Former Ambassador Tom Miller met with students and community members outside Robertson Gym yesterday to discuss the United Nation’s evolving relationship with the United States.

Serving as the newly appointed CEO of the United Nations Association of the USA, Miller works to help realize U.N. objectives in the United States through local activism. Although not associated with the U.N. itself, the United Nations Association is a non-governmental organization dedicated to educating Americans about the U.N. through various programs and events, including the Model U.N.

According to Miller, the organization has a long history of educating the public about the role the U.N. plays in international affairs.

“We are the oldest grassroots organizations that connect the American people to the United Nations,” Miller said.

Miller covered several topics, including climate change, the United States’ role in the world and his take on the Obama Administration’s recent dealings with the U.N.

Miller praised the president for his openness and his continued attention to U.N. objectives regarding nuclear disarmament and global warming — issues that have been overshadowed in the media by more recent issues such as the economic crisis.

However, Miller said he is highly critical of the U.S.’s continuous refusal to sign many U.N. conventions.

“It’s a great contradiction,” Miller said. “We say we’re a global leader and we’ve ratified none of these conventions. … The only other nation that has yet to sign the Convention on the Rights of a Child besides the U.S. is Somalia, and while we have sufficient and effective laws to [prevent child abuse] it is embarrassing to be lumped into such a small minority.”

In regard to global warming, Miller emphasized the influential role the United States must play in the international community’s ongoing debate regarding climate change.

“There still is a long way to go before [The COP15 Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen] — and I cannot predict the outcome at this point, but the results will depend on the U.S. and China,” Miller said.

Kazu Furuta, vice president of communications for the Santa Barbara Chapter of the UNA-USA, said Miller’s visit would facilitate a greater understanding of the U.N.’s role beyond what the Security Council does.

“The U.N. is well-known as a peacekeeper, but it has many agencies to do so much more [including] projects and activities such as empowerment of women, child education, humanitarian aids, sustainable environment and more,” Furuta said.

Although Miller spoke on behalf of the UNA-USA, the event was co-sponsored by UCSB’s Human Rights Group and UCSB’s Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies.

Nicolas Pascal, the founder and advisor to the UCSB Human Rights Group, said his organization and the other co-sponsors hosted the event at UCSB to empower students.

“[These co-sponsors have collaborated] on this event in the effort to engage our community at large, not just a segment of it,” Pascal said.

Prior to joining UNA-USA in May 2009, Miller worked for 29 years as a career diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service. His career includes ambassadorships to Greece and to Bosnia-Herzegovina.