Denise Brown knows what it takes to work under the shadow of war. As UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, she and her team must brave considerable risks as they strive to meet the colossal humanitarian needs of the Ukrainian people in the midst of a brutal war.
“The missiles slow us down, but they don’t stop us. That's testament to the courage, determination, and experience of the people we have there.”
Close to 18 million Ukrainians are now in need of humanitarian aid and...
Sajjad Malik witnessed terrible suffering during the Syrian crisis. As UNHCR’s former representative in the country, he oversaw one of the UN Refugee Agency’s toughest and most dangerous operations.
“There are certain images that will stay with me for a very long time. Because those are the images that cannot be forgotten overnight.”
Since the war in Syria started in 2011 more than 5.7 million people have fled the country. Another 6.9 million are internally displaced. In this special...
With her writing, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi wants to change the conversation on race, gender, and identity. Now United Nations Resident Coordinator in Lesotho, she has written a book exploring the struggle for equity and the historical baggage of slavery and colonization.
“Let's talk about it a little more freely, not for it to hold our hands and tie them, but for it to liberate us to think differently.”
Moving back to the UK after leaving a high-level development post in Zambia, Amanda Khozi...
Ulrika Richardson has dedicated her life to the UN. As resident and humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, her belief in the organization’s idealistic values drives her to brave significant dangers in her mission to alleviate the suffering she has witnessed there.
“When you see people suffer, those images stay with you … that keeps you awake, and it should keep you awake.”
Life in Haiti remains precarious. Armed gangs, cholera, and fuel and food shortages mean violence, hunger, disease, and...
Matilda Bogner’s job is to bear witness to unspeakable crimes. As head of the United Nations Human Rights mission in Ukraine, she and her team record accounts of horrific abuses and rights violations in a bid to bring the perpetrators to justice and ease the victims’ suffering.
“It's a very complicated job, but it is meeting people and finding out their stories. It's giving voices to victims. That's what motivates me.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has devastated millions of lives....
Growing up at a time of war in Bangladesh, Irene Khan learned first-hand how access to trustworthy information can save lives. Now UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, she advocates for reliable information for all, especially during conflict.
“Access to information from outside the conflict from a source that we felt was verifiable and trustworthy, was so important for us as a family to know whether we flee, whether we...
Alfred Orono’s childhood came to an abrupt end when he was recruited as a soldier in Uganda, when he was just 11 years old. Now Chief of Child Protection at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), he draws on his own experience as a child soldier to help young people find a peaceful way forward.
“I work with children who, when I look at them, I know exactly what's going on in their minds. I know how they feel. And I'm part of the solution to their problems.”
Staffan de Mistura has dedicated his life to making a difference. Now the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, he spent a large part of his 48-year career at the UN striving for an end to some of the most intractable conflicts of modern times.
“I have no regrets. I would have never chosen another type of job. I think you can [make a difference] even in the worst-case scenario - always.”
From Syria and Afghanistan to Sudan and Iraq, the seasoned diplomat is known for...
Chris Mburu’s life was transformed by a small act of kindness. Now the UN Resident Coordinator in the Republic of Congo, he grew up in a Kenyan family struggling to afford his education. That was until a stranger in Sweden offered to pay for him to go to school.
“When I look at poverty, it evokes memories of my own childhood. What keeps me going is the desire to keep as many people as possible out of poverty, because I remember my past, and where I was, I really do not want to see anybody...
Deborah Lyons knows how to keep a cool head in a crisis. In August 2021, when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, Deborah, in her former role as Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), was responsible for ensuring the safety of staff across the country, among them many women.
“I don't think anyone expected the chaos, the sadness, the carnage, the enormous shock of what happened in August.”
Since returning to power, the Taliban have severely curtailed...
Adiba Qasim has shown extraordinary courage and resilience. She narrowly escaped when her village was stormed by Islamic State militants who killed and enslaved thousands of Yazidis. This is her story.
“We were surrounded by the Islamic State. And we had no weapons even to fight. We had nothing. We were left alone.”
Returning to northern Iraq in 2015, Adiba threw herself into humanitarian work, aiding survivors who had been enslaved by the militants. In this special bitesize...
Ugochi Daniels was just six years old when her family fled the civil war in Nigeria. Now the International Organization for Migration’s Deputy Director General for Operations, she is often struck by the pain of uprooted children, most recently those escaping from Ukraine.
“I noticed this woman with a 10-year-old boy. He never looked up, his eyes were down, and he never blinked. And I just kept on thinking, what has this boy seen on his journey here?”
Women and children are...
Giles Duley used to live the rock’n’roll life of a fashion photographer, but now travels the world’s war zones documenting the lives of those caught up in conflict. He stepped on a landmine while working in Afghanistan and lost three of his limbs, and very nearly his life. This is his story.
“It was a miracle I survived that day. I was just lucky, it just wasn’t my day to go.”
Incredibly fortunate to be alive, few of Giles’ family and friends believed that he would work again after...
Serge Brammertz is one of the world's leading international prosecutors. As Chief Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, he leads the process of tracking down fugitive criminals from wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the genocide in Rwanda.
“Every single person indicted is exactly the opposite of a hero. And the only heroes in fact are the survivors and victims.”
Decades on from the brutal Balkan wars of the 1990s, genocide denial and glorification of...
Despite monitoring multiple global crises, Rebeca Grynspan has never lost her faith in the power of change. As Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), she is assessing the impact of the war in Ukraine on cash-strapped countries still reeling from the pandemic.
“We don't have to be naive, but we have to believe in change, because change has happened. And we can make it happen again.”
A trio of crises – climate change, COVID-19, and the war in...
Monique Sokhan survived the Cambodian genocide, having fled the Khmer Rouge terror when she was just a small child. Now, working as Senior Protection Coordinator, at UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, she is still searching for answers about the atrocities that killed many of her family members.
“It’s difficult because you’re wondering why others have died and you’re alive. And for those who did not survive […] I felt like having a responsibility somehow to do something that...
Osnat Lubrani knows first-hand the horrors of war. As UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, she has witnessed the dramatic changes since the Russian invasion and rapidly mounting needs as the war tears lives apart across the country.
“What is keeping me awake at night is the horror of knowing that it hasn't ended yet and that there are more people alive today that are very likely to be dead tomorrow.”
At least 15.7 million Ukrainians are now in urgent need of...
Vladislav Kaim is dedicated to protecting the environment. A member of the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, he promotes green jobs, the energy transition, and generous climate finance - urgent priorities for our rapidly warming world. Yet the war in Ukraine has blown apart regional and global networks working towards a livable future. “The war is affecting the sustainable development of every single country in our region.”
As a Moldovan, Vladislav Kaim has seen how the devastating...
What does it take to stay calm in the crossfire?
Unaisi Vuniwaqa has witnessed terrible suffering. As the Assistant Secretary-General for Safety and Security, she has worked as a UN peacekeeper in some of the world’s most dangerous places.
“Sometimes it can be very overwhelming, you really feel for the people and the suffering that they're going through.”
Peacekeepers have one of the toughest roles in the United Nations. Serving in brutal conflicts such as that in South Sudan can mean...
What would it take to make that happen? Bo Viktor Nylund has always been drawn to complex, difficult places. As the Representative of UNICEF in Syria, he is a passionate advocate for the rights of children growing up in one of the world’s most thorny and protracted crises.
“When I meet with children, I just see that there's always that glimpse of hope in their eyes and that drive to make a future for themselves.”
Children continue to bear the brunt of Syria’s decade-old conflict, with...
What is it like living and working in Afghanistan as a woman leader of a UN Agency? Mary-Ellen McGroarty witnessed the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in August 2021. As Head of the World Food Programme in the country, she has seen first hand the seismic shift in the economic, political and cultural landscape. “Some days, I sometimes wish I hadn't been here before the 15th of August, because then I wouldn't have seen the hope and the promise and the potential.” Now, over 50% of Afghans are...
When war and catastrophe hit, the United Nations is there. Hear from more of the extraordinary people working at the frontlines of the world's most pressing crises in the new season of Awake at Night, coming on 20 May.
Selwin Hart is one of the top United Nations officials tackling the global climate emergency. He has come a long way from his childhood in a small village in Barbados, where he grew up in a home without electricity. The first person in his family to attend university, Selwin soon found his passion in working to save our planet and refuses to give up.
Rafael Grossi is Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Working for more than 35 years in the field of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, Rafael shares how a meeting in his twenties with atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima profoundly changed his perspective. He also explains benefits of nuclear technology as he prepares to launch Rays of Hope, an initiative to scale cancer treatment for women across Africa.