Technically, I am a domestic CGH scholar. But every day, I leave the United States to go to work. As a United Nations intern, I work in the UN Secretariat located in New York — located on grounds controlled by international sovereignty, not the United States. As US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power has said, “The best part of working for the UN is working in a place where the world is present.” Based on my experience researching effective digital advocacy to advance humanitarian responses at the United Nations, I would agree with Samantha Power in saying that the best part of my research has been soliciting perspectives from people with diverse backgrounds, nationalities, and experiences working in the field.
I work in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on advocacy campaigns for current humanitarian crises, including responses in Syria, the Lake Chad Basin, Yemen, Ecuador, and Iraq. I am on the digital campaigns team and our objective is simple: raise awareness for existing crises to encourage global publics to call upon their world leaders and demand action. This position has been an interesting vantage point for me to assess the efficacy of current UN initiatives to raise awareness for existing needs in humanitarian responses. I have analyzed my research question from a variety of different lenses: first from the perspective of OCHA’s Secretariat offices, second from the perspective of US diplomats while shadowing Ambassador Power, and finally from the perspective of professional advertising agencies working with the UN to craft effective advocacy campaigns. One of my biggest takeaways is that while collaboration is encouraged, disconnect is inherent in a global workplace — field offices, member state mission offices (such as the US mission to the UN), and advertising agencies remain separate from the Secretariat. Putting people affected by humanitarian crisis at the heart of all advocacy is at the center of OCHA’s efforts, but the stories of people caught in conflict or disaster can often feel degrees removed not only from headquarters, but from partner organizations such as advertising firms (not well-versed in humanitarian policy) working with OCHA. Building bridges across this empathy gap to produce the most ethical advocacy materials is one of the biggest challenges facing the United Nations currently, and I am excited to be able to research and contribute meaningful recommendations to address this problem. I am thankful to the Center for Global Health for supporting this inquiry and for working to establish ongoing partnerships to further work with the United Naitons in the future!