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.
The EDUCATIONAL efforts made thus far include:
(1) Held in February 2011, “I am Talented” seminar reached out to over 10 secondary schools. The seminar brought in key speakers in the creative areas which inspired and uplifted students.
(2) held in March 2011, Project Inspire reached out to over 500 youths in Singapore and Overseas. Spearheaded by the Youth Council, an environmental and leadership seminar was conducted in Curtin University, Sarawak. This was coupled with cultural visits that enhanced the diversity of perspectives within young citizens. This project continues to inspire civil society as it reaches out for global partnership and environmental sustainability.
(3) Annual UNAS Seminar on the United Nations for members of the Association, students of Secondary Schools, Junior Colleges, and Universities as well as interested members of the public at large. Speakers at these seminars include, UN officials, university dons, diplomats, corporate leaders and others knowledgeable in UN affairs.
(4) Occasional public talks on international issues. From time to time, UNAS has undertaken to launch important UN reports and publications to create awareness either alone or in partnership with educational and research organizations. They include the annual HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT produced by the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN published by UN CHILDREN’S FUND (UNICEF).
(5) Annual UN Quiz for Junior College students which ran for two decades and aimed at testing the students’ general knowledge of the UN.
(6) UNAS publications on UN affairs in the form of bulletins, papers and books. To keep up to date with developments at the UN, the UNAS website carries regular features on current and future events at the UN.
(7) UNAS Internship Program for Junior College students, under-graduates and post-graduates as well as working adults who wish to deepen their knowledge of the UN. In this interns are required to conduct a supervised research study on a UN topic.
(8) UNAS Young Diplomat Scheme (YDS) which involve research and written submissions to questions on the UN, its history, evolution and development on the one hand, and the role of the UN in development, peace-keeping, protection of the environment, disarmament and human rights on the other. Successful participants are awarded a Gold Medal and Certificate of Commendation.
(9) Field studies and visits to UN New York, UN Geneva, UN Bangkok, including the UN University in Tokyo for UNAS members, students and interested members of the public.
(10) UN Model Conferences. Over the years, UNAS has sent student delegations to represent Singapore. At home, UNAS has facilitated the holding of such meetings by schools, colleges and universities. Members of the UNAS Board of Directors have also been invited to attend such meetings as speakers as well as guests-of-honor. UNAS has also donated a handsome challenge shield as an encouragement.
(11) Blue-Capper Fellowship. This Fellowship is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of peace and/or demonstrated capabilities in peace advocacy especially through research and publications. Four fellowships have been awarded since February 2010.
(12) Introductory Course on the UN for those who wish to gain a better understanding of the UN and the roles of its main organs, Specialized Agencies, regional development commissions, UN councils, programs and other subsidiary bodies.
UNAS also receives a continuous flow of requests for information on UN and UN-related matters from businesses and corporations on matters relating to UN procurement procedures as well as UN Security Council sanctions in force.
Of late, consequent on requests made by several UN specialized agencies to assist in examining Singapore-based applicants for UN positions, UNAS has put in a place a mechanism to assist the process. In May this year, it undertook to process the first applicant. In this, the UNAS website also carries relevant information and announcements on work and employment at the UN.
UNAS also receives a continuous flow of requests from students doing projects on the UN for information, advice and guidance. In this connection, UNAS Board members have also offered their services and support to educational institutions by giving talks on the UN or by supporting UN events by their presence.