As part of our “Americans in the UN” project to share the stories of Americans who work for the United Nations, we talked to Eric Husketh, who grew up in rural North Carolina and now works as a human rights officer for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), including on issues justice and accountability in the aftermath of ISIL’ defeat in Mosul.
Husketh has worked for the UN over seven years, working on tribunals on Rwanda and the Khmer Rouge, as well as in UN headquarters.
What is your message to Americans about the importance of the UN?
Eric Husketh: The values of the UN are the values of the USA. You might not see it, but the UN really is making your world a better place, solving problems that no country, not even America, could ever tackle alone.
How did you first learn about the UN?
EH: Those little trick-or-treat for UNICEF boxes in first grade!
What motivates you to work for the UN?
EH: Because I believe in it. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best humanity has ever come up with to at least try to resolve disputes peacefully and protect human rights for everybody. I wanted to have a decent job in public service, and I found one that fits me perfectly.
From your experience, what is an example of how the UN has made a difference in someone’s life?
EH: I’ve seen first-hand how UN judicial and human rights processes allow people who have been though horrible things to tell their story and be heard. We can’t always stop bad things from happening, and we can’t always fix afterwards the pain that people have endured. But listening to people and taking them seriously and telling the world about their lives I think makes a profound difference to individuals and their communities.
When you talk to your friends and family about working for the UN, what is something that surprises them?
EH: That it’s not at all glamorous! Plus, I think a lot of people have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the organization works. There’s always this idea of “the UN ought to do something,” without the understanding that it’s a voluntary organization of sovereign states, each acting in its own best interest and according to its own internal politics, that have to agree what to do and how to pay for it! It’s like herding cats AND getting the cats to cough up millions of dollars to be herded.
What is the favorite part of your job?
EH: When I started my job, I had to sign an oath that I would act with the best interests of the international community in mind. Seven years later, I have to say it’s a great job in practical terms – experiencing the world in wonderful ways, meeting people and visiting places that I would never have access to otherwise.
I’ve often thought of working as a diplomat, but I’m a multilateralist at heart. So at the end of the day, I truly love that my job, by definition, is to act for the greater good of all people, of all countries.