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Graduation 2011

I really enjoyed the 2011 edition of the SIPA graduation ceremony.  After being held inside for several years the ceremony this year was held outside.  Everyone was nervous all week because the weather forecast was foreboding, however the rain held off and and no one had to get wet.

Tents were set up so we were not worried too much about the ceremony itself, but the reception area was not entirely covered.  As it turns out, we had nothing to worry about.  When I took this picture I was standing on the steps of . . .

. . . Low Library . . .

. . . which is where the graduates assembled prior to the ceremony.

Kofi Annan addressed the graduates and we are working on getting his speech on line.  When it is ready it will appear on this blog.

SIPA graduates will return to the main quad for the University Commencement on Wednesday.  Congratulations to the class of 2011!


The UN Studies Program: Working and Networking with the United Nations – Panel on April 6 in Room 1501 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM

One unique asset available to SIPA students is our UN Studies Program.  SIPA students have incredible opportunities to learn directly from those with UN experience and participate in unique programming and here is a great example.


Ever wonder what it feels like to work for the United Nations? Whether it is fulfilling or frustrating? Whether it matches the highest ideals of public service? Or whether it is just another bureaucratic institution? Well, thanks to the DAY @ the UN initiative launched this semester by the UN Studies Program, 42 lucky students were given the opportunity to gain more insight on what it means to work for the United Nations. Elizabeth Lindenmayer, former Assistant Secretary-General and director of SIPA’s UN Studies program organized this day.

From the office of the Secretary General to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, from UNDP and UNICEF to DPA and UNWOMEN, from UNFPA to the Security Council, from UNCDF to the PBC, each student was given the opportunity to shadow one senior UN official for an entire day, attending meetings and negotiations, participating to teleconferences with the field or weighing in on policy planning among many others.

On April 6, 2011, students will share their experience during a Panel organized by the UN Studies Program in the presence of their hosts and other SIPA students. The Panel will take place on 420 W 118th street room 1501 from 6 to 8pm and will be followed by a reception creating yet another opportunity for students to thank their hosts, and of course, to network with the UN Community.  Those living in the NYC area are welcome to join.

In addition, on April 6 a group from the UN Studies Program will visit the United Nations Security Council to observe a debate on Haiti. Former President Bill Clinton, the UN’s Special Envoy for Haiti, will deliver a report, along with Haitian President Rene Preval.

Top 10 Things That only Happen at SIPA

The following post was contributed by second year SIPA student Richard Parker.  Richard is working in our office this year and he, along with several other students, will be contributing posts throughout the year.


I decided to take a break from paper writing and finals studying to update the blog. This month has been long and crazy! On the 12th the SIPA Pan African Network (SPAN) hosted their annual African Diplomatic Forum. The theme was: Climate Change as the new Security Threat- Implications for Africa. Our keynote speaker was Congressman Donald Payne and we had two panels with many notable and distinguished panelists. I served as the host for the event and also the coordinator for the Human Security panel. Needless to say I was beat after it was all said and done.

The next week I had a group presentation for my Peacekeeping in Africa class which drained the rest of the energy from my body. We presented on Liberia and to our surprise one of my professors colleagues who works for the UN (at the Liberia desk of course lol) was in the audience observing the presentation.

But after that was Thanksgiving!!!! I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. Me and my mom did the normal turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce etc…which is always a treat…but the rest of the holiday well let’s just say it wasn’t a holiday. On Black Friday, while most people spend hours waiting on line to get in to department stores, I spent hours online in the library writing the first of 4 (four, cuarto, quarte, quattro) 20 (twenty, vingt, venti, veinte) page papers. Only this type of thing happens at SIPA. So in true David Letterman style I present the top 10 things that only happen at SIPA (in no particular order)

10: You meet someone from a country that you can barely find on a map

9: You hear languages that Rosetta Stone doesn’t have a disk for being spoken on the 6th floor café

8: You have professors who are real life rockstars at the United Nations

7: You complain about Lehman library but never manage to study elsewhere and get mad when undergrads take all the tables in group study

6: During finals time when studying with friends, someone says they’re about to make a food run and you know that means either Hamilton’s, Sub Conscious or Appletree

5: You have a 2 minute pitch

4: You cringe at the thought of producer theory

3: Riding in the elevator with Mayor Dinkins or a visiting ambassador or head of state seems normal

2: You know the best time to go to the café in order to avoid the line

1: You study with and learn from the worlds best and brightest

So maybe not as funny if you don’t go to SIPA but it was worth a try anyway. Back to paper writing…see those of you starting in the spring in a month!

Hosting the ADF conference

10 Years of Women, Peace and Security

The following post was submitted by Sawako Sonoyama.  Sawako is working in our office this year and she, along with several other students, will be contributing posts throughout the year.


10 years ago, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1325 that focused on increased representation of women in the Security Council. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction.

This resolution marks the first time the Security Council has recognized the link between the security of women and peace. This is a landmark because the Security Council finally understands the ability of women to take on two roles:  “victim” of Conflict and “change agents” of Peace.

10 years have passed. How have we done? Five speakers convened at SIPA today on a panel for the UN Studies Program and spoke on this issue from their various issues:

  • Atul Khare, Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations.
  • Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant Secretary General for Peace Building Support to the Peace Building Commission, and SIPA Alumna.
  • Betty Achan Ogwaro, Chairperson of Sudanese Women Forum of Darfur, Southern Sudan
  • Barbara Crossette, former NYT Foreign Correspondent and journalist.
  • Juergen Heissel from the UN Security Council Peace Austrian Peace Keeping Mission

The panel started with an interesting debate surrounding the information gap in conflict zone. Mr. Heissel gave a brief history of the Security Council’s evolution in working with women in conflict zone. The problem that persists today is still the information gap. There is no consistent and comprehensive way to report on acts of violence against women in armed conflict. There is no way to measure how much we have made progress. There needs to be a more concrete data so evidence based policy making could be deployed to helping these women on the ground.

However, Ms. Ogwaro responded by saying that the Council will never have enough data. Too many times, there were women dishonored, hurt, and killed in front of the eyes of a Peace Keeping officer. The numbers are there, however, the mandates are not matching what needs to be done to help women in conflict. Furthermore, why will a Sudanese women be able to provide data when they are too busy protecting their lives and the lives of their children?

Finally, SIPA alumni Ms. Cheng-Hopkins provided a strict remark on the progress made.  After 10 years, 3% of negotiators and 0% of mediators in conflict zones are women. To improve these numbers, she recommended that at least 15% of post-conflict aid budgets should be endorsing women and peace building. There is much more work to be done in incorporating women into peace building.

Making the most of New York

The following entry was contributed by Erisha Suwal, a second year student at SIPA.  Erisha is working in our office this year and she, along with several other students, will be contributing posts throughout the year.


Being in New York has been one of the best experiences while at SIPA. Early last year during the General Assembly (GA) meetings at the UN, I along with three other students organized a protest to demand from the then Nepal Prime Minister that Nepal’s constitution be written on time and that the government expedite investigations on the people disappeared during Nepal’s decade-long Civil War.  It was an intense experience. I distributed pamphlets on the streets of Jackson Heights, a South Asian neighborhood in Queens, and had heated discussions with many people.  It was interesting to see that many fellow Nepali men thought that as a student in Columbia, I should become a doctor or an engineer but not get into politics. Although not all Nepalis think this way, it is a common sentiment.

The foreign advisor to the then Prime Minister also called me directly to request that the protest be called off.  It was terrifying, as I was exposed to the challenges of political activism. Nonetheless, organizing the event introduced me to other Nepali political activists in New York, to institutions and informal groups that worked for justice in Nepal.  Also, because of this event, I became aware of the India China Institute at the New School.  Since then, I have attended many events on Nepal organized by the New School and even audited a class on Nepali Society and Politics.

Another highlight of being in New York is my current internship with UNIFEM (part of UN Women). Prior to joining SIPA, I had limited work experience in the development field. Most of my work was in the financial sector and my development experience came from summer internships throughout my undergraduate years. Interning with UNIFEM provides an excellent opportunity to gain more work experience and to understand how the UN works from the inside. Also, as I’m interested in the political participation of women, working with UNIFEM’s Governance, Peace and Security division could not have been a better match.

Between the extra activities and internships (and awesome parties) I am making the most of my time at SIPA.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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