What does it take to be a United Nations worker in some of the world’s most difficult and dangerous locations? How are health workers, humanitarians and peacekeepers racing to protect the most vulnerable populations from the threat of the COVID-19 virus? Stationed in remote locations and far from family, how are they coping themselves? To find out, Melissa Fleming, UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, meets them.
Here you will discover extraordinary personal stories from people who devote their lives to helping others.
Leading in Tragic Times - Deborah Lyons - UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Deborah Lyons knows how to keep a cool head in a crisis. In August 2021, when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, Deborah, in her former role as Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), was responsible for ensuring the safety of staff across the country, among them many women.
“I don't think anyone expected the chaos, the sadness, the carnage, the enormous shock of what happened in August.”
Since returning to power, the Taliban have severely curtailed women’s rights. Millions of women and girls are now excluded from work and school, contrary to initial assurances from Afghanistan’s new leaders. In this episode, Deborah Lyons reflects on the tragedy facing Afghan women, the trauma of the Taliban takeover, and what it takes to lead in turbulent times.
“I would have drivers say to me, ma'am, please help me. Tell me what to say to my daughter. She can't go to school. She cries every day.”
Life After Islamic State - Bitesize special - Adiba Qasim - Yazidi refugee and humanitarian
Adiba Qasim has shown extraordinary courage and resilience. She narrowly escaped when her village was stormed by Islamic State militants who killed and enslaved thousands of Yazidis. This is her story.
“We were surrounded by the Islamic State. And we had no weapons even to fight. We had nothing. We were left alone.”
Returning to northern Iraq in 2015, Adiba threw herself into humanitarian work, aiding survivors who had been enslaved by the militants. In this special bitesize episode she reflects on the horrors she witnessed, on battling survivors’ guilt, and on her motivation to help others.
Knowing the Pain of the Displaced - Ugochi Daniels - IOM
Ugochi Daniels was just six years old when her family fled the civil war in Nigeria. Now the International Organization for Migration’s Deputy Director General for Operations, she is often struck by the pain of uprooted children, most recently those escaping from Ukraine.
“I noticed this woman with a 10-year-old boy. He never looked up, his eyes were down, and he never blinked. And I just kept on thinking, what has this boy seen on his journey here?”
Women and children are particularly vulnerable when they have left their home – no matter for what reason. Across the world, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. In this episode, Ugochi Daniels reflects on efforts to meet the needs of people on the move, and on a life dedicated to the service of others.
It Wasn't My Day To Die - Bitesize Special - Giles Duley
Giles Duley used to live the rock’n’roll life of a fashion photographer, but now travels the world’s war zones documenting the lives of those caught up in conflict. He stepped on a landmine while working in Afghanistan and lost three of his limbs, and very nearly his life. This is his story.
“It was a miracle I survived that day. I was just lucky, it just wasn’t my day to go.”
Incredibly fortunate to be alive, few of Giles’ family and friends believed that he would work again after the accident. But he knew otherwise. Photographing Syrian refugees for UNHCR on the Greek islands, he found his way back into life and work. In this special bitesize episode, Giles Duley reflects on his drive to help others, tell life-changing stories, and on finding the strength to return from rock bottom.
A Life-long Quest for Justice - Serge Brammertz
Serge Brammertz is one of the world's leading international prosecutors. As Chief Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, he leads the process of tracking down fugitive criminals from wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the genocide in Rwanda.
“Every single person indicted is exactly the opposite of a hero. And the only heroes in fact are the survivors and victims.”
Decades on from the brutal Balkan wars of the 1990s, genocide denial and glorification of war criminals remain rife in the region. In this episode, Serge Brammertz reflects on his life-long quest to bring war criminals to justice, on working with the survivors of genocide, and what he has learned about the human condition.
Believe in the Power of Change - Rebeca Grynspan
Despite monitoring multiple global crises, Rebeca Grynspan has never lost her faith in the power of change. As Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), she is assessing the impact of the war in Ukraine on cash-strapped countries still reeling from the pandemic.
“We don't have to be naive, but we have to believe in change, because change has happened. And we can make it happen again.”
A trio of crises – climate change, COVID-19, and the war in Ukraine – are setting global development by decades, with vulnerable countries worst affected by global food and energy shortages. In this episode, Rebeca Grynspan reflects on these setbacks, their disproportionate impact on women, and why the world can never give up on the promise of development.
Inspiring and Enlightening
Melissa I just came across to this podcast few months ago, and I can’t tell enough how inspiring it is!
Learning about how it really is like to be a UN worker, serving in field missions as peacekeepers, aid workers, medical practitioners and ... has greatly and of course in a positive way changed my opinion about the UN which is frequently blamed for not being helpful enough!
Listening to the stories of these UN workers, who literally many times put their own lives, comfort, families and health at the greatest risks, I now know the UN is doing as much as possible to make it easier for many people in poverty, war-torn countries, disease-stricken areas and ... live a better life, though there’s still much to do!
and just to put an end to this long comment 😁, I just want to mention one of my favorite episodes, the interview with Agnes Kalibata.
This quote by Agnes from that episode has since stuck with me: “We don't have a plan B. We only have one plan. Our planet can take care of itself. It will eject us and move on. But is that where we want to be?”
While governments & big corporations are talking about building cities on other planets in the future and stuff, she simply drags our attention to the present reality!
Thanks for sharing these inspiring stories with us!
I listen to this before I sleep...
And I lie awake as well, in awe and inspired by the stories shared on this podcast. Thank you for bringing this unique podcast to the airwaves, it’s really important and humbling to hear the work of the people of the UN.
Not the whole truth
There is a block known as Block 13 in Kakuma Kenya where they aren't being taken care of and they aren't safe. Block 13 is full of LGBTQ+ refugees that came to that camp for safety from their country of Uganda. But how can they be safe in a refugee camp where all the other refugees and workers are homophobes who don't care about the lives of the LGBTQ+ Ugandan refugees. With the terrible things they do to these innocent souls I am surprised they are able to sleep well at night. The people who work for UNHCR needs better workers who listen to the NEEDS of everyone instead of the workers' homophobic ways.