Two Minutes with Executive Director Rachel Bowen Pittman
Do you remember the first time you learned about the UN?
Most of my childhood was spent in Memphis, Tennessee so I must have learned about United Nations through my history classes. However, my family moved back to Long Island, New York in my senior year of high school and seeing the UN in person was the first acknowledgement of its magnitude and ability to bring nations together to solve the world’s biggest problems.
What is your most memorable moment with UNA-USA so far?
If most people answered this question for me, they would say it was when I shared the stage with UN Secretary-General António Guterres during the UNA-USA 2019 Global Engagement Summit at the UN. However, I have to say it was one of the first Adopt-A-Future programs with the UNA-Orlando Chapter. We spent the day welcoming resettled refugee families and distributing backpacks with school supplies to children. Because of their courage, strength and determination, I felt inspired to support and advocate for refugees at home and around the world.
Is there a specific time when you realized the true impact of the UN’s work?
Last year, I was fortunate to travel with U.S. Senate staffers to visit Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh to learn about the Rohingya refugee crisis and how UN agencies are conducting lifesaving work due to generous U.S. funding and hardworking UN employees. We saw how the UN Refugee Agency provides all vital resources such as shelter, plumbing, electricity and roads; how UNICEF provides vital medical services and education for women and children; and how UNFPA enables women and girls to have safe pregnancies.
Many UNA-USA members get involved in UN advocacy through their passion toward a specific global issue they feel personally connected to. What’s yours?
Strangely, I don’t have a specific global issue; I want to fix everything in the world. However, I am a huge advocate for the main purposes of the UN:
- Maintaining worldwide peace and security
- Developing relations among nations
- Fostering cooperation between nations in order to solve economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian international problems
- Providing a forum for bringing countries together to meet the UN’s purposes and goals
Without these purposes, solving global issues would be impossible. That’s why the UN is so needed today and for generations to come.
Anyone who has devoted time to activism knows that it can be tiring. We’ve all had moments when it feels like the world’s problems are too big for one person to act on. What motivates you to push beyond that feeling, even when the headlines discourage you?
I think about the survivors that have crossed my life, such as survivors of sexual assault, gun violence and homelessness. They remind me that we are a resilient people and can overcome any challenge that we face. Also, I don’t believe that one person can solve the world’s problems alone, but collectively, we can make a difference and change the world for the better.
What excites you most about the future of UNA-USA and our work?
Thanks to the Sustainable Development Goals, UNA-USA is attracting people from all backgrounds who want to activate on global issues and support the work and mission of the United Nations. We are building more inclusive and sustainable communities across the U.S. and are finding ways to work together. Our future is bright, and this excites me.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is looking to make a difference in the world?
Become knowledgeable about the issue you care about so you can become a strong advocate and messenger for that cause.