UN Stories, U.S. Voices: Herb Behrstock - UNA-USA

UN Stories, U.S. Voices: Herb Behrstock

The UN Stories U.S. Voices series works to highlight individuals involvement with the UN over the past 75 years, and explore the different paths that lead towards long lasting careers dedicated to helping the world. Everyone’s road to finding the United Nations is different. Some grow up knowing it’s their dream, some find it through conflict, and others, like Herb Behrstock, find it because he wanted to impress his high school girlfriend.

Former loves aside, Herb has been involved in bettering the world since 1972 when he accepted a job with the United Nations. Since then he has held countless titles at prestigious humanitarian organizations and continues his work as a National Council Regional Representative of UNA-USA. During his career with the UN, Herb held over eight different posts, specializing in developmental work in Africa. He traveled around the continent; however, it was in Swaziland that Herb discovered the true impact of the United Nations. There his first child was born, and the meaning of safety and witnessing the impact of the peacekeepers in Swaziland became much more apparent to him. 

Herb spent months aiding in conflict resolution and mediation between North and South Korea, Russia, China, and Mongolia; and, after years of hard work, they struck peace agreements. This memory remains tremendously emotional for Herb when he thinks about the impact it made, securing safety for millions of people. “Both the economic and political dimensions and the unique role of what the UN could do under those circumstances, was and remains mind boggling,” said Herb. “The visible tensions and conflicts were more apparent to the outside world and we could work for the UN quietly.”

Maintaining motivation throughout a 50 year career in the UN requires dedication and perseverance through witnessing the worst events humanity has seen, and also some of the best. Herb maintains the mentality that the world is good, and in the end, everyone wants most of the same things. “I came away with the feeling that the United Nations is truly indispensable, not just desirable, but vital to making the world better. I saw some of it working with the UN, and I saw how I could strengthen it by working with UNA-USA, and that is part of what motivates me to continue to reach out and fulfill those goals.” It shows how important and yet also how incredibly fragile international relations are.  

Sustaining involvement in the most important events of international relations and maintaining a bipartisan attitude towards peacebuilding is crucial to strengthening our world. Herb shows us that though career shifts and changes that the innate desire to help others through the work of the United Nations doesn’t just go away, and can be shifted from policy, to advocacy, or physical boots on the ground volunteering. There is something for everyone in the UN, and that is part of what makes it so great. 

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In a series called “UN Stories, U.S. Voices,” we will be finding opportunities throughout the year to highlight some of the amazing histories and connections UNA-USA members have to the UN to celebrate its 75th anniversary.