On 5-7 November 2014, students and members of UNYA went on a Study Trip to the UN office in Geneva to gain an in-depth and first-hand perspective of the functions and processes of the UN. Read below a personal account by Kamilla Falsted Dihle of the whole experience.
Text by Kamilla Falsted Dihle
On the 5th of November, an early rainy morning in Geneva, a huge building manifests itself behind the line of flags representing the countries that have all together decided to become permanent members of the UN (United Nations). We are a group of 15 with different backgrounds, but with one thing in common; the wish to get a better insight to the structures of the massive building, also called Palais des Nations and its work around the globe. Maybe even one day to become a part of the huge apparatus, which this building represents.
We started out our trip by being introduced to the UPR (Universal Periodic Review) process, a process created by the UN General Assembly on the 16 of March 2006. A process that shall help make the Human Rights more tangible, in other words to make it possible to review states and their efforts with respect to Human Rights.
Thereafter, we moved to the Danish ambassador Carsten Staur, who enlightened us about the Danish UN Mission, and its main areas i.e. Human Rights, Humanitarian work, health and Economics/trade. Within the humanitarian field OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) plays a crucial role, when it comes to natural or manmade disasters. In this regard Jens Lærke (spokesperson) was kind enough to showcase the framework and goals of OCHA. During our stay we got to learn that Civil Society and NGOs play a bigger role in the UN than ever before. On that note, Aziel P. Goulandris (Education Officer) introduced WFUNA (World Federation of United Nations Associations) a nonprofit organization, that works to strengthen and improve the work of UN.
Furthermore, we got to learn about the Human Rights Treaty Body System through Kevin L. Koh (Human Rights Officer) and the efforts that are being made to make sure that human rights are being implemented and kept updated within the treaty bodies. Christian Friis Bach (UN Economic Commission for Europe) informed us of the role the UN plays in setting standards for technical, as well as environmental purposes and in order to get a better understanding of the Security Council and its construction, as well as the UN office in Geneva, Michael Møller (Director-General) provided us with valuable information.
Through a meeting with Sara Gottfredsen (the Associate Protection Officer) of UNHCR and an employee of IOM (International Organization of Migration) we were provided with an insight about UNs role out in the field. Due to our geographical position with respect to Red Cross, we were privileged to talk to Kimmo Laine (Project Manager of International Committee of the Red Cross) and learned about their roles and duties with regards to humanitarian affairs.
On the 7th of November, the sun shed its light that revealed the remarkable nature surrounding Palais des Nations, of which made it a perfect day to say goodbye to the premises that taught us so much. Overall the trip had given us an understanding of the UN on different levels and how they supplement each other.
Although we became enlightened, the complexity of what the building represents leaves a number of questions behind. Enlightenment is a process and the success of the building and its actions can only stand strong as long as people keep informing and engaging themselves in matters that have an impact on all of us. Let me round up by referring to Christian Friis Bach: “UN is the seatbelt you wear when you are driving and the road signs that gives you direction when you are lost…” Therefore I strongly believe that it should be in everyone’s interest to educate themselves about the UN, potentially influencing the institution that affects everyday lives world wide.