Saturday, 5 April 2014

Wellington's Special Guest: United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane!

Wow, apparently this is my fiftieth blog post! That's cool, since when I started out blogging late last year I didn't know whether or not I'd have enough time or motivation to keep it up. As for the time, well I dunno, it always seems to be that I blog the most when I have the most going on (aka procrastablogging - more to think about and reflect on presumably!) but the motivation, if ever it lags, returns when a friend tells me that he or she enjoyed a particular article and looks forward to reading more. So please, do continue giving me feedback (negative as well as positive!) and let me know if there is a blog I should be following - I try to reciprocate by following friends' blogs and will oblige with my own words of encouragement!

Angela Kane arriving in Damascus to negotiate the destruction of chemical weapons.

Now to the exciting news at hand. On Monday, Wellington will welcome a distinguished guest by the name of Angela Kane to our city. (So let's hope this beautiful weather keeps up for her!) Angela is the UN High Representative of Disarmament Affairs and she's in New Zealand for about a week, giving six speeches at locations in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. She will be speaking to a group of Vic students on Monday afternoon and then at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs' foreign policy lecture on Monday evening. Angela's CV is scarily impressive - she has worked at the United Nations for the last three decades in a whole range of positions on just about every continent. There's no way I can hope to cover her every achievement, (don't forget this is a lady who was appointed to her current position by none other than Ban Ki-Moon!) but to give you an idea of Angela's capabilities, here are a few of her past projects...

Hopefully Angela will talk about the Arms Trade Treaty in her Wellington speech.

Angela has worked on the ground in Thailand, Eritrea, Ethopia, Indonesia, El-Salvador and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has worked as the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, a role in which her responsibilities extended over all the world's regions apart from Africa (just a modest portfolio...) She was at the forefront of negotiations for the destruction of Syria's stockpiles of chemical weapons. She oversaw the negotiations for the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty and helped organise the modernisation of the UN Head Quarters in New York. In her current role, she is tasked with providing Ban Ki-Moon with advice and support on arms control, non-proliferation and security. (If ever we fear we're shouldering too much responsibility with our study / family commitments, we just need to take a step back and put ourself in the unenviable position of somelike like Angela on a particularly stressful day!)

Angela responding to student questions - an inspiring watch, especially for women.

So of course I wanted to learn more about Angela's own life to better understand the person behind the distinguished titles. I'll try to give a little sketch of the woman who is Angela Kane. Angela grew up in a small town in Germany. Her mother, who, like all of the women of the town, never had the opportunity to work, put a great value on study and encouraged Angela to get the best possible education. Angela went to school and then university in Germany, but soon moved to a Swiss university due to the heated German student culture at the time. She excelled at university and won a scholarship to study international relations at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in the States. From there, her first big job was working for the World Bank, before she began work at the United Nations, the organisation to which she has devoted her life.

UN Head Quarters in New York - Angela's workplace.

As you can well imagine, Angela leads an intellectually and physically demanding lifestyle. Her days are jam-packed with meetings, speaking engagements, skype interviews and receptions. It's a lifestyle more than a job; she works from early in the morning until late at night, but she is happy to do what she loves and to work for an organisation she believes in. Angela extols the virtues of creativity and co-operating to find solutions to problems. In her experience, there is something to be learnt from every job we undertake and we can contribute to that job through innovative thinking. Angela doesn't like working with "people who shoot down ideas" and much prefers it when colleagues appreciate problems but attempt to find solutions. She is also a believer in perserverance and takes to heart the saying, when life serves you lemons, make lemonade. She acknowledges we will all face many challenges in life, but in her view the best thing to do is to work through these intelligently and to remember that all setbacks are only temporary.

Making a statement for the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Angela Kane is optimistic about the possibilities for disarmament today - as I'm sure she'll expand on in her speech in Wellington. When she was appointed as High Representative for Disarmament in 2012 (so not all that long ago), she said of disarmament:

I believe that progress is possible and it has to be possible. The price of failure is too high and the benefits of success are absolutely clear.

She has also previously remarked (and I paraphrase):

Peace makes us human: it makes us prosperous and secure. Reaching the goal is still elusive, but peace must have a much greater priority in world affairs. It must be taught in schools, promoted through the world's religions and through public institutions for peace.

It's wonderful that Angela is speaking in New Zealand and I know there are a great number of people who are really looking forward to her address. It will be interesting to hear Angela's opinions on nuclear disarmament, the recent Nuclear Security Summit, the Arms Trade Treaty and the chemical weapons situation in Syria. After Angela's visit I will definitely blog about her speaking events, but for now here are some links if you're interested to learn more. ¡Hasta luego!

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs - to update yourself on disarmament issues
UN News Centre Interview with Angela - more about past successes and future hopes
Example of Angela's Blog - yes, she's a blogger too! Here Angela proves that NRA supporters and others in the US totally misinterpreted the Arms Trade Treaty in claiming this would restrict their rights to possess guns. (Which of course it is nonsense...)

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