The United Nations and the City Bar

City Bar Notebook

Last week, the New York City Bar Association hosted the 32nd Informal Meeting of Legal Advisers of Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the United Nations. The City Bar has hosted this event for the past 32 years, but this was the first in-person event since the onset of the pandemic.


City Bar President Susan J. Kohlmann with the Chair of this year’s meeting, Dr. Konrad Marciniak, Legal Adviser and Director of the Legal and Treaty Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland.

As City Bar President Susan J. Kohlmann said in her welcoming remarks, “Despite our name, the New York City Bar Association’s interests and sphere of activity reach far beyond this city, and we are deeply committed to promoting international law and multilateral institutions, none more so than the United Nations.”

There can be no stronger support for this statement than that the City Bar has a committee dedicated to supporting and commenting on the work of the UN. Since 1997, the City Bar has held Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The ECOSOC plays a leading role in identifying emerging challenges, promoting innovation and achieving a balanced integration of the three pillars – economic, social and environmental – of sustainable development. The City Bar’s status gives it access to many UN proceedings and events as an NGO, and it is entitled to several UN grounds passes that are held by members of the United Nations Committee.

One of those who have held the grounds pass is Dr. Sophia Murashkovsky, a Co-Chair of the UN Committee, who says, “I have been blessed to connect to cosmopolitan non-governmental organizations and their respective passionate delegates. I have met those who are vocal about climate carnage plaguing Pakistan; brave independent human rights journalists concerned about the safety of their brethren and the freedom advocates in Myanmar; those who are concerned with the stark rise of antisemitism in Eastern and Western Europe and the alarming rise of Islamophobia as well as Xenophobia. On the personal front, I have met many colleagues from Ukraine – a country from which my relatives hail – who have shared their moving stories regarding the refugee crisis and the health crisis due to the Russian invasion.”

UN Committee member Saadya Bendelstein appreciates the intimate access the City Bar’s relationship with the UN provides: “I’ve rubbed shoulders with staff as well as junior and senior level delegates at UN-sponsored events on all international matters, including Sustainable Development Goal 17, dire environmental concerns, human rights policy meetings and the panoply of legal subjects of international trade, war crimes and refugees’ rights, to name a few. At other times I would make my way to the UN cafe, the delegates’ lounge, or the beautiful outdoor space where people take their jackets off, let their hair down and you can hear ambassadors, high level delegates, NGOs and staff unscripted.”

Former UN Committee Member Lawrence Moss values the personal connections as well, saying, “I have come to know all recent leaders of the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs expressly through my representation of the City Bar at the UN. I have also met a great many Sixth Committee delegates and Legal Advisers from member state capitals.”

And over the past few years, UN Committee member Hong Tang has organized and hosted “side events” at the UN Office in Vienna as part of major UN conferences, “all of which were considered official events and part of the UN conferences. The government delegates from all over the world who were attending the conferences did show up at my side events as well, which were organized and hosted on the City Bar’s behalf.”

As President Kohlmann said, the City Bar’s focus has long extended beyond the city, state and nation. The City Bar welcomed delegations from the British, Irish and French Bars to the House of the Association in 1930. The International Bar Association was born at the City Bar in 1947. And today, with 19 committees producing reports and statements on some of the most timely and important international issues, the City Bar regularly makes news and gets strong social media engagement overseas, a testament to how the City Bar’s voice is heard and respected around the world.

The work of the UN Committee, and the other City Bar committees focused on international affairs, can be found here.