Sam Lichtenstein

UNA-USA Youth Leader


sam-lichtenstein-3501. Why is the United Nations important to the world?

Simply put, the United Nations is the only organization in the world where each and every nation has a voice. The importance of that fact cannot be overstated. On the ground in many countries, the United Nations is the only international organization that is capable of nourishing the sick, feeding the country, and protecting the vulnerable. Hundreds of millions of people a day rely on the UN for these lifesaving services. However, the UN is more than the sum of these admirable activities. It is a place where all the countries of the world can unite behind a common position and pool their limited resources to affect greater change. It is the international organization all countries look to for leadership, and the place where we return to diplomacy when we are fearful we are headed down the trajectory of war. Behind the scenes and on the front lines, the United Nations is an indispensable organization.

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

As an incoming graduate student of international security, I find no shortages of ways the United Nations plays a role in my daily work. The UN is the only truly impartial organization on the planet, a fact that allows its employees to affect change in the most dangerous and fragile of places. Those who work for the UN (especially the "blue helmet" peacekeepers) are often the only separation between millions of citizens and violent conflict. The United Nations leads the charge for global leadership on preventing war and is the organization countries seek to use to diffuse violence. Without the United Nations, we would all be living in a much more dangerous and scary world.

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

Americans might not realize it, but the UN is at the heart of our daily lives. From the coordination of international flights to the standardization of technology, the UN is highly influential in our everyday lives. Beyond these more mundane things, however, Americans should care about the United Nations because its work is fundamentally in the American interest. Ensuring the free flow of international trade, promoting democracy, and creating a global arena bound by rules are three of many UN goals that are also American policy objectives. Despite what Americans might hear from extreme news organizations, the UN and the U.S. are far more likely to be in agreement that not.

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

In my opinion, I believe the creation of the Millennium Development Goals has been the UN's best moment. The MDGs represent the best of the United Nations: hope, optimism, and a fierce belief in collective action. The creation of the MDGs were a bold statement that the world can and will do better to help those most in need. The MDGs are a proverbial declaration of war against the biggest development challenges we face as a global community. I am convinced that the success of the MDGs is crucial to creating a more equal and stable planet. I am proud of the work that has been done and I am excited to see what will be accomplished in the next year and a half.

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

Contrary to what many others may say, I firmly believe the most exciting opportunity for the UN in the 21st century is the possibility of helping to end violent conflict. War is increasingly spreading across borders; it is rare that conflict stays within one country and affects no others. As the world becomes more interconnected, so do its problems. I believe world leaders will increasingly rely on the UN to tackle the most complex violent challenges that often stretch across borders. It is no longer possible for one country to take the lead in responding to war. Rather, it will take the collective effort of international diplomacy facilitated by the United Nations to end this century's toughest violent challenges.

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

Without question, Global Classrooms is the most effective part of UNA-USA. The Global Classrooms program, which brings Model UN simulations to thousands of students across the globe, provides a window of opportunity for many public school students. Global Classrooms pushes students to think critically and internationally, two skills that will be necessary for all who hope to achieve success in the 21st century. From my years working with Global Classrooms, I have witnessed firsthand the effect Global Classrooms has on students. It gives hope, opportunity, and the ability to see the inner-workings of international diplomacy to those who would likely never otherwise have the ability to enjoy these things.

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