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4.Dec.2014: GTAH Chairman gives Keynote Speech at HUMANICY Meeting at UN, New York

December 7th, 2014

Gordon Tapper, Chairman of GTAH, gave the Keynote Speech on ‘Art and Cultural Diplomacy at the United Nations’ on Thursday 4 December at a meeting entitled “HUMANICY: THE HUMAN SIDE OF DIPLOMACY – At the Crossroads of Art, Diplomacy, and Heightened Consciousness”. The two-day meeting which took place in the ECOSOC Chamber and Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York, 4-5 December 2014.

“Humanicy: The Human Side of Diplomacy”, a partnership of the Permanent Mission of Sao Tomé and Principe to the United Nations and the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Inc. (FAF), is a programme aimed at highlighting the role of culture, arts and humanities in shaping diplomacy. (For further information, please view their websites: www.humanicy.info OR www.faf.org )  IMG_1392


Following is the Keynote Speech:

Excellency Ambassador Toriello, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sao Tome and Principe to the United Nations, the co-organizers of this marvelous event, Patrick Sciaratta and Yin Chu Yu, the leadership of Friendship Ambassador Foundation, special participants in the HUMANICY programme, UN colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a pleasure and an honour for me to be here with you today to speak about a subject that is dear to me – Arts, Culture and Diplomacy. For more than 15 years of my career at the United Nations I was responsible for coordinating Special Events – producing concerts with such famed performers as the New York Philarmornic Orchestra, PAVAROTTI, BONO, GILBERTO GILL, YUSOUF N’DOUR, ZIGGY MARLEY and THIRD WORLD – as well as hosting several Japanese Tea Ceremonies, exhibitions of IKEBANA and a host of other artistic expressions to promote peace amongst peoples, right here in the United Nations Headquarters complex. I even had the pleasure of coordinating a table tennis game between Chinese players and the UN Table Tennis Club, right next to these rooms in the Delegates Lounge, during the period of “Ping Pong Diplomacy” started by President Nixon and his Chinese opposite number Premier Chou En-Lai in the early 1970’s.

Throughout my years at the UN I gained an appreciation of the immense value of Art in opening doors that were once closed to people who were ‘different’ or ‘not like us’ because of race, religion, culture, political systems or for a host of other reasons that extremists and bigots create to separate people.

I wish to applaud the effort of Ambassador Toriello and FAF for hosting this event – Art as a vehicle for Peace and Diplomacy.   It is a most timely intervention in a climate where people seem to have become even less tolerant of others with levels of cruelty and barbarism taken to unimaginable heights.

Our challenge today is to find a way to reach the most hardened opponent that we might have, not by guns and bombs but by our common appreciation for what is beautiful, for a universal unambiguous message delivered by a sculpture in marble, the painter’s brush, the leap of a Baryshnikov, the heavenly tones of Maria Callas, the strings of Yo Yo Ma’s cello, the black and white keyboard of Lang Lang’s piano and even such great written works as the Bible and the Koran. That is our challenge. Guns may subjugate, but only understanding and appreciating another’s culture can produce harmony amongst people.

But let me digress somewhat and tell you something about Art at the UN. Those of you who have had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the premises both inside and on the grounds will have seen that the UN has enough iconic and outstanding works of art to create a mini-museum. If you have not had that opportunity you should do so while you are here.

Many of the pieces displayed in the UN grounds and buildings need no words to explain what they are trying to say. It is you, the viewer who interprets the piece and decides what the message is. The words “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares” does not mean literally that but it is a message everyone understands just by looking at the sculpture.  St. George and the Dragon, with St. George on a rearing horse stabbing the dragon with his lance, is made out of a disarmed nuclear weapon, so it speaks to us of disarmament. The twisted gun barrel on the UN Plaza needs no explanation. One is not likely to forget images like these because they are not received passively. They invoke a reaction from the observer; they leave an impression.

Now let me tell you a little secret about gifts that are donated to the UN. Almost every UN Member State has donated one or more gifts, usually an art piece, to the UN.  In fact, this very room that we are meeting in today, the ECOSOC Chamber, was a gift from the Government of Sweden. Hundreds of other items are donated by individuals or groups. However, perhaps less than 30 % of all gifts are on display. The majority are hidden away in storage. There would not be enough space, perhaps even in the Louvre or the MET, to exhibit all of the gifts of works of art that have been donated to the UN. Gifts from Member States are not simply works of art, they are mostly an expression of how the country sees itself and wishes to portray itself to the world. In other words it is a way of projecting their culture.

Let me digress once again and tell you an anecdote relating to UN gifts and artwork. One is about the elephant that is at the north end of the grounds closest to the sidewalk on First Avenue. Residents of Sutton Place and the environs were upset about the elephant which seemed to have a very large organ. It was a troubling issue as many parents complained that their little children walking by would be asking what is that. The UN solicited the views of the Bronx Zoo which confirmed that all was normal. Not to worry.  Secretary General Koffi Annan at its unveiling made some humourous comments which I will not repeat, but suffice it to say the UN reached a diplomatic solution and planted tall grass around the elephant so as to obscure the offending appendage. Actually it looks pretty good like that.

Indeed, from what I have been saying it must be clear that Art can and does deliver a message that is often more powerful than words or political action. Art introduces people to other peoples and cultures that they previously knew little about or perhaps even opposed or feared on the basis of race, religion or culture. Art is a neutral medium for meeting without preconceived notions since images are universal and speak their own language.

I urge you to support cultural exchanges and to be open to the Art of people from all different persuasions as you will learn a lot and you will see that you have more in common than what divides you.

Thank you.

GTAH and the UAC – amongst the first to declare the Ebola Crisis in Africa to be an international disease!

October 12th, 2014
Ebola Forum  ---  Amb. Mamadi Toure, Amb. Marjon Kamara, Amb. Vandi Minah (afrikanspot.com)

Ebola Forum — Amb. Mamadi Toure,
Amb. Marjon Kamara, Amb. Vandi Minah

 Ebola Forum, United Nations ECOSOC Chamber  –  27 August 2014

A meeting dubbed the “New York City Ebola Forum”, jointly organized by the Give Them a Hand Foundation (GTAH) and the United African Congress (UAC), was held in the United Nations ECOSOC Chamber on 27 August 2014.  (See Forum programme below)

Gordon Tapper (afrikanspot.com)

Gordon Tapper

Mr. Gordon Tapper, the MC of the Forum and Founder and Chairman of GTAH, brought the meeting to order, stating that the EBOLA epidemic could not be defeated by the three most affected countries alone – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – but that it would take a concerted effort by the world community to halt the spread of the disease, to beat it back and to find a cure. He added that many countries considered themselves insulated from the disease by distance but that every city in the world was just a plane ride away from the virus.

Participating in the Forum were Ambassadors from the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the Permanent Representative of the African Union Observer Mission to the UN, the WHO, the EU, prominent individuals from the medical profession, leaders from faith-based communities and various expatriate African communities here in the United States.

Sidique Wai (afrikanspot.com)

Sidique Wai

Following opening prayers by the Reverend Loune Rouse, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Long Island, and by UAC President, Sidique Wai, representing the Muslim faith, UAC Chairman Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein made his welcoming statement. Dr. Nurhussein commented on the lethargy of the international community to get involved in the fight against Ebola, noting that the first incident of this current outbreak had occurred in Guinea as far back as December 2013. As the blood samples from Guinea had to be sent to France for testing, it was not until 14 March this year that the sickness was diagnosed as Ebola. In those 90 days the disease had spread to the three countries which shared common borders. Dr. Nurhussein attributed this spread to the lack of an adequate health care infrastructure, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone which had only just emerged from more than a decade of debilitating civil wars. Dr. Nurhussein added that one of his objectives was to see established an AFRICAN CDC to serve as a center for diagnosis and research and to direct the fight against any future health crises that might arise on the continent. He also wanted to see a rapid reaction health task force that could move into challenged areas without delay.

H.E. Ambassador Mamadi Toure, Guinea, acknowledged the weakness of the health infrastructure in his country and said that the traditions and culture of the people, which held that any sick person or dead body had to be cared for and handled by family members, had contributed to the spread of the disease. He urged that doctors and health care workers be trained with those cultural mores in mind.

CDC/Sally Ezra phil.cdc.gov

CDC/Sally Ezra

H.E Ambassador Marjon Kamara, Liberia, commented on how the epidemic had damaged the economy of her country. She added that with the focus now on Ebola, with hospitals and clinics being overrun, and the population fearing that they may actually become infected in the hospitals, persons suffering from other diseases such as malaria, diabetes, and high blood pressure were also dying through lack of care, adding to the already heavy burden.

H.E Ambassador Vandi Minah, Sierra Leone, said that there was both a health care crisis and an economic crisis taking place in Sierra Leone. He suggested that there should be a “health-keeping mission” to his country and to the others badly affected, in the manner of UN Peace-keeping Missions.

Amb. Tete Antonio (afrikanspot.com)

Amb. Tete Antonio

H.E. Ambassador Tete Antonio, head of the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the UN, commented on the economic effect of the epidemic which had resulted in a 1.5 loss in GDP in the three countries.

Impassioned statements were made by many speakers, but one of the most moving was by Dr. Tomislav Prvulovich, a three-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contribution to eradicating smallpox, and a veteran of the fight against the earlier Ebola outbreaks in the Congo and Uganda. Dr. Prvulovich expressed anger at how slowly the world was reacting to the Ebola epidemic dismissing it as just an African problem. He did not spare the WHO and other international organizations from criticism. He suggested that scientists should use the blood of those who have survived Ebola to create a serum to fight the disease. Dr. Prvulovich and some of his colleagues had actually injected themselves with the blood of survivors when they were in the Congo in 1976 to give themselves some kind of immunity while tending to the sick and trying to find a cure. (See video statements below)

Dr. Julius Garvey sent regrets that he was unable to attend but the key points of Dr Garvey’s message, read in his absence, were that the medical community needed to find a way to build trust with the local communities and those infected by the disease. He felt that prevention education was important and that what was needed at the moment was not necessarily more doctors and nurses but trained health workers in vast numbers. The expansion of primary care in the future was essential in the rural areas.

Dr. Dexter McKenzie, President of the Provident Medical Society, commented that a communicable threat to health anywhere would be a threat everywhere.

Reverend Loune Rouse spoke about the PIT approach he had proposed, and which was adopted by GTAH and UAC, highlighting that efforts should be directed at Prevention, Information and Training.


CDC/Daniel DeNoon

CDC/Daniel DeNoon


The leaders of the Sierra Leone community in the Tri-State area and from the Liberian and Guinean communities pledged to work collaboratively with GTAH and UAC in finding solutions for their respective countries, including collecting medical supplies, food items and funds to support local communities.

The Ambassadors closed by stating that they would like to see this spirit carried over into positive outcomes.

Mr. Gordon Tapper informed the Forum that they would be planning a major concert in the near future to be held at the United Nations to both raise awareness and mobilize the donation of resources for the stricken countries.


Ambassador Mamadi Touré – statement


Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein – statement


Dr. Tomislav Prvulovich – statement

Forum Programme

Forum Programme

Ebola Forum prog 2

New Dorp, Staten Island, 17 November, 2012

November 17th, 2012

At 9.00 A.M. on Saturday, November 17, the first group of volunteers with GTAH and partners, boarded the Staten Island Ferry in downtown Manhattan, headed for Staten Island. More than 60 volunteers gathered in front of Staten Island Yankee Stadium, a minor league baseball park, waiting to be transported to the site where we would be working on the day. Included amongst the volunteers were, once again, United Nations Staff, Members of the International Buddhist Progress Society, the Bethel Community Church of Staten Island, representatives from the Liberian Community in Staten Island and representatives of the Sierra Leonean Community in Staten Island.

Our key partner on the day was the NYPD Community Affairs Division. With the assistance of some of its leaders on Staten Island – Lieutenant Goodwin and Officer Gianino – they arranged for our team to be transported to the work site in police vans, equipping us with gloves, masks and cleaning materials for the task of clearing debris from houses on Fox Lane in the Oakdale community of Staten Island.

Fox Lane borders on acres of sea grass which helps to separate the homes from the ocean. Many of the homes and properties we entered were choked with this grass which came in with the sea surge that flooded rooms that were, in some cases, 15 feet off the ground. Some of our volunteers worked on one house for the entire day, clearing out an unending supply of wet and ruined clothing, furniture and other items while preserving some items for further use by the owners. The residents of the devastated area certainly did not expect their good fortune to have so many hands turning up at their doors to help. They were overwhelmed and expressed their gratitude by providing water and buying pizza and sandwiches for everyone during a break period. Other team members working in groups went door to door offering assistance as needed and simply pitched in. One such group filled a container with debris while another helped to rip up the flooring of a house being gutted for eventual rehabilitation.

The email below from my colleague Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman of the United African Congress, to the volunteers best sums up this experience:

“Dear Fellow Volunteers,

A gorgeous mosaic that is New York was in evidence today when a diverse group of volunteers composed of UN Staff, Immigrants of various nationalities and faiths, young and old, men and women descended on Staten Island to lend a helping hand to fellow New Yorkers adversely affected by the super storm Sandy. It was deeply gratifying for me to have been part of this uniquely human manifestation of solidarity and empathy, New Yorkers helping New Yorkers in need. We helped home owners whose houses were flooded all the way to the second floor. We took out wet moldy clothing items in garbage bags, removed soggy mattresses, furniture, dinning and kitchen items, bookshelves, tables, and emptied the attic of all its contents, helped clean up the mess on the floors. The home owners were touched by the gesture and took pictures of us and with us. Despite their loss, we were able to see that we managed to bring some comfort and respite as well as a smile to their faces. That was the ultimate reward for us. There was a warm camaraderie among us as we all cheerfully took part in what was at times a physically demanding work. Our work in Red Hook last Monday was also a similar experience and we hope to replicate this next week in Far Rockaway

To all volunteers, the coordinators and particularly the super coordinator, the unflappable Gordon Tapper who managed to pull this off, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for a job well done. The United African Congress is proud and honored to be one of the organizations of this unique coalition.

With my best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving,

Mohammed A Nurhussein, MD, Chairman, United African Congress”


Thanks to the leadership provided by:

Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman of the United African Congress

Sidique Wai, President of the United African Congress and Senior Advisor to the NYPD Commissioner.

The Venerable Chueh Chen, Abbess of the International Buddhist Progress Society

Imam Shamsi Ali, Director of the Al-Hikma Mosque in Astoria, Queens

Famod Konneh, Chairman of the African Advisory Council

Passynna Bulabula, Secretary of the African Advisory council

Mamadou Kone, President of the African Day Parade Committee

Ahmed Dean Kargbo, President of the Sierra Leone National Association

William Wade, President of the Liberian Association.


Gordon Tapper


November 8th, 2012

May 1955 — August 2012
The Abyssinian Baptist Church
27 October 2012

GTAH co-sponsored the Memorial for Meles Zenawi, along with the United African Congress and the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations. GTAH’s participation was in recognition of the outstanding accomplishments of the Zenawi Government in advancing the development of Ethiopia in almost every aspect of life. Zenawi was recognised by most world leaders, financial institutions and world economists as the most successful and inspirational Head of State in Africa in many years. In fact, for several years during the last decade, Ethiopia and China enjoyed the highest rate of economic growth of any country in the world. In the area of education, Zenawi’s Government built as many as thirty new universities throughout the country.

During the 1990’s and early 2000’s Ethiopia was frequently devasted by drought and famine requiring international aid to feed millions of its people. That situation has changed and in recent years Ethiopia has found itself sending food aid to other countries in Africa that were experiencing drought and famine. Zenawi supported green policies and espoused ideas to address climate change and global warming. No other country in Africa has made as much progress as Ethiopia in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Ethiopia is a country of many ethnic groups which had fought each other for hundreds of years. Zenawi instituted a Federal System of Government which granted autonomy to the various regions and this has proven to be successful and has brought about relative peace and new-found prosperity in the country.

The high regard in which Zenawi was held by world leaders is reflected in the calibre of the dignitaries who attended the memorial service and who spoke in glowing terms about him. The list included the Secretary-General of the United Nations – Ban Ki-moon, US Ambassador to the United Nations – Ms Susan Rice, Senior Director at the National Security Council and Special Assistant to the President of the United States – Ms. Gayle Smith, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Bush Administration – Ambassador Jendaye Frazer, former US Ambassador to Ethiopia under the Bush Administration – Ambassador Tibor Nagy and Ambassador of Benin to the United Nations and Representative of the Chairman of the African Union – Jean Francis-Zinsou. Also, from Academia, Professor Jeffery Sachs of The Earth Institute, Professor Akbar Noman, Columbia University, and Professor Awash Teklehaimanot of the Mailman School of Public Health. Prominent New York Pan Africanist and President of the United African Congress – Sidique Wai also spoke.

The Reverend Calvin Butts officiated over the secular event which included beautiful renditions of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and Michael Jackson’s Heal the World performed by saxophonist Jerry Johnson, as well as musical numbers by the Abyssinian Baptist Church Cathedral Choir and its soloist. A 17-year old young lady Ferda Fuad representing the youth of Ethiopia performed a poem she wrote in honor of Meles Zenawi.
The event was hosted by Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the UN , H.E. Tekeda Alemu, co-ordinated by Dr. Mohamed Nurhussein and produced by Gordon Tapper.

The Permanent Represen-

tative of Ethiopia to the

United Nations delivering

his remarks

The Secretary General Of UN, H.E. Ban Ki Moon making his speech at the memorial.


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