Nov. 14, 2013

Students' NYC visit marks 10th annual U.N. trip

UN official
Harutyun Gevorgyan
Students and staff visit the United Nations headquarters in New York City Nov. 1.
Harutyun Gevorgyan
Harutyun Gevorgyan
Harutyun Gevorgyan tours the U.N. building.

On Nov. 1, 74 Cornell students, scholars and staff took a four-hour bus ride to New York City and entered international territory: the headquarters of the United Nations. This year marked the 10th consecutive year that Professor N’Dri Assie-Lumumba organized the one-day eduational trip to the United Nations.

“As a faculty in residence of the Gothics (2000-06), I designed a program called ‘Campus Life Abroad and at Home’ that organized events reflecting the international nature of the university,” recalled Assie-Lumumba, professor of Africana studies and the Frank Scruggs Faculty Fellow in Ujamaa. As part of this residence hall program, the trip to the U.N. was first organized in 2004.

Each year, students get a short, guided tour of the U.N. headquarters and then attend a panel discussion. “Every year, the students choose topics for the panel,” said Assie-Lumumba. “Once the students have brainstormed, I receive a long list of topics they are interested in. I shortlist the topics, send it to the United Nations and request a panel of speakers for those topics.”

This year, the topics were climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, human rights and career opportunities at the U.N.

“As 2015 [approaches], the target date for the Millennium Goals approaches, the United Nations must re-evaluate its objectives. Countries must convene and try to figure out what the goals will look like after 2015,” said panelist Marc-André Dorel, a senior economic affairs officer of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council. “There will be more ambitious, new development plans and objectives tailored to specific regions.”

“What happens after 2015 will have sustainability at its core,” added panelist Beppe Lovoi from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “To achieve sustainable development, we will need different plans in different countries. Each nation is at a different stage of development. Then how do we set a common objective when every country has its own goals?” he said.

Panelist James Turpin, human rights officer at the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained the process using cartoon strips of Calvin and Hobbes. “The decision making process requires a lot of bargaining and tradeoffs. Despite conflicting views, at the end of diplomatic negotiation, the decisions are in accordance with the three main pillars of the U.N. and more or less satisfy everybody,” he said.

Harutyun Gevorgyan, a Humphrey fellow at Cornell on the trip, said that he hopes to improve rural women’s rights in his home country, Armenia. “After the panel discussion and information about opportunities at the U.N., I know where to start,” he said.

“I enjoyed visiting the U.N. headquarters. I also learned what will be expected of my application for an internship at the U.N.,” added David Ndereba ’17.

Sponsors of this year’s trip include the College of Arts and Sciences, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the International Students and Scholars Office, the Office of Academic and Diversity Initiatives, North Campus Faculty Programs, Vice President Susan Murphy, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Hasbrouck Community Center, the Language House on West Campus, the Student Supplemental Funding Board, the Latino Living Center, Ujamaa Residential College, Engaged Learning + Research, and the Humphrey Fellows Program.

Sushmitha Krishnamoorthy ’17 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.