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2021 UN Fellows (Madelyne Hamblett BA '21 and Brady Sanders CHEM '23)
2021 UN Fellows (Madelyne Hamblett BA '21 and Brady Sanders CHEM '23)

Reflections from ILSI's Inaugural UN Fellows

Brady Sanders, a third-year chemistry major, reflects on his experience with the UN-based Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict War and Armed Conflict, fellowship.

Part I

When selected as a UN Fellow through the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact to work with  Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW) at the end of May, I was very anxious at first, as I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I expected a lot of dialogue on subjects that I knew very little about, people talking too fast for me to understand – as New York has a reputation for being all hustle and bustle, and meetings consisting of solely legal or technical jargon that I would not know how to digest. 

For the first few days, I was lost and thought everyone was repeating each other. So much was going on with the High-Level Political Forum — my very first UN engagement — that it was hard to keep all of the countries and their agendas straight, especially for someone who has no prior experiences with these countries. However, once I began to look in on more meetings and learned about some of the counties’ histories, the subtleties made more sense, and I could then fully digest what the delegations were discussing. 

Of the meetings I attended, my favorite ones discussed climate change, hunger, and the crisis in Myanmar. While these topics are interesting to me in general, I feel like these were the best presentations: not only because of the material but because of the speakers themselves. They rallied their respective audiences by talking with us instead of to us. For the food security sessions, Mr. David Beasley was by far the most compelling speaker. He was able to rally the room behind what he said because of his level of enthusiasm which most other speakers did not seem to have. Another speaker I enjoyed was a diplomat from Colombia who talked about her experiences with the cartels there. She brought in very personal details and accounts of how her life changed due to the violence from the drug trade. By being vulnerable like that, she was able to form an emotional connection with people in the meeting, which made what she had to say so much more impactful. In my opinion, finding speakers like this is singlehandedly the most important thing the UN can do to garner support from people in the wider world. 

While there have been many things that I thought the UN did well, there are a few things I thought could have been improved upon. One of which is the UN’s stated goal for youth involvement. While the UN encourages youth involvement, they seem to talk more about this than acting on it. Sure, there were two days during my internship when youth leaders held meetings, but besides that, there was not much evidence of youth participation. Additionally, these meetings simply highlighted the work already done by young adults rather than a discussion with young adults about what they want to see done now, what they are eager to do now. So, to the UN, include more young adults in your discussions instead of just highlighting how we have been trying to change the world. This is our future at stake, so it would be proper if we had a more substantial influence on what happens to it going forward, the priorities that will shape the future. 

To close, I want to talk about one more concern I have witnessed from the meetings. Delegations are, to put it frankly, moving too slowly. While I understand treaties and resolutions take time to complete, action must occur rapidly when our future is at risk. Climate change won’t slow because delegations need time to talk about the wording of resolutions. Rising hunger rates won’t slow because delegations need time to talk about wording. Terrorist organizations won’t slow their advances because delegations need time to talk about wording. If we want our future to be peaceful and equitable for all, we must demand that delegations work more swiftly to actively and practically address looming crises. Because on matters such as climate change, we will soon pass a tipping point, and then no resolution will be able to stop what is now well in motion. 

Part II

At the conclusion of my experience as an ILSI UN Fellow with GAPW, Dr. Zuber asked me to construct a blog post answering these – seemingly – simple questions, “what should people in my professional circle know about the wider world and the people who inhabit it?  Why should they care about things beyond what their families and professions require them to know?”   On the surface, these seem like straightforward questions, with the answer being, without knowledge of what is going on in the world, one cannot attempt to make it a better place. However, upon delving deeper into this topic, its layers are revealed: specifically, why do individuals not know about global events? In this post, I plan to address not only what I think my peers and colleagues should know, but the overarching issues as to why they don’t know about these topics.

In my life, I have witnessed many people not knowing what is going on in the news, especially globally. Why is this the case? Many argue that people do not care – especially Americans – due to our stereotyped nationalism. However, I must disagree. I think people do care about what is happening, but they feel helpless. Many think that since they cannot do anything about the issue, they are better off just glossing over crises and not using their energy to understand those problems. The second, and the more alarming, reason is that there is so much sorrow in the news today that people have become desensitized to atrocities. The number of times I have heard people say, “I don’t listen to the news, it’s too sad,” is disheartening. This is a complex issue to tackle because the news has to get reported, particularly the sad news, so people can help stop these atrocities. But then when these difficult situations are covered, people say that it is too just too hard to process and stop watching. In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult bits of feedback to fix, and I will be honest, I genuinely have no idea how to break this cycle without a societal change that currently lies beyond my scope.  

Another question that people ask all the time is, “why should I care about something that is happening halfway around the world?” This is a completely valid question. Why should I, someone who lives in the middle of a privileged country, need to worry about what is happening in the middle of a more exploited country, as it has no direct effect on me? For one, if human rights are violated anywhere, it is something everyone should care about. Secondly, while these global events may not seem impactful to you now, they one day will be. For example, people living in Europe should care about the United States and our environmental laws, or honestly, our lack of environmental laws. Why is this? The impact of our emissions is not localized to where we live. Our CO2 levels will impact the global CO2 levels and increase the rate and severity of global warming’s consequences for everyone. 

Another may ask, “why should I worry about conflicts if they don’t affect me?” Well, they do. The money spent by governments to pursue and address these conflicts is almost unimaginable; if such conflicts could be rooted out, this money could go towards more human security priorities and lead to a better world for us all. This money could feed the 820 million people around the world who are food insecure. This money could help provide drinking water to the 2.2 billion people who need access to safe, potable water. This money could help the 82.4 million forcibly displaced persons during 2020 alone start a new life. It seems evident that the money spent on conducting these conflicts could be used in much better ways, but the only way to solve conflicts peacefully is through diplomacy, and for this to work, we need to make sure the whole world knows what is going on.

This starts with you. And with me. Watch the news. Find and read a newspaper focused on global affairs because the news we consume in the US is often missing a wider, global picture. But more importantly, find ways to get involved. While your efforts may seem fruitless at times, don’t get discouraged; any help, any start, any means is better than inaction and indifference.

At the conclusion of my summer internship with GAPW, Dr. Zuber asked me to construct a blog post answering these – seemingly – simple questions, “what should people in my professional circle know about the wider world and the people who inhabit it?  Why should they care about things beyond what their families and professions require them to know?”   On the surface, these seem like straightforward questions, with the answer being, without knowledge of what is going on in the world, one cannot attempt to make it a better place. However, upon delving deeper into this topic, its layers are revealed: specifically, why do individuals not know about global events? In this post, I plan to address not only what I think my peers and colleagues should know, but the overarching issues as to why they don’t know about these topics.

In my life, I have witnessed many people not knowing what is going on in the news, especially globally. Why is this the case? Many argue that people do not care – especially Americans – due to our stereotyped nationalism. However, I must disagree. I think people do care about what is happening, but they feel helpless. Many think that since they cannot do anything about the issue, they are better off just glossing over crises and not using their energy to understand those problems. The second, and the more alarming, reason is that there is so much sorrow in the news today that people have become desensitized to atrocities. The number of times I have heard people say, “I don’t listen to the news, it’s too sad,” is disheartening. This is a complex issue to tackle because the news has to get reported, particularly the sad news, so people can help stop these atrocities. But then when these difficult situations are covered, people say that it is too just too hard to process and stop watching. In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult bits of feedback to fix, and I will be honest, I genuinely have no idea how to break this cycle without a societal change that currently lies beyond my scope.  

Another question that people ask all the time is, “why should I care about something that is happening halfway around the world?” This is a completely valid question. Why should I, someone who lives in the middle of a privileged country, need to worry about what is happening in the middle of a more exploited country, as it has no direct effect on me? For one, if human rights are violated anywhere, it is something everyone should care about. Secondly, while these global events may not seem impactful to you now, they one day will be. For example, people living in Europe should care about the United States and our environmental laws, or honestly, our lack of environmental laws. Why is this? The impact of our emissions is not localized to where we live. Our CO2 levels will impact the global CO2 levels and increase the rate and severity of global warming’s consequences for everyone. 

Another may ask, “why should I worry about conflicts if they don’t affect me?” Well, they do. The money spent by governments to pursue and address these conflicts is almost unimaginable; if such conflicts could be rooted out, this money could go towards more human security priorities and lead to a better world for us all. This money could feed the 820 million people around the world who are food insecure. This money could help provide drinking water to the 2.2 billion people who need access to safe, potable water. This money could help the 82.4 million forcibly displaced persons during 2020 alone start a new life. It seems evident that the money spent on conducting these conflicts could be used in much better ways, but the only way to solve conflicts peacefully is through diplomacy, and for this to work, we need to make sure the whole world knows what is going on.

This starts with you. And with me. Watch the news. Find and read a newspaper focused on global affairs because the news we consume in the US is often missing a wider, global picture. But more importantly, find ways to get involved. While your efforts may seem fruitless at times, don’t get discouraged; any help, any start, any means is better than inaction and indifference.

The Institute for Leadership and Social Impact is an interdisciplinary institute that promotes servant leadership and organizational practices that contribute to a more just, caring, and equitable world. Learn more about our work!

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Nicole Little
Assistant Director of Operations