“Trust young people, they are more than meets the eye”

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

Trust people more, especially young people. The more faith I’ve put in people to bear responsibility, the more impressed I’ve become. When you work with youth projects, almost all of your promotion has to run through this disaggregated network of volunteers, universities and online communities. These people, without any real incentives except that they are excited about our projects, have stepped up in impressive ways. We’ve gotten really explosive results based on little except asking for help from our friends. No one can tell me that people my age are apathetic or lazy. I’ve seen proof to the contrary.”

“Countries have gone to war because they’ve misinterpreted one another“(The Interpreter, 2005)

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li
How is it like being an interpreter?
“Interpreting is a demanding job; it requires total concentration. According to a study, it is one of the three most stressful jobs, together with surgeons and fighter-jet pilots. Two interpreters must take turns in a booth during a normal 6-8 hours daily job to overcome fatigue and be up to the challenge.

People think that a thorough knowledge of languages is the main requirements for an interpreter a top level. I think that, perhaps, general knowledge, to be permanently updated on current affairs and studying thoroughly the discipline you will be servicing, be it social, scientific or technical, are equally important.”

What are the things at work that impressed you?
“One is, at times, taken aback by the dimension of the web of international meetings which is constantly taking place. You may think that it is a slow way of dealing with international relations or coordinating scientific standards or labour relations in the world. In fact, probably there is no easy democratic alternative to it and the lack of it could have sad consequences for co-existence.”

One thing that you learned from your work?
“After a life working with words you also learn that the real message is often somewhere else.”

Things happened at work that touched you?
“In a long life as a professional I had the chance of working with first rate politicians, film stars and other characters valued by society, but my most rewarding mission was working in prisons with life sentenced terrorist and common prisoners. The sewers of our society are full of suffering and could do with some attention, compassion and help.”

Things about yourself?
“I am probably a dynamic and outgoing person.
I write short stories and poetry, produce and stage shows. I have been a journalist and dubbed feature films. Love music and painting.
I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and I miss the ease of the place, the warmth of its people and the harbour’s smell.”

One biggest wish?
“To be able to contribute to peace and understanding.”

Any advice to give?
“I have no advice to give.”

Any regret in life?
“No, life is unpredictable; I take that as a learning challenge and willingly accept that the past does not lend itself to be modified.”

“The best part of meeting different people and learning about their life is that I find so many similarities between us”

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

I am from Yemen, a country of rich culture and history. One thing in particular is the architecture. There are many sites such as the Old City of Sanaa, Dar al Hajar, and the city of Shibam, that are all very famous of their old buildings built of mud bricks. The buildings have survived hundreds of years and many people still live in these buildings today!

There are many delicious dishes in the Yemeni cuisine, among them all there is one called ‘Bent AlSahn’ which translates to ‘The Daughter of the Plate’. Also, have you ever wondered where the name ‘Mocha coffee’ comes from? In fact, the coffee beans can be found in a port city in Yemen and the name of that city is ‘Mocha’.

Having lived in different countries, I have also come across many interesting cultures. The best part of meeting different people and learning about their life is that I find so many similarities between us. There are a lot more beautiful things we share in common than we may have thought.”


The Young UN Geneva hub numbers around 300 members across the UN system.

Current projects underway include a collaboration with Greycells on intergenerational dialogue for the SDGs, speed mentoring event and collaboration to live the SDGs in Geneva.

Upcoming events:

31 January 2019, 12-14h – Knowledge and Learning Commons Housewarming, with pitch by Young UN and the Geneva Environment Lab on SDG Anonymous

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25 February 2019, 12-14h  – SDG Anonymous event – click here to find out more about the event, to share your ‘SDG confessions’ and RSVP. 

Past events:

10 October 2018, 15h – Inter-generational dialogue on the SDGs, brochure en français:

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and in English here.

4 October 2018, 13h – Leaders across generations event, with Young UN discussant

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15 March 2018 – A conversation with Munira Khalif, moderated by two Young UN members

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“UN conferences can be held without huge meeting rooms but not without interpreters”

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

I work on remote participation in conferences. At the moment we are the only organization in the U.N that provides multilingual interpreted remote participation that is accepted by interpreters. While working with them, I was very surprised to find out that interpreters have to listen, think and speak at the same time and it is mentally damaging if not limited to short bursts.”

“Is everything coming the faster the better? Keep going in your way at your pace”

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

At school there was one straight way to achieve success and everyone followed it: the best went faster and scored better than the rest. Working for the UN has shown me that there are multiple ways of reaching a goal: it is possible to take a different path and still get there. I used to be dismissive of what I considered suboptimal approaches, but not anymore.”

“Being a citizen of the world, I’m home wherever I am”

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

I was born in Barcelona, Spain, then lived in Geneva, Switzerland, London, England and Sydney, Australia, then back to Barcelona and now Geneva again, so I have almost gone full circle. I have three nationalities, yet I don’t quite miss a thing from any place as I feel that I am a citizen of the world. One thing that has happened that has touched me? Being a father to my two daughters… every day.”