Fantastic Diplomats and Where To Find Them

Over the weekend I traveled to the UN headquarters in NYC for the second time to attend the annual United Nations Association Global Engagement Summit (formerly known as Members’ Day). As always, this is a time when chapter members from across the country gather to advocate, network and hear from top UN officials and ambassadors. This year the conference was moved into the General Assembly Hall!


Gaze upon the glory.



Our keynote speaker for the event was the highest-ranking American in the UN, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman.


Some of his key points:


  • The main concern from UN member states is whether the UN is currently fit to serve its purpose; there is great need for improvement
  • Globally, many situations have changed faster than the UN has been able to adjust and respond. This is due in part to the fact that no money is allocated to ‘conflict prevention’ in the UN budget
  • More conflicts are arising within states as opposed to state vs. state, with a large majority being attributed to political and religious differences

Before each panel concluded, the moderators took time to call on members of the audience for questions. Regardless of the topic being discussed, most questions shared a common denominator; what can I do?


Rachel Snow, Chief of the Population and Development Branch of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), gave us a very real reminder that the SDGs aren’t just lofty ideas. In speaking about SDG #5, gender equality, she had this to say: “The 10-year-old girl will be our litmus test on determining whether we have achieved gender equality by 2030. She will be 25 at that point.”


Your little sister will quite literally represent our collective gender equality achievement (or failure) by 2030.


Juan Chelby (24-year-old college professor!) covered SDG #13, climate action. Developed nations (particularly huge carbon-emitters like the U.S.) have a moral duty to do all we can to curb climate change. Unfortunately, it is “the poorest of the poor” that drastically experience the negative effects of climate change while simultaneously being the least responsible for it. Couple that with the fact that the last three years are the hottest on record, and it becomes very apparent that we have no time to waste.


Since I’ve never had any qualms about choosing favorites, I think I enjoyed Director Kamal Amakrane’s (Office of the President of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly) input the most. He spoke about the displacement of refugees and how we (supporters of refugees) are losing the narrative in this fight due to a lack of tolerance and education.


“We’re not facing a crisis of refugees. We’re facing a crisis of compassion and cooperation.” –Kamal Amakran


To me, this seemingly simple statement about one topic had much broader implications.


In almost every sense, we are facing a crisis of compassion and cooperation. In everything that we do, we must strive towards strengthening these ideals.