The University of Nebraska-Lincoln welcomed a new recognized student organization to campus over the summer. The organization, United Nations Association-UNL, acts as a model of the United Nations, an international organization that promotes cooperation among several countries in order to maintain peace and security.
Brandon Kasl, a senior economics major and president of UNA-UNL, started the organization with a few friends after attending the annual United Nations Association conference in Washington D.C. over the summer. After returning to Lincoln, the UNA contacted him with an invitation to be a Nebraska representative, which led to the creation of the UNL chapter.
“We came back and realized we need to help people out, we have to do what we can,” Kasl said. “We have to do our part because Nebraska is just not there yet.”
UNA-UNL is a bipartisan organization that accepts anyone from both the university and the community. It aims to provide as much diversity as possible, so that each group can be represented accurately. The first meeting will be on Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. in the Nebraska Union.
“I want everyone to have a voice and feel like they can bring whatever issue they want to the club and know we will listen to them and take it seriously,” Kasl said. “I think through doing that, we can have a collaboration that’s a lot like the setting of the UN and we can work toward goals that everyone wants to work toward, just on a smaller level.”
Josh Ward, a senior global studies and economics double major, was asked to help with the creation of the group due to his activity in a similar club at UNL, Model United Nations. He was given the role of treasurer for the new organization.
“It’s a great opportunity for students who are interested in international politics and the United Nations to get engaged with their fellow peers,” Ward said. “I hope the first meeting gives us a chance to get to know some new students who are already engaged or looking for avenues to get involved in international issues.”
The organization will discuss topics that pertain to current issues such as NAFTA renegotiations, climate change and the refugee crisis. With large refugee populations in Lincoln and Omaha, Kasl said he views this organization as a great opportunity to assist those within the community.
“I think people want to help, you can see it in the political environment right now,” Kasl said. “People are angry and they’re desperate to do something to help but no one really knows what they can do.”
According to Kasl, conversations on controversial topics have become violent and angry, and he said he believes the lack of understanding from both sides has made it more difficult for people to speak out.
“I think it’s important to start the conversation again,” he said. “It seems like that’s been cut off and we’re not going to get anywhere if everyone is silent but mad.”
UNA-UNL will host its first organized event on Sept. 21, which is the International Day of Peace. The organization hopes to team up with other associations around the Lincoln area and serve the community together.
“I hope that students who join this organization participate in at least one grassroots campaign with us,” Ward said. “I hope that they walk away knowing that their voice matters and they can create the changes that they are passionate about.”