Posts Tagged UN

Inspiring courage: GVI interview with Fabrizio Hochschild.

Defending the truths of the UN Charter has taken guts, ambition, but above all courage. As such was seen in the legendary bravery of former Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello and former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld. In efforts to understand these two men and the role courage should play in the UN system, GVI’s Gesù Antonio Báez interviewed UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild to discover more.


1)  In your article “In and above conflict: a study on leadership in the United Nations” you begin with the quote “The world needs leaders made strong by vision, sustained by ethics, and revealed by political courage….”: Could you explain what exactly is political courage and is it present in the current UN System?


Political courage is akin to moral courage, it is about standing up for those who do not have a voice, it is the courage to speak truth to power in order to uphold the values of the UN Charter.


The importance of moral courage – especially among the organization’s senior leaders – is not always adequately promoted and celebrated. There are many examples of it, especially in the field, and I would suggest more among junior colleagues. As we get more senior, many of us grow less willing to speak up and we tend to place a greater value on caution, on maintaining relationships and avoiding controversy.


2)  You worked for many years with the late Sergio Vieira de Mello who for many, together with former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, is viewed as an example of the political courageousness and valiance. What was it about these two extraordinary men that was so unique? Can you identify anyone present in the current system who has these qualities?


Sergio I knew well, Hammarskjöld only indirectly, mainly from reading. Both were motivated by many of the same convictions about the UN but were quite different in style and character. Hammarskjöld was a Swedish civil servant and former central banker while Sergio was a Brazilian career UN staffer and former student activist with long work experience in conflict areas.


Both were inspired by the notion that the UN served and promoted international values and norms. Both believed strongly in the importance of the independence of the UN Secretariat and the need for staff to be scrupulous in avoiding representing individual member state or regional interests.  Both believed that the main purpose of the UN was to serve the less fortunate, those without access to power or influence and that staff needed to be guided by the values set out in the UN Charter. At the heart of Hammarskjöld´s vision – which inspired Sergio – was his concept of integrity: Integrity not understood in the narrow sense it is often used now but in broader terms, integrity not merely as avoiding breaking UN staff rules, but more importantly as an obligation to pro-actively uphold the standards and norms of the UN especially when it is difficult and controversial to do so.


Hammarskjöld was reflective, cerebral and, as “Markings” reveals, quite spiritual. He argued flawlessly based on principle and law. Sergio´s approach and style differed. He relied more on charm, charisma, eloquence and an uncanny ability to empathize with his interlocutor than on principle and conceptual reasoning to win over others to the cause of the organization.  He also drew a lot on his field experience.


Both to this day move and inspire staff. I have seen examples of their skill, vision and courage at every level in the organization.


3) In life, it is sometimes necessary to take risks in order to achieve a greater good. This, of course, takes courage. However, in the present UN System, many within are afraid of taking those risks for fear of losing job security. What action do you think must happen in order to encourage more courage within the system and generate true leadership? And by which actors (e.g. managers, directors, general staff, NGO’s, etc)?


There are a number of things that can be done. The first is that field work should be encouraged, as well as first hand exposure to the conflict situations the UN was created to attend to. This experience is far more likely to light the flame of passion and conviction which nurtures the courage to stand up for what is right. Where staff only know UN service from sitting in an office in New York or Geneva, far removed from those we serve, it is much harder to gain the inspiration and courage that comes with field service. Those who have lived through conflict, witnessed crimes against humanity or been exposed to extreme poverty, know that job security is not what matters most.


A second thing that can be done is to look again at our recruitment and promotion processes. We need to value much more integrity in the sense Hammarskjöld understood it in these processes. We don’t value sufficiently the ability of skillfully, tactfully and courageously advancing principled causes where it is difficult and controversial to do so. We need to go back to what Hammarskjöld stood for and what most people want from the UN: The courage, conviction and skill to uphold and promote the implementation of universal values; the disposition to serve those in direst need and to be able to do so under pressure without flinching or undue compromise. We need to seek out and recruit those who have a proven record of this in their CVs. We also need more women in leadership positions.


Thirdly we need to re-awaken what made most staff want to join the organization but then too often gets diluted or forgotten as their careers progress. Caution and inaction too often become the default tendencies in light of contradictory pressures and a risk and criticism averse culture. We too rarely risk sticking our necks out until we are sure we are not too exposed and we are part of a pack of powerful interests. We must learn again to work more from a norms and values based perspective and accept that friction and criticism is inevitable when we do that. We also have to think less about how we will be judged today or tomorrow and more about what history will have to say about what we managed to do and the positions we took.


And finally, those of us who are senior have to do better at trying to set an example, an example in conviction and persistence, and in terms of independence from member state interests and upholding the international norms when it many be perilous and difficult to do so. We need to try and set an example for younger, more junior staff rather than profiting from their idealism and commitment while not doing enough to nurture it. We have to do more to create a culture where staff feel safe and supported taking initiative and taking risks in pursuit of what the organization stands for.




I want to see you be “brave”: courage in and around the UN system

There’s a catchy new song from the popular singer Sara Bareilles that has hit the radios recently. Entitled “Brave”, the song goes into detail on the singer’s desire for the listener to “say what they want to say” and “be brave”.


As the lyrics go:


You can be amazing

You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug

You can be the outcast

Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love

or you can start speaking up


Catchy as the song may be, it does leave room for pondering on how inactive we may have been in certain situations in our lives, and makes us wonder how brave we have really been.


It also prompts us to ask if there is any relevance of bravery to the actions of those that work in and around the UN system? Recent criticism is that many are not taking risks for fear of being reprimanded or making an unpopular decision. But with the general scope of work involving the need to be purposeful in our roles, where is the courage to vocalize one’s passion?


It’s indeed normal for many to be afraid of failure, but given that the work of the United Nations is designed to have an impact on the 7 billion citizens that inhabit this plant, wouldn’t those who work in it be obliged to try and try again, in order to achieve the true potential of both their role and their work within the UN?


Nelson Mandela was famous for saying that it was through his greatest failures that he achieved his greatest strengths. But taking risks and preparing for failure takes courage and bravery – above all, it takes confidence and passion. Could this be lacking within the system?


In January and February, we will be exploring this topic and trying to understand how we can indeed be brave and take the initiative to rekindle passion and promote positive and purposeful change in and around the UN system





Equitable and meaningful collaborations

“Not everyone thinks like you because we’re not all the same”


It’s a quote that’s obvious when hearing it but to put it into use is another thing. How often do we take this quote into practice? Especially within our own line of work, how often do we consider using projects and methods used in one setting and adapt it to another, even though the settings are different but the problems are the same?


As the post-2015 agenda continues to be a focal point of discussion as we near the end of the MDG’s, it has been stressed continuously that developed countries will be included in the post-developmental plans along with under-developed regions in efforts to highlight the need for a global collaboration in ending common world issues. For years, the work of UN branches such as UNICEF, UNDP, and UNFPA have been focusing on under privileged world regions, but with these new discussions at hand, will there be a need for collaborations to be made in efforts to bring this work to developed regions as well?


Will the focus on global partnerships mean more equitable and meaningful collaboration on development goals among developed and developing countries? And amongadvantaged and disadvantaged groups at the national level?


All nations suffer from levels of health issues for example (i.e.: AIDS, maternal mortality, etc), despite the variations from country to country. Such as the case with child mortality – while 4 in 1,000 newborns die from preventable anomalies and diseases in Sweden, it’s 260 in 1,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa. With this, it’s clear to see that a united effort would be needed, as well as a partnership, in effort to change these outcomes in both countries to make a change regardless of the scale in each country.


One example of a united effort being done within a first world context is in Australia, where despite the development of the nation and its first world status, it suffers from inequality among its aboriginal population. From education to health services, these people have been driven to the remote states of Australia and have fewer opportunities presented to them to change their circumstances. One concern is the lack of ultrasound scanning being done by mid-wives in the aboriginal communities.A main cause is lack of education. Recently, the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG), a part of the Partnership for Maternal, Child, and Newborn Health division of WHO, have begun conducting workshops in basic ultrasound in OB/GYN training in these aboriginal regions. For the project, ISUOG partnered with ASUM (the Australian Society of Ultrasound in Medicine) who have previously worked in Papua New Guinea to provide humanitarian outreach, for the first time in a developed region.


The effort is to train these midwives so they can properly conduct scans and detect fetal anomalies so as to take preventive measures to increase the child’s chances for life upon birth. Before then, the aboriginal community had never been exposed to such technology, which led to the deaths of many babies – deaths caused by something that was easily treatable.


This one partnership is an example of how collaboration can be done to bring work even to developed regions and collaborate to achieve developmental goals – in this case, MDG goals number 4 and 5.


Will this be just an isolatedexample, or will the focus on global partnerships mean growth in more equitable and meaningful collaboration on development goals among developed and developing countries?


Back to work blues? Fresh ideas and possibilities with just a picture


The day back into the office post-vacation can always be a bit brutal with a swirl of thoughts flooding your head as you make your way through the familiar corridors and offices of your department. You sit back down at you desk, which feels familiar but at the same time completely alien to you. And for a second, as you try to log into your computer, you completely forget your password.


Such are the instances of returning to work after having spent four meticulous months away and catching up with all of life’s simple pleasures; friends, old hobbies, book, and the latest episode on from your favorite sitcom. But while you may be releasing a sigh of despair as you check back into reality, there are still endless possibilities that can be revealed on that first day back.


You could have finally gotten that email from the contact you been trying to reconnect with on a particular project.


You superior may have finally gotten back to you on the results of a long awaited decision item.


Or better yet, a whole new possibility for a new project; something that you can do for you.


Without a doubt, GVI’s Newsletter has greeted you as you are skimming through the incalculable number of emails that have blasted your inbox. But while most of the messages relate to past projects or inter-department communications, GVI’s Newsletter offers a fresh new start – and all through the Photo Contest.


Have you ever had a project that you wanted to get initiated but couldn’t get the funds? Or maybe the budget for one that you’ve been working on for a while now isn’t just enough to properly get it to the level you want it to be.


Well fear not – you’re off to a new start.


You began your career at or around the UN with purpose and a sense of will to make a change.


You believe that and so does GVI.


Take part in the Photo Contest and post a picture today that reflects your passion and purpose for why you are committed to working within or around the UN System, and you could win up to $1,000 to finance a project of yours that helps you fulfill that sense of purpose.


Submit your photos and viewers will cast their votes and rate their favorite picture against yours to reflect the passion of each submission in pursing their purpose within or around the UN system. The picture with the most votes will receive $1,000 to support a purpose-driven project and give inspiration to continue to succeed.

So why not? You’re back from vacation and with a new fresh mind, so with fresh ideas and fresh initiatives, anything is possible.


Relevant information:


You can sign up to enter the photo contest to show us what inspires you or how your project helps fulfill your purpose within the UN system and you can win $1,000 in support money to fund it. To participate in the Photo Contest, click here.

A little more: the difference that could help reach your goals

Just a little more.

It’s for that project that you’ve been working on. It’s taken you weeks of planning – maybe even months – and the proposal has been through all the major heads of department to review.
The problem is that they tell you it’s too ambitious, or maybe even too complex and too expensive? Perhaps if you only had that additional set of funds – $500 or $1,000 extra to support the work you’ve been wrapping your brain around for what seems like an eternity – it could be funded.


You believe in this project because you feel it defines everything you believe your role within the UN system has set you out to do. The project has given you that purpose; that drive and creativity which makes you feel like for once, you’re finally doing something right.


What if you received that help? What if that extra support could be given to you? What if you were told that all you had to do was take a photo and it’s yours?


You’re shaking your head; not so easily convinced, it seems? Well, it’s not as farfetched as it might look. Global Vision Institute believes in your project but wants you to show us that you do as well. Post a picture (or even a selfie) that describes your purpose for working in or around the UN and why you believe your project fulfills that goal for you – to potentially win $1,000 in support of your project.


A picture says a thousand words but will yours accurately describe the passion you have for this goal of yours?


Post your picture today and have viewers cast their votes and rate their favorite picture, to reflect thepassion of each submission to continue in pursing their purpose within or around the UN system. The picture with the most votes will receive $1,000 to support a purpose-driven project and give inspiration to continue to succeed.



Relevant information:


You can sign up to enter the photo contest to show us what inspires you or how your project helps fulfill your purpose within the UN system and you can win $1,000 in support money to fund it. To participate in the Photo Contest, click here.

Passion. Vision. Purpose – What’s your purpose?

Passion. Dreams. Vision.


At one point in our lives, we took a moment to stare at the stars and dream big. Maybe you were a child of ten with candied visions of what the future was for you or perhaps a recent college graduate with hopes and fears that stretched wide into the horizon. Either way, we dreamt with visions as wide as the very sky we stared at. We had hopes for the future and for possible change. Inside, there was a passion that burned to serve for purpose and serve for what was right.


It was for this reason that the many paths in our lives have brought us to commit ourselves to the work of the United Nations. Because we believed in what the organization valued and to promote a greater cause in the world in order to fulfill a united mission we believe in – a better world.


So what was that dream you had, so many moons ago, when it illuminated your desire to work within the UN? Does it still motivate you? Does it still give you purpose?


We want to see it.


With so much vision and passion, GVI, with its vision to empower actors within and around the UN to take values and turn them into behaviors, has taken the initiative to have you post what your purpose is for working within or around the organization -with the now up and running contest asking to know what inspires you.


A picture says a thousand words and we’re excited to see all the words that permeate in the photos that are submitted. Viewers will get to cast their votes and rate their favorite photo, to reflect the submitter’s passion to continue in pursing their purposewithin or around the UN system. The three winnerswill receive $1,000 each to support a purpose-driven project and give inspiration to continue to succeed.


So tell us – what inspires you? What makes you dream? Tell us your purpose.



Relevant information:


You can sign up to enter the photo contest to show us what inspires you and you can win $1,000 in support money to fund a project to reach your goal and inspire your dreams. To do so, click here.


GVI produces publications on substantive issues from a values perspective, and linked to current events on the UN agenda. GVI also solicits and hosts articles by UN system actors, so you can hear your own voice in the conversation.

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