UN Day 2021: Creating a Blueprint for a Better Future

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03:30 pm





This year, we’re celebrating the UN’s 76th anniversary with a special virtual program, bringing together UN officials, youth change-makers, and the most essential piece to our movement—you, our members.

Featured Speakers:

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield was nominated by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. to be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations as well as the Representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations on January 20, 2021. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 23, 2021, and sworn in on February 24, 2021 by the Vice President of the United States of America.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a career diplomat, returned to public service after retiring from a 35-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service in 2017. From 2013 to 2017 she served as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, where she led the bureau focused on the development and management of U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to this appointment, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (2012-2013), leading a team in charge of the State Department’s 70,000-strong workforce.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s distinguished Foreign Service career includes an ambassadorship to Liberia (2008-2012), and postings in Switzerland (at the United States Mission to the United Nations, Geneva), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. In Washington, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs (2006-2008), and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (2004-2006).

After retiring from the U.S. State Department in 2017, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield led the Africa Practice at Albright Stonebridge Group, a strategic commercial diplomacy firm chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She was also the inaugural Distinguished Resident Fellow in African Studies at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University from fall 2017 to spring 2019.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was the 2017 recipient of University of Minnesota Hubert Humphrey Public Leadership Award, the 2015 recipient of the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award and the 2000 recipient of the Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Affairs. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she also did work towards a doctorate. She received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Wisconsin in May 2018 and an honorary Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Liberia in May 2012.

Michele Sumilas, Assistant to the Administrator of the Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning (PPL), USAID




Dennis Latimer, Representative in Honduras, FAO

With the agreement of the Government of the Republic of Honduras, Mr. Dennis Wayne Latimer was appointed FAO Representative in Honduras, effective June 30, 2018. Mr. Latimer, a US citizen, holds a Bachelor’s (B.Sc.) in Agriculture from Washington State University, USA, and a Master’s (M.Sc.) in Agribusiness from Arizona State University. Mr. Latimer began his career in 1981 as a Peace Corps Project Officer / Volunteer in Honduras assigned to the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Peace Corps, in Copan & Ocotepeque. He returned to Honduras in 1994 as Agricultural Program Manager and Associate Director, Peace Corps, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He was Technical Project Manager for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in La Paz, Bolivia and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 2000 through 2004. He worked for FAO from 2004 to 2009 as Operations Officer in the Emergency and Rehabilitation Division (TCE ), Rome Italy. From 2009 to 2015 he served as Subregional Advisor for Emergencies and Disaster Risk Management at the FAO Regional Office in Latin America and the Caribbean, Santiago, Chile. He worked as Director of Programs for Catholics Relief Services (CRS), in Managua, Nicaragua from 2015 to 2018.

Besem Obenson, Representative in Guatemala, UNHCR

Besem Obenson is the Representative in Guatemala of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). After graduating from the Ohio State University, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Paraguay. After completing an MBA and MPH, she worked In San Francisco, CA training women in San Francisco, California in vulnerable situations by promoting initiatives for their social and community integration, access to small businesses and psychosocial services. She has wide experience within UNHCR especially in Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia. Ms. Obenson also has extensive experience in matters related to internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers and people in need of international protection. She has ample experience in livelihoods, connecting immediate humanitarian assistance to longer term solutions for refugees and their host communities. Ms. Obenson has distinguished herself by efficient coordination and cooperation with government authorities and local governments, articulation with the international community and the United Nations System, effective collaboration with civil society and building alliances with the academia.

Cynthia Yue, UNA-USA Youth Observer to the United Nations

Cynthia is a student studying International Affairs at the George Washington University and the 10th UNA-USA Youth Observer to the United Nations. Cynthia brings nearly seven years of experience as a leader at UNICEF USA, where she has spearheaded national initiatives promoting civic engagement, leadership development, and diversity to over 30,000 supporters. In 2019, she also attended the United Nations General Assembly to interview global leaders on the 30th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, culminating in the reinforcement of the European Union’s commitment to child welfare and the promotion of #TheRealChallenge youth advocacy campaign, which amassed over 450 million engagements across more than 50 countries. Previously, she has also served as a Fellow for sustainability and youth deliberation initiatives with the Embassy of France in the United States and the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia; in addition, she has interned in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Department of Transportation, and U.S. Small Business Administration. This year, Cynthia hopes to continue bridging the gap between youth and the UN by elevating young people’s voices, building community within the UNA-USA youth and student network, and supporting youth leaders across the United States.

Rachel-PittmanRachel Bowen Pittman, Executive Director, UNA-USA

Rachel Bowen Pittman serves as Executive Director of UNA-USA, a grassroots movement of more than 20,000 Americans in over 200 chapters across the U.S. who are dedicated to supporting the work of the United Nations in communities, on campuses, and on Capitol Hill. Rachel works to maximize UNA-USA’s advocacy impact by guiding the strategic vision for the organization, overseeing membership expansion, and managing partnerships. Rachel works closely with UNA-USA’s National Council and Affinity Group leadership to spearhead new initiatives that support a strong U.S.-UN partnership.

Before she was appointed Executive Director in June 2019, Rachel served as UNA-USA’s Senior Director of Membership and Programs. In this role, she managed UNA-USA’s national programs and events, including the annual Global Engagement Summit at UN Headquarters, Global Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., and UN Day events across the country. She also led a nationwide fundraising campaign to provide education to youth in refugee camps.

Prior to joining UNA-USA, Rachel served on multiple leadership teams for several professional associations that represented lawyers, surgeons, regulators and engineers. In her many accomplishments, Rachel strengthened membership programs, directed rebranding initiatives and secured agreements with national associations representing China, Korea, Argentina, India, Peru, Egypt and Mexico. While Rachel has worked with inspiring professionals across a diverse range of industries and cultures throughout her career, supporting UNA-USA staff and members in their efforts to make the future brighter is her greatest inspiration.

Rachel holds a B.S.B.A in International Business from American University and an MBA in Marketing from Johns Hopkins University.

Paula Boland, UNA-USA National Council Chairperson and Executive Director, UNA-NCA

Paula Boland is an attorney specialized in environmental law and international affairs. Although born in the United States, she received most of her academic and earlier professional experience in Argentina. Paula worked for three years on regulatory and corporate compliance matters at the law firm of Klein & Franco in Buenos Aires. Her strong interest in the protection of the environment led her to the LL.M. program in Environmental Law at Vermont Law School, from which she graduated cum laude. Following a clerkship with the Environmental Enforcement Section of the US Department of Justice, Paula assisted a number of environmental nongovernmental organizations in the development of conservation projects to be carried out in Latin America.

Paula began her journey at UNA-NCA as a volunteer where soon she was appointed Chair of the Young Professionals, providing volunteer opportunities and engaging professionals and students in dialogue on the UN and international affairs. Paula joined the UNA-NCA staff, serving first as Program Director, then as Executive Director and has recently been appointed President. She has played a significant role developing and nurturing strategic partnerships, diversifying membership and expanding program activities. Paula serves as a regional representative and Chair of the UNA-USA National Council.