Karen Woodin-Rodriguez

UNA-USA Youth Leader

Leo Nevas Human Rights Youth Advocate Awardee 2011

Karen_Woodin-Rodriguez_2751. Why is the United Nations important to the world?

There is no other forum in the world where all nations can come together in a neutral platform, as equals. to discuss how to solve the world’s most pressing problems. To me, that’s the unique value that the United Nations provides.

2. How do the UN and its work affect your work or life?

The UN works to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Through my work at Mahindra, one of India’s fastest-growing industrial houses, I work with entrepreneurs, innovators, and change-agents from across India to solve the country’s largest problems. One of the main reasons I am pursuing this work is because I was exposed to the work of the UN as a teenager, and to how important it is to address issues such as global health, poverty, and human rights. The UN’s work has impacted my career-path, and it directly impacts the work of the grassroots entrepreneurs, innovators, and change-makers I work with on a daily basis.

3. Why should Americans care about the UN’s work?

In the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “as the world’s only truly universal institution, the United Nations offers the best—if not the only—forum to galvanize global action to meet the challenges ahead.” This is true of peace-building, human rights, public health, ending poverty, and any and every major challenge the world faces today. As a global leader, it is important that both Americans and the United States demonstrate interest and leadership in the work that so deeply affects them and the rest of the world. 

4. In your opinion, what has been the UN’s best moment to date?

The creation of the World Health Organization, and the millions of lives that have been saved as a consequence of WHO’s work. Through the WHO, the UN vaccinates 58% of the world’s children, effectively saving 2.5 million lives a year; it also promotes maternal health, which saves the lives of 30 million women a year—that’s impact. It is global initiatives such as these which remind me of the importance of the UN, and the importance of scaling its efforts and impact.

5. What do you think is the most exciting opportunity for the UN going forward?

I think the UN has a brilliant opportunity to engage with the youth from across the world that care about the causes supported by the UN, but have no sense of how to contribute to them, and how to support their countries. Every year, hundreds of thousands of students participate in Model UN Conferences, working to solve the world’s biggest problems. Many times, the students’ involvement with the UN ends after the simulation is over—this represents an exciting opportunity for the UN and conference organizers to find ways to bring youth into the core of the UN’s work.

6. What is the most effective element of UNA-USA’s work?

I am a big fan of Global Classrooms because it exposes students, teenagers, and young adults to the issues that the UN is addressing through deep, experiential learning—by simulating the UN and asking students to take on the role of global leaders. Global Classrooms Model UN Conferences are what got me started in the path of international relations, development and cooperation, and I know that they are what have gotten others like me started in a similar path. There’s no better way to learn than by doing, and with Global Classrooms, students are encouraged to Learn. Live. Lead.
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