Former UN figure speaks at UCLA
October 31, 2007, The Daily Bruin

By: David Olmen (Contact)

The former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Gillian Sorensen gave career advice for aspiring diplomats and discussed the United States’ relationship with the United Nations in a speech to students on Tuesday.

Hosted by the UCLA chapter of Model United Nations and the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, Sorensen’s presentation drew about 100 people and was advertised as a talk about “recent developments and careers at the United Nations.”

“I was hoping for a more career-oriented speech,” said alumna Leah Hermens.

“It was an interesting presentation – really basic though,” she said.

Hermens said she is planning on going into the Peace Corps and then applying for a position with the U.N. afterward, a strategy that Sorensen recommends.

Sorensen added that competitive applicants need to have unique resumes and experience in non-goverment organizations such as World Wildlife Federation, Amnesty International and the Peace Corps are impressive.

The U.N. currently employs 14,000 people and receives 1 million applications annually.

“There are openings coming, and your timing is pretty good,” Sorensen said.

She suggested interested applicants work on being multilingual.

“In the meantime, polish your languages,” she said.

The U.N. currently has 150 graduate-level job openings, creating high levels of competition for occupational opportunities, especially among Americans.

It is hard for Americans to get a job in the U.N. because of the large number of applicants from the U.S., Sorensen said.

The U.N. tries to balance the nationalities of its workers from 193 member countries.

While many Americans express interest in working for the U.N., government officials fail to share the same enthusiasm, Sorensen said.

The U.S. has failed to pay $1 billion in U.N. peacekeeping dues, according to the U.N. Foundation, and failed to support international laws that it has helped create and has not honored the Geneva Convention, she said.

President Bush denied allegations that the U.S. tortures prisoners.

“This government does not torture people,” Bush said earlier this month during a press conference. “We stick to U.S. law and our international obligations.”

Other countries are unconvinced by President Bush’s statements, Sorensen said.

Other nations see the U.S. as “the colossus, the juggernaut,” she said. “Self-serving, self-indulgent, a diminished nation whose abilities to lead and inspire have been squandered.”

This is damaging to the U.S. if it wants to resume its role as a leader in the U.N., said Parsa Sobhani, Model U.N. secretary-general.

“It is really important to consider that, until the U.S. has respect for the U.N., we won’t be considered a viable member,” he said.