil Society website and/or related social media pages such as @UNDGC_CSO @UNDGCCSO. For an indication as an associated Civil Society with the UN, the following hashtag is suggested by the UN-DGC: #UNWithCivilSociety.”
Nilufer Esen-Bilgin, General Secretary, ATAA: “How can we relate, for instance, UN’s Universal Children Day (November 20) and Turkish National Children Holiday, (April 23), when both events occur in different days?”
Ms. Unver responded to Ms. Esen-Bilgin as follows: “While recognizing and supporting the “Universal Children Day”, it also could be mentioned the sensibility, investment, and respect to the Children in Turkey through April 23 National Children Holiday; or could be mentioned that Turkish-American organizations will celebrate it nationwide on April 23.
The timing of UN Days and the Turkish National Holidays may not always match. However, as long as the relationship between a specific UN Day (or UN-General Assembly Resolution) and a Turkish-National-Day is announced in advance (at least a week or two weeks from that specific date), the announcement will be respected by the UN for the observance or commemoration of that particular UN Day.”
Mehmet Akcay, President, Florida Turkish American Association (FTAA): “It has been a very productive meeting. We expect that UN Related News will be shared with us as well. “
Hulya Koc, Founder and President, Empowering the Turkish-American Community (ETAC):
Ms. Koc recommended that ATAA should establish Age Groups to organize the Youth for ATAA’s UN Programs.
Vildan Gorener, President, Turkish American Cultural Alliance of Chicago (TACA): It would be very helpful to establish sub-committees to commemorate each Turkish-National-Day such as 23 April Children’s Day or 19 May Youth Day.
As a conclusion, there was a consensus to reach out to the youth and an agreement to widen the ATAA’s UN Relations Committee with new members from component associations, as well as Youth Members and a Youth Subcommittee Members.
As the webinar proceeded, the next speaker was Ms. Alev Erhan, the Youth Representative of ATAA to the United Nations Department of Global Communications. Ms. Erhan introduced herself as a law student at Harvard University, and her connection and involvement with the Turkish-American organizations and the community. She has briefly introduced the “UN Decade of Youth Action”, a newly announced program focusing on engaging the Youth during the next decade in the UN’s Agenda for “Sustainable Development Goals by 2030”. She has demonstrated a clear commitment to engage youth with the ATAA for the UN Related programs.
Before the Closing Remarks, each committee member has introduced themselves to the Webinar attendees namely: Yucel Tavolara, Selim Erhan, Burcu Tansu, Sevgin Oktay, Alev Erhan and Bircan Unver, the Committee Chair.
Also, Ms. Unver introduced the five UN representatives. The representatives would receive ground passes from the UN to attend the UN General Assembly and other UN meetings, once the UN reopens (UN Offices are closed until further notice because of COVID pandemic). The representatives also have the privilege to comment on the UN resolutions. The representatives are: Mr. Mazlum Kosma (ATAA President-Elect, and Head Rep. To UN), Ms. Bircan Unver, Mr. Sevgin Oktay, Mr. Selim Erhan, Ms. Alev Erhan (Youth Rep.).
Ms. Burcu Tansu shared her experience with a UN Program as an ATAA representative. Ms. Tansu attended the 68th UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City on August 26-28, 2019. Ms. Tansu emphasized the roles, effectiveness, and power of the Youth at the Conference.
Further, as the President-Elect and Head Rep. of ATAA to the United Nations, Mazlum Kosma stated the following: As the President-Elect and he has been following the developments very closely and stated that he will be more actively involved with the Committee and the UN-related programs.
Sevgin Oktay, Representative of ATAA to the United Nations Department of Global Communications; stated the importance of ATAA’s association with the United Nations; thanked President Ozalp, Bircan Unver, and Hakan Dakin, ATAA Art and Media Director, along with the ATAA Board who supported the entire process. Mr. Oktay also shared his written statement with the Committee and attendees, in which, he proposed the “Emphatic Speech” as the Sustainable Development Goal #18 versus the “Hate Speech”.
As the final note to close the Webinar, President Gokhan Ozalp thanked the speakers and the attendees and received questions.
The meeting was conducted as both informative and a celebration, which created a wave of enthusiasm towards an active involvement of Turkish-American organizations in connection with the UN-related programs.
[*] Summary by Bircan Unver, Chair, ATAA UN Committee; ATAA New York Region V.P., and Rep. of ATAA to the United Nations Department of Global Communications. Ms. Unver is also Head Rep. of The Light Millennium Organization to the United Nations Department of Global Communications
Special Thanks To: Gokhan Ozalp, President, ATAA; and Hakan Dakin, ATAA Art and Media Director
ATAA had taken a major step towards joining the United Nations Department of Global Communications (UNDGC_CSO) Civil Society Family through its formal application on March 30, 2020. 
ATAA went through UN-DGC’s tedious approval process and met its “association criteria”, which initially posted on the UN’s website. 
ATAA issued a Media Release and announced its association with the UN to its 50 component organizations and the Turkish-American community. 
Currently, ATAA Committee on UN Relations is working side by side with the ATAA Board towards developing new programs and/or modifying its existing programs with the UN Vision and Programs. The Committee members: Bircan Unver (Chair), Selim Erhan, Sevgin Oktay, Burcu Tansu, Yucel Tavolara and Alev Erhan (Youth Representative)
ATAA’s Appointed Representatives to the UN-DGC: Mazlum Kosma (President-Elect), Bircan Unver, Sevgin Oktay, Selim Erhan, and Alev Erhan.
The Department of Global Communications works with diverse civil society organizations, ranging from small groups to subsidiaries of large networks and academic institutions around the world. They are required to meet certain minimum requirements before they are associated with the Department. In addition to their main activities, associated organizations are expected to use their communications assets to disseminate information received from the Department about the work of the United Nations and issues on its agenda to their members and audiences.
Department-associated organizations are expected to join the global effort to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, promote and defend human rights, and promote peace and security. They also have the opportunity to network with other organizations and to share information about their activities during thematic briefings, capacity-building sessions, and the United Nations Civil Society Conference.” For more information: www.un.org/en/civilsociety
The ATAA, representing over 50 local chapters and 500,000 Turkish Americans throughout the United States, serves locally and nationwide to develop an informed and empowered Turkish American community and to support strong U.S.-Turkish relations. The ATAA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed under the laws of the District of Columbia in 1979. As a non-faith-based organization, ATAA is open to people of diverse backgrounds. In July 2020, ATAA has associated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications.
The founding principle of ATAA was the need to create cohesion and cooperation among the large numbers of social/cultural Turkish American organizations around the US. The Assembly’s main goal is to be a link between all communities, large or small, and pursue their interests in Washington and beyond. The main objectives of ATAA are two-fold. One is to create an informed national Turkish American community that can help foster US-Turkey relations and take an active part in promoting a balanced and truthful picture of Turkey in the US. The other is to educate Americans in government, the media, and the public at large about Turkey and issues that concern us as Turkish Americans.
Video link of the Webinar: https://youtu.be/muvPf10QUzM
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