UN Stories, U.S. Voices: 75 Years of the UN

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate all our success than by spotlighting the remarkable work of our UNA members. In this feature, I want to highlight a person whose history with the UN can be traced as far back as its inception. His name is Ed Elmendorf.

Ed served as President and CEO of UNA USA during the mandate to create an alliance between the United States and the United Nations Foundation. However, his history with the UN dates much further back than that, and it begins with family. His father was a World Federalist during World War II. He grew up in an environment that encouraged him to be an active observer in the Nuremberg trials and learn about the action to avoid impunity for war crimes and end genocide. Likely because of his childhood, Ed decided to join the US Foreign Service in the early 1960s. He recalls telling the State Department officials that he would like to have his first tour of duty within the United States, and a few weeks he received his first assignment: to attend the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York, thus beginning his formal introduction to the UN.

Ed later worked his way up to become a personal assistant for the US Ambassador to the UN, but eventually returned again to the U.S. Mission to work on human rights and social issues where he served as the executive officer for the U.S. team in the Third Committee of the General Assembly, and helped to put together the UN Commission on Human Rights. In addition, he was assigned as the US Representative on the committee on periodic reports on human rights, a subcommittee of the Human Rights Commission. This subcommittee became the foundation and predecessor for what has become the Universal Periodic Review now carried out under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council.

After spending nearly 30 years in the World Bank and as a Foreign Service Officer, Ed decided to return to his grassroots appreciation for the work of the UN by coming an active volunteer with UNA-USA, specifically with the National Capital Area in Washington, D.C. In his time as a volunteer, he has been elected president of the NCA Chapter in the early 2000’s where he served for four years, elected to the Council of Chapters and divisions, a national volunteer network organization where he became the chair, and has become a national board member for UNA-USA.

Outside of his career accomplishments, Ed considers himself a historian. His quest for knowledge and passion for human rights drove him to become a study director for a history of UNA USA, which later became a book articulating the history of advocacy and action within the UN. It is evident that is all aspects of his life Ed has worked to maintain a close connection to the global work of the UN.

Asked why he continues to support the work of the UN after all these years, he responded that he simply cares very deeply about creating an organized international community. Ed challenges us to imagine a world without the UN – a world of chaos and disorder. He volunteer’s today and devotes so much time and energy into the UN because he recognizes the importance in connecting our global and local communities.

By glimpsing into his accomplished life, so too do we see the history and impact the UN has had on the world. On behalf of the entire UNA-USA team, we want to thank Ed for his steadfast commitment to bridging the work of the UN and the US together.

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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.