National Ethical Service: Our Voice at the United Nations

By October 1, 2020 December 22nd, 2020 No Comments

By Elinore Kaplan

In 1906, NYSEC founder and Leader Felix Adler was taking an outspoken anti-racist stand. He proposed an international conference on the issue. Gustav Spiller, a Leader in the British Ethical Union (now Humanists UK) and Adler, supported by W. E. B. DuBois, co-convened the First International Races Conference in 1911 at the London University in England. More than 2,100 attendees in delegations from 17 countries lent their voices to the discussion of how to improve race relations.

Adler wrote “The ends of the earth came together for the purpose of considering how the antagonisms and antipathies that breed hate between different races might be lessened and eventually overcome.”1

They planned to meet every four years, but the start of WWI in 1914-1915 precluded that from happening, and there never was a second International Races Conference. However, their mission became part of the mission of the NSC (National Service Conference, see below).

Subsequent to the war, in 1924, women’s groups from several Societies for Ethical Culture formed the National Women’s Conference and, as one of the nine leading women’s organizations in America, planned and participated in the 1925 Committee on the Cause and Cure of War (CCCW)2  which was committed to understanding the causes of war. They wrote letters to Congressmen, gave lectures, and organized petitions and study groups.

Following WWII, and within two years of the establishment of the United Nations (1945), they formed the NSC and had a seat at the NGO (nongovernmental organizations) table at the UN in association with its Department of Public Information. Affiliated with the AEU since 1968, the National Women’s Conference formally changed its name to the National Service Conference in 1983 and then, in 2010, to the National Ethical Service (NES) — and continues to be the voice of the Ethical Culture Movement at the United Nations today.


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