Akanksha Arora aged 34, is bidding to be the UN’s next secretary-general. If she succeeds, she will not only be the youngest person but also the first woman to lead the organisation. She joined the United Nations in 2016. Within two years, she felt the organisation was failing the people it was created to help. In January 2019, she decided there was no better way to make a change than to lead it.
“The UN has let people down, it hasn’t served those who it is here to serve,” Arora said. “UN’s biggest enemy is its own inability to deliver. Decision-making is not the problem. It’s implementation that we’re falling short on. That has led to the loss in trust and credibility of the institution where people just don’t expect the UN to do anything.”
Born in India, she moved to Saudi Arabia aged six after her mother – a gynaecologist – took up a job offer there. Three years later, she moved back to India for boarding school after her parents were unable to afford the only American school in the southwestern Saudi city.
At 18, Arora was offered a scholarship at York University in Toronto for her undergraduate studies and stayed in Canada to work after finishing university. In 2016, she moved to New York to start work with the UN.
“This whole aspect of understanding and respecting people [while living in different countries and cultures] is diplomacy. It is, at the end of the day, caring for people, appreciating and embracing diversity and just having respect for everyone. That’s diplomacy.”
According to her profile on her website UNOW.org, Akanksha graduated from York University, Toronto with a Bachelor of Administrative Studies. She received her Master in Public Administration from Columbia University.
Her profile states that she was recruited at the UN to help with the financial reforms of the organisation and her work included updating financial regulations and rules of the UN and managing the internal and external audits at UNDP.
A report in news site PassBlue said India-born Akanksha has an Overseas Citizenship of India and a Canadian passport. She hasn’t asked either country for an official endorsement. She is nevertheless hopeful that her candidacy could shake up the selection process, the PassBlue report said.