March 12, 2015
On Thursday, March 12, the Humpty Dumpty Institute’s Higher Education Alliance was proud to host students from Wilkes University for a behind-the-scenes visit on the workings of United Nations and its initiatives. Students had the opportunity to learn about United Nations outreach and education, the role of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations careers, and disarmament efforts, all from leading UN officials. The day concluded with a tour of the United Nations Headquarters.
The day’s program began with an in-depth look at the workings of United Nations where students were introduced to the origins, role, and operations of the United Nations by Mr. Bill Yotive, the UN’s top officer for global education outreach in the UN Department of Public Information. Mr. Yotive began the conversation illuminating the fact that membership in the United Nations grew very quickly, from the 50 original signatories in 1945, to the present 193 member states. He stated that in the American educational system most discussions of the UN only give a brief overview of the founding of the institution and rarely delve into its work. Briefings and discussions such as the Wilkes University visit to the United Nations are one way to help break this trend.
The next briefing, from Leonardo Castilho, Human Rights Officer, in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, delved into priority issues on OHCHR’s agenda. Mr. Castilho addressed the complexity and challenges of defining human rights, and introduced the UN human rights system which is composed of ten treaty bodies. Mr. Castilho also outlined OHCHR’s strategic priorities such as those aimed at countering discrimination, and the strengthening of the international human rights mechanisms.
John Ericson, Chief of the Outreach Unit at the United Nations Office of Human Resources Management then discussed many different paths to a career with the United Nations. Mr. Ericson shared insight and experience of over 30 years' work with United nations in New York, Yugoslavia, Bangkok, and Nairobi, where he worked on economic commissions, peacekeeping operations, and social affairs. Mr. Ericson encouraged students to explore the possibilities of working with current aid programs and offered methods of becoming involved in international work, including, the UN Young Professionals Program (YPP), UN Volunteers Program, as well as Language Competitive Examination and employment through individual and general vacancies, and internships. Continuing with the briefing’s emphasis on careers at the United Nations, Mr. Ericson, spoke about political and peacebuilding missions headed by sixteen separate departments of peacekeeping operations, such as UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo).
The final briefing was led by Ewen Buchanan, Information Officer at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). Mr. Buchanan spoke about the disarmament efforts by the United Nations in reducing the stockpile of conventional, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and munitions around the world. Mr. Buchanan alluded to the fact that in 2013 the world military expenditure fell by 1.9% since 2012, marking the "end of a run of continuous increases in military spending between 1998 and 2010." He further elaborated that there remain over 80 countries which are contaminated by explosive remnants of war, mines and other unexploded ordinance. Mr. Buchanan said that "at least 20 per cent of the estimated 15,000-20,000 people who are killed or disabled each year by these deadly weapons of war are children."
The day’s activities concluded with an official tour of the United Nations Headquarters. Students toured the chambers of the Security Council, Trusteeship Council, and the General Assembly. They also had an opportunity to briefly sit in on the one of meetings of the Commission on Status of Women and get a firsthand look at the problem solving in which the United Nations is actively engaged.