Rashida Haveliwala

UNA-USA Youth Leader

Rashida_Haveliwala1. Why is the United Nations important to the world?

I think it’s important to have an international body to circumvent war. War is a very real reality and there needs to be an intergovernmental body that can negotiate and be a common voice for peace. From humanitarian efforts to climate change, there are so many issues they cover, and the UN does a great deal on an average day, but not a lot of people notice. It is amazing that such an organization can do so much.

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

I am a history teacher in high school. I feel international cooperation it is one of the most vital things to teach. Students and youth in this society don’t understand the vitality of global connections and activity. They should understand the value of this collaboration, so I teach about it. I’m a product of the program that studies the UN (Model UN). I was a student in Chicago, and it was my 9th grade teacher who asked if we wanted to do Model UN for extra credit. Then I got involved and found out it’s so much bigger and that this world is a lot bigger. These realizations are extremely vital for students to understand. Teachers need to understand and recognize they have a responsibility to make these connections, because our world is rapidly getting smaller and we’re all more dependent on each other than ever before.

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

Americans should care about the UN’s work because we don’t’ live in a world by ourselves. Today we depend more and more on other countries and it’s a more complex world than it was 50 years ago. We used to be a lone superpower, but now we’re depending more on our international connections, and if society doesn’t understand the importance of these connections, it’s an issue. There’s so much misconstrued information out there when it comes to the amount of money the U.S. spends on the UN; it’s very, very little. Without understanding, it becomes about selfish needs and wants and not about what the UN actually does. Society needs to know how dependent we are on our international connections. If we fail to comprehend that, we won’t progress as a global society. 

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

I have two moments. The first is passing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It spoke to and opened the door to an a whole new avenue that the UN likely didn’t originally intend, but it became vitally important as the institution continued to grow; so much of what the UN does is based off that document.

The second moment would be the announcement of the Millennium Development Goals. Through the MDGs, we renewed the belief that we want to be more helpful in global society.  I also think smallpox eradication that was a an incredibly significant achievement. 

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

The power of the people is stronger right now more than ever. There are so many more individual voices being recorded in the UN and so many new perspectives being shared in a way that brings about a lot of change and I think that’s really exciting. Also, the younger generation is getting more and more involved.

Civil society is also a point of excitement for the UN. NGOs are the arms and legs of the UN to implement a lot of the goals. They represent the people’s voice, and the people’s voice is a strong thing.

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

I think reaching the kids is most important. UNA-USA educates the populace about the UN’s work. The organization is an advocate for the UN, and publicizes and educates the American public about the UN’s work.

I also would mention the effectiveness of Model UN. Would I have known about the UN had my 9th Grade teacher not offered that extra credit? Probably not. Model UN is the key to future continuity within UNA-USA. These Model UN students will eventually pick up where UNA-USA’s celebrated past membership left off. 

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