UNA-USA Youth Leader
1. Why is the UN important in the world?
We live in an ever-changing world, where states are constantly fighting for the top-spot on the international stage. With so much malleability in the world, the United Nations represents an organization where states can find diplomatic solutions to their conflicts. From small island nations such as Nauru and Fiji to the incredibly powerful P5 members, the UN attempts to give all citizens of the world a vehicle in which they can voice their concerns.
The United Nations is critiqued for its lack of real capabilities to implement the resolutions that it passes; yet, it is still the only organization to encompass all nations and all citizens without any sort of bias. Yes, we may have NATO, the Arab league, or ASEAN, but they have all created a concept of “we” in which states alienate themselves from the rest of the world. On the other hand, 193 member states, observing states, and organizations come together in the General Assembly and other UN bodies to talk through problems facing the world such has access to education and girls’ empowerment.
2. How do the UN and its work affect your work or life?
From early on, the United Nations has had an impact in my life. One of my earliest memories of the UN was in Pre-Kindergarten in Mexico. For UN day, we were assigned to do a project on the work of the United Nations. Thirteen years later, it would be impressive if I actually remembered the project. What I do have is a lamina or information sheet from the 1990s about the UN. It illustrates girls and boys in traditional dresses with the flags of the member states bordering the page.
The incredible idea of the United Nations captivated my mind at the age of five; however, very quickly I realized that there was a very slim chance of me ever seeing the UN Headquarters. After all it was in New York City and I was in Mexico. Nevertheless, things happened for a reason and I immigrated to the United States soon after finishing Pre-K.
Consequently, my immigration to the U.S. meant that I needed to focus on other things. It wasn’t until high school when I was re-introduced to the UN. During my junior year in Austin, Texas, I joined a club that would ultimately shape my life. Thanks to an incredible friend, I was introduced into the world of Model United Nations. During my first conference, I was inspired by the capability of being in a room with hundreds of other delegates who were as interested as I was about the work of the UN. Model UN helped me understand that my passion lies with the UN and international relations.
I continued Model UN during my senior year as I applied to several universities with prestigious international affairs programs. Eventually, I was accepted into the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
3. Why should Americans care about the UN’s work?
Although I am originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, everything that I have learned, and that in a way comprises who I am, is because of the United States. Without having immigrated to the U.S., I would not be in the position I am in now. Having said that, the United States, and Americans, need to care more about the United Nations.
The United States takes for granted many of the great institutions it has established in a relatively short time: the Supreme Court, credible and reliable elections among the many things. Luckily, the United States has been able to secure its place as the hegemon on the international system as it has not faced the same problems as many other states have such as wars fought on its own turf and widespread famine.
Many countries around the world not only look up to the United Nations for guidance, but also at the United States. The U.S. should set an example for other countries to follow. It must not only respect the recommendations passed by the UN General Assembly, but also implement its decisions. The U.S. should not go to war if the UN has opposed it. There are diplomatic solutions to many problems and the United States must be a driving force in the diplomatic debate and not a back seat driver. Even more, the U.S. is a member of the powerful P-5 members of the UN Security Council and thus has a greater obligation to lead by example and not by force.
The fact that the U.S. plays a pivotal role in the UN system is something that we as Americans should be proud of. Thus, this means that we must also take our role seriously. An organization is only as credible as the commitment of its members and either the UN works or we, the United States, have failed.
4. In your opinion what has been the UN’s best moment up until now?
The United Nations in itself is an incredible accomplishment for human kind. Through this world organization we have been able to set up a venue where countries can openly discuss topics of interest. In my opinion, one of the biggest endeavors that the United Nations has been able to execute is create different committees and sub-groups that unite individual states in a peaceful setting to solve international issues.
Too many times we, both humans and the states in which we reside, resort to violent means as resolutions to instantly and efficiently solve the conflict. Ironically this is often, if not always, extremely costly and grotesquely inefficient. We forget that we have the diplomatic capability facilitated by the United Nations to convene and, in a civilized manner, talk about our differences.
From the development of the Declaration of Human Rights to the recent global Arms Trade Treaty, the UN has had several great moments up to now. Each of these moments though would not be possible without the fundamental capability of the UN to promote peaceful negotiations among its members.
5. What do you think is the most exciting opportunity for the UN growing forward?
It is time for the United Nations to modernize. As the President of the United Nations Association Campus Advocates Group at Georgetown University, I have noticed that many youth sees the UN as a stagnate and old-world organization. I whole-heartedly believe in the capability of the UN, but agree that it is time for the organization to adapt to the structure of the world today.
Although it is a difficult subject to approach, the UN Security Council no longer represents the power structure of our world. While this clearly worked in the years after World War II, the P5 members lack a member from the African block, the Latin American block, but more importantly the Arab and Islamist block. While the United States may currently be the post powerful state in the world there are states that are developing at a rapid rate. One of their points of conflict with the U.S. may well be the underrepresentation at the Security Council. The Security Council can no longer continue to make decisions for the world when three out of five members are clearly Northern Hemisphere, Western nations.
Along with the logistical changes that present an opportunity for greater representation, another exciting aspect of the UN going forward, is the increase representation of youth. The UN and U.S. have made a leap by picking the first U.S. Youth Observer in the past year. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to change the concept of stagnation in the UN. The youth of the world have exciting and new ideas that can help further develop the United Nations’ goal of maintaining stability in the world.
6. What is the most effective element of UNA-USA’s work?
On the same subject of youth, I think that the recent establishment of the United Nations Associations Campus Advocates program is one of the best up-and-coming elements of UNA-USA’s work. The new implementation of a youth group is going to allow for the modernization of UNA-USA.
Personally, I feel that the United Nations Association does a great job with both its middle and high school students, providing conferences and events for them to attend. It also works with the graduate and post-graduate students involved in UNA through the Young Professionals program. For a long time now, UNA has been lacking a concrete way of captivating the undergraduate community of those interested in the work of the United Nations.
Through this newly established program of which I am enthusiastically leading a Chapter of at Georgetown University, I believe that more and more college students will once again be pulled into the world of the UN. This is not just through the aspect of Model United Nations, but more through a real world lens of the important role of the United Nations.