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An introduction to the UN

As you all know, MUN stands for Model United Nations. Since we are simulating UN conferences, it is of the utmost importance that we understand how the UN operates. Sure, we’ve all heard of the General Assembly or the Security Council at some point, but what else is there and what is it like to work for the UN?

At the beginning of the semester (when in-person classes were still possible), we had the honor of welcoming Laura Schweizer to speak about the organizational structure of the UN and her experience with working for the UN. Laura Schweizer is the head of the Section for the UN General Assembly, ECOSOC and Human Rights Council at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Among other things, she was a member of the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly of the 65th and 72nd sessions, held a position at Switzerland’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, and served as a Human Rights Officer for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal.

The first part consisted of a general introduction to the UN. Laura Schweizer broke the complex system of the UN down for us by explaining the works of the different UN organs. She illustrated this presentation with several pictures that she took herself. From pictures from the New York headquarters to Doris Leuthard and Donald Trump during a high-level meeting, we got a great impression of her time there. Naturally, the students were eager to learn more about her work. I’m sure many of us were wondering what it would be like to stand in these historic rooms and watch world leaders discuss politics.

This leads us to the second part of the presentation, where she talked about her personal experience working for the UN. Reflecting on her time in New York, she mentioned how the hard work paid off because she was able to assist in many rather extraordinary meetings (this point was emphasized with a picture of her standing next to Ban Ki-moon) and how invaluable it was to talk to people from other countries and ask them questions. The students were particularly interested in her work as a Human Rights Officer in Nepal. Some asked if it was dangerous and what her work entailed to improve the human rights situation. We learned that it was her job to report and analyze the human rights situation and that the Human Rights Officers were there as “the eyes of the world” and to support and advise the government on human rights issues. Just being there can help to soothe tensions.

We thank Laura Schweizer for the insightful presentation and for answering all our UN and career related questions!

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